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3D Character Creation
Class 02: Gesture Drawing


  • Drawing
  • Organic vs Hard-Surface Design
  • Gesture Drawing
  • Class 02 Lab

You stayed for class two!


Importance of Drawing:

The students that are the best artists tend to be the best modelers. You will have a better understanding of form and be able to replicate and enhance nature.
An astute drawer can make better observations that improve their animations.
You will take notes when doing research and development for your projects by drawing.

Programs are becoming more and more intuitive. Programs like Z-Brush, Mudbox, and Mari are making it possible for the traditional artist to create digital assets at higher quality than the technically inclined persons.
Programs and pipelines are constantly changing. It is your fundamental art skills that are applicable no matter what medium you are working with that will keep you hired and gain you promotion.

Tim Burton is renowned for his style and it shows in his films.
James Cameron can draw (he drew the drawing in Titanic).
The ability to draw is like the ability to write or speak; it’s communication.
The better you draw the better you can communicate.
So how did drawing in animation begin? Glad you asked.

James Cameron actually drew the drawing of Rose in Titanic.

Tim Burton has a strong style that he communicates through his drawings that directly affects the look of his films.

Practical Example: Disney

Before Disney made Snow White and the Seven Dwarves he produced the short film, The Goddess of Spring. This was meant as a test to see how well his animators could handle realistic characters and effects. The results were… disappointing.

After The Goddess of Spring disaster Disney realized that his animators were not prepared to make a feature film. Disney made a deal with the local college and made it mandatory for all animators to take drawing courses. The result is present in The Old Mill, for which Disney won an Oscar. The quality is night and day.

Gulliver’s Travels (Fleischer) vs Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Disney)

You all know of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Do you know of Gulliver’s Travels? If you answered no (and I know you did), this is because of the superior quality of Disney animation.

I’m Convinced (now what?)


Like all the time. Just doodle sometimes. Other times be very methodical and exact. Treat it like exercise. You don’t become a body-builder from one day of working out. You have to commit to it.

You should draw the following:

  • Gesture Sketches
    • Quick drawings (60 sec) that you concentrate on the expression and proportion of the figure.
  • Long Form Drawings
    • Finished artwork that you really dig into. Concentrate on accuracy and anatomy.

Organic vs Hard-Surface Design

Character (organic) vs. Environment (hard-surface) :

3D models broadly fall into two major categories, hard surface and organic. Often modelers specialize in one of these.

Organic vs. Inorganic Design

Forms that stress the interdependence of its parts like that of living systems (Shapes flow into each other).
Not having structure or organization that emphasizes relationship (No blending).

Living things have a naturally flow between their individual parts

A common misconception is that round forms are equivalent to organic forms.

Gesture Drawing

Gesture Drawing

A gesture drawing is a work of art defined by rapid execution.  Often used as an attempt to capture action or movement. Like a house, with a solid foundation your drawing will suck no matter how much sticht you use. If you utilize gesture there is no reason to have a drawing that has poor composition (cut-off). Nothing will make you a better artist. In order to be a successful hand-drawn animator you will need to acquire this skill. Note: your other professors may want you to do different things. Do what they tell you.

Check out how rough Glen Keane’s animation is

Everyone does it

It is disingenuous of artists to show their final work.  It makes them appear impeccable. They have the same struggles we do. Even the best artists make mistakes. It is the ones that make adjustments that are successful. 

You can see Chris’ finished drawings but if you look at his sketches you see the journey he takes to get there. This is why I like to see drawings of potential students above any other medium, I can see what you are thinking.

Gesture Drawing Process

Here is a general guide


Before you begin any project fear always sets in. You have a fear of failure. This causes you to fall back on your old safe ways. You will not improve and will not be exploring if you do not relieve yourself of this. Remember your drawings are not permanent and you will fail constantly, we all do.

Visual Snapshot

Often subjects you will draw will be in motion, so it is necessary to make mental notes. It is impossible to be a hundred percent accurate just try to absorb the overall form. Make note of the axial (line of action) and the position of the peripheral in relation to the axial. You want to get the “feeling” of the pose. You may exaggerate the actual pose during drawing.

Ruin Your Drawing

Ruin your drawing. Make any old mark if you have to. This may be the key to great drawings. Once you have ruined your perfect paper you have no where to go but up so there is no fear of being unsuccessful.

Line of Action

Use “spider lines” at first so nothing is set in stone. You are figuring things out right now. Don’t over-think your drawing. You have to screw up your drawing first and then fix it. Try to get the line of action drawn first. Your mass of lines should be fitting inside the page with the composition you want

Finish the WHOLE Figure

At this point your are starting to tie-down the drawing. You are making more final decisions.


Think 3 dimensionally and draw through (around) the figure to create real volumes. Drawing through the figure is the secret to good gesture drawing. Beware of too much contour. Shape vs. form.

Finish the Drawing

This is where you can add in details like face, fingers, hair, etc. You can mass in shadows if you like. Add as few details as necessary. If it’s not necessary, why add it? This is the icing on the cake. You should have a full figure after only a couple of seconds. Remember that no matter how long you spend on a drawing they should all start as a gesture.

Let’s do it:

I am going to demonstrate in front of you first. Then I am going to have you complete a set. You will be using these as the basis for your lab assignment.

This is a great tool for drawing. It is better to draw from life but on this site you will find a slide show that displays images base on your preferences. I highly suggest trying it out.

I found this youtube playlist presents a good intro to anatomy drawing if you want more direct instructions.

Richard Smitheman

Class 02 Lab

Inanimate Animate Character Lab

You must be able to create a character no matter the subject. Although most characters are based off of “live” humans and creatures, there are times where you may have to create a character from something un living. In this lab you will design a character based off of the handheld object you brought in class.

You will be graded on the following:
  • Lab Requirements
    • Techniques and processes covered in the instructional material is followed and implemented.
  • Creativity & Craftsmanship
    • Excellent design choices, novel & appealing, and solid clean caliber work.
Assignment Video Tutorials
You may watch the tutorial videos below to help you complete your assignment.

Wait! Before you go!

Did you remember to?

  • Read through this webpage
  • Submit Inanimate Animate Character Lab on Canvas