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Life Drawing For Animation, Illustration and Cartooning

Life Drawing For Animation, Illustration and Cartooning

Central Saint Martins
Taught by
Vincent Woodcock


The Problem: Traditional life-classes emphasize anatomy, lighting and composition at the expense of emotional gesture, costume, facial expression, action/motion, and most of all, personality. The conventional life-class does not prepare the artist for the demands of animation, comics, and graphic arts; that is to say, to be able to draw clothed human characters with personality at rest or in implied motion, from the imagination!

The Solution: Structured, themed drawing sessions with a life-model who has trained in mime or physical performance, using simple props and costume, combined with the occasional use of a video camera to help with action analysis. This approach to life drawing is not meant to be a substitute for a conventional life-class (which hopefully gives the artist the necessary foundation in anatomy and drawing skills), but a compliment to it.  The sessions will draw upon the teachings of art tutors such as George Bridgman and Disney's Don Graham to help with construction and action respectively.

The Method Animation, comics, and storyboards all require a certain exaggerated quality in the posing and attitudes of their characters in order to succinctly communicate story, action and personality within the limitations of the screen-time or panel size or character design. We have to find a way of presenting the visual information in a heightened or condensed form. Working with male and female models in these sessions who have a background in mime or physical theatre, allows us to truthfully exaggerate action, motion and attitudes in order to allow the artist to understand the underlying principles through drawing and analysis.

There will be no overly long poses; the emphasis will be on loose, kinetic sketching that tries to find the essence of a movement, posture, gesture of attitude combined with a solid understanding of the volumes and forms of the human body. Starting with simple actions such as raising out of a chair, lifting a weight, opening a door, throwing and catching a ball etc, consecutive sessions will move on to analysing more complex problems such as walking with crutches or losing balance or swordplay etc as well as action combined with various emotional attitudes. Different actions will be studied in order to understand weight shift, balance, the breaking of joints etc the anticipation and the follow-through, as well the points of any action that have the most pictorial interest.

Each session will be themed, different actions analysed and broken down into their key positions and the following topics will be covered in depth; *Locomotion (walks, runs, hops, jumps, skips, limps etc). *Contact and weight. *Age (and how it relates to different actions) *Facial expression (and how it relates to performance, posture and gesture). *Drapery (ie  how different clothing creases and folds around the body during certain actions and postures). *Handling props (eg a broom, a pistol, a pair of scissors, an axe, a cigarette etc). *Sporting action (eg a tennis swing, a baseball pitch, a jump etc). *Characterisation and emotional states (eg shock, fear, anger, arrogance etc) *Action (eg throwing and taking a punch, kicks etc).

Please note: This course is for students aged 18 and older

Tutor Description

Vincent Woodcock learned animation from Richard Williams and Art Babbitt, co-directed Disney's "Duck Tales The Movie", sequence-directed on "The Tigger Movie", and was an animator and character-designer on "Space Jam". His idents and promo's for Cartoon Network have won Promax awards, and he has designed characters for many theatrical and TV animated productions. His cartoons and illustrations have appeared in magazines such as Time Out and Fortean Times, and he is the author and illustrator of "How To Draw And Paint Crazy Cartoon Characters". He is currently working on his own graphic novel.

Read an interview with Vincent on the Short Courses blog here.


Please bring with you to the first session: HB, B or 2B pencils (not mechanical pencils) Light blue pencils (preferably Faber-Castell "Col-Erase" light blue) A4 photocopy paper (one pack of 500 sheets will last the whole course) A pencil sharpener (preferably one that holds the shavings). Putty eraser

Available dates