Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

DESIGN: Specific Design for Animation Characters

Today, I would like to introduce you to JoJo Baptista, Animation Resources’ Director of Education. Over the next year, JoJo will be assembling articles for this website as well as hands on online courses in drawing and design for the membership of Animation Resources. -Stephen Worth

Jim Smith Applies Specific Expressions
By JoJo Baptista

Jim Smith Specific Design
In these sketches Jim Smith demonstrated a perfect example of viewing observation from reality, in this case the acting of Robert Ryan, and he applied it to a generic cartoon dog. These studies were done for John Kricfalusi’s “Weekend Pussy Hunt”, and then were used to inform the acting of Dirty Dog, the series’ antagonist. In order to gain an understanding of how the design of the character worked, Jim did studies of a dog character from a Dan Gordon comic.
Jim Smith Specific Design
He then researched Robert Ryan’s performance in the 1951 film, “The Racket”, and sketched several facial studies.
Jim Smith Specific Design
He applied his knowledge of the dog design, then overlaid specific expressions based on his Ryan studies. These expressions breathed new life into the character, giving his acting entirely new levels of distinctiveness.
Jim Smith Specific Design
Take a look at how the features which make up Robert Ryan’s face match the dog’s exactly (ie. The jaw, cheeks, eyebrows, etc). He was able to create new eye and mouth shapes based on his findings. Beautiful execution! This is an incredibly sophisticated process, which takes a complete understanding of not only cartoon construction but a mastery of the human figure as well. Jim’s knowledge of both is what allows him to execute such a complex amalgam of unique cartooning.

A specific expression isn’t simply eyebrows up or down to convey an emotion on a characters face. It isn’t just a generic happy or sad character. In fact, based on these drawings one can make the observation that it uses the entirety of the face, even when shapes are at rest, to put forth an expression that is totally unique and functions within the context of a scene.
Jim Smith Specific Design
Jim Smith Specific Design
The drawing on the bottom left looks as though it’s a combination of a cartoon shape and anatomical elements.
Jim Smith Specific Design
To those studying these drawings: Don’t just redraw these poses! The lesson to take away from this article is how to get to the point of an expression. Experience drawing both cartoon characters and real human beings is important. Once you have an understanding of how a fundamental principle works, apply it to another. Try taking an existing actor with wild expressions and apply them to a generic classic cartoon character (ie. Jerry Mouse, Tom Cat, Elmer Fudd, etc.). You’ll learn a lot about acting and design this way, especially what a character needs in order to emote.

I invite you to share your studies in the Animation Creative League Facebook group. That way, we can all learn something from each other.

JoJo Baptista
Director of Education
Animation Resources

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

DRAW! Benny Mercader Shares His Studies

Animation Resources member, Benny Mercader shares a photo of a few of his $100K Animation Drawing Course bear heads and calls out other artists to study and work on their skills.

Benny Bears

Benny says, “Practice! Draw! Worship the Animation Resources group! Go! Draw!! ? Do NOT overlook fundamentals. Practice various facets of ‘art’. Get lost in the Animation Resources archive and pull an article and read. It’s therapy really. This is not the only way to learn to draw or what have you but preliminary exercise to pump the artist. Lots of discipline! Call yourself to action. Its that simple right?!”

Here is the drawing course Benny is working on right now…
THE $100K ANIMATION DRAWING COURSE (for only 8 bucks!)

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Art Education: Practice Types

Last time we talked about how to objectively judge a person’s current ability within a discipline using the Dreyfus Model. Today I’ll be giving my personal theory about what types of practice are best for students and professionals of various levels, and how to determine what type of practice is right for you.

I formed this theory by combining my own experiences learning sports, art, music, and mathematics with advice given by notable teachers of animation and art. My litmus test has been that I must be able to apply these practice methods to any subject a person might want to learn, although practicing skills is this system’s focus, not academic memorization.

The five categories I’ve identified are listed below with a short description of each and an example of the type of activity you might engage in if your goal was to learn how to draw. Remember that these are broad categories however, and may be applied to any skill or discipline.

