Drawing Class Lesson 3: Animating with Photoshop

Once you’ve finished your sequences I will begin to start showing you how to animate them in Photoshop. Now, you may be thinking, “Animating stuff in photoshop sucks!” and you’re kind of right. It can be a pain in the ass. There’s a lot of different ways to animate your hand drawn sequences and I don’t care if you use Adobe Premiere, Flash, or Imovie. But, and this is a big but, you’ve also have to be able to do some “Onion Skinning” which is a process where you can manipulate the opacity of each layer so certain elements stay in alignment.

So what’s onion skinning? According to Wikipedia “Onion skinning is a 2D computer graphics term for a technique used in creating animated cartoons and editing movies to see several frames at once. This way, the animator or editor can make decisions on how to create or change an image based on the previous image in the sequence.”

Back in the day this was done by drawing on semi transparent paper, or on a light box.

Now it’s done by taking down the opacity on layers which can be manipulated individually in Photoshop.

Take a look at this tutorial to see how to start using the animation window in Photoshop.

Now that you’ve got all of your frames imported into Photoshop I want you to manipulate each frame and start lining them up one by one. If you skip this step your animation will look bouncy and you won’t achieve a proper flow.

If you are still having trouble figuring out how to onion skin and animate in photoshop check out this great tutorial here.

The drawings can be scanned at school, however be aware that with 12 students, each of which will be scanning multiple drawings that this will take quite some time. If you’ve got access to a scanner then scan them at home.

Drawing Class Lesson 4: Personification


For this lesson you will be assigned an object as well as an emotion which you will have to combine to make an illustration of the object exhibiting the trait which you have been assigned. For instance you could make a thoughtful tree, as the one above, or a happy car, as the one below.  Once your initial drawings/sketches are finished we will then work through them again putting emphasis on line variation and some examples of weighted lines will also be introduced.

PDF Of all Exercises and Drawings covered in today’s class.

Introduction of the First Assignment which can be downloaded HERE.


Personification is the process by which you give an inanimate object (such as a desk lamp) human like characteristics. This can be achieved in a number of ways. One could make an object seem human by changing the posture and the movement of the object, such as in Pixar’s intro. Notice that the light bulb naturally seems like an eye even though there isn’t any eyeball. Sometimes less is more, and if you can personify an object just by using gesture and movement then you’re on your way to being a great animator.

Or Personification can be when we give inanimate object human features. Such as in Beauty and The Beast.

For this assignment you will all be given different object which you must personify. A few good source materials to use would be this are different expressions and how they are drawn.

Here’s a brief video tutorial on how to draw some different expressions.

And just in case you’re still in need of some inspiration. Here’s some of Towelie’s best moments from South Park.

Drawing Class Lesson 5; Squash and Stretch


Today we will be working on a quick series of keyframed drawing which will illustrate the principle of squash and stretch.

What’s a keyframe? A key frame in animation and filmmaking is a drawing that defines the starting and ending points of any smooth transition. The drawings are called “frames” because their position in time is measured in frames on a strip of film. A sequence of keyframes defines which movement the viewer will see, whereas the position of the keyframes on the film, video or animation defines the timing of the movement. Because only two or three keyframes over the span of a second do not create the illusion of movement, the remaining frames are filled with inbetweens.

Although this is most commonly known as “tweening” in Flash. Keyframing has been used in animation for over 40 years. This video, produced in 1971 looks at some of the early attempts at key framing for animation.

So. Since you are not going to be creating a full animation (although if you want to do a short animation you should). I want you to just draw 3 different key frames. This must involve changes in a character. So I don’t want to see 3 different positions of a ball. The keyframes should also demonstrate the animation principle of Squash and Stretch. One drawing will be of the ball (object) resting, when will be squashed, and one will be stretched.

Squash and Stretch was described in The Illusion of Life as being “by far the most important” discovery that the Disney animators made in their pursuit of excellence in animation. Only lifeless stiff objects remain inert while in motion. Any living object will tend to change shape, though retaining overall volume. One example is a flexed bicep, another is a human face – while talking or chewing it will tend to extend and compress. The principle is often used in conjunction with another principle of animation which is “slow in, slow out”

During the 1930s the Disney animators competed amongst themselves to exaggerate the squash and stretch in their drawings, making their poses ever more extreme. The important thing was to maintain the overall volume of an object so that it did not appear to change size as well as shape. To this end they devised the half-filled flour sack, showing that even if dropped on the floor or stretched out by its corners, its overall volume would never change.

The animators consulted the sports pages in the newspapers and found in the photography endless examples of the elasticity of the human body in motion. Using these poses as reference the animators were able to start “observing in a new way”.


