Monday, January 19, 2009

Use Line Of Action To Maintain Guts Of Pose

Finally someone sent me a study he didn't trace! The construction is about 70% understood here, but that isn't my point today. (One point: Tom's nose/muzzle has been squashed against his head. It should be sticking out, as I said in my post about how to construct his head)
Let's look at the pose of the character - the line of action.

It looks to me like Darby forgot to do step 1 in copying the drawing of Tom. He didn't draw a line of action - or if he did, he severely toned it down.
Tom's body doesn't really have a line of action. The top of the curve is the same as the bottom of the curve, In effect, it means his body position is straight up and down. It has no direction.
You can see the difference in Tom's position when you overlay Darby's with the original. The original pose has a direction - Tom is leaning backwards - because he is being punched in the head. His head is behind the top of his body, which in turn is behind the bottom of his body.
This is a very important point for anyone working in animation - TO NOT TONE DOWN THE DRAWINGS YOU ARE WORKING FROM!

Animation is usually done on a production line by specialists. (That's the theory anyway)

1) Someone comes up with a story idea or premise
2) A story artist draws the storyboard
3) A Layout Artist draws the finished key poses - inspired by the poses on the storyboard
4) An animator copies the layout poses and adds more keys and breakdown poses
5) An assistant animator traces the animator's drawings and adds inbetweens
6) An inker traces all the drawings, evens them out by taking out the remaining small contrasts - adds lumps to the silhouette, fills in all the negative spaces and then there is no pose left at all

Each one of these steps has the danger of toning down the previous step and it happens all the time - which drives me nuts!

One of the main tools you can use to avoid this is to be able to analyze the line of action in the drawing you are copying - and then to exaggerate it. Make it stronger. Whatever you do, don't make it weaker!

What happens in animation is by the time the final drawings hit the screen, they have no life in them. The poses have been completely straightened out and everyone is standing in perpendicular neutral poses. You go back and look at the storyboard and it might be dynamic and lively, but the final film doesn't reflect that.

This post is to help understand how it happens and how to avoid it.
When you analyze a drawing, you put into words what you are looking at. This helps you to consciously understand it.
Then you can put the concept into practice. You aren't copying blindly anymore. You have an understandable goal and aim.
This is a bit advanced but a good concept to be aware of.
Construction is still # 1. This seems to be the thing most people have trouble grasping. That the details have to fit on the forms and go in the same directions as the forms.


Elana Pritchard said...

I never trace!

Caleb said...

Slightly off topic, but if you ever had a cartoon club you could call it "The Spumcateers" and the hats could be something gross like lifelike rat ears.


Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks John! I did draw a line of action, but I didn't really understand what I was doing.

I learned a lot copying it, but I'm not too proud of it myself. In short, I think I made him look like he was in a cramped elevator. Rather than getting socked in the eye, he looks like he's wincing.

Can't tell you how much your criticism just helped! I'll try to fix my mistakes later, see if I can get closer.

Jizz Wad said...

I had a go at this.


Zorrilla said...

Tom - line of action

JohnK said...

>>I had a go at this.<<

Exact same problem...

Innisanimate said...

What about freehand-ing the rough pose and line of action, but then tracing on top of that for the rest of your drawing? Tracing over your previous sketches (or at least using them as a rough guide)is a tried and true method for animators and helps keep you on track. That's not cheating, but a good way to work in my opinion.

JohnK said...

If you don't already completely understand construction, it's cheating.

The point of drawing it freehand is to see if you can use the concepts logically.

Jizz Wad said...

Thanks, much appreciated.

Paul B said...

hey john

I made this from one of the Eisenberg comics

check it please


Elana Pritchard said...

I find these concepts easier to understand than getting the perspective right in construction.

Jeremy Hughes said...

well i am WAY behind here, but this is my attempt at the bugs and porky cover with the rocking horse.

that perspective on the horse was really hard. i know it doesn't show but i used a lot more construction than i normally would and it was such a huge help for someone who is still very green with drawing skills. i really felt successful even though it's way off and needs a ton of work.

Trevor Thompson said...

Hey John,

I'm having trouble keeping up. I have a few questions about problems I'm having.

1.) Is it advisable to get the first level of construction correct ( by transparency comparison ) before moving on, or should we wait until the whole drawing is done before checking it?

2.) How do I know, before anything else, if the line of action is correct?

3.) Does the line of action have to stay in the center of the body at all times?


- trevor.

PS: I don't trace!

introvert said...

Wow, this is a common problem! When I saw the post earlier, I took my study out and compared it to the example you posted, and my line of action was doing the exact same thing! Even when I was trying to be extra careful to get the first steps right!

This particular comic book cover seems like a great exercise because you'd expect the line of action to be more exaggerated, but because it isn't, you are inclined to think toning it down gets it closer to what you are looking at.

