Animated Animals 101
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Thread: Animated Animals 101

  1. #1
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    Animated Animals 101

    For those of you who are curious, I started this thread for the benefit of bumskee, who asked me to please explain how I do animals.

    I intend this to be a full participation thread, so please post your efforts. Don't just say: "I'm having trouble!!!" and don't post anything! I will crit, and I hope others will do so as well. If this thread is pretty far along and you just noticed it, feel free to start at the beginning as it were - I'm here to teach (and learn, hopefully!). If you notice any mistakes that I make, or find something hard to follow, PLEASE TELL ME! I am still learning as well and I would greatly appreciate better artists' critiques and posts!

    Now, to drawing! When drawing animals, always always ALWAYS start with anatomy. I can't emphasize that enough. What good is it if your rendering is fabulous but the legs bend the wrong way? Anatomy books on animals are hard to find - at least, I've had a hard time finding them. The absolute best one I know is "The Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists" It covers in detail horses, cows, lions and dogs; and delves a little bit into various other animals. Lacking this, the internet is a great resource. Just google 'squirrel skeleton' and you're sure to find at least one.

    Here are some examples of why it's important to start with the bones:



    Top one is a lion, bottom a squirrel. If you didn't study the anatomy, you would probably never figure out that a squirrel's shoulder blades don't come down like a cat's, but lie across the back like a human's. Studying real animals is great up to a point, but sooner or later you will have to sit down and draw the bones to figure out WHY a horse's leg bends the way it does.

    Once you study the bones from several different angles, you'll feel comfortable enough to start moving parts around. One great exercise I did was to take a horse calender and draw the horses in it as skeletons. It gives you a wonderful feel for how the bones move and twist.

    After drawing skeletons of your animal of choice, next you'll do gestures.



    Gestures are NOT finished drawings! They are loose, usually light (I did mine intentionally dark so you could see) and can scribble all over the place as you try and figure out placement.

    I think this is a good place to stop for now. Okay, everyone's homework is to pick an animal, and draw it's skeleton from a variety of angles. DRAW FROM REF!!! Now is not the time to be inventive. As the old cliche says, first you must know the rules before you can break them! A good variety of angles would be to pick two or more of the following: front, side, rear, and top view if possible. If you can find a view of a skeleton from underneath...gold star!

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    Hi Teigrob,

    ok.. Thanks heaps for putting this up, I am going to draw some skeletons tonight... *patience* I am going to need.

    cheers,

    Min

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    That's awesome

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    Skeletons.. I just realised how much I hate drawing skeletons.. I will try and do one a day... hopefully... I really want to draw some proper animals..

    first one is lion.. doesn't look like it in skeletons though.. hmm and the second a Trex... andsome skull I found on the web.. not sure what that is.. I am going to go hunt for animal skeletons, anyone know any good reference site?



    Teigrob, so I keep drawing skeletons? I realised there are some similarities between them and human, vertebrae, so many... wondering if there's any propotion thingie for animals? I should really get that book first before throwing questions right?

    cheers,

    Min

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    Pixeldragon - glad you like, hope you'll participate!

    Bumskee - yeah, more skeleton practice for you... To make it easier on yourself, just pick one animal to study. The most easily found animal skeletons online (or in books) are the horse, lion, dog and cow. You can find others online, but the pickin's are pretty slim!

    Proportion! Difficult to do in humans, more so in animals. The best I can tell you is to find relationships in the skeleton itself to give you clues.

    Example: First of all, this shows you how I start drawing a skeleton - I actually do a gesture first! (the things you learn when teaching!) The gesture helps me figure out GENERAL placement of head, spine and limbs. As I do the actual bones, I find that some of my gesture lines were inaccurate. This is okay, as they are light and fade into the background.

    One easily found proportion cue in horses is this: the knee of the front leg and hock of the rear leg are at the same height. The elbow of the front leg and knee of rear leg should also be at the same height.



    You'll notice my skeleton is not super detailed. All that's required for our purposes is knowledge of bone placement. Naturally, more indepth study of the bones is always helpful.

    Next, I wanted to show you examples of what I meant by taking pictures of animals and drawing them as skeletons. Kinda fun, actually...





