Friday, May 12, 2006

Animation School Lesson 2 -Squash and Stretch on heads

OK, here we go kids. If you haven't already drawn all the drawings from lesson 1, then don't proceed to this lesson. You need to already have a firm grasp of solid construction before you can start stretching the crap out of your drawings. Otherwise they will look like mush.

Preston makes an important point in his notes: The top of the head (the cranium) is not as pliable as the bottom half (the jaw, cheeks and mouth).
This is based on reality.
Real living heads are constructed of 2 parts:
1 The cranium.
In real life it stays solid because it is made of bone.
2 The jaw.
It is also solid and made of bone-but it can MOVE. And when it moves, it stretches the skin with it.
Got it?

Take a look at this average typical man.

That's the basic concept you need to understand when you start drawing different expressions on your constructed characters.
When something opens its mouth, 2 things happen:
1) The jawbone lowers, thus stretching the skin.
2) The lip muscles stretch into different shapes according to the expression.

In an old cartoon, a lot of characters don't actually have jaws-like this Preston Blair dog. Instead he has a cartoony stylized version of a jaw. It's just a balloon that stretches when the mouth is open and squashes when the mouth is closed.

It suggests what happens in reality but is not physically the same as having actual bones in your head.

So my point is-even though it's not real-it still has to feel natural in order to have a convincing effect on the audience.

Note how in the drawings at the top of the page, the dog isn't even opening his mouth yet his jaw squashes and stretches anyway.
This is a cartoon invention, based on another thing that happens in reality.

When you smile, your smile pushes your cheeks up towards your eyes and compresses them.

When you frown, your smile lines pull your cheeks down, making your cheeks look longer.

OK, now that you understand the concepts of squash and stretch and why things stretch when they do-remember it's not arbirtary distortion-go ahead and start copying all the drawings on this page.

IMPORTANT EXTRA TIP! When stretching and squashing something, try to maintain the basic VOLUME of what you are distorting. This will help keep your animation drawings looking natural.Remember to use construction when drawing! Don't draw straight ahead!

If you don't know what construction is yet go back and do lesson 1:


Anonymous said...

This seems like an aspect that is noticably missing from modern cartoons.

Anonymous said...

AAAAAAAAAGGGHHHH!!!! Oh my god! John posted my troll pictures! OK, so maybe I'm not the handsomest man on the block but I'm not going to apologize for the overbite, which I regard as an asset. I actually feel sorry for people who don't have buck teeth. How do they imitate upper-class Englisnmen? How do they do they eat corn?

I'm going to crawl into a hole and retreat into my happy place.

-Eddie Fitzgerald

Chris Wyatt said...

Great post! Loving Eddie Fitzgerald's facial expressions.

Anonymous said...

Hey Eddie

It's me Jesse. Funny faces make funny cartoons. John should put up some of your layout drawings on his blog. I would love to see what drawing poses you did for Ren & Stimpy or any other SPUMCO cartoons. Also what is your all time favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon. My favorites are the following.

1. Wild Hare

2. Elmers Pet Rabbit

3. Heckling Hare

4. Falling Hare

5. Hare Ribbin

6. Bugs Bunny Bond Rally

Heres one more question. Do you think it would be cool if you, John and the SPUMCO gang could make a Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck cartoon for WB. You guys could bring back the classic old school WB style back to that studio.

your pal,


Kevin Langley said...

Great post John, I'm still working on the first lesson but I'm itching to get started on this one. By the way, Eddie is far more cartoony than anything on TV since Ren and Stimpy, I would think that makes him an above average mammal no?

Anonymous said...

John- I found a picture of your 2 favorite characters in a hot steamy kiss!

Check it out!

Charlie J. said...

Go man Go!

okiesmith said...

K.R. mouth is Gi-normous!!!

Jennifer said...
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Jennifer said...

Oh, Eddie, you are not that bad looking - I think you're kind of cute. I love your laugh. The picture of you sticking out your tongue made me laugh out loud.

John, I'm enjoying watching your students' progress. I can't wait to see how they tackle this lesson. I wish I could draw myself so I can join in the fun - hey-ho. :(

christopher said...

