9.30.2010

Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes Volume 1 / Walt Stanchfield : 5 of 5

Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes: Volume 1: The Walt Stanchfield LecturesAlthough I'm only a fan of animation and not an animator, I love reading about the techniques involved in creating the art itself. Disney animation has always set itself apart by continually providing its artists with learning opportunities to help them improve, one of these being a long series of evening "gesture drawing" classes by Walt Stanchfield (who worked on many of Disney's feature animation classes). For each of these classes, Walt would provide a handout to discuss everything from line and perspective to "life pep-talks", and this huge wealth of written information has been collected into this giant book, which is the first of a two volume series edited by Don Hahn (my favorite Disney producer). Walt was in his late 60s when he wrote these handouts, but his life was filled with energy and an incredible positive outlook, fueled by his love of art itself.Most of this book is about the activity of drawing, but the subject matter is so broad that many chapters read like incredibly inspiring philosophy lectures, encouraging students to adopt an attitude of enthusiasm (since "man is a human dynamo") and to embrace the artistic world in all forms. His writing is so convincing that I found myself taking notes and wanting to fill my life with more art experiences! Quite often Walt illustrates his point by showing students' drawings, and every now and then he mentions the artist, which is a cool peek into the early careers of people like Pete Docter (director of Monsters, Inc. and Up), for example. I loved imagining the actual class setting, since Walt's writing talks about difficult tasks such as using the pose of a live model but drawing a Disney character such as Ariel from the Little Mermaid in the same pose. The foundation of his teaching is to draw verbs, not nouns (to be able to capture story and action in every static sketch), and it's obvious how he believed in this method by spending every spare moment sketching. This first volume is a giant book (almost too large to read comfortably), but I was always raring to read another chapter to see what Walt would say next. I can't express how much Walt's life lessons impressed me (as a non-artist), and I can't wait to take on Volume 2, which should be under the Christmas tree in a few months!