figure drawing basics—action & structure

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  • 1CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    Part 1: Figure Drawing BasicsAction & Structure

  • 2CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    In our methodical approach to building up your confidence as an artist,we're going to tackle something simple at firstour friend the stickfigure. Go ahead, draw one right now!

    A reasonable stick figure at this point should contain a midline for thespine, two arms, two legs, and a circle for the head. Fingers for handsand lines for feet are optional, but being the conscientious craftsmanthat you are, I know you'll want to include them.

    Now draw your stick figure running, jumping, falling, walking, running,climbingsee how many poses you can come up with. The record is4096!

    Don't worry about niceties like exact proportions at this point. Gettingyour point across is everything. We'll be getting fancier a little later on.

    The Stick Figure

  • 3CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    Okay, so anybody can draw a simple stick figure. But the point I'm trying to get across here is that, moreimportantly, everyone recognizes what a stick figure representsa person! Isn't that amazing?

    Cartoonists are able to communicate even with the most elementary of pictures. Show your drawings to yourfriends and see if they can tell what your stick figures are doing. If they misidentify some of your drawings,that's okay. Many poses will be open to interpretation. Just compliment them on their keen perception andhead back to the drawing board!

    Conveying specific actions and even emotional states of mind with a few quick linesand I dare say as fewlines as possibleis an important first step towards drawing fully realized figures. If you can accomplish thatwith your limited stick figures, think of what you can accomplish with even more tools at your disposal.

  • 4CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    A More Sophisticated Stick FigureLet's use a slightly moresophisticated stick figure,one that is shaped a littlemore like an adult person.As before, don't be overlyconcerned with correctproportions right now. Stayfocussed on depictingactions--leaping, swinging,golfing, rowing, sitting, etc.

    We've added a line across theshoulders and a line acrossthe hips, as well as definiteelbow and knee joints. Don'tworry about making yoursticks perfectly straight lines,eitherin fact, slightly curvylines are more human. Anddon't even worry aboutgetting the curves right,eitherjust go with what-ever feels right.

    Again, test your drawings outon others. If people can tellwhat activities your stickfigures are involved in, you'redoing great!

  • 5CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    Our new, sleeker stick figure seems to lend itself to more gracefuland athletic themes. But try comical situations as well. You mayeven use some of your 4096 poses you came up with for theshorter, stubbier stick figure and see if they can be translated tothe more sophisticated model.

    Your friends may tell you they like your older, funnier workbetterdon't be discouraged! Keep right on drawing.

  • 6CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    The 3 Basic SolidsIt's time to let you in on alittle secret. The stick figuremakes such a convincingperson because it represents,in a minimalistic way, whatall people have got insidethema skeleton! Thespine, the arms, the legsallare represented in a simpli-fied way in a stick figure.

    With the skeleton in mind,we can now add three shapesto our stick figures to makethem more real, one ofwhich we already have: theskull (the head), the rib cage(the chest), and the pelvis(hip bone). These are thethree largest bony masses inthe body. Use simple ovalsfor right now.

  • 7CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    After you've drawn the spine,arms and legs to establish theaction of your stick figure,proceed to add the chest,hips and head to begin flesh-ing things out. See howquickly things are takingshape?

    Keep the focus on the action, firstand foremost. If your drawingsdon't communicate the story yourtrying to tell, all the ovals in theworld aren't going to help you.

    Build on a solid foundation:action and emotion!

  • 8CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    The Main Line of ActionThe first thing you need todetermine is the main line ofaction for your figure. Forall intents and purposes, thatis synonymous with thespine. The first line youshould put down on papershould be that lineit deter-mines the entire thrust forthe rest of the figure. Limbsand even the head branch offfrom that.

    Notice how the three basicsolidschest, skull andpelvisrelate to each otherdifferently depending uponthe arc of the spine.Continue the sweep of yourpose into the arms and legs.Keep your figures moving!

    It's important to never losesight of your stick figure,because it represent theskeleton. And where bonegoes, flesh will surely follow!

  • 9CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    Okay, so now every pose is starting to look like dancing.Oh well. You get the point.

  • 10CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    Twisting and Turning Along the SpineThe spine conveys the mainaction of a figure because it'shighly flexible. The backbends, twists and turns at thewaist, and the head bobs allaroundand it's all thanksto our friend the spine.

    Don't draw your figures witha single solid body mass.Move the should in relationto the hips, get your figuresto twist and turn. Get yourfigures to boogie!

    Draw several figures wherethe shoulders are twistingand turning in relation to thehips. Make use of the flexi-bility of the spine.

  • 11CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    Show your drawings to your friends. See ifthey can't sense a new mobility in your work.Say, aren't these figures twisting and turning,a-writhing and a-wriggling? I think they are!I still like your older, funnier work! Oh, well.

  • 12CartooningConcepts and Methods Part 1: Figure Drawing Basics, and Don Simpson 2000, all rights reserved. For individual use only. Classroom use without express written permis-

    sion is strictly forbidden. Please email fiasco@MEGATONMAN.com for information. Published by Fiasco Comics Inc., PO Box 64, Wexford, PA 15090. www.MEGATONMAN.com

    Fleshing Out the Figure With OvalsWith a solid grasp of the all-important stick figure, we'reready to add the neck, shoul-ders, arms, legs, hands a feetto our figures. Use simpleovals for now.

    The oval is an all-purpos