Marcelo Vignali Sketchbook Assignments

Mark McDonnell's book The Art & Feel of Making it Real, is a smart and useful guide for any young artist and/or student, who is interested in a career in animation or illustration. The book's chapters explain vividly, what points to keep in mind when it comes to anatomy, motion, caricature and composition. His beautiful illustrations show clearly step by step how to go about it. Mark's long experience in working in the entertainment industry will not only help readers to apply a structured approach toward their art, it will also inspire them to do better work. --Andreas Deja (Walt Disney Feature Animation - Supervising Animator, Visual Development Artist)

In the world of art, drawing the human figure with knowledge and understanding is one of the more difficult tasks an artist can endeavor to do. But, drawing the human figure with a sense of life, sympathy and sincerity is the most difficult of tasks a muse, if you will having eluded many a great artist throughout the ages. Mark McDonnell is not only a tremendous draftsman, whose drawings convey a knowledge and understanding of the human figure, but more than that he has captured that illusive quality with a fearless approach that breathes life into each of his drawings. In this collection, Mark makes it abundantly clear that it is his fearlessness, and love of the life that surrounds him, that has enabled him to capture that muse that all artists endeavor to attain the muse of life. --Marcelo Vignali (Sony Pictures Animation - Art Director, Visual Development Artist)

You not only feel but you see Mark s enthusiasm and love for his subject in this refreshingly simple and clear presentation. This is a wonderful homage to Walt Stanchfield teachings as well as a testament to Mark's own growing development and talent as an artist. It is particularly fun to watch how effortlessly he expresses character and story. Mark demonstrates a real command of his subject and fortunately for us, a willingness to share it. --Karl Gnass (Master Draftsman & Figure Drawing Instructor)

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I'm opening up the Vignali Vault once more.
I don't think this image has ever been printed in any book or posted on anything since I drew this 20 years ago for Disney's Kingdom of the Sun. You are the first to see this image in over two decades.
This was the early development work for Roger Allers' version of the film that would later become The Emperor's New Groove. The story was considerably different, in this scene Pacha sneaks into the palace to retrieve his llama that has been taken by Prince Manco.
This is a graphite pencil drawing. I would vary between wax based pencils and graphite depending upon the level of detail or atmosphere I needed to capture in a drawing. If I needed more detail, I used graphite. If I needed more atmosphere, I used a wax pencil.

When to Choose Graphite or Wax Pencil?

With so much digital work in animation today, it’s important to keep in mind that “design" should be the driving and motivating factor of design. While it’s a lot easier to create digital artwork that allows us to use multiple layers, textures and even 3D models to paint over, don’t underestimate the power of the pencil. The pencil is a direct line of communication. 

Glenn Keene has said, "the pencil is the seismograph to the soul."

The strength of pencil design work is that every mark on the paper is a deliberate stroke. Each value, each mark is a decision made by the designer. How you feel, what you want to say, is directly translated onto the paper.

This is one of the designs I proposed for the girl Smurf village.

The Power of the Pencil

The postcard game is game where you trade artwork with your artist friends.
Look at this gorgeous watercolor postcard I received several years ago from my friend Paul Felix...sent to me FROM AFRICA! The Disney Studio sent Paul all the way to Kenya to do research for their upcoming film at the time, TARZAN, and he was taken by guides to a remote mountain where he was able to observe Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat!
I'm including the back of this postcard so that you can see it has the actual postage stamps from Kenya! Sent to me, while I was at the Disney studio in Burbank working on Mulan.
Come check out my video on Youtube!

In this five-minute sketch, I'm showing the simplified building-block structure that I use to balance my figure.

Using this building-block structure, it's easy to balance the figure. You simply stack boxes in a way that looks balanced.

If the boxes aren't balanced, understand you're suggesting movement. This isn't a bad thing, if you're drawing a dynamic pose. But, in a standing pose, you'll want to suggest a steady balance.

Stacy, the Barbarian

Have you ever felt like you're tied to someone else's drama?

It's a shame, I tried to record this drawing, but somehow the file was corrupted and I lost the recording.

Drama Queen

Have you ever noticed that the bees aren't the only ones looking forward to all the flowers in Spring?

Spring is in the air...

Here's a seven minute figure drawing sketch from last night, drawn while using my Fractal Method.

Athletes to the gym and train, they build muscles they need and use when performing their activity. Artists are very much the same way, we need to train for our activity -- and going to figure drawing is our gym.

So, if you're an artist, get into our gym and start working out!

