Animation Master Studies

I’ve always been interested in methods of learning, whether it be animation, language or any other topic. In the creative fields a musician will start by playing popular music, a writer will read profusely and a painter will spend some time copying masters. With modern CG animation schools and their relatively short course lengths it seems that idea of really analysing and copying masters as a way to learn the craft is often sacrificed.

Long before going through Animation Mentor I stumbled across John Kricfaluci’s blog and his thoughts on learning animation through his self made curriculum. For about a year I followed his process of copying from Preston Blair’s book as a way to study appeal, poses and construction of characters. It was essentially the way I learned to draw.
Preston Blair study

Fast forward to 2014, where I attended a talk by Mark Oftedal on cartoony animation. He outlined ways of studying and copying the masters of animation then applying those observations into your own shots. It reminded me a lot of John Kricfaluci’s methods and was also a bit of a kick in the butt to get back in the habit.

Below are some examples of the studies I’ve done recently.

Pose studies
Animation Master Study : posingAnimation Master Study : posingAnimation Master Study : posing

Figure studies
Life Drawing Study
Life Drawing Study

Animation studies
Life Drawing Study : animationLife Drawing Study : animationLife Drawing Study : animation
Life Drawing Study : animation

Some thoughts on using this method of studying animation:
– As a CG animator I find drawing quite a refreshing way of skill building and observation, especially after a day of sitting in front of Maya.

– Mark recommends doing quick gestural type sketches, John recommends taking time and aiming for accuracy. I tried both and felt I was getting more out John’s method of paying attention to details, I thought more experienced illustrators may prefer Mark’s method.

– In both the poses and animation studies, it’s often quite clear where your understanding or analysis falls short. John recommends overlaying your sketch on top of the original and noting the differences. I found when doing the animations, I’d often miss getting the feel of the original. Going through and finding the points where the 2 differ were often eye opening.

– I also found this method a great way to ramp up for a project. My current project at work is quite cute, so I spent some time going back to Preston Blair’s book and also copying Mickey Mouse poses as a way of getting used to the style.

9 thoughts on “Animation Master Studies

  1. JK Riki

    Really cool to see! Thanks for sharing it.

    I’ve tried to do similar copy-studies in the past but they just never turn out and I can never quite figure out where things went awry. Oh well…

  2. tim Post author

    Hey JK! Yeah, I guess being able to overlay your sketch with the original really helps there. John suggests making notes of where the differences lie and redrawing it with those in mind.

  3. Iestyn

    Woah – this is fantastic Tim, what an excellent way to train your eye, and figure out what the masters did, I’m going to read up on John’s blog, and curriculum now, thanks for posting. Your life drawings are beautiful too – do you use any specific website for reference for those drawings, or was it in a class?

    Keep up the excellent blog Tim, really enjoy reading your posts.

  4. Tim Post author

    Hey Iestyn, yeah John’s blog is a goldmine of information.
    I just use online resources for life drawing, if you scroll down a few posts there should be one with links to a couple sites/youtube channels.

  5. Jamie

    Hi Tim,

    This is a great post and it echoes the advice I got from Blue Sky at CTN a couple of months back.

    On the life drawing post above from Iestyn (who’s given me valuable feedback before), I’ve recently discovered It’s worth a look if you haven’t seen it already.

  6. James Cook

    great post!

    What was your method for studying the animated clips? Did you capture them, then import them into photoshop? How did you time them and deal with the 30fps vs their original 24fps?

    Inquiring minds…. love this.

  7. James

    This is a great article and I wish more students of animation would do master copies.

    I’d like to ask your process for doing the animation copies. How did you go about capturing the source, and then breaking down the timing (especially since those sources would now be converted to 30fps). It would be really great to know how you did that.


  8. Tim Post author

    Hey James! Yep Photoshop, I eventually switched over to Krita and now Procreate. Photoshop, Krita or Blender should be able to import + retain 24fps and then you can just expand the canvas to have drawing room next to the clip. With procreate I just do pose practice or motion using for reference.

    6 years since I wrote this post and still do this kind of exercise! I think it’s helped hugely with my skills and the mix of master studies/life drawing has helped transition between cartoony and more realistic animation styles. Plus it’s fun draw.

    1. James

      so awesome. thanks! I’m going to give this a try! (sorry for the double post, for some reason it wasn’t registering as posted lol)


Leave a Reply to tim Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *