Friday, February 13, 2009

Hierarchy 2 - The Facial Expression in broad strokes

You might look at a drawing like this and think that it's complicated because there so many lines and wrinkles. But if you understand form and hierarchy, you can easily make sense of it all.

I'll start with a simpler expression:
Once you have your basic composition and attitudes in mind and everything roughly constructed, the next most important thing is the facial expression. It should read easily, non-ambiguously and tell the story. Here George is happy and eager in anticipation of what surprise food is in his mystery can. The boys are just as eager and show a little more innocence in their expressions.

It's important to place your expression around the same construction you drew for the overall shape and position of the head. Otherwise the expression won't seem part of the head. It will just float in front of it as if it exists on a separate plane.

Then the facial features themselves (like every other part of a drawing) should have their own forms. George's eyes bug out and so they have to be carefuly drawn. Many cartoon characters (like Slab N' Ernie) have eyes that are just drawn flat against their skulls. That's OK too, if the eyes wrap around the skull shapes in perspective. Like these:I see lots of modern cartoons where the eyes exist in different planes and spatial positions than the heads they are supposed to be part of and that's wrong. It hurts to look at too. I remember when Nickelodeon did their versions of Ren and Stimpy, the good drawing flew out the window, and they just became abstract flat characters. Then that style (not mine) influenced a hundred cartoons that came after. Weird for weird sake instead of weird feelings tightly controlled by the artists.

In each of these drawings, the expressions are clear, and they wrap around the head shapes.

Next: adding details that follow the positions of the forms they help describe.


drawingtherightway said...

Great drawings John! I know your not a big fan of model sheets, but when you worked at spumco did you give your animators any model sheets showing the construction from multiple angles? Figuring George's construction out from many angles seems like it would be difficult to do without a reference.

Owen said...

Hey John, can you try to fit in a post about making unconstructed doodles/sketches into well constructed forms? I'm having some trouble.....

JohnK said...

what would be the point? I'm trying to get people out of the bad habit of only doodling, and learning to draw with control and function.

anyone can doodle.

Niki said...

I take a lot of my old drawings and redo them, into constructed figures. I mean, I liked the newbie kiddie design of my old drawings, but I also like to construct everything now. Since the design was made up un-constructed, does that mean that after I redo it, it'll still be wrong?

zoe said...

I have the same question as Owen -- you have posted some of your legal pad sketches, and you have also mentioned how when you're trying to get the raw emotions of something, you do more scribbly "ugly" sketches.

Also, you had mentioned how you encouraged Rex to solidify drawings which he had sketched out more spontaneously before.

Would you ever consider doing a post where you show how you take a spontaneous sketch and then use that as the basis for a proper constructed, finished drawing?

JohnK said...

I think I have done that.
I've taken my storyboard sketches and then turned them into more constructed layout poses.

That's different than taking phone doodles and turning them into functional drawings.

Storyboard sketches started with a purpose in mind. And they were drawn by someone who already knows what's going to happen to them, so innately puts enough info into the drawings so that they can be turned solid in another step.

But give it a shot. Maybe something good will come out of it.

Not if you haven't already learned construction by copying good drawings in the first place though.

Elana Pritchard said...

Hey John I did a construction lesson if you would like to look at it.


Niki said...

I've been doing copies! I also read a lot of everybody's blogs to learn from their mistakes and from what they learn. I also have the first few badly constructed drawing I ever made when I was peeved about having to learn it and I was jumping back and forth between building and freehand back in November. You should see the improvement. I've also started to try copying the Famous Artist Course, although, I haven't checked it yet. And drawing constructs of real people all cartoony and whatnot. I think it's been working so far and I actually enjoy the outcome a lot more instead of just 'doodling'. I still doodle in class to stay awake though. I also come out with cool designs doodling. The last thing I want to ask is for you to grade some of my own drawings, not really copied ones but some that I want to know if they look like an actual professional made them. Not the ones I have up there now but some I'm going to post tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

"In each of these drawings, the expressions are clear, and the eyes wrap around the head shapes."


You did the expression lesson just in time, for me. I've been having a lot of trouble with it lately. I redrew your George here, to try and figure out what makes the expression. (Not asking for a critique, it's just a sketchbook doodle)

Michael said...

Hey John.. I posted this on the older post where you asked us to put our drawings for critique but I guess it got lost in the mix. Here it is again. I would appreciate any critique if you have the time.

Another Bugs

smirkstudios said...

The one with Bugs Bunny in the bra with the green face was on the DVD I was watching last night :D

Your work is very clean, and you can tell that you know your character in several different ways. I have a character or two like that, but I do not practice construction, and do not fully understand hierarchy, or even really know what it means. Forgive my ignorance, for I just recently started blogging and reading your things.