What’s Learning The Language of Drawing Got To Do With Making An Animation Portfolio?

For 20 years we’ve encountered all kinds of ideas about what is actually involved in the preparation of an animation portfolio. A lot of these ideas have been erroneous, and a number of them have been downright comical in nature. We can talk about the comical ideas in a future post, but for now lets stick with the biggest misconception going around about how an animation portfolio gets made.

What's Learning The Language of Drawing Got To Do With Making An Animation Portfolio? 1
2019 Seneca Animation Portfolio Preparation / Soroosheh Safadel / Detail From Life Drawing

Its easy enough to say what’s supposed to be in an animation portfolio for any given school. You just look at the types of pieces required, and make sure that whatever they are asking for shows up in your submission when you finally hand it in. Room drawings, object drawings, storyboard panels, etc, etc, all is laid out before you, plain as day, easy to see and comprehend. No one needs an expert to figure out what goes into an animation portfolio, it’s the how it gets made part that takes a lot more work and a lot more time to figure out.

Drawing is how it gets made, really really good drawing. Drawing that isn’t a derivative of an ‘animation school style’ or a combination of a bunch of slick drawing tricks, shortcuts, or drawing tips that are strung together.

Drawing is a language. Yes, just like speaking English or Mandarin or Italian or any other language for that matter. And it is a very old language at that…science has shown us that drawing language was around and being used a long time ago. Thousands of years ago artists started inventing the drawing alphabet to make the visual verbs, nouns and syntax of the very same drawing language that we use today to depict things. In short – to communicate our experiences through visual ideas. And that language has continued to be augmented over time from its very early beginnings as any other language is augmented right up to this very day.

So there are two parts to this, the augmentation or the expansion of the language over time, and also, some fundamental elements of the drawing language that have always remained the same, never changing really.

What are those unchanging constants?

At APW we refer to those as drawing principles, and those principles are the core components of the APW Drawing Method, a method that has been used to teach hundreds of students over the past 20 years. Needless to say, a broader discussion of precisely what those drawing principles are must be left for a future blog, but for the sake of what we are speaking of here, we shall simply say that a principle does not equal a style.

With this in mind, you can see that it clearly is quite ridiculous to copy the ‘style’ of a language or to limit oneself to learning some select words or phrases of a language in the expectation that this endeavour will give you the power (freedom) to communicate fluently. One simply cannot replace the fluency achieved through making the mammoth effort, and expending the time required to really learn a language, with a bunch of ‘shortcuts’ and expect to carry on even the semblance of a conversation.


So what does learning the language of drawing have to do with making an animation portfolio?


It’s simple. An animation portfolio, a really good one, is just a by-product of ones effort to learn how to draw, to learn the principle language of drawing. When one is really focussed on mastering the principles of drawing language, and discards attempts to feign a knowledge of that language through posturing imitations of it, (‘drawing style’ in place of drawing principles) the animation portfolio can grow naturally out of that effort to achieve fluency. In fact, one almost can’t stop a good portfolio from growing out of this lesson in learning to ‘speak drawing’ well.