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Artist’s Journal #2: Here’s a Shape, There’s a Shape

The notebook on your desk. The laptop you use for assignments and solitaire. Your own hand. What do these three things – and everything else in the world – have in common? They all can be broken down into basic shapes.

Once you take this into account, you will get a better grasp on how to develop strong character and creature designs. Not to mention that you’ll realize your eleven-year-old self was needlessly suckered out of cash by the How to Draw Pokémon books.

…Say, why don’t we use Pokémon to illustrate this matter?

If there is one good way to practice breaking things into shapes, it is drawing PokémonRegardless if you are a fan of the franchise or not, most of these cute cartoony critters have very clean, basic designs. This makes it easier to pick out their basic frameworks and draw them without directly copying official artwork.

Let’s take Charmander, for example.

Charmander broken into shapes

Original Artwork © Ken Sugimori

When Charmander is broken down, all we’re left with is a small oval, a large oval, two rectangles, two circles, and a somewhat curvy triangle. Weird, huh?

Taking this into account, I tried to draw one on my own, and, for the sake of this article, I took pictures of the different stages of the process.

(Disclaimer:  Holly Wolfe’s sketches are extremely scribbly and rough. If your eyesight is damaged by these scribbles in any way, you are permitted to boo, hiss, and throw eggshells in her general direction.)

Charmander Step-By-Step 1

1.  Using our basic shapes, I recreated the framework of our selected Pokémon. It doesn’t appear to have a separate structure for its feet in the official artwork, so I improvised and drew them as…either triangles or rectangles. (I can’t tell what I was going for.)

Charmander Step-By-Step 2

2.  For sanity’s sake, I cleaned up the lineart a bit and started reworking the shapes into a more recognizable form. I then began sketching in a few details, such as pointy fingers and toes as well as the flame on Charmander’s tail. Also, I had him dribble a ball.  Like a BOSS!

Charmander Step-By-Step 33.  I wrapped things up by giving this Charmander a face (because those are kind of important) as well as drawing in extra details. Still a bit smudgy, though. Here, let me fix that for you.

Charmander Step-By-Step 4

And there you have it!

Now that you’ve read through this subpar tutorial, I have a challenge for you. Pick any Pokémon you wish and try to break it down into basic shapes. Then, draw that Pokémon using those shapes as a foundation, like I just did. Or, if you’re still not keen on drawing Pokémon, do the same thing with your favorite cartoon character.

It might take a bit of practice, but I assure you that your character designs will look a lot better using this method. Believe me, I avoided doing this for years, and my work really suffered as a result. Keep it up, and I’m certain that you will see great improvement in your art.

Who knows? Even your view of the world might change.

Shapes everywhere

Tutorial artwork created by Holly Wolfe.
Pokémon © Nintendo
Toy Story © Disney Pixar


A/N: Apologies for not posting this on Thursday, my regular post day. I’ve had a bit of a head cold over the past few days, and it’s been driving me nuts. I’m feeling better now, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to finish a project or two this weekend.

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4 comments on “Artist’s Journal #2: Here’s a Shape, There’s a Shape

  1. Great post and awesome blog

  2. shapes! shapes everwhere!
    this really made me think i need to use more shapes while drawing!!

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