CG students: Tell me about your school experiences!


I’m currently a multimedia instructor or a career school. I teach After Effects, Lightwave, and Director, although I’m trying to get my school to phase out Director for Flash. I just started this job 6 months ago and it’s been fine so far. By teaching this stuff my skill level has increased very much, but I still don’t have much time to CREATE. And this brings me to my little problem. I teach the students how to use these programs, but it’s another thing entirely to teach them how to be “Creative”. I’ll give these kids a project with the parameters I set up for them and a lot of the time I get crap. Sure, they did what I asked of them, but from a creative standpoint, it sucks!


When I go to grade these projects I feel some guilty and/or irritated because a lot of them just don’t have an eye!

For those of you who went to school for this stuff, took classes whatever, how did your instructor get you to be creative??? And how did they grade you?? Were you graded harshly if your project was boring? I’m so sick of getting crap from these students, but I can’t really blame them too much because I’m just teaching the program. It’s like, “Here Fido, Go be creative!!!”



I never had an instructor who really taught creativity. I feel for the most part that’s their own job, you’re job is to give them the skills to portray their creativity in whatever way they want. But you could open them up to other artists, hopefully inspire.


At my high school there is a new class and it has to do with CG programming. Not a lot of students are creative.
They usually stem from the book we have or what the teacher tells us. Its mostly up to the student, I think, if they want to be creative or not.
I try my best and I try never to give my teacher something generic because I like taking the assignment and making it my own. Most of the students at my school you ask them why they take the class and they: “Cause its easy.”
But this is a high school so I don’t know about anything collegy.

But I think if you want them to be creative why don’t you show them other works of art. Even create some of your own. And say if you really get to know this program this is what you can do.
And show them a bunch of artistic pieces using the same program that they are learning. Maybe exposing them to creativity could help.


This is probably the hardest issue with teaching computer animation in schools. How do you teach a creative and technical subject in a limited time? I’ll relate my thoughts as an instructor.
In general, what I have had to do is separate the grading of a project into a technical and artistic grade. For the technical grade I look at the efficency, and technical knowledge shown in the creation of the project. For the artistic grade I look at all those intangibles. In this way the student knows more about why they recieved a grade and what areas to work on. ANd be sure to get all of the working files from the students, not just a completed movie or project.

Specifically in regards to teaching creativity you can show them how an artist, like yourself, looks at creating a project. Use both real world examples as well as finding samples that interest them. Videogames and movies should really be part of the cirriculum if your intereest is in having students develop creativity. They need to see and then break apart how these visuals go from thoughts to coompletion. Use examples from your professional career, real world examples of problems you solved and how you used creativity to develop the project.

You can give them the knowledge base to begin to look at the world with an artistic eye. You can have them experience the observation skills needed to develop an artistic eye. And this is what I try and show my students, that observation and critical thinking combined give you an artistic sensibility.

That being said, not everyone has the same artistic eye or can use creativity to the same degree. Many students believe that the computer will do all the work. Or they come from a more technical background. You must judge the level of each student. I tell the students right away that all of these subjects are difficult and complex. You will have to spend extra time outside of class to really excel.

Good luck.


i remember one of my favourite teachers (animation class) would start the class by opening up various clips he had gotten off the net or from movies and begin to break down the animation and explain to us how the artist created it or point out poses that were really strong and were helping to sell the animation.
It always sparked more creativity in the class and our assignments were stronger because we were trying to match the quality of the stuff he was showing us,.

So in my opinion you can spark creativity for someone else with such things as visual stimulation but you cant exactly teach them to be creative thats something they must learn for themselves.

So yeah i suggest you spend time everyday saving out your favourite clips and show them in class , if you can at least motivate one person to work and try harder than it will probably be worth the effort.


ask yourself: what is creativity? right, not easy to answer! isn’t it? maybe you can define it but something that for you isn’t that creative could be very creative for someone else. I’m a student too and what we got tought is how to come up with ideas, where to look for inspiration and so on…and then it is just about to choose your favorite tool and transform this idea in something concrete


Each one needs to find it’s own way, a good teacher should act as a “guide”, and not as as book or monitor, that repeats everything.

Why don’t say to your students to always show originality as rule for your class and assignments.
Forbidden to use someone else creativity. Be severe but comprehensive.

The assignments must be resolved by themselves, as investigation.
And if they can’t stand that, they probably are only wasting your time.

