Sunday, October 21, 2007

Heckling Hare: step-by-step construction lesson

Here is a really cool frame from Tex Avery's "Heckling Hare". It's a hilarious scene animated by Rod Scribner.

Scribner loves to draw lots of extra wrinkles and brow folds on his characters, yet he still keeps them appealing and solid. They are not just arbitray lines and details floating around on the head. They make sense.

They wrap around the structure of the head and they describe certain things-expressions, eyebrows.

At first glance all the wrinkles make the drawing look complicated, but if you break it down to its forms first, then it will help you understand the drawings better.

Scribner uses the same classic principles that Bob McKimson and all the old animators used, but he applies them to his own style.

You can learn a lot by copying frames and animation from old cartoons. But the way to do it is:

Don't draw straight ahead.

Build up the drawing using proportions and construction. The Preston Blair Book explains this method of drawing very well, but I will help demonstrate it for you.


First, I measured the proportions of the characters and copied the proportions. Then I sketched in the rough forms that make up the poses, and drew straight lines through the forms to check that the angles the heads and bodies are tilted on look like the film frame.

Bugs is made up of 3 major forms in the drawing:
1) Head
2) Neck)
3) Body

Download this zipped quicktime to your desktop:


After breaking down your characters into their first level of forms, then take each of those forms and find the next level of forms.

Start with the heads.

Bugs has one head.
The one head is made of of 2 major parts:
1) The cranium -upper part of head
2) The muzzle- lower part of head

Each of those levels is then further broken down into sections.

Upper head is made up
1 eyes,
2 eyebrows and
3 space around them.

all these sub forms have to wrap around the larger form that they are stuck to.

Lower head (muzzle) is broken into
1 nose area,
2 cheeks and
3 mouth

Each of those layers is in turn broken down into more parts.

Get it?
If not, watch me do it.

Download this zipped quicktime to your desktop:

Expressions are made up of


To get the eyebrow expression I usually just draw one line right through both eyebrows to describe the expression in one connected stroke.

Later I can erase the middle unibrow section. This way the eyebrows are related to each other in the final drawing and not just floating independently of each other.

When drawing the mouth expression, you have to make sure that the cheeks and jaw all relate to the mouth. They are all part of the same mechanism.

Once you have your basic expression wrapped around your head and muzzle, the last step is to add the details that help solidify the expressions.

Eyebrow wrinkles above the eyebrows. They follow the same direction as the main eyebrow line. They wrap around the head too, the same way the eyebrows do.

The mouth cheek area: The lower lip has to relate to the mouth shape and so do the cheeks.

Teeth: Draw them as blocks of teeth first, not as individiual teeth. Make the blocks be in the same perspective as the head.

Once the blocks look solid, them break them into individual teeth.

Download this zipped quicktime to your desktop:JOHN K TUTORIAL, STEP 3 (53.9mb)

Straight Ahead Drawing VS Constructed Drawing
Now I drew this first drawing without first constructing it. I already know how it works so it only looks half crappy. But compare it to the below that I drew with construction first. See how much more solid and convincing and powerful it is?


When you know your principles of drawing well , then you will be able to draw with much more confidence and you won't be afraid of details and you will have a lot more creative choices you will be able to make in your own work.

Download this zipped quicktime to your desktop:


Look at all the empty space left in the drawings. The whole head is not filled with wrinkles and details.

If it was, you wouldn't see the expressions at all. You would just see a busy mess.

In order to see something important-you need to leave areas of space around the details that let you see the important stuff.

Make sense?

If you do this lesson, post a comment and I'll put it up in another post and critique it.

Thanks To Kali for making the films, and Marc for getting them in here.


amir avni said...

This is the best way to study!
Thanks John, Kali and Marc!

Okapi Figment William said...

This is quite nice!

Alberto said...

Priceless as always John,really useful to learn the use of white clear areas around the wrinkles

Callum said...

This looks to be really helpful and accessable what with the videos etc. I'm gonna give this a shot and I'll post what I do.