    And my skeletons! On the top one, I left two legs as gesture lines to illustrate...



    I know this seems kind of far removed from drawing cute fuzzy animals, but trust me - it's absolutely necessary for drawing ACCURATE cute fuzzy animals!

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    Ok!! ok!! horsese for me then. I will tackle horses first.. I guess this is going to harder than doing humans.. right, I am all hyped now. look for some images and do some when I get home. Thanks heaps for that. Horses Horses..

    cheers,

    [EDIT]

    my horse skeleton.. .. bah..ok.. try some proportion tomorrow... this took ages to draw..



    Last edited by bumskee; July 13th, 2005 at 10:06 AM.
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    horses... Ok tomorrow I am going to try your exercise.. Just wantedto get the feel of the proportion.. needs more work..but can do that while doing the above I think.

    The same height thing was very good.. and the bones all seem to be similar length.. I skipped doing the vertebrae...too many..


    I did the skeleton and chucked in the form, wanted to check if I was on the right track. The neck bit seems a bit thick.. so I guess the skeleton drawing was slightly off..



    more skeletons to come.

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    Congratulations bumskee! You've picked the hardest animal to do after humans, according to the masters. Ain't it fun? Horses are particularily frustrating - just when you think you've nailed proportions and perspective, you do a really bad drawing and realize...NO!! hehe, trust me, it's happened to me MANY times! I commend you - and encourage you not to give up.

    Okay, crits! I noticed on all your skeletons that the shoulder blade is too big, and the pelvis not big enough. Those two alone would be sufficient to throw off the last one you did. The pelvis should extend all the way to the buttocks on a horse: it's the furthest point on their hind end; much like the ball of the femur is the widest point of a woman's hips.

    The other thing I noticed is your hind legs seem a little short. I don't suppose you have the picture you drew from, do you? It would help! The hooves are too small too - the hoof is pretty large over the bone.

    Horse necks are actually pretty thick - from the side! If you look from above, they are not very wide. It also depends if the horse you are drawing is a stallion (male) or mare (female). Stallion's necks are especially thick and arched. (Think male pidgeon! )

    So, do a few more skeletons from pictures...and then I think we'll go on from there. Drawing horses properly is a lifetime journey that we certainly won't complete here! Good work!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Teigrob
    Congratulations bumskee! You've picked the hardest animal to do after humans, according to the masters.
    Oh great... .. I would have gone for a cat or a goldfish. hehe it's ok.. I think. Thanks heaps for the crits.. I wouldn't have known.. I will post the reference photo later tonight. only 8:00 am here in Sydney... Ok! so more skeletons? proportions...

    cheers,

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    I'm so glad to see this thread! There's no artist here more qualified for this than you, Teigrob.

    Are birds allowed in the club?

    I'm terribly poor at stylized stuff (though I've enjoyed doing lots of non-stylized animal art), but I'm hoping to change that by moving along with this thread, arming myself with a serious understanding of animal anatomy. My chosen target is most likely going to be a bird of some sort.

    This afternoon I read, researched, and drew. Tomorrow I'll select a specific species of bird and do a couple of skeleton-on-top-of-the-ref drawings. Then, hopefuly I can think about moving into some confident gestures.

    birds birds birds from today - all from a variety of refs



    -Craig

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    Hey, welcome! Birds are an excellant topic - one I need to do more often myself.

    Excellant studies, look forward to seeing more. Tomorrow I'm going to do the next step, but don't feel rushed. This is a 'at your leisure' thread.

    Thanks for joining!

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    wow...that's some solid studies Craig, now I feel like doing a bird.. but no I better stick with my horse..

    Tei, hehe, just thought I let you know I am going to keep drawing horses and apples on PS.. looking forward to the next stage, although I probably remain behind and do more skeleton sketches, I have yet to do your exercise.

    cheers,

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    nice to find this thread

    i got some studies that i do sometimes..i still gotta master the human but i love animals too so:
    this are some studies of horses i've done..rubens and frazetta animals i like a lot..kley is also awesome



    this is degas..
    this is from bargue..im yet to draw a real horse..buah..
    i've done some studies of the atlas anatomy of animals..damn hard..anyways..