Thank you for deciding to continue the lessons! I'm sure once everyone has time to get their books they will join in.

I posted drawings from the first lesson this morning but the red pencil was too light so I will have to repost them. Just so you know though I intend to take full advantage of your generosity! I'm looking forward to tackling this lesson tonight!

Thanks again for this opportunity John!

Marlo Meekins said...
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Marlo Meekins said...

Hey eddie, can i post the other drawing you did of me? where i'm holding my hair with all my frail and girlish strength?

Marlo Meekins said...

i love eddie

Ham said...

John, do you know that ot girl in the post, because she looks just like the spumco style girls.

Eric C. said...




I got to read up on the lessons so I can get better.

Bye the way John, I was wondering, What do you think on Ed Edd N Eddy on Cartoon Network ?

I think it's one of the most cartooniest and most creative cartoons on television (after Ren & Stimpy)


kp said...
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Kristin said...

Jennifer- I think ANYBODY could draw if they really try. It's not that hard to draw;)

Anonymous said...

thank you John for sharing your knowledge!

kp said...

I still need loads of work, but here's my wobbly work for lesson 1 and I'm getting ready for 2 soon! These are the best cartooning lessons anyone could ask for!

My Try

Anonymous said...

JENNIFER - You really think I'm cute? Gee, thanks! And thanks also to the Deity for clouding girls' minds so that even loathesome, hairy beasts like men look good to them.

MARLO - For God's sake don't print that terrible drawing! I have much better ones that I did from memory the day after. I'll post them on my blog when I get it up in a week or so (Um, I mean when I get the blog up). Thanks for saying you love me but I have to warn you that my heart belongs to my mother who sits by the hearth knitting pies for the poor.

KATIE - You look great in those pictures! That'll make John's lesson go down a lot easier with the menfolk out there. Thanks for taking the pictures I called troll pictures. I hate to admit it but they really are well-done!

JESSE - You're a guy for Pete's sake! I didn't know that! I was thinking of "Jess," you know, short for Jessica. Here I wasted all that time trying to be witty and suave when we talked before because I thought...Oh, well. Anyway, my favorite Bugs cartoons are Hare Ribbon, Tortoise Wins by a Hare, The Big Snooze and Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid. I see Falling Hare is on your list. I like that a lot but it strikes me as a really funny thrill cartoon rather than a pure comedy. I snobbishly give it an A rather than an A+ like the others. The Bond Rally is one of your favorites? That's a bit generous, don't you think? I'll have to watch it again.

-Eddie Fitzgerald

Shawn said...

Hey, John.
This is a great post! I love the lessons. I've been drawing my ass off thanks to you.

This is sort of off-topic, but I remember one of your stories about Jack Cheese, and how he always used to "char" his friends. So he made a friend out of egg yolks so he could tell it jokes and fart on it.
Well I told my pals about your story and how John K coined the term "charred", and now we say that all the time! The other night we saw some dumb pretentious girl doing "performance art". It was so bad, all of us were completely CHARRED. We burned to a crisp.

jorge garrido said...

did u take those pics of eddie and katie specifically for this lesson?

Anonymous said...

Hey Eddie

It's Jesse(MALE). I forgot to mention my other favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons "Tortoise Beats Hare" and "Tortoise Wins By Hare". I like the Bond Rally cartoon because I like Bugs Bunnys singing in that. I love "Elmers Pet Rabbit" because of the fact that Mel Blanc gives Bugs a mutch differant voice. I really wish the uncensord version of "Hare Ribbin" would be on DVD along with the other Bugs Bunny cartoons I mentioned. It would be really cool to see a Bugs Bunny cartoon made by John, you and the SPUMCO gang. Dosen't Richard Pursel work at WB? He should talk them into letting John make some violent, funny and adult rated Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck cartoons for the theater. I can still see you guys bringing back the old school style of WB cartoons to that studio. John could teatch those guys a lesson!

your pal,


P.S. I'm the Jesse who made you a drawing of Tex Averys Wolf & Red Hot Riding Hood.

