Showing posts with label backs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label backs. Show all posts

Thursday, June 15, 2017


I used to storyboard for a live-action director named Colin Higgins, and Colin told me to use back shots as frequently as possible, because it's a great way to reveal character. I agree and I used to call for it in animation sometimes, though I probably shouldn't have. Only a few classic animators like Tom McKimson felt comfortable with this angle, and most modern animators probably dread it. Anyway, back shots are what we're talking about here.

The old Pakistani man on the right (above) seems to be suffering from osteoporosis, and from a side view he'd probably appear like a question mark. The squared shoulder, the half-hidden head, and the gentle and wise position of the arms and hands seem to tell you all you need to know about him. This is an exceptional amount of information, even for a back shot.

The girl in green (above, left) is wearing a light and airy, unpretentious house dress. The hairstyle is neat and practical, the attitude of the body is confident and contented. She's a likable person, all the more because she appreciates the positive visual impact of clothing wrinkles!

Two people who are worlds apart: The bridesmaid full of anxiety, with the bondage strings in the back (above, left), and the traditional old woman, making her way down the street in a shapeless, widow's dress. You admire the older woman because you know she's devoted thousands of hours to bringing up a family.

Osteoporosis (above) again, though a milder case. The jacket is modest but not unfashionable, and the hat is color co-ordinated. High-heeled boots. Maybe this woman is an artist. The spindly legs disappearing up into the jacket, come to an odd end at the top where the hips are unexpectedly wide. It creates a mystery, which is a very considerate thing to do for the people who walk behind you.

You see lots of back shots like this (above) in drawings made a hundred years ago. The jacket is tight around the shoulders with gravity pulling down loose fabric in the back. It's the perfect suit for a tall, older man on the go, someone who was used to thinking on his feet and giving orders. The interior volume of the umbrella makes a perfect contrast. He's taking large, manly strides.

Holy mackerel! An interesting dress (above)! It's inappropriate because it's too tight, but that doesn't prevent her from projecting a strong personality. She thinks she looks good in it, and her confidence wins us over; besides, she's probably doing it to impress a guy, and whenever a girl dresses to impress a guy can't help but be flattered.

I always find myself rooting for girls like this, hoping they'll get the get the guy they're after. I always want to know their story. Everybody should possess some clothes that that subtly suggest a backstory.

Whew! Another strong contrast! The woman on the left (above) is vain, overly fashion-conscious, probably flaky, maybe abuses pills...but, she makes an effort to please, and that makes up for some sins.

The woman on the right (above) is earthy and self-confidant, probably more intelligent than people give her credit for. She's independent, proud that she thinks for herself, maybe not open as open to new ideas as she should be. I always think this is a wrong life strategy.

You should never be self-contained. There should always be a part of you that needs other people, and can be hurt by them. I think people should always be somewhat incomplete without other people, regardless of the consequences. But what do I know?

BTW: The pictures are all by Maira Kalman. Sorry, I can't remember the name of her book.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Thinking about the opening back shot in "Miracle on 34th Street" (see the previous post) got me thinking about the subject of back shots in general. I'm a big fan of back shots (actually back acting, not just isolated poses) in live action, but you don't see them much in animation. That's a shame. Back shots are funny. Where would "The people of Walmart" site be without back shots like the one above?

I understand why animation people avoid them.  You can't easily study yourself in a mirror when you're drawing the back. You could draw somebody else's back, but they're not likely to act the scene right. I guess you could act it out yourself in front of a digital camera and play it back.

 I wonder how the dancers in the video above did it. How did they know how their dance would look to us? That's a nice dance, isn't it? 'Very effective from behind.

I can't find any ready-made clips of good animated back acting, which is what I meant to discuss. I can't even find any good live action reference for it, apart from Chaplin. I'll return to this subject later when I have better visuals.

Back acting is different than front acting. It's not just a question of making good silhouettes...back acting is more about timing and context. You have to make the audience delight in imagining what the face they can't see is thinking and doing.

Oh well, I have plenty of back-of-the-head reference. I'll talk about that. For me, back of the head means big ears (above), whether the person has them in front or not.

For the purpose of drawing, the small-eared girl in the upper right (above) should look like the girl in the lower left when she turns her head.

I call your attention to the wispy little neck hairs in the picture. I thought only guys had neck hair! I wonder if girls shave it. Maybe they just let it grow. Imagine what a girl would look like if she cut off all her normal hair but kept her long neck wisps. 

A good back of the head (above) is a thing of beauty, even on a guy. The two dots aren't mine.

I love over-the-shoulder shots, especially when the actor facing front has an extended acting scene. Laying bare your emotions to an impassive lump of hair and tweed in the foreground strikes me as funny. I tried it out in this video from a couple of years ago.

BTW, The best acting moments here come close to what I would have put into similar scenes if I'd been an animator working on an animated film. I really need to assemble a small reel of rough animation showing how I would animate characters using my own style of acting.

Monday, May 07, 2007


GOOD LORD! Look what women have to put up with! NO WONDER there are so many lesbians!!!! Um...wait a minute, that's a bit emotional. Let me start again...

I know a number of art students hang out on this site and I thought I'd post something just for them. My guess is that anatomical drawing teachers are pretty selective about what they teach. That's a pity. The day will come when students will need to draw the omitted item and they'll be totally unprepared! Well, worry not, Theory Corner is here to help! Get out your pencils and notebooks and get ready to take notes!



Hmmm. Let's try to make some sense of this picture (above). It looks like the hair occurs in tufts. The pattern here is kind of mangy. It looks like a patch of moth-eaten buffalo skin that I found in an attic once. Amazingly the biggest tufts occur at the sides, near the bottom of the rib cage...what's that about? And looking closer I see the rib tufts seem to have sent out feelers to the shoulder tufts. Hmmm. Are the tips of the shoulders hairless? That's incredible!

Phew! Well that's enough with that picture!

Here's (above) a picture of a less mangy back. It looks like the hair is combed away from the spine. You don't suppose the guy's wife combs this stuff do you? And what are those little correction-tape notes? Why are the hairs in need of correction?
Notice that the neck is hairless. I assume that's because he cuts it. I mean surely nature wouldn't be so cruel as to just start the hair abruptly like it's a jacket he's wearing.

Man! Nature dealt this guy (above) a bad hand! Or maybe it didn't. I showed this to my daughter and asked her if she found it attractive. She of course said no (actually "Ew!" was the word) but then I asked if she'd feel the same way if she liked the guy. To my amazement she said something like, "Oh, well that's different. If I liked the guy the hair wouldn't matter." Isn't that interesting? I'll end this lesson on the comforting thought that a providence seems to take care of us males. Women are somehow prevented from realizing how ugly we men are. Isn't that wonderful?