By: Walt Stanchfield                Categories: Animation

This is excerpt from Walt Stanchfield’s Drawn To Life, Vol. 1 provides animators some fruit for thought when illustrating charter poses.

Feeling the Pose
I repeatedly harp on feeling the pose rather than merely looking at it. By only looking at it, you have to keep looking at it repeatedly as you copy the parts. In feeling the pose you actually picture yourself as doing the pose. If you have to, stand up, put down your drawing board, and assume the pose. Feel which muscles pull or contract to get which stretch or squash. Feel where the weight falls, what is entailed to keep your balance. Feel the psychological attitude it imparts, i.e., if the head is drooped, does it evoke a sad or disappointed feeling; if the head is held high, do you feel proud or haughty or reverent — or what? So with the whole body impose some kind of attitude on it. Then you have that pose locked into your mind and can summon it up at will by simply seeing it in your mind and assuming that attitude. As a matter of fact you can see it from any vantage point — you could even do some mental levitation and look down on it from above.

Contrast that approach with the slow and ponderous neck-tiring process of looking at the model, noticing the angle of the upper arm, looking back to the paper and sketching in the upper arm, then looking at the model to see what the lower arm is doing, then back to the paper to sketch that in, then back to the model to search out the next thing to draw, then back to the paper to see if what you have already drawn will give you a clue to what to add next, and so on, etc.

The “feeling the pose ” method is of great help during live sketching where you have an awkward view of the model, say, a view where one leg and one arm are hidden from your view. With the live model the pose is somewhat clear because there are dozens of telltale indications of what is going on, but these illusive indications are difficult to capture in a line drawing. However, if you lock into the pose, you can make the necessary adjustments required to clarify it. After all, in animation you would have to do that. You go to great lengths to get everything out in the open to make your pose “readable” — so why not in a practice session. I’m sure you all know how to fantasize so put it to use in drawing. If you can lock into the pose you can also fantasize the pose into useful variations, which sounds a little like animating.

The Pose is an Extreme
While animating, you have the advantage of flipping the drawing you are working on with the previous extreme, to develop the full effect of an action:

(Glance back and forth from one drawing to another and you get the effect.) This effect of motion lays open to view the main, or primary, action. Everything else becomes a secondary action in some degree or another. An animator never allows a secondary action to take precedence over the primary action. You might think of the primary action as the center of interest while all other actions diminish in concentric rings of importance:

If the viewer’s eye is pulled to some activity somewhere far from the center of interest then this becomes a conflict of interest, and the viewer has to fight his way along the story, instead of being swept along a well-focused, well-planned, easy-to-read action.

While sketching from a model there is a tendency to think of the pose as a still life. For the sake of animation study, think of the pose rather as a part (or extreme) of an action. You have no previous extreme to flip from but you do have that sense of motion to give you the feel of what the body went through to get to that pose. This helps you to establish the center of interest and to feature or stress the important action. In our class, time and again there has been a pose where the model, having brought a prop, has built a pose around the prop; for instance, opening an umbrella. Last week, 5 minutes into the sketching, there were, out of 17 drawings, only 3 or 4 umbrellas sketched in.

The “first impression ” should have been “woman opening umbrella. ” The center of interest! There should have been an overwhelming obsession to produce a drawing that says “woman opening an umbrella. ” Even after accepting the fact of the center of interest, the battle has just begun, and the shortest route to victory is the use of all the rules of drawing: perspective, tension, angles, rhythm, squash and stretch, etc. Every single line should support the theme and help accent the thrust of the action. The feeling of motion, that is the building up of physical action to reach that climax of the pose, can be conjured up mentally and will serve as a previous animation extreme to “flip ” from to reach a dynamic extreme drawing — one that says, for instance, “woman opening umbrella. ”

But whatever the prop or whatever the action, there is a story to be told, and a prop definitely suggests a theme. A story sketch man usually has only one drawing to describe a scene — he must choose one that will illustrate the story point. If an umbrella is involved, you can be sure he will construct a sketch featuring an umbrella. The story men and the director could care less about how much the story sketch man knows about anatomy or detail drawing, as long as the story point is getting across.

There comes a time in an author’s career when he transcends the obsession to get the proper amount of verbs and adjectives and prepositions into a sentence and concentrates on telling his story in an interesting, absorbing, stimulating, arresting, striking, attractive, appealing, and entertaining way. The artist (animator), (you) have the same raison d’etre.

This is an excerpt from Drawn To Life . Drawn to Life can be purchased at, and wherever fine books can be found.

Walt Stanchfield

(1919–2000) was an American animator, writer and teacher. Stanchfield is known for work on a series of classic animated feature films at Walt Disney Studios and his mentoring of Disney animators.

No Comments

No Comments

Tell us what you think!