Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Cartooning - Drawing the Crowds


A couple of years ago I blogged about drawing a crowd of santas at a party. I'd included a link to Tom Richmond's article about drawing a crowd scene, but the two scenes weren't very alike.

Latest Funstreak showing crowd in the background

My latest Funstreak cartoon uses many of the techniques discussed in Tom's tutorial, but in a simplified way. This doesn't mean you don't need to put much thought into it. It's well worth considering the dynamics of a crowd as you draw.

Stepping Through the Process

A crowd of people might just be a bunch of ovals to represent faces, but there's a number of things to do in order to make it look convincing:-

1. First we need to consider the density within the packing. People stand shoulder to shoulder, or with slight overlap, which leaves some gap between their heads.

Spacing Between Heads

2. The people behind will position themselves between the heads of those in front to get the best view. This gives a loose hexagonal packing pattern when viewed from above, or if the crowd is on a banked surface.

Loose Hexagonal Packing

3. People are also different heights and sizes, and tend to bunch in an irregular way, so we need to randomise the pattern a little. (I've also reduced the overlap heights.)

Randomising Positions

4. Faces at the top of the crowd block will appear smaller than those at the bottom. This establishes distance. Try to keep the size change a linear progression, so work on no more than two rows at a time to help keep consistency.

Using Reduction - Each Row Back is 90% Size

4. The usual distance effects will apply, so details will diminish and colours may darken or desaturate. In my example I didn't add any details because they're too far away, but I did add a little cell shading.

The Example From My Cartoon
 You can also see that I packed the crowd much tighter than in my previous examples. I really wanted a sea-of-faces with bodies only really visible on the front few rows.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Getting To The Point


When you start cartooning you soon realise ideas come in all sorts of ways, but this is the first one to come to me in a dream,... I could see one of my son's friends skateboarding past the house holding onto a rocket by way of propulsion. (It's perhaps best not to analyse this dream for any meaning!)

.. anyway, he got a little way past the house and then let go of the thing. It then arced across the sky towards a housing estate. I have no idea what happened after that, but the uncertainty and the jeapardy appeal to me. I really don't need to know!

My main challenge to take this idea and turn it into a comic using the minimum number of frames.

Keeping Frame Count Low

In the past I've wanted to get complex ideas across, or have a wordy dialogue. This has often pushed me to draw way more frames than I'd wanted, or needed to. I just need to get to the point.

So taking a leaf from writers, I've decided to cut the wind-up and get straight to the point. This means distilling the idea and my original humour angle into just what's important.

Consider my first notes:-

Frame 1: Scene starts with alien #1 riding skateboard, holding rocket.
Alien #2: "Hey where did you get that?"
Alien #1: "It's one of the rockets from the ship."
Alien #2: "Let me try."
Frame 2: Alien #2 starts riding skateboard
Alien #1: "Okay, just don't let go of the rocket."
Frame 3: Skateboard hits a stone.
Frame 4: Alien #2 takes a tumble and lets go of the rocket.
Frame 5: Alien #2 gets up thinking everything is OK, while rocket heads towards their ship.

My fix:-
  • Drop frame 1,.. we don't need to know both aliens have tried skating, just that one of them triggers the event.
  • Keep frame 3, we need to show what causes the problem.
  • Then we can jump straight to frame 5, because we don't need to see the tumble.

The Results

The dialogue needed to be changed, and I limited it to just what was important to the idea.

The Completed Comic

The final frame became very important. I added some dialogue to show the panic as alien #1 runs to save the UFO, and to help portray Alien #2's dazed state. I also drew the sci-fi version of birds flying above his head to help reinforce this idea.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Funstreak Cartoon - Misheard Idioms (Malapropisms)


I had an idea about basing a cartoon on idioms that people commonly get wrong. I built a list of them, but I couldn't think of an idea that would work. So I created a couple of sentences, not really knowing what else to do with them...

“I hate being treated like an escape goat, it puts me on tender hooks, and for most people it goes down like a damp squid. I decided to nip it in the butt and extract revenge on this person, and it turned out to be a blessing in the skies."
"You'd better tow the line" I told them, "or you'll have another thing coming". Exactly how I do this is a mute point right now, but it'll certainly be no holes barred”

It's too wordy to use in a cartoon, so I decided to change direction and just focus on one.

Choosing An Idiom

Escape goat appealed to me and triggered the most ideas, but before I started work, I did a quick google image search to see if anyone had already drawn my idea.

Some Other Ideas I Found

OK, so I wasn't going to be unique here, but I wondered if I could do better.

My first thought involved using goat as a get-away method for a bank heist, but I thought it might be slightly confusing, so I rejected it in favour of a jail breakout scene. A prisoner would be using a goat's butting ability to burst through the jails boundary wall.

Before and After Adding Foreground Bricks
When I'd nearly finished, I stood back to review the overall composition. I thought I'd made a mistake, the goat was too far over to the left of the picture, leaving it looking imbalanced. But it was rectified once I'd added foreground bricks bursting out of the wall.

Oh,.. and when doing research for images I made a mistake by searching for "goat butt". Who'd have thought there'd be so many close-up pictures of a goat's rear end available!!!

Cartoon available here -->

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Cartooning - Creating Motion Blurs


I know we've all seen the whiz-lines cartoonists use to make things look like they're moving. They're simple but effective.

Motion Lines example taken from wikipedia
The joke in my latest comic relies on a background that looks like it's moving, but while this whiz-line technique is great for objects, it doesn't work so well for the whole background.

What Does a Moving Background Look Like?

It's easy to find photos with motion blur, and these are a great source of inspiration. The image looks like it's been smeared sideways, this tends to destroy detail and soften the focus.

