Drawing Ellipses and Cylinders

In this lesson we want to expand your repertoir of tools by adding appendages to the basic forms of the box and sphere. The primary skill required to do this is being able to draw cylinders.

An ellipse is a circle in perspective; a cylinder is essentially two ellipses connected by straight lines. 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.

Exercise 1: Drawing Ellipses
Practice drawing ellipses that begin with a straight line and come to a full circle.

Drawing Ellipses 1
Drawing Ellipses 1

Visualize a cross section of a hose, or a simple computer wire frame of a cylindrical form. Now try some drawings where you make these tubes cross each other and intertwine.

Exercise 2: Drawing Cylinders
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. 2 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.

Drawing Ellipses 2
Drawing Ellipses 2

Do a series of drawings, adding cylindrical forms to the spherical and box forms that we have created in the previous lessons.

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!

Drawing Ellipses 3
Drawing Ellipses 3

By Glenn Vilppu

This article first appeared in Animation World Magazine February 01, 1999. 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.

Glenn Vilppu teaches life drawing at the American Animation Institute, the Masters program of the UCLA Animation Dept., Walt Disney Feature Animation, Warner Bros. Feature Animation, Dreamworks and Rhythm & Hues Studios. Vilppu has also worked in the Animation industry for 18 years as a layout, storyboard and presentation artist, most of this time was spent working at Disney. His drawing manual and video tapes are being used worldwide as course materials for animation students. Glenn Vilppu has, in effect, either through teaching them directly or teaching their teachers, trained an entire generation of professional animators.

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