Do you need to be able to draw convincing figures from any angle in any position from memory to be a good animator or comic artist?
The answer will be different depending on what you want to draw. If you draw "cartoons" then you probably really just need to focus on shape/design and gesture. But if you're like me and you want to draw stuff like "The legend of Korra", "Ghost in the shell", DC or Marvel type comic art, then the answer is YES.
Reference of course will always improve your work drastically, but from the artists I have spoken to ( people who work in the business for 10+ years), it's very clear that you need to know all the major muscle groups, and you need to be able to manipulate the figure in 3d space. Like I once heard on a podcast with a Disney animator, drawing should not be a "problem", you want to focus on the storytelling and not be limited by by your ability to draw.
I'm just sharing a couple of things here that were posting on the penciljack.com forum, which has been a great place for me to get critique on my work. Hopefully others can benefit from this as well.
(drawing by hadesillustration)
This is some advice by a user called hadesillustration:
"You simply need to memorize certain things in order to draw:
1. Human proportions - how long are arms, legs, torsos, heads, hands, etc
2. Muscle and bone structure - don't memorize them all, but study the big ones that will show up often (biceps, triceps, quads, abs, pecs, delts, lats, serratus magnus!!! - those are the funny rib lumps below the armpit, figure out how hands and feet work - that helps huge with how to draw forearms and calves, as well as ankles - there's plenty more but those are the ones that come to mind up front)
3. Faces - this is just another memorization of facial components - their general shape and location on the face
Once you get that junk memorized and are able to reproduce it consistently it's like getting a black belt in a martial art - you've mastered the basics. Then you move onto the real fun and that's using the basics to create dynamics, incorporating twists and shadows to create depth.
Art isn't rocket science, but it's just as complex. It's as easy as plugging new numbers into an existing formula to get the result you want. The problem is that many of the formulae take years to master. The real trick to learning art is to do it, a LOT. Keep drawing and keep posting to get crits."
Below is a crit on a couple of sketches I did by a user called Bruce Lee :P His real name is Loston and he's a really nice and helpful guy. You can check out his website here. He's an industry pro and I really appreciate the time he took to run through my sketches with some advice. It really opened my eyes that I render too much useless anatomy and should think about shape before detail. I think you can see that change in my Red Sonja drawings I posted recently.
Anyway I hope this can help other people as much as it helped me, I'm not the type of artist that keeps his "secrets". I believe there are no secrets, the secret to being a good artist is to love every moment you put a pencil to a page and to have a genuine interest in the world around you.
Now pull out that sketchbook and get drawing!