Sunday, January 17, 2010

Artstream 101: Construction!

Ok, so This is the first installment of Artstream 101, a crash coarse in character art conducted by me, Brian Charles. Disclaimer: If you feel as though you're a "better" artist than I am (AND don't have the intestinal fortitude to challenge me to an art battle) rest assured that the information included in Artstream 101 is regurgitated from wise masters of the character design craft. Thusly speaking, if you've studied The Illusion of Life, Chuck Amuck, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and Constructive Anatome, you can probably skip this coarse and meet up with us for Artstream 102 :P
I hope to build up from very basic breakdowns and sketching tech to sequential art, animation, and eventually I'll teach you guys how to play Rival Schools.

First order of business is construction. Everyone who draws characters well uses construction, and I know that you might think you've seen the pros NOT using construction, but lemme tall ya, you're wrong. Think of it like the basics of a sport. When you first tried to dribble a basketball, you did it with two hands and probably bounced your whole body with the ball. As you become more advanced, you learn to practice dribbling with one hand, so that you can switch hands to avoid defenders (your first crossover). Stay with me, this is the important part... Once you've mastered switching your dribble from hand to hand, to the point where you can do it through your legs and behind your back without looking, you're not even thinking about the day you learned to NOT dribble with both hands. Your body remembers the practice and activates everything you learned whenever needed. Drawing construction is like that. The more you do it, the less you have to think about it, to the point where you don't even have to lay down a sketch all the time. But lets not jump ahead :P

The image in this post will be referred to as fig-1. In fig-1, you see my basic construction for a character. You can probably expect to develop your own style at some point, and bare in mind that it took me years to settle in to doing it this way. I first learned this specific style of construction from the book "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" when I was 12 or 13. It involves using circles and lines to map out a stick figure that can be posed in different ways before fleshing it out to look like a specific character.
I start with the head by drawing a circle at the point that I want the cranium to be. Then I round out a jawline with a half oval underneath. A horizontal line drawn about the points where the oval jawline and the cranium circle meet gives me a basic idea of where the eyes will go, and a vertical line crossing that will show where the nose will go. Yes, drawings of characters that are not referenced with photos or models should have that sort of symmetry. I know everyone's eyes don't line up perfectly and all noses are not in the center of the face, but drawing is about making something that "looks" correct, not necessarily something that "is" correct (more ranting about this later).
From there, I draw a line from the head down that will basically indicate the spinal column. A large circle represents the torso.Toward the top of that on each side are small circles where the shoulders will be and lines going down the sides representing upper arms that go into small circles which are for the elbows, another line segment for the lower arm and a circle at the end for hands. The spinal column line goes down to a horizontal oval which will be the pelvic area, with circles on the end where the legs meet the pelvis and lines that drop down from there for the upper leg that go into circles for the knees. Another pair of vertical lines that rep the lower leg and a jumble of circles for feet. Now, I know that pelvises don't actually work that way but in years of development through my personal style of construction, I found that using a triangle (with the singular point facing down) which is the "normal" way to handle this area lead me to drawing REALLY tiny waists, so I came up with this to give my characters a more solid feel.
The feet are composed of a very small circle for the ankle, a bigger circle for the heel, and a sort of triangular oval for the front of the foot. The reason for all of this is that the position of the feet REALLY balances out a pose. Much like how the head requires a lot of construction to determine the direction the face is pointing, the feet also need a lot of fleshing out at this stage.
You'll notice that most of my lines are curved slightly in toward the body or out away from the body, and that the directions of the curves alternate. This is a technique sometimes referred to as "controposto" that gives character drawing a more relaxed and natural feel. I'll do a lesson on "line of action" later, but for those of you who know about it already, this controposto construction gives a line of action to different parts of the body and helps to make dynamic poses less mechanical.
Ok, that's part one of construction. Next week we'll discuss fleshing out the body and talk about how to use this construction for dynamic posing.

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