Recently I’ve spoken to a few people about their life drawing, and one thing that’s kept coming up is hands, feet, and faces. It’s really clear when I look at work that has these things missing. They’re tough to draw – don’t I know it! Sadly, they will still be difficult to draw if you avoid drawing them.
What I like to do is spend drawing time focusing solely on hands, or feet, or faces. It’s great to do this in life drawing sessions, but I’d recommend using sites like Line of Action (free) and Bodies in Motion to practice. Start with 30 second gestures, treating each hand or foot or face like you would a whole body pose. Do longer studies of five minutes or more, plus everything in between. Once you’ve done this a few times it will be so much easier to sketch these details in life drawing. Keep it up, and you might even start enjoying to draw them!
They don’t have to be particularly good drawings: the ones above are cherry-picked as the best of three or four times this number. Bad drawings can be more helpful in the end, as you will consider what’s not working.
Taking hand studies a step further, I saw this tweet over the weekend:
This is an area I struggle with – working on Klaus helped a lot, but I’ve found it hard to apply to my own work. So this week’s challenge was to draw some hand studies and then simplify them, like Arthur Blavier’s drawings above.
Here are some of the results! I really enjoyed this exercise. I haven’t really thought about pushing the pose of a hand before. There’s still a tendency for me to add detail, but it’s a step in the right direction. I want to try a lot more of this kind of thing, not only with hands but with full body poses.
I recently watched Orson Welles’ 1946 film ‘The Stranger’, about an investigator from the War Crimes Commission trying to track down a Nazi in Harper, Connecticut.
Early on there is a scene where a character is being followed. When watching it I immediately wanted to draw studies of the shots, but I’ve found it hard to capture exactly how they feel. So much of what makes them great is in how the characters and cameras move.
What’s really stood out to me is how little information there is on screen during this scene. A lot of the clarity is in the character movement. Still, I think these studies express the almost abstract layers of shapes.
A brief note about some of the terms I use: keys, breakdowns, and inbetweens are names for different drawings in animation. Keys are ‘extreme’ poses that tell the story. Breakdowns show how (slowly, angrily, passionately) the character moves from one key to the next. Inbetweens are ‘in between’ all the others, usually halfway between the drawings on either side.
I cleaned up quite a few shots of Jesper, though, unfortunately, most of the scenes I can show don’t reflect that. He was the character I worked on the most. I was certainly most comfortable cleaning up Jesper. The trickiest things with Jesper were getting the curve of his nose and chin right, and his epaulettes. That’s not to say that the rest of him was much easier!
Karolina Tomaszewska did the keys for this shot. I inbetweened it early on during my time on Klaus, and That Parcel gave me headaches in both this and the shot above. This inbetween I’m particularly proud of as there was no drawing for it in the rough animation. The drawings before and after are quite far apart, so I had to sketch Jesper fully before I could create the clean drawing.
This shot of Jesper and his father is one of my favourites. I love how much is said though nothing is spoken. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out who animated this one. I cleaned up the keys, breakdowns, and inbetweens for both characters, so this shot’s rare in that I did almost everything in it. Usually I’d do either keys or inbetweens.
I generally preferred working on really subtle shots, like the one above, though aligning each line perfectly could be hard on the eyes. To give an idea of how detailed and accurate the clean up is in Klaus, we would find ourselves working at the maximum zoom. One day Freya asked if it was possible to zoom in further than the maximum zoom as the line could no longer be inbetweened – she had literally run out of pixels to work with. We were told that quantum inbetweening was not necessary. ‘Quantum Klaus’ – what could have been?
I worked on this shot towards the end of my time on Klaus. It’s not my favourite one of Jesper, but I’m glad to have an example of him. I cleaned up keys for Jesper, Alva, and Margu’s father. I think I may have also inbetweened the sack of presents, but that was quite an easy job to do.
The hardest thing I had to do was partially animate and then clean up the rotation of the piece of wood Jesper’s holding, which is barely in shot. Because everything is animated with a safety area in case of reframing, the piece of wood had to be perfectly cleaned up. But no one will ever see it!