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    Nice to see you here, allejo (mind if I call you that? ) Those horses are looking really good - except for the second from the bottom - His neck dips kinda weird on top. His shoulders look too far back too. Otherwise, you have a solid start. How about some skeletons done to pictures next? Or if you prefer, just jump into what I'm doing next.

    For those of you still back on doing skeletons to pictures, don't worry! This thread is on your time. I'm just posting this 'cause I like to feel like I'm doing something.

    A note on foreshortening: Most people seem to think it is of the devil. However, once you get the basic principle down, it's actually quite easy and makes your drawings much more interesting. All of you, I'm sure, learned basic perspective princlples: if one object is in front of another, it appears closer; if one object is larger than another, it appears closer and so on and so forth. This is precisely what happens in foreshortening.



    Along the top I did one limb sideways, and then foreshortened. All you have to remember is the end of the limb (be it hand, knee, paw or whatever) mostly overlaps what is behind it, and the limb itself appears quite short.

    Okay, if you've practiced with your animal (or bird!) skeleton of choice sufficiently, you should be ready to have some fun with it! Like so:



    Notice my skeletons aren't super detailed or (!) even all that accurate in places. That is not the point - the point is to know your anatomy so well that you can now make your critter do what no normal critter would do!

    I should clarify things a bit here - just in case anyone is not clear. I am not a fine artist! I will not teach you how to render the hide of a horse so well it looks real. My concern is to teach you how to make animals come alive and have personalities of their own. I am, after all, first and foremost an animator, so everything I say comes from that viewpoint. Okay, just so's we're all clear....

    One further point - the more you study animals from life, the better off you will be. My mother ran a boarding stable while I was growing up, so I practically lived and breathed horses. I know what a horse looks like rearing up because I've had them do so in my face! I know not everyone has that experience, but there are ways to rectify it. Get to know your local zoo very well! Study your pets, or your friend's pets. Go to the Museum of Natural History, if you are lucky enough to have one. Even mounted police can become excellant references. (just ask them politely not to move for a bit! Oh, and be sure not to get too close to the horse. Not all horses are friendly.)

    That's it for this week I think...everyone - do more skeletons! And have fun! Not everyone does animals, as you all know, so it'll set you apart.

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    To narrow things down I've picked the Scrub Jay. It looks like a naturaly expressive bird, as songbirds go. It's also rather 'typical' looking, which should be good when it comes to translating the knowledge to other birds later on.

    The "taking pictures of animals and drawing them as skeletons" wasn't an easy task for me, since the bird anatomy is so new, but I drew the outlines for these using a ref, then I forced myself to no-ref a skeleton on it. Afterwards I made corrections using bone refs. Unfortunately, most of the bone refs are chickens and owls. So, i sorta guessed at the Scrub Jay morphology.



    I tried moving forward into the next step, posing loose skeletons into all sorts of expressive positions and such. Unfortunately they weren't up to par. I need to keep penciling in skeletons over refs. I imagine that once I get to the point where I can draw skeletons 'loosely' (instead of as rigid looking as those above) over refs, I'll be ready for the 'posed skeleton' stage.

    -Craig

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    Very nice! And to think you modified it from chickens and owls! Yeah, unfortunately bird skeletons are REALLY hard to come by, so this is fantastic.
    If you want to cut down on the headaches, draw the spine as a tube with divisional lines, like I did in my horses. No need to draw every individual bone!
    All in all, very well done. Take as long as you like - I'm not going anywhere!

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    Teigrob - Many thanks. Yeah, I'm looking forward to going to the nat. history museum. There'd better be skels there Also, thank you for the very useful tips.

    k -- here's some loose no-ref bird skel gestures. i simplified every part in turn, and once i did that, I found the gestures much more manageable.



    -Craig

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    Very nice - the gestures are clearly coming along! Next I'd like you to do some studies of wings: how the feathers lie when extended and folded halfway and completely. When I first saw the gestures I thought I was looking at a pterodactyl! It was the wing shapes, kindy wonky...so: feathers next! Don't forget the tail feathers too. Doing great Craig - and don't worry, you should see more skeletons than you can shake a stick at!

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    Many thanks! I love this thread. It's a workshop really, and a great one.

