Challenges in Learning to Draw the Pelvis Using Proko's "The Bucket"

It’s been a bumpy road since this post from September about me struggling to understand the pelvis, spine and ribcage lessons in the Proko Anatomy of the Human Body for Artists course.

Soon after that post, I decided that I'd learn anatomy superficially to get through it faster and then return to it as needed to learn it more in-depth.

So I continued past my flimsy understanding of the pelvis, spine and ribcage and moved on to the good stuff—muscles!—and specifically to the pectorals.



To reinforce what I'd learned about bones, I tried to them in my pectoral studies. But it became clear that I hadn’t learned much! I kept guessing where to put stuff. For every angle, I had no idea what to put where! Ugh! 

It was clear that the “learn-the-basics-now-and-the-details-later” approach was NOT going to work.

The time to gain a firm grasp on this material and learn it in-depth is NOW.

So I took a step back and re-learned the bones.

First I tried Proko's "The Bucket" method of drawing a simplified pelvis. Although it's an easy-to-remember system that gets your bony landmarks placed properly, I consistently had trouble getting the top ellipse drawn correctly. Without that right, the rest of the bucket doesn't work. Like these sad attempts:

I screamed, "There's got to be another way!" And a search online turned up only one other method.

I'll talk about this other pelvis-drawing method in my next post!

Animation Director Advice…And a Surprising Revelation

The Women in Animation (WIA) New York City chapter on Tuesday, October 10, hosted a sit-down with 4 animation directors at the School of Visual Arts.

From WIA:
Co-President Marge Dean (GM for Stoopid Buddy), Mark Osborne (Director of "The Little Prince" and more), Sarah Ball (Director of "Chuggington" and "Bob the Builder" and more) and Cecila Puglesi (Director of "Shift"). 
Our speakers will talk about how they became animation directors and about animation directing in general. Marge Dean will share with us the important work WIA is doing to realize a 50/50 gender balance in creative leadership positions within the animation industry by 2025. Inspiring you to become an animation director will certainly help in attaining this goal.
Here's what I took away from the evening:
  1. It's important to make an animated short. It can open doors.
  2. It's more important to finish something than to spend endless amounts of time making it perfect.
  3. Say "yes" to things that you can't necessarily at that moment see where they will lead.
  4. Have patience and perseverance.
  5. Create your own opportunities.
  6. Most of American animation is either for kids or comedy.
  7. If an animated short is really funny and has a unique voice, the quality of the animation doesn't have to be high.
  8. The Powers That Be feel that good animation isn't funny.
It's this last point that shocked and disheartened me. I had always assumed that the low quality of tv animation was the result of a lack of craft and skills combined with the never-ending need to keep the budget low.

It never occurred to me that people believe that you can't have funny animation that looks good!

I'm not going to let this dissuade me from bringing to my ideas the highest quality I can create. It does, however, make me realize that if I want to pitch an artistically high quality show, it's necessary that I prove that it's economical.

Thank you to the panel for their insights and suggestions!

Old School vs. New School

The competition is huge. AND talented.

I’ll never draw as well as many other artists. I’ll never animate as well as many other animators.

So how do I stand out from the crowd?

I think I figured it out! I’m going to go “old school.”

It wasn’t hard coming to this decision. I’m Gen X. I’m from the generation that remembers Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor. My generation didn’t dismiss people like them. We knew they were old but we also had at least seen them when they were young. We didn’t dismiss outright everything that came before us even after we got a Walkman and an Atari. 

I appreciate what came before me. And there’s a lot of great draftsmanship that came before me. I’ve always loved the 40s-60s style of cartooning. Lots of great, expressive, solid drawing. I also love the animation from that period especially the 40s Warner Bros. cartoons.

I’m not forcing myself to diverge from the drawing trends of today. I genuinely dislike what I’m seeing in tv animation and in web comics. I see little to no CRAFTSMANSHIP.

And that’s exactly how I plan to distinguish myself—as a craftsman.

I recently saw a tweet from an artist who said that learning perspective radically improved her art. My first thought was, “Yes, all artists should know perspective!” That’s a major reason Moebius’s work was so amazing.

