I once asked Richard Williams what he did after he lost control of his great project “ The Thief“? He replied “ I took a year off to relax and do life drawing.“ That impressed me. Here was this genius with several Oscars, and he’s not above squatting in front of a model with his newsprint pad.
Dick believed the success he had in his career was due to all the time he put in studying and drawing. Bill Tytla, Art Babbitt and other great animators emphasized life drawing. I know a re-emphasis on life drawing helped me with a breakthrough in my own career.
But looking over student portfolios recently I’ve noticed a lack of life drawing and sketchbook sketches. This was probably due to the Covid lockdown stopping life drawing classes for the past three years. Students didn’t go to zoos, or other public places to sketch either.
But now that the covid restrictions are easing, it is up to us, the animation teachers, to make sure our students return to life drawing and sketching. Don’t let them buy into the line that computers have made drawing irrelevant. I heard that stuff also when I was growing . But the animators they admire, the Glen Keanes, Andreas Dejas, James Baxters, all did it through good drawing. It’s not just about using pencils. Use a stylus and tablet if that suits you. Just draw. Don’t rely on tracing live action. Don’t just regurgitate old designs and tricks. Learn the figure. Draw from real life. It’s cardio for artists.