The classic preparation for the training of Disney animators began with a bouncing ball. The ball would change shape, compressing (squash) as it hit the ground, then extending (stretch) as it bounced up again.

Here’s a video tutorial of how to squash and stretch a ball, and the dramatic difference it has on an animation.

And in these drawings we can see how squash and stretch is applied to a character.

Drawing Class Lesson 6; Perspective

Perspective is an illusion which makes a 2 dimensional surface (ie. a piece of paper, or a screen) look as if it is 3 dimensional. This can be achieved in a variety of ways.

Including 1 point perspective. Which you can watch a video tutorial here about.

2 point perspective

and 3 point perspective

Another type of perspective which can be used in shallow spaces is isometric perspective. Where you simply draw all the lines which are receding into the distance in parallel.

First we will attempt to make 4 different drawings utilizing all 4 of these types of perspective. After we are finished with that we will start on created a background for your “Character in an environment” assignment. For this assignment you will be creating a character, and a background, separately. As with all of my assignments you can use almost any media you wish, both digital and traditional.




Oh, and here’s the entire film which you can watch here.


Drawing Class Lesson 7; Planar surfaces








Planes are flat surface areas which depict contours of the face in a flat manner. The technique of breaking down objects into simpler forms is at least 500 years old, and is still used all the time by 3d animators today.

In the popular digital sculpting program ZBrush you can create virtual sculptures, and in this video tutorial you can see how the artist looked at each plane of the face as a starting point to model an entire face.

In the following illustration we can see how Loomis simplified the face into flat planes.

And here we can see how Paolo Uccello did so with a vase drawing he made nearly 500 years ago.

Planes of the face can have simple variations in value which can distinguish where a plane ends, and another begins.

And planes can help simplify cartoon characters making it easy to draw from multiple angles. Such as in this step by step guide by Loomis on how to draw cartoons.

But why is this an important skill as it concerns 3d modeling? Well, for starters it isn’t that difficult to model an extremely complicated looking character in a program like ZBrush. However the more vertices present, the slower a character will perform in 3d. That’s why all 3d characters are simplified down to more efficient characters.

In the tutorial below we can see how simple objects are even simplified down to easier planar shapes in Blender. We are going to be doing the same, except with drawing.

For todays exercise we will be working from photos of animals and humans, and your task will be to redraw these images in a much simpler way. As always you are welcome to use a tablet to draw (not trace!) the images.

If you are looking for more inspiration, and are interested in using Blender I recommend starting with this set of tutorials. Blender is free to download and there are hundreds and hundreds of tutorials online which go from very basic to (as seen in the video below) quite advanced.

Drawing Class Lesson 8: Figure Drawing

Today we will be drawing from a model. Figure drawing is one of the oldest methods for improving drawing abilities. It provides an endless amount of problems to solve and there are many different facets to take into consideration. I understand it is impossible to teach everything about figure drawing in one session, so I’d like to go over the basics first before we begin.

Before starting a drawing from a longer pose it is important to loosen up. This is done by what’s called gesture drawings. Gesture drawings are quick drawings, generally completed in 2 to 3 minutes which capture the gesture of the figure. A gesture drawing serves only to catch the overall feeling of a pose or an object. Whether it is animation, character design, or painting and graffiti, gesture drawings serve as the whole upon which the rest of the drawing is hung. It’s a loose skeleton to be refined at a later stage.

In this tutorial below you can see how a professional character designer warms up with gesture drawing.

Gesture drawings all convey a sense of rhythm abd movement. It is at the heart of graffiti. Which is why the first step to learning how to spray, is to start with tags.

Anatomy can be taken into consideration however isn’t a necessary component for figure drawing. However, the more you know about your subject, the better that you can draw it.

Gesture drawing is also at the heart of character design and comic book illustrations.

Figure drawings can also be based completely off the interplay of light and shadow on the structure of the human body.

Drawing Class Lesson 9: Color Theory

Introduction of Assignment 3:

What is the correct color wheel for painting? It has been hotly debated for over a century, and everyone seems to have an opinion about what the “real” primary colors are. In the following post I hope to educate you about some of the theories about just which primary colors are the best to be used for painting, and why. Of course I also offer some of my own personal opinion based upon my own studies of color as well as my experience as someone who loves painting in oils.

The first problem we run into when looking at the various color wheels which can be used for painting involves something called Tertiary Colors. Tertiary colors are created when one mixes a primary color (Red, Yellow, Blue) with one secondary color (orange, violet, green). Generally these are the colors located next to them on the color wheel.

