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I think I have finally surpassed my greatest hurdle in drawing men: that tricky pelvis. I have no way mastered the silly creatures, but a summer in New York has certainly improved my abilities.
Designing approachable male characters for the female audience is a matter of taste. My taste in men is rather narrow: I like Cary Grant, intellectual super-genius-mad scientist types. However, that doesn’t mean the designs are all the same.
For example Indiana Jones was a genius archeologist who you would imagine gracing the halls of university in a suit, but he would also shed his professor tweeds for a frontier leather jacket and a fedora that was durable enough to withstand the toils of his adventures during summer vacations.
He also did all of this by not walking around looking like an unmade bed. Rugged does not have to be slovenly.
I recently completed a freelance project where I adapted/designed 20 action-adventure genre male characters for an upcoming video game.
It was a real stretch for me because the creator made me design characters I don’t think about: spelunkers, deep sea divers, gang members and competitive sports players. I usually avoid these characters like the plague! They are not husband material in my mind, therefore they don’t exist in my shoujo world.
What helped me get over my prejudice was a cartoon that had to grow on me as a kid: G.I. Joe.
I avoid any genre that has to do with the military, but on the rare occasions when I do open my mind, i am always pleasantly surprised. I forget that the most advanced inventions are developed for the military and are later handed down to civilians. Also, if you want to see a man who doesn’t wear baggy jeans and boxy t-shirts, but instead wears clothes that show off the trim waste and broad shoulders , look to the military! Not all aspects of the army is grunting, suffering and killing. The military performs humanitarian missions as well. Soldiers often give out candy to the children of the countries they temporarily occupy. Soldiers are human and do have hearts.
The G.I. Joe characters Cobra Commander and Flint helped the most with my long standing shoulder and iliac crest challenges. Cobra Commander wore stirrups that showed off his muscular legs and Flint was great for the shoulders and arms. His design wasn’t so extremely muscular either. Just muscular enough so he could get himself out of scrapes whenever possible. Flint and Lady Jaye were thinkers not brute strength bruisers and the stories involving them reflected their intellect.
There were no Mr. World man boob pecs or the steely gaze of a killing machine in Flint’s design. Now that I think it, I doubt that Mr. World candidates would do well in battle. You need agility to move through a melee. In fact, I think many soldiers are very much like the fictional characters of Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus of HBO/BBC’s Rome series. Now THEY were killing machines! …very efficient killing machines…(((shudder))). However, they didn’t have that bulky U.S. Marine Corps build. They were agile soldiers who weaved and wielded swords in field battles. You need a lithe build for agility in that sort of work. Characters should be designed for their occupations/hobbies no just on how cool a certain shape or color may be. This is all part of visual storytelling.
On the other side of the spectrum exist the fantasy male of the ballet. In this world, the upper body is needed only to support the ballerina who will be lifted above the head and that is all. The real feat of strength is performed in the legs; region of the body usually associated with women.
The danseur’s greatest task is perform the ballon. The ballon is a leap that is so high, the body is supposed to give the allusion of hovering for a trick second before landing. You need some seriously bulky leg muscles to buffer the landing!
The result is a heavy bottomed ( legs) male who sort of has a similar shape to a woman. The bulky legs give the male silhouette a curve that is very close to a curvy girl, but the giveaway is the ever prominent iliac crest that stays narrow whereas a woman’s pelvis would begin to flare out in this region of the body. in short is muscle below the pelvis and not the bone at the top of it that creates the curve.
I must say, New York was a great learning experience for me. I worked with a bunch of team sports enthusiasts who gave me a challenging freelance project with careful, CLEAR incite into the jock male psyche. In contrast, Robeto Bolle and the men of the female mythological fantasy world worked right across the street at the American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Center. Because of them and them and the bounty of reference material at the New York Performing Arts Library and Julliard, I don’t think I have so much trouble drawing men and their funny way of distributing their weight any longer:)
image from “Inbetween Days, Giermo: Rants and Raves“
Next: How men hold and position their hands and place their feet!