Character Sketching – Alameda Slim

Last week’s CTN On Model sketching session featured Jonnathon as Alameda Slim, the villain from Home on the Range. I’ve only seen the film once so I don’t know the character very well. At first I really struggled to figure out how his head connects to his neck! By the end of the event I had ‘got’ the character a little more, but he remained pretty off-model.

Sometimes I just couldn’t get the character, so I drew Jonnathon instead.

Alameda Slim reference – what he’s supposed to look like!

Life Drawing, 12th May

Vilidian modelled at this week’s life drawing session. Unfortunately I’d run out of paper (more is on the way) but I drew in Photoshop instead. I tried to resist using ‘Undo’ but didn’t always succeed …

It was nice having some close-up poses near to the camera.

Thatched Cottage Studies

At the moment I’m gathering reference for a personal project, and I’m learning a lot! The way medieval houses were constructed depended so much on where they were built – stone or wood? Heather or straw for the thatch? There are the well-constructed houses, some of which are still standing today, and then the ones made of little more than twigs, wattle, and mud. And then, how is the thatch kept on the roof?

Character Sketching – Maleficent

I’ve admired artists who turned their life drawing sketches into characters for years, but though I’ve used my drawings as inspiration for characters I’ve never, until now, drawn a model and drawn a character at the same time. It’s tough. But it’s fun!

With so much online at present, I discovered that CTN is running their On Model Character Sessions through Zoom at a UK-friendly time. Last week I decided to try it out.

Maleficent reference

I set up a screen of Maleficent model sheets / animation drawings to reference during the session. Some of my drawings are a bit more like the model, Aryiel, some more like the character. It was a good way to practice simplification ‘on the go’. I learnt a lot, and I hope to keep attending.

Gesture Drawing, 5th May

Liat modelled at an amazing gesture drawing session this week. I gave a brief demo on gestures before we began, showing a little of what I’ve been taught while studying animation. The response to what I shared and to the session as a whole was really positive, much more so than I expected. It seems that short poses aren’t taught that often, so I’m glad I could share some of my experience and how helpful I find them as a base for building drawings onto.

It’s been a long time since I drew gestures from a live model. It was a fantastic session – here’s hoping for another one soon!

30 second poses

One minute poses

Two minute poses

Five minute poses

Ten minute pose

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