Thursday, April 16, 2009

Drawn to Life! The Walt Stanchfield notes!!!

The Walt Stanchfield notes are published and out!!!!!

Legendary producer Don Hahn has published Walt’s life long series of notes in two volumes entitled “Drawn to life


It’s an amazing set of books that chronicle Walts teachings just as he presented them in his classes.  There’s also examples of Walt’s own artwork in the books which can't be found in any other books or on the internet.  If you haven’t purchased them, you must immediately!

I started at the Walt Disney studios in 1995.  I was very excited to be working at the studio and couldn’t contain myself as I learned as much as I could from all the talented people working there. 

One of those people who impacted me the most was Walt Stanchfield!  He was teaching Gesture drawing once a month for three consecutive days.  I was amazed at his approach to drawing and his sheer zest for life.  It was freedom for my brain!  The pressures of all the past life drawing classes had been lifted by this one man.  He would walk around the class room looking over shoulders and digging into each students page with a wealth of experience and challenge.  His simple quick correction doodles was an enlightenment for every student in the class. 

Walt had a knack for seeing the model differently then everyone else.  He understood the forces of inertia and kinesthetics behind every body part and movement.  On top of that his keen sense of acting was always dominant as he would push us to caricature and act within our sketches.  As we tried to understand what he was teaching we were constantly caught by his swift sharpie and every line he put down had meaning to it.  Other times Walt would pat a student on the back and keep walking which meant that he liked that person's artwork and as the model would break we’d all rush to see why Walt gave that pat!  

It was the greatest learning experience I’d ever had at Disney.  Learning the techniques that Walt taught infused my mind’s approach to everything I did as I worked on the features.  I began thinking "how would Walt do it?" trying to feel the pose as I inbetweened.  I remember when I told Walt that I became an animating assistant.  He patted me on the shoulder and said “Good Job! Now let’s keep drawing!”  He knew that I would need him now more than ever!  I couldn’t have imagined going through those days without Walt’s guidance.

One of the most amazing things to see where his sketchpads.  He was constantly sketching and you never saw him without his book.  Walt was so proud of himself when he would show his sketch book to us as we fevereshly sketched in his class.  The pages where crinkled and stained with coffee for tones but every page was a masterpiece!  Everyone was in awe at how each page had something to say and attract.  The years of his experience showed through every drawing.  Boats, people in coffee shops, birds, fruit, mountains, ranches, horses, and anything you can think of was effortlessly put on the page.  All I could think of at the time was “I gotta keep drawing, if I’m ever going to be that good” which I still say to this day. 

When Walt was teaching the class he’d correct our work with a small sketch and then with look only Walt could give, he'd ask “can I have this paper?”  It was hard to part with the bad drawing because we knew that it was going to show up as a "how not to" example in “Walt’s word’s of Wisdom” his monthly studio handout.

He would always tell the artist “I'll make you famous” which always gave us a nervous laugh.  Yet Walt never embarrased anyone, he taught everyone.  He knew that his correction would be best served for all to see and learn.  The students would pour over the handouts and try to soak in what he was writing about and then apply it to their own work.  As Walt wrote about gesture sketching he also wrote about life's lessons and always sharing some truth about the world and us as human beings.  I tried saving the handouts and kept loosing them in my cluttered cubicle and eventually found out that the artist development department had copies from years past to current, and I quickly copied them all. 

Walt was an avid Tennis player and he’d always showed up with his trademark fisherman's hat, shorts and t-shirt ready to go to the local court and take on some of the students.  Many times I’d ask those who played against him if they won and they’d shyly answer “no”.   I thought it was great to see this older man in his seventies{and a cancer survivor at the time} taking on these young students and showing them a thing or two.  He lived in Solvang CA and would travel to Burbank to teach, he’d stay at the Safari Inn hotel for a couple of days or even sleep in his van in the Disney parking lot.  Occasionally myself and a few others would take Walt out to dinner and spend time with him.  He loved it!  And we’d all sit and listen to his stories of working at the studio he endearingly called “Disney’s”.

This was all up until Walt’s passing in the year 2000.  Walt left such an impression on me and I  believe he wouldn't mind when I borrowed his motto for my blog which is "Impression - Expression = Depression".  This meant draw when you get inspired!  Anything that sparked the energy in you to put it down on paper and if you didn't, you're inner artist would fall into depression.   Many teachers have come and gone but Walt has stayed, In my brain, my art, in my technique, and mostly in my heart!  I’ll always remember Walt and what he meant to me.  These new books will only reassure that everyone can have Walt's words of wisdom right in their own hands.  They are invaluable!

