Saturday, July 11, 2009


I've mentioned using "hierarchy" in many posts but don't know if I've ever done a post that focuses on it.It's a bit hard to articulate in words, but luckily Geneva sent me a link to her latest study of classic cartoon construction and it shows me that in her steps of drawing the character, she used hierarchy to control the order of shapes and details.
First, she broke down the biggest shapes and flowed them around the construction. You can really see hierarchy in the plan of the hair shapes. The hair is broken down into one part that flows off the top of her head, and another part that flips up into curls at the bottom. Once Geneva got those 2 shapes to look good and to sensibly sit on the head and shoulders, then she went in and drew the individual hairs and made them wrap around the larger shapes.

Hierarchy is having a general plan that starts with a large idea - a structure - and then breaking that structure into smaller and smaller segments, but making each smaller segment subject to the laws or purposes of the larger segments. Or - having a clear plan, and then making all your details follow the plan and better - to enhance it.

Any kind of structure uses hierarchy - a building, a story, a drawing, a duck. You don't build a house by starting with a window. Or a duck by starting with a tine on a feather.

Even "flat" drawing styles can benefit from the use of hierarchy:
All these drawings use the same principles as classic 40s cartoon compositions and drawings.

Boy, that Michael Sporn sure has a great blog!

Without hierarchy, you have anarchy.

I don't know if that is clear, so ask questions in the comments.

Remind me to break down this great example of hierarchy some day:
Here's Kali's application of hierarchy:She started with an overall composition and built it around her characters - but each separate element fits into the larger scheme and the details of each element follow the rules of its shape.

I like to see all this progress and classic cartoon thinking coming back.

BTW, Kali has an "etsy" now - whatever the heck that is, but she says it's important:

I can't keep up with all this internet crap. You got yer "Facebook", your "buttbook", your "Tweets" and "Twoots". How many of these things do we need? Would somebody please just make a phone that works? That's the fogey in me talking.