Saturday, May 27, 2006

Line-of-Action on Solid Objects Part 2

I almost forgot that part of my original inspiration to tackle this subject was the illustrations in a book called "Teamwork in Tonka Town". I have always tried to avoid posting examples of work and saying "don't do it like this" because I think that's disrespectful and mean. My opinion is only my opinion and obviously everybody thinks differently. The illustrator is not credited on these books, and I would suspect that some of the choices made weren't left to the artist - I'm sure Tonka and/or the book publisher were more thatn "helpful" to the artist by telling him how to do the job.

Anyway, we were discussing how to add a line of action to a solid object, like a vehicle or appliance or something like that. I think a big key to doing it right is to do it without losing the identity of the object you are drawing. This book is full of cars and buildings that are alive, and I think these cars lose their identity in a big way. Take a look at this first one.

This car is supposed to be hurrying out of his garage and I swear it looks like he's up on two "legs" running instead of down on all fours. That's an easy way to make a car not read as a car - get it off all four wheels. In fact I don't think it reads as a car very well at all - you have to stare at it for a few seconds before you realize it's even a car - not a good thing. One of the thingss the designers of "Cars" (the movie) seemed to have done is minimize the area between the mouth and eyes because anything inbetween those areas reads as a nose (or a mustache, in the case of the green race car Chick Hicks) and cars don't need noses, and it gets distracting from the important areas of mouth and eyes, the "agents of expression" on the face. The nose doesn't help expression much. But with these Tonka drawings, everything is drawn with a lot of detail - instead of approaching it by making areas of detail contrasted with areas of simplicity. So the "grill" gets a lot of detail and starts to look like a pig nose or something.

I really don't know why they went to such lengths to try and get them up on "2 legs" and make them gesture with their tires like hands...going in the opposite direstion of what makes a car a car. The silhouettes of these drawings are tough to make out. Squint at the drawing on the left and the pose of both cars gets lost against the building. If the building were left as a line drawing or kocked back in value so it recedes away from the cars that would have helped.

The building and flagpole lose their identity to me because they sag so much. The artist is trying to put over a certain attitude but I think with buildings you can do a lot with the face. The "face" on this building is very distracting and not well integrated into the structure of the building. Those glasses on the buiding are a weird choice. Typical "Disney" animated buildings use shapes inherent in the structure to make a face - windows for eyes, door for a nose, etc.

The Library in the Tonka illustration looks like a face pasted onto a building. Again, so much detail evenly distributed - like the little "shavings" all over the building - are distracting and confusing. Put detail where you want the viewer to look. It draws the eye and is a very powerful tool for communication.

The artist responsible for the Tonka book seems to be a good draftsman. The illustration is very "slick" but to me the underlying thinking is distasteful. I think if you're going to draw a car or a building or anything else, for that matter, draw what you are drawing - don't change it into something else. Embrace what makes it identifiable and use that to create something original and surprising and well-observed.


Jason C said...

What a great and informative blog.. I'm very glad I stumbled across it... Bookmarked!

K McLeod said...

Thanks for this post. It helps to see excamples of bad design do know what not to do.

SMacLeod said...

Hey Mark, What did you think of X3? Some dude was talking the whole time behind me. Pidgeon wants to know what people thought of it too?

mark kennedy said...

Hey, glad everyone enjoyed the post, but of course I went out of my way not to say that this was "bad" design, because taste is subjective and there are no absolutes. Some people may love these illustrations, I do not.

Hey smacleod-I hear you, when do you go to a movie and people DON'T talk behind you? I think watching DVDs at home has made people think they can act in a theater like they do at home. As for X3 I get the feeling that it would be easier to follow if you are familiar with the comic books which I am not. It's funny, in movies based on comic books, because the characters can do anything and overcome any physical obstacle the stories tend to deal with the inner working of the character's minds. This is always hard to dramatize and make visual and so that was how this movie went for me - I didn't know what was going on in Jean Grey or Wolverine's head. Showing the idea that Jean is "torn" between two identities is an intellectual conceit and makes for a passive confusing character, you know what I mean? It works well in a comic book because you can read what the charcter is thinking...not so good in a movie unless it's done well. And there seemed to be a lot of scenes of Wolverine looking like he was thinking hard about stuff and considering everything...but I didn't really know what his problems were. Maybe I missed something? I dunno.

Goobeetsablog said...

Point taken. Those cars confuse me too. Anthropomorphism -not stick on features. The library is very strange.

and what of the truck's penmanship?
He drew a backwards "S" at the end of "Repairs". This book has the look of being designed by committee.


Jenny said...

Hey Mark...I think Jerry Beck just ripped you off with his recetn post artwork! If that's your old 78 album cover,that is. ; )

Another stellar post.
I haven't seen X3 yet, don't know squat about the books but enjoyed the first one a lot, second one--well, it was okay too. I'm looking forward to going(just since I knew everyone wanted that information! Heh).

mark kennedy said...

Jen - I wish I owned it! I stole it from your pal Dan Goodsell (shhhh...don't tell him).