To my point of view, teaching is not about how much you know, but how good you know it.
True creativity cannot be teached. But how creative a teacher really is? is something you need to ask yourself.
A teacher cannot teach something that was created by someone else. A teacher cannot be the voice of someone else creativity, thats impossible.



I always found excursions to animation festivals and meeting with other animation schools very inspiring. Usually I came back with a lot of ideas. Workshops lasting up to 8 hours with/without Guest lecturers were also very successful.


this semester went by really fast! guess im having fun :smiley:
felt like we barely did anything, since i came from graphic design and we had to do stuff with paper and glue and paint and all that… i likes’ it dijeetahls

3 more to go! and im outta` here! :bounce:


Bring in cool effects-shots from movies, Commercials, CG Talk pieces and discuss them and try to breakdown how they were done, and then encourage the students to try to re-create them.

Take orthographic pictures of everyone in class and make them model their own face. Assign 1 movie to watch per week and then have a discussion about it the next week.

Have contests with cool prizes. Bring in seasoned guest speakers from the industry to talk about their work.

Have weekly critiques also.


Creativity can’t be taught to people who don’t go seeking it. Having said that, your going to see a lot of students who don’t have the drive and very few who take the effort in stepping beyond the tutorial handout you give them.

   Enthusiasm goes a long in inspiring creativity as an instructor IMO. Ask yourself..What is your attitude like when you teach the material? If your enthusiastic about what you teach, it has a great chance of rubbing off on your students. I had an instructor back in highchool who taught 3D and Although his 3D wasn't the most stellar his involvement with the students was. At times he would even jump into one of the open workstations among the students and made 3D along with us! He gained a lot of respect for doing that and I still consider him the person who sparked my interest in doing this for a living. But even looking back, I notice, many of the students I've met were getting into art classes because they needed to full fill school requirements or go to college to please their parents wishes. I enrolled in that course as there was already an interest existing beforehand. Needless to say, my work far exceeded the rest of the students and I ended up enrolling in the course multiple time from there on out until the end of high school and eventually gathered enough certificates that I lost many of them and lost track as to how many times I took that course.
   I then pursued my interest further in college, but thats when I also became the disgruntled and bitter artist I am today :deal:. That and the quality of college education was lacking in both good instruction and curriculum. The bottom line though is I am now doing this for a living as a result of those first driven moments. Many of the other students I met are doing something else and or not doing anything at all!
   I also want to add that among the instructors in college, I learned the most from the one's who graded tough, critiqued harshly and those who pushed me to do great. At the time, I greatly disliked those instructors but now I totally respect them and most of what I remember and apply in everyday work now comes from their preaching. But grading harshly wasn't their only skill, additionally they were usually helpful, realistic about assignments and knowledgable about what they were teaching. The best instructors I ever had were those who weren't afraid of leaving their dignity behind in the name of bettering their students. The example of my highscool instructor working on the same projects with us is a great example of this and Its something I have rarely witnessed but should happen more!. Any instructor can lecture but can he walk the talk? If so, it'll bring weight to his words and better yet, it can create the good kind of competitvenes between students and instuctor alike! So get in the action yourself, don't just read from a book or stare into a projector all day! BE one of the students for a day. Reward them but reward them for effort telling them you'll buy them all a snack at lunch the next week if their submissions as a whole looks better than yours does. Don't like blow them away in the dust with your submission, thats not the point. :D Take $25, set it aside and lock it away as if its already spent. Plan for it to be used to reward your students hard work. Now up all the way until submission day, do the best you can to challenge your students so when it comes to reward them, the $25 you use to buy them snacks feels like is $25 a well spent. This will drive you as an instructor, because sometimes instructors need to to be motivated themselves to motivate their students:)

   I don't know what else to say. I believe you've got to have a little interest to begin with if you want to be good at anything. You can try to pt creativity in your students but in the end it really comes down to them wanting to be creative  :shrug:


Tradition art helps with creativity but as a technical instructor who know’s creativity, harsh critiques tend to work best if they wan’t the students to develop the eye in a short time. But there are some “Side Effects” to harsh critiques, like cyborg said, you will be hated but once they develop the eye later on… most of them will think differently of you.

Don’t make the critiques too harsh that it would make them cry or wan’t to suicide. Something that helped me long time ago was a common technique/phrase, “Less is More”. Also another effective way is to show them your own “creative” work or someone elses, if they like it… then it will inspire them.

Mistakes are one of the first steps to creativity.

