Sunday, November 05, 2006

Things They Don't Teach in Art School #5

The other way to organize your figures is to make one side of the figure squash and the other side stretch.

Walt Stanchfiled talks a lot about this in his notes. Check out all the ones posted on Animation Meat for great information on stuff about drawing.

For those of you unfamiliar with animation terms, squash and stretch are usually used to describe how forms are affected by force. When a figure runs fast, it s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s out, and when a figure gets hit on the head by a safe it squashes down.

Squash and stretch is a part of all animation and not just in extreme actions. Squash and stretch are essential to the subtler aspects of animating as well. Squash and stretch are integral to changing a character's expression, which is the key to the "Illusion of Life" - the conceit that an animated character is a living, thinking being. The subtle change from eyebrows slightly lowered to eyebrows a little bit higher (from a squash to a stretch) can make the viewer believe that a character is having a realization and convince an audience that the character is real.

Anyway, this post is about a different use of squash and stretch. Just as we were talking about in the previous post, this is a helpful tool in terms of avoiding symmetry. Make one side of the figure squash and the other side stretch.

This is true to real life too. The way our muscles and tendons work make our limbs look this way. And when you bend over to touch your toes, you can feel the stretch that goes from your heel up your leg across your back and up to your head. And you can feel your stomach squash.

It’s a helpful way of organizing your drawing and emphasizing the forces that are happening.

Don't forget that it applies to clothing as well. Clothes are always a reflection of what the body is doing.

Most drawings have sides that alternate between squashes and stretches. As the body leans and tilts this way and that, It will lend itself to a rhythmic series of squashes and stretches on alternating sides.

Walt Stanchfield pointed out that this even applies to hair. The hair of the figure should squash on the same side that the figure squashes and stretch on the same side too. Otherwise the drawing can look disorganized or the ideas can cancel each other out.

This Alice model sheet is full of some good examples. Some are pretty subtle. I've highlighted the two most clear examples. Obviously, you can put all the hair on one side or the other as well.

I wish I had more examples to go with these last two posts, but it's very time consuming to hunt through all of my books and scan stuff for posting. Maybe I'll dedicate a post to just artwork that shows these two concepts at work sometime.

*A caveat to these last two posts:
keep in mind that these last two concepts deal with drawing on a graphic level. These methods run the risks of making you think of your drawings as just lines, which can be very limiting. Every great artist learns to portray forms in space and think three-dimensionally before attempting to draw on a purely graphic level. Picasso, Mary Blair, all the great artists who pioneered the flat UPA style - all of them learned to draw in the traditional way before transitioning into a more stylized and flat style. So keep these last two things in mind while you draw but also always think of your drawings as forms in space as well.


Benjamin De Schrijver said...

About the caveat: I wouldn't agree that counts for this one? I mean, if you're talking squash and stretch, don't you automatically think more in terms of squashing/stretching say a kneaded eraser, than of straightening a line?

Anywho, great post, once again. Walt Stanchfield's notes are just gold. I read at least one of them every day, and then take some time to sketch.

Brett W. Thompson said...

Ooo, nice post!! I feel like I'm learning a whole lot from this blog, so thank you so much! :)

Hadn't seen before, looks like a lot of useful info there :)

Per H said...

Thank you for reminding me!

Todd Harris said...

this is a nice post. thanks for sharing, it's really infomative. love walt's notes. great blog.

Jayenti Collins said...

thanks mark! i still find your posts to be a great reminder and learning tool.

Jun said...

Just a drive-by-blog-commenting to say hi! Still giving away all our secrets to the masses, eh? ;) Kidding, kidding. YOu're really good at this stuff. Are you teaching a class? Boy, am I out of the loop.

Sam Nielson said...

Fantastic post. It's amazing how many things you never think about but so completely affect your perception of an image. Thanks again for the incredibly informative posts!

mikecarloooyeah said...

THis is one of my favorite blogs, thanks for all the cool stuff!

blair Kitchen said...

Thanks for all of the great tips! This blog is great.

mark kennedy said...

Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to leave a nice comment. It helps keep me motivated!

Hey jun! No, I'm not teaching a class, just trying to keep my blog fed...thanks for the kind words.

Steve said...

Awesome post Mark... and I always say this...but it's always true... keep up the great work, and thank you for putting this info together for us, I'm sure it's time consuming, but there's no other way some of us would ever learn about it... =]

chickennuggets said...

Ummm...Purple? W to the T to the F???

mark kennedy said...

...who doesn't like purple?

LauraBraga said...

awesome post, and awesome blog, Mark!!
It was really interesting to read it.
thank you!!!


mark kennedy said...

Steve and Laura - thanks!!!

dapOOn said...

Oh so much to learn! Life is beautiful! ^_^