This shot was animated by Cécile Carre. You can view it here.
Working on Klaus was a real privilege. I learnt a lot about animation – being able to study animators’ work in depth was wonderful! I certainly learnt a lot about rotating objects.
It’s been so good to see how well the film has been received, and not only among animators. I hope it will inspire more work in 2D animation both now and in the future. I’ve loved being a part of such a fantastic film.
Last year I worked as a clean up artist on the Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning Klaus. SellOut Animation, based in Edinburgh, worked on scenes outsourced from the main studio, SPA, in Madrid. From May until August I joined the team, cleaning up a variety of shots and characters from throughout the film.
It was a steep learning curve, having both to familiarise myself with both the complex characters and the software. We cleaned up around fourteen drawings a day, which approximates to a little over a second of footage.
These shots were animated by Cécile Carre. I did some clean up work on both of them (not shown here).
I would be given a scene which already had one or two spot keys drawn for each character. These allowed me to see how the character was supposed to look, and gave me a head start for the drawings nearby. This was especially useful when drawing Alva. Her clean up model sheet showed her with quite a neutral face, but in the shots I worked on she was usually scowling!
This shot, featuring Alva and Jesper, was a collaborative effort. Most of the shots were – I only worked on one, I think, where I did the keys, breakdowns, and inbetweens for all characters. In this shot I cleaned up the keys for Alva, Jesper’s hat, bag, and letters. I also did a couple drawings of Jesper.
I had a lot of fun working out which way up the letters would be as they fly up in the air and float to the ground.
The original was animated by Cécile Carre. You can view it here.
Despite being the titular character I didn’t work on that many shots of Klaus. This shot was a really nice one to clean up with a mix of subtle and large movements in Klaus’ face. I cleaned the keys for Klaus and Jesper.
Comparing the images of Klaus you can see how the clean up lines have been used in the final film. Outer ‘containing lines’ vanish, but the internal lines remain.
Victor Ens animated this shot, which you can see here.
Danna modelled at this week’s life drawing session. Her poses were often unusual and pretty challenging to draw!
I set myself an additional challenge this week of drawing the longer poses in colour. I’ve done a few digital studies from photographs recently, but it has been a long time since I’ve used colour in a live class. I had mixed results, but it was refreshing to try something different.
Last year I came across this tweet, which challenged me to start thinking differently about how I draw through the week.
Most of the time I only draw whatever I feel like, or what I’m working on. Life drawing has been the only regular study I’ve done since school. I pick things up here and there when I need to, but I recognise this slows me down in many areas. So I came up with a plan of my own:
Over the last few months I’ve being doing a bit of this. Some anatomy study here, some perspective there, some animal gestures while working on a project with animals. However, I want to create good habits. When I was studying at VFS I had regular colour theory and perspective classes, plus many more. It helps me a lot to think about it in that way: this is a class I’m skipping. I need to keep going!
So here’s a little look at what I’m trying do; what I don’t normally post online. A lot of these drawings are unfinished. There’s always work I never show that’s purely done for me to grow as an artist.
Life drawing helps a lot with this, but it’s important to take a look at the underlying structure (muscles and bones) too. I’m weak in this area.
When I first started life drawing I was taught to draw the bones of a live model using printouts of a skeleton. So I’m doing something similar with the torso studies above, sketching a range of poses (this is a sequence from Bodies in Motion) and then drawing the muscles on top. For the muscle reference I’m using an app called 3D Anatomy for the Artist. I’m hoping that as I go my studies will become more accurate!
This is something I have been pretty good at keeping up with, but I want to do more gesture drawing.
I also want to think more about exaggerating the pose and caricaturing reality.
Finally, I want to spend time doing longer studies. The one below is still pretty quick at ten minutes. It would be good to start using colour, too.
