As I wrote in my last post I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of keeping a daily sketchbook in addition to my client work. Some days are better than others but overall I’m making good progress. Even after fourteen years working as a freelance illustrator I still enjoying finding new ways to push myself to grow and improve as an artist.
Case in point: Last year I attended the CTN Animation Expo in Burbank, California. While there I shopped my character design portfolio around a bit. Several animation professionals graciously gave me some very helpful feedback. One thing I kept hearing was that although my character designs were strong overall there was not much expressive acting in my characters. Most of the people and animals I drew just stood around, usually with one hand on the hip and the other in what Kyle Baker refers to in his book How To Draw Stupid (Amazon.com link) as the “hand of death” pose. They encouraged me to say more about a character’s personality and breathe life into the drawings through expressive posing.
The Expo is coming up again and I want to be ready with a new and improved portfolio. So tonight I took some time to experiment with posing. I quickly whipped up a very generic looking character and then tried to make him act, express, and emote. These few rough sketches are the result:
It’s a challenging exercise. The more I started to draw the more I realized how weak and cliched my mental acting library really is. While these poses are a vast improvement over the work I was doing last year I still have a lot of room to grow. It all goes back to a basic but very solid principle of drawing: Don’t just look, see. In order to draw well you really need to study and analyze the world around you. I need to be studying live people as well as other actors and especially animators. It will be an ongoing process but one I’m looking forward to.