As an animation student, it’s fair to say that I view Aardman as iconic in the stop motion industry with a worldwide reputation for innovation and professional skill. To have been able to take a class with them as part of the Aardman Academy during lockdown, is an experience I that I found both inspiring, practical and influential.
Aardman has always been a huge influence on me and their films were one of the reasons I began sculpting with plasticine to begin with. At a very young age, I used the stuff to sculpt anything from food for my toys, to figurines and gifts for family members at Christmas. All this “practice” came in handy when I started university and I came to realise that the role of animator wasn’t necessarily for me and that my skills were better suited for model making and sculpting for stop motion productions.
After seeing the three-day Aardman Academy course in maquette making I thought “why not?”. At first, I was sceptical about doing the course online due to lockdown; would I be receiving the same quality of learning as I would if I was physically there? Socially would it be awkward and difficult to communicate? Would it be worth it or more akin to following a tutorial that I could find online? I needn’t have worried though as the course was just as hands on and engaging as I’m sure it would have been if I had been there in person.
In fact, doing it online came with the added benefit of allowing multiple students to tune in from all over the globe. Most agreed that doing the course virtually benefitted them as it meant they didn’t have to travel all the way to Bristol and could instead participate in a highly influential course in the comfort of their own homes. It was also amazing to talk with people from all over the world who all share a similar interest and love for an art form often viewed as “dying”, when clearly that isn’t the case.
This would be the first online animation course I’d ever taken. Knowing that I’d be taught by the very people that I looked up to as an animation and model making student was a huge privilege (though equally nerve wracking) and George Watson did not disappoint. Within the first few minutes of the course it was apparent that George knew exactly what he was talking about and was a master model maker.
George shared all his tips and tricks with us, literally leading us through each step of our sculpt and giving us insight and answers to every question we had. From how to make your own sculpting tools to achieving a smooth surface on your model, George knew it all and he was even kind enough to offer us advice and insight on how to break into the industry – which as a student hoping to one day have a career in model making for animation, I found really helpful! Although there was still a level of dependence on George for his assistance, by doing the course online we were able to learn and enhance our skills independently so that in the future we could put what we’d learnt into practice with confidence.
In all honesty, the only issue I had with the course is that three days wasn’t long enough! Time definitely flies when you’re having fun and when you become so immersed in doing something you love; three days seems more akin to three minutes! Overall, I loved every minute of the course and am already considering which course to take next.
Learn more about the Aardman Academy’s upcoming Maquette Making for Animation Course here.