Friday, 28 August 2020

Why Animators Still Need to Draw

Fast sketches to capture a pose
In the old 2D days, life drawing was an essential skill for animators. Today, 3D animation is a blend of creative and technical skills, and life drawing is less important than it used to be.

However, it still helps to be able to draw to a basic level of skill, especially for creating thumbnail sketches which can be used to plan animation.

Nowadays there are many opportunities to learn animation online, at sites such as pixelovely and promo. You can also draw friends and family - models don't need to be nude, and gesture drawing clothed models is just as useful for animation, and in some ways more practical, as most animated characters tend to be wearing clothing.

So, how do animators learn the basics of life drawing?

Life drawing classes
We strongly recommend that our animators participate in life drawing classes, if these are available locally. For those who can't find a local life drawing class, for whatever reason, sites such as Pixelovely offer a free online solution. To sign up, follow this link:

Gesture Drawing
Gesture drawing is an important skill for animators - it helps us learn how to capture a pose, and to master the art of visual storytelling. Planning your animation with quick thumbnail sketches that tell a story is still one of the core skills of the 3D animator - it's why we still need to know how to draw - at least just a little bit.

We recommend this series of videos by Proko, hosted at YouTube. The particular playlist we're interested in is titled "Figure Drawing - How to Draw People". You can find it here.

Avoid "the Curse of the Outline"
Most of us start off our drawing careers drawing a bit stiffly, creating a rough outline of the figure and ignoring the hard bits, like the face, hands and feet.  The Proko videos explain how we can loosen up our drawing style, finding the line of action in a pose, making it more dynamic and supple.

Another useful online resource is the free life drawing classes online at Pixelovely, where you can learn to draw from life without even leaving your living room.

Gesture drawing - line of action
Recently a student came to me with some excellent gesture drawings.  "Where did you go to life drawing classes?" I asked. "Oh, online", he replied.  His drawings were so good - I hadn't realised he hadn't actually been in front of a real model.  But nowadays you don't actually need to attend a life drawing class to draw from life (though of course it does help).  In fact, there are many sites online where you can draw figures from life - without ever leaving home.

An understanding of human anatomy, and the ability to capture a pose or gesture in a few lines, is still a key skill - even in a digital world.  Fast sketches are useful, helping animators to make quick thumbnails to plan animation - a technique which hasn't changed since Disney's Golden Age.

Thumbnail sketches are still an important part of planning animation, and for me at least are an essential first stage in figuring out how to make a shot work.

Life Drawing Resources
There are a number of resources at Bucks for life drawing. Also see our recent blog post on how to use thumbnail sketches to plan animation.
For more on the experience of studying at Buckinghamshire New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days, take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK.

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