Stylized vs Realism - illustration

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  07 July 2005
Stylized vs Realism - illustration

I was curious to your opinions on two forms of illustration.

Recently Magic Man posted in my WIP thread (link in sig), suggesting i review some anatomy on skulls to better this portion of my piece (a very valid point!). Meanwhile, a friend of mine in school had been following that thread (he refuses to register). He called me yesterday in the mood for a debate ( ) and brought up an interesting point to me. He is a musician (usually bugging me to draw him album covers for his stuff ) and not much of an artist, but he wondered why i needed accurate skulls in a comic style piece.

We chatted for like an hour about it, and in the end we didn't come to much conclusion.. so now i pass the debate on to you guys! When an artist draws over time, he develops a style to his work. The more original art over unoriginal art he draws, the more intense the style can get. Over time, his entire piece can be as unique as his signature and if he is lucky he can be well known for his style.

But is there a fine line between realism and stylization, or is it a blurry shade of grey between the two? Would incorrect anatomy only be acceptable once it is so far over the line it is obviously stylized, or can one get away with smaller tweaks?

My friend's logic was; "If its stylized, why does any of it need to look real? If the demon is obviously not real, why do the skulls need to be?"
Remember: Periodically Flip Canvas Horizontal
  07 July 2005
For me, my issue with the word "stylized" is that sometimes people mean "not too real" and sometimes they mean "not too good".

Take comic books, or anime. Most have a "style", but some are definitely better than others. I happened to like the work John Cassidey did for the latest X-Men series. It's stylized, in that it isn't real, but it also bears the mark of consistency. That is, a character seen from different views and expressions is instantly recognizable as that character, and not just because they're wearing the same striped suit. There's a lot of anime out there that fits this description as well: all characters are stylized, but they're also very unique. And the style is carried out into many different kinds of situations and expressions. It takes a lot of skill to do this. However, there's also really crappy comic books and anime out there, where the only difference between characters is the hair color, or the shirt color.

I think some people are "reality bigots", however, in that they think that anything non-realistic is easy. What's funny, is that in the end, everything we draw isn't real. It's an illusion on a piece of paper (or computer screen). So there you go. My $.02.

I really need to get back to work.
  07 July 2005
Ummm...I think it would only be in question if you went for a job in art that demands a certain correctness. If someone hired you to do concept art for a possible development( such as a building ) - then yes, you should try to be acurate as possible. Same for medical get the idea.

On the other hand, the Japanese draw characters with impossibly gigantic peepers and even stranger noses! But that is for entertainment...

Do you see?
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  07 July 2005
There is a funny fact which is that people will recognise a chariacature more easily than a photo of the person. This is because an artist can pick out the features that make that person look the way that they do and exaggerate them. But it is very hard to be a good chariacaturist if you don't know about anatomy as you won't know what features to play with.

At the end of the day, you can't just produce any old style as you have to work within the things that appeal to our brains. Our brains have evolved to see things like peoples' heads and so that is what you have to work with.

There are some things that look plain wrong to us which people take for granted. For instance, it looks wrong for knees to bend backwards.* This shows that we all have some sense of anatomy. It is good for an artist to have more anatomical sense than other people because otherwise we can get caught out in certain situations.

It is like, for a musician, there is no point making music outside of the human hearing range and it is a good idea to have some music theory to help you allong so you don't make mistakes (like clashes), or at least you know how to avoid make mistakes when you want to.

*When people draw fauns and minotaurs with "backward bending" legs, they aren't really backward bending because they are based on animals hind legs which are just the same but which stand on their toes.

Last edited by John Keates : 07 July 2005 at 07:03 PM.
  07 July 2005
Hi Blue, this is coming from a conventional artists point of view, so take it for what it's worth...

In my experience, it's not necessarily the using of the knowledge, but the having it. When something like that is in your head, it pops up when you don't even realize it...

I actually do very little realistic work, but when I do a head, I still stick to known proportions in some areas, and distort others...or follow some known rule of thumb just to make something's kind of a fine line between, like mrtristan said, good and bad comics...or like ....I don't Scooby Doo and Spirited Away...if you are speaking know it when you see it....if someone has it in their head, or if they're hacking for money... (sorry, I'm rambling)

for me, I want to create something that we all know isn't real, but looking at it, wonder if somehow it couldn't come know?
  07 July 2005
Quote: My friend's logic was; "If its stylized, why does any of it need to look real? If the demon is obviously not real, why do the skulls need to be?"

Correct anatomy is just referencial. If you use it to portray an object that exist in reality, then it is essential. It depends on the context and the subject. If your beast is a metamorphosis of a human like figure, then that anatomy will not necessarily derive from realistic characters, but what is important is that the process of metamorphosis is recognizable. Correct anatomy relies on a range of acceptable proportions, i.e a range of proportions of the parts to the whole. A comic figure like Bart Simpson is not adhered to these proportions, but read as a character with some realism to it. That is because "IMO" it is referencing human movement, behaviour, character, voice, etc.. The essence of correctness is relative to what it signifies.

Bugs Life was criticised by biologists for incorrect anatomy and missing legs and so on, which they considered as miseducation of kids. Counter argument is, could an insect talk and behave like a human? duh !

You are allowed to characterize as you wish until you earn your style to be unique and original. It is a creative process after all.

By the way, the Statue of David by Michaelangelo, is larger than life with arms longer than a normal human being proportions, some of the renaissance paintings had the head of children smaller than the head of a "normal" child. Are they wrong? may be. Does misproportion make it comical? No. Comic illustrations are variations of reality that reduces some aspects of real life features while exaggerating others.