Image from Dan Milnor's Photography Blog

Recreating The Motion Blur Effect

Start off with a relatively simple background, maybe add a few vertical elements so that the blur will be more noticeable.
My Starting Image
Then do the following:-
  • Selected a thin blur tool, then using the line drawing constraint, stretch lines across the page from left to right. (ensure all in same direction)
  • Add thin grey lines running across the page, but don't be too perfect here.

Motion Blue and Whiz Lines Added

It really captures the sideways smearing caused by movement, with the grey lines borrowing from the whiz-line technique in a subtle way.

Now, when I add a cowboy riding a rodeo bull, it gives the feel of movement and speed.
The Completed Image

The completed cartoon can be found here -->

Monday, 2 April 2018

Area 5.1 - Mos Eisley (A False Hope)


I was watching a Youtube video the other day about the changes Lucas made to the original Starwars film. As they were showing the Mos Eisley scenes, it struck me how empty the streets were for a busy space port town. I'm guessing George was going for a western sort of feel, but in our modern world of traffic filled roads and congested cities it looked very alien. It's the same when you look back at the intro sequence to The Prisoner which was set in 60's London. (see for yourself)

It got me thinking, what would Mos Eisley look like today?.. and sometimes that's all the inspiration you need!

Then And Now

I started out with the video frame below, and borrowed one of the land speeder images I'd created for my Starwars themed Area 5.1 cartoon - Trooper Trouble.

A Mos Eisley scene from Starwars

The challenge was to take this simple scene and make it look overpopulated and tainted by modern life. To me this meant:-
  • HGV / Trucks and delivery vehicles.
  • Cars (or equivalent) and I mean big ones like SUV's.
  • Removal of pedestrians.
  • More buildings, and bigger buildings.
  • More aircraft / spaceships - (it was a spaceport after-all)

What didn't make it into the mix was pollution and graffiti.

Adding the Congestion Layers

Finally after adding those elements I needed to add the text, and my immediate thoughts were to use the Starwars font, but in the end I settled for a NASA style font. I must have used that before because it was already installed on my computer.

Here's the final cartoon,.. nobody has mentioned the two objects I'd added that don't belong here, perhaps not as obvious due to the size reduction required.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Cartooning - Return of the Little Green Men


At this time of the year there are a lot of coughs and sneezes about, and this idea is based on how annoying these involuntary things can be. Normally all miscellaneous ideas go into Funstreak, but due to the slight violence I decided it might be more acceptable to use my aliens.

It's also perhaps a good time to resurrect the cartoon, which hadn't had an update since September last year.

So what Went Wrong with Area 5.1?

I introduced X-Failes as a new stream to Area 5.1 last year so I could try a story based cartoon. But it was more work than I was able to cope with, mostly because it semi-detailed artwork and I was still trying to incorporate a joke into each submission. If I hadn't started experimenting with Funstreak then I suppose I'd have slugged on with it, but Funstreak was faster, gave me loads more freedom and opporunity to try different ideas.

I'd also become very uncertain about my use of shading, what level of detail to use and whether the new direction was the correct one. Self doubt had set in and although some said they liked the new stuff, I'd yet to convince myself.

In the end I cut the shading in the last cartoon "Run Like The Wind". I softened and slightly simplified the background to try and reduce time spent on the artwork, but I couldn't quite shake-off the idea that I was never happy with how the new characters were drawn. I was finding that the only way I could keep them consistent was by copy-and-pasting from earlier cartoons, but that just ate time.

I really loved the way my characters looked in the 'Investigators in the Field' promo, but I struggled to create alternative profiles. Here's a great example of what I mean..

Style Issues

You can see here in the front profile that I can't quite decide what's going on with those uni-body styles. I've used shoulders that are too realistic in the later drawing (on the right) and it's given him a thick neck (like he's been eating all the pies). I think it's fair to say that I wasn't comfortable with the body design, or happy about being able to draw it.

I think I went for the best option, I stopped work while I re-considered it.

Return Of the LGM's

So now I've gone back to the Little Green Men, and drawn this...

Returning To What I Know
It might not look it, but it's heavily influenced by my work on Funstreak. It loosely follows the 'Rule of Three' with the final two frames being treated as one, and the style seems a little more relaxed. I'm still finding I'm not consistently happy with all of the frames. (One and three I like,.. two and four not so much!), but it's a starting point for improvements.

In summary, after all this time you'd think we'd settle on how something should look. There must be something built into our psyche that stops us from being happy and pushes us to look for improvements. Perhaps it just shows that I still have a long way to go and shouldn't give up my day job.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

FunStreak Cartoon - Bone Appétit


I've done a few comic ideas based on lists. I enjoy them and think they give an extra dimension to my work. It's also a great way to get ideas from other people, allowing you to add their examples without concerning them about artistic details.

Two of my Previous List Based Cartoons

A lot of my work is based on word-play and lists allow you to take a simple idea and really run with it. The only down-side is the limited opportunities you have for using them. You're limited to written formats like:-

Bone Appétit

My latest example also features a list and was inspired by a joke I saw recently..

Dog says to puppy: Don't eat too much homework or you'll spoil your dinner.

(nb. Can't remember where I saw it, but it's similar to this Argyle Sweater from 12th Feb.)

I took the idea of a dog eating homework, although I don't think there's any real-world evidence of that actually happening. The etymology is often quite sketchy on these sorts of things, although the Oxford English Dictionary suggests late 20's.

That lame excuse is still very much in the common psyche, so on that basis, it's a good thing to build a joke around. I created a list of other things that dogs eat (but shouldn't) and built them into a menu.

Click image to view comic.

The punchline follows a different scheme, but I think that's OK because it's separate to the menu list. It could easily have been Hot Dog, German Shepherds Pie, or Chow Chow Mein. But you gotta draw the line somewhere.