Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stiff Warm Ups and Studies

I am slowly, painstakingly trying to beat new information into my brain.
2 things I have been working on are facial structure and legs - with attention to balanced poses and how they work. Like many cartoonists, my eye lies to me a lot and I naturally draw things out of proportion.
I think I am just beginning to understand how the major facial muscles and features interrelate with each other. The curves all weave in and out of each other in an organized, logical pattern. For example, the cheek starts under the eye socket, puffs out and then weaves into the smile, then reverses direction and aims into the top of the chin under the lip. I have been faking it for decades, as many cartoonists do. One day I might actually do it from memory where it makes some sense.
I missed it in the drawings below.
Legs Feet BalanceAnother mystery that has plagued me forever, is how to draw natural and balanced female poses. It seems an immense and complex problem. Just drawing a leg or a foot in even one position is difficult, but then to understand how they look from every angle, and in what degree of tension...
I find that it's not enough to just draw and copy things. I have to try to understand the why of what things look like. Otherwise I am just making superficial copies of a specific pose without being able to draw other poses later.
So when I am copying, I look for knowledge and understanding. Not just the specific shapes I am copying, but the general forms and relationships causing the specific shapes. I try to find things that make some sense and then write them down in the hopes I remember them and can put them to use later.
I don't have the greatest memory, so I have to do lots and lots of drawings, studies and analysis. I need my own personal tutor who'll fix all my drawings and tel me exactly what's wrong with them and correct them in front of me.

I envy the artists who seem to understand the sense of anatomy and perspective through instinct and feeling. There aren't many. Frank Frazetta's one of them. He has some otherwordly gift. - Owen Fitzgerald's another. These two artists don't just copy and repeat stock cartoon shapes and poses; they customize every pose and angle to the scene.

I'm not sure why I want to know all this stuff. There are many famous cartoonists who had successful careers and made entertaining cartoons without ever doing natural poses - even cartoonists who are renowned for their human drawings - like Al Capp and Milton Caniff. Don't get me wrong; they are both talented storytellers and stylists, but like many cartoonists - stiff.

18 comments:

Roberto Severino said...

I've got to start actually writing what I'm learning on my studies. A lot of the time, I feel like I'm not applying enough of what I'm learning to my own work as a result of not writing any notes about what I am actually seeing in the drawings. Your post made me think very much.

RooniMan said...

It's a long way to the top if you want to understand anatomy.

ellingson said...

Hi John. I love your blog. Have you ever checked out Rad Sechrist's "Rad How To" blog? He posts great little tips along the lines as what you are dealing with as far as construction, tension, etc. Here's a link:
http://radhowto.blogspot.com/
Thanks again for the daily inspiration.

Ray said...

John, just wondering but why don't you do a study from actual life drawing instead of the magazine cut outs? I'm sure there is someone out there who would model for you.

Oisin O'Sullivan said...

These are good. Drawing human anatomy is really tough

HemlockMan said...

Ever see the Jack Hamm sketchbooks and how-to books? He was pretty good at instructing on anatomy. I once knew a Frazetta plagiarist who would copy Jack Hamm sketchbook illustrations and tell people that he'd done them from his own anatomical studies.

MistahB said...

I don't get why you keep torturing yourself this way, I mean I know this can help you understand how human beings are structured but I just hope this doesn't tone down your sense in variety.

Toby_K said...

Hi John, I'm a 15 year old caricaturist and I really like your work. Excellent stuff and great blog- feel free to check out my blog: http://tobykcaricatures.bloodspot.com Thanks:)

coolhand said...

what kind of pencil were you using for that brown study of the woman? just wondering, cause i like the color.

Paul B said...

But you have the gift of the appeal within you, that's for sure, and that's something you're born. That's a great gift!

I made a caricature study of Clara Bow in Cartoon Colelge Blog

Feel free to destroy me with corrections.

Thanks!

Leedar said...

Better watch out John, you might become an illustrator!

Ted Blackman said...

I used to always have trouble attaching the feet at the right place, and usually just lightly indicated them rather than making a concrete decision as to their placement and form. I noticed a lot of figure artists doing that in classes, just cheating them in, but the feet are the foundation. Maybe I'm alone. Other people might say hands are difficult.
Hey John, I've finally got a gag cartoon blog. Please check it out and tell me what you think. -Ted

marco's blog said...

its so inspiring to see that someone at your level is still aspiring to improve. you should check out rad sechrist's blog, lots of stuff echoing what you are doing here:
http://radhowto.blogspot.com/2009/12/tool-kit.html

Peggy said...

You want to know this stuff because you have to, John; you're the kind of mind that just keeps analyzing.

And I want to say thanks for talking about things you feel like you're just now learning; I've been watching myself suddenly learn to casually indicate form in a painterly way and thinking "shouldn't I have learnt this already?" but here you are, years of practice out ahead of me, talking about things you've been faking and mis-understanding.

Raven M. Molisee: said...

Man, thanks to this blog I have this little 'John K." entity over my shoulder all the time reminding me of all the things I could be doing to improve. Its a helpful curse.

As for anatomy and all, I've always heard that its harder to go from cartoony to realistic than it is vice versa... If you're worried about just copying poses as opposed to understanding them, I agree with Ray, the last thing you'd want is to copy from magazines or screen grabs exclusively. If you were to use a model, there's always the option of literally getting up to investigate a muscle so you can understand it from all angles.

Drawing expressions, I find what helps me is not just looking in a mirror, but closing my eyes while I'm still making that face and pushing the muscles. Sometimes leads to feeling flesh overlapping where you wouldn't normally expect it. I probably looked a tad unstable at my last job, but at least the drawings worked out.

Trevor G. said...

John. I know this is totally unrelated but I was drawing Disney characters today and I suddenly realized that Hades is just a skinny version of Ursula. XD

chris said...

Those are some great studies! Though a lot of artists would probably beat you to death for copying from magazines and not doing a sketch from life...

Amir Avni said...

Amazing drawings, simultaneously informative and appealing