Life Drawing The principles of Animation

For this assignment we have to research the 12 Principles of Animation found in Disney’s Illusion of life and beyond

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This link shows quick animated gifs demonstrating each principle:

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Squash and Stretch

This action gives the illusion of weight and volume to a character as it moves. Also squash and stretch is useful in animating dialogue and doing facial expressions. Adding exaggeration to an object in motion gives it a greater sense of weight and volume. This principle is often demonstrated with a bouncing ball. The ball appears stretched when it is falling and  squashed when it hits the ground. By squashing and stretching the ball, an animator gives a more realistic feel.


This movement prepares the audience for a major action the character is about to perform, such as, starting to run, jump or change expression.  For example an acrobat does not just suddenly jump off the floor unexpectedly. A backwards motion occurs before the forward action is executed. The backward motion is the anticipation.


Influenced by theatrical principles, staging helps establish mood, create focus and clarify what is happening in the scene.  Do not confuse the audience with too many actions at once. Use one action clearly stated to get the idea across. A pose or action should clearly communicate to the audience the attitude, mood, reaction or idea of the character. The effective use of long, medium, or close up shots, as well as camera angles also helps in telling the story.

Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose Animation

Straight ahead animation starts at the first drawing and works drawing to drawing to the end of a scene. This animation style in unpredictable. Pose to Pose is more planned out and charted with key drawings done at intervals throughout the scene. Size, volumes, and proportions are controlled better this way, as is the action.

Follow Through and Overlapping Action

When the main body/mass of the character stops all the other parts continue to move and catch up to the main mass of the character, such as arms, long hair, clothing, coat tails or a dress, floppy ears or a long tail. They are following the path of action. Nothing ever just stops at once. Overlapping action is when the character changes direction while his tail or clothes etc continues forward. The character is going in a new direction, to be followed, a number of frames later, by his tail and clothes in the new direction. Drag is when parts of the characters body are slightly behind the main body. Eg the legs walk on but the arms and head are slightly behind. Timing becomes critical to the effectiveness of drag and the overlapping action.

Slow In and Slow Out

As action starts, we have more drawings near the starting pose, one or two in the middle, and more drawings near the next pose. Fewer drawings make the action faster and more drawings make the action slower. Slow-ins and slow-outs soften the action, making it more life-like.


All actions follow an arc or slightly circular path. This is especially true of the human figure and the action of animals. Arcs give animation a more natural action and better flow. There are some expectations for example the animation of a mechanical device.

Secondary Action

This action adds to and enriches the main action and adds more dimension to the character animation, supplementing and/or re-enforcing the main action. For example when two character would leaning in for a kiss. The main action is the kiss the secondary action could be the hands of one of the characters playing with hair of the other.


A variety of slow and fast timing within a scene adds texture and interest to the movement. Most animation is done on twos . Also, there is timing in the acting of a character to establish mood, emotion, and reaction to another character or to a situation. Differences in time have a big effect on the final feel of the animation.


Its like a caricature of facial features, expressions, poses, attitudes and actions. Action copied straight from live action film can be accurate, but stiff and mechanical looking which won’t be as exciting an interesting to look at.

Solid Drawing

The basic principles of drawing form, weight, volume solidity and the illusion of three dimension apply to animation.


All characters have to have appeal whether they are heroic, villainous, comic or cute. it doesn’t just mean the characters are good looking or cute. Appeal, includes an easy to read design, clear drawing, and personality development that will capture and involve the audience’s interest.

Character design 

Another part of this assignment was to design our own characters using the principle of appeal. At first I found this daunting as I have never dived into character design to an extent that a could just create a new character. We had to use everything we had learnt n life drawing over the past year and try and implement these skills when coming up and drawing out our characters.

From the start I knew I wanted to have a character who was a bird. My first idea was a circus bird.

