Lately I've come to realize just how much taking time on the creative process and the preparation stage before delving into the actual project can really make a huge difference in the end result. And it applies to all of my classes - just one more of the ways I'm (unexpectedly) finding my fine arts and computer art classes overlapping and complementing each other.
So what do I mean by that? Well, composition is huge for painting, drawing, and planning an animation scene. In Maya (our 3D program) it's easy to go back and move the camera, but then if all your character's animation is directed toward the previous camera, it'll all need to be changed as well. To plan out a scene before animating, you want to really have an idea in your head of exactly what the character will be doing and then thumbnail out those poses - thumbnails are like mini storyboards with really loose, simple drawing. If you don't love a pose, you can try out a few more and find what works better. You don't start animating till you've got those poses pretty well established. With painting and drawing, you should already know in your head what line or brush stroke you want on that paper, before touching your medium to canvas or paper. Sure, you can go back and change it, but if you already know what you want, you'll have to do a lot less work once you've put all that down.
Now, with still lifes and a model in front of you, there's not as much creativity involved (although you do need to interpret what you're seeing). But when you're faced with creating a short story in animation; or taking dialogue and not just making your characters lip synch, but creating an interesting story/gag as well, the mental creativity road blocks go up pretty quickly. It's even worse if your classmates are using the same audio clip and in dailies show how great your clip could have been! That's been my wake-up call, and I keep hearing it makes all the difference on a demo reel.
So what do you do when you have no creative juices flowing? Well, I just came across this article, and even though it's written for illustrators, it's applicable to most any creative medium. I'm proud to say that lots of this I do on a regular basis - scanning the internet for interesting ideas and just to see what others are putting out there. I have folders on my computer for visuals and bookmarks and tutorials that I like. But I love that she has a physical process that you can go through as well - starting with words and moving to visuals from there.
Sometimes you really have to take a step back and say, what is the audience looking for and what am I trying to get across? And then brainstorm. I've found that in our classroom dailies (where we show pieces we're working on to get class feedback), when a few of us are commenting, we tend to come up with lots of ideas and run with them. We've gotten some great ideas that way, that I never would have come up with on my own. I also have made use of my husband's vast movie and video game experience to help me brainstorm ideas. I think sometimes it's easier for him to come up with ideas because he's not considering the practical limitations of how to make that story work, which always linger in the back of my mind.
Take what you will from the linked article. I usually find that if there's even one little tidbit that I can use, I store it away and at the most crucial time it'll come back to me. Especially when dealing with that elusive creativity, having someplace to start is always helpful and one of the toughest hurdles to get past.