Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wrinkles Were Actually Studied In Art Schools Once

Eddie is fascinated with wrinkles. He can talk for hours about them. He makes me think about them. While we had illuminating discussion of wrinkle theory over pizza one evening, I drew this sketch of how I remembered George Wunder's wrinkle technique looked.

I'm personally interested in how wrinkles are drawn in cartoons and comics. Honestly, most people can't draw wrinkles for crap. Me, included. I learned the "cartoon skin" approach to wrinkles from classic cartoons.Bob McKimson just wraps the clothes (and fur) skin tight onto the characters.

Even Rod Scribner, who is known for liking wrinkles, just draws loose fitting cartoon skin.

See how real wrinkles look. Nothing at all like cartoons.
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Here are a couple variations of loose cartoon skin.

I think it's funny that even though this Mickey toy is actually made of fabric, they went out of their way to sew it up as tight as cartoon skin. Wouldn't it be cool to dress like this in real life?

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Wrinkles are extremely complicated, and there is actually a physical science of how they work, which is much too complicated for cartoonists.

Old time illustrators like Rockwell, were wrinkle masters.,%20the%20Problem%20we%20all%20live%20with.jpg
Wrinkles at one time were studied at art school. It was considered a serious part of art fundamentals. Art schools in general must have been much more serious about actually teaching you things at one time.

Eddie's theory is that art schools should be run like fascism. When I see the results of this kind of teaching 80-100 years ago and more, I tend to agree.

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Comic strip wrinkles.

Milton Caniff loved wrinkles and he developed a style of drawing them that was widely copied by other comic strip and book artists. These wrinkles are more realistic ha cartoon wrinkles, but I suspect that they were copied superficially from illustrators like Rockwell.
Comic artists and cartoonists tend to be self taught. These old time great ones had much higher standards of art to imitate that we do though and so their superficiality is still much more skilled than our generations'. That's because we are 20 steps removed from the real thing and they were only 1 or 2.

I always loved Jack Kirby's wrinkles. I don't know if they are strictly sensible, or just stylized from copying his own heroes' work.

Kirby is especially rebellious, because he took a whole comic genre that can only be convincing with cartoon skin then he went and sagged and wrinkled it up.

Superheroes wear cartoon skin underwear to show off their muscles. Superman costumeWhen a real live person wears a superhero suit, it is much less impressive and points to how wacky the whole idea of superheroes is. didn't stop Kirby from creating the first superheroes that wore realistic saggy, lumpy underwear.[jack+kirby.+the+fantastic+four.+no.+010.+cover.jpg]


Anonymous said...

Natural looking, interesting, logical folds are even harder to draw from imagination than the human figure, imo. Even if one has grasped the science behind how the various forms of folds are created, putting it down on paper with the proper topograpical rendering and variation is another thing all together.

I think this is a prime area that great masters never left to chance. Even if figures were done from imagination, everything from posable mannikins to soaking cloth in paper mache has been used in the proper study of wrinkles.

Unless you have a photographic memory like Frazetta supposedly has, but even his folds are nowhere near as correct, elaborate, or specific as a Rockwell or Ingres.

David Germain said...

At my animation school, one of the life drawing teachers taught us that in order to draw convincing wrinkles you have to draw a cylinder first. I guess the basic construction of a wrinkle is a cylinder. I never did get the hang of it.

msmarg said...

I go to a very expensive fascist art schoool. You learn not to argue and not to ask why. Your drawing skill improves incredibly. Its not fun but you are not paying to have fun, you are paying to learn to draw.

trevor said...

Can the same principles of cloth wrinkles be applied to flesh wrinkles?

- trevor.

Toole said...

Wat do you think of Hogarths wrinkle book. It has all these systematic ways of figuring out the energies and forces behind wrinkles. I know you don't like his anatomy book.

David Gale said...

Totally with Eddie on the fascist art school thing. Contemporary art schools are run like daycares or therapy groups or something. At least the one that I attended was.

HemlockMan said...

Thanks! Kirby was a genius within his field of comics art! Sole creator of the core of the Marvel universe (with the exceptions of Ditko's creations: Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, and the gold-suited version of Iron Man).

