The location was at the Los Angeles Zoo, where I often go with my animal drawing class. While you are out sketching, you will often find situations that have a natural sense of order to them and suggest formal compositions. In this drawing I was able to use several traditional compositional concepts, so, in a sense, the total was set from the start, contrary to going from point to point.
In the diagrams, I have indicated opposite elements. Throughout the drawing I have tried to find a variety of contrasting elements: darks against lights, complex against simple, etc. Using these elements of composition in the sketch gives the drawing a feeling of completeness. Though this drawing was loosely done, it was guided by fundamental ideas of composition.
I still consider this drawing a sketch as it was done rather quickly. The overall design of the picture was conceived more by recognizing it’s presence in my environment, rather than me having to create it. Then it was completed by improvising on the main idea.
As I added the elements to the drawing, I worked in much the same way as in the drawing on Groups of Figures, except I had formal compositional elements into which to fit the parts. While the people and the animals were rearranging themselves, they gave me opportunities to work them into my decided ideas about the composition.
The first thing that caught my eye was the way the seated figure in the foreground was leaning to the left and her drink was leaning to the right. This suggested to me the idea of using the play of opposites as a theme for the drawing. Also the clear division of the foreground, middleground and background was already clearly defined.
Next, there was a general strong vertical and horizontal structure that I would develop further if I were to make this into a painting. In a more developed composition these divisions would be very carefully worked out.
Part of this basic structure was the way the foreground figure led into the tree and the figures directly in front of her. The umbrella gave a further direction to the movement with the tree heading to the left in a play of opposites.
The leading of the eye by the forms described above and the interaction between the movements of these forms is what I refer to as “composition,” rather than the mathematical breakup of the space. The dynamics, or play of the parts, one against the other, and the orchestration of the whole, is what interests me. Now look at how the head of the giraffe has kept the movement going.
By Glenn Vilppu
This article was first published in June 1, 2001 Animation World Magazine. This article was taken from the seventh in a new series of bi-monthly articles about sketching on location. The articles are based on my Sketching on Location Manual. The manual was developed as a series of lessons that I use on my guided sketching tours of Europe, and that I use as material in my regular drawing classes. As such the lessons can be part of a regular course or can be used by individual students as a practical learning guide. In the last chapter we worked on “Pencil Technique. If you have not seen the previous lessons starting in the June 2000 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. If you really want to start at the beginning open with the lessons based on the Vilppu Drawing Manual.
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.