18 July 2010

TV is a Harsh Mistress

You hear the cold, cruel advice often: "Draw every day. Draw from life. If you can't draw from life, draw from TV".
Drawing from TV, however, blows.

Above are impressions from Steamboat Bill Jr. You can also see me practicing Glen Villipu style torso shapes. Even in silent films, which feature more full shots than modern movies, the figures whip around so fast it's hard to observe them long enough for a good enough gesture. One also winds up with a great deal of cutoff feet due to the ruling dominance of the medium shot.
Here's more of the same, scribbly, formless, no feeling of weight whatsoever, and that's when you can find a flick which actually cuts to a full shot once in a while so you can see what holds those people up. I find the more physical film venues, like ballet, televised sports, or old Hollywood Musicals are usually more rewarding fodder for a hungry sketchbook than, say, sitcoms or action movies, bu-uuut...

I like the stuff that comes from my sessions of actual observation more.

Even the best digital IMAX quality whatevers in the world can't match the whatever-it-is that being there provides. There's simply more to observe than the narrow stream of information from a sequence of preselected camera shots, from attitudes to visual detail to ambient sounds, smells, temperatures and the way your butt hurts from sitting on a goddamned rock in the park for upwards of 40 minutes at a time.
I have a little more time to develop the sketches, even in cases where the figure is moving pretty quickly, like the Sea Lion. I feel like I got a bit more feeling of mass and weight in these than the TV studies.

TV is good for practicing caricature, though.

Like watching the Kenneth Branagh version of "Much Ado About Nothing"
Or "Stephen King's It".

Like most of my sketchbook endeavors, this stuff is more miss than hit (if at all), but there are plenty of closeups to examine heads with, as well as people playing and exhibiting definite personalities to capture, which most (airbrushed) photographs won't give you if you're drawing famous people.

Ideally, I'd be able to hike to the park every day just to spy on people, but this often isn't practical, so I make do for now with the magic glowing slab, almost as tasty as real life, with half the calories.


  1. You might find interesting (sociological?) a (relatively recent) correlative study between the perception of multiple things and concentration levels. The latter was called "deep focus," I think.

    The study applied Benjamin's (1935) and Kracauer's (1928) theories of modern perception. The results verify your idea that all the pixels in the world "can't match the whatever-it-is that being there provides". The findings showed decreased understanding accompanied increased recognition.

  2. Dang,
    Sorry for being so slow with replies.
    The relationship between quality of work and modes of perception affected by media through which information is gathered was what I was thinking about, but more in immediately practical, rather than in academically scientific, terms.
    Your comments are illuminating. My own thoughts on topics are directed towards a career producing art, rather than a career critiquing it. So I appreciate your point of view since one doesn't hear much about Kracauer in animation circles.