So despite the huge number of people doing cartoons and animation, only a small fraction of those people have genuine skills. The reason people lack skills is because they don’t want to put in the effort to gain the skills. I’m not judging those people; I’ve been lazy and inconsistent regarding skills development. But I’m also not asking people to support my Kickstarter or Patreon with mediocre skills.

That’s my not-so-secret plan, folks! I’m going to distinguish myself with SKILLS. I don’t see any other way. So let’s keep developing our skills so we can stand out from the crowd!

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See Drawing Skills Improve Quickly!

I’ve talked a lot about improving my drawing by focusing on one skill at a time. In my case, that’s anatomy.

Although I have since stopped, I did, however, have one exception to this rule: mechanical skills.

I came across the mechanical skills exercises in the Scott Robertson “How to Draw” book, a book I recommend adding to your drawing improvement library.

This book is of additional benefit because it includes QR codes and a password to access supplemental videos.

The book begins with what on the surface look like easy, pointless exercises.

Don’t be fooled! These exercises—much like drawing cubes, spheres and cylinders—are EXTREMELY important and useful. They’re essential foundation-building skills and they should not be skipped or ignored. 

I regularly fit these mechanical skills into my daily routine:
  1. draw straight lines

  2. draw straight lines over a straight line. I got this and the drawing over curves idea from Irshad Karim. (Tip: keep your eyes slightly ahead of your hand to better direct it.)

  3. draw over a curved line

  4. draw a line through one point

  5. draw a line between two points

  6. draw curves through multiple points

  7. draw ellipses: 
    • draw an ellipse then its minor axis

    • draw a minor axis then an ellipse

    • draw an ellipse in a box

    • draw an ellipse between converging parallel lines

I’ve been practicing these faithfully with the knowledge that they will eventually be of use. I check my ellipse drawings with ellipse templates. The exercises's usefulness was revealed first when I watched a video of an artist drawing freehand straight lines—in ink!—for her comic book. People were amazed! 

More importantly, I’ve been using my ellipse-drawing skills in my Proko anatomy drawing. In order to draw the bucket of the pelvis, one must be able to draw an accurate ellipse. That ellipse is the top plane of the bucket and its accuracy determines if the final bucket is correct. 

So all of those seemingly mundane drawing drills ARE beneficial! I’ve created muscle memory and improved my eye-hand coordination. I’ve also noticed that with all of this drawing, I’m seeing mistakes sooner. I’m able to spot incorrect angles and shapes sooner than I did in the past which means I can get to the correct drawing sooner.

David Ogilvy said it best in “Ogilvy on Advertising” (1983) in regard to advertising but it also applies to drawing—"This willful refusal to learn the rudiments of the craft is all too common.” I’m not going to be that artist, the one who refuses to learn the basics. Because it’s knowledge and proficiency of the basics that allows one to stand out from the crowd.

I encourage you to get Robertson’s book and to spend some time on the mechanical drawing skills section. And check out Draw a Box for more helpful drawing drills.

And if you like these blog posts, please leave a question or comment or become a follower. I respond to ALL of your comments. Thanks!

Excellent Drawing Exercise—The Bargue Plates

I did it again.

In my endless desire to learn to draw EVERYTHING by TOMORROW (yikes!), I overloaded my daily practice. This time it was with a classic method I stumbled upon (I’m always stumbling upon something!) called the Bargue Plates.
I’m a big believer in “old school.” My thinking is, “Why reinvent the wheel?” Other people have figured out how to do this stuff so why not just learn from them and drastically reduce MY learning curve?

One of the skills I need to develop is improving my eye’s observations and the recording of those observations. Practicing the Bargue method seemed like a good way to learn.

Here’s some information from the Artists Network about the Bargue Plates:
This method, based on the teaching model developed by Charles Bargue, was widely used in the French Academy in the 19th and early-20th centuries, and centers around students copying instructional plates developed by the artist. The goal for the student is to improve his or her observational skills and learn to deconstruct complex visual information into large and small forms and shadows and light. Any artist can pursue the Bargue method on his or her own—all it takes is a set of reproductions, patience, and determination. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your self-directed Bargue exercises.
  • Don’t get ahead of yourself, which will only lead to frustration. Start with a simple, high-contrast body part, and follow the steps in order. It won’t be long before you can tackle more challenging images.
  • Remember that the whole idea with the Bargue exercises is to learn through repetition. Mistakes are part of the learning process and should never be interpreted as failure.
  • While working on a drawing, use these helpful techniques to check your progress:
  1. Squint. Blurring your vision will help you gauge contrast between values.
  2. Turn the drawing upside down occasionally. This helps to provide a fresh perspective and allows you to see shapes more abstractly.
  3. Step away frequently to observe your drawing from a distance.
  4. Use a small “cut-out window” on a blank piece of paper to isolate areas and compare them to your copy.
  5. Have a friend critique your shapes.

