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The Pelvis Tutorial (Completed)

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Sometime in the future the day will come when you will have to do a walk cycle on a more complex character than the light bulb man that is Homer Simpson. You will actually have to draw Batman or some other action-adventure character or a comedic character like Huckleberry Hound who has a D-Shape based design, yet still has 40’s construction. For these characters, you will have to learn to master the PELVIS.

For standard 40’s characters it’s simple: draw a trapezoid and affix the legs to the ends. That’s a good beginning that will help you work up to Ben Washam’s sinewy anatomy on Bugs Bunny, where Washam would really accent where Bugs’ “tibia head” would attach to the acetebulum which is not quite at the bottom of the pelvis which actually called the lashium which we sit on. The area I am talking about is about 3/4 towards the bottom. It may take you a while to gauge the distance. For now, don’t over-think it and just draw yourself a trapezoid. What a lot of people do is draw the “bikini line”. The shape of hip-hugger undies and speedos mimic the shape of the pelvis which is evident under the skin of people who are very toned. Speedos fall right over the structure where the antecebulum attaches. So, the drawing a fleshy trapezoid with a bikini or speedo line may be a good cheat until drawing the pelvis becomes more organic to you.

You can worry about nailing that detail when you have to draw a character like Phoebus on Disney Feature’s Hunchback of Notre Dame or a revamp of He-Man.

Male pelvis below

Note the difference in the width of the two pelvi. The female pelvis is wider than the male and it looks like the crest of the male pelvis is slightly higher. No wonder so many body builders look as though they don’t have a waist! Men with longer waists are much easier to draw for me personally because it’s closer the anatomy of the supermodel type characters I draw in my personal work. Here’s a good example of a male model with a nice long, easy to draw waist. Note how there is even a slight curve too, so it’s easy to find the acetebulum. Most men have bodies with no curve in torso. The torso is just straight up and down with no tangible landmarks outside the rig cage. Very tough. I would suggest drawing a guy with a curve to use as an under-drawing, then fill out the curve if you are working with a stockier design. At least the construction will be there, so your character will be solid

Male model, David Raiser

For many artists, the male pelvis is the hardest to draw for animation for its distribution of weight is more subtle that the female–but it’s still there! Women in their nascent stage of animating often have this problem the most with men, because despite the sexual revolution of the 60’s, it is still a social more to NOT look at men below their shoulder girdle. Think of of Beethoven’s bust on Rolf the Dog’s piano. That’s the polite aperture in which a woman is supposed to view a male stranger. It doesn’t leave room for observation does it?
To avoid your grandmother’s spies, go to more sports games or use the perimeter of a soccer field on your daily walk and observe a game. Everyone watches an athlete’s body for he is moving and we want to see how he moves, so study that male pelvis all you want. Your mean old aunt Hera and paranoid auntie Demeter will never notice. Let Aphrodite guide the artist in you so you can figure how men are very similar to women but the shape of their bodies are more subtle. Observe the protocols of how their weight can be shifted. Men put their hands on their hips too, but the Ares edict demands the stance be less exaggerated than a woman. It’s a tough transition, but you’ll get the hang of it. Oh, and record the next Olympics and take screen captures if you have a DVR player that produces discs!

Don’t let these technical drawings intimidate you. Just keep them in mind for future reference for when you have to draw Batman. Also, just anyone can draw the pelvis of a man standing up in the doryphorus stance. The tough part is when the character sits down or is in action. Just try drawing a good sword fight without acknowledging the pelvis! It ain’t happenin’, Again, for 40’s funny character construction, draw a trapezoid to represent the pelvis in your underdrawing. Now here’s another trick: after drawing the pelvis split the body into the following planes in accordance to position in your scene: the Dorsal Plane and the Sagittal Plane.

3/4 front character

Floating girdles in yellow
Dorsal line in red
Sagittal line in blue

The dorsal plane is back to front, think of drawing a line up the spine over the head and through the sternum. The sagittal plane is side to side. This will help maintain your character’s volume as well help in designing clothes for the character if your are the designer. One of my favorite funny character cartoons that pays close attention to clothes is Ed, Edd and Eddy. I love how the character designer included the seams on the jeans and sport shirts, especially on Ed, Edd and Naz.

Another thing to consider is kinesthetics which I get into in further tutorials as needed. For our purposes, it the study the relationship on muscle and skeletal structure and how the body moves, such as the floating girdles with can move just about any old way vs. the limited range of motion of dorsal and sagittal movement. We’ll get into that once I see people drawing broken feet, wrist and arms.

Getting back to clothes, it is important to consider the inseam. When I was at Disney, the lead character designer, as well one of the story artists and myself discussed how to make a tasteful inseam on the female characters in tight pants. The discussion made me think of a John Waters film that took place in the 60’s where women were starting to wear pants. Only the “bad girls” wore tight pants. The Hera mom’s of the neighborhood were so outraged that they called the capris “vasectomy pants”. So, be careful with that inseam. However, for this lecture I would like to talk about being careful about that inseam on male characters. You got real trouble there.