I saw Jessica Alba in a blue-screen suit once. She certainly pulled off cartoon skin in reality.

Jack Ruttan said...

I'm kind of afraid that the solution to this is to hire models and dress them in accurate costumes, photographing them in detail for every tableau. Then carefully lightbox these photos, having done value studies to get colours and blacks right. Only then are you ready to attempt the first preliminary drawings, but by that time the deadline's gone, and you're broke.

Mr. Semaj said...

Lee Hammond has a great book on realistic sketching, except it doesn't cover wrinkles in detail.

mongo said...

Hey John,
I'm watching an old MGM cartoon right now, there's wrinkles everywhere. It adds so much life to the characters. One of the cat characters scoops up the side walk like a sheet. Pretty cool. I had no idea how critical the wrinkle is in animation, or atleast in really good animation.

Tex Avery toons are pretty tasty.

vicki said...

i may or may not love you more than i love wrinkles.

i live for wrinkles, and i think it may be a disease that i caught from public transit railings.

they're something i just cant keep down, whether they are appropriate or not.

case and point:

anywho, you make me laugh, you crazy bastard.

ted said...

I think The Kirby's use of the the old "I've got a load on" saggy underwear is one of the reasons his characters seem so alive. The relatability of his baggy-pants reality is only emphasized by the explosive energy of barely contained emotions. Man, that cat was solid gold! John I know you've talked about Kirby before, but if you could do an in-depth post about his influence on you, I would eat it like iced-cream. As a guy who just discovered Kirby within the last year, I would love to hear what one great illustrator of explosive emotion had to say about the other.

Aaron said...

the first thing I'd like to say is Norman Rockwell is too good to be real.

I'm not convinced that artschool needs to be fascist. I don't think there's any substitute for being personally drivin. Whoever wants to learn and is determined to grow, will learn and grow, and whoever wants to play video games and go out drinking will play video games and go out drinking. I don't think artschool ought to be all namby pamby and touchy feely. I just think it needs to be an enviornment where the student is given deadlines, and instruction, and facilities conducive for learning.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Maybe Pixar should put themselves to the task of making the wrinkle revolution. They could start small with tight-belt shirt wrinkles, and gradually escalate to full-blown slept-in suits from the forties.

Boris Hiestand said...

I guess wrinkles and folds in drawing is all a matter of portraying shadow and light.
Cartoon and animation type designs are obviously kept as simple as possible as they have to be drawn so many times. A single line rarely does the trick... But Kahl got it on the button in some of the Trusty the dog scenes he did in "Lady And The Tramp" didn't he. Damn, talk about wrinkles!

When they started xeroxing their drawings in the 60s most Disney films had that lovely balance between simple/stylized flat design, and a real fleshiness with their characters full of creases and folds.

CartoonSteve said...

I had an Art School Nazi teacher in the 70s. He'd freak out if you so much as sneezed during class.
The work which resulted was the most uninspired "Bob Dobbs" looking human specimens.

Looking back though, I'm glad to have had that experience. It provided a good solid structure from which to start and later helped balance the influence of the wilder teachers in later quarters.

CartoonSteve said...

Even Shatner uses wrinkles in his acting.

For one trek episode, he wore a ill-fitting uniform in order to appear old and wrinkly:

Whit said...

Kirby was always a master at spotting blacks in his work, and as he aged, things got more abstract. His wrinkles darned near approached cubism, yet they still worked.

Rudy Tenebre said...

The Flemish masters (Van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Petrus Christus, Van Eyck) have an advanced sense of the fold that still related to the very awkward, very frontal sense of space which can be traced back to Byzantine icon paintings, (whose folds are a bizarre procession of very graphic cracks). However, the formula inwhich lines and contours relate in Byzantine painting can still be seen in Leonardo's drapery studies, (such as the one posted here). Method invades natural observation!!!

Jack Ruttan said...

Actually, wrinkles are fun. There are rules to them, which you can learn eventually, and maybe even apply them to your cartoon characters.

I thought that Barbara Bradley's book "Drawing People" had a lot of good advice on wrinkles, and how different types of material make different ones.

SoleilSmile said...

