For People Crazy About 2D Animation!

Acme Punched! is for people crazy about 2D animation. It may be enjoyed by beginners and others, but it is aimed at animators who know already something about the process of animation and the basics of character animation. In large part, it will attempt to provide a deep look into the problem solving that goes on in my head as I work out a scene, often in step-by-step posts that I will sometimes enter in "real time", without knowing in advance what the outcome will be. Mistakes and false starts will not only be included but emphasized, so that the creative process of animation will be portrayed realistically. And, while my own bias is for 2D drawn animation, many of the effects and principles discussed here can apply to CGI 3D animation as well. I hope the blog will prove useful and instructive for all.

-Jim Bradrick

Sunday, June 26, 2016

No. 102, The Benefit of Life Drawing

I don't believe there is any animator or storyboard artist or concept artist who could not benefit from life drawing.

Even if you don't get a chance to do much character animation, the experience of life drawing could lead you to a pose that adds in body language some of what might be missing in the animation.

Here are two examples of 3 minute drawings from a recent life drawing class that I attend on a weekly basis.
Each figure was drawn in under three minutes. Practice in quick drawing and observation
is invaluable for the animation artist.
Notice the woman on the right; she is in a strange pose that one might never imagine without reference to real life, with all her weight on that left leg that is angled far to the right, so that her right leg can cross over and come to rest on the opposite side. Because of the flexibility of the ankles, it is actually quite a stable pose. This person, with clothes on, might be standing and waiting for her child's school bus to arrive.

In the pose at left, the woman again has all her weight on her left leg. Animators always need to know how the weight of a character is supported, and it is seldom an equal distribution of weight to each leg.

Here is a 15 minute drawing of a model seated.
A good study in the foreshortening of limbs.

I enjoy poses like this where the long limbs of the legs or arms are coming almost straight at me, or straight away, and I must convincingly depict that illusion of depth.  In this case the model's right upper leg and her left lower leg are severely foreshortened.  The arms, on the other hand, are both in a plane that is perpendicular to my line of sight, so no foreshortening was required there.

Here is a 3 minute drawing that shows what can be defined with a minimum of line and no shading, which is the essence of drawing for traditional animation.

Line drawing--the heart and soul of traditional hand-drawn animation.

Line art as the primary means of expression for traditional animation came about through a combination of influences:  because of the process of tracing through a stack of paper sheets held in register; because the early animation producers were working with a high-contrast black and white film that could not record subtle shades of grey; because hand-shaded drawings were jittery and took too much time to render; because of the strong influence of the styles and media of newspaper comic strips; and, with the advent of the use of cels, because the smoothest way to shade was to fill the areas defined by the lines in flat greys or colors on the backs of the cels. Animators learned to delineate volume with carefully crafted outline, until that became an art.

Now in the present digital age it has become possible to render animation directly as volumes rather than as outlines representing volumes. But for me and many others, animation through line art remains the more alluring medium.

Beyond outline, to attempt to draw the subtle contours within a form is excellent exercise in observation and eye-hand control.

A 15 minute drawing of a male model with
well-defined musculature.

If you cannot attend life-drawing sessions with nude models, you can still benefit from life drawing of family and friends. You will find that it is very different from drawing from photographs. If you are not already doing this, I strongly encourage you to draw from life, analyzing shape and weight and balance from the viewpoint of an animator. You may discover your animation skills to be greatly enhanced!

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Next: Life Drawing as Animation

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