May 22nd, 2006

Drawing Breasts

Have a gander at the original character design for Megumi:

This image was drawn entirely freehand, in pen, with no guide lines. That's why it looks a bit "sketchy". If I had planned it I would probably have used a journal-type book with no lines on the paper. But that's all right, because these are just layouts and studies, not "finished pages".

Breasts are important to otaku. (Guy-type otaku, anyway.) In Japan, most women don't have large breasts. The Japanese diet isn't nearly as high in fat as the American diet is--lots of rice and fish will do that--and Japanese kids average around two hours of PE per day. That's why the Japanese populace in general is so skinny--they start out that way and pretty much stay that way for life.

The girls, however, burn off all the calories which would go into the formation of breasts; this is why they tend to have smaller breasts. I think this is also why Japanese girls tend to skip gym class during their "monthly visit", by the way; they have to. A girl fainting from "anemia" is such a common circumstance in anime that it's a common plot device. (Not to mention that the skin-tight gym shorts they wear probably leave no room for sanitary napkins.)

So, when it comes to cartoons, the Japanese tend to give them breasts--breasts they probably wouldn't actually have.

As for Megumi-chan, as you can see the bustiness of the character is more pronounced here. Well, having seen Yumi-chan in Chobits I realized that I can get away with not making the bustiness obvious at all times. Heck, for being an E-cup, Yumi-chan's character design doesn't seem to have much bust to it.

Ifurita would easily be an E-cup--an American E-cup, if such things exist, which I don't even know. If her measurements match those of Dolly Parton (not an unreasonable assumption) Ifurita's chest would be 40DD. Find pictures of Dolly on the Internet. From the neck down, that's what Ifurita would look like in real life.

To be honest, extra-large breasts seem like a bad adaptation to me. Only humans can get away with it; other mammals don't have breasts unless they're actively lactating. Our closest cousins in the primate world don't even have them; only us. (Well, our females.)

But even so I would think that there would be a certain maximum size above which the things become more of a hindrance than a help, due to weight distribution, resource demands (ie food and oxygen), and so on. It seems that the disadvantages of very large breasts would outweigh the increased breeding opportunities that they would bring.

Hey, human men are wired to like them. Bigger breasts means better survivability for the children--oh, I know it doesn't really mean that, not even in the proverbial wild, but it's the same as with other factors: they're visual cues, not 100% logical and accurate information. Nature lies all the damn time.

In the "wild" the woman with bigger breasts looks healthier and more apt to generate viable offspring. A women with small or no breasts does not.

Given that, though, what about a woman like Dolly Parton? Do the breasts get her more mates? Or do they slow her down so much that she becomes a meat snack for a cave bear before she can breed?

Anyway, drawing large breasts can be problematic. Look at some comic books (American superhero comics, I mean) and look at some of the women in them. I have seen character designs that were completely outlandish: a female character with F-cup-sized breasts (which could defy gravity) and a waist that would be thick on anyone with a smaller chest. OR, worse, an optimum-size waist, which makes the breasts look gargantuan.

In Azumanga Daioh, the character Sakaki-san has large breasts--I note here that I borrowed the last name for Megumi-chan in my little comic because of this--to the point that other characters frequently remarked on it. When she's in her school uniform, they draw her a bit on the thick-waisted side. In swimwear she has normal proportions, though.

There is a sub-genre of Japanese comics in which the female characters are all drawn with extra-huge breasts--breasts that make Dolly Parton's look average. It's called BB, and I'll let you figure out for yourself what those letters stand for. BB manga is supposed to be sexy (it's a kind of hentai, or "adult only", comics) but the enormous breasts just look awful to me. Another evolutionary disadvantage to extra-huge breasts: after a certain size they begin to look disgusting.

And then the latter case leads us to another problem: if you're drawing a nude, how big do you make the aroleas and nipples? If you proportion them to the size of the breast, well, no baby would ever be able to use the things for their intended purpose. But if you draw them a proper size, they're dwarfed by the mass of the things. I guess this is another case where "logic" need not apply.... Fortunately, I don't often draw nudes, and none of my characters have outlandish proportions anyway.

In my collection of "How To Draw Manga" books, the one on drawing female characters devotes several pages to breasts of all sizes, and includes tips on how to show them interacting with their environment. In general this series of books has helped my ability to draw immeasurably--when I need to see how to do something I can just look it up and try the technique out, and more often than not the book pays for itself after one or two episodes like this.

Drawing in General

I was talking to a coworker, the other day, about my drawing skills.

It took me several years to progress to the point that I felt comfortable trying to draw an actual story. For decades my drawings were confined largely to stick figures, and I did some pretty funny stories using them; but after getting hooked on anime and manga, I decided it would be neat to be able to generate some manga of my own. I started trying to draw it in 1995, and struggled and struggled until I hit on the idea of tracing some images. That broke the logjam and I was suddenly able to draw faces. Then I started working on bodies; and after a couple of "How To Draw" sessions at AnimeIowa '97-'98, I started work on the first "finished" pages of American Dawn, the manga series I'd started thinking about 'way back in 1995. I finished several pages before taking a drawing course in 1999, and that helped a lot, too.

