Friday, December 6, 2013



For some time, I've been giving private cartooning lessons through email.

The following is an excerpt from one of them, in which I personally address an artist's concerns over making his figures "a bit more fluid and less static", first by giving him requested tips on character construction:

The proper construction is the one that you find you are most comfortable with. For me and most animation-style cartoonists, the oval (chest)- tube (waist/spine)-oval (hips/pelvis) system is the most flexible. It can be seen below as I first learned it from these drawings by Russell Patterson. (From MODERN CARTOON by Walter Foster. Book copyrighted by Walter Foster Art Books. Now out of print.)

Several factors give variety to a character's stance: 
1) It's important to remember is that when a person is not standing at attention ("ten-hut!"), one always favors one leg or the other. This creates the slant to the figure that gives variety to the stance, creating the curving "line of action". (Studying full-figure movie stills or fashion photos show one the many ways people stand, consciously and otherwise.) I try to put myself into the character physically, making myself aware of how it is distributing its weight. It is an unsure process at first, causing one to create a raft of bad 
drawings along the way; but the final, improved results will show off a new knowledge that make the trouble worth it! Illustration from DRAWING THE HEAD AND FIGURE by Jack Hamm. Book copyrighted by Jack Hamm, published by Perigee Books. Currently in print.) 

2) In the more extreme, physical styles of cartooning (notably traditional animation), the mindset of the character visibly and broadly affects the character's distribution of weight. It is a matter of making what's inside the subject's head visible. In the opening panel of the Little Audrey comic strip I've attached (drawn by Steve Muffati), the large man, a most unrealistic, tiny-legged figure, leans forward in a bow while making himself acquainted.
It's a literal supplication, a gross exaggeration of courtesy, replete with a daintily extended pinky. In the third panel, he answers what seems to be an obvious question from Audrey; at this point, he is condescending towards her; his entire body becoming a huge, amused shrug. He leans with his weight on the small of his back, exposing his belly, practically asking that she 'hit him with her best shot', which comes in the form of the girl's 'punch line'. This blows the man off his feet; his head jerks forward to follow Audrey's path as she walks off, and he lifts both arms to keep balanced. If the viewer finds the art amusing, it is largely because he has felt the emotions and reactions the figure expresses; he can relate to them. A kinship is formed between a human being and an unrealistic, tiny-legged figure of pen-and-ink! (Comic copyrighted by Harvey Famous Cartoons.)

If you are interested in lessons from an affable 30+ year cartooning veteran, please PM me at; $25 per lesson/subject.

Class Dismissed! Continued tomorrow...
Our toon for today: A MAD HOUSE-Terrytoon 1934. Mad Doctor who rooms with a house of skeletons plans mischief. M.D. animation largely by Bill Tytla.

Chemically Yours, MK

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