Willy Pogany’s Life Drawing Lessons


When first approaching a subject, the concepts and working methods are all completely new, therefore the first and most basic type of practice is the type which is most widely used in the classroom: Academic practice. This would include all newly introduced or researched information which comes from an authoritative source such as a textbook, tutorial, lecture, or guide.

This type of practice is most helpful right at the beginning of a student’s study. If you find that general knowledge about the way your discipline works is absent, or that parts of the working methods of your skill are hazy or poorly understood, this is the type of practice you should engage in first. However, as soon as a workable understanding of the concepts is obtained Academic practice should be abandoned in favor of a different type to allow the student to internalize what they’ve learned.

In drawing this would be the equivalent of learning body proportions and anatomy. These are very critical and useful areas of study, but if that’s all you practice, your work can only ever look like a textbook illustration.

Public Sketching – Gordon Grant


In order to become a confident and skillful practitioner, a student must commit to hours of practical application. In sports all minute aspects of the game are drilled endlessly until each action becomes as natural as breathing. In music, scales and rhythm exercises are used as warm-ups even by highly accomplished musicians so that they become second nature. Drilling is any task which you already know how to do, and can perform repeatedly in small rapid bursts.

This type of practice is the next most common type of activity employed by students and professionals. In essence, the purpose of drilling is to gain confidence and familiarity with your working methods. A pleasant byproduct of drilling is an increase in speed and a decrease in error making. Many professionals if not most of them continue using drilling throughout their careers as a way to keep sharp.

Drilling in illustration would represent public sketching, thumb-nailing compositions, or plein air painting just to name a few.

William Lee Hankey

Quality Test

At the point where a student believes they have learned enough to become competent, it may be time to put all of their acquired skills into practice by attempting to perform their discipline to the best of their ability. In sports, this would be game day, in music it would be the concert or recital, and in art, this would represent a single piece of artwork meant to  showcase the artist’s talents.

Art made for a quality test should be made carefully, slowly and deliberately. No time limit should be imposed and the artist should be as thorough and careful as they can possibly be in order to push the limits of their ability to the extreme.

Performing work of this type may often have humbling results, revealing exactly what shortcomings the student has yet to overcome. As a diagnostic tool, this type of practice is invaluable, and also provides milestones for the student as they progress so that they can compare their current work to their past work.

Quality illustrations should  make up much of a student’s portfolio along with life drawings.

Gustaf Tenggren Comparison


After mastering the basics through the use of Academic and Drilling practice, it becomes necessary for a student to explore their own preferred methods and to attempt to expand their ability beyond what can be taught to them explicitly. Experimental practice is done to attempt to create a new work method or a unique result which is entirely the student’s own. It is important to note that this type of practice is most useful in the hands of an already skilled practitioner of their craft, but it may be useful to novices as well, as a method of discovery.

In my opinion, this is where many graduate students and professionals fail to expand their abilities. It’s very easy to copy and reproduce from textbooks, instructors, and tutorials, but it’s a very different and altogether more frightening thing to try to create a new method of working, or a new way of seeing the world.

In illustration and art in general, those artist who are synonymous with a particular style or artistic movement likely owe their success at least partially to experimental practice. The need to perform this type of practice need not be that grand however, as even small modifications to an artist’s working methods help to personalize and internalize their craft.

Albert Hurter


The last form of practice is the free and non-structured kind which children indulge in. Although non-academic and not strictly intended to improve a practitioner’s ability, freeform practice serves as a crucial way for the student to enjoy themselves with their chosen craft. Although it may seem unnecessary to list it here, I believe that maintaining a fun and creative attitude toward your work is at least as important as academic study, if not more so.

Work of this type has one goal: to make you happy. After all, why are you putting in all of this time becoming skillful if not to use that skill in a way which pleases you? Very often unfortunately it seems that the mark of a professional artist is that they draw at work but not at home, having long since ceased to enjoy what it is they do for a living. Don’t fall into the trap of slowly choking the life out of your art, have a little fun now and then!

I hope these practice methods are helpful to you or your students. Next time I’ll be talking about motivation and forming a practice habit!