“I’m not touching’ that one”
-Dot Warner

The Inseam (or inside leg in slacks if you’re a fan of Mr. Humphries of Are You Being Served?)
On clothed funny characters especially nowadays, you don’t have to worry about the inseam too much. But when you get to action-adventure you will have no choice but to address the problem. Lucky for us, there have past successful attempts for designing an inseam for animation, just look at Johnny Quest.

There were other shows like G.I. Joe and Bruce Timms work, but these show are animated overseas so you really can’t determine the original design because the assistant work is so badly rushed. There are a few key episodes. Look for the espisodes featuring Roland Daggett and Clayface. The crew really outdid themselves some of those episodes.There is one episode in particular that shows off suits well. I’ll post it when I find it. Also due to time constraints and split crews, there isn’t much room for on the spot life drawing either , so, Johnny Quest it is. There is Filmmation’s Archies and and He Man as well, but I would rather use a live-action reference just bring some new ideas into animation world. I can’t help it. It’s the character designer in me.

Make over your man is a great resource for menswear. It covers both casual and formal wear and nails that sticky problem of inseams.

It appears the fashion designers have had their challenges with this issue as well, for there are several types of designs for concealing a man’s testes. I wonder if men have a protocol in regards to clothes that either accentuate of subdue attention to that region that way women do with high and low cut blouses and tops? I think so, for why the variety in inseams? Is there a male version of the jealous Hera would loathes any woman that is prettier or greater endowed that she is for they may catch the attention of her philandering husband? I’m sure there is. Guys don’t hate pretty boys who get all the girls for nothing. The Dionysus, pretty boy rock star is the target of hatred of so very many men. Perhaps the male equivalent are Hera’s two loser sons Ares and Hephaestus.

I’m using Olympian archetypes ala Jean Shinoda Bolen to illustrate types of people that inhabit stories everywhere. We just call them by different names now: hero, shadow, mentor, threshold guardian etc and use our personal experiences like our friends and enemies to flesh out the personalities. The archetypes are still there, but more varied in details. People are alike but not exactly alike. This digression all bolls down to story, which should be in the back of your mind whenever you create anything in film or sequential art.

Men’s clothing for the most part is derived from military uniforms, so think of how a soldier would want to protect that most vulnerable part of himself to in order to be effective in battle. He would also want to be respectful of the chain of command. It’s a military custom to dress inoffensively.

Here’s a design by industry director, Mike Milo. Eve’s pelvis is really easy to find. Adam, not so much, his legs appear to be attached to his rib cage. However, don’t let that fool you. Look closer. Mike Milo left just enough space for waist/space between rib cage and iliac crest. You can’t count on human proportions in funny cartoons design, where the object is to exaggerate and vary shapes. Mr. Milo’s design the pelvis so very short and small on Adam that it will take a bit of skill to eke it out. Give yourself and assignment and make an under-drawing of this design. Find the pelvis and draw the character sitting down. You’ll be glad you tried this now, before getting stuck on a studio test or drawing against a deadline on the job!

Alternative design. Today there is a sketchbook trend in animation. Think of Adventure Time. You really won’t have to worry about how the floating girdles roll like Ben Washam (?) did when he animated Drip Along Daffy chasing after the cheering crowd that scooped up his comedy relief as a hero. However, you should always be prepared for it. Challenge yourself on how you would draw a character without a pelvis siting down. He may run conventionally, but how would you draw the opening scene of Porco Rosso using Mike Milo’s design pictured here instead of Miyazaki’s Rocco, who very much has a pelvis. Don’t be surprised if you get a storyboard with an action that requires the pelvis to act as a ballast for the body. Be prepared!

Observe. For you the sake of your career observe. Just about all animated characters today are male, so it can’t be avoided. For women artists out there, don’t be afraid to look down in appropriate surroundings. Being women in a patriarchal society we have to be subtle. However, if you dare to let Aphrodite take over your senses like in the following example, don’t blame me, your on your own:

The Wire

Assistant State Attorney, Rhonda Pearlman and the lieutenant police commissioner Cedric Danieis discuss the Barksdale case and Daniels’ sudden separation from his wife. While sitting in her desk chair she looks up at her studly male lieutenant standing above her and says:
“I see you dress left.”


All kidding aside, NEVER tell a director you can’t draw men. Instead, try to isolate your problem drawing man and keep it to yourself until you master them. My challenge was the pelvis and I didn’t know it until years after I lost several opportunities to work for Bruce Timm, be the character stylist for the animated show Clerks and hold my position at Spumco. If you are having trouble drawing men, try mastering the pelvis. It may be your problem. Or it could be something else. Regardless, keep your mouth shut as you find solution. Admitting this shortcoming openly may hurt you. Furthermore, if you look over the shoulders of your peers and even your superiors, you’ll find that they have weaknesses they are desperate to conceal as well.
Good luck!


3 responses to “The Pelvis Tutorial (Completed)

  1. Pingback: Shoulder Girdle Tutorial | The Animatress Pipeline

  2. Rochelle September 25, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Thanks for such a thorough post. Appreciate it!

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