Discover Top Animation Artists and Their Inspiring Work
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 11 min read


1. Pioneers of Animation Artists

2. Influential Animation Artists of our Time

4. The Animation Industry: Opportunities for Animation Artists

5. Resources for Animation Artists

Animation has come a long way since its early beginnings, and it's all thanks to the talented animation artists who have dedicated their lives to bringing stories and characters to life. In this blog, we will explore the pioneers of animation, influential modern artists, popular techniques, and opportunities for aspiring animation artists. Let's dive into the wonderful world of animation!

1. Pioneers of Animation Artists

Before we can appreciate modern animation, it's essential to know about the trailblazers who paved the way. These early animation artists were true innovators, creating the foundation for the industry we know today.

Windsor McCay and the Birth of Animation

Let's start with the legendary Windsor McCay, the father of animation. He was a skilled newspaper cartoonist who, in 1911, created the first-ever animated film, Gertie the Dinosaur. This groundbreaking work showcased hand-drawn animation and introduced the world to the magic of bringing art to life. Some important aspects of McCay's work include:

  • He drew every frame by hand, creating a fluid and lifelike animation.
  • His attention to detail and understanding of movement set a high standard for future animation artists.
  • McCay's work inspired many artists, including Walt Disney himself.

Walter Lantz: The Man Behind Woody Woodpecker

Another early animation artist worth mentioning is Walter Lantz, the creator of the iconic character Woody Woodpecker. Lantz began his career working for the legendary animation studio, Universal Pictures. His contributions to the world of animation are vast:

  • He created numerous unforgettable characters like Woody Woodpecker, Chilly Willy, and Andy Panda.
  • Lantz's work is known for its humor, wit, and energetic storytelling.
  • His success proved that animation artists could create and own their characters, paving the way for future creators like Walt Disney.

Hanna-Barbera: The Duo that Shaped Television Animation

When discussing animation artists, we cannot forget the legendary duo of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the minds behind Hanna-Barbera Productions. They are responsible for some of the most beloved animated TV shows, including The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo. Here's what made them stand out:

  • They revolutionized TV animation by utilizing limited animation techniques to produce shows on a tight budget and schedule.
  • Hanna-Barbera created characters and stories that appealed to both children and adults, broadening the audience for animated television.
  • Their work has left a lasting impact on pop culture and inspired countless animation artists who followed in their footsteps.

These pioneers laid the groundwork for modern animation artists, and their influence can still be seen in the industry today. Up next, we'll explore some of the most influential animation artists of our time and their inspiring work.

2. Influential Animation Artists of our Time

Now that we've explored the pioneers of animation, let's take a look at some contemporary animation artists who continue to push the boundaries and inspire new generations. These artists have made significant contributions to the world of animation, showcasing a diverse range of styles and storytelling techniques.

Hayao Miyazaki: The Master of Japanese Animation

Hayao Miyazaki is a living legend in the animation world, co-founding the renowned Studio Ghibli and directing iconic films like My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke. Miyazaki's work is characterized by:

  • Deeply layered storytelling: Miyazaki's films often explore complex themes, such as environmentalism, feminism, and the human spirit, while maintaining a sense of wonder and enchantment.
  • Exquisite artistry: His hand-drawn animation is rich in detail, showcasing breathtaking landscapes and captivating character designs that make his films visually stunning.
  • Timeless appeal: Miyazaki's films have captured the hearts of audiences young and old, cementing his reputation as one of the most influential animation artists of all time.

His work as an animation artist has inspired countless others, raising the bar for what can be achieved in the medium.

Genndy Tartakovsky: The Creator of Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack

Genndy Tartakovsky is another influential animation artist, known for creating beloved TV shows like Dexter's Laboratory and Samurai Jack. His distinct style and innovative storytelling have left a lasting impression on the animation industry:

  • Dynamic visuals: Tartakovsky is known for his bold and stylized artwork, often incorporating striking silhouettes and exaggerated proportions to create visually engaging scenes.
  • Cinematic storytelling: His shows often feature minimal dialogue, instead relying on visual cues and atmospheric sound to convey emotion and narrative—this approach sets his work apart from other TV animation.
  • Genre-blending: Tartakovsky's work seamlessly combines elements of comedy, drama, action, and sci-fi, showcasing his versatility as an animation artist.

Through his unique style and storytelling, Tartakovsky has influenced numerous animation artists and expanded the possibilities for animated TV shows.

Rebecca Sugar: The Mind Behind Steven Universe

Rebecca Sugar, creator of the groundbreaking show Steven Universe, is another influential animation artist worth celebrating. Her work is known for:

  • Diverse representation: Sugar's characters come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, with varying abilities, personalities, and relationships—this inclusivity has resonated with audiences, making her work stand out in the animation landscape.
  • Emotionally resonant storytelling: Steven Universe explores themes like love, family, and self-acceptance, connecting with viewers on a deep emotional level.
  • Art and music: The show's vibrant animation and catchy original songs make it a visually and audibly appealing experience for viewers of all ages.

