I tried some more drawings from Preston Blair’s excellent book about character animation drawing. I was curious how he had come to such a design, in general terms, of course.
Judging from the photo of this rabbit, he started with a cute animal template and grafted “rabbit” onto it. You would expect the other way around, but I think that wouldn’t work. I think Preston abstracted the general body plan of rabbit-like creatures, stylized it into a cute animal template, and then set to work incorporating features of the animal in question.
While we can never be sure what goes on in the back of the mind of an artist (who isn’t aware of it as well), we can try to reason how to recreate a certain style, and use it to build our own.
I’m not stating that I’m going to do that in this blog post, for it surely requires years of study to be able to discuss an artist’s style with some authority, but I’m going to make a few statements that should make it easier to develop your own style based on someone else’s style.
So the drawing above are my attempts to recreate the drawings of Preston Blair in his book. Next, I found the photo of the rabbit you see in the beginning of this post. Using that, I tried to stylize the realistic rabbit in a more cartoony version (on the right of the realistic version).
The bottom two drawings are an attempt to stylize the rabbit even more (left) and to recreate the Preston Blair drawing with my new found knowledge about drawing rabbits. As you can see, there is more life in the bottom right rabbit than in both the top two drawings based on the illustrations in the Preston Blair book.
I think this is a very productive method. Rather than to copy drawings of an artist, try to understand his style, look to the reference of a real animal (or whatever was drawn by the artist), and try to stylize it so, it resembles the original drawings somewhat. Your observations of the real animal (real object) will be incorporated into your own stylized drawings.
In my opinion this has two advantages, you can develop your own style, avoiding any copyright infringement claims, but more importantly, you can vary your style, between pure iconic and pure realistic. I’m sure you could even go abstract as well, but I haven’t yet looked into that aspect of illustration.
That is all.