Monday, December 01, 2008

Disney Principles 2 - Solid Drawing 1

Milt Kahl?

Natwick At Disney

Natwick Anatomy Studies

I'm surprised that "solid drawing" is so far down the list of principles in "The Illusion Of Life". It's #11 of 12 principles. To me, it's by far the most important tool of any artist, including animators. Without good strong drawings to move what do you have? Squash and stretch, overlapping action, secondary actions are all accessories; not the main course. They are animation tricks that help move your poses from one drawing to the next. If these main drawings are weak, who cares if they move smoothly? If all you care about is smooth motion, why do character animation? You might as well just do abstract animation. Become the next Oskar Fischinger.

The better you are able to draw, the more control you will have and the more creative choices open up to you. Frank Thomas says it very well in this too short article:

Solid doesn't mean "realistic", but a cartoonist who understands form, perspective and balance has a huge advantage over unskilled cartoonists who have to rely on copying superficial aspects of other artists' work. Artists who are in turn copying superficial aspects of an earlier decadent artist.

Grim In His Own Words

Harvey Eisenberg

By solid, Thomas doesn't mean stiff like granite...the characters have to look alive.

The hunt to find an animatable style that had form and pliability led to the idea of construction.

The animators of the 1930s developed it and let it evolve for a decade and half - then it decayed and fell out of fashion -which led to amateurish animation for the next half-century and here we are today left with primitive animation and even more primitive drawings - left with broken fingers and all our creative choices wiped out.

Animation is left to the mercy of trends that get progressively more decadent with each generation of unthinking trendy copycats, blind to the world outside their cliques.

There is a lot more I want to say about solid drawing and many examples to show, but it takes time to gather them together.

I want to compare and contrast 2 masters of solid drawing and animation next time: Milt Kahl and Bob McKimson.

Of course, solid isn't everything you need, but it will make your other goals much easier to reach. Without it, you are basically crippled.


Mattereaterlad said...

Thanks Mr. K., I'm really enjoying this series.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Solid post.

Raff said...

I'm amazed you've made no mention yet of using box forms (then rounding out after) to help you construct. Fantastic perspective exercise in my opinion.

The box is the one form that shows you EXACTLY which way it's facing, how it's tipped and how far down or up you're looking at it; i.e. where the front, top and sides are. A teacher showed this to me.

The problem I find with round shapes is, you can place a vertical and horizontal center line for the front but you have to guess where a feature on the side goes, like an ear. Then all the corners you add end up being guesses and cheats, unless you've already got a really good eye.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I seem to remember 'Illusion' even says that you don't have to be able to draw when discusing the work of Pluto animator Fergusson.

Caleb said...

It's great to see these construction examples, thanks John.

Is there anyone who draws and animates more solidly than McKimson?

Peggy said...

Man, I wish you could take this blog and edit it down into an awesome book on drawing and animation. It's a damn shame getting the repro rights for the images you use as examples would be murder.

HemlockMan said...

Looking forward to more of your commentary about McKimson. The older I get,the more I admire his work. Over the years, he's been slowly becoming my favorite animation director.

Seth said...

As am I enjoying this series, it really shows me I can set up an animation syllabus for myself and get to work without the need of enrolling in an animation-geared school.

Toncho said...

SO true. I need to get my hands on PBs book right away, unfortunately they only have 'Dibujos Animados' in Mexico, but there's always Internet almighty.

Once again Mr. K, THANK YOU!

Matt J said...

The latest series of posts on drawing principles have been excellent John-looking forward to the next.

Geneva said...

Thank you so much for talking more about this.

tobor68 said...

great articles. i especially am getting a lot out of the inking posts.

i think one of the reasons good, solid drawing has "fallen out of fashion" is the modern day, "all inclusive" mentality. a little pc-ness with economics thrown in for good measure, then labeled with "edgy".

good solid drawing creates an exclusivity of art and keeps out the lesser capable. it also lowers the budgets of tv programs by driving down the price of a truly good artists.

the other edge of the sword to the digital age, i guess.

i could go on about this but instead i'm just gonna check out some older posts.

keep up the good fight!

jpcline004 said...

I really do love this blog...

trevor thompson said...

Hey John,

Last year you ran an excersise where we had to draw cartoon toys from every angle. Is this a good way to learn these principles, or does it just make you better at copying ( either way, I need to be better at both )?

I don't know why, but I thought the drawing at the top and bottom from 'Song of The South' ( especially the one at the bottom ) was Art Babbit.

I'm probably wrong, though.

- trevor.

WIL said...

Great post!

More, please.

pappy d said...

I really appreciate that you make the distinction between smooth animation & full animation. I think contrast is the single most important principle in animation. There's a lot to learn from Disney, just don't drink the Kool-Aid.

The trick is to get the technical aspects of drawing to a state of transparency so you can express what you need to without thinking about it. Therefore, draw, draw, draw!

I edited myself a quick checklist from among Fred Moore's principles:

2D-shape, design, readability on the screen

3D-form, perspective, consistency of volume

4D-dynamics (stretch & squash, drag & follow-through), distortion (including blur), expression of force

Budgets have made 4D drawing less of a practical issue nowadays. You still must remember, what makes it animation is that you draw verbs, not just nouns.

Thanks again!

Will Finn said...

hi John-- those br'er fox stills are indeed from Milt Kahl's animation. solid as it gets. he would have put solid drawing at the top of his list.
Milt gets mistaken for being a designy artist, particularly later on, but to study his drawings carefully is to see that his shapes are much more organic and than they appear at first glance.

MLP said...

Compare and contrast Milt Kahl with Bob McKimson? Oh man! This is going to be the greatest post ever!

Elana Pritchard said...

Good post, good article

Rudy Tenebre said...

Und zee decadenz! Und zee ignorammen die fundamentalischen!
Und der Benedicten bildung!
Und der vat's cooking doc!!!

Jeremy Bernstein said...

Great post. Those drawings are sick!

Niki said...

Can we get some examples of Disney's melted drawings?

Gabriele_Gabba said...

This is really interesting John, I finally have time to read your blog again. I read those same words in the illusion of life and thought to myself that it felt a bit empty, like they forgot to mention something, lucky for me you're doing it! :D Keep it up, i'm eating this stuff up!

Shawn said...

That Wile E. Coyote drawing is nearly flawless!

PCUnfunny said...

Shawn: Why nearly ?

s.schiemann said...

Hello i,am boy from germany Thank you john for teaching me BLA BLA BLA

iain said...

Great post - just right for reading on a day when I@m getting my head back into painting again. super stuff

RC said...

Hey thank you :) I really like reading this and i love drawing myself so thank you so much for the help :)