Now there is a little disclaimer that I should make; all the content that you are about to read is a self amazement and discovery of how lively a character can be, and all is written by a guy that got himself into engineering course by impulse only to discover that his real passion is art.
So yeah, Disney.
The magic of Disney's characters is that they are very very expressive and lively, all illustrated with a few powerful strokes of a pencil (or so I thought at first). Here you can see the grandmaster Glen Keane demonstrates:
And so I thought "hey its not that hard, lets do this. Lets draw like Glen Keane. Lets study some screenshots from the internet and start sketching like a pro".
SO VERY WRONG.
After pages and pages and pages of full-assed sketches of seemingly, what I thought, is Rapunzel, turns out to be someone else entirely. Most of them looked like men with wig, some looked like anime+western hybrids while the rest of them are destroyed from excessive erasing/re-sketching out of frustration. And soon I realized it has been several years since I last sketch and what I am doing now is like trying to go to the moon with a potato.
So, back to ground zero and start all over again; by referencing sketches from the concept art by the great Glen Keane.
Result of continuous erasing and re-sketching.
And constant darting back and forth between the screen and the paper.
Only when I started to copy the sketch then I realize there is something you will have to know before you can bring life to a character;
You need a basic idea of facial anatomy and how it works. How the cheek muscles work. How eyebrows can be quite flexible. How nose bridge can give the illusion of where the character is looking at. How to draw eyes, lips, nose, ears, hairs, eyebrows. How the lower part of the face is more flexible than the top. And most importantly, how you want tell your story with an expression.
And once you got all that, you will need to execute them in unison.
Take for example the side view sketch of Rapunzel with her eyes closed. Here, you can tell that she is slightly amused and annoyed at the same time. Or you could imagine her holding a cute dog and the dog is licking the tip of her nose, and now her expression will be of amused annoyance because of excessive cutesy. And also this expression can be an in-between animation still for a coming 'shock' emotion. Or she is trying really hard to close her eyes when Flynn tells her not to look at the surprise he is about to give her.
All that can be told just from the way the exaggerated reduced distance of her eyebrow to her shut eyelid, the excessive skin from her forced-shut eyebrow on top of her nose bridge, the reduced distance of her smiling lips to her nose, the slightly puffed up cheeks due to her smiling, and also notice how her lower jaw is kind of jutting out along with her nose bridge slightly curving upward, and her nose tip is slightly tilted upward. And also notice that her overall face structure did not change at all! (as you can compare with the faceless sketch on top of her).
And now if I may direct your attention the the isometric view of her doing the same expression. Now she seemed like she tasted something extremely sour, or she saw a very cute bunch of ducklings afar and cannot help but to go "shooo cuuutteee". With the same expression, you can draw her shoulder closer to her face, and notice how her neck is drawn such a way that it appear "squashed." Notice how her chest is drawn parallel to the center line of her face to give that slouched position. And also notice how her hair flows in a bell-bottom fashion that it seems like she is moving her head down towards her shoulders rapidly that her hair is sort of like "staying in place" due to inertia.
Wooooooh! Not so easy now is it! -____-"
Moving on to Frozen, and the very beautifully animated sisters Anna and Elsa, one could not help but to do a reference sketch of them, just to have that little "wow I drew this" moment with the sketch. So off to copying more sketches!
Anna looking calm and contented
Previously it took me an hour to sketch a side view of Rapunzel but now I managed to cut it down by half with Anna, as they share a lot of similar facial features. Erase Rapunzel's hair, and add braid, you will get Anna! But her jaw is a tad too long here and her hair is very static.
Elsa looking confident and playful
Confident with Anna, I tried to sketch Elsa but this time she set me back an hour. Mainly because of her hair and how she poses in the original sketch by Disney. In the original sketch, she is looking behind with her back facing the viewer, but I could not replicate the illusion due to her hair and positioning of her ear and jaw line. Her hair is also extremely static and blocky, and her bottom eyelid should still have visible skin if viewed from the side (as shown in Anna's sketch above). I left her in this state as a self reminder of how disastrous it can be if you tried to do a blatant copy from a sketch.
Elsa-ish Princess Aurora
Moving on to frontal portraits, this also is a product of excessive referencing and erasing/re-sketching. I have destroyed her lips before realizing she does not look like Elsa at all, but reminded me of Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)! Maybe due to her longer face and narrower eye sockets where Elsa's face is shorter and she has wider cheeks. But one thing I am satisfied of is how I finish her hair, where this time I just took a glance at the original sketch and finish everything from memory. It looked much more fluid now and "livelier". One of the good reasons why you should let your judgement decide rather than making an exact copy of a sketch.
Princess Anna of Arendelle!
This is the only sketch that made me "hey! this is Princess Anna!". Although this is still a replication of the original sketch, it is way much easier to sketch without looking too much at the subject as I have a rough idea now. Drawing braids and lips are still a challenge though. Also notice how the slight line on her nose bridge follows her direction of her smilling lips (similar as Elsa's).
And so... what now?
I am still going to keep copying these sketches as they are just so fun to do, as you can learn a lot from them just by replicating. We shall continue digging further on what gives life to Disney's characters.
Until then, keep safe and have a great February ahead!