Sugar's work as an animation artist has made a significant impact on the industry, inspiring other creators to push boundaries and explore new storytelling possibilities.

These modern animation artists have carried on the legacy of the pioneers before them, continuing to innovate and inspire with their incredible work. In the next section, we'll take a closer look at some popular techniques used by animation artists to bring their visions to life.

After exploring the influential animation artists and their inspiring work, it's time to dive into the techniques they use to create their masterpieces. By understanding the different methods and approaches animation artists employ, you can gain a greater appreciation for their craft and the endless possibilities it offers. In this section, we'll discuss three popular techniques: traditional animation, stop-motion, and computer-generated imagery (CGI).

Traditional Animation: The Art of Hand-Drawn Frames

Traditional animation, also known as cel animation or hand-drawn animation, is the oldest and most classic form of animation. This technique involves drawing each frame of animation by hand, creating a series of images that, when played in sequence, give the illusion of movement. Some of the key aspects of traditional animation include:

  • Frame-by-frame drawing: Each frame is meticulously drawn by the animation artist, requiring immense skill and patience to ensure smooth and fluid motion.
  • Character sheets and model sheets: To maintain consistency in their drawings, animation artists create character sheets and model sheets, which serve as a reference for characters' appearances, expressions, and poses.
  • Background paintings: In traditional animation, backgrounds are often painted separately from the characters and combined later during the compositing process.

Many of the pioneers we discussed earlier, such as Windsor McCay and Hanna-Barbera, relied on traditional animation techniques to create their groundbreaking work. Even today, animation artists like Hayao Miyazaki continue to use hand-drawn animation to tell their captivating stories.

Stop-Motion: Bringing Inanimate Objects to Life

Stop-motion animation is a unique and time-consuming technique that involves manipulating physical objects, like puppets or clay figures, frame by frame to create the illusion of movement. Some key elements of stop-motion animation include:

  • Three-dimensional objects: Unlike traditional animation, stop-motion uses real objects and materials, adding a tactile and tangible quality to the animation.
  • Incremental movement: Animation artists carefully move the objects in small increments, taking a photograph after each adjustment—the resulting sequence of images creates the illusion of motion.
  • Set design and lighting: Stop-motion animation requires attention to detail in set design and lighting to create a visually cohesive and believable world for the characters.

Animation artists like Nick Park, creator of Wallace and Gromit, have achieved great success with stop-motion animation, showcasing its potential for charming and engaging storytelling.

Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI): The Power of Technology in Animation

Computer-generated imagery (CGI) has revolutionized animation, allowing artists to create complex and visually stunning worlds using digital tools. Some important aspects of CGI animation include:

  • 3D modeling: Animation artists create digital models of characters, objects, and environments, which can be manipulated and animated within a software program.
  • Texturing and shading: To add realism and depth to their models, artists apply textures and shading, simulating the appearance of different materials and lighting conditions.
  • Keyframe animation: Instead of drawing each frame by hand, CGI animators set key poses for their characters and use software to generate the in-between frames, creating smooth, realistic motion.

CGI has become the industry standard for many animation studios, such as Pixar and DreamWorks, enabling them to produce visually stunning and highly detailed films. Animation artists like Genndy Tartakovsky have also embraced CGI in their work, demonstrating the technique's versatility and potential for innovative storytelling.

By understanding these popular techniques used by animation artists, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the incredible work they produce and the diverse range of styles and methods available in the world of animation. In the next section, we'll explore the animation industry and the opportunities it offers for aspiring animation artists.

4. The Animation Industry: Opportunities for Animation Artists

Now that we've explored the techniques used by animation artists, let's dive into the animation industry and the opportunities it offers. Whether you're an aspiring artist or simply curious about the world of animation, there are many paths and career options available. In this section, we'll discuss top animation studios, freelance animation, and education opportunities for animation artists.

Top Animation Studios: Dream Jobs for Animation Artists

For many animation artists, working at a top animation studio is a dream come true. These studios are known for producing iconic films and TV shows that have captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. Some of the most famous animation studios include:

  • Pixar: This animation powerhouse has produced beloved films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. Animation artists at Pixar work on various aspects of production, from character design to storyboarding and animation.
  • Disney: A household name in animation, Disney has been creating animated classics since the 1930s. Animation artists at Disney have the opportunity to work on films like Frozen, Moana, and Zootopia.
  • DreamWorks: Known for films like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks offers animation artists a chance to work on a wide range of projects with diverse styles and stories.

Working at a top animation studio can provide a unique learning experience and a chance to collaborate with some of the most talented animation artists in the industry. However, competition for these positions can be fierce, so it's essential to develop a strong portfolio and gain experience through internships or freelance work.

