Saturday, April 08, 2006

More On Line of Action

Allright! My phone service has been restored! Thanks to everyone for being so patient.

Is anyone confused by the term "Line of Action"? I keep using the term as it was used in Preston Blair's book on Animation. I assume that anyone interested in the topics that I talk about would be familiar with the book. If you don't already have it, has it for under $8! To find it on Amazon, just search for "Preston Blair" and get the one called "Cartooning: Animation 1". Even if you're not interested in animation it's great help for anyone who wants to learn about drawing.

I usually don't post stuff from books that are still in print, but here's the part of that book that concerns "Line Of Action".

A good Line of Action is really important in any drawing. It helps organize what you're trying to say into one thought. Any drawing should only try to say one thing - it's hard enough to draw a character doing ONE thing and put it accross clearly. Trying to draw a character doing TWO or MORE things simultaneously is incredibly difficult and usually a recipe for disaster. It invariably leads to confusion.

Over the years I've learned a few things I would add here about Line of Action. I think you should always keep the line-of-action simple. I think a gesture, in order to have any kind of punch to it, needs to be based on either a straight line, a curve, or an "S" curve. Those three types of lines have direction and force to them. Anything else, like a zigzag or a more complicated series of curves, loses it's ability to convey an action or direction.

These are from a page out of Bill Peet's Autobiography. Study each one - each has a line-of-action that is either a straight line, a curve, or an "S" curve.

Years ago, fellow Disney artist Wilbert Plijnaar posted these Daan Jippes comic pages over at the cartoonretro forum. They had a big impact on me - I was struck particularly by how extreme the line-of-action was on each drawing. He was really adept at making EVERYTHING subsurvient to the gesture line. Mickey's clothes and ears and entire expression became part of the line-of action. And the amazing part was he was able to do it without destroying the identity of the forms. If you push a line-of-action too far, or in the wrong way, you can sacrifice the structure of what's underneath and you're left with something that feels like it's made out of jelly with no skeleton - that's not good. Check out the gestures on these crows - in lesser hands they might have started looking like snakes or something, but they don't.

Also, looking at his stuff, I was struck by how he pushed every line on the figure in the same direction as the gesture, but he was ALSO minimizing any lines on the figure that went opposite to the gesture - which really gave the line-of-action a lot of power. (Check out this section from a handout I did for an explanation).

Okay, here's the whole crow bit. Leave a comment and let me know if anything I've explained seems unclear...I have more to say about this so hopefully, if it's confusing, I can clarify in future posts!


Ali said...

Great post. It's amazing how the Preston Blair book still illustrates so many concepts better than the more in depth books that came later.

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

Again, a very valuable post. Indespensible information!!! Glad to see your phones are working again!

St John Street said...

Excellent work I learned so much from that info please continue to share and educate I love it I can't wait to Draw now it makes things seem a little less hectic even though there is so much complexities to have a successful piece espeically if you don't know the right way to clean up your work well I'm ranting just got so pumped from the info well thanks again love the info have a great weekend take care!!!

Ben Williams said...

Great information! I'm just a bit confused with one thing though. When you draw a man running the head, spine and back leg all follow the line of action but how do you make the leading front leg, which is pointing in the opposite direction, flow with the line of action aswell?

mark kennedy said...

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! Glad it workd for people.

Hey ben-great question I will try to clarify that. But I think you actually nailed the answer when you used the word "flow". As long as the gesture line is dominant then it will work as long as the front leg flows out of the gesture and doesn't fight it, or make a different statement. I will post some drawings to talk about this soon.

Scott LeMien said...


Taking this to the 90 degree angles on the limbs going everywhere runner you used as an example of how not to do a figure.. and applying the idea that lines that go against the action get squashed-- in the diagram

does this mean, if we foreshortened (ie 'squashed' in 2 dimensions) those limbs that would work?

that's pretty exciting, actually, if I'm even a little right, lol.

thanks again for your posts and information, those of us a bit older who have interests here are getting a chance to talk directly to the professor, which is great.

mark kennedy said...

Hey Scott!
Not totally sure I understand your question...but try it and see! The whole point of this website is to throw out what I know so you can add it to what you know and see what you come up with. Please don't take anything I say as gospel...nobody taught me this stuff, mostly I came up with it from experience! So your experience might lead you to something different, probably even better! So experiment and see what you think works and doesn't!

And really, no need to call me the professor. Nice of you, but seriously, I'm only doing this until a REAL artist starts a site to share some REAL good stuff. I'm just filling the void temporarily.......but I've still got a long, long way to go myself.