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One cool thing about being a professional artist is: you get paid.

The flipside to that is: the person paying you will want to give their input on the project.

No matter whether you’re an animator working in a big studio, or if you’re doing freelance work for a client, the situation is the same.

Someone else will be giving you notes on your work.

Here are six tips to help you through that process, even if you don’t agree with the critique.

1. Don’t take it personally

Always remember the critique is about the work – not about you.

Unless your supervisor is particularly sadistic, they are genuinely trying to make the end result better. They are not in the business of pointing out your personal flaws.

The notes are highlighting areas to improve your shot, so take them in the spirit in which they’re given.

2. Try to understand their background

Working with non-animators as clients means you might not even be speaking the same artistic language.

“Hmm – it’s just not what I had in mind” is not a useful comment on your art. Do your best to tease out what they think needs improving and get specific. If someone is being unclear about what they want, give examples of alternatives that they might choose from.

Be patient. This is not the time or place for eye-rolling at how little the client knows about what you’re trying to accomplish.

You’re the creative one, right? So how about using some of your enormous talent to come up with options that help produce solutions.

3. Ask questions

Communicating a visual idea through a spoken medium is hard.

A picture is worth at least a thousand words in this case. Draw a sketch if you have to. Make sure you have enough information to move forward.

When your director says, “Adjust the character’s right arm”, do they mean screen right or the character’s right?

Everybody has their own way of describing what they want.

I’ve had people say they want the shot to be “creamy” instead of “crunchy”.

Okay boss, but what does that mean? Make sure you’re on the same page before proceeding.

4. Write it down

I can’t stress this one enough.

You might think you can remember ten different notes, like “background character number nine needs tweaking on frame 8732″. But you can’t.

Don’t want to waste your lead’s time by asking to clarify again.

At the very least I always write down the frame range, the character name and usually the specific joints that need attention.

Now you not only have an accurate record of the meeting, but you have a built-in checklist of things to do to make the shot better.

5. Make the changes quickly

This comes down to knowing your tools, hotkeys and shortcuts.

Working fast gives you advantages at every stage, but in this context it means you can make changes while your supervisor is still at your desk.

There is nothing more direct than correcting the notes in real time. It removes one entire cycle of iteration and absolutely confirms whether or not you’ve addressed the spirit of the note.

Even fixing a single pose with your director present gives them confidence and gives you clarity.

6. Take it like a man

Or a woman.

Or maybe I should just say “like a professional“.

Don’t argue. Show respect. Remain calm.

Professionals that are truly confident in their own abilities are less likely to fall into the trap of being defensive and emotional in the face of criticism.

You should do that too.

At the end of the day – it’s work being paid for by someone else. So you owe it to your director to fulfil their vision.

If you don’t like it – then that’s what your personal projects are for, right?

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