3: Contemporary Animation Inspiration - related posts In Process Inspiration: art and illustration Physical media

Lines of communication

Much of the power of animation comes from the drawing style and how far the type of line supports the emotional and narrative content.

Clean outlines lines for manipulation of rigged characters have become the norm. They are easier to read, clearly separating characters from backgrounds and are easier and faster to replicate as part of animation studio production lines.

Hand-drawn lines in natural media, or digital lines that attempt to replicate natural media, convey emotion and feeling.

to recall the reality within the drawing rather than thinking the drawings themselves are real

Isao Takahata

There are many different line styles that can be used expressively: thick lines, thin lines, variable width lines. Choices to be made about the colour of lines and how far they affect colours of shapes. Different types of line can be used for different characters. Or can change with a character’s emotions.

It is also possible to omit lines all together to give greater freedom with palettes. But this requires attention to tonal contrast and negative space so that figures continue to be readable against backgrounds.

The artists and illustrators below present a range of graphic styles with which I would like to experiment in my animation on the iPad. Many of them have also worked with textless, or near textless narrative, and their work as a whole is discussed in more detail as I develop my own animations in Part 4. The full posts are accessed through the title links.


Stik is a British graffiti artist based in London known for painting large stick figures as street art, often with a very political message about social inequality, homelessness and gentrification of low-income areas..

What interests me is the way in which he manages to get a wide range of expressions and stories in his murals simply through varying the size and position of a few dots in a circle, together with rectagle body and length and angle of the stick legs.

For more details see:

Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake is a British illustrator who is particularly well-known for his illustrations of children’s books. His quirky line drawings over whimsical watercolour wash have a childlike nostalgia and can make even dark themes seem lighter and humorous.

He has authored textless books like ‘Clown’ and some of his work has been animated.

For more details see his website:

Sarah Fanelli

Sara Fanelli is an Italian British artist and illustrator, best known for her children’s picture books

She combines drawing and painting with cutouts and collage to create humorous expressive images. Although she uses text in different expressive handwritten styles, her visual approach could be adapted for animation without text.

For more detail see her website:

Marjane Satrapi 

An Iranian-born French graphic novelist, cartoonist, illustrator, film director, and children’s book author.


Yoshimoto Nara

Yoshitomo Nara is a Japanese artist best known for his paintings of children and animals that appear simultaneously sweet and sinister, as seen in his work Do Not Disturb! (1996). He explores themes of isolation, rebellion, and spirituality through printmaking, painting, sculpture, ceramics, and installations.

For more images see:

Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin’s drawings, back-traced monoprints and animations about sexuality and violence have a very vulnerable line that reflects their subject matter. The drawing style is somewhat reminiscent of the Indian community drawings of empowerment and disempowerment

Tracey Emin talks about her work for the 2010 exhibition ‘Those Who Suffer’.
A somewhat bemused response from a somewhat bemused and worried male American tourist.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was an African-American artist whose spray-painted gestural expressive marks and scribbled words, referenced everything from his Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage, to political issues, pop-culture icons, and Biblical verse. “If you wanna talk about influence, man, then you’ve got to realize that influence is not influence, it’s simply someone’s idea going through my new mind.” At only 27, his troubles with fame and drug addiction led to his tragic death from a heroin overdose on August 12, 1988 in New York, NY.


Illustrator Line Art