Aaron Blaise Work Process [Animation/Illustration]

Aaron Blaise is a superb animation artist and an excellent teacher, who also knows a thing or two about the creative process. This post is a process analysis of one of his drawings (2:06-2:38 in the video below), including a couple of examples of how to apply a similar process in different creative fields.


In this post I’d like to focus on one pose I chose from this video (2:06-2:38), and talk specifically about the time portion of each pass in the process.

As usual, this happens to be shown through drawing, but it applies to other creative fields as well (see below).

Passes Analysis

The piece goes through 5 passes (actually some of the passes can be broken to sub-passes, but let’s keep this simple):

Aaron Blaise process analysis 5 passes

  1. Pose. The artist quickly captures the essence of the piece (only 2 seconds out of the total 32 – in real time, less than a minute out of a total of 10-15 minutes).
  2. Basic Drawing. This captures the structure and some details, but the line work is a bit crude.
  3. Final line work (AKA inking)
  4. Shading captures basic light and shade patterns.
  5. Cool Factor. Just a few well-chosen highlights that really bump up the effect.

Here’s the analysis of the time each pass had taken:

Aaron Blaise creative process time analysis

Time analysis

What can we learn from this?

  • Fast capture. The key to success is to CAPTURE the essence of the piece as quickly as possible. Omit anything that’s not relevant to the core.
  • Defined Passes. The other key to success is having well defined passes. You don’t shade the ear while doing the line work in some other part of the drawing.
  • The 1/4 rule. The substance of the piece is essentially done after pass 2 (everything else is “beauty”). It takes less than 25% of the total time. I found this to be a good ratio for pretty much every creative work, no matter what kind or size.
  • A balanced “Cool Factor” pass. The “Cool factor” pass is relatively long here (almost 1/5 of the work), usually it would be shorter. This is a really important pass that most artists don’t use correctly (if at all). This topic deserves its own post, so I’ll save it for next time :)
  • Flippin’. Apart from the passes issue, notice how he flips the drawing after pass #1, and again after pass #2. This freshens things up and helps see the work more objectively.
For more art and some excellent drawing lessons from Aaron Blaise, check out his site : http://creatureartteacher.com

What if I don’t draw?

(Or: how can I apply this in other creative fields?)
As mentioned above, these ideas are not drawing specific. Let’s take screenwriting and web design as two random examples:

  • Fast capture: as a screenwriter, outline you ideas in bullets real fast. As a web designer, doodle your ideas on legal pad.
  • Defined passes: as a screenwriter you can do a plot pass, dialogue pass, language pass etc. As a web designer you can go through a structure pass, a color pass, a texture pass etc.
  • The 1/4 rule: write in a crude, creative, straightforward way for 25% of the time; structure, rewrite and refine 75% percent.  As a web designer, spend 1/4 of your time on a good rough working mockup, then use the rest to make it beautiful and exciting.
  • Cool Factor. For screenwriters, the cool factor pass could be about subtle niceties of language, or perhaps adding a few cute jokes. Web designers can use it for some bells an whistles like animated buttons, for example. In either case, 10% to 15% of the time for the “cool factor” is a good ballpark.
  • Flipping. This is more tricky. The idea is to find ways of making your mind view the work in a different way. Screenwriters often find it refreshing to print the text instead of watching it on screen. Web designers can use flipping, but also stuff like inverting the colors for a while, just to see it in a different way.

How do YOU do it? What kind of cool factor are you using? How long does it take you to capture the essence of what you’re going for? What kind of passes do you use? Share your own process tip below.


More about what we do and how it can benefit you in the next video

(and watch for the link at the very end):


Want to know more about the creative process?




One Comment on “Aaron Blaise Work Process [Animation/Illustration]

  1. Pingback: Animation 51 – Exercise #7 | Typewritten Words

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