We Sketched a Zoo

By Emma Pennington

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We even fed the giraffes!

As an aspiring character animator, being able to sketch live animals is an invaluable experience. It’s not only helpful to learn their structures, but also to study their movements. A big part of my life here at CCAD is the Animation Student Collective, and one of the many activities we plan are outings to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for live sketching sessions.

We visited the zoo several times throughout the semester and had a blast. I especially love sketching great apes, such as gorillas and orangutans. They often sit right up to the glass and are intrigued by what we are doing. Some of them are so used to artists visiting, that they'll strike a pose. I hold up my drawings to them and their reactions are really fascinating. Sometimes they'll simply poke the glass or stroke their face. Other times they get really excited. One time a younger gorilla started to imitate what I was doing and began making circular motions with her arm—as if she were drawing on an invisible sketchbook! You can really see the intelligence as you look into their faces.

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Art Director of the ASC, Jinny Hinkle, sketching.

On one of our visits, I was particularly fascinated by the puma. Normally when I see this exhibition, the large cat is hiding or sleeping, but this time it was awake. It reminded me a lot of my tabby, Hobbes, and I noticed similar mannerisms. As it paced around the exhibit, studying the onlookers through the glass, its defined shoulders raised one at a time. I’ve noticed this in Hobbes when he “hunts” socks.

I'll never forget the connections I've made with these incredible animals.

Being in the Animation Student Collective isn’t all about trips to the zoo. My favorite meetings are when we host visiting artists and alumni. Disney Character Designer Chris Oatley is a frequent visitor (and he's a CCAD alumnus). The most recent visiting artist was Pascal Campion. The ASC teamed up with our illustration sisters and spoke with the artist through Skype. Pascal is a master of color, and I was surprised to learned that hadn't been trained in color theory – he's simply very observant.

It's exciting to be able to hear from industry professionals that were once students here like us.

Emma Pennington is a CCAD senior animation major who enjoys watching Netflix, quoting the Simpsons, and sharing sketches on her personal blog.