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Advice on visual language

Pixar artists share advice on storytelling and drawing. Artists grow through practice and can build their toolkit by observing life around them, planning scenes, and playing with tools like line and shape. We learn by embracing our mistakes and seeking out peers who can support and encourage us in our journey!

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Video transcript

- So I remember for me, it was like once I realized I wanted to do storyboarding, I would look at the end credits of films and see the names of everyone on there and sometimes I would look them up online and ask questions to them and a lot of times, they're all really nice which is surprising. I don't think I've ever had a negative experience doing that. It's either they won't answer or they'll give you advice for how to do it but I think it's just being strong in your commitment of what you wanna do and just never giving up on it and constantly pushing yourself and challenging yourself in that field, whatever it may be. - You have to keep drawing. You have to keep drawing, drawing, drawing. The best advice that I have is not to look, it's great to look at films and to look at photography, to look at other artists but for me, it's to look at life. I carry a sketchbook. I do quick sketching. I take notes, sometimes I don't even have to draw. It's more about observing people, observing moments. - Remember all the bits that you've learned about shape, line, texture. Know how they work and then do your best to forget about them by loosening up and doing a lot of quick drawings, a lot of fast drawings and not being afraid to fail. You're going to get out your first ideas and your first gestures and you may find something very spontaneous that you like a lot and then you think using those elements that you've learned about how to frame that idea by using a triangle as a dynamic shape or a square as a blocking element or a pattern of lines as a directional device to lead your eye to that thing that you discovered because you were drawing fast and you could go back and capture the charm of the thing that came right off the tip of your pencil. - Play with all of these tools that you're learning about. Play with line, shape, color but the name of the game is just to experiment and have fun. Play with compositions that don't work but then learn from those mistakes, think about well, why don't they work, why aren't they achieving what I want them to achieve? I think you have to forgive yourself and just allow yourself to make mistakes and that's probably the best advice that I could give. - When I was given an assignment, it would using be a table read first where you get the script pages and you'd read it together with you, the director, the head of story, usually the writer as well and you kind of just read it, you take notes, you ask questions and then after that, I would usually go back to my office and I would kinda sit for a while with my eyes closed sometimes and I would just visualize what does the scene look like to me which is basically me just as quickly as possible and as roughly as possible doing these really quick and small drawings about what the progression of the scene is. So maybe there will be a car there and then this is a car there and then moving into maybe a close-up of a car here and I'll just do this until I go through the entire script and then I'll have a full page of all these little squares with what they're saying underneath it and everything there and then I'll look at it and then I'll decide is this what I pictured in my head and then if it's not, I'll usually scrap it and I'll do it again because it's so quick and such an easy way to do it because I'm not putting much effort or time into it so I can see it as quick as possible and understand where the mistakes are and how to, sometimes it's rearranging shots. So I might say, oh, I put this one here and I'll put this one over here at the front of it and before I even move into the storyboarding process. It's like a plan before you move into the building of the scene. - I think that the best way to think about these tools that we're teaching you here today is to think of them just as that, as tools. They are the building blocks of visual storytelling that you have to know. This is like your meat and potatoes. You have to learn how to use these things by practicing and kind of repeating it over and over but in the back of your head, keep in mind that you're trying to tell a story. So in a way, the best way to use tone or perspective is asking yourself, what am I trying to say and that will help you in knowing which ones of these tools to use and how to use them best. - I remember during the internship I was really shy and we had to pitch paperboards on a board with a stick in front of the whole group and whenever I would go up to pitch, I would be really quiet and I would read the dialogue and I wouldn't look at anyone in the eye and I remember he was like, come on, Mike, you gotta be better than this. What's wrong, why can't you just get up and pitch it? And I think he helped me to realize that when you're pitching and when you're in front of a crowd, they're not really paying attention to you. It's more about the work. So I remember before pitches, we would always just get amped where we'd go out in the hallway and then listen to loud music and kinda do jumping jacks or whatever it took and then go into the room and then they would ask who wants to go first and then I would be in the back and I would raise my hand and he's like, yeah, Mike, go and it was just that kind of encouragement that really helped for later on in my career and I still kinda do those things now before pitches. So that's always really helpful. Thanks, Bobby.