Wednesday, March 08, 2006

And Again...

Glen Keane (the legendary Disney animator) once told me that when he started out at Disney he took part in a drawing class taught by Marc Davis (the even-more legendary Disney animator). Of course, I asked right away: "What did you learn from Marc?"

Glen thought about it for a second, and then he said that Marc constantly repeated the phrase: "And again..."

Which I take to mean that there are only a few basic rules about drawing, and that you just have to keep reminding yourself of these same things over and over again. I don't think there are any great drawing secrets. You just have to keep reminding yourself of the basics, force yourself to stick with them, and apply them in an ever-more sophisticated way.

Composers don't sit around complaining that there are only twelve notes. They keep creating completely original works with the same tools Mozart had.

The problem with many of these simple tools is that there are a pain in the neck to make yourself do them. For example: silhouette value. As mentioned in the "Illusion of Life", this means that you stage everything in the clear, away from the body so that it can be read. Well, everybody KNOWS this, but they don't always DO it. Because it's a pain to keep working a pose so that is accomplishes this without looking stiff.

When I taught at CalArts, one night I started pinning up drawings with blacked-in silhouettes on the wall. One girl in the back sighed audibly and said "yeah, we know that already!" Of course, next week when she brought in her storyboards, I had to point out that she wasn't doing it in her sketches.

So anyway, a lot of what I post might seem basic and lame - you've probably heard it before. Hey, I know all this stuff too, and yet I always catch myself doing a sketch that doesn't do all it's supposed to. It's next to impossible to get all ten or twelve principles working just right in a sketch. So take a second look at this stuff, don't just skim it and say "Yeah, I know that." Hold your own feet to the fire. Are you really doing it?

I find I need stuff repeated over and over before my brain gets it. So I apologize if my posts seem too basic, or get repetitive. Consider yourself lucky if you have all this stuff down already. Heck, start a blog and teach the rest of us so I can get back to drawing and not blogging!

Of all the people I know, Glen Keane is one of the most enthusiastic about looking at this kind of basic stuff and talking about it. He goes to life drawing as much as he can and he's always throwing sketches away as he searches for a better way to do each one. He doesn't think of himself as great, (which, of course, he is) he just wants to get better. And ironically, that's how he got so good!

Below is a page from a handout I did a couple of years ago.


Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Great blog! As someone who's dream is to work in feature animation - and still preferably Disney - it's fantastic how more and more of you are starting blogs. I'm learning my animation skills in the "oldskool" handdrawn way at, but there's not many resources for the "2D" part of 2D animation, so especially these kinds of blogs are great. Really inspiring stuff.
And I'd love to see a Glen Keane life drawing for once. A lot of people (including me) are always raving about his rough animation, but I'd love to be able to study some of the work he did NOT for animation, and how much style differs, etc. Great to hear he throws a lot of stuff away as well... I'm just new to animation, and only got into drawing again for a while now, yet I always want to make a "Glen Keane-level" drawing right of the bat. It's silly how easy it is to forget that he's got 30 years of experience and still throws stuff away!

Great blog, I'll definitly keep on reading this!

mark kennedy said...

Welcome Benjamin! You are right. It is amazing how the internet has made so much stuff accessible that was never out there before.
Maybe I can get a Keane life drawing. I might have a xerox of one somewhere. I'll keep it in mind. If someone else has one, post it and let us know!

countfunkula1 said...

Amen Mark, Amen! I know I am guilty as charged of forgetting about clear silhouette on occasion. I'm sure you know it too. That feeling of "why isn't this damn panel working?" You redraw the character, then clarify the BG, and then bam!, it hits you. The silhouette. Suddenly it works. God, that drawing from "Deduce, You Say", that right there is why I got into animation. I'm of the old school WB style, way more than Disney. If only I did it that well though. Although much love to Disney.

mark kennedy said...

No kidding count. Dan Hansen once said some people hear it once and know it. And some people have to hear it over and over and over.

Well, I'm the second kind, for sure.

Sean said...

Great blog mark! It always seems that the simpliest of answers are often the ones most easily forgotten. Thanks for the reminder!

mark kennedy said...


well put! That's going to be a recurring theme of my blog, for sure.

Skribbl said...

I'm a staunch practitioner of the silhouette rule in storyboarding. It just reads better. But I do have to say that it tends to flatten out the boards. How do i get more dimension? Do I need to apply the BG/MG/FG technique you talked about in the Carl Barks post? Help!

D32D-sign said...

Great blog, i entered two times counting this, and both times, while reading your posts (i´d say..articles) i learned or refreshed very important stuff. I do more 3d than 2d, but since a while.. when modeling something, i make the subject black (by turning the lights off) to check the silhouette, and it really helps me to detect errors and to develop the model. Is really important (as you emphasize)..since with a good silhouette you can add details with great confidence that the thing is working already.
Well, Mark, thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences through the blog!
Forgive my english please.

Alenz said...

Dear Mark: Thank you for your blog. I want to be a 2d animation artist but never got the right studies and neger got into the industry. I am 32 years old and many times I feel there is nowhere to go to learn, or that I am too old. I tell you this for you to know how deeply I appreciate your blog. Not for Keane`s anecdotes(which of course I love) but for the fact that you share the right focus with those who arrive at your blog. So...

THANKS INFINITE (and if you need anything, please just ask, I am gonna be reading allll your blog).