When storyboarding I almost always guess the perspective, but occasionally create little models or research online to figure out how the characters work in an area. To refresh my understanding of perspective I’ve gone back to the beginning, using Draw a Box’s exercises.
Shockingly, I haven’t done any studies from films for a while, so here’s an old one from Jaws. My intention with this area is to study composition from films and paintings.
Landscape Studies and Colour Theory
I plan to make this section a mix between colour studies – focusing on a photograph or, hopefully, real-world landscapes – and then applying what I learn to colour made-up objects and environments.
Like with life drawing, I’ve been fairly good at drawing animals regularly. However, I want to spend more time studying how they work.
There are some areas I’d like to find more resources for, particularly animal anatomy and colour theory. With animal anatomy I’d love to have detailed images or models of muscle structure. For colour, I’ve struggled to find simple exercises that put the theory into practice. If you have any recommendations, please let me know below.
But I realise today I’ve been writing about all this, rather than drawing … I’m off to remedy that now!
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
This was a really fun little project I worked on this autumn. I was asked by Trinity Digital to create an animated logo intro for Cornhill Scotland. The logo is a dandelion head with seeds blowing away, so they wanted a figure blowing on the dandelion to lead into the still logo.
My initial pitch
I pitched two ideas at first, one traditionally animated and the other with less movement. In the end it was decided to combine these elements, to have the movement of the traditional animation with the final graphic look.
In my storyboard I drew out the key poses of the animation. As part of the compromise between drawn animation and motion graphics, less of the character’s face was shown.
Colour and design proposal
At this stage I did some research and gathered reference photographs and videos. The final look of the video was also decided. Next, I began animating.
Animated Logo process
Storyboard / Animatic: I timed out the storyboard panels in an animatic, to give a sense of the final video.
Keys / Breakdowns: Once the animatic was approved, I animated the keys* and breakdowns* for the different elements (head, hand, seeds) to show the movement of each.
Inbetweens: The change made at this stage was to add in more time for the dandelion seeds to be blown. I also animated them slowing down so that the eventual pause was not so abrupt. Finally, I inbetweened* everything.
Still of colour builds
Colour: I exported all the animation drawings and opened them in Illustrator. There I drew out and built the final graphic shapes for each frame. Next, I edited these into the final video.
The final animation
In the end it was decided to change the colour of the character to keep more attention on the logo.
I really enjoyed being able to traditionally animate this video, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out.
* Keys, breakdowns, and inbetweens are names for different drawings (or images) in animation.
Keys are extreme poses, in this case the closed mouth at the beginning (F1), the mouth open (F25), and then the open mouth, mid-blow, (F36) at the end.
Breakdowns show the movement from one key to the next. For this drawing, (F21), I wanted to show how the corner of the mouth stayed fairly still while the front of the mouth opened wide.
Inbetweens are the drawings ‘in between’ all the others. They are usually made halfway between those on either side. These fill in all the gaps in the movement, so it’s smooth.
Last year I had the pleasure of designing the wedding invite for friends of mine. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, so I thought I’d share a little bit of the process of making it.
To start with I was given the theme of succulents and hexagons. It was fun trying out different compositions, some more traditional and some less so.
I also quickly realised that a sketchy succulent (in this case a Mexican Gem) can look very similar to a sketchy rose.
I started with quick sketches exploring the theme
Once the preferred designs were chosen I painted some quick mockups using digital watercolours to give a feel of how the final image would look.
Rough studies of the selected designs
At this stage preferred fonts were selected, and I began painting the final design. I discovered that painting a pale succulent onto a dark background gave a kind of ghostly image which didn’t work very well. The design was reworked to feature a single plant.
In the final stages I created mockups with a kraft paper background to match how it would be printed.
Mockup and final design
It was a lovely project to work on. Plus, I got to see my work in real life when I received one of the invites through the post!
It’s been about two and a half years since I last updated my drawing portfolio (!) so I thought it was time to give it a refresh. What’s been exciting about putting this one together is that it’s all new – nothing from the last portfolio is still in it.