Mitch K said...

Thank you.

Okapi Figment William said...

Who did the music in the last video?

Bitter Animator said...

Would I get in trouble for saying I prefer your construction drawings to the actual cartoon drawings? The still just looks a little blobby and other areas (like the ears) look very flat. But you've got a solid consistency in your construction.

I'm going to be lynched for disrespecting a classic, aren't I?

Kyle said...

I may actually give this a shot. Its awesome to see video demonstrations about this sort of thing. its the next best thing to being personally taught by you.

If I do this I'll be sure to post it up. that is if I'm not completely embarrassed by the results. heh

I hope to see more video demonstrations like this in future posts.

DJ said...


Thanks a ton! You are awesome!

Anonymous said...

OK, this is officially the BEST. POST. EVER.

I think I'll actually try to show my attempt at this one...just gotta find some time for it... Damn your timing, John!

Gregg said...

Hi John,

First of all, thanks for this post.

But, I do have a question, and a suggestion.

I'll start with a stupid question.

dUh........What are all the different pretty colors for... George.........ah...John???

I've never looked into it, but I've heard of non-photo blue.
Why do animators use different colors, and what are they for?
Your benefit?, the next departments benefit?

.... the colors....I love the pretty colors!!!

While practicing PB's construction type drawings, I wasn't sure, when I was trying my own stuff, how to work with the open spaces over the eyes, I think I get it now.
(form, flow, and wrap. Thanks)

Now onto suggestions....
Your first attempt at video lessons, and a good one at that, and I'm sure the camera work would improve if you continue these.(not bad, but not great).

I would love to see a second video on poses, posing, and line of action!!!

(I'd ask for expressions, but your "draw a line through the eyebrows" kind of solved a thing or two and seven eights for me.)


akira said...

WOW! John, Kali, Marc, THANKS SO MUCH for making the movies... i've been anxiously awaiting and it's so worth the wait! it's really encouraging to see the step by step approach in action by John K!

and to just see how he draws lines, draws on a board rotating to do nicer curved lines in the direction he wants and everything, it's so awesome! i gotta get a paypal account so i can donate!

(p.s. i guess spoiling us makes us greedy, but i'd LOVE to see more video tutorial/demonstrations in the future!! oh man, i'd LOVE to see good inking in action. i've tried tracing spumco inking and have trouble even getting a good line(maybe it's top secret techniques how to do good inking, i don't know))

boootooons ltd. said...

thanks john!

say, do you know where we could find some interviews with scribner?

- trevor.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Bravo! A wonderful, wonderful post!!!!!!!

Barbara said...

This is a godsend--construction is the bane of my existence. I'm definitely doing this.

Anonymous said...

I like seeing you draw, John. You really should make more of these type of videos. They remind me of the drawing video Sherm Cohen posted on his blog.

Dave_the_Turnip said...

I won't be able to attempt this till i get back from uni in about 10 hours, but what you've done here is amazing. I can't wait to not only watch the videos you've uploaded but have a go myself (it's been ages since i've drawn from a cartoon freeze frame). Thanks John :)

amir avni said...

I posted my Bugs

Nico said...

man, you can't find other animation blogs like THIS! Absolutely wonderful.

Thank you John and Kali :)

Walter Schille said...

Ryan G. said...

These are great John! Thanks!

ubergrafik said...

This is pure gold! Can you please tell us what pencils you are using. I'm using a grey 2B clutch pencil at the moment and see it's a good idea to use different colours for different stages of construction. I am also trying to track down some paper here in Melbourne Australia, but it's proving difficult at the moment. Do you make your own?
Thanks again for a great post. More like this please!

Joe said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to really spell that out John! I've seen the same sort of construction tutorial in dozens of books, but it's so helpful to see it in action like that!

ubergrafik said...

Oh, one other thing. I've been doing the PB book and have been wondering about the perspective of the ears and the eyes. In the examples, there seems to be two vanishing points way off to the left. I have been trying to add a horizontal perspective line further up, that will be used to get the eyes the correct height, and am wondering where it is meant to be, and what other lines it follows. I am working on getting all the logic happening and am stumped on this bit. Cheers again.

