Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Drawing Critters on the Clock and Other Musings on a Wednesday AM Warm-Up...

I think our first session of drawing exercises at the Center for Cartoon Studies went pretty well, but we'll see what the CCS students say.

Though I had a few exercises planned (the best of those to be used later, so mum's the word here), the one I settled on was a timed effort to (a) break the ice with immediate work while (b) creating a 'composite character/critter/object' from multiple references, each timed, (c) simplifying the resulting composite 'thingie' into a coherent character design, (d) sculpting a small 3-D model of the 'composite' that can be rotated in order to (e) arrive at three views of the 'composite' character/critter, thus resolving for the artist what the 'composite' looks like from all sides. I did the same exercise, presenting my results and walking through to the next stage after the initial four-reference rotation sessions (working from a batch of 1960s photo science texts I brought in -- the task was: quickly choose a single photo from a random book, choose one component of that image as a portion of a composite drawing and quickly render it in ten minutes; at the ten minute mark, one passes the book to the cartoonist on your right, getting a new book from the cartoonist on your left, and repeat -- four times, 10 minutes each).

Thus, in a little less than 2 1/2 hours, the students had completed rough 'character sheets' and step one in mastering the ability to fully realize any imagined character as a dimensional construct, drawable from any conceivable angle. A long way to go from here, but a good start. It's my goal to make each session an intensive 'play' session, too, as the element of play is a constant in cartooning.

Completely by coincidence (we didn't even have the same books cross our tables) -- no one saw each other's work in progress unless they were sitting alongside one another, and I was half-a-room away from Sean -- my resulting bird/rodent/crustacean thingie was almost identical to Sean Morgan's; only the tails and proportions differed. Weird & cool. Before going to the stage of refining our respective designs, we then looked at each other's composite critters, and the results were imaginative across the board. The next three-step refinement (refining/simplifying design; sculpting a miniature for full dimensional view; completing two more drawings of the composite from other viewpoints) was fun, too. For some, the sculpting meant completion of design -- what does this composite critter look like from the back? What's back there? -- while others demonstrated a remarkably full grasp of full-dimensional design, and that was telling.

This is an essential skill for any and all cartoonists, regardless of your drawing style. The coming weeks will build on this cumulatively, while touchstoning the rudiments of comparative anatomy en route -- all in all, though, a solid start, and a lively first go-around in our 14 weeks of drawing sessions.

More later --