I Went to a Drawing Workshop

A few weekends ago I ventured out of my hermit cave and took a little ferry across the water to Granville Island. I walked past the tourists, the public market and the various shops & artisans until I made it to the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. On this particular weekend, one of the Emily Carr theatres had been rented by Schoolism for a gesture drawing workshop. The workshop was being taught by Pixar story artist Louis Gonzales, who has worked on animated films such as The Iron Giant, Monsters Inc, Ratatouille and Brave.

Gesture Drawings pg 4Schoolism is an online art school. I wasn’t too familiar with them prior to this event but they seem to have a nice assortment of courses available where students get video feedback on their work. Some courses also have a Self-Taught version where you don’t get personal critiques but you can work your way through the course material at your own pace.

The school has also been doing some workshops in the real world, which they call Schoolism LIVE. So far, the cities lucky enough to get workshops have been Vancouver, Toronto, Rio de Janeiro, Florianopolis and London. If you live in or near one of these cities, you should keep an eye out for workshops coming your way. I’m definitely grateful I got a heads-up from an old buddy of mine from animation school.

It’s appropriate that he’s the one who turned me onto it since I don’t think I’ve taken a class in anything since I finished animation school back in 1998. And I’ve only rarely been to life drawing sessions since then. The last one was at least a couple years ago. Yes, I’ve been negligent of my artist fundamentals. And yes, life drawing is very good exercise for an illustrator. But in all honesty, while studying and drawing the human figure did give me a better understanding of anatomy, I never got exactly what I needed from life drawing sessions or even the classes I took back in college.

Schoolism Swag

This time around, in Louis Gonzales’ workshop, I think I got what I needed.

The workshop had around a hundred artists in attendance. I knew a handful of them from the local animation and video game industries (hey Justin, Hallis & John!) and I suspect that most of the crowd was also working or studying in those areas. As we entered, each of us was given a pencil, a Schoolism t-shirt and a booklet. The pencil did its job and the t-shirt fit my colour palette but the booklet was obviously the real treasure.

The bulk of the lecture is all laid out in the booklet. I love this approach. I do something similar with my comic book students so they can refer back to the information later without having to rely on memory (which in my case isn’t very reliable at all). So now, whenever I feel my poses getting lame, I’ll be able to pull the booklet down off my shelf and hit myself over the head with it.

Gesture Drawings pg 5Gesture drawing (that is, a 30-second to 2-minute sketch of a human figure) was nothing new for most of us in the crowd. And I’m sure most had experienced at least some classes or tutorials that covered many of the same basic principles. Line of Action, Shape, Silhouette, Space, Exaggeration and Extrapolation were the principles that Louis covered. Plus one more, which he deemed the most important element in all of gesture drawing: Story.

As a visual storyteller, you’d think that one would be obvious to me. Finding the core idea behind the pose and turning that into a story. Of course. I always knew that I needed to approach life drawing in a way that suited my own needs but I never really figured out the key to that. But I feel like the points made in this workshop have brought some clarity to my approach. Both for drawing naked people on a stage and for drawing characters in a comic book.

There’s also a lot to be said for watching a talented artist as they work. And I enjoyed watching Louis draw on top of a few student drawings to show how certain elements could be pushed more to improve the pose or emphasize different ideas.

Gesture Drawings as AnimalsLooking at the drawings I did during the workshop, I see that they’re terrible examples of what was being taught. They got more on-point as we got further along but I still had so much rust that needed to be shook off. I was still shedding my old approach to life drawing. In particular, I was still focussing too much on exactly what I saw rather than focussing on the idea behind the pose. I can see the appeal of taking one of the 12-week courses online so you have more time to shake off that rust and get feedback along the way.

Like I said, some of the stuff I learned (or re-learned) should be obvious. But I’m not perfect. I can’t figure everything out on my own nor remember everything when I need it. In fact, I’m thinking of setting a reminder for myself to go through this booklet once a month so it stays fresh in my mind as I’m drawing.

I should point out that the booklet and workshop were developed by both Louis Gonzales and Alex Woo, another Pixar story artist who also teaches gesture drawing at Schoolism.

Oh, and Autodesk sponsored the workshop, which meant the nice bonus of Schoolism’s Bobby Chui handing out copies of Sketchbook Pro 6 on their behalf. So thanks to them for that.

And an even bigger thanks to my girlfriend, who bought me the workshop ticket as a gift!

Louis Gonzales: louzales.tumblr.com
Alex Woo: www.woohoopictures.com
Schoolism: www.schoolism.com

Gesture Drawings

Pssst, if you decide to take any Schoolism courses, this code should get you a discount: q0vt6

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