Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Froggie Jump

Here's another exercise from the Blair book:
Currently I'm reading Richard Williams The Animator's Survival Guide.  Excellent book, by the way.  He really makes you examine the sequences and helps you understand the thinking behind them... why things are positioned the way they are... why some sequences require more drawings than others... for that matter, why other sequences require less... how to read a "X-Sheet" and relate it to the number of film frames required to cover a certain amount of time (still a significant concept, I imagine, even now when most these things are done on a computer).

Now, notice the frog exercise.  We begin as Froggy is in mid-jump.  Then he reaches the ground and rests momentarily.  Then away he goes and again is in mid-jump when we leave him.

The resting frog is positioned closer to the left than the right; the remainder of the sequence is 3 drawings.  Thus, the detailing of him descending occurs a little faster than the sequence of him bounding away. 

Personally, because I get more out of seeing him spring into action rather than resting after having sprung... so to speak... the position of the resting frog and the fact that the spring takes a little longer seems right.

Just to set the record straight, I'm not planning on becoming an animator... but I love cartoons, and I love cartoon drawings... so it's probably wise to understand a little bit about the making of cartoons.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Running Lad

This one was a real challenge, a real learning experience, and as frustrated as I got in attempting to draw it... I'm glad I did.
There are several contentious experiences contained in this little learning package... and package is what it is!  This was hard for me to draw, I won't pretend otherwise.

First, I'm using an Intuos drawing tablet and that means working with digital files.  My normal practice is to pull up the original picture for a reference filling one half of the computer screen and my drawing space taking up the other half.  Great for drawing each figure one at a time.  But guess what happened when I compared the first two side-by-side?  They might have been close cousins but they clearly weren't the same little boy.

Lesson one: back in the day animators worked with multiple references and light boxes.  They could overlay a new sheet over the previous drawing so they kept the basic proportions and features consistent from one to the next.  That won't happen when you isolate one .tiff file at a time even if you have the original series as a references.  Little variations will creep in.

So I had to think like an animator.

I eventually figured it out but at first there was pronounced variation in the head shapes and features.  Thus I learned to draw this bodies first... referencing one to the other so they were fairly consistent... and drawing the heads last.  Again referencing one to the other.

What should have been a one-night exercise took me the better part of a week.  Whew!  Puff puff pant pant.

Oh well, onward!

Monday, December 16, 2013


Blair teaches several action series detailing the basic poses to running, walking, shuffling, sneaking, etc.

Here's my take on his running exercise:
The shaded portion helps to distinguish right from left of the running figure.  But I also noticed a time-saver to his design.  You only need to draw half the figures... well, 5 out of the 8, let's put it that way... and the other half is quick!

Can you see why?

Blair, man, he thought of everything!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Hands... a la Preston Blair

Let's keep the ball rolling with some hands:

I'm not advocating that all cartoon characters should wear gloves.  I'm not even sure why they used to wear 'em... looks funny, I suppose.

Anyway, the thumb-and-3-finger look is highly believable in these examples.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dandy Duck

Preston Blair exercises continued.

Similar to last night's exercise, here's "Dandy Duck" in various stages of development:
The first very rough figure shows a red "action line" describing the character's attitude... both emotionally and what direction he is leaning.

I think this is how you're supposed to do it.

I notice that these pencil drawings come out very gray-ish... including the background which is very gray, not white the way I intended it.  I think I figured out why that is: this blog site automatically adjusts the brightness and contrast of pictures.  Because these are lightly pencilled in, they are adjusted with the brightness brought down and the contrast brought up to render the highest visibility.

Not the way I drew it but... works for me.

Wise guy bunny

Prescott Blair exercise showing the build-up of the character, drawn by yours truly:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Squash 'n stretch

Still working with the Preston Blair book.  He gives lots of examples of "squash & stretch," which is how animators make their creations appear to have solidity and flexibility, how they appear to react to outside forces... such as a ball bouncing down steps.

Every time the ball hits a step it "squashes," or flattens a little, as a result of impacting a hard surface.  As it bounces again it stretches or becomes somewhat streamlined as it sails through the air.  What would be the point of animating a ball that stays exactly the same shape regardless of whether it's hitting the floor or going airborne?  There would be no character - and no interest - to such a ball.

Similarly, characters faces squash and stretch in reaction to different emotional situations.  Here I've drawn several of Blair's examples. 

First this dumb mutt has a completely vacant look on his face.  Then he notices something: "Huh?"  Something that amuses him.  Makes him smug and silly.  And then something about it seriously pisses him off.  So much so that he barks ferociously.

Heh heh.  Dumb ol' mutt.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Learning from Preston Blair

If you want to learn to draw cartoons, get the Walter Foster book by Preston Blair and start cracking!!

Mr. Blair was a wonderfully talented and enormously accomplished animator (check out the entry to Wikipedia).

All the basic information is here... and you can easily see that the Hanna Barbara animators were quite familiar with him.

Here's an example.  In one section titled Skeleton Foundation you'll wind up with this:
See the blue pencil "skeleton" that defines the character?
...that with a little shading becomes this:
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention.  Tom Cat shown above (from Tom & Jerry) is only in the first edition.  Due to copyright issues, the currently available second edition uses only generic characters.

As soon as I found that out I just had to have that first edition.  I found it free online... but you'll have to hunt for it.  Let me say this: it is available.  There's even a combined volume 1 and 2 out there just filled with great Preston Blair animations and characters.  Again, you'll have to be very resourceful and hunt for it.

You'll note that Mr. Blair's style is the rounder, more robust type of character than the minimalistic characters I love so much by Hanna Barbara.  But it seems to me to be well worth the effort to learn the fundamentals of animation and character development this way... and then later drift to a minimalistic approach that will be, by way of comparison, a walk in the park.