Thursday, March 19, 2009

Can Life drawing Help Your Animation?

I think so - if you apply something new that you discovered from life drawings to your cartoon drawing. - But not if you look at the 2 disciplines as being mutually exclusive artforms - or unrelated - as most portfolios I get from animation schools indicate.Thanks to Olivia for finding this drawing on Katie Rice's site.
Make sure you hunt around her site. She is a great example of a cartoonist who first observes lots of interesting things from life, and then applies them to her own unique yet very cartoony style.

When I do cartoons of real celebrities, I start by doing regular caricatures - semi- realistic ones to analyze the structure and specifics of the individual, Then I try to simplify that into animateable shapes. The first animateable models are usually stiff because they have no context or spontaneity. They are merely conscious analyses of the basic shapes of the individual subject. Once you start animating you loosen up and start to caricature your own caricatures as your subconscious takes over. Or at least - you should.Animating Bjork added a lot of ideas and techniques to the way I draw girls in general. It got me away from doing the stock Preston Blair girl, who is really Elmer Fudd in drag.

Bjork is pretty, but not at all in a generic way. She is so amazingly unique that you can't take your eyes off her. The way she looks, the way she moves, her expressions, her timing, her singing are pure charisma. This is great inspiration for cartoon characters. In the end, we are looking to animate charismatic characters, not stock genericism. Aren't we?

These models are all pretty stiff, but are a starting point. This is a step by step procedure. You start drawing with your brain, but aim to draw from the heart. That doesn't happen instantly. You have to first absorb the knowledge slowly and then forget about it and let your pencil be guided by your subconscious. Not easy, and it hurts to go through the stiff period. A lot of lesser men give up during the stiff beginnings of learning something new and that's a dirty shame. Take the pain and shame like a man and get over it. You'll be so happy when your new knowledge becomes second nature. Otherwise you will be stuck, a slave to formula for life and unhappy, maybe even without knowing why. That pain and shame is essential to your progress. Embrace it. Kick the walls if you have to. But get back to the drawing board and force that stiff information into your head. Then lay awake nights obsessing over it. That's your tax for being gifted.

People ask me all the time - "should I study life drawing and will it help my cartoon drawings"? I wish it did more often, but usually it doesn't.

Again, It can if you apply something you learned from it.

Doing caricatures from life, then simplifying them into animateable characters is great for breaking habits and inventing new styles and ideas. But you have to let the subject of the caricature influence you, not the other way around. Don't impose your "style" of caricature upon the model. Or worse, Hirschfeld's. Open your mind and let the specific new information change the way you assume things should look. Otherwise you are looking at the world through thick gauze and missing out on the tons of interesting new information staring you in the face. I wonder how many people understand what I mean by this.Don't throw out your cartoon instincts just because you are taking in some new observations from life. Mix the 2!
I think that the combination of strong cartooniness and conservative but acute observation and caricature from life will make you a better cartoonist. The 2 together add up to something greater than live action or stock animation. It helps you get a style and be extra specific, rather than just follow animation formula.

I'll post some clips later of how each individual animator did his own unique version of my caricature of Bjork. Aaron Springer. Erik Weise. Sanjay Patel. All great cartoonists with their own styles.