Walt Stanchfield Books

I’m going to take my time here, so I’ll put the summary first:
Walt Stanchfield, Volume 1Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes, Volume 1: The Walt Stanchfield Lectures

Walt Stanchfield, Volume 2Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes, Volume 2: The Walt Stanchfield Lectures

Ok, now for the long version…

In 1994, during my first week as an intern at Disney, everything was magic to me. They had a shelf full of fresh (and expensive) animation paper for anyone to use. Draw through your stack? Take some more! Unfathomable. The pencil supply shelf was like a treasure chest. I figured that these must be the most popular pencil choices of hundreds of the greatest artists from over decades of use. I took one of each to figure out which one would be the key to unlocking my latent drawing virtuosity. (None of them worked.) There were drawing classes every lunch hour – with food provided! Was this heaven? I was so wide-eyed and for years I saved every scrap of paper that came across my desk because I just knew that when I am 87 years old, I’ll spend my hours going through dusty old boxes, reading memos reminiscing how great life was.

The weekly newsletter was a treat. It was called The Twilight Bark, after the way dogs sent news in 101 Dalmatians. On Monday mornings a copy would be waiting at your desk. Reading it made me feel like I had been given access to an exclusive club (which, I guess, I had). On my second Monday, the newsletter ended with a few pages of advice on drawing with examples of quick sketch gesture drawings. At the end of the typewritten pages was the handwritten signature ‘Walt.’ I assumed it was an old memo from Walt Disney, but I never knew he did any sort of instruction like that. Well, he didn’t (except for a few memos that float around).

The Walt, I soon learned, was Walt Stanchfield. Walt had retired from animation production, and he was at least in his seventies at the time, but once a month he returned to the studio to teach for two lunches. That’s when he would drop off the pages for his latest newsletter and it would appear in The Twilight Bark to the benefit of the entire studio the following week. That was REAL magic.

Walt had the most joyful, energetic spirit I have ever known. Yes, his classes were about drawing, but they were also about seeing, judging, storytelling, passion, life, creation, sports, clarity, art. “Live life dammit!” is something he would say. He’d tell us to ignore all that garbage we learned in anatomy class. He wanted us to make decisions in the drawings and tell a story through the image. If we drew the model exactly, he’d show us how more interesting it would be if we pushed the pose, moved the hand out here for clarity, tilt the chin to direct the viewer’s eye to where we want them to focus. He didn’t want us to draw what we saw, he wanted us to take in the idea and power it on to the page with verve and directness. He was so hooked on creativity. He’d sometimes share his latest drawings that he made while driving down the freeway from his home near Solvang!

When anyone asks about what type of drawing classes to take, there are two answers I always give: figure drawing and Walt Stanchfield style gesture drawing. Walt’s drawing is a unique brand that isn’t taught very often. Luckily, some of the people I took Walt’s classes with have carried on the tradition and are teaching what Walt taught them. Tom Gately works and teaches at Pixar and Dave Pimentel works and teaches at Dreamworks. I’m working on some unsuspecting souls to teach at Disney right now. The reason I give for recommending the Stanchfield style of drawing is that it is what I use most in my daily work. Doing CG doesn’t demand much drawing from me, but when I’m planning out my shots in thumbnails, I’m using everything I can remember from Walt’s classes and his handouts to find clarity, directness, and entertainment in my poses.

After all these years, I’ve given or thrown away most of the things I saved those first few years, but not the Walt Stanchfield notes. Those are more valuable to me than anything I have collected from the studio. They’re just a stack of photocopies, but they are a symbol of Walt’s passion for life, and his constant search for inspiration that he translated into ways to inspire us. They remind me of the times when the model was stuck in traffic and he would get up and pose – he was the best model we ever had. They remind me of how he’d lean over my shoulder with his coffee breath to correct a drawing, then ask to have it. That meant it would probably show up in the next handout as an example of what NOT to do. He’d pat me on the shoulder and say, “Don’t worry, I won’t use any names.” I miss that coffee breath. They also remind me of the few times that he used a drawing I did as a good example. I can’t tell you how proud I was to be “published” in Walt’s “Words of Wisom.” It meant I had actually done a drawing that was good enough to possible inspire someone else. I’m sure he knew that helped students like me far more than any readers.