Thank you Walt!


Unknown said...

Great post! I was lucky enough to stumble on to Walt's notes when they were on the net and every page is golden. I wish I could have had the chance to learn from the master himself, but I'll have to settle for picking up these books :)

Januel Mercado said...

I feel the same way when I'm in your class, Dave! Thanks for continuing to share Walt's legacy. Keep it coming!

tiffannysketchbook said...

This is a fantastic blog entry. Thanks for the personal insight into Walt Stachfield. I'm picking up the books!

Unknown said...

love the post, picked up the books recently after having read some of the notes that are squirreled away somewhere in about every studio i have worked in. Great stuff indeed, always learning something new and the quote " Inspiration minus expression equals depression " helps during those days when you just dont feel like keeping that sketchbook with you.
great stuff as always

OV! said...

yup just got mine. now i cantoss my old junkie copies from years past.

Ryan Savas said...

Great memories, Dave. Thanks for sharing. So far, I am only about a quarter of the way through the first book. I did see your drawings near the end of the 2nd book. Nice work!

Justin Hunt said...

I've been reading these books pretty much every night before bed since I got them! They're awesome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories about Walt.

EclecticBox said...

Yeap! Thanks for the personal memories, they add value to the books (hopefully arriving soon to my hands) It's a relief to see that behind a great artist there's a great person too (not always the case). Looking forward to learn and grasp part of that talent and knowledge he seems to have passed down on you guys!!

Unknown said...

Dave - Just found your blog, and I love it. Thanks for sharing so much.

Anonymous said...

Great to read about personal memories of Walt. Will certainly read the books.

Matt Jones said...

Great tribute Dave. Over the years I have pored over the xerox copies but now eagerly await the 'official' books. (In the UK they're published a little later than the US).
Walt seemed like an incredible inspiration -you guys were very lucky to study under him. I'm working with Donnie Long over here in Bristol, England-as you probably know he attended Walt's life classes and also you had Glenn Vilppu teaching anatomy right?
We've arranged a life class for the story team here-first session tonite. I will have Walt's & Glenn's writing in mind when drawing.

David said...


Thank God for these books finally being published (must haves, must reads, must draws for students and pros) and thank God for those of you among Walt's many students who are the true "keepers of the flame" .

Something I appreciated a lot about Walt besides the drawing classes and handouts is how he was genuinely interested in the progress of those of us in the "new generation" of Disney artists. I remember being very surprised and pleased when he showed up in my cubicle one day after dailies on "Oliver & Co." to casually mention that he had noticed the work I had done assisting a certain scene. How did he know it was me ? He had to have taken extra time to find out who worked on what scenes and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who received such encouragement. He was so active and engaged in what was going on at the studio and interested in what we were working on. That really made a difference to me. It was nice to know someone noticed and appreciated it.

That encouragement he gave to so many of us is his lasting legacy, along with the many xeroxed notes and now the books.

Art Fan Ako said...

You're fortunate to have that experience at Disney. Your blog was insightful! Thanks for sharing!

David Shair said...

Dave, great post on Walt here. This could be an add-on to the book's second edition. Great to see ya at Dreamworks the other day when I met Aimee and some swell insight on drawing on that Woodbury panel. I'm always up for a quick gesture class if you get one started!


Rochelle Burrows said...

OK I actually have a tear in my eye.

Since I found Walt's notes online all that time ago when they were available on animation meat, he's always been something of a teacher I never had. People in my class at college would say "How did you learn to do that?" and I'd go off on one about the amazing notes by this man called Walt Stanchfield.

When the books finally came out I was so excited. I've been telling everybody I know to get them and I've dog eared my favourite chapters, highlighted inspirational quotes and literally soaked up every word.

I didn't know him personally, but he must have been such a great teacher. His notes have touched and taught me more than I thought anyone or anything could have.

David Pimentel said...

you know it's amazing to hear the stories like yours of those who were touched and taught by Walt's notes. To have known him or at least met him you would have felt a wonderful spirit with you. Walt was a blessed man with lots to give.

thanks for your comment and everyone else's as well.

Ruben Berenguel said...

Wonderful post. I was looking for Drawn to Life online, wanted to know it was a printed version of his "Gesture Drawing for Animation" pdf which was moving along the net for a while. Now I can get this as a book!

Thanks for sharing your experience, it is really interesting.