Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Improved SHAPE of Action

So in this last week I delivered my patented “Never Do A Character Drawing or Pose Without A Line Of Action Again!” spiel to the first year Southbank students. There is a lot of information in that spiel, and its always a challenge to find the balance between delivering the information you all need to know and overwhelming you with too much new stuff at one time. There is always more to say, but sometimes you just have to let it go, and there is something to be said for self discovery, students who experiment with a concept and flesh it out in their minds by doing it instead of listening to me will learn so much more.
That having been said, I couldn’t resist expanding a little further on the topic of line of action. Its not hard as long as you understand the function of your line of action (LOA). I think one of the main functions of the LOA is to make sure you consider the relationship between elements in your pose, making you consider the composition of the pose before moving on to other things. If its about making things in your pose relate to each other by making them relate back to a common thing then its just as easy to imagine that thing as a shape rather than a line. I’ve been scouring the internet for some good examples of the principles I’m exploring.

In 95% of cases a simple line of action will suffice, but in some specific cases thinking about it as a shape can help you to add a little something extra to your pose. There are two main situations I would like you to consider.

Firstly there are those times when your character design isn’t easy to relate to a line, these tend to be wide characters, or character with a wide base. One of the first really constructive discussions I ever had about LOA was with an animator friend at Disney, Pieter Lomerse. At the time I was standing at the entrance to his cubical and he was working on a scene from Lady and The Tramp II as we chatted, the issue of how to give a dog a line of action, especially when drawing it in profile. He explained that since he had started drawing character that stood on four legs (lions and Dogs) he had gotten into the habit of working with a shape rather than a line. This made it easier to visualize the relationship between elements that were spread horizontally across the page.

In this next three also note the relationship between the different characters LOA. When the characters are in harmony their LOA’s are in harmony, when they are in conflict their LOA’s contradict each other. Coincidence? I think not.

Some very cleaver gear in this one, Simba’s bushy tail bit and tongue fit in and reinforce the “Shape” of Action, but his paws form a continuation of Timon’s LOA. The afore mentioned elements in Simba’s pose flow with the shape, implying he is relaxed, but Timon’s head, hand and fingers contradict his LOA, reinforcing his discomfort. Nice. The Second situation where using a Shape instead of a Line can be handy is when you want to visualise a twist through the pose. This is something that many students neglect, people twist their body all the time, so should your characters. Its hard to see a twist in a line, and as you work on a pose for minutes or hours your memory of where and how you wanted the twist is bound to variate. Drawing a shape can make it easy to see the twist you want and you can refer back to it as needed.
The awsome Glene Keane, what a legend.
The greatest figure drawer of all time Michelangelo.
An interesting comparison here with these two images from Princes Mononoke. The amount of twist in a pose can be another way to imply tension, in an extreme situation you would often push for more twist, in a subtle situation a more subtle twist may be called for.
This one is beautiful, just that super subtle twist in the sholders says so much, she is composed, but ready for action in a heart beat. The stern look on her face is just the icing on the cake, her pose speaks so much stronger. I don't feel for a second that this woman trusts me. Love it!
Some footnotes:

When looking at finished drawings and then placing the LOA on them remember that you are doing things backwards. Your poses will be stronger if LOA is among the very first things you consider, tacking it on later and tweaking the pose to suit will never work as well.

I’ve used examples here from traditional animation, but these principles apply in all forms of animation. EVERY CHARACTER POSE YOU EVER MAKE SHOULD HAVE A LINE (OR SHAPE) OF ACTION!!! :)

1 comment:

Ian said...

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