One of the big things that beginners tend to ignore is the importance of the silhouette, and in more general terms the importance of body language.
First off, what is a good silhouette?
Okay this is a solid silhouette and it’s one we all know and love. I also chose this one because it tell the story of the movie in this one silhouette. It’s about a mermaid who yearns to leave the sea and live on land. You know the story within five second of glancing at that poster. This poster also shows how powerful silhouette can be. The drawing isn’t 100% on model, it’s pretty monochromatic, it’s not expertly rendered, all it is is a silhouette.
So how do you get a powerful silhouette? In my opinion, it ties into “whole body acting” and having a defined goal.
I’m going to get philosophical for a moment. Consider this character description: Sandy is a little shy, but opens up to those who know her and generally quiet, but loves telling jokes to her friends. Do you know who she is? You may know several Sandys in real life, but she comes across as a wishy-washy character especially compared to: Cindy is a shy, quiet girl who has trouble making friends; she is never confident enough to contribute much to a conversation. Cindy you get a better idea of who she is. Cindy makes a statement whereas Sandy is just so unremarkable in every area that she just comes across as dull and we don’t really know who she is.
Take a look at some of your other favorite art-based heroes. Batman isn’t just kind of sneaky and angsty, he’s super sneaky and angsty. Ariel doesn’t like the human world, but also loves being a mermaid, she loves the human world enough to leave behind everything. Aladdin doesn’t have a perfect understanding of when to lie and when to come clean, he lies whenever a situation is difficult. Characters need to have opinions and definite character traits to be interesting.
In the world of drawing, you’re not always going to have more than one image to tell a story, you have to use everything you can to tell a story. One thing that I’ve noticed, largely in myself, but some in other people is that everyone is worrying about subtlety before they understand acting. Before you can worry about how much that character wants that ice cream sundae, you have to communicate that they want the sundae period. This is easier said than done.
(To be continued in “Silhouettes (Part 2)” where we discuss what makes a good and bad silhouette with lots of examples drawn by me.)