#oneaday Day 927: On Stickmen

I draw stickman primarily for one reason: I’m not very good at drawing anything more complicated. I’ve never practiced drawing particularly hard — I’ve always enjoyed doodling and drawing stupid things, but I’ve never tried particularly hard to actually practice good technique or anything. I spent a few weeks reading up on how to draw manga-style characters a few years back, but never really got the hang of drawing things that look particularly “convincing”. My manga-style drawings always end up looking like the sort of thing a 12-year old kid scrawls in their art book in an attempt to look cool, rather than anything particularly convincing. So no, you won’t be seeing any of those here for the moment.

And then I inevitably run into various other issues if I do decide to draw more detailed characters, which I shall now demonstrate for you forthwith. Note: I am not doing this to solicit feedback, nor am I fishing for compliments (not that these pics deserve any) — simply to demonstrate a point.

Let us begin.

The first question I inevitably end up asking myself regards body image. I put “myself” in my cartoons frequently, and drawing a body makes me ponder whether or not I should draw an “idealised” version of myself (right, obviously) or a more… ummm… “accurate” depiction.

This also raises difficult questions when a friend of mine asks for a guest appearance, as I then have to make the same decision regarding how I represent them — I don’t want to cause offence, but at the same time I want them to be recognisable, and their “shape” is often a part of that factor. It’s just easier to do a stick body because everyone is equal, then, and the main distinguishing factor between characters is not something people (including me) can be particularly sensitive about, but instead the part that really matters to their “character” — their face.

Also, I’m not very good at drawing fat people. Or boobs.

Another thing I am not very good at is posing characters, as the slightly uncomfortable-looking Alex above will attest. I am fond of “arms folded” and “hands on hips” as strong poses, but these are tricky to draw. In the case of “arms folded”, I have no idea where the fuck to put people’s hands, and I’m not even entirely convinced I know where people’s arms go. I then run into mild perspective issues as I try to figure out what would be behind those arms, and it all just gets to be a bit of a mess. (I should probably do it the other way around — body first, then overlay arms on top.)

Questions of clothing then rear their head. What should characters wear? Should they wear the same thing all the time as part of their “look”, or should they switch things up occasionally? Will I ever learn how to draw bare legs beneath a skirt?

Finally, I have to figure out what on Earth to do with more bizarre characters such as Phillipe here. Phillipe works as a stickman because stickmen can get away with exaggerated expressions such as his perpetual gurning. But does that really work when placed atop a more “normal” (i.e. not stick-figure) body?

Looking at the pics I’ve drawn above, it actually sort of does. (Also, I can take further advantage of Phillipe’s perverted nature with offensive T-shirt slogans.) But I still find myself looking at drawings like that and thinking to myself that they’re crap, whereas I’m much happier with the way these characters come out as stick figures. Stick figures can be easily posed, manipulated, mangled and otherwise abused. As soon as you add a “proper” body to the mix, you have to think about things a little more. They’re not as bendy. Well, that’s not true, you can do whatever you want with them. But contortions are easier to draw on a stick figure than on a character with a body. Also you don’t have to worry about lighting with stick figures, whereas cartoons with “proper” bodies inevitably look better if there’s a sense of light and shadow in there.

Why am I thinking about this now? Well, every so often I get a hankering to write a visual novel, but the one thing that usually stops me before I even start is thinking “I’ll never find anyone to draw some good-looking graphics, and I certainly can’t do it myself.” I’ve contemplated making a visual novel using just stick-figure characters and I think it might sort of work — it’d certainly be a distinctive aesthetic — but then I lose confidence and think it would be the rubbishest idea ever.

What I should actually do, of course, is actually script the thing for myself and then see if I can actually recruit someone who can Do Drawing afterwards. But then I go and get into a loop where I want to “see” the character as I’m writing their dialogue, and I go around and around and around and don’t do anything at all.

Screw graphics, basically. They just get in the way.

Published by

Pete Davison

Southampton-based music teacher, writer and enthusiast of Japanese popular culture.

5 thoughts on “#oneaday Day 927: On Stickmen”

    1. There’s already a very active “Interactive Fiction” subculture who are still churning out text-based games. Only trouble with that is they’re (arguably) a lot more difficult to plan out than a visual novel.

  1. Do the text, then drop me a line. I have friends who have friends who are spectacularly awesome at illustration, especially the graphic novel kind. Seriously, do it.🙂

  2. I like both the stickmen and these pics too!! You could just do stickmen with flapping t-shirts or skirts on them. I prefer the non-idealised version of you actually – it has heaps of character – adds another dimension so to speak. And as for Phillipe – what great potential – especially slogan-wise. Now I really get who he is! Persevere mate – you added the colour with the new iPad and then went back to the comic strip – which is cool too. Play with it and enjoy it, because we – your non-judgemental viewers – enjoy it heaps and will laugh with you anyway. Your sense of humour comes through so much.
    My nephew writes his own comic books and is linked to a website. I will try and get the info from him and pass it on. And if you need and artist, I am one – check out the header on my judsgamereviews site, and some of my stuff (very little actually because I could only scan small things) on my other site – judsjottings.wordpress.com which I really need to add more to – if I ever get away from the game review blogging!! lol But then I don’t kow if I could draw on the computer as you do – I try occasionally and make a hash of it.
    Maybe if you drew them by hand on paper and then scanned them to your computer that might work.
    Anyhow keep drawing them and messing around with them. As I said the clothes add another quirky dimension and show a little more of their personality – which as the artist, you can really mess with – hehehehe.

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