Sunday, April 19, 2009

Does Construction Work? 2 - A Self Critique From a Student

Here's another student who thinks so.Geneva says...."I was pleased with how much easier crazy, seemingly complex drawing is when you start to practice construction and hierarchy! It felt good. BUT..."The best way to improve fast is to learn some basics from a common-sense no-bull teacher, and then to learn to analyze and critique yourself.


Anonymous said...


I agree that construction is the key to drawing well, but at the same time, these exercises of trying to recreate other drawings 100% accurately are frustrating to say the least.

Even Preston Blair couldn't do it! If you overlay his construction drawings over his final drawings you can plainly see they're not 100% either!

I understand the point of doing this, but 100% accuracy isn't possible. Reading you're posts, it's almost as if you're implying that you SHOULD be able to recreate the drawing perfectly once you've mastered construction. The examples that you yourself have done weren't 100% either.

JohnK said...

Actually I agree with you and have never said that.

Monk-of-funk said...

These are exercises as to understand how to fluidly and organically construct a cartoon character. Whenever you challenge yourself isn't best to aim high? You may be right in the fact that it's near impossible to re-create these perfectly, but why wouldn't you try anyways?
I'm aware of the toxic-cheese level of this quote, but it has always had a ring of truth for me, "Aim for the stars, and even if you only hit the moon you're still doing pretty damn well."

Monk-of-funk said...

what a weird, awesome image to study by the way.

Anonymous said...

The point to constructing frames from old cartoons is being able to understand the solidity of these drawings. Not to get it 100%, but to not only get it as close as possible to the original, but also to understand why and how the drawing works.

At least that's my interpretation. They usually don't come out that coherent.

Dave Jacob Hoffman said...

Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he put on a dress and played a girl bunny?

joAco said...

hey John. I've been following your blog since a while, and despite I'm not a animator I find it quite interesting to my photography work.

thing is, I got a video collective here in Chile, and we are making a rotoscopy video, trying to make a lot of visual artist to draw a few frames of it, to get a explosive and unpredictable work.

besides de fact that we'd LOVE that you participate in it, we were hoping that you could lend us a hand to plan the preproducction.

you can see our work in, and our mail is

Joaquín Fernández

Anonymous said...

Does anyone get as turned on as I do when drawing Bugs in a Bra?

Darkhawk said...

Starting with basic construction is essential to anything in Illustration or Animation. Without it I don't know how someone could draw? Everything, especially in animation like Preston says - starts with that Line of Action, and those bally/blocky pieces and parts. All the other stuff is add-on detail from then.

Striving for perfection in learning how to illustrate and recreate these things is great. And the best way to learn how to develop the skills of the WB (and other) Masters. Just don't be too nitpicky ... sometimes it hurts more than helps. Heh - at some point ppl do tend to get frustrated. :p

Kerssido said...

The point of these things is to get the idea of construction hammered into your brain. It's just best to use good comic covers or animation stills because you have construction guaranteed in the original, and something to refer to when your done.

So not being able to ape the comic exactly 100% isn't the end of the world. It would be hard even for the original artist to do it.

Niki said...

Too bad there aren't many 'no bull' teachers. Right now mine is this crazy women who keeps saying, "I've taught you to paint a line, now paint me the Mona Lisa. In your own style of course..."

the worst part is, the teacher is a photographer trying to teach painting and we haven't even seen any of her pictures! She ain't cute either.

Geneva said...

I am lucky to have a common-sense no-bull teacher around! Thanks, John.

For the record with the comments: I know I'll never be able to get 100% accuracy, but that's not really the important thing... however, striving for perfection is what makes you grow.

Trevor Thompson said...

If you have the idea in mind that it's impossible to make the drawing perfect, then you won't strive for perfection.

Paul B said...

Hi John

Here's my Bugs cover construction

what do you think?


ComiCrazys said...

Yeah, I agree with Jay Taylor, I kinda got the impression that we were supposed to draw them 100% accurate? I would go back over and over, scanning, overlaying, then adjusting, then scanning, overlaying, then adjusting to get everything perfect. I often wondered what's the point of duplicating these covers? I understood the lessons learned by copying the poses, but to go for such accuracy? Like this attempt.It may not have been said, but I felt it was implied, too.

John, is it easier for you to critique people's work using the covers as a point of reference rather than have everyone send their own characters or random poses of known characters?

Anonymous said...


Thank you! I was always under the same impression reading John's posts!

If it isn't 100% correct, go back and do it again. Still not right? Do it again!

As though we're suppose to work on the same drawing over and over until it looks identical to the original!

In any case, I understand the point of doing these exercises. I was just wondering what exactly John wanted us to do.

JohnK said...