Gabriel said...

i remember begging for video lessons like a year ago...
I hope you do more, and i'll agree with Jorge, best post ever.

Per said...

I tried it. Thanks John.

Raff said...

Doing a shindig in Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal in the future? If you're passing the hat at an event up north you've given me good reason to feed it nicely.

So it's not just me - it really does take that long to draw a frame. Or do inbetweens somehow go faster? How long does it typically take for an animation drawing of one character in full animation?

Okapi Figment William said...

The method you used for the 3 hairs, on Bugs, really effected me. I had not thought about drawing hair like that. Thanks.

Dan! said...

Wow, amazing! Thank you very much for this. I learned some techniques that I never would have thought of like the unibrow or going from basic hair shape to lines to strands.

I always construct first with circles and centerlines and don't go straight into details, but after reading and watching this tutorial I still go into details too quickly. I'll keep all your instruction in mind the next time I draw.

Thanks a lot, John.

Agustin Croxatto said...

Hi John I uploaded my construction study on my blog, I had a really hard time drawing the wrinkles!! I would love to get some critique, oh and thanks for posting these lessons are excellent!!

Chris said...

Wow, this is awesome. Thanks so much for this lesson guys (and Kali). There were so many subtleties in construction that I had never picked up on learning just from the Preston Blair book. I'm so excited I'm gonna go and start constructing like an Italian foreman. Think I'll hook up my crappy scanner and finally get some lessons up for you to critique too.

Thanks again for this awesome lesson and I really hope I'll get to see more videos.

mkotschi said...

Damn! This is great stuff. Is there a reason that you don't just do a training video on DVD?

Anonymous said...

This is quite an excellent post, as always. I hope I'll learn something from all this knowlege you are sharing to everyone, especially to such an unworthy jerk (note: ME), who cannot organize his ideas, or for that matter, repair run-together sentences.

Hopefully, I have gotten it right this time with my revised post on Paul Terry. If not, then it just shows that I'm not fit to write anything, unless if I get my act together.

Later, from an embarrassed cartoonist/ artist


Kris said...

The video lesson's great!

In my opinion one of the most informative parts was seeing the constructed Bugs versus the straight-ahead drawing of Bugs. It was easy to tell that even you were struggling with the straight-ahead drawing.

PCUnfunny said...

Hey John, I uploaded my attempt at your tutorial. BTW, I loved the funny music in the Dog speed draw.

R. Banuelos said...

"The still just looks a little blobby and other areas (like the ears) look very flat."

That not neccesarily how Rod drew it, the drawings went through other peoples hands before getting filmed.

Not to say one drawing shouldn't be favored over another, it's obviously up to opinion.

Kyle said...

Ive put up my attempt (just bugs, not the dog).
I'm not very proud of it though, I see a lot of things I overlooked now, and since I used prang colored pencils, I cant erase. I guess I probably didn't need to go that far in mimicking what you did, heh.

I think I'll try again soon.
I don't really need a critique of this attempt, as I already know its off. but your still free to say anything you want. maybe you see something that I dont.

Julián höek said...

awesome john!! it's really cool to see you draw!! i hope you'll do more videos like these one 'couse it was great! we can learn a lot more by watching some one else drawing so good.
thanks a lot to kali and marc too!!

Ryan G. said...

Hey John. I posted my attempts on my blog. Thanks for the lesson.

foist lastus said...

I got so inspired by these drawings and the article that I did the exercise and uploaded it. It might be over my head, but I tried. I hope I am going in the right direction... I really enjoy looking at everyones posts.

Callum said...

My Attempt:

Really great lesson. Even though it wasn't meant to be funny I laughed out loud at some parts of the videos. I think it must just be you're a naturally amusing person.

Don't really wanna repeat myself so just read what I have to say in the post. And feel free to read some of my older posts, focusing on British/French comic art (shameless promotion over)

Paul B said...


mdouglas said...