Here are some of my attempts at this exercise:

I thoroughly enjoyed doing these exercises and I think you will, too! You'll feel a strong sense of accomplishment when your lines match the originals. Instead of having a “friend” critique my drawings, I scanned them and checked them in Photoshop. The transparency of the original was decreased so I could clearly see the difference between it and my drawing when printed.


They’re also taking time away from my anatomy studies. So I stopped for now BUT I will return to them eventually.If you’re looking to improve your observational and recording skills, I recommend drawing from the Bargue plates. Go here to download all of the plates that have been conveniently resized to letter, legal and tabloid sizes.

Give it a try and tell me what you think of this exercise!

And if you like these blog posts, please leave a comment or become a follower. I respond to ALL of your comments. Thanks!

Don't Break the Chain!

I first talked about the “Don’t Break the Chain” chart here in 2011.

This has been an important motivational tool for me to be consistent about doing daily work. It’s nice having a colorful visual aid that quickly shows my efforts. As my favorite self-improvement teacher, Robin Sharma, always says: Consistency is the mother of mastery.

I like to do a green check mark on the days that I draw and a red “X” on the days that I don’t. That way it’s REALLY clear how well I’ve been doing. This is my chart from when I completed "A Universe of Trouble" through this past Saturday:

The green checks greatly outnumber the red x's. Seeing all of the green is a huge motivator!

You can download a letter-size pdf chart here or a tabloid-size one here (click the "x" in the corner to get past Dropbox's request that you sign up.) Both of these charts are 366 days because I include a 29th day for February. Also, these layouts are more generic than the custom one I made above.

Remember: Consistency is the mother of mastery.

If you like these blog posts, please leave a comment or become a follower. I respond to ALL of your comments. Thanks!

Artist Jake Parker Inspires Me

Jake Parker's website header art.

Like all of the other artists who inspire me, I stumbled upon Jake Parker most likely from Googling drawing advice or tips.

Jake Parker is an artist who shares insights and incredibly useful information in videos, often while he’s drawing something. He’s also the creator of Inktober.

Some of the many videos I found eye-opening and food for thought were about doing projects and doing fan art.

I’ve always wanted to do MY OWN projects. I have more notebooks than I can count and half a file cabinet drawer full of ideas. Ideas has never been my problem; skills and time are. So to hear this successful artist talk about the importance of doing projects was inspiring for me. It’s best to watch the video for yourself to get his whole message but what I took away from him is that you learn by doing. Study and practice ARE important but if you combine that with creating a piece of work, you’ll learn even more. Moreover, you’ll have something of value that you can show to other people. These are exactly the benefits I got from doing “A Universe of Trouble”: I learned a lot; I gained clarity about the things I don’t know; I now have something I can show people.

Jake Parker book of drawings.

What surprised me was his opinion on fan art. I’ve always been anti-fan art. I thought it was a silly waste of time. But listening to Jake talk about it completely changed my mind to such an extent that as soon as my skills improve, I’m doing some fan art! Again, it’s best to watch his video on this topic to get the all of his opinion, but Jake believes that fan art can help one get attention and help one learn. I’m now a fan art convert!

Jake Parker Boba Fett fan art.
I actually had to STOP watching Jake’s videos because he’s so inspirational that he’s causing me to want to do another project!

But I tell myself—literally EVERY DAY—that I MUST focus ALL of my attention on developing my skills! NO PROJECT can be made until my skills improve. Period!

So if you’re struggling with your work and you want and need some guidance, take a look at some Jake Parker videos. You’ll be glad you did!

And if you like these blog posts, please leave a comment or become a follower. I respond to ALL of your comments. Thanks!

