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Figure Drawing - Started by: Navi1101
Figure Drawing
Posted: 07 Apr 2010, 06:02 PM
This post has been edited 1 time. Last edit on 07 Apr 2010, 06:03 PM.
When asked for guidance and criticism, an artist friend of mine commented that the people in my drawings often look "stiff", even when I try for dynamic poses, and that I should take up a deeper study of anatomy and figure drawing to better understand how parts of the body interconnect, especially while the body is in motion.

I'm starting on that deeper study now, but for the time being, I'd like some feedback on the drawings I already have up in my gallery, if you guys would oblige. ^^; I'll do a scan dump of my sketchbook soon so you can have more to look at, but for now, please focus on Anna Brown, Mr. Charisma, Wirecross, Prince Therrinas Riding, and Epic Chess Game (basically, all the humanoid figures that aren't edited photos). I also have a defunct dA account under the screenname "a0iNeko"; feel free to look at the stuff there too, but please keep in mind that it's been years since I updated that gallery (I like to think my drawing has improved since then...).

I'd like to know: What's wrong with the anatomy in these pictures? Why do they look stiff? What can I do to improve my style and make my drawings of people more dynamic and realistic? Do / would the subject's clothing get in the way of that dynamicness? (I suppose my next intensive study will be drawing fabric...)

Thanks a bunch! ^^;
Posted: 07 Apr 2010, 09:27 PM
(I'll start off by saying that trying to add some dynamism {did I just make up a word there?} and movement to my characters is something I'm working on as well, so the following is based primarily on my own learning experiences.)

Based on the images you named, you seem to have a pretty fair understanding of anatomy, though I do see some stiffness to your characters. I'll say this, though, in Epic Chess Game, while the pose is static, Spock does have a bit more of a natural look to him. Do you see? The slight slouch gives him a lot of personality and emotion.

Do you draw skeletons for your characters before defining them? I have a bad habit of not doing that, but I've found that when you do a quick stick figure, you can more easily stretch or curve the lines to give the basic pose more fluidity, and then building up the character based on that outline will help make the pose more dynamic. Some creative exaggeration in your lines can also help the character jump off the page, though this is harder to pull off.

Here's a fairly recent example of an experiment I did trying to make a more dynamic pose as well. The anatomy isn't perfect, but you can see my underlying skeleton, with more exaggerated curves and a bit of perspective toying. It resulted, I think, in a character with more movement, even in a static pose.

I think one other issue, at least in Anna Brown and Mr. Charisma, is that your characters aren't quite balanced in their poses. This is something else that drawing a quick skeleton can help you with.

I hope this helps.
Posted: 12 Apr 2010, 03:57 PM
I've always done stick figures for my drawings, with basic spine, hip, shoulder, and limb lines, a head-sphere, and sometimes joint-spheres if I feel like I need them; I then draw the "filled skin" naked body straight over the stick figure, so I can make sure the clothes lie on the body correctly (but if the body itself is flawed, well...).

I've been working lately on doing more complete mannequin skeletons before I put on the skin, with jawbones, pelvic bones, realistically-shaped collarbones (as opposed to the straight shoulder line), and rib cages that have depth (as opposed to assuming everything aligns perfectly with the spine). I've been fussing with musculature a lot too, since one of the specific critiques I got was that I should pay more attention to the underlying structure that causes/supports the surface of my drawings, i.e. the stuff that lies beneath the skin and clothes, how that connects to the core skeleton, and how it influences the shape of the skin "shell". I've also been focusing more on making sure the skeleton itself is proportionate, so I can be good right from the start.

Epic Chess Game is probably the best example in my gallery, IMO, of my problems with anatomy. Spock's posture is very expressive, but if you were to strip him of his uniform and then skin and then muscles, you'd find problems at every level. His neck is way too long, his waist looks pinched, his shoulders are either too narrow or their perspective is all wrong, he has polygon-mittens for hands, etc. Meanwhile, Data's sitting up stiff as a board (even though his posture is always very straight, he's rarely *that* stiff), his arms are disproportionate, his legs are uneven, and his chest is turned at an angle that must be uncomfortable even for a robot - the pose isn't natural at all. These are the kinds of structural problems I feel I need to address.

I'd like to hear more about what you mean, Jinx, about Anna Brown and Mr. Charisma's poses being unbalanced. I do have trouble making my chracters seem grounded, which stems from my laziness with drawing backgrounds and, well, ground.

...Did any of that make sense? I've had very little formal training, so my art vocabulary is a bit stumbly and limited. ^^;
Posted: 12 Apr 2010, 08:08 PM
Oh, no worries there. I've had very little formal art training as well, and it made perfect sense.

I guess the issue here is whether the focus is on anatomy or on dynamic figures; while there's overlap, it seems at the moment that you're more concerned about just getting the anatomy right. It also sounds like you're on the right track for learning about that, and there isn't much I can add in that regard. (My knowledge of anatomy is pretty limited myself.)

As for the unbalanced look, it's not so obvious with Mr. Charisma, but in Anna Brown, when you compare the shoulders to the hips and feet, she seems to be leaning backwards. The rest of her pose doesn't really suggest the same thing, especially with her legs. I will also say that her arms are a bit long, and the comparison of her upper and lower right arm makes her upper arm look a little stretched.

