Whether it’s drawing a camel, a rabbit, a shoe or a tree, Zimmermann said it’s about eye, hand, head and heart.
“A lot of students want to draw but they don’t realize what drawing is,” he said. “In eye, you learn to see. In hand, your hand has to be trained. In head, you need to know the anatomy and the design. In heart, you need to have passion because it’s a damn hard profession. A story is not just inventing or recording. You have to create feelings. The artist has to express, not depict.”
And while the medical world looks at anatomy as “plumbing and biology,” Zimmermann said artists see it as storytelling and movement. “You can’t understand how to move unless you study anatomy,” he said.
At Seneca, Zimmermann said students are trained not only to be skilful, but also to be creative people who express something. Over the years, many of his students have gone on to work for Pixar, Blue Sky and Ubisoft.
“It’s true you can’t teach imagination, but there’s no one without imagination. Tell me a person who doesn’t dream!” he said. “We are good at locking up imagination. Kids are imaginative and they are told to grow up. Imagination is about play and God doesn’t sit on our shoulder and say, ‘I’ve got an idea.’”
Having been at Seneca since 2003, Zimmermann now teaches alongside some of his former students.
“Teaching is enriching. Contact with younger people and the younger minds makes me feel that I’m still connected,” he said. “I love the program at Seneca. I love teaching in a zone of strength.”
As for life after the coveted Governor General’s nominations, “nothing changes,” Zimmermann said. “I still have to wait in line for the washroom and pay for groceries. There are still days that I ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ But that’s part of the artistic process.”