Drawing on a Friend’s Recommendation: Free Animation Software

Through the time warped weirdness of technology, this hint pointing you toward Pencil–a cool free and creative computer animation program you and your kids will enjoy–is brought to you by Steve Ogden. I think it was in 1980 when I met Steve Ogden while I was working with horses and kids one summer at Hazelwild Farm Camp in Fredericksburg. I think he was a Junior Counselor In Training–and I still remember my camp parlance–that meant he was a JCIT, pronounced “jaysit.” I knew he was creative, talented and funny – camp fires definitely decide who is really creative, talented and funny. I enjoyed his stories and his help with the horses and campers, but we didn’t keep in touch after the summer. College, wedding, first radio job, grad school, first house, a horse business on the side–I just wasn’t that great at keeping up with friends, despite good intentions.

But when Facebook came into my life, among the people I searched for were Hazelwild Farm friends, including Steve, who I’d wondered about.

Well it turns out that Steve is an artist and writer in the Baltimore area, and he and his wife also have three sons, as we do. As for creative, talented and funny – it stuck.  Steve has worked for Cyan, makers of Myst and Riven games, and now is studio art director for  Sid Meier’s Firaxis games, makers of Civilization, Pirates, Railroads, Civilization Revolution, among others. In his spare time, he has his own creative projects.

So after making the Facebook connection with Steve and catching up on his current events, when my 12 year old Nick asked me about animation software that would work better for him than Sketchstar, which was cool at first but has its limitations, I messaged Steve.

Steve said, well if you’re looking for 2D drawing animation software, there is an excellent entry level program for him – Pencil. He said, “It’s open source, which means it’s developed by highly motivated enthusiasts, very professional, and free. I know, too good to be true, right? Well, believe it. It’s a great way to get into it. Eventually, I’d guide him into Macromedia’s Flash. It’s what most of the 2D animators use out there, and even what most of the animated TV shows currently in development are using, believe it or not.”

Thanks to the camp that Aunt Sis created (not my aunt; that was her name as far as we were concerned), thanks to working together in hundred degree temps a few decades ago, thanks to camp fires, thanks to the Facebook I love to hate and hate to love–Nick gets an animation program recommendation from my old friend Steve Ogden, who happens to know a little bit about animation.

You might enjoy learning more about Steve and his projects at his website, which includes the aptly named Og’s Blog. Steve also has an Etsy store where his publishing house, WishTales, makes his comics available in print. Or you and yours can read his award winning web comic, Moon Town, on line.

Nick’s enjoying creating animations with Pencil, and I’m enjoying thinking about intersections across time. Thanks Steve.

This entry was posted in Art, Kids and Computers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Drawing on a Friend’s Recommendation: Free Animation Software

  1. Og says:

    Lovely article! I’m glad Nick’s enjoying Pencil. I would imagine many of the folks out there who have kids may enjoy the program as well… Thanks for the plugs, and for the great article!

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