Thursday, August 27, 2009

Designer's Corner - Life Drawing

Allan here, and kicking off our new blog-post-series with something all budding-animators need to know about. Life drawing!

Really, the first thing I was interested in as a kid was drawing. As a 4 year old, I drew on paper bags, my bedroom wall, the inside of our family encyclopedias and other inappropriate places. Later, much like several of the PG fans, I would draw comics with my brother and sister to amuse ourselves. As persistent as this habit was throughout my childhood, I didn't really take it overly seriously until I went to film school and realized I was more interested in the animation program than the live action. Only one problem. I discovered that, in their eyes, I didn't draw too well. I wasn't horrible, and drew cartoons passably, but I couldn't draw anything realistic to save my life. Now I wasn't interested in drawing realistically, but it seemed to be required in order to be accepted into the animation department. Before I got in, the head of the department told me to step up my drawing habit, take some classes, and of utmost importance, attend LIFE DRAWING workshops.

Life drawing is basically drawing PEOPLE (although it also pertains to drawing animals and even plants). Various classes and workshops get models to pose, and you draw them. This was a new concept to me, but found a flyer for a workshop in the school. I went to my first session, and to my surprise, the woman we were supposed to draw TOOK OFF HER CLOTHES. I was 19 or 20 and this was a brand new experience. I hadn't realized the art world was so WEIRD! Once I got past this, the next surprise was that in this class, we were doing something called "gesture" drawing, and only allowed very short amounts of time to draw each pose. I very was slow at before I even got something down, the model changed position! Some lasted 30 seconds, some 1 minute, some 5 minutes and we were only required to capture the "gesture" of the pose. And then the model would change pose and we were supposed to abandon the drawing and move on! The standard tools were a block of charcoal and a large cheap brown pad of paper. The objective was to loosen up, squiggle the basic idea of the pose in order to get the feel of the human body, but not labor over details. These drawings were also supposed to contain a "line of action". This line is an imaginary arc that represents the natural curve of the human body and should be identified with every gesture. I watched other people scrawl things that barely looked like people but seemed to have the flow of the body position because it captured the "line of action". Some people were just amazing and would create these beautiful charcoal marks, while I seemed to make overly dark scribbles. But the class taught me a lot about loosening up. The looser you are drawing the gesture and finding the line of action, the more interesting and fluid your drawings get.

Line of action examples:

Other life-drawing classes and workshops would give more time to fill in the details. But the lesson of the quick gesture drawing teaches you to lay down the flow of the body before attempting to render details like facial features or fingers.

It turned out to be my favorite type of art class to take. I never got spectacular at it but I became a lot more familiar with the human form-- how arms and legs attach to the body, what size hands should be in comparison to the head, where bones and muscles protrude, etc. For a while I became obsessed with figuring out these types of details.

So how does that translate to drawing Pygmies? Well, of course cartoon characters have their own reality and most of these details don't seem to be present in them, however if you know what you are looking for, this knowledge is in use there...mostly in the poses of the animation. A lot of video game animations look robotic or puppet-like to me. The arms and legs move independently of the body without taking into consideration it is supposed to be alive and organic. When I animate the pygmies, I use the lessons I learned in the posing of the characters. And most of all, I give them a "line of action" so the poses are more alive.

So, when anyone says they want to become a game artist, animator or illustrator, besides telling them to get a sketchbook and draw constantly, I tell them to look into life drawing classes. They're a great place to start , even if you're just curious, and really just a lot of fun. I've also found life drawing books helpful as reference. When I was at home sketching, I would refer to books to learn more about anatomy and technique.

Here's a list of some of the books I found very useful...

Dynamic Anatomy (Practical Art Books)

Drawing the Human Head (Practical Art Books)

Drawing Dynamic Hands (Practical Art Books)
Anything from Burne Hogarth pretty much kicks butt. The drawings are amazing and really help you understand the shape of things like the head, hands, feet, etc. Now, for some great drawings and instruction about being looser and more dynamic, here's one I found more recently...

Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators, Second Edition
Eventually, we're going to put our recommendations into our own amazon store, and anything you buy from it, we'll get a 4% commission (no extra cost to you of course!) So if you want anything we recommend and decide to buy it, why not support Pocket God in the process?


  1. Hey Dave, it's iPocketGames! This will really help my comics! Thank you! Although, there are kids on here and they may giggle at the two pics next to spongebob.

  2. hey iPocketGames...just want to keep the blame from Dave, its me who wrote this...allan. And if the kids are gonna giggle, better keep 'em out of the local museum!

  3. That is weird, Allan! So, what's the new fan site?

  4. lol I'm so sorry!!! Sorry Allan!!! I always say Dave because I always read his Touch Arcade State of the Island's. Anyways, have you seen the blog I made?

    Sorry if I'm bugging you too much about it, I really want it to be a success. Just let me know, and I'll stop :)

  5. I want to be an animator, but this isn't really my style yet. I am a terrible artist, and so for a while I was more of a spriter. But recently I've found out (and I bet I'm the first to say this) that animating is actually EASIER than I thought. I'm beginning to draw in details, I started keyframing, and I'm really trying to make the motion in my movies look real. About 25 out of every 150 frames, it looks kind of professional.

  6. Cool! I wanna see how allan makes the PG icons next...


  7. in the one post that you wrote on touch arcade or where ever the &%$* it was it said 5 weeks til the shark laser beam update. how long ago did you post that? also i know its not possible but it would be way the frick awsome if somehow MyVu sunglasses would work with pocket god. if you dont know what MyVu is its like glasses that has a projection in them so its like a big screen right in front of you

  8. Off subject but i didn't know where else to put this without you guys seeing it. Hope I'm not being a bother but, when you added the whirlpool effect you didn't add the new sacrifice or achievment for whirpool then skewer. Please add this. Thanks!

  9. this is not about pocket god, no offense bolt creative but isn't this meant to be about pocket god! :-P

  10. Once again I'm gonna post the mini-idea I came up with.

    Rain Dance - When it is stormy outside and you tap to make the pygmies dance, a peaceful rain falls onto the island and they perform a new dance. Also, doing this counts as giving them "The Gift of Rain", rather than "The Gift of Dance".

  11. i need to try these ideas.... i do want to be an animator when im older so i need to practise!!!! Anyway, what do you use to make pocket god?

  12. wow that was really interesting. I've always liked drawing (comics or realistic) so I thought the line of action tip was really useful. In the post you also mentioned, "how arms and legs attach to the body, what size hands should be in comparison to the head, where bones and muscles protrude, etc." I'd really like to learn about stuff like that too even though I know it doesn't have much to do with cartoons and pygmies. :P

  13. why do other people get the update way before it is approved

  14. Hey Dave/Allan What Episode do you think Pocket God will end at? It's so popular so it should end at like 35-50 Pocket God is going to be and already is, a huge success. Even bigger.

  15. Hammer time, do you mean beta testers? lol