Monday, January 05, 2009

Animation School Lessons 12: Head Mechanics and Hierarchy

This drawing of Tom, at first glance looks very complicated. There are a lot of lines and details and hairs that could possibly distract you from the contruction and logic of the face. Jerry and Tuffy's faces are simple by comparisn - BUT THEY FOLLOW THE SAME LOGIC.
Tom is just more detailed than the mice, because his drawing is so much bigger. The bigger your character is on screen, the more detail and contrasts in sizes you can take advantage of - if you know what you are doing.

Tom becomes simpler once you understand the basics of construction and facial mechanics .

Facial mechanics are the logical ways that faces make expressions. How when one part of the face moves, it pulls or pushes other parts. It starts with knowing what the basic features are that make an expression.


Mouth Shape


Those 4 basic parts can add up to an infinite amount of expressions. They each can be broken down into sub parts:

Eyes have pupils.
Eyebrows have accompanying brow wrinkles and sometime individual hairs.
The mouth has an upper lip, a lower lip, a hole when its open, teeth and a tongue.
All these sub forms can help define or refine the basic expression made by the basic parts.

For example:

The wrinkles on the brow that accompany the eyebrows themselves are part of the brow muscle that is making the expression. The wrinkles go where the hairy parts go. Follow the fur, I always say. They follow along and obey the same planes and forms. The space between the wrinkle and the eyebrow should form worm0like fleshy tubes that wrap around the construction of the head.

No lines on a face should ever just float around in space. Every line should have meaning and sense.

Knowing all this, you can then break down logically how this drawing of Tom's head, face and expression works, step by step.

Starting with the main features, then working down to the details.
And making sure the details obey the directions of the larger features.


Mouths are more complicated than eyes and brows because they have more parts and a lot more pliability than the other features, so I'll leave the mouth for another post.

Cartoon wrinkles follow the same basic logic and mechanics as real ones. They are secondary features that help define main features.
You can really see the hierarchy of the main facial features vs the accompanying lesser wrinkles and folds that follow them, in this bust.

Human faces are more complex than cartoon faces and harder to draw. Everything becomes easier when you understand the logic and hierarchy of it all.

But you gotta practice and copy good drawings using the construction method if you are to make any real gains in skill and understanding.

Just thinking about it won't make your drawings any better.


Christine Gerardi said...

Thanks, John. I've gotten way, way better since I started reading this blog.

Chickens and Beandip said...

Did you show the Cg as a good example or bad?

Ian Andersen said...

Hey John, when you were first learning from the Preston Blair book, was your copy the revised edition that is available on Amazon, or were you learning from the first edition that you posted when you were doing the first parts of animation school?

I'm mostly curious because I find the original version a lot easier to want to practice with simply because the characters are familiar and well designed. The revised drawings don't seem bad, but they aren't as fun.

JohnK said...

I only had the new one, but use the original.It's even better. It's in my posts about construction.

James said...

Hey John, I've been reading you're blog for a while, and I got a lot out of it, and if you don't mind I just want to say a few things.

I love how you break down constructing drawings, such as this. Everything follows a specific pattern and hierarchy. All drawings should have some sort of solid base to work with.

Also, I have noticed some comments made about how you teach. Ones that say you're teaching style, rather than mechanics. I strongly disagree with that. What you teach may be slightly biased toward a particular style, but you get down to teaching fundamentals, of various styles.

Once you understand those fundamentals, then you can develop your own style. How can you build a better car without wheels. You can, but it be a damn hard thing to do.

Also, about a year ago, IMed you, and sent a video of an animation of mine. As soon as you saw it, you gave me 3 words. Preston Blair Book. I'm still studying the hell out of it, and really appreciate you showing it to me. I learned so much from it, I now know what I sent you was total crap.

I've been going through your blog, and saw quite a number of lessons I plan to look over in more detail, and appreciate you for teaching a young artist such as my self.

And also, are you familiar with the artist/illustrator Andrew Loomis, I've been reading a few of his book and learned quite a bit about life drawing, that you can also incorporate into cartoon.

Raff said...

Great stuff; I'll be posting practice results on my page soon.

A request: Fitting the head to the body at the right size and in the right place - especially when there's no neck - has always been a tough thing for me. Anything on that?

