Previously, we've looked at how you can reflect your theme and the character's psychology into their design >>here<<. Today, I'm going to focus on the purely physical aspect of design though!
How do we draw them from any angle?
How do we create expressions unique to that character?
How does their design affect their motion?
Angles Angles Angles!
When thinking about making a character move, it's important that they are constructed of shapes that are fast to draw and replicate, and that those shapes can be manipulated into easily readable poses!
This is the reason that so many animation courses set animating a flour sack as the first exercise. The shape is easy to push and pull around, and it forces you to simplify poses down to their basics.
Having a simple shape will help you in many situations! Although there are some animated shows such as 'Family guy' where the characters primarily stay in one flat pose, if you want to emote fully with your character, you'll want to get spicy with the angles.
This can be intimidating for those who find certain angles a challenge. For example, drawing a character's head from a low angle, below the chin, is something I see a lot of artists struggle with. So how can simple shapes help with that?
Once you can break your characters down into simplified shapes (shown here with Jove and Midge), you can use these shapes in your rough drawings to plan your poses!
If this is something you struggle with, I recommend making a deliberate effort to use this technique when drawing the angles you feel least secure about. I always draw my characters as simple shapes first, and this helps me immensely when it comes to the more challenging angles.
Being able to draw your characters comfortably in this way gives you more scope when emoting with them. The best animation pose sheets use a variety of angles to express an idea!
When drawing expressions, the thing you want to avoid is pasting faces onto a head drawing without taking into account the push and pull of the different elements. Anime does this, but it is usually a style choice that is reserved for moments of comedy. The more nuanced moments of storytelling are generally told with more nuanced drawings. Knowing which parts of the face affect one another is one of the keys to achieving this successfully! To illustrate this, I'll use Jove and Midge again!
To figure out which parts of the face affect which parts of the face, we have to drill down to the base level. Beyond shapes even! Right the way down to the basic structure of humans (or whichever creature you are drawing), the skeleton!
Spooky. And now we can build back over the top and see which areas are pliable (soft, movable, will be affected) vs rigid (hard, unmovable, will not be affected).
Knowing how your characters’ faces are built will show you where the fleshy parts fall. The ears and the tip of the nose is cartilage, not bone. For me, this means I afford these features a little movement, but not everyone does. The character designers we look up to often leave these features static, so how much (if at all) you move them is up to your discretion.
Pretend that your character's face is made of clay. You can't add more clay or take any away. Whichever way you push or pull features around the face is going to affect the clay around them, too.
Keeping this in mind will help you place face wrinkles caused by the contraction of muscles - all this will build toward the creation of more believable expressions. Building on top of your characters' pre-existing facial anatomy rather than pasting a disconnected expression onto the head will keep your characters' expressions unique to them, as they revolve around that unique facial structure.
That brings us to how these expressions and facial structure translate into...
Range of Motion
Characters with varying faces and bodies will naturally have varying extents of movement. I have quite a small mouth, so I can't smile as widely as Doig can - these kind of observations when applied to your drawings will give them an extra layer of depth!
Jove's mouth stretches horizontally much more than Midge's. However, Midges mouth and eyes can stretch vertically more than Jove's. Knowing this about them helps me to pose and animate them in ways that preserve the differences between them. Each of your characters will have a different range of motion depending on how they are built/put together.
Explore this fullbody to try and find their limitations! Most of all remember that rules are made to be broken.
If you want to push past anatomical constrictions to prove a point, then that's what being an artist is all about! Just look at some of the things the Loony Toons did when they were hit by a Boulder, or saw a sexy gal! The trick is choosing the times when it is appropriate to push it, and when it is important to keep it believable!
The Grumps Variations
All this is super applicable to what I've been doing lately.
M.Bulteau, who you might remember as the musician who composed the wonderful Glim theme for us, has organised an animated collaboration centered around the Game Grumps!
A lot of people found my work through the first Animate-a-Grump project I participated in, so you guys probably know I'm a big fan of the Grumps. Yeah. I'm very excited to get to animate them again!
Before animating, I had to come up with some designs to use in the animation. This is where everything I talked about above comes into play!
Here's the first rough pass of the designs.
With a lot of freelance on my plate at the minute, I had to whip these out pretty fast without being able to second guess myself too much.
The animation centers around Dan teaching Arin to play piano. As such, it was suggested that they wear tuxedos in their staple blue/pink colours.
To play up Dan as the teacher and straight man to Arin's zaniness, I gave him a smarter more together look (though I still went with his rockstar torn jeans). To shoot for a more casual look for Arin, I tried pyjama bottoms and a tshirt, with just a formal waistcoat over the top. Also no shoes, as I know this is how he likes to record sometimes.
The challenge for me was in depicting their body types. Because Arin is stockier than Dan, the natural inclination is to make him a lot shorter to up the contrast between them. This is good design sense! However, after hearing Arin talk about how cool he thinks it is that both him and Dan are pretty much the same height (that height being 'very tall'), I wanted to cartoonify them in a way that they would enjoy as well as the fans.
Creating clear contrast between body types becomes harder when both subjects are the same size, so I pushed Dan's legs up and pulled Arin's torso down to create more variance between them.
When trying to create caricatures, the best thing I can say is to draw the person a whole lot! The more you draw them, the more their shapes will become apparent to you. The above scribbles are early drawings when I was trying to get to grip with Arin's face. Through iteration, a kind of bottom heavy shape emerged. Drawing him over and over showed me the small differences in features - Danny has a dimpled chin, Arin has a ski slope nose etc.
A good exercise you can do to discover these identifying shapes is Jake Parker's 8 minute Drawing Challenge.
The challenge is simply for you to draw something, in this case the person you are caricaturing, in 4 minutes.
Then you draw them in 2 minutes.
Then 1 minute.
Then 30 seconds, 15 seconds and 5 seconds.
By the end, you may not have a fleshed out drawing, but what you will have is the barest of bones - maybe just a square, or a pair of glasses. Whatever it is, it is the thing you deemed most important or identifiable to that design! It's a really fast, simple exercise that can be super helpful in finding your basic shapes.
My favourite versions of Dan and Arin are drawn by one of my favourite artists, John Gorannson. If you ever needed an example of someone who developed their caricatures by just doing a whole heap tonne of drawings, then John is the shining example. He's been drawing them for years and the ease with which he captures their likenesses now is beyond impressive.
You can click on his name to find examples of John's work. For now, have some storyboard panels from me!
I hope I'll be able to post you an animatic of my part of the collaboration very soon! I'll be completing it on Doig and I's Animorning Streams if anyone wants to come and hang out while we work.
I'll get back to basics and talk about general drawing tips that I'm using to up my draftsmanship, and drop some resources your way!
Thank you for reading, I hope it's been helpful! Thanks also to everyone being patient with our slower updates whilst we moved house - we are now in and settled to a new apartment! (And I am already in my pyjamas).
-Doig & Swift