Anonymous said...

JESSE - Holy Cow! I forgot to thank you for that drawing! I put it on my bulletin board. Sorry for my bad manners. About the Spumco crew doing a Bugs cartoon...(Sigh!)...I've often had the same thought. Zeuss has so far not willed it.


Wicks for Candlesticks said...

Great Lesson! Loving the visuals. Combining real life examples and the cartoon versions is a neat way to learn. Still trying to figure out lesson one. I'm running out of paper here. So, many things that I have to work on. I'll keep on keeping on.

-David O.

FunnierAndCuter said...

Here's my attempt at lesson 2;


I think the real life photos really helped...especially the cute one of Katie...I don't know what I would have done without that one...

Jeff Milner said...

Thank-you for insisting that all attempts at the Preston Blair lessons have to be posted, it's so much more fun after the fact to share my attempts... and here they are:

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

FunnierAndCuter said...


and the cute one of eddie too...

David Germain said...

latest post

Hey, John, did you leave that anonymous post on my blog? If so, how exactly do I get my "monkey" back? ;)

Joel Bryan said...
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Joel Bryan said...

I did lesson 1... and not very well.

The links are here: Bad Lesson 1!

I'll have to fit lesson 2 in between packing for Japan!

Thanks for the fun lessons and the inspiration, John!

Dryope said...

I think your blog is fascinating. I like to draw (for fun, not anyway in a professional capacity. Heck, I haven't even taken any art classes since I was maybe 10) so I will try to follow your lessons. Which means I suppose I'd better go about copying all the art you've posted. Eep. ^_^;; I hope reading your blog will help me improve. ^_^v

Dave_the_Turnip said...

here we go for lesson two. It feels like the fundementals clicked at the end.

Bob H said...

Thanks for doing this, John.

This is exciting. I've downloaded all the 1st edition pages and ordered the new edition of the Preston Blair book. (For anyone who hasn't found the book yet - ordering direct from the publisher is not a bad deal; including shipping it's only half a buck more than ordering from the amazon marketplace seller with the 88% rating, a total of $7.95 + 2.95 shipping = $10.90 total. Orders over $50 get 20% off, but I just ordered the one book for now. Nice simple and secure checkout that takes PayPal or credit card.) I placed my order Friday and I'll let everyone know how fast it arrives. Here's the link to the item at the publisher (

I've also set up my blog and I'm ready to start drawing (no drawings posted yet, but I'll do my best to catch up. Can't ignore Mother's Day, though). And, yes, I'm following the ASIFA instructions; I've also emailed the link to my blog to Stephen Worth!

Anonymous said...

This series is great... I have no eyes on being an animator, just a guy who used to doodle a bit in class and I'm getting a lot of enjoyment out of them.

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

Thank you John for continuing the lessons!
It's good to see you Eddie! When I see these pictures I automatically hear that laugh of yours!
Hey, thanks for the compliment on my comic strips! You have no idea how much that meant to me! Made my day! Hell, made my month!

khrob said...

You guys are on to lesson 2 already?! I'm having trouble enough getting through my lesson one

it's twenty to four in the morning and I feel I really must go to bed... now I understand why us 25 year olds will never make great animators - no bloody staying power!

Roberto González said...

Ok, John K. I'm taking the lessons. I doubt I will ever work for you cause I'm for another country and I don't know if I could ever managed to be good enough.

Anyway I'm going to post my drawings in my blog (just click on my name and you'll find it), so I expect you eventually could tell me here if I'm doing any good. Sometimes I see what I have done better, but other times I'm not really sure if I have improved in some aspect or not. I have planned to post other stuff by me too, so you'd probably have to scroll a little. I'm beginning a little slow, but I'll continue soon.

polanimation said...

I'm still on lesson 1:

Lesson 1, part 2


Joel Bryan said...

I did a few of the squash and stretch heads...

These are worse than the last ones!

Oh well. I'm not a superstar. I guess I'll live!

It's still better than art school.

