Monday, August 07, 2006

D&D3: Offset Curves

When you don't want to use straight against curves, it is entirely possible, of course, to construct a great drawing out of just curves. But you have to be a little careful with them and use them right.

Curves that are parallel or even would either look like a vase or a macaroni noodle.




Both are lifeless. The basic key to drawing with curves is to avoid parallel curves or even curves. Use offset curves to create a drawing that has all the flow of nice curves without being lifeless. This section from "The Illusion of Life" pretty much sums it up:



As Frank and Ollie point out, nature already designed living forms in offset curves, making our jobs easier (I blurred out the racy parts for those of you who don't want to see that kind of stuff. Isn't Photoshop cool?)



For some reason this is one of those things that can be hard for our brains to comprehend easily. If I'm not careful, I find that in life drawing I tend to draw figures with the exact same curve on both sides of the body and it always looks mushy. I guess our brains have a natural tendency to even things out and make them balanced and static. So try to keep this in mind and train yourself to always avoid parallels in your drawing. Straight parallel lines in your drawing should be avoided as well - again, it tends to be lifeless. Even in the simplest of drawings, removing the parallel lines immediately improves the drawing.



This touches on yet another big secret of design - avoid symmetry. The human eye doesn't like symmetry. It's lifeless and boring. We'll talk about that more in a future post.

Fred Moore was a master of the offset curve and I think that's a big part of what gives his drawings their flow and rhythm. They're made of curves that flow into and oppose each other but they are never ever symmetrical.

Check out this one (recently brought to my attention by The Blackwing Diaries, of course). There's not a single straight line in the drawing (except, okay, maybe the one under her right arm). But nowhere are there any symmetrical curves in the drawing (other than the back of the chair). Every part of her body has a different curve on the left side of her body than it has on the right side. No shape of her body is symmetrical.



I never thought about it much before but it occurs to me that Walt Kelly never used straights much in his drawing either. He gets pretty good results with some offset curves and some nice thick and thin lines.



I'm going to make yet another rather rash and uneducated statement that just occurred to me and say that I think most Disney drawing is based on offset curves. I don't think there are too many Disney animators that use straights against curves very often - it's hard to animate with straight lines and keep the appearance of living forms. Straights are pretty rare in living forms (and even in man-made forms, if you think about it). So I would say most Disney drawing is based on offset curves, but I haven't ever thought about that before or done any research so I could be wrong!

15 comments:

Mark Mayerson said...

Walt Kelly's drawing improved by leaps and bounds while he was at Disney. Furthermore, he definitely worked with Ward Kimball, Fred Moore and Riley Thomson, so if what you say about Disney drawing is true (and I'd want to stare more at Tytla and Kahl drawings before declaring you 100% right), it's no surprise that Kelly would use the same approach

mark kennedy said...

Obviously, it depends on the film as well. "Sleeping Beauty" and "101 Dalmatians" are done in a style that encourage straight lines in animating. "Snow White" and "Lady and the Tramp" are done in a style that doesn't encourage straights, just to pick a couple of examples.

But I still contend that most people think of Mickey Mouse or The Seven Dwarves when they think about the Disney style of drawing, so I still think what I said is true...that the rounder, curvier style of drawing is what we think of as "Disney".

pbcbstudios said...

i come to your blog just for the uni-cheek.

Dean White said...

Mark

Great post, been dealing with this and design lately in figure drawing and this post really brought up something I have be dealing with, That the straights can feel to artificial. So I have been work on the "idea" of the straight, keeping the lines/curves straighter and shallower on one side, usually the stretched. Had been noticing the ofset curve as well but had not articulated it yet

Thanks a lot as always

Skribbl said...

Did you blur out the crack because it was neither a straight or a curve? You're still awesome by the way.

mark kennedy said...

As always, thanks for the comments guys.

Skribbl you are awesome too.

Steve said...

Thanks for this post Mark, maybe you could do a post on why I'm such an idiot, and even once I read these posts, I still forget to think about these important steps when drawing...

As always, thanks for the info, it is always good to see =]

joto said...

very informative and resourceful blog. I have a constant struggle for a good design and find the info very informative. Hopefully in time these basic principles will become second nature. Thanks for the info.

St John Street said...

Hello Mark thanks again for the return on the email like I said you probably already had that stuff but thought I'd share any ways cause of all the great info that I have been able to access through your blog I hope you continue to keep sharing what you've learnt and are still learn if the world did more of this keep of stuff there would be less ignorance and problems cause knowledge is power and knowing is better and living in the dark wiil I'm ranting so have a great weeknd an keep up the great work I was able to locate some to the work you've done excllent stuff and projects I hope that u have continued success in life and stay kool !!!

Linton

Dennis said...

Thanks for these great posts about drawing and design! I've heard a little about asymmetry in cartoons, but you've articulated it the best. Keep it up!

djangone said...

You know, this goes back to 'Symmetria,' the aesthetic developed by the Greeks around 450BC. Their antecedents in Persian sculpture were symmetrical body forms, boring, parallel, flat.

The Greeks introduced hips cocked at different angles from the shoulders, bringing the pose to life. This technique is part of what came to be known as contrapposto. I think the first (or best?) known example is the Doryphoros by Polykleitos. We know of it from a Roman recreation of the lost Greek original. I had to write a fifteen page paper on this sucker during my freshman year in college.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doryphoros

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I have some designs for this, that I use in photoshop for drawing and stuff like that you know, anyway thanks for the info it's very useful.

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YEah I took some drawing lessons and you need to know a lot of anatomy to draw in the right way the movements of the body and arms mostly, thanks