Now go make them cry! :twisted:


ahaha i know what you mean. the thing is, the majority of these students who are taking those classes have never touched that software before. so you really can’t expect much from first time users. it takes time to learn the software, get used to it, and then be creative with it. at least that’s what i think. plus in the case of students, most of them are going to give you just the bare minimum and rarely go all out with each assignment, since i’m sure they have other classes to worry about.

(sometimes they talk about how “there’s always this one kid in class who’s better than everyone else” and then add how much of an a$$ that student is for making them feel bad about what they’re handing in.)

so even the ones that do know how to use the software, usually end up handing in just the bare minimum just like everyone else so they won’t stand out. there are a lot of things that count depending on the situation, but as far as being creative, i guess pointing them to web sites/examples with works that you find inspirational, and everything else that was mentioned above.


I wouldn’t worry too much. While it is good to be creative, not all people have an easy time being creative and coming up with stuff. But then again, there’s lots of positions in our field where creativity is much less important than technical knowledge, accuracy and problem solving skills (just another form of creativity in my book).

I think some classes or subjects just naturally lend themselves to get your creative juices flow while others don’t. I never found a class bad because it focussed on “button pushing”. Don’t get my wrong, there’s the stupid kind of button pushing and the intelligent one, where you have to use your brain to figure out an optimal workflow for a given problem and then solve the problem efficiently. Which can be just as important to learn as how to be creative.

Depending on what stage of the education your classes are: if they are foundation classes, I would really focus on technical stuff, so that the students have their mind free of technical issues in later classes where they can focus on the art side of things.

As for grading:
I think grading should have 3 parts, neatness (how sloppy or polished is a project), technical execution (how did the student tackle the problem? e.g is the UV layout organized, how does the mash look, is the ActionScript efficient and well programmed, etc) and creativity (how original is the project)


the best instructors i had were the very relaxed ones that for example allow you to hand in your stuff any time so long as its by the end of the semester and its in good standing (for example i have a full time job AND full time school…hence meeting deadlines, although possible, not always achievable)

the second kind of teacher i found useful is the mean but funny one. He’ll rip our works apart and poke fun at them while we also ahve a laugh but then he explains what was done wrong and how it should be done right.

thats just me. Ive also had the by the book teachers and i found their classes monotonous and very boring. With students, especially over the age of 19,20, being politically correct all the time can spell doom for your relationship with them.

as for markings. mark the best in the class with a B and leave the rest with C’s or D’s (im just a very harsh marker, even though i dont teach, i tutored at one point and could never find myself be able to dish out As for “okay” work).

If some dont have an eye, tell’em to get some perspective. i know i sucked when i started but the more i read and bought art books (god knows art of star wars gave me an ENTIRE new perspective on technological and environmental designs) the better i got. Now people see me on the subway looking at scratched up walls and dirty chairs because im wondering to myself “would that make a good texture on my next project?”.

lastly though, it all comes down to what each individual wants to do. If theyre not into it for the love of it and FUN of it, theyre not supposed to be there. Animation is a profession, NOT a hobby.


I had a prof back in university who could teach creativity. But there was no one way she did it. She was extremely creative and motivated and it caught on with us. She was very hard on us, never letting us accept the status quo or be complacent. If we were working in a way that was formulaic she’d call us on it. Everybody in her class rose above where they were and did some pretty cool stuff. It was really impressive to see. How she did it, I don’t really know. Really she leads by example and accepts no less from her students. So I know creativity can be taught, or at least I guess nutured.


I went to a small school in Tennessee in the mid-late '90s and the 2 teachers running the program were amazing. It was an incredibly tough school but produced results. My graduating class and the one before it (which was less than 20 people), nearly everyone got good jobs and has gone on to work for places like Naughty Dog, Valve, Sucker Punch, Rockstar, founder of Bottlerocket Studios, SOE, SCEA, EA, MTV, Sigil Games, Idol Minds, and several others.

Personally I feel creatativity cannot be taught, it can only be nurtured and focused. The correct word IMHO is Passion. If they aren’t passionate then they won’t be creative and do more than the bare minimum. Most of us aren’t passionate about math (or insert hated subject here), so when doing the assignments, you don’t research it and find out more about it for FUN. No, you finish the 10 questions and close the book, same thing here.

Part of the teachers job is to help the students find their passion for the aspects that got them interested in 3D/art to begin with. There has to be a spark in the student for the teacher to pick up on to help guide them, if there is no spark, then not much you can do. What’s a worse situation, learning in school that you don’t have the chops or coming out with a bad reel, no real job prospects, and debt? Challenge the ones you connect with, and do your best with the rest.



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