    Regarding the wings, they're definitely funky looking, but I wanted to indicate where the structures were in terms of sticking out from the bones. For the sake of studying the bones, it seems that the primary and secondary structures coming out of the lower arm and metacarpal structures created two separate irregular shapes.



    I think I'll next work on the actual shape of the wings when they're splayed out in flight. The way the primaries spread looks really spectacular. I'm starting to get a tad obsessed with the little guys though. And, though my goal in this thread is to work towards cute animation-style birds (something that I can never seem to manage), I've done a couple more 'realistic' drawings this weekend. They don't belong in this thread of course, but here's a link and another link for the curious.

    -Craig

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    Sweet! I'm all a stutter. All right - I'll do a tut on *actually* cutesifiying critters tomorrow since you look ready... After that I'll just be on hand to give crits to anyone else interested. Maybe toss in some extra examples as required

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    birds

    This is great. I've been drawing birds for a while, but never thought of doing the skeleton in the different poses--I have copied the skeleton in the side view from books. Have you found references for bird skeletons in any other form? I also have a lot of trouble picturing the wings in my mind--despite all the chicken wings I've eaten---Judy W

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    bird paintings

    just checked the links--these are very nice, great outdoor feel. Judy

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    Just some skeletons!!! Craig is really going for the birds.. Looking good!
    well my pathetic attempt...hmm...I tried drawing without looking..ahh..let's just say it didn't work.. I will be on skeletons for a while I think.. well at least there's no prob finding references..



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    Judy Warner - Thanks for stopping by - you'll have to get Craig to answer you on that one, because I have just as much trouble finding decent bird skeletons from different angles.

    bumskee!!! Hey, you posted! Those skeletons are looking great! The only one that is a bit off is the one where it's 3/4 coming forward? The legs are too short. Compare the barrel (ribcage) and total length of front limb starting from the shoulder blade to the one above it and you'll see. Otherwise, don't worry about doing every single vertabrae - it'll drive you insane in a hurry and make you throw the wacom pen down just when you're going good! Keep it up - see if you can find a direct front view and back view...maybe even an overhead view - it'll help you see what bulges where. On second thought, I'll just post it for you later.

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    Hey Tei!!

    ok..today's poor effort except for the last one, I really like that one although I got off the track a little few minutes into it.. I think I mentally picturing a dragon or something... but yeah.. few more skeletons, I test myself by trying to draw them without the reference..and didn't quite make it today so..till then..

    for a second there I thought u were going to say "draw every single vertebrae" but luckily you didn't. hehehe.. phew.. drawing human bones drive me nuts..

    I actually felt good about drawing the bones today though.. hehe.. yeah..the pelvis is weird.. I might look into it a bit more and see if I can find the volume with skeletons like Craigs doing.

    more tomorrow...



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    Very nice - I like the bottom one too. It has a good flow to it; nice movement.

    Okay bumskee, horse skeleton from above depicted below. Although I strongly reccommend you get the "Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists" for a better picture.

    Now for the part you've all been waiting for... How to do anthropromorphized animals! First of all, if you are just picking an animal out of thin air, it is best to do your research on them first. Skeletons, pictures of the animal, from life, etc. Next, you want to make them expressive - more than just animals, but characters that can act and feel. How do you do that? Quite easily, actually...Notice the two bridled horses: the first looks like a typical horse, but the second - he looks like he's about to pull a practical joke on his rider! What changed? Four things.



    One: I made his actual eye smaller, more like a human eye than a horse (though you'll notice the overall shape is still pretty similar). This allows us to move it around, making it easier to see where he's looking.

    Two: I gave him an eyebrow. What an absurdly simple thing, yet it makes all the difference! Watch any behind the scenes stuff on an animated feature; especially "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmeron" and even the pros mention how important eyebrows are to conveying feeling. If you don't want something as obvious as an eyebrow, use the natural markings that usually surround an animal's eyes. See the two bears at the bottom? The one on the left has small, natural eyes with light markings around his eyes. The one on the right has larger eyes, and I made the markings larger and mobile: able to do the job of an eyebrow just as effectively. You can even make do with a brow ridge. All that matters is you have the effect of a brow on an animal.

