How to start drawing cartoons:
as told by animators

Manshuq author Alua Jumabayeva was curious about the process of creating cartoons, found beginner professionals from Almaty and Paris to share their stories and roots for their passion.

You can also read this article
in Russian (на русском языке).
Alua Jumabayeva
13 августа 2018
Darina Lapkovskaya, 24 years old
Animator and illustrator

It is amazing to work in the field of animation. I am lucky that I have an opportunity to create cartoons. In childhood it was everyone's dream.

I am from Moscow, but right now I live in Paris and work remotely as an illustrator and animator for the USA, Russia and Hong Kong. I graduated university with the major in software engineering. My parents doubted that I would earn money as an artist and asked me to pick a major that will definitely feed me. I got my IT degree but never worked in that field because that was never what I wanted to do. I didn't get any professional art education because as a child I didn't have a financial opportunity to take intensive art classes, so I taught myself how to do it intuitively. In the end of 2012, while I was in university I have started to draw more intensely and professionally, and I understood that people liked my art and I might have a chance as an artist.

To teach myself to draw while studying IT was very hard. That is why after I graduated I have spent a year sitting at home just drawing my portfolio to find my dream job. I have come a long way through a lot of criticism, self-doubt and denials to find a job in a studio in Moscow and remotely in the USA. Only then I felt confident and realized that all of that was not for nothing.
I have spent a year sitting at home just drawing my portfolio to find my dream job
I have always dreamed about creating a cartoon, even if it is very short. I don't like modern ways of creating cartoons as 3D or computer animation. It is of course very convenient and I did work using these techniques but with experience I realized that maybe it is a bit "unfair". I wanted to make art, which is a hard labor. That is why I decided to create my own project in 2D, frame by frame. That is exactly how "Tarzan", "Mulan", "Beauty and the Beast" and also Hayao Miyazaki (Japanese producer and cartoonist) Ghibli Studio created animation, on paper for traditional and aesthetical reasons. All of these works are very inspiring and they help me work harder and harder because there are a lot of things I have to be very good at – as anatomy, volume, timing, spacing, acting! It is not a 3D model you can just touch and move around!

Another very important aspect is the development of the taste. You have to have a clear understanding that you are creating a quality product, because animation, especially when you work alone – is a huge amount of work and time. For example, my personal short animation teaser, that is only going to last a minute, I am working on for a year now and I think I have another year to finally finish it. People who are not in this field think that creating cartoons takes about three weeks. Not a lot of people understand what it takes to create a cartoon in classical animation. I am doing storyboarding, animatic, timing, creation of concepts, creation of characters, animation (!) and backgrounds – all by myself. To create one background, I spent 12-15 hours of work and a 5-second animation takes 3-4 weeks. Usually in studios there are people working on different stations and even they take months to create one short film. And here I am – a beginner but a very confident one. I chose a very difficult theme and style but I know that in the end it will be worth it and my work will be valued!
Photo by Jacob
Photo by Leio
Photo by Jacob
Photo by Marion
Photo by Jacob
Photo by Shifaaz
Animation, especially when you work alone – is a huge amount of work and time
My boyfriend studies in Paris at Gobelins University as an animator as well. He helps me and teaches me too. From him I have learned how valuable this work is and how long does it take to create even a short animation. He supports me in the times of artistic crisis, and helps me not to give up.

I live in the constant flight mode between Russia and France, work for different companies in multiple countries that is why I have very little personal time. And whatever remaining personal time I have I spend on creating my own project. That is why it is so hard and takes so long to finish. We are all people and everyone wants to hang out with friends, go to the movies, take vacations but I have minimal time for these. It is because I have set my priorities before and decided to work right now for my future. But it is important to not give up when everything seems to be for nothing.

Very soon I will publish on the internet animation shoot with sounds and backgrounds from my short film "White Fox". Previously I have kept my material to myself but now I want to share a little because people are curious about it, for which I am grateful. I will keep on working hard and I hope my example will inspire someone to create cartoons. There is no point in being scared to start doing something you love only because it seems impossible in the beginning.

Darina's works:
Bekzat, 25 years old

I moved to Almaty from Aktau to study at Kazakh National Arts College named after Zhurgenov. I have always been interested in cartoons and animation. I have also always been drawing as long as I remember. That is why when I found out that there is an animation faculty in the college I wanted to study there. My family was never against me being an artist that is why the only difficulty I have faced was choosing what exactly in the field of art I want to pursue. I loved painting since when I was a kid but decided to switch to animation and cartoon creation.

Probably I was interested in animation since my childhood when everyone watches cartoons. My favorite studios were Disney and Pixar (now one company). Among classical animation I also like how Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny cartoons were drawn.
I was interested in animation since my childhood when everyone watches cartoons
To create cartoons one has to have a very big knowledge base. You have to not only draw very well but also know different facial expressions and emotions. So in a way you have to understand psychology and a lot of other things. "The Animator's Survival Kit" by Richard Williams helped me a lot when I just started studying animation. I would recommend this book to any beginner.

If we are talking about the process of creating a cartoon from the very begging at first you have to create and draw a character on paper. After that you can scan and transfer the image to the graphic design tablet to finish working on the character and prepare it using special software for further processing. I love the process of creating characters. It is my favorite part! People tell me that the style I chose to draw characters reminds them of Disney or anime.
In 2D there are 24 frames per 1 second of the cartoon. It is a lot of work!
Generally, 2D animation is not used to create big projects right now. 2D is used more in creating cartoon series like those on Cartoon Network. In 2D there are 24 frames per 1 second of the cartoon. It is a lot of work! With 3D it is also a long process but there are more tools.

I have done several big projects. Some were for Kazakhfilm studio and one independent project. I worked specifically in animation meaning I was given characters and storylines. All I had to do was to animate it. For these big projects we worked in a team and spent day and night creating one cartoon.

Animation is an undiscovered field in Kazakhstan which makes my profession complicated but also interesting. I am not really aiming on working for big foreign studios as Disney (maybe only for the internship). I want to create my own studio in Kazakhstan and work on popularization of animation here. In order to follow this path, you need a lot of dedication and patience. I would like to recommend youngsters who are just starting their journey in this field to make sure that you really want it.

Bekzat's works:
Photos, illustrations and videos by Darina Lapkovskaya and Bekzat. Cover illustration by Darina Lapkovskaya

Tags: career
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