Recent Q+A discussions that followed lectures in Boston by Brian Larsen (story supervisor at PIXAR Animation Studios), William Kentridge (renowned independent “stone-age” charcoal draw-and-erase animator from Johannesburg) and Marjane Satrapi (writer and director of the hand-drawn black-and-white feature “Persepolis”) remind us anew that the beating heart of animation is still the physical act of drawing. Larsen, who spent six and a half years working on the PIXAR feature, “Brave,” stunned the audience at the Art Institute of Boston when he stated that a PIXAR feature typically uses about 90,000 hand-drawn storyboard panels during development and production. Asked what advice he would give a young animator entering the industry, Larsen replied without hesitation, “Draw! Draw! Draw! Draw! Draw!”
Likewise, Kentridge, leading an enthusiastic audience at Harvard University through a captivating series of lectures entitled “Six Drawing Lessons,” constantly referred to the act of drawing as, variously, the critical act of clarifying, deciding, experimenting, breaking the logjam of artistic entropy, planning and connecting with his subject matter.
Satrapi, Iranian artist, poet and filmmaker, argued, at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, that the first expression of a human being, even before language, is drawing, and that the notion of thinking with and drawing images is a primal human activity. “How great that we can now put the images we draw into motion!” she enthused.
We clearly love drawing ourselves, so we’re gratified to hear these experts confirm that drawing is, as ever, an integral part of the creative process of animation. Certainly, computers are a tremendous tool in polishing and completing a project. But there’s plenty of up-to-the-minute evidence that drawing is what gets us to the final, energetic stage of every animation project, whether it’s CGI or (obviously) hand-drawn.