    Three: I made him smile! Don't be afraid to use an animal's mouth - even if it's hugely exaggerated. Remember, this is cartoony if not as cartoon as some can make it. You are allowed to exaggerate: in fact, you are required to in the business of cartoons. What is 'normal' does not read nearly so well as exaggerated.

    Four: I used all his features to my advantage. Everything on an animal can be used to convey a certain feeling. Most people are familiar with the sight of a cringing dog - everything from it's tail to it's ears tells you it's unhappy. So it is here - his ears are back, meaning he's listening to whomever is on his back - but it also gives him that naughty look. You know how to make someone look puffed up - you through out his chest, stick his nose in the air and swing his arms vigorously. Animals can do that too - just watch a stallion around a mare in heat! Instead of throwing out his chest, the stallion's neck arches. He prances, his tail is held high, his ears are pricked: he is one big stud and he knows it!

    All of these things can be observed from nature. Human foibles and traits can be transfered to animals and vice versa (ever hear the expression - "he's a rat"?) But you won't be able to do it without paying attention to what you see...nor will you be able to do it immediately. For those of you hoping for a quick tutorial and BOOM! you can do fabulous animated animals...I'm sorry. Nothing in life is like that except commercials. Drawing is work, and lots of it. If you love it, you won't notice the years speeding by until one day you realize people look up to YOU instead of the other way around. So good luck, have fun, and I'll help out any way I can!

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    bumskee - skeles are looking good. i don't envy your pic of animal when it comes to the work involved, but I know the result will be worth it! I'm looking forward to seeing more.

    Judy - It's difficult to find whole bird skeletons on the web that aren't all from the same perspective, but what I did manage to discover was that searches for individual portions can help. For example, bird pelvic girdle yeilds some reall great results that helped me to fill in some missing info. Bird coracoid was also a big help, for example. Thanks for the kind words btw!

    Teigrob - I decided to start in with just the face. There's some mix between cartoony and realism that your work tends to manage effortlessly. One can look at your hamsters, for example, and say well.. that's what a hamster looks like, but then there's that something extra that says no hamster ever looked that expressive. And, then there's the cute factor. It'll take me a while to get anywhere near cute. In the mean time, here's my attempts thus far:

    i first tried a normal and a stylized version of the same bird



    then I realized that I better stick with a pencil and perhaps begin with expressions



    I realize that I need to go more over the top, and I need to bring in the rest of the body so that I can make use of all the tools of expression that are available. Most things I do are 'realistic', so it's at least a baby-step towards the goal..

    -Craig

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    Tei, you are going too fast!! what does "anthropromorphized" mean?? Sorry I skipped all my english class back at high school. oh and this thread has inspired me greatly with my work, thanks heaps. I am working on a big piece with bones. Now I got some time I am going to draw heaps of bones, I need to draw lots of vertebrae and ribs..

    Craig, love the brush strokes. Is that painter? the stylised version is looking very good!.

    Here's mine for tonight.. I think the far right is a lion, I am really noticing the similarities between lion and horse skeletons..



    More skeletons coming up...I should do humans too while I am at it..

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  29. #29
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    Sorry, I just wanted the 'lessons' to be all there, and people can proceed at their own pace. So don't worry none, I'll still teach, and repeat myself as often as necessary!

    Craig - going good! Yeah, you're still pretty close to the original bird. Nothing wrong with that, it just makes altering expressions a trifle harder to do. 'Cute' is sometimes difficult...my rule of thumb is that since kids are cute, what makes them cute? Big head, large eyes, small body...etc. Loonytoons used that to their advantage. Of course, that is an extreme...

    bumskee - good! Although the full skeleton of the horse: the legs are still looking kinda short for the rest of it. 'Anthropromorphize' means to give human characteristics to something that is not human. When you say "That's a mean looking cloud," obviously clouds are not 'mean'. Bugs Bunny is an anthropromorphized rabbit. Whenever you feel comfortable, start matching those bones to pics...was that lion done that way? Look forward to seeing more!

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    been a while.. but I am still here.. Will be buying that book this week..

    horses.. hmm..skeletons..I think i am getting used to drawing skeletons overall..




    Decided to try out dinosaur skeletons, well dragons and monsters popping up in my head..lot to learn from skeletons I must admit.. haven't even bothered with muscles but skeletons are interesting enough..






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