Friday, May 19, 2006

Learn to Draw in Five Minutes 2: Action!

Last time I tried to teach you a little about how to draw a stick figure.

This time, how about I teach you how to draw more than one?

After all, for most of the things you're going to want to demonstrate, a stick figure alone isn't going to cut it. You're going to need several stick figures interacting in a clear, evocative, and hopefully lighthearted way.

To do this, there is one cardinal rule. Stick figures cannot overlap. Why?

Pretty messy, huh? And this is without any of the added crap most beginners want to put on their figures (like, as I mentioned, boobs).

Which says "dancing" better: the one above, or this one? Which would you prefer to highlight your point?

Of course, it's not just different stick-people. It's any lines at all. Even someone's own lines can get messy if they're doing something with a lot of limbs crossing. Best to avoid that kind of situation until you've advanced to, say, simple cartoons.

Let's say your point is related to people using computers.

What a mess!

We keep him from overlapping with the computer and - hey! We can see what's going on. It's clearer and more evocative. I even added some wibbly lines to show he's really into whatever he's doing on that computer.

Also, I made the screen unusually detailed. This kind of gets into a tough question: how much detail can you add?

I've made a monster with a nonstandard head, funny legs, a tail, and cat ears. Can you tell it's a monster? I sure hope so. It looks pretty clear to me.

I think the basic premise is this: don't crowd your lines. You can make any modification you please so long as your linework remains clear.

You can't add boobs because it muddles up the simple lines of the body. But cat-ears and a tail don't muddle up the body any more than showing someone holding a cane does.

You want the main lines of your figure - the body, the limbs - to be uncrowded. The extremities are okay to modify. Heads, hands, feet. But once you start modifying the body and upper limbs, you start to lose the clarity that stick-men give you. At that point, you might as well draw something with a bit more solidarity.

Drawing nonstandard poses - such as kneeling - often give an impression without changing the linework. This kneeling stick figure looks female because the way the legs work, it looks like it is wearing a skirt. Modifying your stick figure is okay, but always try to keep it to a minimum of lines. This is a great way to keep it to a minimum of lines, and is simply an extension of the first lesson, if you can remember that far back in time.

Also, if a place that needs to look clear starts to look crowded, you have to cut back. For example, my mustachioed villain has just his facial hair - no eyes or anything. That's because it would start to get really cramped with the eyes and mouth. Keep it to a minimum of lines.

But... detail!

Detail is often quite useful - but keep it away from your stick figure. You can put detail on a hat, or a club, or a tail - or in another part of the scene entirely. But near your stick figures, it needs to be extremely simple.

Remember, we're trying to communicate something to our audience. That something is not "I'm a good artist". It's "there's a guy trying to catch the train!"

It doesn't need to be polished or high-detail. If that's what you want, you can learn that in five minutes ten lessons from now.

For now, think: simplicity. Clarity. Detail is optional. (I'll teach you about detail five minutes from now. ;) )

Why were we learning stick figure drawing again? Oh yeah:

Five minute assignment time. Fifteen stick figures, as before. However, this time they share the spotlight with each other. I want you to draw two scenes, three times each.

The first time, draw a scene where the stick figures overlap. You need to burn overlap = bad into your artistic stick-figure mind. The second time, draw the scene using the minimum number of lines. The third time, go nuts with the detail work... but keep the bodies eye-poppingly clear. No muddying your picture up!

The two scenes I suggest are:

1) Valentine's day gift.
2) Larry, Curly, and Moe.

Feel free to think of your own scenes. Hell, feel free to do anything you want. But take five minutes and learn to draw.

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