Why "Draw Everything" Isn't a Good Way to Learn to Draw

Bargue practice drawings checked by placing mine on top of original using Photoshop layers.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always heard that the only way to learn to draw is to draw a lot and to “draw everything.”

Unfortunately, the idea of “draw everything” caused me years of paralysis!

“Draw everything” is so open-ended that it overwhelmed me with choices. Should I draw a house? A person? An airplane? A cloud? A horse? Where do I start?

I’ve discovered that I need structure. In the 80s and 90s, there was either no internet (imagine that!) or a slow internet with limited offerings. The only way to learn to draw was studying books and going to classes. I did both of these things and still couldn't get a job at MTV Studios working on Daria!

But with today's internet, there are ENDLESS options of structured courses that include feedback, a major part of improving.

The Famous Artists Course is what really started to help me understand what I’ve been doing wrong all of these years. Like most kids, I started out drawing by copying the outlines of things. But not until I came across the forms lesson in the Famous Artists Course (that I discuss in this post from last year ) that I realized that everything is a 3D form and everything can be broken down into the simplest forms of cubes, cones, spheres and cylinders. It’s incredible to me that despite YEARS of various art instruction, NOT ONE CLASS taught the basics of form. I mean, even clouds have 3D form!

My Proko pelvis bucket studies.

The other essential ingredient to learning to draw is deliberate—as opposed to generic—practice.

We've all heard about the "10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery" idea that was promoted by Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell got this idea from Anders Ericsson but unfortunately he misinterpreted some of Ericsson's research. (And it doesn't necessarily work in all areas.)

One can master something with 2.44 hours of work per day for ten years. But the quality of the practice is essential. The practice must be deliberate for it to have a positive affect. 

My Proko pelvis bucket drawing checked by placing on top of original in Photoshop.

I'm 48-years-old. I don’t have 10 years to master storytelling. So if I'm going to cut that time to five years, I'll need the most efficient and effective practice I can find. This is why I'm doing the Proko anatomy course, ruthlessly prioritizing my time and putting to work any and all positive hacks I can find.

It’s never too late, folks, for us to pursue our goals and fulfill our dreams!

And if you like these blog posts, please leave a comment or become a follower. Thanks!

Studying Human Anatomy with Stan Prokopenko—Supplement

I’ve finally started the Stan Prokopenko Anatomy of the Human Body for Artists course!

And…I quickly hit a wall.

My issue is that some things are not explained as fully as I need them to be explained. We all have our  own personal best ways to learn and for me, that means needing to understand everything in as much detail as possible. I need to know the WHY behind things to really “get” them.

That means anatomy tracings as the start was a struggle for me. I can’t trace the anatomy because I don’t know what I’m tracing. I understand the importance of learning this step but for me, the step came too early in the course.

The spine lesson was a struggle. The proportions of a straight on, neutrally-positioned spine were expertly explained. But once the spine moves from that neutral position, it wasn’t clear to me how to address those proportions. Moreover, the assignment involved drawing the pelvis and rib cage attached to the spine before the pelvis and rib cage were taught. It’s most likely that understanding the proportions will come with practice, time and further study.

I had the same problem with the pelvis lesson. In this case, Proko realized—based on recurring mistakes he saw in the critiques—that he needed to more fully explain how to draw the bucket of the pelvis. Despite his thorough explanation, I still found myself struggling.

I think I figured out why.

I was reminded of something that Robert Beverly Hale said in his book “Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters": the best way to learn to draw the body is to understand the bones.

For me to get the full benefit of the Proko lessons, I need to spend some time studying the actual bones. That means sitting in front of my skeleton and drawing the pelvis every day every day from every angle until I can do it decently from memory. And when I’m not at home with the skeleton in front of me, I can use the 3D models of the male and female pelvis on Proko’s site.

This is what I need: to touch the pelvis; to look at it up close; to get a complete sense of how it looks and therefore how it should be drawn.

My skeleton looks like this.
If you want to learn how to draw the human figure well, I suggest you follow Hale’s advice and invest in a skeleton or a set of bones. If that’s not financially possible, invest in Proko’s Skelly app or something similar. This way you can view an accurate 3D model of the bones that you can see from every angle and get a solid feel for how each bone is constructed. 