It's a pretty basic tip, but one thing you can try to help balance your characters out better is to flip the image horizontally, or hold the page up to a light and look through the back. Getting that different perspective on a drawing can help you pinpoint errors that are often hard to see otherwise.
Posted: 15 Apr 2010, 10:01 PM
while currently enrolled in my second ever figure drawing class I could offer a few pointers to get you going in a good direction that might help your drawings.

My observation's of some of the pieces you've mentioned in my eye, have the same flaws. They're bodies appear flat and straight, almost lacking the feeling of weight, some of the proportions are flawed, the angles of the character's chests are inaccurate with the pose and perspective of the character's within the piece. This being especially noticeable in the star trek epic chess piece.
Improving your understanding of the figure's construction could help here. Working on visualizing the figure in three dimensions. Buying one of those little wood art mannequin guys might help here.
Don't worry so much about detailed anatomy & muscles right away. Practice what you can with constructing the figure in three dimensions, good a example of what I'm talking about comes from my own work here:

take a look at the cube men on this page.
[url]http://silver-labrador.deviantart.com/art/Life-Drawing-1-152953038[\url]
and the guy's constructed of cylinders in this one.
[url]http://silver-labrador.deviantart.com/art/Life-Drawing-2-156113635[/url]

Also becoming familiar with the Major markers of anatomy, will lend ever more life and credibility to your humanoid figure drawing.

Another thing I could recommend is experiment with gesture drawing as an underling skeleton to your drawing instead of the stick figure approach. This is the one thing that held me back when it came to drawing any kind of humanoid figure.
Hehe just check out my archived side 7 gallery and you'll see some of the same flaws ^-^
Examples of gestures that I've done are on the same links mentioned above, the drawing's on the very top were 2 to 3 minute gesture drawings of live models.
It's just one way to get the overall movement and feeling of the drawing on paper, with less focus on detail and accuracy. But this approach does use more emphasis construction with spheres, cylinder, and boxes, on top a quick drawing following some of the figure's contour or rather following the movement of the figure's pose.

A great book on the subject, is [url= http://www.vilppustore.com/manuals.htm]Glenn Vilppu's drawing manual[/url], lol if your confused by anything that I've mentioned. my life drawing professor uses this as a text book, and it's probably one of the best figure drawing resources I've come across.
Posted: 20 Jul 2010, 03:40 PM
This post has been edited 1 time. Last edit on 20 Jul 2010, 03:41 PM.
Okay, so I've been paying more attention to anatomy and dimensionality in my peope-drawings, and I've noticed a marked improvement in how my people look (I'll post some recent pics, um, when I stop being lazy). But I'm still having one persistent problem with stiffness, and I'm not sure how to fix it.

The problem arises when I have people wearing costumes made from stiff fabrics, e.g. business suits, Japanese schoolboy uniforms, etc. I think this is where a lot of the problem with Mr. Sid-in-a-suit and, to an extent, Anna Brown came from: their clothing is stiff, so they look stiff. I can draw a well-proportioned, deep, curvy, realistic-looking nude mannequin-figure, and in tight, soft clothing, it's fine, but the minute I put a stiff garment over it, it looks just as bad as it did before.

I'm sure I could do wonders with a little shading, but as most of my pieces are just lineart, and because I'd rather not have to rely on shading to make things appear the right shape anyway (I feel like I should be able to do without it, and anyway, it didn't help Mr. Sid-in-a-suit much), I'm wondering if you guys know any tricks for making characters in stiff garments not look stiff, using just line?


If it helps, my major references for Mr. Sid-in-a-suit were character art from Phoenix Wright games - they're the best resource for drawings of (skinny) people in suits that I've been able to find. And they don't look stiff! What am I doing wrong?
Posted: 20 Jul 2010, 06:39 PM
From what I can observe, I would say that maybe your focused to much on the outline/contour of the clothing. Instead of paying attention to the figure underneath, and how the clothing wraps and folds.
Remembering to start of with an underdrawing of the figure, and to wrap the clothing around it. Especially paying attention to where the anatomy shows through, affecting the shape & type of folds.
Even with your example of Mr. Sid-in-a-suit there would be more folds at the crease of the elbow, back of the knee, a armpits. There would be subtle folds radiating away from those points. Observation of clothing from life, and more detailed studies, might help the most before
you try to simplify/stylize future drawings.
Posted: 28 Jul 2010, 03:41 PM
This post has been edited 2 times. Last edit on 28 Jul 2010, 03:43 PM.
Huh, whaddaya know. I just did another drawing of Mr. Sid-in-a-suit, with his jacket open and pushed behind his hand, which was stuck in his pocket, and smoking a cigarette (with the other hand, of course) - I'll upload it as soon as I get a chance to scan it. Adding the extra folds and wrinkles helped a lot. Thanks, Lainey!

(Working in an office makes observing suit fabrics IRL pretty easy. I'm spying on my coworker's jacket sleeve right now. ^^; )
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