The Lifeless Silhouette

Body language is very important.  In everything.  Whether it’s trying to convey the message “I am not interested in hearing about issues with your mother” to an insecure coworker or in conveying a message in cartooning.  Since my work tends to be simplistic and cartooney I try to animate my characters as much as possible.

Take for example this first attempt at a panel from ‘The Long Forgotten Fairytale”.  In this scene, Rocketman has gained an enormous amount of weight and Uptown Girl drags him to the gym.

Not a bad drawing, but when I went back to redraw most of what I had done, this panel was going to be recreated.  I was glad to redo it as the background is pretty boring and I wanted to punch it up a bit.  The thing I got right here is the body language.  Uptown Girl is pulling Rocketman, you can tell he’s reluctant to go not only as he leans back, but with how Uptown Girl’s body is drawn, as if she is pulling an object that doesn’t want to be moved.  I got the body language pretty good here.  Picturing the characters in silhouette is another way to test if the body language is done right.  If you could only see the silhouette of the characters, could you still tell what is happening?
For example:

And yeah, you can still tell what is happening.  Go me!

Here’s the redrawn version:

There’s a lot of things wrong in this panel.  I moved the scene to outside the grocery store as I was tired of drawing the inside of a supermarket for the second time in the book and thought there would be more to draw outside.  The problems in this page include a kind of wonky perspective, and badly proportioned car, and a boring background.  I probably should not have drawn a car right in front of my main characters, and the background directly behind them is…well, it’s not good.  The texture of the building is also terrible.  I figured I’d have to redraw it, and was “happy” to do it.

But this is an example of badly animated characters in silhouette:

Yikes.  You can’t even tell what is happening here.  Looking at the panel it’s obvious what is happening, but when you look at it in silhouette it’s a mess.  Mainly because there’s a big, badly proportioned car in front of them, as well as a poorly thought out background.

So after a few thumbnail sketches, I drew the third and hopefully final version.  The perspective is a little more straightforward, and the characters are drawn a little bigger than I am used, but that was because I needed to clearly show the “action” here.

I was a little surprised I liked this panel as much as I do.  I mean, I don’t love it and it’s not the best panel in the book by far, but it does the job.

But does it??

Does it hold up to the silhouette test?  Let’s find out.

Okay, yeah.  It does.


Oh!  This weekend is SPRINGCON!  I will be there both days selling copies of the new Uptown Girl book “Little Adventures”.  I will have a limited number of copies so if you want one, email me or leave a comment.




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