“Oh no….not life drawing!”
A lot of CAA students don’t enjoy life drawing. Working large scale doesn’t suit everyone, and you can feel quite pressured when drawing in front of your peers. But it’s a vital part of animating, recognised by major studios:
“Since 1932, Disney has been the only entertainment studio to continue an unbroken tradition of offering free life drawing classes for its artists within its studios. The idea is that understanding and capturing the anatomy and sense of motion from a live model improves animated drawings and gestures.
|Disney animators study life drawing|
[Disney] teach daily life drawing of both nude and costumed models to help animators better understand the fundamentals of the human form, how clothing and gesture inform character and intent, and how to infuse spirit and intent into their figures.
However, increased reliance on computer modelling and algorithmic rendering, along with the explosion of web-accessible photo references, stand to undermine that “study the source” attitude.
“You can draw animation and gesture without life drawing, but life drawing skills give you proportion, structure, perspective, and a certain vitality through rhythmic gestures,” says Gnass, a former Disney TV storyboard artist who has taught at Disney since 1995, as well as DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Nickelodeon, among others. “You can’t achieve dynamics without bones and structure, and in order to have structure you need to study it. From there one can extend out in any direction towards any style.”
Cooper, who’s worked on Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and the upcoming Zootopia, has studied with Gnass for nearly two decades. “Many young artists are looking for an easier way out and study styles of existing animators, as opposed developing their own,” he says. “Doing something that involves the figure, you want to have it based on a little reality as opposed to a stylization or distortion of someone else’s truth. That’s like getting information secondhand. You need to do the same thing they did, which is to work from live models and find your style.”