They often have specific names which can get quite exotic such as Sea Green, or Azure. This is because often designers want to come up with a cool name for a color so they can market it better. For various reasons painters have been taught and told to use the RYB color wheel. A few reasons include the fact that artist materials which are available now used to have toxic compounds in them. Now with the advent of dyes it is easier to synthesize a color such as cyan. The one thing to remember however when using these colors is that dyes will fade with age, while real pigments (such as cadmium) have already stood the test of time for centuries.

First we will be focusing on the Red/Yellow/Blue color wheel which is most often used by painters. In the color wheel above the Tertiary Colors shown are Yellow Green, Blue Green, Yellow Orange, Red Orange, Red Violet, Blue Violet, and Blue Green. This was widely believed to be standard colors to use for quite some time, and is still often used in Art Education up to this day.

An RYB color chart from George Field’s 1841 Chromatography; or, A treatise on colours and pigments: and of their powers in painting
Back in the 18th century the theories surrounding color theory were cemented in the idea that the RYB (Red/Yellow/Blue) was the way to go. These theories have since changed over the years, however the RYB color model is still often used in teaching painting, and color theory up to this day.

These theories were enhanced by 18th-century investigations of a variety of purely psychological color effects, in particular the contrast between “complementary” or opposing hues that are produced by color afterimages and in the contrasting shadows in colored light.

During the 18th century the theory of the RYB model was furthered by two great thinkers. They were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Michel Eugene Chevreul. They were both transfixed by what is called the Psychological effects of color, and obsessed with how our eyes perceive color. One of the main things they observed was how complementary colors (that means they are opposite each other on the color wheel) created afterimages in our brains when they were “burned” into our eyes. They were also interested in why shadows in colored light would create contrasting shadows. You can download Goethe’s The Theory of Colors here as I’ve uploaded it to this site. It is in the creative commons so there it has no copyright and is in the Public Domain.

After Goethe and his treatise on color, scientists moved away from the RYB color wheel and shifted towards a color wheel which most everyone sees every day. This is the Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) model which still dominates a lot of media to this day (Hint: It’s how your TV works). To understand how this color wheel operates we need to go back to the previous lesson, and further examine how different lights makes different colors as opposed to how pigments (or physical mixtures of color) differ.

In the previous lessons we have talked about Additive and Subtractive colors. Forgive me if I wasn’t clear enough before, but these lessons are meant to be sequential, and therefore sometimes I will withhold information so you can absorb it at different rates.

To put it simply, Additive Color is created by adding color. How do we add color? Well, by using light. That’s why if you get up close to a TV set you will see tiny little bars of Red, Green, and Blue. Learning about additive color is particularly important for those who use a computer to create their imagery, as they are dealing with a medium that is essentially based upon the glow of a computer screen. Now, what happens when that person decides he wants to print out the image on his screen? The answer is that he will need to deal with another color wheel when the image is printed from a computer screen onto a piece of paper! This is because a piece of paper doesn’t glow, it’s reflecting light from a light bulb or the sun. As we discussed previously, an object doesn’t hold a certain color because it reflects it, it is a certain color because it absorbs all the other colors in the spectrum. Hence the term, subtractive color.

So we, as painters, aren’t painting with light, we’re painting with paint. Hence, we need to use a color wheel which is specific to our needs. Let’s take a look at the two different types of color wheels. Check out the first one below. This is a classical color wheel which utilizes Red, Yellow, and Blue as the primaries.

There’s some nice oranges and violets in there right? Oh? What’s that, you want them to be brighter and more vibrant? Well, then you can use the Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow color wheel below. CMYK is the color wheel which is utilized in printing, and has generally been regarded as the “true” set of primaries.

But there’s a few problems with this color wheel. Mainly, it doesn’t exist in nature (as in, natural pigments) as readily available as the colors which have been used for thousands of years. However if you want to oil paint with Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow then you can. But if you believe that oil paints will mix similarly to a printing machine then you’re fooling yourself. As you have probably already learned, different colors and different pigments have different strengths and weaknesses.

By this I mean every color has different properties. In the printing process CMYK(K stands for black) are often used in transparent glazes. For instance, in order to make red in in CMYK printing you first print a tiny little magenta dot, and then on top of that dot is a yellow which is semi transparent. That’s how you make red. Now with oil paint let’s say that you want to paint a giant red object. If you were painting by utilizing the CMYK printing model you’d have to first paint an entire layer magenta, wait three days, and then on top of that you would glaze a bit of yellow on top of it to get your red. So yes, it is possible to paint with CMYK, but the simple answer is that it would simply take FOREVER to finish a painting, because we’re not machines, and paint takes a long time to dry.

