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Vilppu Drawing Online: Drawing Ellipses

Renowned drawing instructor Glenn Vilppu offers the fifth installment in his bi-monthly Animation World Magazine online drawing course.

This is the fifth in a series of articles on drawing for animation. In these articles I will be presenting the theory and practice of drawing as a "how to" instructional series. The lessons are based upon the Vilppu Drawing Manual and will in general follow the basic plan outlined in the manual. This is the same material that I base my seminars and lectures on at the American Animation Institute, UCLA, and my lectures at Disney, Warner Bros. and other major studios in the animation industry, both in the U.S. and their affiliates overseas. Each lesson will also have short Quicktime clips of me demonstrating the material discussed. If you have not seen the previous lessons starting in the June 1998 issue of Animation World Magazine, it is recommended that you do. The lessons are progressive and expand on basic ideas. It is suggested that you start from the beginning for a better understanding of my approach. In the first four lessons we have basically been dealing with the torso of either human, animal or cartoon characters without actually calling them that. In this lesson we want to expand on that direction by adding appendages to these basic forms. The primary skill required to do this is being able to draw cylinders.

A cylinder is essentially two ellipses connected by straight lines and, of course, an ellipse is a circle in perspective (Illustration No. 1). Let's first develop some basic skills for drawing ellipses. To start with, you need to rely on drawing more with a total arm movement than with your fingers.

Practice drawing ellipses that begin with a straight line and come to a full circle (Illustration No. 2). Visualize a cross section of a hose, or a simple computer wire frame of a cylindrical form. Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528) in his Dresdon sketchbook shows many variations on an analytical, constructive approach to drawing the figure. (Albrecht Durer the Human Figure, Dover Publications, Inc., New York.)

(Illustration No.2)

Now try some drawings where you make these tubes cross each other and intertwine (Illustration No. 3).

In drawing a cylinder, the two most important elements are the angle or axis of the cylinder, and the beginning and end of the cylinder. Illustration No. 4 shows a basic procedure for approaching the drawing of a cylinder. First, draw a line indicating the centerline. Then, draw the ellipses defining the ends of the cylinder.

Illustration No. 4

Do a series of drawings, adding cylindrical forms to the ones that we have created in the previous lessons (Illustration No. 5).

In some of the following drawings you can clearly see the use of the cylinder as a means of construction. In others, it was used as a means of understanding a complex form and influenced the way in which the form was used. Again, there are no rules, just tools! Glenn Vilppu teaches figure drawing at the American Animation Institute, the Masters program of the UCLA Animation Dept., Walt Disney Feature Animation and Warner Bros. Feature Animation, and is being sent to teach artists at Disney TV studios in Japan, Canada and the Philippines. Vilppu has also worked in the animation industry for 18 years as a layout, storyboard and presentation artist. His drawing manual and video tapes are being used worldwide as course materials for animation students. Glenn Vilppu first wrote for Animation World Magazine in the June 1997 issue, "Never Underestimate the Power of Life Drawing." His drawing manuals and video tapes may now be purchased in the Animation World Store.