On Drawing

In between sleeping, eating and working I’ve been trying to increase the amount of drawing/painting that I do. I find it really does make one much more observant – moreover it’s a lot of fun! Anyway, this little fellow is my take on an elephant image in Preston Blair’s book Cartoon Animation. I’m working my way through the book by copying at least one or two drawings from each page. I’m on page 57.

The idea is to copy artists I like, but only as a primer to get my own style to sprout and develop. The way I see it is that copying a favorite artist will help you to learn what it is that you like about their style. Then you incorporate what you learn into your own style. The end or goal isn’t to be another Preston Blair or Freddy Moore, rather it is to be yourself. But a new you that is informed by what you like in other artists’ work.

Another good idea is to copy different styles (toony work, realistic work, reality itself). In between copying other artists work, one ought to work on his or her own designs and ideas. Slowly, you stop copying as much and become more creative by creating more of your own work. I don’t think you should stop copying altogether – since I believe you can continue to learn from other people’s work.

Going through this process solves a couple of problems. One is that you are always learning something new. If you ever think you’ve arrived – well, then your growth will stop and you will more than likely stagnate. The second problem has to do with quantity. In order to get better you have to draw more. Copying will help you to get those bad drawings out of your system. Moreover, copying will help you to have a standard against which you can measure your copies. It’s much easier to see what is wrong with your version of someone else’s work when you can compare the two (your copy vs. the original).

The point is that copying isn’t the end all be all of drawing (unless you are satisfied with copying), rather it is a tool to get you up and drawing better and faster. The same applies to animation. We copy reality, other people’s interpretation of reality, but the point isn’t to be a photocopy machine. The idea is to learn what there is to learn about animation (and continue learning) and then create your own. Be careful not to get stuck in copy mode. It’s safe, but not very creative.