Admittedly, the skeleton pictured above which I purchased (about 20 years ago) is around $350. But if you can afford it, it's an excellent investment towards your drawing education.

What area or areas of anatomy are you learning or interested in learning? Leave a comment! Thanks!

An Evening with Women in Animation and Fred Seibert

Fred Seibert (SIGH-bert) makes original cartoons and television networks. He's the founder of Frederator Networks, the Chief Creative Officer of WOW! Unlimited Media, and a serial media entrepreneur. 

He was the first creative director of MTV and the last president of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. Fred founded Next New Networks (acquired by YouTube). He’s on the board of directors of Sawhorse Media and was the first investor in Tumblr.

It’s was a pleasure to listen to his history in the industry and to his thoughts on what he’s doing now and what may happen in the future.

Here are takeaways from the evening:

  1. The presence of craft in an animated short is not relevant as long as people like it
  2. Seibert HATES pitch bibles and believes the pitch should be whatever best shows off the idea
  3. Now there are narrower groups of people who like a work deeper [this is related to Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 True Fans” idea. Read it HERE]
  4. VR is not a storytelling medium. We’re years away from people caring about it
  5. No one knows anything (screenwriter William Goldman said the same thing)
My favorite question response of the evening—aside from the anti-Trump one—was: "I personally don’t give a crap about educating anybody about anything. It’s hard to to one thing well let alone two.”

Another favorite thing said by Seibert—“I don’t understand why anyone would want to be an employee.” WOW, that one REALLY spoke to me! I'm always surprised that so many animators desperately want to work for Pixar considering the number of Pixar employees who make personal projects! That's a clear indication that Pixar employees—like most creative employees—are not entirely creatively satisfied with their day jobs. And if that's the case, you might as well go it alone!

I asked Seibert if it's valuable (although I actually phrased the question as “does it make sense,” out of nervousness!) for an independent animator focusing their attention on creating their own work versus pitching. He paused briefly to think of an answer. He said he would never say what makes sense, that it’s individual. He feels creators should ALWAYS be creating. But pitching, despite its low success rate, can be beneficial, too. Ultimately, it can be good to do both because a failed pitch can be turned into a successful short.

I feel lucky to have met Seibert and to have seen his wonderfully designed offices. I wish him the best in his future endeavors and I appreciate him sharing his knowledge and experiences with us. Thank you, WIA!

Prepping to Pitch an Animated TV Series

Walt Disney in front of a storyboard

OK, yes, I know, I SAID I was going to focus ALL of my attention on skills improvement, specifically learning human anatomy.

But…I may have a way of satisfying that nagging feeling of wanting to develop ideas AND to make some money.

So I’m thinking about PITCHING!

I have about three solid ideas (and many more less solid ones) that I’ve thought about pitching to studios.

Now I’ve heard mixed messages about pitching. One of the cons of pitching is that you’re appealing to an executive as opposed to appealing directly to the public. Pitching means you have to please a gatekeeper which runs completely counter to our DIY attitude!

I’ll admit, my goal for pitching is this: I want to buy time. If I can sell one or several ideas, it will most likely give me enough money to quit my day job. Quitting my day job means spending the most productive 8 hours per day on PROJECTS instead of on a meaningless, dead end job.

Tonight I’m attending a Women in Animation (WIA) event featuring Fred Seibert, the creator of Frederator Networks and Frederator Studios. He’s had positions at MTV and Hanna-Barbera. He’s made a significant contribution to the revitalization of the animated tv short.

It’s a huge opportunity to meet him and I hope to get the chance to ask about the types of pitches his company is looking for. Any insights and tips he can give would be hugely beneficial as I create my pitch ideas.

Is anyone else coming up with ideas to pitch as a tv series? Leave a comment! Thanks!

Animated Project Postmortem 2—How To Stand Apart in a Creative Crowd

Making the animated web series “A Universe of Trouble” clearly revealed my weaknesses. Or my main weakness, which is simple—I need to draw better.

What’s hard is figuring out the best and fastest way to learn to draw.