Last year, I heard that Don Hahn, of Disney Producer fame, was working with Walt’s widow to take the years of typewritten, photocopied handouts and compile them in to books so that anyone can have beautiful copies of this inspiring collection. Well, the time is upon us. Next month, the books will be released. I found out because I was contacted by Don to tell me that one of my drawings is included. Even after life, Walt has once again provided me one of my proudest moments in animation.

So if you can’t tell, I am giving these books the highest recommendation. The “Words of Wisdom” are that and much more. They are filled with fantastic examples of how to clearly draw, fresh perspectives (even after decades) of how to look at life and creativity, and tons of quotes and references to books and artists that will keep you searching out new avenues of inspiration, just as Walt Stanchfield did. Get these books.

For some more one Walt and his “Words of Wisom”…
See the trailer:
at Don Hahn’s website
Read about Walt and the books (with sample pages):
on Mark Kennedy’s blog
on Hans Bacher’s blog

27 Comments on “Walt Stanchfield Books

  1. Fantastic article.

    I spotted these books a few months ago and realized that they are only for pre-order. I’m really excited for their release and I’ll be the first in line at Borders when the are. Thanks for sharing your experiences with Walt with us. It was a great read.

  2. I saw them too as a pre-order item on Amazon. Actually, I was already looking forward to getting them, but after this little post of yours, I think they’ll become one of the best items in my book collection.

  3. Animation Meat had these online for awhile, but of course took them down out of respect for the Stanchfield family. These notes are nothing less than GOLD and a must buy!

    I don’t think these book will be available for another month or so, but after seeing this post, I think I had better reserve mine now.

    I’m sure everyone is going to be fighting to be first in line for these books.

  4. Thanks so much for this notice!!
    I heard about these books from a CalArts student this last summer, and now they’re finally here! Pure treasure. I’ll be sure to order these.

    When you know, you should let us know which drawing in the book is yours, Clay!

  5. Thanks for the heads up Clay.

    Ive been looking forward to this release, i too have the notes in pdf form but loose notes are always awkward, and having them in a nicely printed book all organized and clear would be a welcome addition to any animators collection 🙂

    Good times for learning animation with all of this information becoming available.

  6. I have the Animation Meat notes, as well as the “book” that someone pulled together and offered up on the web, and I’ll be ordering both these volumes. The information is gold, and I’m sure the print quality far outstrips what my pathetic little printer was capable of. Can’t wait!

  7. Josh, a couple reasons I can think of…
    First, Walt was giving these notes out long before I was at Disney. There are years’ worth of his handouts and I don’t think Animation Meat got to all of them. I don’t know what is in the books particularly, but I’m looking forward to reading some things I’ve never seen before.
    Second, on a personal note, being an “artist,” I know how much I rely on the support of my wife. Walt’s wife is still alive and I’m sure that the sales from this book would be an appreciated way for her to know that the support she gave Walt all those years is still resonating with artists years after his passing.
    A couple years after Walt passed away, in order to pay for medical bills, his wife (I’m sorry I can’t recall her name) decided to sell many of his drawings and paintings at a silent auction to the people who she felt would cherish them most – the staff at Disney. I remember how she was very touched by the outpouring of generosity and love for Walt and I think it would be nice for her to get that feeling again.

  8. Thanks for the heads up, I hadn’t heard of these books before now. I will DEFINITELY be buying these.

    Clay have you ever checked out Mike Mattesi’s book on force and dynamic life drawing? I had the extreme pleasure of taking his class not long after his time at Disney, it was a big eye opener. His book is kind of a condensed down version of the class.

  9. Wow, thanks for all the extra info Clay, it’s fascinating & makes me jealous beyond reason!

    Like others have said, once I saw the announcement that Walt’s notes would be collected in a book I’ve been sat eagerly waiting their arrival. I pre-ordered them the instant they popped up on Amazon.

