Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cartoonist Warm Up Exercises: Girls' Hair

I strongly recommend to every growing cartoonist to do warm up exercises every day. Athletes warm up before stressing their stiff joints, musicians practice their scales every day before jumping right into their performances and I think cartoonists can benefit from limbering up their pencils and brains before they attack their work. I should follow this advice and I did this morning.

I think it's especially important to warm up on things you're not good at.

I like drawing pretty girls, but like many male cartoonists I generally concentrate on the face and body, and don't pay a lot of attention to the hair or clothes. The talented female cartoonists are way ahead of us guys when it comes to drawing individual girls and their specific hairstyles and fashions. They do it so well in fact that it leaves us guys looking like morons with one track minds.
Hair is hard to draw (as you probably noticed from my modern Disney posts). There is more to it than just drawing a lot of individual strands. First, there is the overall shape the hair takes as it forms around the skull underneath. Different girls and different hairstyles have different shapes. There are pleasant shapes, and then there are ugly shapes.

Many cartoonist don't understand head proportions. The eyes on a real human are in the middle of the head - halfway from the top of the skull to the bottom of the chin. There is a style where characters' eyes are too far up towards the top of the head and that makes the characters look like pinheads or neanderthals.Hair on top of the head actually should make your forehead look bigger than your lower face, not smaller.

A lot of cartoonists also cut off the back of the cranium and squash the hair area right up to the ear. That makes characters look like they've had terrible accidents.

Trying to figure out what makes certain hair styles look good may take a while to figure out, but here are my first attempts.

I started by trying to get overall shape of a hairstyle, and then breaking that shape into sub-forms, while trying to figure out the physics of the sub forms-how they interact with eatch other, and the head shape underneath-and gravity.
My first sketches are slow, careful, studious - and stiff. We all hate our stiff drawings because they look lousy. But lousy drawings are part of getting to good drawings. If we avoid doing anything we are not familiar with -just because our first few attempts are ugly, then we end up limiting what we can do and constantly resort to formula in frustration.
Here's a really ugly drawing I did and I am including it to show that I don't mind sharing my ugliness.

This next one I did after doing some slower nastier ones. By this time, I was warming up. Not that it's great or anything (the head is too thin), but some of what I was trying to understand with the first few exercises was starting to sink in. The more you practice things you don't like, the sooner you get to be able to like them. They gradually get easier, which means you can draw them faster and with more confidence, style and sense.

If I was a full time teacher, I would assess each student's weaknesses and give them custom tailored exercises to get them to strengthen them. I wouldn't just give the same exact exercises to each cartoonist.

I am lousy at composition, so I decided to start copying some artists who are really good at it to see if I can figure out their secrets. I started with Ketcham and will maybe show my progress in another post. If I have any...