Monday, April 26, 2010

Process Sketch Stages

So tonight I thought I'd share a bit of the process I go through to create some of the drawings I've done for comics, illustration, and animation. For demonstration purposes I've chosen to draw my interpretation of a character from a Japanese manga digest I picked up from a local Chinese bookshop. (It's not a translated volume. I am not sure what the title of the character or book. If you recognize it please let me know.)

Looking through the source material, I chose an adventurous cat character to draw in an action pose. Below I've started out with a very loose gesture of the cat's action pose. I'm thinking about weight distribution (as if I took the pose myself), the thrust of the action through the body, and the volume the figure occupies in perspective. I may be thinking about all these items consciously, but will focus now on getting the energy of the gesture down on paper.

In sketching each drawing has a vitality or "life" which you can feel when you are sketching. It can almost be considered an "energy" much like what we have in our own bodies.
Here is a quick diagram of the major action lines and secondary action lines that i think about when designing the flow of the figures form in the pose.The blue lines represent the major action thrust of the arching back while torso leaning forward over the hips that flows back through the hips down the far leg and exiting the far heel. I imagine the secondary flow (green line) originating from the torso and flowing through the arms. One flow of "energy" travels back in perspective, through the right arm and hand, up the sword blade, and exiting the tip. The other end of the "energy" flow travels down the arm into the hand and exiting the fingers. I'm consciously designing the "energy" flow as I go along through the stages.
At this stage I am starting to think more about defining the "volumes" or mass of which the character consists. I'm thinking about how those volumes are organized in perspective and space. "What would each volume look like if I were really seeing it in front of me?"
Check out Preston Blair's book Cartoon Animation for more details on volume. He doesn't call it that by name but the book has plenty of solid foundation exercises to help artist think about volume when drawing.
You'll notice that I have adjusted the distances of the legs, enlarged the head and changed the foot placement in space. As I refine the drawing and push and pull the volumes to make them feel "right" I still keep it loose. I'm consciously exploring the mass of the figure, not committing yet to hard details. I want to make sure that the volumes, shapes, and flow of the figure are working before I start putting on the descriptive details.
At this stage, the figure is really starting to take shape. I am describing the dimension of the figure by wrapping the folds or edges of cloth around each volume. I'm keeping in mind the flow from the original sketch as I continue to build the figure up. There is still room to tweak the figure before I commit to the finish. More on that later. I'll be back shortly with the final stages of this sketch.

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