Can't wait to watch this tonight. Thank you!

LeoBro said...

Thanks John, Kali and Marc!

The best thing about the video for me is getting to see an experienced professional at work. All the things you take for granted and wouldn't think to mention. I don't get to see this because I don't know any animators. Even your set-up, holding a portable drawing board on your lap, was interesting.

Which brings up a...

Question: You draw your lines so much more quickly and fluidly than I do when I'm copying a drawing. Is that just to capture an expressive flow, or can you actually be as accurate as you're encouraging us to be with our copies (comparing them in PhotoShop) when you go that fast?

Kali Fontecchio said...

"BTW, I loved the funny music in the Dog speed draw."

That would be Les Paul's "Goofus" perfect, no?

Mitch Leeuwe said...

Thanks John, Kali and Marc!

This is great, this really helps me. I'm now a bit sick, but when I will get better I will start imiditally.

Rodrigo said...

Here's my stab. I'm all ears generous sir.

G.M. dela Cruz said...

hey john,

been reading your blog for quite some time now but not actively participating with your lessons but right now can't really help but tell how much i appreciate you sharing your knowledge and most importantly your ideas!

currently downloading your lessons and looking forward to practice it. thanks again and keep up the great work!

Brett W. Thompson said...

Wow, thanks so much for posting this, so helpful!

NateBear said...

Stupendous! This makes me really want to draw... RIGHT NOW!

Since i starded reading your blog i can't help but draw with construction most of the time.

flashcartoons said...

i tried it, i got lost around the mouth :(

anyway i like the video's please make more, maybe do some b&w cartoon ones. ill donate more!!!!!

NateBear said...

so you can draw. but can you do it dressed up like an old prospector? with an afro?

PCUnfunny said...

John I just made a donation of twenty clams. My real name is Ricardo Cantoral.

"That would be Les Paul's "Goofus" perfect, no?"

Si !.... I think.

Pencilninja said...

Just uploaded my attempt at

Sphyzex_9 said...

You should do this more often.

christopher said...

Thanks so much John and Kali! I just posted my tries from last night. I recently started my second semester at animation school and I feel like I'm ahead of the pack thanks to your lessons! In fact I'm going to donate right now!

Brian said...

Many thanks for taking the time to make these videos.. fantastic to see proper technique explained so clearly. Inspiring stuff..I'm off to practice!


Anonymous said...

I've posted my first two attempts at drawing Bugs.

I haven't drawn Willoughby yet, so you won't see any drawings of him, yet.

Again, uh..uh..duh..thanks a lot George, thanks a lot, George, I mean John!

Kevin Langley said...

Great lesson. I feel bad ruining a perfectly good Scribner drawing but here's my go at it.

Heckling Hare

Kevin Langley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you John, Kali, and Marc for putting these up! So great!!! Here is my attempt at Bugs:
Click Here For Bugs

Anonymous said...

Is it strange that the eyebrow as one line trick never occured to me?

Great advice. Stored in memory. Applied. Thank you!

NextGen (Hector) said...

Hey John, I created a channel for you at Veoh:

Now people can look at your videos much easier without having to download the big quicktime files and you can also embed them, etc.

I hope you don't mind that I did this. I'm just trying to help. If you want me to continue updating it with any future lessons you create just let me know, or if you want me to stop, let me know:


Anonymous said...

Hey John, thanks heaps for taking the time to do this, its really appreciated.

Thanks for your blog.

Rob Peters said...

Here's my attempt at drawing Bugs.

Chris S. said...

Hi John -

I just posted my construction sketches as well as a video of me drawing them. The video quality doesn't allow for much detail, but it's there. I'm willing to give this another go, for sure.

I would love your feedback. Thanks for this blog and your time!

Barbara said...

my bugs

Taber said...

This is great John, I'll watch them all when I get the chance. Thanks a-plenty!

Gavin Freitas said...

What a fun post John. Keep these coming....

Dave_the_Turnip said...

