Sunday, November 29, 2009

Studies from last year - Line of action for animals

I first learned about the "Line of Action" (shortened "LOA" in my notes) reading John K.'s excellent animation blog ( ). The concept is summed up in this picture by Preston Blair:

Arguably the most dynamic-looking poses are those which can be synthesized with just one or two lines of this kind. There is much information about using LOAs to draw human and human-like bodies in motion, but I couldn't find much about using it for animal motion, such as running horses or birds in flight seen from od angles.

So I found it very instructive to study animal photos and decide out which lines stand out in each pose for me. They are the lines which might serve as LOAs for drawing that pose. (Sorry for the unreadable notes in the pictures - these were the last sketches I did like that before sticking to uppercase.)

Solid red lines are the lines I see most prominent in the original. Dashed red lines are the ones I used, which I thought made the pose slightly better looking.

Things I noticed in these first experiments:
- Drawing with LOAs in mind is useful when using photos as references, to avoid the temptation of just copying exactly the photo.
- If at the end of the main line there is a part of the body pointing in a different direction, e.g. a muzzle or a limb, it adds to the feeling of movement. See the bats and dolphin. If the muzzles followed the solid line the bodies would look a bit too simple.
- Making a LOA turn into a spiral is necessary to draw certain animal bodies, especially when odd tails are involved. There is no way to draw a nice chamaleon using just the Blair rule of slightly curved lines...


  1. interesting article, pretty handy to keep in mind when drawing.

  2. Oooh, I know, how about I post my reply here, where it actually matters! :P

    Ahhh, I've still got that Preston Blair book, and several of it's kindred, somewhere. For all the good it did me. :p

    An interesting thing about the LOA nodes from cartooning - they're all based on bipeds. Quadrupeds have, I believe, inherently more complicated motion.

    And, of course, animation of that style is about simplifying for effect!

    Still, I think it's a very valid way of looking at the art in life - finding the lines of motion, balance, momentum, weight... using THAT to define the dynamic of your image, then matching the anatomy to it.

    .... if that makes any sense. Babble.

    purty sketches. :)

  3. Stormdancer: as you prefer, but I will follow comments on the LJ feed too. :-)

    >Quadrupeds have, I believe, inherently more complicated motion.

    Indeed, but I think it's possible to use LOAs and other tricks to figure it out as well, if done properly. It's just that few people have actually tried - so far I only found Glenn Villpu and Gottfreid Bammes doing that kind of study on animals. I'll be showing other little ideas and discoveries in future posts.