The Figure In Action

Drawing Action Figures

Although we shall not always have athletes as our subjects, it is useful to understand how they achieve greater speed and power in their movements through more completely coordinated action. In less effective action, fewer muscles are brought into use and they are less well coordinated: the movement looks clumsy and ineffectual because not all the limbs are involved together.

The body conserves energy by using fewer muscles. A person walking in a tired or lazy way, as shown in the drawing above left, makes almost exclusively leg movements, the other muscles barely coming into play. The more vigorous walker on the right is using the muscles of the waist, shoulders and arms as well, and as a consequence the picture of him is more expressive of movement and purpose.

The remaining two drawings on this page show the whole body concentrated in the action, so that all the muscles are brought into use for maximum force and efficiency. In these gesture drawings the dynamics of the movement are shown, and you can see how the tension runs through the whole length of the figure.

In setting down the thrust of the action in this way, we are drawing the anatomy of the movement first and that of the figure afterwards. Your finished drawing must still retain the essence of these vital lines, for they are the heart of the action: the drawing will look posed and unconvincing if they are not allowed to influence the finished work.

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