Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Toy Drawing 11: Observation VS Rote Animation Cartoon Style

It's great to learn fundamental cartoon basics, like construction, line of action, silhouettes etc. But those are just your starting points. You don't want to be trapped in formula. Principles alone don't make a point of view or entertainment.
Not everything is made of the same few shapes. Animation, being probably the most inbred artform ever (maybe excepting rap) has a bad tendency of producing artists who ignore observation of the world around them.When animators do life drawing, they tend to draw what's in front of them with a filter or animation goggles between them and the model. Any visual information emanating from the individual model that doesn't fit the accepted way of drawing "animation style life drawing" is often ignored or erased.

Drawing actual creatures-whether humans or animals is much more complex than drawing cartoons - and not because real life has more pores and hairs. I've seen tons of animation portfolios and sketchbooks with life drawings and visits to the zoo where the artists didn't draw the animals or humans to look anything like what humans and animals look like. Instead they draw animation school ducks, elephants and humans. It's because animation encourages animators to ignore the evidence of our eyes and to convert everything into the approved vague animation shapes. So many animation students' zoo sketchbooks show the same vague ducks, giraffes and chimps - all the actual details and specific parts that many animators consider ugly have been tastefully removed- which defeats the purpose of studying from life. There's no point in looking at anything in front of you if you don't see what's actually there. You'd just be converting everything into the same pre-designed anmal life drawings you've seen in other students' sketchbooks.

I think toy drawing is generally more valuable to animation cartoonists than life drawing. Most animators don't believe their senses and real life is far too complicated to study when you haven't broken the habit of ignoring the senses.
(If they really taught anatomy and observation in animation schools, my opinion might be different).

Drawing toys shows us what simple cartoony shapes look like in 3 dimensions-but we have to get our eyes to believe what we are seeing in order to benefit from it. We have to draw what we actually see and not conform the shapes and textures into accepted animation shapes.

I gave this assignment out awhile ago and was amazed at how much trouble most cartoonists had in seeing how funny and unique this balloon character was. Most cartoonists who copied it converted it into Preston Blair shapes (or the modern equivalent - Cal Arts shapes) and lost the feeling of what made this balloon look like a balloon. They tried to correct the balloon and make it look more like a stock cartoon drawing.These drawings were done by Patrick. They are the best of the drawings in this assignment I've seen. He managed to make the drawings look like a puffy wrinkly balloon. He believed the evidence of his senses and didn't pass his observations through a filter of what he thought a cartoon character was supposed to look like.
There are some things that could be improved. Like these:
Patrick could check his other drawings against the photos and find any similar problems and correct them. But he did very well on the main point of the exercise: to use his eyes, not just his preconceived knowledge to draw something that doesn't fit exact cartoon formula.


The next step in an exercise like this (once you have corrected any mistakes) is to use the knowledge you learned from the exercise.

I would suggest taking another cartoon character and drawing him like a balloon to see if you retain an understanding of what general concepts make this Yogi toy look the way it does.

The eyes see things in front of them. The mind interprets them. It either adapts itself to the new information or it conforms what it sees into what it already thinks is right. The eyes and mind have to work in balance.

The mind learns why things look the way they do by studying construction, perspective, lines of action and all other kinds of artistic generalized concepts.

But the mind must also help the eyes to see, while at the same time to be checked by the eyes when the mind is not enough.

If what you see defies what you already know, then believe your eyes and draw what you see.

Then try to figure out why what you see doesn't conform exactly to what you already thought you knew. - Donald Rumsfeld

When you achieve this, you have learned something new and have added new visual tools to your collection. Your toolchest will grow and grow if you constantly expand you ability to observe new things and apply them to your own work.

If you go through life only drawing (or modeling) the same old approved animation designs and shapes, then no amount of drawing from the real world will do anything for you.

Observe with a purpose - that purpose is to constantly change the way you draw and to avoid blind formula.