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How To Draw Animation: Shoulder Motion

Christopher Hart concludes his series of six tips on how to bring animated characters to life. This month Chris reveals an often misunderstood aspect of animation -- shoulder motion.

My book, How to Draw Animation, has found its way into many animation classrooms. So I was delighted when the people at Animation World, a Website I frequent, asked me if they could reproduce some of the art from the book. My aim in creating the book was to marry art instruction with appealing characters. Appealing characters lie at the heart of animation; and it always struck me that unless you create great characters, it's pointless to put so much energy into making them move. If you are interested in learning more about character design (both cartoony and semi-realistic types), as well as in creating fluid, convincing motion based on fundamentals and more advanced techniques, then give these pages a look. Although the examples given are of 2D animation, the same principles may carry over to 3D.

Last month we covered "Acting and Dialogue." This month I am going to conclude with a look at shoulder motiona frequently misunderstood concept.

All images © Christopher Hart; illustration by Chrystal Klabunde.

All images © Christopher Hart; illustration by Chrystal Klabunde.

The motion of the shoulder is often misunderstood. The chest is not a square box with the arms sticking right out of the corners, no matter which way the figure is reaching. Amazingly, the only point where the shoulder bones actually connect to the main skeleton is at the spot where the clavicle, or collar bone, meets the sternum, or breast bone (see illustration above).

The scapula (shoulder blade) moves around freely and can assume some surprising positions.

And so concludes our six excerpts from Chris Hart's text. If you'd like to read more of his animation tips, they can be found in: How to Draw Animation by Christopher Hart. New York, New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, a division of VNU Business Media, Inc., 1997. 144 pages. ISBN: 0-8230-2365-6 (US$19.95)

Christopher Hart has written and illustrated many successful how to cartoon and animation books for Watson-Guptill, in addition to writing for many studios and networks like NBC, Showtime, 20th Century Fox, MGM and others. He is also the author and on-screen host of a popular art instruction CD-ROM series. Hart has worked in animation, comic strips (Blondie), and magazines, including contributing regularly to Mad Magazine.