This stuff is hard to explain completely in words alone, but I'll give a quick rundown of 2 concepts:

1) Observation

this is your ability to see things accurately when you copy them. Shapes and proportions. Negative spaces.

The reason you use photoshop to check your copies against the originals is to see how close your copies are. If they are wildly out of proportion, then you need to improve your observation abilities.

2) Understanding

This is construction. Understanding WHY something looks the way it does is different than just being able to make a somewhat accurately proportioned copy of something in front of your eyes.

Construction is making your details look like they are part of the larger objects and forms they are part of.

Your copies don't have to be 100% exact in order to show that you understand the construction.

They have to be logical though.

But I recommend to anyone who is copying anything for the purpose of learning something new, to try to copy it as accurately as possible. Not to just make interpretations and try to be creative with it.

The more someone does this, the quicker they learn.

Once you understand how something works, then you can start applying it to your own work.

And that's a whole new problem.

Hans Flagon said...

I just want to make a quick comment to Joaco regarding rotoscoping. It ties into CONSTRUCTION.

Far too often, you see rotoscoping done badly, in the wrong way for the wrong reasons. Outlined tracings that do not read well, or even flow from the previous drawing. Rotoscoping should require more thought than simply tracing. Take the important USEFUL information from the live action, of timing, don't get wrapped up in the supposed time savings of a cheat.

CONSTRUCT those drawings from simple forms STAGE THAT SCENE. EDIT out distractions of unnecessary movement, even if they might be in the live action. If an actor is wobbling, when he should be standing still, it may work better if he is actually held still in the drawing, rather than weaving due to a direct tracing.

Disney seemed to have done well with their live action studies, because they used it more as a timing and posing tool without throwing away principles of what worked in animation drawn from scratch. There was still a character design that was followed. Poses were exaggerated to read better. Heirarachy of form and line weight stayed true to character design rather than what may have been photorealistically true.

Rudy Tenebre said...

Geez, what'd the golden boys do before they could check they're goddam copies with photoshop?
I guess they made do with only the comprehension of these principles, but doubtless using them with more fluidity than a pedantically analytic frame of mind could produce. Y'know, Kurtzman learned all this stuff at the Highschool of Music and Art, long ago, in the Bronx. He went to a vocational Highschool! Is that what this is? Lost essentials pushed from the pulpit of online vocational training? I thought it was a gathering of artists? (but, Johnny, I donated what I could, times are tough mate, so forgive me if my tuition is spare.)

David R said...


What I'd really like to see is a post dealing with how you create a good model sheet. It's one thing to be able to draw Tom in one particular pose, but quite another to be able to use that info to create your own poses. When you do model sheets, are there particular poses that you create that are particularly problematic for characters that are poorly designed to kind of troubleshoot for animation? How do you mind the proportions so that they come out exact? Is there some exact measurement involved, or just by eyeballing it?

drawingtherightway said...

Thanks for clarifying that the drawings don't have to be 100%! I thought the construction drawings and the finished drawings looked off in the Blair book, but I thought maybe it was just me! Before I found your blog, I used to draw straight ahead but now I always try to use construction.

One thing I'm curious about is that sometimes in videos where professional animators are shown drawing the characters, they don't seem to always draw lines of actions and sometimes they don't even use basic shapes for appendages such as arms,legs, etc. Instead they just have a basic outline of the form. Once animators get more experienced, do they sometimes not draw lines of actions and basic shapes? I think I even saw Chuck Jones in a video where there was no line of action drawn and he just used a basic outline instead of basic geometric shapes.

Ahahnah said...

There are other ways to check if a drawing is right. Tracing paper can be used. I don't have photoshop so I stand back and compare the drawing from the original. The construction lessons are like drawing and design one O one but funnier.

My main goal at the moment isn't to get everything exactly right. I'm forcing myself to draw bigger than I used too as well as planning out all the big shapes so they are sort of where they supposed to be.

Ahahnah said...

drawingtherightway, on page 128 of Preston Blair's Cartoon Animation he talks about sketching a rough outline to establish a pose. He recommends to do several and then pick the best one to go back and construct.

David R said...

I don't have a page 128 in my Preston Blair book. Do you have a link to it online somewhere?

Ahahnah said...

Sorry, I don't have a link to it. It is in the book with the elephant on the cover.

drawingtherightway said...

Thanks for the info Ahahnah! I don't have that book I have Animation 1 by Preston Blair which has the squirrel on the cover. I did a search for this page and may have found it. Is this the page?

Alex said...

I guess no one's posting on this one now BUT, should "copying" older drawings be only 25% of your TOTAL drawing time? I've been getting in the habit of it, and it's dead useful:

Gotta push for originality also, with those lessons in tow: