Saturday, August 12, 2006

D&D4: Small, Medium and Large

Again, this one is all about contrasts. A drawing that is full of all one kind of shape (meaning all big, all medium-sized or all small shapes) is much less interesting than a drawing that has a nice variety of sized shapes. A contrast of different shapes creates visual interest.

Remember that areas of detail draw the eye. What this means is that, if there is a part of your drawing that has a lot of small shapes on it, people will tend to focus on that area of the drawing. I'm not sure why the human eye works that way. But you know what? This leads to an interesting result in drawing characters. The face is the part of the human body with the most small shapes clustered around in a group - meaning the eyes, nose and mouth. Which works out well because in real life people always look at the face first when encountering people. Why is this, you ask? Well...

When we look at people in real life, we look at their eyes and mouth before anything else. The eyes and mouth are the most expressive (and telling) part of the body. So we look at faces to see if people mean us harm or have good intentions towards us. If you see someone who looks angry or crazy we know immediately to be cautious and/or avoid that person. So we evolved to study faces as a survival mechanism (that's one theory anyway).

So what I'm trying to say is that many great drawings will have a lot of small shapes on the face - not just the features but stubble, detailed hair, lots of wrinkles, etc. So then the drawing plays into our natural tendency and we look at the face on the drawing first, especially if the areas around the face are free of detail and don't compete with the face.

Another weird thing that nature has done that helps us: there are a lot of small areas of detail on the hands and feet, which, after the face, are the most expressiive parts of the body. Hands have knuckles, wrinkles, little digits and fingernails - all small shapes that can serve as detail and help draw the eye to a naturally expressive part of your drawing. Feet have the same things. In general the other parts of the body are made up of large and medium shapes that don't draw the eye so much.

Of course clothing and jewelry can have small details that draw the eye. So be careful as you design those elements that they are doing what you want them to do. Don't put a really detailed bracelet on your character unless you want the audience to focus on that. It might detract from the face or other important parts of the character or scene.

The same things that make a good composition or layout are the same things that make a good character design or good character drawing. After all, good design is good design. In general, a good drawing usually has: large empty spaces for the eye to rest, balanced with areas of small spaces to draw the eye. Medium sized shapes fill in the inbetween spaces.

How perfect is this drawing? Small shapes on the face to draw the eye, little ears with little hairs as well. Nice big belly, with little rivets on it. Medium sized stripes on the pants so that the pants don't become big shapes as well. Little wrinkles and toes on the feet to balance out the body and it's far enough away from the face to not compete with it. And nice little bits of texture on the arm to balance out the other areas of small shapes but not too much. Click to see bigger.

Obviously there's a lot more good stuff going on here but we'll talk about that another time. One topic at a time.

Small Med and Large can bring order to something that is unweildy or difficult to organize as a drawing - like clouds or waves or bubbles, or hair, like the mane of a horse.

An unweildy "non-shape"

More rhythm and design sense by dividing the mane into a small section, a medium section and a large section (just a quck doodle and not overly impressive but I don't feel like doing a better one, and anyway you can begin to see the possibilities).

I was never an effects animator but my impression is that they use this concept a lot. To even approach animating something like waves or lava I would think you would first design the frame to break that unweildy mass into S, M and L shapes. It creates order out of chaos and can lead to a pleasing composition if done right.

Ronald Searle creates interest by good variety of small medium and large.

A nice variety of small, med and large shapes is essential to any successful character lineup. All the characters must be harmonious and work together so that all of the characters seem to come from the same world. And all of their shapes need to work with every other character so that, no matter which ones are in a scene together, they will compliment each other and not duplicate one another. Ken Anderson's "Robin Hood" lineup from "The Art of Walt Disney" book.

"Trees and Roman Ruins" by Claude. Nice balance of small leaf shapes, balanced by large section of empty sky to let the eye rest. Imagine how the effect would be ruined if the sky were full of medium or small clouds. Nice medium shapes below in the landscape.

It's worth pointing out that for layout composition, you will usually put all of your small shapes in the area of the foreground, because obviously we see lots of detail in things that are close to us. Atmospheric perspective (you know, smoke, dust, moisture in the air) blurs out detail on things that are far away from us. So we will see texture on a leaf that is right in fron of us but a tree a mile away is just an overall shape with no detail.

No duh, right?

Contrast and variety are going to be a recurring theme as we continue to talk about good design. Obviously using three different sizes of shapes will make any design better.

For more examples of good small, med and large take another look at the Milt Kahl stuff I scanned before (check out the June Archives button on the right).


josie said...

mark, your blog is the bestest!

