Some more handouts from Disney Story artist Vance Gerry about basic storyboard drawing composition and clarity. In the first example on the page below (titled "Perplexing Annoyances"), Vance illustrates why you should leave a little "air" or white space around your characters instead of continuing the background lines into the lines of the characters.
In the second example, Vance points out how awkward it looks when you cut off the hands and feet. Part of what Vance is pointing out is how bad it looks when you cut off a character by placing a joint at the edge of the composition. If you place a character's wrist, ankle, knee or elbow right at the edge of the frame it always looks clunky and wrong. Always change the composition so the character is bisected at a place other than the joint (like halfway up the lower leg between the ankle and the knee, instead of right at the ankle).
At the bottom of the page, Vance shows how creating tangents can lead to confusion and hurt clarity.
Here, Vance shows how turning things and seeing them in three dimensional space leads to clarity (and a more interesting drawing).
More examples of how depth can make a drawing more clear, more dynamic and more interesting. The last part at the bottom is very interesting to me, and, like the last post, provides a bit of an intriguing peek into Vance's unique way of thinking that makes me wish he would have written a book on drawing (or at least left us some more notes like these).
Again, I will try to interpret what I think Vance is saying, but I may not be completely accurate: depending on how you draw figures and objects, you can either encourage the eye to move through it quickly or encourage the viewer to take their time and linger over the drawing. I think Vance is saying that--in general--you want to use simplified anatomy and direct lines for readability and to get the audience to grasp the point of a story sketch quickly and directly. Usually the goal in story sketch is for the audience to grasp the meaning of the sketch in a quick glance. Many times, when story sketches are cut together to make a story reel, they are on the screen for a second (or even less time than that). So you need to eliminate any confusion that might arise in the viewer. The audience won't have time to hunt for the point of the sketch and decipher what they're seeing.
So in most story sketches, it's important and desirable to have simplified anatomy as well as simplified objects and backgrounds that help direct your eye and focus your attention on the important part of a drawing (see my last post on "scale"--that's all part of making everything in a drawing read quickly). This isn't as important for other types of illustration where the audience can take time to observe and absorb the piece and find layers of meaning. But in story sketch, simplicity and directness are key, and I think Vance is reminding story artists that sometimes accurate anatomy and creating a nice drawing are not as important as being simple and direct for readability's sake.
In these last three drawings by Vance, he demonstrates how tone can be used for simplifying and prioritizing information, and how that can help readability and mood. The caption of this first drawing is "overwhelmed by information", and it's easy to see why. Every aspect of the line drawing is given the same amount of weight and importance.
This next example is captioned "information partially dramatized". It's the same drawing, but now there is tone to "group" the shapes so the viewer can more readily see where the planes are, which makes it much easier to tell at a glance what is happening in the drawing and where the eye is supposed to focus. The other effect that happens when you begin to add tone is that the drawing starts to have a mood; the storyboard starts to feel like it's illustrating a dramatic moment where something important is happening. The more tone you add to a drawing, the more moody and dramatic it starts to feel.
In the next post, I'll share some ideas for getting clarity and readability in ways other than using tone, for those times when you need to make a sketch read, but you don't want to use an abundance of tones because it might make a sketch too dark and moody.