Figure Drawing is our gym...

Yes, we're at that phase in kittenhood when our little Misty Lou needs to sharpen her claws, literally at our expense.

I snapped this picture of our kitty when I caught her in the act.



I've put together another video of my Mobile Studio. In it you'll get a sneak peak into my Mobile Studio sketchbook.

The Mobile Studio

Mini-flyweights, 105 pounders...they make the ring card girls look big!

I'm a huge boxing fan, having laced the gloves in my younger years.

The lighter weight fighters are the most entertaining to watch, because they move so fast. It's like watching squirrels fighting over a bucket of espresso beans, in fast-forward.


Continuing with my Ordinary Hero series, this guy was my ordinary hero today! When his little mini-me started to act up at a local yogurt shop, this hero promptly "took-him-out." Hah! Now, that's what I call a real, "PUNISHER." We need more parents like this!

Continuing with my Ordinary Hero series...

Oh gosh, I saw this grandpa enjoying an ice-cream, and I couldn't help seeing the resemblance.

You know how people look like their dogs, well they also resemble their diet.

I tried to record a video of my using the gel pen, but the video stopped recording halfway through. When I finished the drawing, I realized the error.

Oh well, next time!

Sweet Grandpa

I just uploaded a new video on my Youtube channel. Designer Training/Drawing with Markers. 

I do my usual ramblings as I discuss the importance of training, my unique Fractal Method of designer-training, setting goals, and some tips on marker drawings in your sketchbook. 

If you have any questions, post them here. I'll get back to you.

Designer Training/Drawing with Markers

Entertaining a thought here, what if superheroes were just like regular people. I mean, what if they were still super, but they didn’t wear costumes – rather, just regular clothes. What would they look like?

Along with the usual suspects of antiquated art equipment. I've got a mechanical pencil whose metal grip has nearly been worn off, an extinct Tria marker, and my favorite eraser. 

Wonderwoman...keeping it real.

Here's a memory sketch of a big guy that we spotted last week during our sketch club. I paired him up in my sketchbook with this odd looking young woman. She was a young hipster that dyed her hair blue, and dressed like an old lady.

Big Guy and Young Old Lady

I usually reserve my dry marker sketching for figure drawing. But, this time I drew a character design using the tool, a dry brush pen. I was attempting to refill the pen because it had dried out too much and I was testing it out. I liked the doodle, so I added an orange color to fill it in.

The tool isn't as important as the idea or the design, but a different tool may cause you to think differently. If you feel like you're in a rut with your drawings, switch up on your tools and see how that affects your thinking.

Dry Marker Character Sketch

I saw this young woman walk by with a pretty head band that looked like little flowers, but the hair in the back end sagged in a bundle that bounced when she walked. I thought it was funny.

Hippy Chic

We saw this tough-looking young woman stroll by.

Tuff Chix

Olive Oyl in Yoga Pants

I've been watching B-Boy dancing, wow it's so incredibly extreme. I just love what they're doing with dance. I was thinking to myself, it's gotta be harder to impress the ladies nowadays.

This is a marker drawing on toned sketchbook paper.

"Girl, Why U Gotta Be Like Dat?"

I gotta reach into the archives for this one.

The storyline is this, the villain attempts to get away, while the Milo gives chase. They use some of the planes that was brought by the explorers onboard the sub. Of course, you know this attempt fails, and the heroes have to attempt to activate the older technology in order to stop the villains.

I drew this one for Disney's Atlantis, 17 years ago. It was drawn with graphite pencil on a ledger bond paper.

Disney Atlantis -- The Getaway

Remember that first kiss? Yeah, it was that magical.

I managed to squeeze out another drawing in my sketchbook to cap off 2014. Happy New Year everyone!

First Love

Maybe it's because the new Star Wars movie is coming out, but I think I just saw a Chewbacca mirage!  I called out to my friends, "Doesn't that girl's hair look just like Chewbacca?

Star Wars Girl

I thought this girl looked like a cross between a Christmas tree and a Gryffindor alum. Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

 I was looking for some images from Open Season, in order to add them to a presentation I'm going to be giving in Turin Italy at The View Conference on Tuesday, October 14th between 10:00 -- 11:00am.

On the 13th, I'll be teaching a workshop between 9:30--11:30am. The workshop will be on Storytelling with a Visual Vocabulary.

