Computer Animation and Drawing.

Many students get really intimidated when they are asked to draw or do thumbnails and show them in class. It’s understandable, now days you don’t have to be a great draftsman to get into animation school, heck for some schools you can have never drawn anything and get in. Computer animation has liberated many great animators, who may never been able to get into animation due to their lack of drawing ability. So on one hand the computer has allowed so many more people to access animation as a career and also allowed animation to become as big as it is these days, from computer games to the Internet, to commercials, feature animation etc. The flip side is that because of this access and the possible feeling that drawing doesn’t relate to computer animation, the overall quality of the animation being produced is getting weaker and weaker. Many students now days can go to school learn everything there is about Maya, and graduate with only taking a few drawing classes and possibly never taking story or design classes. It’s really a shame, for one that students don’t demand story, design and drawing classes and also that schools don’t find them important to the curriculum of computer animation. I had four main classes at Cal-Arts that repeated every semester for four years; Story, Character Design/Design, Animation, Life Drawing.

I’ve kinda gone off topic I’ll come back to drawing now. The reason drawing is so important and life drawing in particular is that in one class, if taught well, you can learn about story, design, weight, physics, balance, squash and stretch, overlap, follow through, positive negative spaces, silhouette, composition, structure, rhythm, line of action, so many things all from a single drawing class. The other important thing is that if you keep going to class and keep drawing all the time you are constantly working on and being reminded of all of these things all the time. It can be really overwhelming to think about all of that stuff all the time but that’s ok because your not just creating one drawing, you’ll have many drawings where you can work on these things. One of the best things for me is to take one of the life drawings I did in class. Put a piece of tracing paper over it and try to look at the drawing and think about design or weight and re draw over my drawing thinking about one of the things mentioned for example, balance. Then keep repeating until you’ve addressed all the ideas, overlap, squash and stretch, silhouette, rhythm, etc, etc. I don’t think you need to be a gifted draftsman to be a great animator but I do think you need to understand all the principles that are taught in good drawing, to be a great animator. Plus there is no need to be intimidated by drawing, only you are going to see them. You don’t have to show your drawings, or thumbnails to anyone if you don’t want to. While your in class don’t even worry about the drawing who cares, worry about the process and thinking that goes on while drawing. If the drawing looks like junk but in the end you came away with a better understanding of how the forms work together and where the squash and stretch was working in the pose, that’s cool. You’ll remember that for next time and you’ll remember that next time you sit down to plan out a shot or pose a character. I don’t worry about the drawing anymore, I focus on trying to learn something while doing each drawing.

Just for fun and to show you that your drawings don’t have to be great or pretty or nice or presentable I’ve included some thumbnails of mine from various films. These may or may not be pushed or the final poses for the characters in the shot. I tweak poses in the once they are in the computer, when I’m working to the main camera. Here I’m really trying to get and idea of what the pose will be and also what my acting is gonna a be and how it’s going to move. I take a lot of notes along with the drawings to help describe motion, arcs, antics, or ideas that I can’t draw. They are the road map of my shots but not always the final destination.

-Dr. Stephen G.