BrandonPierce said...
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xtracrsP said...
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Ryan G. said...

hey John, I finally got a blog up.. and a sketch book assignment from my art class.. Ill try and post up my blair exercises later.. any comments or advise would be greatly apprieciated

Anonymous said...

Poor Katie has to put up with being accosted by so many socially inept, cartoon fan-boys!

Gabriel said...

Ok, John, here it is:

Lesson 2

Can't wait for the next one! Hey, are you really looking at what your students are doing?

jorge garrido said...

SLOW DOWN! I ordered the book yesterday and I don't want to rush lesson one!

kp said...

Wasn't too sure of how fast these lessons will be moving, so I just put a little bit out for 2.
Still not so good, but I'm continuing to keep at it.
more tries

BrandonPierce said...

>>Poor Katie has to put up with being accosted by so many socially inept, cartoon fan-boys!

What, Eddie Fitzgerald can get a "cute" compliment, but Katie Rice can't? That's just wrong.

Tim Kelly said...

John, I've been trying to draw Tim Curry for a comic I'm working on:

Can you give me any tips on caricature? And I'd love to see your take on Mr. Curry. I'm using his "I Do the Rock" video for reference, just to let you know.

Acetate said...

John, I can't belive no one has let you run an animation studio !(other than your own of course)You have a wealth of information and history that would be pure gold if someone would recognize it. Keep on pushing man. I never thought Lasseter would get the run of Disney so who knows...

Anonymous said...

Will This Page (The $100000 Animation Course one with Stephen's email) continue to be used as a hub for all these progress pages, or is it better to just post the link here?

Dwaer said...

Hi John,
I've made my exercise.

Lesson 1

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Running a bit behind but i finished head structure today. Check out what I have so far on my toonhead blog. I'm happy with it!

Anonymous said...

Do you realize R&S is 15 years old now?

Piotr said...

Hey Tim Kelly, check out my Tim Curry I did a while back:

Tim Kelly said...

Hey Tim Kelly, check out my Tim Curry I did a while back:

I like it! I put it under mine.

Stephen Worth said...

I just updated the Students Blogroll at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Blog. Please make sure your assignments are posted there, so it's easier for John to find them.

Lesson One: Construction- The Head
Lesson Two: Squash & Stretch- The Head
Lesson Three: Proportions-Checking Your Work

If your blog posts aren't listed there, or if I have listed them on the wrong page, please email me at and I will add you to the list.

Have fun!
Stephen Worth
ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed with your site, very nice graphics!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed looking at your site, I found it very helpful indeed, keep up the good work.

Andy Seredy said...

Hey John, Here ya go. Hooray!

Lesson 2

Anonymous said...

Say, John, I had a question about the fact that real heads are composed of two main forms (the cranium and jaw):

My question is: is it possible for cartoon characters to be made of only one shape, composed of both the cranium and jaw? I ask out uf curiosity in the hopes that I'll improve.

Paul said...

I've had a go at this lesson now, here is a link to my work:



TWill said...

Finished Lesson 2 and this was a fun one watching how much the jaw can sqush around. Look forward to doing the next lessons.

Here is my Lesson 2.

John said...

Hey John,

I've done some drawings for lesson 2, they're are on my blog which I've set up for this course:


Luke said...

Hey John, I'm a little late to the game on this. But, I'm folowing along with the lessons. I have the book.

I don't have the pictures up on my blog yet, but I may soon.

Do you reccomend me drawing poses and expressions straight from a cartoon? (I.e. Woody Woodpecker in A Barber of Seville)

Damiano D said...

Hey John! Just finished the stretch and squash homework along with a review and a practical on it! My work can be viewed in the link below. Hope you can stop by!

Link to my Stretch and Squash work.

David said...

Hi John
I finished Lesson 2 and posted the scans
Take a look

Scott Cardona said...

How the hell could any animator in the business now a days be able to animate anything without constructions lines is insane.

islandheroes said...
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Emery Miller said...

Here is a link to Lesson 2 and some more Cartoon Copies and Toy Constructions.


Matthew N Rhonda McDaniel said...

More copies, more copies.... Lesson 2 Squash and Stretch