In 2003, at Sony Pictures Animation, we were still trying to figure out how to create digital animated movies. In these designs I was building assets that were later used in a test using Maya. I did a series of drawings that we used as digital cards, in order to plan a camera move and track our camera.The cards were later replaced by digital assets as they were created.

In the beginning at Sony Pictures Animation, we were in the process of having to invent techniques that would later become a staple at the studio. Much of what we did was a mix of analog and digital. I provided drawings, and Michael Humphries painted them. Much of the paintings Michael did were also analog. He painted his work in acrylic paint, and had a whole series of painting techniques to accommodate the textures.

Once completed, our digital painters emulated what Michael Humphries was able to do with paint, and likewise with the digital models. The result was spectacular as is evidenced by the movie.

That's a doodle of my youngest daughter there among the foliage.

Open Season 2003

We've been met with particularly warm weather this fall.

Indian Summer

My 13 year old daughter now has her own Youtube channel! She's been posting some of her animation, please go and take a look. If you subscribe, you'll get notices when she posts a new one. BTW, it's all done on an iPad, and all her own ideas. 

The Random Tales of Snorky

Lunch Doodle

Never underestimate the power of the doodle. For artists alike, doodling is the way we organize our thoughts without any words. It's how we encompass our spur of the moment emotions and inspirations.
There's that old adage, "you are what you eat." But, in reality, that's not true.

In reality, we are the some total of what we see and hear. These have a greater influence over our thoughts and our actions, than what gets dissolved by the gastric acid of our stomachs.

While in the Philippines 2014, during ICON Manilla, I had a chance to share some of my thoughts on this subject with Adobo Magazine.

Nutritional Advice for the Artist

We have to reach back to 2002 for this one. The date says 2003, but I remember it was drawn while I was still living in Utah, thereby making it between 1997 - 2002. By the end of 2002, I had moved back to California.

This drawing is graphite pencil on bond paper. I probably added the slight blur on the foreground element in 2003, hence the later date on the drawing. I guess it's now a mix between traditional and digital. Normally, I would have drawn the blur.

I think that computers have certainly been a benefit to the industry of animation, but that's not to say that it didn't come without a cost. I don't know that there are many people left who can still draw backgrounds on paper as they did during the golden age of animation.

The River Styx

I'm still playing around with this funny cat idea.

I've had cats nearly all of my life, and they are amazing personalities to live with. I don't really feel like they are truly domesticated, but rather to live with a cat is to have a complicated relationship with someone.

They certainly have a mind of their own, regardless our plans or expectations we attempt to have for them.

Cats are never domesticated

Just because...I'm a huge fan of the original Planet of the Apes. And, who doesn't like a good revolution poster? Only, in this case, a good devolution poster.

It's a vintage era propaganda poster from the apocalyptic future.

Sorry for the low res JPG, but a print of this image is available at Society6. Just click the link and it will take you to their site where you can purchase a variety of print sizes of this image. If it does well, I may continue this series and make three different prints available.



I drew this one years ago when I was working for Disney. 1996, that's also the same year my daughter was born, and now we're looking at colleges for her. Boy, time sure does fly.
It was drawn with prisma pencil on vellum. The subject was a glass blowing factory, with various furnaces. I thought it would make an interesting location for our story. 

An Oldie, From the Vignali Vaults!

We have a club that meets every Friday for some sketching fun. We eat lunch, and watch passersby as we "inconspicuously" eye them and sketch them out. I think the people-watching is half the fun. People, of all shapes and sizes, really are beautiful.

Steven Silver and I started the club in August of 2005, and I've been attending ever since. Sure, sometimes we have to move the club to Thursday because of a meeting or something, and sometimes I'm on vacation, but aside from that my sketch club date is non-negotiable. If I have free time, I'm going to the club.

There were times the club dwindled down to me, alone, eating and drawing. But, still I wouldn't miss a week. And then there were times attendance would grow to 18 people. 18 artists packed into a restaurant, laughing, drawing, and sharing their art with each other.

Over the years I've been blessed to have some of the biggest names in the So. California's animation industry sitting and drawing right next to me. Other times I've been surrounded by young, enthusiastic talent -- yearning to stretch their horizons.

As artists came and went from the club, I began to really appreciate each and every one of them. Each artist unique, distinct and honest with themselves -- searching, just like I was, for that voice inside them that speaks without words.

The friendships I've been able to cultivate with this collection of artists has been immeasurable to me. I thought I had been filling pages in my sketchbooks, but I've been filling pages in my life. To all of you who have attended the club over the years, thanks.

Another Sketchbook Completed...

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