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December 2006

December 2006 - Angels



  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Creative Holidays to You!
  • Wombat Droppings:
    The S Word
  • Behind the Art:
    Action and Interaction in Illustrations
  • Myths and Symbols:
    A Friend in Winter
  • EMG News:
    News for December!


  • The Fine Art of Prints


  • Fiction: Scapegoat


  • Movie: Casino Royale
  • Movie: Flushed Away
  • Movie: Open Season

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  • Action and Interaction in Illustrations
    Behind the Art
    by Annie Rodrigue

    The word ďActionĒ always scared me a lot. Especially when it concerned art. Somehow, when I thought about action, it meant, fighting, complex poses, lots of difficult perspectives, and foreshortening. You know, the hard stuff. But with time, Iíve learned to come at peace with it. I realised that I could start with much easier painting and there could still be action. Just smaller interaction, smaller elements that would still make it look like there was something going on in my art.

    You will often see this: people will either do portraits or people doing not that much or do the extreme action where everything seems to move. So the artist that only does portraits wants to put a little action in his/ her work, but is somehow overwhelmed with the excessively difficult action painting they can find and give up before even starting. I hope that this little tutorial will put some of you at peace with this touchy subject!

    Tell a story with your art

    First thing we have to figure out, is what we actually want our characters to do. The best way I have found to help me break my easy drawing habit is to create stories with my illustration. It doesnít have to be very complex, but in the end you have to feel like something is going on in the piece, that we could actually take a few minutes explaining the situation.

    For example:

  • We want to draw our favourite character sitting.(simple situation with no action)
  • But we could give a book to our character so that he starts reading. (simple situation with small action)
  • And how fun would it be if we added a surprised expression to this character while he is reading? (now we have action, with expression)
  • Lastly, to explain the expression of your character, you could add a funny title to the book, and we would have an element to explain the whole situation!

    Now that wasnít too complex was it? We didnít add that much to the first idea, but with these new elements, the viewer will have to take an extra minute to compute the illustration and youíll probably even get a laugh at the end because of the expression of the character and title of the book.

    Trick #1: Line of Action

    This is a trick I was introduced to in my animation classes. Teachers explained to us that the lie of action was the very first line you would draw when you decided of the pose of your character. (Better yet, we could animated this line first and we would still get a good graps of what was going on in the scene!) This line is often the spine, but itís not always the case. The examples I provided here are from Cartoon animation by Preston Blair. They explain quite easily how action should be accentuated by a strong curve. See how smooth of it feels?

    Trick #2 : Life Models and Posing

    Yes, life model sessions always helps getting a good graps of the human body and models will often provide you poses that you wouldnít usually do in your work. 30 secconds to 1 minute poses are really easily thumbnailed and can be kept in a small book for reference in future illustration work. Longer poses will help you with details (like the face or hands and feet) and with shading.

    If you cannot afford to go to life model sessions (note that they often donít cost much more than $10-15 / each artist when you are in a group session) , there is always the option of asking help at home from family who can pose for you. A digital camera is always handy to take a quick photo of the pose if the person doesnít really have the time to stay put for 30 minutes. If you have no one to help you out: pose in front of the mirror.

    Trick #3 : Expressions

    Usually, expression goes in pair with action. Iíve rarelly seen active character have no emotions at all. But drawing a particular expression isnít always easy to do. Just like creating a good pose, expression needs a good graps of anatomy, because often, expression will not only show in the characterís face, but will also be about body language.

    I have seen great books where you can find pictures of faces: faces with no expression, faces with all kinds of expressions also. These can be helpful tools. I highly recommend not buying a book of drawn poses or expression though. Why? Because the downside of using a drawing for reference is the following : you will be interpreting a simplified body language and face. When someone draws a character, he or she will simplify a couple of things when drawing a human body, often twisting the realisty at the same time. We all do it. When we copy someone elseís work, we either redo the same mistakes anatomical this artist made (and sometimes we donít actually see those mistakes) or we change the pose or expression into our own style and it might feels off. Working from a life model or a reference you have created for yourself will often prevent this.

    You can again ask someone to do the expression you are looking for, take a picture or use a mirror to get it right. You can always go back to it and the anatomy is acurate.

    Trick #4 : Interaction

    The next step would be to have an illustration with interaction. Not only do we need to make sure that theses characters featured in our piece seem to be at the same place at the same time, but we have to assure ourselves that they all seem to do something relevant to the idea of the piece. Expressions could be the same between the two, but more often than not, if you want a strong interaction between two or three characters, chances are that one expression will react to another one or that two characters will react differently over the same situation. It will definitly take more planning before executing a more elaborate illustration like one with an interaction, but itís nothing that thumbnailling or even making a collage of photos will fix. Donít be scared to try many venues before actually starting the real thing. Since we usually paint for ourselves, no one will be there to tell us that we are too slow. Take your time and prepare yourself!

    Another type of art that will practice interaction at a all new level : sequential art (comics). I have yet to finish a full page that makes sense myself, but this kind of art is pretty much the ultimate expression / action posing / interaction test you will ever have!


    Remember to start with small easier pieces than finish with the tougher bigger action packed illustrations. Like anything else, this will take practice and even more practice again. Start with one character, then maybe add a pet animal and finish with a full family! Be sure to use a lot of reference or ask help when you are stuck with a particular pose and everything will go smoothly!

    What's Next?

    I still do not know how the next year of the zine will work. I am always open to suggestions, so if you have ideas or questions you would like me to cover for next yearís EMG-Zine, feel free to drop by the forum or even send a letter to the editor with your ideas! I wish you all some wonderful holidays! Thank you all for reading my column faithfully over the year!

  • Annie Rodrigue

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