Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Life drawing alternative

Every animator understands the importance of figure drawing.  It gives an artist valuable practice drawing the human body in a variety of poses from a variety of angles.  This practice makes it easier to pose out strong key frames which are important for good animation, regardless of whether you're animating traditionally on paper, using stop-motion, Flash, or CG.  It teaches you to draw fast, which is essential to meet the strict deadlines of a production.  And, if you bother hanging on to your life drawings, you also collect a plethora of reference that's useful when you're struggling to extract a pose from memory.

Character animators aren't  the only ones to benefit from figure drawing.  Age-old wisdom states that if you can draw the human body, you can draw anything.  There is certainly some truth to this.  An inanimate object, such as a car, has a finite number of states; it has a limited number of positions it can take.  You can open the doors, the hood, the trunk, and recline the seats but, without opening up the engine, you won't see many moving parts.  If you can draw it from a 3/4 angle, you can essentially draw it from any angle.  Not so for the human body.  It twists, squashes, stretches, contorts, and takes on an endless number of shapes.  Becoming a great artist begins with training your eye to see and training your hand to draw.  If you train them on the human body, everything else is easy by comparison.

Unfortunately, unless you have access to classes through school or work, life drawing can be expensive.  And it can be hard to work into your schedule, especially if there isn't a class nearby.  So what is an artist to do when attending regular life drawing classes just isn't an option?  My colleague and fellow animator, Ayla Radies found just the thing -- an on-line Figure & Gesture Drawing Tool at Pixelovely:

Although drawing from photos isn't as good as drawing from a live model, Pixelovely's drawing tool has hundreds (maybe thousands), and automatically cycles through them at the rate you select.  I prefer 30-second gesture drawings, but the tool also does 60 seconds, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and will even emulate different length "classes" that start out short, and progress into longer poses.

They also have an Animal Drawing Training Tool, which is great if you can't make it to the zoo or the dog park to draw.

Simmon Keith Barney is an animator living in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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