Marty Walker said...

So, I discovered this blog a couple days ago and quickly read through all the articles I could. These are great! Thanks. Especially these last few about construction, they've helped a lot.

I have some questions about your views on appeal, though. It's obvious that you completely disapprove of the 90's Disney character design, and you always point back to the 30's and 40's for good design (well, they don't call it the golden age for nothing...). But, what do you think about Disney's recent stuff like Bolt

or even Meet the Robinsons

Also, aren't the taller proportioned character designs sometimes more appropriate? Like Bruce Timm's Batman? I feel like a "cartooney" style wouldn't have fit Batman: TAS' film noir action packed style.

Weirdo said...

Wonderful post. These posts on construction are one of the best tools an aspiring animator/cartoonist can have.

Putty CAD said...

Great stuff, was looking forward to seeing you start fleshing out the detail on Tom's face with your explanations. Tom was always one of my fave characters but I always struggled getting him looking right.

The preston blair book is fantastic but I find your step by step explanations go into more detail. :D

I really hope you put all this into a book with the page flow stuff too, it would be a nice companion to PB's book and you could pack it full of hilarious sketches of your characters.

;) Ric

Guy said...

I feel like a "cartooney" style wouldn't have fit Batman: TAS' film noir action packed style.

You know what would fit an "action packed" style? More than a couple drawings.

Gregg said...

Great post as always, but one question.....

On the third picture, Tom's eyebrow on his closed eye is higher than his opened eye. This is pretty much impossible, and really doesn't comply to construction rules, but actually adds to the pose.

Your thoughts please.

Paul B said...

Hi John

Thanks for everything, really, my mind began to work in another way since I read your blog, know I realize that analysis is my best tool
and the best part is.... EVERYTHING KEEPS IN MY HEAD!!

thanks John, everyday i wanna learn more.

I've been building the images of Tom
take a look!


Marty Walker said...

"You know what would fit an "action packed" style? More than a couple drawings."

What are you talking about?

That's just about as close to full animation as you'll come on a show made for TV. I mean, it's fantastic compared to this:

Isaac said...

Hi Marty Walker, if you ask me (you didn't) Bolt is 100% CalArts style, with big spherical eyes that suffers from expression whiplash. The problem isn't so much that the design is not appealing, it's that the animation conveys expressions in a strange, alien way - not with subtleties, but with fast and furious shifts from one face to another.

Isaac said...

...and they keep using the same expressions.

Isaac said...

More quickchange faces

Geneva said...

Again, a post so helpful that I feel compelled to thank you personally. Can't wait for the mouths.

Cartoon Critique! said...

Thanks for these posts!

FlackoWeasel said...

Hello John K!

I must say you've done a wonderful work with those amazing blogs, I love reading them! I have actually a one thankful letter to tell ya as thanks to you I can draw so well :).
Well I must admit 1 thing that when I was small then I used those colouring books to trace characters BUT I always started from face, I don't know how did I found out that there but I thought it was best and then I've done it since then. When I was a child I loved Ren and Stimpy, ofcourse I didn't understand the jokes but I loved the animation as it was funny and crazy. And then I wanted to try too as I was so curious! I sometimes paused VHS tapes to try and "copy" and see how well I can draw, first stuff were bad, but the more I tried the better it went. later ofcourse I started to make my own stuff and today I'm doing this: - here's my latest art I've done for people out of kindness and that's all thanks to you, without Ren And Stimpy, I wouldn't be as good as now. Ofcourse I always learn and maybe some pictures can seem crappier but I always TRY to make something unique or a bit "retarded" animal. And also in different styles. Those "extreme facical expressions" are my favourites. And of course the looney faces. And also I must admit that you're my favourite drawer as your humour is great. :D I love this kind of humour and I've used this in my works too. ( And thanks to Conker: Live And Reloaded :D)

Once again, thank you for those amazing drawings and tips. It would be awesome to speak with you as learning from professional animator/drawer is always something what I'd always want to hear and learn :). Also thanks to you I've learned how to animate and I did it all by myself :D, when I found out those tiny books, where animations happened when you let the thumb through the pages.

Keep posting these awesome stuff! (Y)

- Flacko The Funky Weasel! -

Nutty Female Gamer, So Nutty, So Crazy!