Freelance Animation: Building a Career as an Independent Artist

If the idea of working independently appeals to you, freelance animation might be the perfect fit. As a freelance animation artist, you have the freedom to choose your clients and projects, allowing for greater creative control and flexibility. Here are some tips for building a successful freelance career:

  • Develop a strong portfolio: Showcase your best work and demonstrate your unique style to attract potential clients. Include a variety of projects, such as short films, commercials, or personal projects to show your versatility.
  • Network: Attend industry events, join online communities, and connect with fellow animation artists to build relationships and find new opportunities.
  • Stay organized: As a freelancer, you're responsible for managing your time, finances, and projects. Create a system to stay on top of deadlines, invoices, and client communications.

Freelance animation can be both rewarding and challenging, offering the opportunity to work on diverse projects and develop your skills as an independent animation artist.

Animation Education: Schools and Programs for Aspiring Animation Artists

For those looking to hone their skills and pursue a career in animation, there are various education opportunities available. From formal degree programs to online courses, aspiring animation artists can find the right fit for their learning style and goals. Consider the following options:

  • Animation degree programs: Many colleges and universities offer animation programs, such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Animation or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Animation. These programs typically cover topics like character design, storytelling, and various animation techniques.
  • Online courses: For those who prefer a flexible learning schedule, online courses can be a great option. Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and even YouTube offer courses on animation, from beginner to advanced levels.
  • Workshops and masterclasses: Some animation artists, like Hayao Miyazaki and Genndy Tartakovsky, occasionally offer workshops or masterclasses, giving students the chance to learn directly from the masters themselves.

Regardless of the path you choose, pursuing education in animation can help build the foundation for a successful career and open doors to exciting opportunities in the industry.

With a better understanding of the animation industry and opportunities for animation artists, you're now equipped to explore this creative and dynamic world. In the next and final section, we'll share resources for animation artists, including must-read books, websites, and essential tools to help you on your journey.

5. Resources for Animation Artists

Now that you're well-versed in the animation industry and its opportunities, let's explore some resources that can help you grow as an animation artist. From must-read books to essential tools, these resources will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to excel in the world of animation. So, buckle up and let's dive into the treasure trove of resources awaiting you!

Must-Read Books for Animation Artists

Books are a fantastic way to learn from the experiences and insights of seasoned animation artists. Here are some must-read books that can help you develop your skills:

  • The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams: This gem of a book is a comprehensive guide to the principles of animation, featuring invaluable tips and techniques for both beginners and experienced artists.
  • Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair: This classic book is a great introduction to character design and animation techniques, with step-by-step instructions and illustrations that make it easy to follow.
  • Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud: While not strictly about animation, this insightful book explores the art of visual storytelling and can help animation artists better understand the relationship between images and narrative.

These books will not only build your knowledge but also inspire you with stories and experiences from some of the most renowned animation artists.

Websites and Online Communities for Animation Artists

Connecting with fellow animation artists and staying informed about industry trends is crucial for your growth. Here are some websites and online communities where you can learn, share, and collaborate:

  • 11 Second Club: This monthly animation contest challenges artists to create an 11-second animation based on a provided audio clip. It's a fun way to practice your skills and get feedback from fellow artists.
  • CG Society: This online community is a hub for animation artists, offering forums, workshops, and resources to help you grow your skills and network with industry professionals.
  • Animation World Network (AWN): AWN is a news website dedicated to the animation industry, providing articles, interviews, and insights from animation artists and studios worldwide.

By engaging with these communities, you'll stay updated on industry news, learn from the experiences of others, and build connections with fellow animation artists.

Essential Tools and Software for Animation Artists

Having the right tools is essential for creating high-quality animations. Here's a list of some popular software and tools used by animation artists:

  • Adobe Animate: Formerly known as Flash, Adobe Animate is a versatile software for creating 2D animations, interactive web content, and even simple games.
  • Toon Boom Harmony: Widely used by professional animation artists, Toon Boom Harmony offers powerful tools for both traditional and digital animation, and it's compatible with various techniques and styles.
  • Blender: This free, open-source 3D animation software is a favorite among animation artists for its comprehensive features and user-friendly interface.

While there are many other tools available, these three software options provide a solid foundation for any animation artist, regardless of their preferred style or technique.

In conclusion, a world of resources awaits you as you embark on your journey as an animation artist. By tapping into these books, websites, and tools, you'll be well-equipped to hone your skills, learn from the best, and create captivating animations that will leave your audience spellbound. So go forth, explore, and unleash your creativity!

If you're inspired by the top animation artists and want to learn how to create your own animations, check out the workshop 'Animating with Procreate and Photoshop' by Nyanza D. This workshop will teach you the techniques and tools needed to bring your own animations to life using Procreate and Photoshop.