Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hierarchy - Level 1 - Composition, Relations of Basic Construction


I mentioned the apprentice system the other day. An apprentice is basically a clean up artist. Clean up is something animation schools tend to neglect, which is a shame.

In order to be a good clean up artist, you have to know more than how to draw a clean line. You still have to understand the big concepts, like construction and hierarchy. You need to know that some things are more important than others and how to preserve those important things in your final clean ups.

The most important part of an image is the overall composition and graphic statement. You should be able instantly to see what's going on in the big picture. None of the details should distract from it.

You need to be able to see clearly:

The Lines of action

The relative positions of the characters and their emotional relationships to what each is doing

Their construction

The negative shapes that help us clearly see the whole image

If the big picture (the composition) doesn't make an obvious statement or read clearly, then every other step of the detailing will just make it worse.
Beginners who are recently introduced to the idea of construction and Preston Blair's lessons, tend to think every part of a cartoon is made of simple symmetrical ovals and balls. Maybe very early animated cartoon characters were, but not by the late 30s. You have to look carefully at an artist's drawing to see the subtle shapes in the forms.

At Spumco I've had to train many many assistants to get them to see the subtleties of the shapes in the rough drawings and learn to preserve and enhance them.

I will attempt to do that in a few posts on hierarchy and what assistants and inkers should be looking out for in experienced artists' rough drawings.

Take a look at the Harvey Kurtzman post below. Every image has a beautifully designed "big picture". There aren't a lot of details, and he doesn't need him, because his overall statements are so well planned and artistically designed.