California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts, is world famous for its Character Animation undergraduate program. The selective program has produces some of the industry's most well known filmmakers: Tim Burton of Edward Scissorhands, John Lasseter of Toy Story, and Craig McCracken of Powerpuff Girls. The program's faculty and staff take the admissions portfolio extremely seriously. Applicants must submit a collection of work that reflects creativity and potential.

Figure painting of a posing figure model.
Figure painting of a posing figure model.

Enroll in figure drawing classes. Working with live models is essential. The constant exposure to the human form will provide for a stronger understanding in shape, volume, shadow, and light. The activity will improve observation skills and provide structured platform to experiment and distort. Strategically, participating in figure drawing will create a steady income of new works to include in a portfolio.

Fast pen drawing of children.
Fast pen drawing of children.

Draw people in motion. Speed drawing is a method of observing and quickly capturing motion. They're fast, messy, and tricky. This exercise can be difficult at first, but it will noticeably strengthen observation skills and build a sense for how people move. Recommended tools are ballpoint pens, brush pens, markers, ink quills, and anything that will produce a fast line. This is great activity to fill sketchbooks and can be done practically anywhere.

A pencil drawing of a cat in several poses.
A pencil drawing of a cat in several poses.

Draw live animals. The goal is to become accustomed to capturing movement and a variety of forms. Explore different tools and do not be afraid to use color. Practice speed drawing for fast moving animals, but feel free to take longer time to explore setting, mood, and light. A local zoo is a great place to work every week. Although, one can also draw pets when zoos are unavailable.

Pen drawings from Eliza Frye's successfully admitted character portfolio.
Pen drawings from Eliza Frye's successfully admitted character portfolio.

Draw from the mirror. Create challenges. Study the face with different lighting, angels, drawing styles, and use different tools. This can be an activity for the sketchbook or for larger portfolio pieces.