So what do we do as painters? Which color wheel should we use? I would suggest that you (that’s right, you) find a palette that you enjoy working with. Limit it to no more than 10 colors, and get used to it. It takes a long time to learn how to properly mix and see color so find a palette that you feel comfortable manipulating. I know for me I like to use Cadmium Red Medium, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Pthalo Blue, Pthalo Green, Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, Raw Umber, Permanent Violet Medium, and Titanium White. And that’s what I’ve used for numerous painting tutorials that I’ve done. It’s a hybrid of both CMYK as well as the Old RYB models. With RYB it can be difficult to make a nice brilliant violet as well as green. So what do you do? You buy them And if you want to try to paint with Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow then you can. These colors are generally referred to as Process Blue, Process Red, and Process Yellow. They’re dyes so they won’t last as long (meaning they’ll fade faster) as the classical pigments but they could be interesting to experiment with. For me? I’ll stick to Cadmiums, Ultramarine, Titanium, and Cobalt. There’s a reason why they’ve been around for thousands of years.

Drawing Class Lesson 10: Natural History Museum

Today we will be visiting the Natural History Museum to draw. Bring your student IDs (as this will give you a discount. I believe admission is 80Kc) . Also bring your sketchbook and drawing materials. We will be spending the entire class drawing different animals.

Your exercise for this class is to pick two different animals and combine them in one drawing. This is called a Chimera. Take a look at the video below to see how this can be done.

Chimera’s have been around for a long time, and we can find them in many different cultures around the world. Here’s a bronze statue of a chimera from China.

They also still pop up in popular culture all the time. Such as this concept art sketch from Clash of the Titans.

But above all else. Don’t forget the basics of form, gesture, and planar surfaces when drawing animals.

Drawing Class Lesson 11: Self Directed Project

Click To Download Assignment Brief

Today you will begin preliminary research about what artists will influence you, and the materials you will need to begin your final Self Directed Project. You will be given the entire semester, and 13 total class times devoted just to working on the project of your choice.

This means that you are allowed to create your own assignment, and your own schedule to create a project which will help you in your future goals. In the past I’ve had students make comic books, sculptures out of plastaline, character design, traditional painting in oils, digital painting, ZBrush, Flash, Stop Motion Animations, Paper cut out animations, studying anatomy, Toon Boom Studio, Blender, etc. Basically if you think it involves drawing somehow, then we will discuss your project ideas and I will say whether or not they are acceptable. However as you can see I’m very open. The most important thing is to set goals which we can work together on. At the end of your project you will be giving a presentation of your work, as well as research into both technique, as well as process which should be documented in your sketchbook.

For this assignment you must submit the following. Research on an artist in your field of interest. This can be done digitally and submitted on a pdf, or you can print out images of the work, and paste them into your sketchbook. There must be no less than 15 pages of research.

Your sketches and preliminary stages must be shown. This will vary depending on the medium you choose.  There must be at least 15 sketches showing the progression of your projects. If working with digital media it will be important to document the step by step process of the creation of your work.

The final work.

Your Calendar and Statement of Intent


Your statement of intent should cover logistical concerns. Materials needed, programs needed, etc.

Writing a statement of intent may seem like a task which has little to do with your work, when in reality, it actually has everything to do with your work. It is important to overcome technical limitations of your work, however, it is also important to learn how to synthesize your ideas and make sure they also relate to the work which you are creating. Some things you can start to think about include. Your intended work should have a concept and thought process behind it and answering the questions below will help you define what your FMP will be…

  • What are your major interests and why?
  • What do you want to communicate, and what other artists/designers have been successful in communicating the ideas which you are interested in to an audience/viewer?
  • What is the subject and/or content of your work? In other words, what is it about?
  • What kinds of things inform your work? This can include other pieces, politics or society, and your own experiences.
  • What materials do you use and why?
  • What is your process and how does it affect the way you work?
  • How do you want your audience to view your work? Do you want them to react in a certain way?


It is important to differentiate between writing an Artist Statement, and writing a statement of intent. As they are two different things. However, by looking at sample artist statements we can begin to examine the thought process required for formulating a statement of intent. With an artist statement the work has already completed, and the artist is attempting to sum up in words, what was the intent of the work to communicate it to the audience. You will be formulating a statement of what you intend to create and the ideas which you wish to explore.


