Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What is Exaggeration?

That's what I have been thinking about posting about. I don't have all the answers to it, but have struggled with getting the idea across to my crews for decades now.

It's partly - maybe mainly caricature, which is a concept that most cartoonists say they believe in - even Walt Disney, but not many practice.

My experience is that most cartoonists underture what they are given to work on, rather than caricature it.

To be able to exaggerate something means you are basing your drawing on something that already exists. You are staring at it - either something in life like a human, dog, or tree....or

a storyboard drawing that you have to translate into a layout pose, or an animation drawing.

To exaggerate well and with focus, you have to understand contrasts, which takes an ability to analyze what you are looking at and then say what you see, then push it farther.

It also takes the ability to control relative exaggeration - not just to make every part of your drawing extreme or crazy.

I'll find some more illustrations later to help with the concept.


J C Roberts said...

An important topic in cartooning, and an area I'm sure you've struggled with in directing artists over the years. There's a lot of room for interpretation there, which must result in having to explain what you want a lot.

How many rules can be clearly set on this topic? It's something that can be applied in degrees, tastefully used to put emphasis where it belongs, or "turned up to eleven" just for the sake of spectacle.

The shortest answer on where to use it might be where it serves a purpose, either in the design or story beats, and minimized everywhere else to ensure it stands out when it is used.

Gary Wintle said...

I found your early posts on sketching celebrities' caricatures very useful in choosing what to exaggerate and when.

Long time, first time, John. Thanks for everything. I hope to one day to break into the soft, chewy center that is your new blog.


Mattieshoe said...

I didn't know The Proud Family was picked up for a major motion picture

ThomasHjorthaab said...

Hey man!:)
I got a question about the whole "line of action" thing...
Am I supposed to draw the line of action, before constructing?
Or is it something that I should construct around, so that the line of action should become visible after constructing, like I should be able to draw the line of action after the construction of the pose?

- Thomas

JohnK said...

Line of action first.

Then build your construction along it - without killing it.

My posts have techniques to help you avoid that problem.

search "line of action"

Bob said...

Exaggerating is a tough thing to do. I enjoy when a caricaturist can take the features, or more importantly, mannerisms of a person's face and translate that into a cartoon version of the person.

I'm still struggling with exaggeration, let alone capturing the likeness of a person and I can't wait to see what you post on this topic.

drawingtherightway said...

Whenever I try to draw a character in a pose, the first thing I draw is the line of action, but I was wondering if most experienced animators actually draw it or if they just keep it in mind? It's been a couple years since you posted that video showing us how to draw bugs and the dog from that cartoon John, but I don't remember if you actually drew the line of action so I was just wondering if this is a common thing animators do to save time once they get enough experience? By the way that was a great video and very informative you should do more sometime!

thomas said...

Does caricature have an element of cruelty in it, and that's why its softened or avoided...

ThomasHjorthaab said...

Thanks a lot John:)

TJ said...

Hey JohnK,
Thanks for looking at my stuff! I've just added another copy exercise to that same post. I know what you mean by taking liberties. The whole time I was drawing I knew that I wasn't copying them exactly and adding some of my own details. I didn't know if that was important. I just wanted to concentrate on the gesture, construction, form, and feeling. Anyway, I would very much appreciate a public critique. Thanks again!

The Blue Orange said...

The poses in the Princess and the Frog pic look so stiff and forced, and the shading doesn't help the effect. Tiana's dress and hair look like they were made of porcelain, and I think I understand what you mean when you talk of facial features floating in the silhouette of the face. Tiana's one eyebrow looks like it's making a break for the exit.

I think the success of Snow White cemented the idea for Disney that audiences were more interested in seeing realitic humans in an animated world, so the exaggerations were turned down and have been in decline ever since.
Disney never realised that people were so interested because it was something audiences hadn't seen before, not because it was better than caricature.

Same thing started happening with Pixar in Finding Nemo. Achieving a sense of realism is becoming more important than having interesting character design.

Needless to say, can't wait to see how Disney makes out with their return to Traditional animation!

Daniel said...

There's some really great caricature blogs out there you should check out. One is a bunch of guys from Sea World I think. They work there as caricature artists and post all the their stuff. I forget the name of it.

Here's some more studies for you to peruse in your spare time. Thank you for looking.

J C Roberts said...

"Does caricature have an element of cruelty in it, and that's why its softened or avoided..."

Caricature is a broad range category. Is it cruel by nature? Not if you get one from a some local caricaturists that do events and parties and are hoping to please. They use complimentary and "cute" exaggeration of obvious features, and keep other elements bland enough not to offend.

Artistic caricatures can get very extreme. Every distinctive feature is fair game and the exaggeration can go off the charts. Gerald Scarfe is well known for this approach. A great current example of this type is Marlo Meekins, who you can and should link to from this blog. You need a good sense of humor and honesty about yourself to have your caricature done by her.

It can be called cruelty, or amplified honesty. What you don't want is someone running across the room at you calling you an S.O.B. for doing a drawing of them their friend asked you to do. I've been there, it wasn't a hoot.

A.M.Bush said...

hi Daniel, you are talking about the blog of my friends the beastheads

Thomas, there is never an intention to be cruel in caricature. The very exaggerated (ugly) caricatures that you see are only artists trying to challenge themselves by seeing how far they can stretch or stylize something while retaining likeness.

caricatures aside, I think you really need to know a subject up and down before you can properly exaggerate it. Like how John said, you have to exaggerate how something looks compared to other things that are like it.

You also have to exaggerate a subject based on the other elements that are surrounding it. Like a cat at the cat show is going to be drawn a lot differently than a cat in space.

Ricky Earl said...

When doing keyframes, I always go by the rule
"push it twice as far as you normally would and you're still only halfway there"
to remind me it's a cartoon and I can really go to town

Patrick said...

Always draw the line of action. Worry about what experienced animators do when you are one.

LeoBro said...

Maybe the word could be homogenature (a style of drawing that deemphasizes what makes the subject unique and interesting).

drawingtherightway said...

Hey Patrick! Don't worry I had no intention of stopping drawing lines of action first! I was just curious because when I see the professionals drawing sometimes it seems like they skip steps and I was wondering if this is a common practice in the animation industry. Curiosity that's all it is!

thomas said...

>>>Thomas, there is never an intention to be cruel in caricature. The very exaggerated (ugly) caricatures that you see are only artists trying to challenge themselves by seeing how far they can stretch or stylize something while retaining likeness. <<<

I dunno, drawing someone with pointy ears and a
big nose and making them even pointier and bigger, isn't cruel? Having a cartoon rabbit sock a turtle in the face, and having the turtles head twist into a corkscrew isn't cruel?

I'm not sayin' it is, but I ain't sayin' it isn't...

SoleilSmile said...

I liked the BG. Lovely work, whoever you are!

Alberto said...
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