Shasta is the main character in The Horse and His Boy, my favourite of C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia books. I would love to see it on screen as I think this story has so much scope – adventure, horses, battles, an escape across a desert. Now Netflix will be developing new films and series (see here for more information) it’s possible my dream will come true!

For design I’ve followed Cartoon Saloon‘s style quite closely, particularly their film The Secret of Kells. If you haven’t heard of them, check them out – their work is beautiful, especially Song of the Sea which is one of my favourite films.09_Shasta

I’ve been referencing horses for a project, so I’ve spent some time drawing them in order to figure out how they work. Using Line of Action I did some quick gestures, and then I searched for various images through Google to sketch in more detail.

The hooves are particularly hard to draw, especially when they’re hidden in long grass as was the case in most of the photographs …Horse_05Horse_04Horse_01Horse_02Horse_03


I cleaned up and inbetweened the deer over the last couple of weeks. At first the movement appeared very even, so I removed some of the inbetweens and rejigged some of the remaining drawings to get back to the feeling I wanted. Once I was happy, I coloured it, added a little more to the background, and had fun with sound effects from to create some atmosphere!

You can also view the first line test and the line test with breakdowns.

Deer Background and Breakdowns

I returned to my deer animation today, changing quite a lot of the ending and adding more breakdowns and inbetweens. I’m planning to clean it up in Photoshop, something like the deer shown below: quite loose and free, hopefully keeping some of the rough nature of the original.Deer03 copyHere’s one of my favourite breakdowns from today:


Deer Line Test

This idea I’ve had for a while, but today I had the chance to get all the keys and some of the breakdowns drawn. Lots of issues here still, so I look forward to working on it more.

Animation Referencing

I’ve wanted to post a little about how I’m animating in Maya, but when I began to look at what I’d done I realised that there was more I wanted to say. So I’m beginning here, and we’ll see how it goes!


This is, by far, the most important thing I’ve learnt while I’ve been on the Aardman course. I knew about it before, but I didn’t really use it (somehow I thought it was cheating). While at VFS I became comfortable with using myself as an “instant” reference for mouth shapes, hands, etc. It was only once I’d left that I figured out how important looking at real life was – not for drawing things, but for understanding how things work.

Take cats. I know of cats, and I like them, but I’ve never owned one. I didn’t draw them lots growing up (I drew dogs and horses, mostly) but I figured that, as an artist, I must be able to magically draw them. Unfortunately that’s not how it works. Once I started looking at pictures of cats and drawing from them, and then drawing real cats I encountered, I finally began to understand how cats work. I’m still no expert, but my cat doodles look a whole lot better now.

Yet somehow I still expected my animation to come from that magical artistic place inside of me. Thankfully after nine weeks at Aardman I’m thinking differently. The following pictures are all pages from the notebook I keep on my desk, and I hope they’ll illustrate a little of what I’m trying to say.


Referencing often begins with finding out what other people have done. On this page I have sketches from Richard Williams’ Animator’s Survival Kit and Pocahontas. Both great (and useful for learning how to break down the movement) but not necessarily 100% accurate or, indeed, showing what I want to accomplish with my run.

The final group of drawings on this page is from a video reference of Frej, a stop-motion animator on the course. By using contact / down / pass / up positions from the Survival Kit I learnt how to break down the video reference of Frej.


Referencing a specific piece of acting is a bit different. The drawings above come from a video I took of myself. It was quite easy to pick up the important poses – where my hand was raised to the highest point, when it settled back onto the desk, when I slumped into my hand – and sketch them out.

The numbers by the images refer to the frame number on the video. We’ve been using QuickTime Pro which has a timecode / frame number option.


With this I was working to a line of dialogue. I had a video of me talking and moving all over the place, so it was difficult to figure out what the key poses were. By stepping through the video and watching my movement I chose moments where my head and body hit the most extreme positions. On frame 107, when I said “seven”, I hit the bottom of my head and body movement; in the following frames they didn’t move any further down. So that became my third pose.

I normally do different levels of referencing depending on what it is I’m animating. For the piece I’m doing at the moment there are two characters, a lot of dialogue, and a lot of action. So I take it in stages. I used the body and head breakdown shown above to create the first poses. I wasn’t happy with the hand positions in the reference, so I used another video to draw new hands. These can be seen below.


The next stage is taking these drawings to animation. I hope to cover that in another post!

Walk and Run Assignments

Character provided by Aardman, animation by myself.

The last few weeks have taught me a lot. There have been a few difficult days when I’ve really doubted my ability: “I’ll never be an animator!” Somehow those dark moments were followed by days where everything worked beautifully.

I wanted to show a little of the referencing I’ve been doing for my assignments. You also get to glance a small part of Aardman!

Book Test Page

Page 10

I’ve been writing and illustrating a book, and this is a test page from it. I’m pretty set on the colours I want to use, but I’m still trying to figure out how detailed I want to go. I quite like how this has turned out, but I think I need to clarify some areas more and I definitely need to work on the poses of the characters.

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