Drawing for Animation — Inspirational Sketches Derived From Disney

7 min readJul 15, 2018


It is my pleasure to present to you the first in my animation series on HubPages with a ‘Drawing for Animation’ theme.

Drawing is an important skill required of any animator. Strong drawing skills and great animation go hand-in-hand in a successful animation career.

Even if one is a born artist, the art and craft of animation makes it mandatory to practice high-speed drawing. Therefore, quick sketches are a craft which develops with practice.

The following are some of my early official sketches as I religiously followed the above rule. I frequently made these quick sketches to develop this very important skill required for traditional and modern-day character animation.

It is suggested that the aspiring animator make it a daily routine to study from life-forms.

My take on Life-drawing

Life drawing sketches, such as what you see here, are required to master the Art of Animation. I made these way back in 1990–91 when I was an aspiring animator with a Disney dream.

Back then, Animation was all new at our modern South Indian Metro. However, we — a group of wide-eyed passionate female artists who were just out of science and fine arts Graduate Schools — paid models on weekends with our own money, so we could practice Life Drawing.

Thanks to our perseverance in following our distant dream with the direction from the books to follow the foot-steps of some great Disney master animators of the golden years, with some volunteered studio-space it was all motivational enough to let our endeavors going. Let yourself be guided by a good mentor who only means well for you.If you are at this stage, this article maybe a good start for you.

Constant practice and in-depth research is paramount to developing stronger skills in drawing. This grounding is required of all interns aspiring to work on reputable animation productions around the world.

The mid-1930s were the best years for animators, especially Disney animators, because there was a mammoth growth in the studio during the exciting exploratory, experimental golden era of animation. This was when it all started with the Nine Old Men of Disney. Disney is a pioneer today because it instilled in its animators a spirit of constant study, soul-searching inside the art, and more study to keep them advancing.

This trend was set by the legendary Walt Disney as early as the 1930s, when he realized the importance of drawing in animation.

He hired Don Graham to teach drawing once a week to improve drawing talents of the Disney Staff. He started teaching regular Life Drawing, but thanks to Walt, who was very difficult to please, Don had to get into an intensive method of training because Walt Disney wanted him to become an outstanding authority on line-drawing in all of the USA.

Walt Disney wanted him to teach his animators what they were never taught in art school.

Don studied in-depth about Life Drawing, to be able to meet Walt’s enthusiasm for making his team master its complexities. In order to assist Don, who was just an art instructor, with becoming able to teach drawing in context with animation, he got Don to learn animation.

Here are some of the sketches featuring Walt Disney’s own explanation for each type of drawing method. Also included are my Suggestions from my experience in Animation and Art. Enjoy the ride!


A feeling of life and movement is paramount in drawing for animation. Figure drawings of about one to five minutes should suggest movement, volume and structural clarity.

Portfolios should demonstrate the skill to quickly capture the qualities of volume and vitality in line. These should be from Life Drawing class and/or from everyday surroundings.

Spirited drawings that suggest mood, character and altitude are the best of all. © Disney Feature Animation (internship portfolio reqt.)

My take on Gestures

Practice sketching the human being on a daily-basis. Visit gyms, aerobic centers, tournaments, cafeterias…just to capture moods and attitudes of people. And draw, draw, draw!!

Animal Quick Sketches

The ability to quickly and clearly draw animals in movement and at rest is of great importance. These drawings should show an understanding of how animals naturally move as solid structural volumes in a three dimensional space. © Disney Feature Animation (internship portfolio reqt.)

My take

It pays off to make field trips to places like the zoo and wildlife sanctuaries with the purpose of sketching animals, in order to be able to quickly sketch them while in movement.

I was once sketching an elephant in a South India Zoo under a Banyan tree. My companion Linda, who came along to enjoy her day out in the zoo while sitting with me, had fled from the scene. She was no more to be seen next to me. Now why was that?!! I had not noticed that the elephant stood right next to me. I was horrified!

While quick sketching the gigantic beauty from afar, I kept my eyes glued to my paper (doing the finishing touches). I did not notice her with her care-taker passing by me, as the elephant was being taken for her regular bath.

While quick-sketching, for best results one needs to keep the eyes glued to the subject, as the target time of completion must be less than one minute.

Figure Drawings (more developed works):

In addition to rapid gestures, these are some of the more completely resolved representations of the human figure. These works should be simple and clear and primarily rendered in line. Be sure to draw hands, feet and faces whenever possible. Work to create a variety of dynamic, lively poses and angles. © Disney Feature Animation recruitment (internship portfolio reqt.)

My Take

It is suggested that students of such sessions compulsorily should have gone through Life Drawing sessions. Life Drawing is a major part of ArtSchool, where the artists are asked to sketch from live human models. The human body is the most complicated yet beautiful creation artistically speaking, and yet the toughest to create or draw. An aspiring animator/character animator must study the human body like the palm of our hands. This could enable them to eventually animate a human 3D model, seamlessly. If animators have no grounding in this area, it will show in their lifeless animations and forms.

Animals: (more developed drawings)

This represents more finished animal studies. Again, it is best to use linear techniques to show more specific nuances of an animal’s structure and character. Search for a natural sense of how each animal moves and behaves. © Disney Feature Animation (internship portfolio reqt.)

Refined Works:

Refined works are extended drawings. These could be figures, portraits, animals or compositions of landscapes or architectural environments. A few illustrations and compositions interpreted from photographs are okay, but preferred are examples drawn from observations of life. © Disney Feature Animation (internship portfolio reqt.)

It is said that Don Graham eventually became the best in line drawing, but the intellectual accomplished this only with his patience and perseverance. There had been many nights of pressure for Don till he broke the ice as he made his injection into the actual work of animation seamless.

Before I say adieu this time, let me show you my evolution into the field of animation spanning from 1987–1994. It was long and painful, but surely pleasant to have joined the club of animators like this.

In 1994, I joined the then India’s premium animation studios that took off with the Kawasaki Bajaj fame, having brought Siggraph.org (an international animators’ association) to India for the first time, and having been the first to bring the Travelling Art Show to India. Today, animation still keeps me busy in my work-life very regularly, with me directing and fine-tuning what my team does for my films, never completing a branding endeavor without my animations in it.

In 2006, while I drove past Disney Feature Studios at Burbank, California, I could not help thinking about my Disney Dream 20 years ago. Though I never got to working there, it still seems all surreal because that dream and a perseverance to draw for animation got me travelling and connecting with the people who till today make waves in the field of animation, living the Illusion of Life.



Originally published at https://discover.hubpages.com on July 15, 2018.




A concept producer who uses art, animation, book publishing as tools to communicate | Philosophy: Truth | Disclaimer: This is only an individual opinion.