Could I become a better artist by being thrown around like a sock puppet? Newby Aikido students (myself included) quickly gain a new perspective of anatomy as they attempt to "roll properly"...only to flounder like a fish-out-of-water. Being more aware of posing, posture, and balance is allowing me (to my surprise and delight) to enhance my approach toward composing figures.
In Cincinnati there is an local interest in Aikido, a martial art that focuses on rolling, momentum balances, and defense rather than stereotypical punching and kicking. At the World Fantasy Convention 36 in Columbus this past Oct. I introduced myself to a local fantasy writer Stephen Leigh Farrell (author of The Nessantico Cycle and The Cloud Mages Trilogy) -- a coworker teaches Aikido with him so I had a story to introduce myself. Stephen was clearly as enthusiastic about "throwing" people as much as he was encouraging them to write. Turns out, another co-worker/friend of mine teaches Aikido so I signed up and am being thrown on a weekly basis now ("I am so a white belt" as my niece once said proudly about her own martial art expertise).
I am far from being an Aikido expert, but a key to "proper rolling" seems to be considering your body a set of axes (a "x") such that you can roll across one of them (thus limiting damage to your spine and transferring momentum across your body). Below I illustrate this by sharing an image from the oft-reference book of Westbrook and Ratti called Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere, an illustrated introduction: I draw over the image of a man rolling with primary and secondary axes indicated.
|Rolling Aikido Style|
This "primary and secondary axis" approach toward understanding and composing figures is nicely explained by Jim Pavelec (fantasy illustrator and author of Hell Beasts, a guide for drawing evil creatures). I met him also this October in Columbus at theWorld Fantasy Convention 36 . In his Hell Beasts book he details "Gesture" as:
"Gesture, or the overall movement and pose of a figure, is the foundation of any good composition, giving your drawings the fluidity and force necessary to capture the viewer's eye. You can set the mood for an entire piece by first laying out a simple gesture drawing consisting of only a few lines...There are two types of gesture lines: primary and secondary. The primary gesture line is the fluid mark that runs along the figure's centerline. For example, when looking at the humanoid figure from the front, the primary gesture line goes from the head, through the center abdomen, then to the pelvis, where it sifts into either the action leg or the weight-bearing leg....Secondary gesture lines,or rythym lines, are lines that flow through the form connecting secondary body parts such as limbs, tails, wings, and tentacles..." p14
|This zombie is about to roll!|