I know that much of animation is now and will continue to be computer-generated. But my passion has always been for drawing. It wasn’t until I did a weekend workshop given by a Pixar animator that I learned that computer animators don’t draw. I was shocked to learn this (in addition to learning that many computer animators have severe arm, wrist and hand pain) and I immediately saw an opportunity. With so many people creating so much great work, the challenge is how to stand apart from the competition. I think one answer to that question is to draw. (Another answer to that question is to be a better storyteller which I’ll discuss in another post.)

Additional reasons I want to improve my drawing are that I want to make graphic novels, I want my animation drawings to look better and I want to animate faster. Therefore it’s clear that I must start my skills improvement in one area: anatomy. 

Two weeks after completing “A Universe of Trouble,” I reviewed both the Stan Prokopenko Figure Drawing Fundamentals series and the Samantha Youssef gesture drawing syllabus. I also started studying perspective, working on mechanical drawing skills (based on Scott Robertson’s “How To Draw” book) and an animation project based on Moebius’s “Arazak."

And I immediately fell into the same problem I’ve had for the last 25 years—TOO MUCH WORK!

By trying to do a little bit of many things every day, I felt overwhelmed and that I was short-changing the areas I was AND wasn’t working on.

I have now tossed aside all study except the Proko studies. I completed my review of the Figure Drawing Fundamentals and am now studying the Human Anatomy series.

I’m confident that with a daily focus on this one area that I will, by or before the end of next year, have a solid grasp of human anatomy.

After anatomy I’m going to learn perspective and tone but…I won’t even THINK about those until anatomy’s done!

Animated Project Postmortem 1—What I Did Right & What I Did Wrong

The final episode of my two-year animation project, “A Universe of Trouble," was uploaded on Tuesday, July 4, 2017.

A few stats: the entire project was 341 scenes. 221 of those were done in Toon Boom Animate Pro. 120 were done in Toon Boom Harmony (my computer died and I was forced to upgrade.) Episode 12 had the most scenes, 32 (the first 4 done in Animate Pro, the remaining 28 in Harmony). Episode 3 had the least number of scenes, 9.

Two years of sacrificing: time with loved ones, hanging out, relaxing, having fun, reading and exercising.

Two years of a single-minded focus.

Admittedly, once it was over, I felt deeply relieved that it was out of my system, completely drained and even a little lost. That’s why I haven’t addressed the completion of the project until now. 

So here we go!

Towards the end of the project, I began to have second-thoughts about the decision to dedicate two years to a project instead of spending that time on desperately-needed skills improvement. After briefly beating myself up over this, I came to these conclusions:
  1. Although I knew that I needed to improve my skills, it was impossible for me to consistently focus on this task because I kept telling myself that I needed to complete a project! Ugh, you can’t have it both ways, Rochelle! It was EITHER focus 100% on skills improvement or focus 100% on a project. There was no way to do both simultaneously. Since doing a project kept gnawing at my mind and prevented me from focusing completely on drawing practice, I decided to satisfy the project-completion hunger.
  2. The project clearly revealed my weaknesses which will make focusing and consistency on skills improvement easier. In the past when I tried to do skills improvement, after a few days of dull exercises and drills, I would second-guess if I was focusing on the right or best drills and exercises and topics. This further distracted from actually improving any skills! It became clear during the creation of this project that I need to learn anatomy and perspective if I’m to create and share all of the cool stuff floating around in my mind!
  3. The project gives me something to talk about at industry gatherings. At my first Women in Animation (WIA) event since completing the project, I was able to tell people about my project and hand out business cards directing them to where they could see the project.

So ultimately, YES, spending two years working on an imperfect project WAS the a better use of my time rather than lackluster skills improvement!

In addition to becoming clear about my weaknesses and the areas I should focus my study upon, I learned what I should not skimp on for the next animated project: everything (characters, props, environments, colors) should be designed/determined in advance to maintain consistency; do color scripts in advance to ensure characters and background are distinct; make model sheets and turnarounds to make the drawing process faster; create texture swatches for everything (skin, hair, etc.); depending upon the clip, add an extra 2 secs. at the beginning and/or end for easier editing.

I’m proud of “A Universe of Trouble.” I love the story, I’m proud of the results and I’ve gotten great feedback about it. I’m going to take the lessons I learned from this experience and apply them towards becoming a better artist.