I'm not going to bother posting my first attempt, but I'm inspired to try again. This time I'll think more about what's actually going on and draw that instead of just thinking about what I'm looking at and copying that.

Marty Walker said...

I was going to post this a while ago for critique, but I thought you's only want copies of the full images.

Then I saw this post and discovered I was wrong.

Kelly Toon said...

John, in case you didn't see it, here is my take on the donald cover. It mmay be too finished,in some respects, and not finished enough in others. Any comments are appreciated.

Donald Duck in the Land of the Totem Poles

Paul B said...

hey john

I made this from one of the Eisenberg comics

check it please


Jim said...

Hi John,

I've been wondering about the same things Trevor asked about.

Line of action seems to present more of a problem for me when copying versus drawing something from scratch. Since the LOA is the first thing to lay down, I find it difficult, and slightly tedious to reproduce the subtle proportions of the curve and angle with no other points of reference on the paper. I can get it pretty close, but with such care having to go into copying it, I seem to loose the smooth rhythm and flow that give the LOA it's energy.

Any tips on copying the LOA accurately and smoothly?

JohnK said...

>>Any tips on copying the LOA accurately and smoothly?<<


Mick said...

good on ya John. A lot of these people who view your blog have been to college and didn't even learn half of this stuff... and here it's free... bullet proof man, top notch. You talk a lot of very basic sense

all the best- Mick

also Jim, you needn't necessarily draw a sweeping line of action 'first'... you can have a good time scribbling and getting your head all over some sketching and 'then' find a sweet line. It takes multitudes of practice to simply be able to encapsulate what you intend in a simple line on a clean white sheet 'before' anything else...
sorry for all the '''''s

Niki said...

The one I sent you the other day wasn't traced, the body was too long. about exaggerating the pose, can it be done for all of the covers? cause when I think about "get it right" I think it should look similar, and I screw it up. can we go more for that?

ComiCrazys said...

Hey John - Tossing my hat into the ring, as well. Sketch and overlay posted. No tracing.

Line of Action

Niki said...

Sorry for talking again but is it OK to make a grid? I was thinking, measure the top and bottom of the hill, top and bottom of the trunk from the bottom of the page? cause I've been thinking of that since I finished mine and I was wondering if it would be OK. A reply on this subject would be seriously appreciated.

JohnK said...

Using a grid means you are looking at the picture as a 2 dimensional image.

Use construction to understand things in 3 dimensions.

A grid might help the overall proportions but won't do anything about understanding form.

Niki said...

That's excellent to know! Although I figured to still draw the form under it, the grid was to make sure I got everything in place. But I still see where your coming from.

Geneva said...

I'm sorry my first try was a trace-- I thought the exercise was more about identifying hierarchy than re-drawing (I re-did it though). Stupid in retrospect. I'll make it up to you by doing many more, the right way.

Alex Printz said...

If you would be so kind as to give a quick critique...

ignore the lack of... anything. I set it up just for this.

Tom s. said...

hey, mister k!

i had a go at one of the comic covers :

I was wondering two things :

first, what's with marking perspectives, as you did with the tom and jerry cover? wouldnt that only apply if the shoulders / hands are at the same level?

secondly, it took me a lot of time to do the sketch i did, about more than two hours (including inking). is that just way too long, or is that normal?


Zorrilla said...

I tried exaggerating the line of action:

Tom exercise

Please be patient, I'm still struggling to grasp the concepts but will repeat the excercises as many times as necessary, I want to learn.

Jizz Wad said...

I had another go at this.


That Tom & Jerry image is deceptive, it looks quite simple. Gonna keep trying though, previously I think I was also making it nice, curvy and neat but actually killing any chance it had at having any energy at all.

But even with correcting/altering the line of action I am having trouble placing the head, it screws it up completely if the head ain't right...

Lance said...

gave this a shot. notes are to show what I was thinking.

Tom 1

Tom 2

Tom 3

Tom 4

will do exaggerated pose next

drawingtherightway said...

hey John these post are very informative but I have a question. When you posted that video of how to draw bugs from the cartoon heckling hare you told us to measure proportions first but then you only made an angle line for the head. I don't think you showed to make a line of action for the whole pose though. My question is if we try that drawing should we do it exactly like you tell us in the video or should we add a line of action first.

Lance said...

Exaggerated pose.

Exagg Tom 1

Exagg Tom 2

I imagine him shuffling his feet and sliding back & forth afterwards.

Hammerson said...

Hey John, here's my attempt to do Tom & Jerry exercise (+ couple of Sylvester and Porky comic covers).
Take a look.

PaulW said...

Hi John,

I've got to lesson 5 now, so I thought I'd try this out. My attempt is here:

Right, now I'm going back to the lessons!