After completing some very rough life drawings based on this idea I decided to research some other cartoon bird characters for inspiration etc.


description provided on Kevin/Snipe

  • Even though Kevin’s a female, her appearance is based on the male Himalayan Monal pheasant.
  • Many sources, including Peter Docter’s study guide to Up, say that Kevin’s species is the mythical “Snipe”, a fictional bird created to send foolish people on wild goose chases. In reality, a snipe is a kind of wading bird which has a long slender bill and brown patterned plumage.

Kevin was a particularly good reference as I wanted my character to be tall and have a similar build to Kevin.


Another character influence was Crane from Kung Fu panda. Again I chose Crane as reference due to his tall slender build. I looked at how cranes legs and wings were put together.


After some more thought I decided a Pelican would make an interesting design with its large beak and wings. I thought it would look cool placing the body of a Pelican on top of tall legs like Crane and Kevin. Finding Nemo had a pelican character which also was good reference.


mine mine


Rough drawing on how wings work.



This image was quite help when looking at a birds anatomy. From imagine Fx

I also looked at the owl from Whinne the Pooh to see how he developed hands out of his wings when he needed to hold or point at something. I liked the idea on how his first couple of feathers developed into fingers when they were needed.

Based on these ideas and references I sketched some characters18426805_1305152789592256_812393735_o18427011_1305152782925590_848836554_o

Untitled-1 copy

I then took these and completed some sketches from different angles.



This is my character rotation. I found it rather difficult to imagine what the character would look like from different angles. Lets just say it put my life drawing skills to the test.


Silhouette version to see if the character is recognisable blacked out.


I then went on to choose anticipation, staging, exaggeration and solid drawing to show through my character.

Solid Drawing:


Exaggeration. I spread the characters wings exaggerating his stance:


As I originally had thought that the character would be a circus bird so I put together rough scene based on that idea. The character isn’t coloured. There are also broken down versions.

I tried to get this image to cover a couple of the principles. I placed the lights to highlight him which acts as staging. I also made his next bend back slightly to try and show him anticipating looking into the hat.

Anticipation ,staging, Exaggeration :

character scene1character scenebluecharacter sceneredlines

Life drawing Progress over Semester 2

With first year coming to an end in a week’s time and a year of life drawing under my belt I have quite a lot to reflect on. When I found out at the start of last semester that we would have a weekly life drawing class I was quite intimidated and to be honest quite worried as many of my class mates had already had experience in foundation. After the first couple of classes I felt like I didn’t even know how to draw but as the first semester went on I began to feel more and more comfortable. By the end of the first semester I definitely had improved and learnt a lot.

Going into second semester I felt a lot more comfortable after knowing what to expect. We continued with our weekly classes. For the first couple of classes we just practiced general life drawing 30 second poses to get back into the process after our break. We then progressed to looking at different techniques for example, head rotations using Pinocchio, character rotations drawing the head, proportions of the body and using the life models to draw live story boards as they acted out scenes. We also focused on particular parts of the body such as hands, feet and the head. During class I approached the tasks with a positive attitude even though I found some tasks rather difficult and my results may not have been the best. During each class our lecturer gave demonstrations with visual examples and also walked around the room giving advice, showing us what we were doing wrong and how to improve it. I found this extremely helpful as it allowed me to take the advice and try implementing it into my next drawing. We also got some tutorials for drawing hands and feet were our lecturer would demonstrate how he would approach breaking down the drawing. We then would try this technique from different angles from around the room. We also had a theory class where we had to read articles about issues within the industry and then have a short debate. I particularly liked this class as it made me think of research in a different way which I could implement into my actual work In the future.

We also were set life drawing homework’s which included drawing Pinocchio head rotations, balance, feet, storyboards, hands and character designs. For our final assignment, we had to design our own characters based on the principle of appeal and then choose 4 other principles to show using our characters. This was challenging but a fun way to end a year of life drawing. Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed life drawing as it is has definitely improved my drawing skills and opened my eyes when it comes to designing characters and drawing anatomy. Although I still may not be amazing at life drawing I have definitely improved and picked up skills which will help me throughout the next few years.


Here are some images of my life drawings covering tasks from each week:


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