    If I ever meet you Clay, you have to promise to point out & sign that drawing you made… Well, unless it’s one of the ‘What NOT to do’ 😀

  10. Very well put CLAY! Your stories take me back to the days when we used to hang with the man, the myth, the legend! ill be proud to see these books out for all to learn.

  11. Wow, it´s very nice to know that Walt´s book is finally out.
    I had gathered all the notes that was available online, I read a little bit on them, but after knowing it would turn into a book, I stopped and decided to wait for the book, since it would be more organized and contain the rest of the notes and the missing ones.

    Being an student of animation, I´m very jealous to read these stories of people that worked with or studied with those Disney masters.

  12. hey clay
    im planning on going to sheridan in their bachelor of applied arts animation program, but after listining to the andreas deja interview again he said disney was purely looking for artists with life drawing, and he got in to disney through an arts school. should i go into a program thats just life drawing then?

  13. Mmm – I’ve put these on pre-order at amazon – seem like amazing value!

    Any inidication of when the next podcast is going to happen? – or have they all become Animation Mentor exclusives LOL!? Its been 5 months and I’m gagging Clay!!!!!

  14. A-I’m jealous of your experience.
    B-I’m going to buy the book.
    C-I second the notion of letting us know which drawing is yours!
    thanks Clay!

  15. I just got volume 2 in the mail today. Volume 1 looks like it is on its way now. I’m overwhelmed! After reading just one section of the notes (“Look at Me! Look at Me!” poses), I am already rethinking the way that I approach life drawing. How lucky you were to have met and worked with such an inspirational artist! I can’t wait to go through these books.

  16. I remember getting copies of these notes from one of my instructors while I was still in college. It was in a fat binder that was practically falling apart and by the time he passed them on to us, the pages had been through countless generations of photocopies. HE talked about Walt’s class like it was the best thing ever. So when I heard on Animation Meat that Dee (walt’s wife) was going to publish them soon, I pre-ordered them as soon as I could get to a computer! I wish I would’ve had the chance to meet the man himself, but he has left behind such an inspiring legacy, its as if he’s still here. Thanks for helping keep his teachings alive!

  17. Tomorrow the books will release in Germany, I’m so curious about it! For five years I try to learn anything about animation, but I can’t study animation yet, because I’m still in High School. Now 800 pages of Walt Stanchfield are available and I can’t believe it! But I think it is a little unfair that you in America have the chance to read it one month earlier 😉

  18. I am SO much loving reading Walt Stanchfeld’s “Drawn to Life”.
    It’s like reading a companion or sequel to “The Illusion of Life”.

  19. I entered the internship program in the Fall of 93 and had xeroxes of Stanchfield’s notes after leaving Disney. ( I worked in FL not CA 🙁 )I am very pleased that Focal printed all of his works…a must for any artist, specifically animators.

  20. Hi Clay ,

    From the day when i studied his “Gesture Drawing For Animation” book , i’m searching for essence of pose.

    I just want to share the most important belief i learned ,

    Get the ” first impression ” (Like Ahaa moment), capture the essence of pose, with minimum lines (quick sketch may be)… let the right brain do his job …:)

    I wish , but i cant buy his book …… ..

    still i learned so many things from his Gesture Drawing book , literally freed me from drawing problems, gave the right direction to look for motion, tension, balancing, stretch and uniqueness in the gestures…

  21. I’ve read volume 1, now I’m on volume 2, and God, they’re amazing! It’s the best guide I could ever ask for. That man was (and is!) so good at motivating people to search for the pose and draw better… I never get tired of reading it (and drawing, haha.) A toast to Walt Stanchfield!

  22. Bought these books and met Don Hahn too! He was very passionate speaking to a group of animation students, like myself mostly in the room, about these books. They are an amazing collection. I’m glad that I bought these!

  23. Tom Catley teaches Gesture Drawing at Animation Collaborative http://www.animationcollaborative.com. I feel very honored to be able to attend his classes. Tom is awesome teacher! And with each class the importance of gesture and figure drawing for any serious animator is so evident. I enjoy classes very much and pleased to see how my skills are dramatically change with each passing week!