Your statement of Intent MUST Include the following:

1. What are your creative intentions.

2. What materials are you going to use? Why does this medium lend itself to the concept you are trying to explore?

3. What techniques are you going to use? How does technique effect how the piece will be read by a viewer?

4. What processes will be implemented and why?

5. What methods are you going to use to record your review progress and outcomes? This means that you must have a schedule you are following in which there are deadlines which must be met.


Here’s some inspiration for possible avenues to pursue.

Paper Cut Illustrations

Working in Blender/3dsMax/Maya or any other 3d program.

The Spine by Chris Landreth, National Film Board of Canada


Traditional Painting

Character Design


Sculptures with projection mapping


Drawing Class Final Lesson: Presentations

Download the brief for the presentation assignment HERE.

Today we will be having final presentations by every student in the class. Since we are a large class I’m going to limit each presentation to 10 minutes. This means that you must have everything made in your PDF beforehand and not jumping around in a lot of different folders searching for an image while you are presenting.

Once the presentations are complete you will hand in your assignments to reception. On this disk you will need to include all of your images from the year and a self reflective report. Remember the more you document, the better your grade will do. So don’t be afraid to include a lot of preliminary sketches and anything from the year as it pertains to drawing in this class.

After everything is submitted anyone who wishes can come join me in Riegrovy Sady Beer Garden to celebrate the end of the year 😀

Animations Before and After Flash

With everyone dying to start using the latest version of the latest program to animate it is also important to consider the fact that not all technological innovations necessarily mean that the end product will be improved. Much discussion has been done surrounding the topic as to whether Flash is a good program for animating. And while it undoubtedly can be used at a professional level, it should also be noted that many times it has been used to cut corners and those using it have a tendency to forget about many of the basic principles of Animation. As the father of a toddler I often turn on Nick Jr to get a moment of peace. The first time I had watched it in over 15 years I was astonished to see how terrible many of the animated series had become.

A glaring example of this would be the PBS show Arthur which switched to Flash in the 16th season. Take a look at the two videos below and compare them for yourself. The changes are obvious and it boggles my mind that some higher up thought that using flash would be an improvement over the previous seasons (of which there had already been many).

Season 1

Season 16 (Flash)

It’s pretty easy to see that the quality of the animation suffered greatly after they decided to turn to flash. When I was growing up my favorite show was called “The Mysterious Lost Cities of Gold” (mainly because I was obsessed with the Aztecs) and compare this against my new most hated theme song in the world. The Dreaded “Dora the Explorer” where young children learn to memorize completely useless information.

Mysterious Lost Cities of Gold (new music added) 1982

Dora The Explorer 2010


So no. You’re not just being nostalgic for your cartoons. While some people can utilize the benefits of new technology. There are also those that want to churn out as much crap as fast as they can, to make as much money as they can. But don’t despair. Just as always there are innovative young animators who are taking advantage of the benefits of flash and making great material. It’s just that the ease of use of the program, combined with an inability to integrate qualities of older animations into Flash has created a lot of awful flash animations which permeate youtube. For that reason I’ll leave you with a video of someone who can actually use flash in an interesting and new way. Oh what’s that? You don’t see any vectors? Well, maybe that’s because they’re hideous in animations 😀

How to Capture a Likeness in a Portrait

In order to achieve a high degree of likeness in a drawing one must pay attention to what is called the facial triangle. The facial triangle is a term which refers to the brow, cheek bones and the nose. One may notice that this doesn’t necessarily make the perfect triangle due to the shape of the head so it’s better to think of the shape as the image which can be seen below.

Look at the features of the face and see how they are unique. In the image above the features are pretty generic on this woman. Practice drawing and looking at the minute differences that occur in every facial triangle. While the mouth and jawline are also important factors to consider in completing the drawing, the best tactic is to focus first on nailing the facial triangle and then letting the rest fall into place.

So. How does one construct the rest of the face after the facial triangle has been completed? Well the next most important feature is going to be the overall shape of the head. And these head shapes can be comprised into a multitude of categories. Take a look at the gallery below to get a feeling for all of the different shapes that the head can take on.

There are different ways to tackle a portrait with pen and ink, or pencil. The two most popular methods are to either first go for the overall shape of the head, and then fit the facial triangle inside of that shape. Or to first work on the features present, and then add the larger facial shape around them. Neither way is “correct” and it will be up to you to decide which method works best for you.

Caricatures can be a great place to look at the multitude of different features on a face since they are all exaggerated in these drawings and therefore easier to see. When drawing an accurate portrait one will actually use a method similar to those used by caricature artists. And that means that in addition to looking at the facial triangle, and facial shape, that small exaggerations should be made to prominent features in order to make it quite clear “who” a drawing of a person is.