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Letter to Mom of Aspiring Animator


I got an email from a proactive mother of a hopeful animator asking me for classes and inspiration for her daughter. After I finished the email with all the information I could think of, I figured it might be good to post the information here. Hope this helps other people who want to break into animation! ~Angie

[Email from Mom]

Hi Angie, I found your website and am a Mom of a 12 year old daughter that is excited about Animation. What advice do you have for her? As a 7th grader, what software tools would be great for her to try? Any advice on what type of classes she should take…Traditional art classes, computer software, any advice is so much appreciated. She was able to attend an Animation Camp this last summer. She also took a Flash Animation class. What software might good for her to try to “get started” at spreading her wings. Thank you so much…If you have the time to respond. If not, congratulations on an amazing career.

Mom of Samantha
7th grader

[My response]


Here are a few things you can get her started with…
Since you are in Oregon, I will give you things you can buy or have access to online.

Step #1 Get her a light box

You can pick one up at Cartoon Colour…
There is also a cheaper on at Utrecht too that will do just fine.59602LightTracer_X

and some hole punch paper.
and some pencils of varying leads.
and a peg bar she can glue to your scanner

OR! You can get her a nice stylus tablet and she can draw straight into the computer.

The CINTIQ is amazing!

Wacom Intuos


but its gonna run you some serious cash!
So, you might just start with paper,
pencil and the light box to see if she takes to it?

Step #2 Buy her these books:


Step #3 Online Classes

Classes for her to take would include life drawing and illustration. Life drawing is key to understanding weight shifts in the body and strong gestures. All of this is an important foundation to establish before she ever picks up a mouse to animate.

SketchHere are some courses offered at the Art Academy of Los Angeles that should be the type of courses you should look for up there in Oregon.

Figure Construction
This online self-study class covers the basics of figure construction, a simple and effective method that helps the artist draw from life, reference or the imagination with ease. Each week, we will break down a different part of the body and learn to design or render it using various forms and rhythms. We will also learn to use different methods of measuring the proportions as well as study and render the volumes measuring the quality of light and its contrasting shadows. This is a class for all artistic levels from the beginner to the professional.

2D Anatomy

In this online self-study course, students analyze the important muscles needed to create convincing figures and learn about surface anatomies such as the fat distribution and the fasciae that surround every inch of the living form.  Through thought out, easily understood assignments, the student better understands the living form of the model and is able to more easily create from the imagination.  Most importantly, the student will have the confidence to edit the living model and therefore interpret more poetically what he/she sees to make their drawing or painting more personal.

  • Videos Are Yours To Keep*
  • Total Course Time: 19:08:42 Hours

Beginning Composition

In composition, there are no standardized or predetermined rules. Beginning Composition will introduce students to a unique and proven method of learning the fundamental concepts of composition and visual literacy. Students will be exposed to information and demonstrations that will enable them  to see problems and correct their own compositions and become more visually expressive.

  • Videos Are Yours To Keep*
  • Total Course Time: 22:18:36 Hours

Fantasy and Illustration

Explore the aspects of Fantasy Illustration, including the successful design of the fantasy elements in an illustration such as costumes, props, and architecture. Improving the structure and underlying emotional impact, and the composition of the illustrations will be discussed.  The composition of real and limited space (graphical space) will be compared and experimented with.  Creature and human character design though posing and integration into the composition will also be explored.

  • Videos Are Yours To Keep*
  • Total Course Time: 20:09:14 Hours
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  1. Anonymous

    The biggest piece of advice to give to this mom would probably be let your daughter find something that inspires her enought that she can find the drive to do this kind of research herself rather then have her mom do it for her. Unless her mom plans on coming to school and work woth her everyday for the rest of her life as well

  2. Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff

    I completely disagree. The girl is in 7th grade for gods sake. Did you have that kind of forsight and instinct to research a career when you were 13???

    I think its amazing her mother is doing anything at all. Many parents have so much going on in their own lives and usually both are working these days to make ends meet. The hum drum of the every day prevents parents from cultivating early signs of talent in their kids. This is why so many kids in college are just floating around with no idea of what they might want to study. I have seen it over and over again.

    Cheers to Julie, Samantha’s Mom!

  3. Paul

    I agree completely with Angie. As the parent of an 18-year old who has a good idea of what he wants to do in life, I know that our facilitating his interests when he was younger has helped him hone in on what truly interested him.

    The trick is to facilitate, not dictate. Help her pursue her interests, but also allow her to move on if she finds it’s not for her. No harm, no foul.

  4. David N


    These are some great recommendations and the only thing I’d maybe quibble with it the plexiglass light box … I think if the young lady is interested in hand-drawn animation that it would be worth it to invest in a table-top animation desk with a rotating plexiglass desk, like this one :

    Or even better if one of the parents are handy with tools they can probably make one themselves (the big challenge is having a router to cut out the circular hole for the disc to turn in). I think having the rotating disc is worth the extra expense. Sometimes wooden drafting tables can be found rather inexpensively. But the portable table top versions are fine and can be built into a unit with shelving later on if necessary.

    These studio photos show the kind of table top units I’m talking about :

    The stationary lightbox can be very usable, but the rotating disc is really an asset in my opinion.

  5. Angie Jones and Jamie Oliff

    Dave thanks so much for your comments – you are totally right! I have nieces and nephews and know how hard it is to spend money on them when they are fickle teens. So, I was trying to save the mom a little cash with the desktop light table, but yeah the rotating disc is key…and that link tot he rotating box is only another 100 bucks, right on!
    thanks, Angie

  6. Rebecca

    It worth checking into student pricing on computer tablets. I know they have them for the college level.

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