In 1999, I took a drawing test as part of my application as “Animator” for Fil-Cartoons (the now defunct animation studio in the Philippines), where some of the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons were made, among others. When I was told that I passed the drawing test, I thought I was on my way to becoming an Animator! I will be creating animation much like all the animated Disney movies I’ve seen and TV shows I’ve watched!
Boy, was I wrong!
You don’t become an animator overnight. Most importantly, you do not instantly become an animation trainee just because you passed a drawing test intended for Clean Up artists and Inbetweeners.
So that’s what I became initially – a Character Clean-Up artist. I learned how to be one through the in-house training program conducted by Fil-Cartoons. To put it simply, a Clean-Up artist finalizes, or “cleans-up”, the Animator’s rough drawings. I had to make sure that the characters are drawn accurately and consistently, particularly in design, style and line quality. Coming from a drafting background, I had an easy time with maintaining good, if not impeccable, line quality.
We were told that the training for a Clean-Up Artist overlaps with Animation training. We had to first understand the principles of animation employed to create a scene. Through a series of anatomy drawing sessions, we learned about anatomy construction, volume and mass. I became an even better draftsman with my newfound knowledge of line density, width and taper, and how to create consistently appealing series of drawings.
I spent two years as an artist in the Clean-Up department. During that time, I made quite a name for myself among my peers due to the quality of my linework. However, on the negative side some artists from the Inbetween Department avoided getting my scenes like the plague!
You see, we were paid by the number of drawings we made. The more drawings you clean up, the more you earn. Speed was an overwhelming factor during my stay in my department. Oh yes, I was fast, but I also drew with impeccable line quality. However, some of my co-workers in the Inbetween Department would have none of it.
Inbetween, as the term implies, is the drawing between two extreme drawings which are the animator’s key drawings. Clean-Up artists “cleans up” these drawings and passes them down to the Inbetweeners. The Inbetweeners, using the two key drawings as reference, then fills in the necessary drawings needed to complete the series and the necessary animated actions. The Inbetween Artist must imitate the animator’s drawing as well as the line quality laid down by the Clean-Up artist to maintain consistency. Otherwise, the drawings would “flutter” when viewed in continuity on video.
But since an Inbetweener does not have to deal with deciphering an Animator’s sometimes indecipherable rough drawings (that’s the Clean-Up artist’s chore), they can afford to work faster. We have cleaned-up the rough drawings in a separate sheet of animation paper (a paper with holes punched out at the bottom that can be placed in some pegs to keep them from moving around). All the Inbetweener has to do is follow the lines.
Now not all Clean-Up artists are like me. Some draw really, really fast; as such their lines are not as clean as mine. But those kinds of lines are what some Inbetween artists are looking for, since those are the ones that are easily replicated. That’s why some avoid getting my scenes; it takes them much longer to complete them because they have to maintain the same consistency as my line work.
Though I worked in the Clean-Up department, my heart was still set into becoming an animator someday. And that opportunity did present itself, which requires another post.