Life Drawing, April and May

I’ve joined for part of the last couple of life drawing sessions, modelled by Maxime and Dominique (plus a special guest). Some really lovely poses from both of them, and the added challenge of a snake …

*EDIT – The initial time posted was wrong. Updated time below.* Tomorrow (May 5th) there’s a special gesture-focused online life drawing class, and I’ll be giving a brief demo with some tips on how to draw gestures and quick poses. It’s free (but consider donating to the model) and starts at 18:15 BST. If you’d like to join in, send Deryck an email at

Animal Gestures

Some recent sketches. I love how much is shown by the way the rabbit stretches warily across screen, and the relaxed compared to the alert tail of the squirrels. Body language shares so much story. I’d really like to draw more ‘story’ poses for human characters.

Life Drawing, 14th March

My regular life drawing group has moved online, so last week I sketched Amelia from the comfort of my own home! I’ve done quite a lot of drawing from stills online, so it was familiar in that way. The shorter poses worked well, but I struggled to see the detail for the longer poses – it felt like I was making quite a lot up!

Good Friday

How can today be ‘Good’ Friday when it is a day of death, of sorrow, when even Jesus cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

It is good because ‘It is finished’ – not over, but paid in full. It is good because the temple curtain was torn in two. It is good because it is not the end of the story.

Hand Studies

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.

Studies from ‘The Stranger’

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.

‘Klaus’ Clean Up, Part II

Part I

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!

The first scene I cleaned up, animated by Maxime Delalande.
This shot of Jesper and That Parcel took me a long time to clean up.
An inbetween I cleaned up from a shot animated by Ole Christian Løken.

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.

Clean Up

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.

Cécile Carre’s animation
Clean Up

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.

Part I

‘Klaus’ Clean Up, Part I

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.

Cécile Carre’s animation
Clean Up

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.

Victor Ens’ animation
Clean Up

Part II

Life Drawing, 28th January

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 week I drew some gesture drawings of dogs from Line of Action and here are a few of the results! I enjoyed trying to capture the attitude of each dog.

Most of these were drawn in 30 seconds. The ones with more detail were done in two minutes.

Practice, practice, practice

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!

Life Drawing

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.

Perspective Exercises

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.

Animal Anatomy

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!