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Seeing The Figure As A 2D Object

by Glenn Vilppu

This is the ninth in a series of articles on drawing for animation. In these articles I will be presenting the theory and practice of drawing as a "how to" instructional series. The lessons are based upon the Vilppu Drawing Manual and will in general follow the basic plan outlined in the manual. This is the same material that I base my seminars and lectures on at the American Animation Institute, UCLA, and my lectures at Disney, Warner Bros. and other major studios in the animation industry, both in the U.S. and their affiliates overseas. Most lessons will also be accompanied by short QuickTime clips of me demonstrating the material discussed. If you have not seen the previous lessons starting in the June 1998 issue of Animation World Magazine, it is recommended that you do. The lessons are progressive and expand on basic ideas. It is suggested that you start from the beginning for a better understanding of my approach.

The reality of drawing is that we draw on a two dimensional piece of paper; the drawing is not a three dimensional object. Up to this point, our efforts have been almost exclusively concerned with creating that three dimensional illusion on a two dimensional surface. We used a series of tools and procedures that didn't necessarily rely on the model, but on an analytical and constructive approach to drawing the figure. In drawing from the model, i.e. reality rather than from imagination or an ideal, we must develop a set of visual tools to help us make that translation from the real three dimensional world (3D) to the flat two dimensional world (2D) of the paper. In many ways, this is much simpler than what we have been doing. In general, the fundamentals of the approach based on direct observation of the model are the same as the widely used academic method of copying, one of the methods taught in the studios of the artists of the Renaissance. In this lesson we will use this method to assist us in placing the forms that we have learned about in the earlier chapters. (Much of what we are now discussing has been introduced, in part, in earlier chapters.) The drawback of this approach is that you need the model to do the drawing. In practical application, the camera has come into use as a substitute for having a model pose for hours while the artist does his or her drawing.

Early Inventions
Before the invention of the camera, both Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 - 1519) and Albrecht Durer (1471 -1528) and many other artists of that period invented drawing machines to accomplish the same thing. Let us look at Da Vinci's and Durer's machines as a basis for understanding the approach. Both artists created essentially the same machine with slight variations. The basic elements were a frame with wires stretched over it dividing it into equal units, or a piece of glass with lines drawn on it sitting upright on a table and a piece of paper having the same equal divisions on it as the screen. The artist would look through the screen from a fixed viewpoint, either a peephole or some form of brace, to keep the head from moving. The artist would then copy what he saw in each square onto the corresponding square on the paper. In 1727, the great anatomist, Bernard Siegfried Albinus (1697-1770) started his great work on human anatomy which was to take him 20 years. The following quote is from Albinus On Anatomy, by Robert Beverly Hale and Terence Coyle published by Dover Books 1988 (reprinted by permission): "Albinus overcame the problem of obtaining correct proportions between the parts of the body in the drawings of his artist by using grids or nets made of cords and divided into squares. These were placed at selected intervals between the artist and the skeleton. One grid was placed almost in contact with the skeleton by which the artist could draw from a distance of up to forty feet for the drawing of detail, a second grid with the squares greatly reduced in size, was placed four feet in front of the first grid. The artist would look through the grid and place himself so that the cords of the two grids lined up with one another on his view of the skeleton, and could check his accuracy by means of these lines and their intersections."

This is essentially identical to an artist today taking a photograph, squaring it off, and transferring it to a canvas. The usefulness of the approach is in its mechanical nature. We incorporate basic elements of this approach any time we draw from nature. In the previous lessons I have been incorporating the use of many of the basics, without making specific mention of the procedure as a whole.

Using The Approach
The basic elements of the grid are vertical and horizontal lines, plus angles and measurements. These are the tools of this approach. Spheres, circles, box/squares, along with arcs are additional aids in seeing the placement of forms.

A key element in academy training is the length of the pose. Since a prime requisite for doing this kind of drawing is very careful observation, the poses were, by necessity, very long. The student normally would start his or her training by first learning to draw from plaster casts, as is still done in many parts of the world. A pose, using the model, could last for a day, several days, or a week. An hour pose was considered a quick one, used for learning how to start a drawing.

In this lesson, as in the previous lessons, the drawing is primarily done in line. In a true academic approach, the use of tone would be a major part of the drawing. Each step being a gradual build-up of values with careful consideration of the direction of the light falling upon the forms. In the following three lessons we will be discussing tone, but in a more constructional and analytical approach. In this lesson I am using the academic approach as a way of carefully translating the three dimensional forms of the model, as we have developed them, to the two dimensional surface of the paper as accurately as I can.

As in earlier lessons, the most important point is to get the total.

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