Here's my attempt. I'm going to have another go later.

Julián höek said...

hi john! thanks again for that great video post!
here are my attempts to do bugs and i've also made a new blog for all the Preston Blair's exercises i've been doing for some time.
i hope to get some feedback! promise i'll take it like a man!

The cartoon push ups blog

tark said...

hi john, thanks for the lesson!
i did some prctice, i would like to know your opinion:


crazyharmke said...

Wow this is so great! Thanx Kali, John and Marc!

I'm on a trip with school now, but as soon as I'll come home, I'll start with this!

Andy J. Latham said...

Hi John, I hope you have chance to look at my attempt at your lesson.

I love the use of video in this lesson. It really helps in understanding the things you are talking about.

Thanks John!

PCUnfunny said...

I know this OT John but a new member of the Spumboard, Lemon Head, wrote a very interesting criticism of Ren Needs Help !

"The worst I had seen was Ren Needs Help. (I mean the Games ep, not the latest episode Ren SEEKS Help, which Im hoping to see on the dvd.)

Its just that it seemed so, cold towards Ren's psychology. Like he deserved all the pain given.

My father has Manic Depression, and through most of my childhood I had to try to stay as calm as I could through his numerous breakdowns. Normally the Spumco episodes showed humour in phsycosis, like the toothbrush sequence in Space Madness. I was okay with that, and I still am, but not so much with how Games did it.'

It made me feel ashamed my dad has a psychological problem. And it has also given me a fear of Mental Health Units.

The difference between Ren Seeks Help and the Games episode, (not just the title) is that the former explored more deeply into his life, the latter just shoved him in the Nut House unceremoniously.

Chris Rank said...

wow. john. thanks. thanks so much...i mean to tell's like being in school again. picked up the pencil and started drawing again...thanks for the gift. I"ll be paypalling soon.

flashcartoons said...

Sorry I forgot to give you a link to mine John.

My Bugs Attempt

Bill said...

Friggin' awesome. Will attempt this soon and post. Thank you for this blog.

Bill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill said...

Hey John, Here's my attempt.

(Hopefully that link works now)

Harder than I thought!

moonshine said...

I'm understanding and getting a lot out
of these small projects. Wonder if I could
ever dream up such great stuff. There's a
lot of magic expressed in your stuff. My
Oswald is moonwalking because I read your
post about anchoring after I drew the frames. Thanks.

Emma said...

I tried it out. How is it? :)

Liz said...

i know this comment is a little late (seeing as you've already made a post with your reviews), but i got inspired and tried my hand at it.

Chris said...

Hey John,

This video lesson totally got me motivated and I finally got around to getting my scanner up and starting up a blog.

I posted the Heckling Hare lesson and a Preston Blair dog exercise. I'd be really interested to hear your critiques. Also, what's your views on erasing when copying/learning? Is it better to just finish the drawing, then analyze all your mistakes and fix them in a subsequent attempt? Or is it ok to erase your mistakes as you make them?


Nick said...

i know i'm late but heres mine

Ole C Løken said...

I just happen to stumble upon your blog, which was a good thing :)

I tried the bunny one. You can see it here

Powli said...

As pretty much everyone else commenting on this post has stated, please make more video tutorials. This was incredible. I bet you could market a whole DVD of this stuff. I would buy it, and I'm sure most of your frequent visitors here would. Perhaps if it and your toys do well, you can gain some funding to create some more cartoons for us greedy consumers.

Sam Watterson said...

Thanks john! great stuff, will make a donation to show my appreciation, hope your getting enough support for all your efforts

John said...

Thanks for this awesome post.

Here's my attempt

Enjoyed drawing thi one! Will post a correction drawing soon.


John said...

Hi John

I've had another go at copying this drawing for the £100k course and made notes on my corrections.


I also made a donation to show my appreciation.


becurt said...


SparkyMK3 said...

Hey John, i'm downloading the files, and while the video plays, there's no sound! Can you find a way to fix this so i can use your tutorials, please?