Post Modernism in Architecture did just that, if you look at the work of Michael Graves and Robert Venturi, they used classical elements with modern ones in a different context and proportions.

There is more into that, but let's listen to what others will have to say

Last edited by ashakarc : 07 July 2005 at 08:24 PM.
  07 July 2005
[QUOTE=John Keates]

There are some things that look plain wrong to us which people take for granted. For instance, it looks wrong for knees to bend backwards.* This shows that we all have some sense of anatomy. It is good for an artist to have more anatomical sense than other people because otherwise we can get caught out in certain situations.

Here is my opinion and that is all it is. I think Mr.Keates made a valid point in saying that artist need a strong bckgrnd in anatomy and just the basics in general. My belief is that once an artist has a strong and solid understanding of these basics then they can successfully depart from the "how things should look" reality to the, this is how I meant it to look argument. If one truly understands the laws and principles of art then they can and should try to break them with success. We all have to think that they way our minds were created they have the capability to point out the mistake or lack of skill in a work of art even though the viewer may not understand why what he is looking at is wrong, but it the artist has a strong grasp on the fundamentals then they will be able to trick the viewer into believing what they are looking at could actually be a reality.

"Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace towards men”
Luke 2:14
  07 July 2005
I remember reading a thread to a certain (wonderful) piece of work a few weeks/months ago by Linda Bergkvist...the girl with the red hair and green eyes. You know the one I mean - somebody started saying it was a photo manipulation, blah blah blah, and when he was rebuffed, came back with something along the lines of "Well, it shouldn't look that real anyway, if an artist draws something identical to how it would really look, what is he/she bringing to the table?". So, I think it's safe to say whether you draw very stylised or very're always going to have someone griping at you. I personally lean more toward the realistic pics (I always have). What is he/she bringing, that person asked? If you ask me, a hell of a lot. Something that didn't exist, and now we could believe it does.

Having said that, I'm really starting to like more stylised and cartoonish images...
  07 July 2005
You pose the answer in your question. It's in the relevance of realism in your work, an otherwise in your understanding of your public. Since there is only the perception of reality for stylisation you can't stress otherwise... I think that's what ashakarc is explaining, I agree with him fully.
modelling practice #1
  07 July 2005
Knowing the artist's abilities would definitely put a curve on the debate. You know he has the ability to draw realistic, but he chooses not to.

What about seeing a piece where you don't know anything about the artist? You are presented an anonymous painting where some things are lightly stylized; do you critique it as poor work, or do you praise it for how pleasing it is to the eye?

This reminds me of something; A famous artist puts a few drawings in a gallery under a different name, and they get ripped apart by critics. But if he puts them in a gallery under his name along side his more famous work, they are praised for how marvelous the style is.
Remember: Periodically Flip Canvas Horizontal
  07 July 2005
Quote: There is a funny fact which is that people will recognise a chariacature more easily than a photo of the person

This is the point exactly. You have to know which parts to exaggerate, which to be careful with, and which directions you can get away with taking something in.
Look at the stylization popularized in American comics in the 60's and 70's - take the lower legs of any character in tights, for instance. It always curves outwards, quite a lot in some drawings, depending on the viewpoint and pose. But you would NEVER see it curving the other way - inwards (except on the rubber-man)! That would just look demented, wrong, pick a derogatory term...
  07 July 2005
There was an interesting program on the BBC a while back called " How art shaped the world". Which really made me think about this subject. A lot of people (especially in cgi) are utterly obsessed with realism. Most of the pieces on this site are judged by how realistic they look, even the fantasy work is judged this way. If you look at a lot of the most famous traditional artists portrayed people in a completely stylised way.

I think it helps as a starter to always look at real reference, but your images doesn't have to be accurate proportional to be a good image. My favourite all time comic artwork is Electra Assassin, the characters are almost completely wrong proportionally, but that's what makes it so good. It has a style rather than trying to be realistic and failing.

The thing is that you can tell he's looked at real reference, which is why there's things in there which aren't the usual comic book style (which is usually just influenced by other comic art).
  07 July 2005
for stylized I do understand exageration/deformation
In my opinion, exageration reads better but is less real, so less inmersive.

For example animation you can stylize it for better reading and understanding or you can make it realistic in case you want to sell a human walking.

For my likes/taste on stills, I do love realism with bits of slightly exageration, for better drama... Like, more distance betwen eyes, eyebrows shapes and a thousan things that you can exagerate slightly for better reading and still looks realistic.

What is for sure, is that realism dont stand for himself, I mean If you want to tell a story you will have to push things up, poses, proportions, situations, lights...
  07 July 2005
I havent seen and done much arts myself but here is my two cents worth.

I think that in arts, there is this spectrum of styles which spread across like the light spectrum from ultraviolet to infrared.

The art equivalent is the abstract art to the hyper surrealism. Each style has its own frequency which attracts people or artist with the same frequency into their respective spectrums.

IMHO, that somewhat justify why artist dont settle on one style and why the sytle that seems perfect to you are being criticized by others.

These style need each other to work in harmony.

To pit Stylized Vs. Realism is to put UV and IR and it will become neutral in the end.
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  07 July 2005
Nice thread.

This subject is of great interest to me.
I did a long stint as a commercial artist and believe me much of what is made is blatantly wrong but communicates well. We broke the rules all the time and I continue to do that. Often a crit will read like this is wrong or that is wrong, what is meant is that it doesn't work well. In 2d when something is just sitting there this is crucial because that is the only view you are going to get as an observer, meaning the artist has to draw 'around corners' so that when the art is seen it gives an impression of how something 'is' even the things that are not visible.

I checked out the work and thought that the skulls could be more expressive,... thats all. Its a constant search for that high standard.
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