Judy said...

I always find what you write helpful and interesting, look forward to your articles each day. Thanks so much for doing this. Judy

Anonymous said...

I'm back. :)
Another great article, I myself just finished the first page of an online comic I told myself I would do and have been fighting not to "over render" each scene. Enough texture to show what's there but not so much to clutter the view. Same goes for figure placement and even detail, consciously trying to adhere to some of the points you have made in your blog. There is so much that goes into design of anything you draw that it can overshadow much of what your trying display.
I'm unsure if your information is helping me lol, but I at least try to incorporate them as I smear lead around. Keep it up, your at least helping 1 person out there! (Sorry I would bypass anonymous if I didn't have another blog elsewhere :P)

Scott LeMien said...

this is the kind of stuff I enjoy so much. Thanks for these recent topics, Mark

mark kennedy said...

Thanks for the appreciative comments - glad to hear people are enjoying the stuff!

Jenny said...

Fantastic post!

I was bleary-eyed before reading this and now I'm all jazzed up again.
You're a darned good teacher. : )

Per Hardestam said...

Thank's a lot. This was really interesting. As always!

Dave said...

Yeah Mark! Can't thank you enough! Lots of great information!

Rob Bodnar said...

I'm eating this stuff up, thank you. Hopefully i can digest it all real soon!

shannon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
shannon said...

Hey Mark,

I was in your story class at CalArts back in '97-'98. I learned a lot and it's good to see you continue passing on the knowledge.

I'm a huge Searle fan and I have to know which book you got the sketches from.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again Mark! I'm falling behind on your posts, while still trying to go back and read older posts.

GREAT INFO, sp thanks. Ya know, i've been listening to some of the animation podcasts, and getting all nostalgic about the old days, but mostly about the mentoring that used to go on. You know that I work in a diff. part of this indusrty, but, that's what I miss the most. UNTIL YOUR BLOG. You are wonderful for posting these thoughts, images, etc. So please. Keep it up!

I hope that woriking along with Glen has given you some of that mentoring that we all long for. He's a great teacher, and has some much to offerl, so I am very jeleous.

Look forward to next post:0
ZAc Moncrief (still don't have my password at work)

mark kennedy said...

Wow, thanks for all the comments! Thanks for letting me know you like the stuff, it makes me keep going.....

Jenny-high praise from you, thanks!

Per, Dave and Rob thanks for the kind words!

Sannon- of course I remember you, I've been to your blog many times (I should make a link, huh?). I also saw your post earlier where you said you didn't know what the f*ck was going on in "Pirates 2". Are you going to the Matha B auction?

Zac! Thanks for posting! You know, I have to say that I never really had any just doesn't happen that way, as you know. Sure, I always try to pick the mind of all the great artists at work but most of them don't really throw out great pearls of wisdom (if they did I would post them here). And there's never time to sit and talk with artists - everyone is so busy trying to get stuff done that we don't talk about art.
Most of them are very intuitive so they can't explain what they do, and most are just good from years and years of drawing. I've learned so much just looking at the great drawings on the wall. Guys like Glen, Mike Gabriel or Mark Dindal have had a HUGE impact on me - not by anything they ever said - but just by realizing that they were good designers first and the ability to draw was secondary. But I just learned that by staring at their stuff - and anyone can do that!

mark kennedy said...

BTW Shannon the Searle book is "The Secret Sketchbook".

shannon said...

Hey Mark!

I'm currently in Portland working on a film called Coraline, so I might not be able to attend the auction.

It sucks, because I'd love to see everybody.

I still don't understand Pirates, but maybe my expectations were too high.

Thanks for the tip on the Searle book. My good friend Abebooks will help me aquire it.

Again, great website! I check it every morning to get psyched for work.

Matt J said...

Hi Mark, fantastic post - informative & inspiring as always. I too was curious to know which Searle book the skiers are from - you said the Secret Sketchbook which has left me confused as I have that one & it's solely sketches Searle made in German brothels!

mark kennedy said...

Oh shoot! Sorry about that Matt-the horses and donkeys I posted by Searle were from the secret sketchbook.

The skiers are from an old magazine called "Vermont Life", Vol XXI No. 2 from 1966.

I will post the rest of the Searle from that magazine sometime, becasue I assume it would be a hard periodical to find.

Matt J said...

Thanks for clarifying that Mark, look forward to seeing the rest of the pics. Keep up the sterling work here-

Anonymous said...

Best regards from NY! batteries The sisiterhood of the traveling pants

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work » » »