Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Why life drawing is essential for any artist – even cartoons. Learning from a Manga artist.

Cartoons are a lesser art! Or so the general public, and art lovers in particular, would have you believe! And why bother studying to draw a figure, when any 4 year old can draw a cartoon? But is this really true?

Unless you are aware of the work put in by cartoonists, it can be difficult to see the merit of a simple drawing. And yet, any cartoonist will tell you… "Simple is much harder to do than complicated! Simple images betray even the slightest error. They magnify each little detail and broadcast ineptitude like a foghorn!

Complicated on the other hand, is sneaky and sly! Masking all those tiny little faults – and even some really big ones – under a blanket of fussiness! Yes, the faults are still there but our brains have to filter through the accumulated scribble. Know why artists use sketchy lines? It’s because the brain automatically filters out the erroneous ones and imposes the correct line.

Any serious cartoonist must do life drawing… or at least figure drawing –that’s the one where they wear clothes. That’s right, the cartoonist NEEDS to be able to draw REAL people. It’s true that a cartoon can defy the conventional laws of proportion but it’s not always the case. Understanding how a body works and moves helps to distil the essential lines required. When you know how everything should work, you are then free to break the rules to make the humour work! It is here where the skill of the cartoonist lies! Filtering out the detritus, paring an image to the bare bones!

Great cartoons are all about quality of line and very few of them at that! The old adage of practice makes perfect is especially true! Any cartoonist who’s been drawing a character over a number of years show’s visible improvement and stylisation! If you doubt me look at Gary Larson, Charles Shultz or Matt Goenig. Then compare their early work to their current output!

Last week I attended our Bafa Meeting where Emily Brady from Footloose comics showed how to draw figures with a view to creating fantasy characters. It was just such a chance to hone my skills!

Emily specialises in the Manga styles and she creates some wonderful action figures and ethereal beauties. Essentially a practical session, We were encouraged to work fast! Cartoons need to be drawn quickly! Because if you’re creating a comic for production you are on a tight timeframe. Emily informed us that her figures are always much better straight after she’s done a life drawing class!

So, how did I fare,

©2010 Cathy Read -Sitting figure - 38x28cm- coloured pencil on paper

Oh dear! See what I mean about fussy lines! Covers a multitude of sins! What about the next attempt?

©2010 Cathy Read -Standing figure - 38x28cm- coloured pencil on paper 

Mediocre, I’m out of practice!

Which is why I’m off to the life drawing class tomorrow night! Practice what you preach!

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