Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Learn to Draw in Five Minutes 3: Detail and Contrast

Well, we've covered drawing a stick figure in more detail than you're likely to find anywhere else. We've also covered basic composition for stick figures, also in detail. Before we move on to learn cartooning in five minutes, let's finish up our stick figure regimen with the basics of detail in contrast.

Okay, there's gonna be a wee little problem with this, because half of you are seeing it against a white background (feed) and half of you are seeing it against a black background (site). If you're on the black background, remember that all the drawings are already highly contrasted because they're white drawings on a dark background. Your drawings probably aren't. At least, not yet.

But it is what we're going to learn about.

The secret to life, the universe, and everything is contrast.

Detail is one form of contrast. You can use color (not recommended for stick men, I'm afraid), shading (also not recommended) and detail.

It can be subtle. That rose draws your attention even though it is not exactly springing with the detail. Let's see some more detail work. For the job, we'll bring on one of my favorite people: Hellboy.

This is a very heavily detailed piece of stick-art. It's pushing the limit - for this level of detail, it would actually be better to be drawing a cartoon. However, I wanted to show you what you can do with this level of art. It's a fun picture, even if it's silly, poorly-drawn stick figures, and it's pretty neat.

There's a bunch of tricks with detail - flow, hash-contrast, tint... but you're not going to learn any of them from me in the next five minutes. You're going to learn three reasons and methods for doing detail work.

Ba-bam! Shoes! This is what I call the "highlight". By making only one thing detailed, it becomes the focal point. This is the easiest and most predictable method of detail-work, and also probably the one you'll use most. Make whatever is important more detailed. Whether it's a letter, a computer, or a pair of shoes.

The problem comes if the thing you want to highlight is too large or pervasive. Can you highlight, say, a hula girl?

Hrm. Looks rather bad. So, if you want to highlight a fair amount of the picture - like, say, a person or group of people - use this trick:

Smokers! This is what I call the "reverse highlight". You make your stick figure(s) stupidly oversimplified in comparison to whatever else is going on in the scene. By having most other things heavily detailed, you let the primary focus be a spot of simplistic white.

It doesn't take any artistic skill: just make sure whatever is in the background has lots of lines. :D

I call this "stark contrast". If you're not using a computer to do your sketching, these are rather irritating for you to do. The basic idea is the same as a reverse highlight, but using flat black or a simple design (such as a bulls-eye or sunrays).

Now, these three tactics should serve you well in virtually any situation, no matter what kind of art you're using. Just remember:

Tiny focal point - such as a product? Make it detailed.

Larger focal point - such as a person? Make everything else detailed.

Emotional focal point - such as victory? Use stark contrast.

Did you notice? There's no reverse stark contrast, like there is a reverse highlight. Why is that?

Well, actually, there sort of is. But it works very poorly for stick figures.

My eyes! They're falling out! Ow!

Yeah, so stick to the three I've listed above. We'll cover additional kinds of contrast later.

So, what's the five minute exersize?

You get to draw three different scenes. You should draw each scene using each type of contrast. This will allow your brain to grow into the benefits of each kind of contrast.

If you aren't using a computer, you don't have to do "stark contrast" - but you have to do a different set of scenes.

For our computer geeks:

1: Carrying a TV.
2: Stuck in a tree.
3: OMGWTF?!?!?!

For our paper geeks:

1: Carrying a TV.
2: Stuck in a tree.
3: The Greatest Hat in the Free World!
4: Eating your spleeeeeeen!

Have fun!

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