The neck has been a difficult area for many of the students in the evening Gesture Class. When asked for help, I usually just sketch for them my simple, “shorthand ” version of the neck in question; hoping that will suggest at least one more step out of the quagmire. I remind them that the back of the neck is a continuation of the backbone, and is usually shorter than the front of the neck. The front of the neck starts under the chin and extends down into the chest area, culminating at the point where the clavicle bones attach to the sternum. I also caution that parallel lines make the neck stiff and “pipe like. ” Here are some examples from the class — I often add a simple “diagram” sketch (in circle) to suggest the general construction. As usual the student’s drawings are on the left.
In cartooning we rarely (if ever) draw those prominent sternomastoid and trapezius muscles that play such a big part in the neck workings. Even a smattering of what takes place there, though, structurewise, will be useful, so I have picked a few “text book necks ” that should help your understanding of that area a little better. Here are some from Victor Perard’s, Anatomy and Drawing.
Here are a few from Constructive Anatomy by George Bridgman. By studying a variety of teachers one should get a more comprehensive view of a subject. And as Thoreau said: “The symbols of an ancient man’s thought become a modern man’s speech.”
Glen Keane did these studies of neck and head shapes.
As in any study, one must not get too caught up in the style of the teacher (no matter how appealing). Although it is said that you may be attracted to a certain style, because that is the direction in which you would probably naturally go. However the sensible approach is to glean from the teacher only the things that are meaningful and useful.
Necks vary greatly, from the spindly, unlikely necks of young children (they look like they could never hold up those outsized heads), youths, mature adults; the sexy, fat, muscular, weak, rigid, short, long, stiff, etc. Oh, and the older people whose necks project forward from their “dowager’s humps. ” And those whose necks begin to sag just behind the chin. As was suggested in Chapter 20, Pantomime (Drawing) Preparation, you must decide upon your character’s age, his physical traits and what makes him a distinctive individual. The neck is a very distinctive and visible part of anyone’s anatomy and character. Traditionally, Mickey’s neck has not been very visible. As a matter of fact, some versions have him with no neck at all. Lounsbery’s booklet, How to Draw Mickey Mouse, shows the body “connected to a point within the head. ” Freddy Moore, however, intuitively drew a neck on some of his Mickeys.
Goofy’s neck is an integral part of his character. But noticeably absent from most cartoon characters are any indications of sternomastoid or trapezius muscles.
A simple shape plus squash and stretch are all the anatomy you need for cartoon characters. Any similarity to the human anatomy will be found in the extent and limits of movement, and of course, the fact that the neck is an extension of the backbone (which applies to all characters, cartoon or real). Whatever the cartoon neck shape, there is a similarity to human gesture in its action.
Needless to say, most of the Disney feature characters, at present, are humans, which makes a good understanding of the neck a must. I didn’t reproduce any here, because everyone probably has several of them pinned up around them — even as we speak In class, when I see someone struggling with a neck, I suggest a very simplified version. I am a believer in simplicity (though I like to think of myself as a very complicated intellectual type). Let me refer to Chapter 20 again, specifically:
9. Make only one gesture or movement at a time, but coordinate your entire body with it and focus the attention of the audience upon it.
With the proper manipulation of line, shape, angles, perspective, and an appropriate neck shape to fit the character, you can keep it simple, and you can express the story point effectively.’ To finish off this handout I sketched some very uncomplicated, manageable, squash, and stretchable necks that at least you can use in your “starter kit,” either in drawing from the model or in animation.
Excerpt from Drawn to Life Vol. II by Walt Stanchfield © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.