By one of my favourite Singaporean artists ivanhoohart
I’m not kidding when I say he’s A M A Z I N G.
Storyboard, character design, backgrounds, and creation of Cross Road, directed by Makoto Shinkai
Hey there! Thank you so much!
I’ve typed parts of this up for someone before, but I’ll reiterate it again here. These are the three pieces of advice that I wish I had gotten earlier in my life. I’m still learning, but these have been really helpful to me, and I hope you find some use in them too! :)
- DRAW WITH INTENTION. I think there’s a tendency for novice artists to start drawing by setting down a bunch of little lines to make up one big line, in a sort of super sketchy, I-don’t-really-know-what-I’m-trying-to-draw, searching way. I used to do this three years ago and occasionally I still fall back on it (though I’m far more conscious of it now.)
Here is an example of what I mean. That’s my own work from a few years ago, and it kind of pains me to show you this but I think it’s important. Overall, I don’t think the character design is bad but what bothers me most about that work is the fuzzy line quality. There is no intention to it whatsoever. For example: look at the largest figure on the left. Look at the sleeves and the edges of the sweater. There’s a quality of indecisiveness there. Where does the line actually start? How thick is her waist exactly? These questions arise because there is no strength of conviction to the line.
You really have to have confidence as an artist—and I think the best pieces of art are the pieces where you can tell the artist made SOLID decisions and that NOTHING is an accident. The above example lacks that confidence; in order to get that confidence you need to practice as much as possible. And when you do practice, try putting down your lines in full sweeps. Don’t do that thing where you search out the line by making a bunch of little fuzzy lines. It just kills the energy and life of the drawing. By making bigger, sweeping gestures, your work will look more fluid and less stiff. If you want a good example of this, take a look at this figure drawing by Glen Keane. In contrast to my example above, every line of Glen Keane’s has reason for being there. There are no arbitrary strokes. It’s all about intention!
- OBSERVE FROM LIFE! Can’t stress this one enough. When you’re learning to draw, it’s really helpful to draw more from life and observing what people ACTUALLY look like. This may seem like a drag if you’re into cartoons, but trust me: learning the rules before you break them is one of the best things you can do. The results tend to be surprising. For example, when I observe from life, in my head there’s usually a lot of, ‘Whoa, I didn’t know the arm went like that or huh that looks really interesting, so THAT’S how legs lie.”
This is because observing from life breaks my set expectation of what a generic human body looks like and that’s a good thing! Human bodies AREN’T generic. Once you really learn how the body works, you’re free to break and bend the rules as much as you want but in my opinion you really need that foundation in order to be able to caricature and stylize the body in a somewhat believable and aesthetically pleasing way.
- EVERYTHING IS A CHARACTER. This is the most recent piece of advice I’ve gotten that has really resonated with me. It goes hand in hand with intention, but it’s a bit of a different animal too. When you’re designing things, you have to remember that everything has a story. Everything has a reason for being what it is. This goes not only for characters but for buildings, for items, for everything. For example imagine, say, a napkin holder at a restaurant. What is it made of? Is it metal? If it’s metal, is it really shiny? Does it look like it gets polished often? Is it stained and dented? What does that say about the overall cleanliness of the restaurant? What does that say about the waitstaff? What does that say about the restaurant’s funding? What does that say about the neighborhood where the restaurant is set? Do you see what I’m getting at? Even the most minor details can say SO much about a setting or character.I’ve been trying to include this more and more in my work as of late. It’s in the way that I draw Percy and Annabeth’s hair for example. Percy is the Son of Poseidon, so I tried to do a sort of wave/shark fin motif to the shape of his hair. Annabeth is the Daughter of Athena, so I put her hair up to be reminiscent of the fringe on Athena’s war helmet. Obviously, there are better examples out there (it’s just easier to talk about the intention of my own work.) Off the top of my head, take a look at Pixar’s WALL•E or any Pixar film in general. Really analyze the difference in design between WALL•E and EVE. Of Mike and Sully. Of Woody and Buzz—not only their characters but the PACKAGING they come in. There’s just SO much intention to the design it’s crazy!
Anyway! I hope that was remotely helpful in some way! Good luck with your classes and have lots of fun! :)