Hi John, I think the Academy of Art in San Francisco teaches wrinkles. There are two classes in the Foundations dept. One features an assignment where the draws a lit draped cloth for a minimum of 15 hours. The assignment is designed to teach light sources, wrinkles and patience. Then there the next class with the great Henry Yan called heads and hands which concentrates on people.
Schools with classical training are out there, you just gotta dig through all the Concept Art schools to find them. I think Art Center, and Cooper Union are two other good schools that stress classical training as well.

Jeff Read said...

I don't think art schools need to be fascistic, but I do think that they need to pass or fail students depending on technique, rather than "message".

Actual comment from a videogame message board I frequent:

"Art isn't decoration. Art isn't prettiness. Art is a form of anti-mainstream expression. It is supposed to offend, to provoke, to make you think thoughts you never thought before. And get a new outlook on things."

With this kind of lop-sided perspective on what art is -- i.e., it doesn't matter what you do or how well you do it, the only defining criterion of art is its political message -- is it any wonder that art education has gone down the proverbial crapper? (The particular artistic item under discussion was not a drawing or sculpture, but a version of Space Invaders rigged so that the invaders destroy the towers of the World Trade Center.)

For an example of a non-fascistic, but still technique-focused, art educator I would perhaps cite Betty Edwards. I hear nothing but good things about her system.

carlo guillot said...

Hey John
I've just found this:
Ralph Bakshi at the San Diego Comic Con.

Have fun

perspex said...

meh...i don't really care.

its cartooning!

Anonymous said...

I personally love drawing wrinkles. I think it gives such personality to the characters.

I think Robert Crumb has a pretty good techniques as well with wrinkles even though they may be a wee bit more simplistic, such as here:

Crumb's master crosshatching makes distracts the eye I think from the simplicity of the wrinkles, which makes them probably more unique than super accurate.

Nat said...

Hey John, off topic and not spam. Digg is showing Ren & Stimpy some sweet sweet nostalgic love

John T. Quinn 3rd said...

Have you seen the Famous Artists Cartoon Course (copyright 1956)? Lesson 9 is Clothes and folds. Terrific simplification and quick reference resource.

Mark Simonson said...

Rockwell worked from photos. He used friends and neighbors as models.

Funka said...

A friend of mine who has no interest whatsoever in being an artist can draw the most perfect, amazing wrinkles you've ever seen.

That's about all he can draw, mind you but still! He has pages of wrinkled paper sacks, copied wrinkles from fashion magazines and crumpled up pieces of paper. It fascinates him yet he's extremely nonchalant about it.

Anonymous said...

That makes a lot of sense to me. Wrinkles are a lost art form, I think with the abstraction of the art form based on photography the style chaged over the years. Once people no longer needed a highly realist rendition of what people looked like, they no longer did the wrinkles. I haven't studied wrinkles ever but I have studied da vinci and can reproduce his sketches. It's a lot of fun to do.
Here is a small peom based on your findings,

"Wrinkles in Time"
With loss comes sacrifice of the artifical work.
When once we sought haven we now turn to darkness. The lines of wrinkles stay on the person, but not in the face of time.

Look forward to your next insightful thought process on the artform of animmation, Will

Anonymous said...

I've seen some very interesting folds and wrinkles in the cartoons from The Maxx (back from MTV's Oddities in the 90s.) Look at the cape/outfit worn by Mr.Gone and also the clothing on characters. The animators were trying to get as close to the original comic book art from Sam Kieth, who I remember once said his work was heavily influenced by Frank Frazetta. I think it's a great example of comic book and animation study on wrinkles.

kurtwil said...

Kudos for Schribner for being able to animate wrinkles that enhance, rather than detract, from an animated character.

Meanwhile, CGI wrinkles are relatively easy to add as textures, but animating them is a pain, especially for games using low resolution character meshes (one can often see underlying triangles in character's clothing folds).

That poor Disney Cinderella Prince's one of animation's most reviled characters (his animator, Eric Larson, wasn't thrilled either), yet princey was copied frame by frame for Fox's Antastasia. Princey got more dynamic in CINDERELLA III but still followed all the JK observations.