Back when I was in junior high, a friend of mine--Mike Indovina, the creator of Satyr and Chimera ( among other things*, and a graduate of the Kubert school--he was showing me and a mutual friend of ours how to draw. It looked like too much work to me, so I never really bothered with it. Ah, the foolishness of youth.

Anyway, so I started down the comic art path late. But the pages I was doing weren't all that bad--amateurish and somewhat primitive, yes, but not bad. In the intervening time my artwork has improved the same way it has since this started, in bursts: I'll go along drawing something, bing bing bing, and then--whoa! THAT'S how you're supposed to do it!--and it gets a bit better.

It's almost like I'm throwing skill points into my "Craft: Comics" skill....

I started drawing American Dawn layout pages in an unlined, hard-bound journal. These "layout" pages were, for all practical purposes, finished pages, needing only some extra detail and inking to be complete. (And screentones, if I had a source for them.) They look good, even to me (I am my own harshest critic). I carried the practice over to Magical Angel Selene but I have only a few pages of that, in any form, and a stack of studies and character designs.

Stephen Bennett--the guy who was the head of "Studio Ironcat" before it folded, and who worked as an animator in Japan on such projects as Urusei Yatsura--he held some "how to draw" seminars at the various iterations of AnimeIowa and I attended every one, and actually learned something about artwork from him. He advised me that my page layout was too static, that it needed to be more dynamic--and I took his advice and generated two or three pages of Magical Angel Selene which he said were better than the first ones I'd shown him. Anyway, MAS has stalled due to a problem I have.

Bennett says that the two key attributes to a successful artist are PATIENCE and DISCIPLINE. It takes time to learn to draw, and it takes time to draw. And it's not something you can just pick up; you have to practice until your hands hurt--and practice more!--until you learn how to do it. Patience and discipline!

My problem is I can't really draw male characters all that well. I know what Steve would say: "Practice!" but I just don't. I don't because I don't like drawing guys. I like drawing the cute girls.

There is a story that Steve tells at each drawing and cel-painting workshop he gives, about his entry into the world of animation--how his mentor told him to draw Shutarou Mendou, from UY, 1000 times, and how he had a red pen and would draw an X through every drawing that wasn't worthy. His mentor made Steve draw his least-favorite character and would not tolerate so much as one out-of-place line; and finally Steve learned the lessons of patience and discipline...and that was when the real art lessons began.

Like Steve, I like to draw the cute girls, but I don't like drawing the other stuff. It's my biggest failing. So when it comes to a story like Magical Angel Selene, in which the main character is a guy (who transforms into a magical girl--go figure), I have trouble. The main character, Chuck, has two male friends and one female friend...and I stalled because I had to draw the male friends. (And his coach.)

The worst-looking character design in American Dawn is Asa-chan's middle-aged physics teacher, Dr. Heisenberg...because he's bald. I just don't have the patience to draw him correctly. *sigh*

So anyway, I don't stick with my comics. They languish for months at a time. I'm that way with all my creative efforts, and always have been; life intervenes and I do other things for a while. When I come back, my drawing skills have rusted and lost their edge.

But after a while--especially if something inspires me--the skills come back to me; all I have to do is draw for a while and I remember how to do it again. I guess that's lucky.

*--Other things, like the Purple Brute

...they really do. (But I'm not bitter.)

First read this blog entry from Outpost Nine:

...if you don't, the rest of this won't make much sense.

All done? Great.

In late 2004 I met, via a Christian singles' web site (, a nice Japanese woman. I'll call her "S". She and I started an e-mail exchange which lasted about 10 months.

In August of 2005 she told me she was going to stop writing to me. I asked why but I got no real explanation, just that she needed time to think. I figured, okay, WTF-ever, it's not like we were going out or anything; we were just corresponding. It was, up until the last month or so, heading in a definite direction...but that was over. WTF-ever. You gotta do what you gotta do.

That was the last I heard from her until January of this year, when she wrote me a note explaining that she had decided she was going to go back to her European ex-boyfriend, the one she'd met while doing volunteer work in his country, and who she'd broken up with because he wouldn't find a job and lived on the dole. (Got to love that European socialism. "We pay you not to work!") He had kept writing to her, and she had been unable to stop thinking about him, so she'd gone to his country to see him.

Well, it wasn't hard to read between those lines, so I sent a terse reply congratulating her, and that was the last of it. Again, WTF-ever.

So, fast-forward to my birthday of this year...when she sent me a birthday present.

Did she send the BD present with a note explaining WTF was going on? Oh no, of course not--just a post-it with the words "BD present" on it. (It was a CD, a soundtrack CD for Rumik Theater and Mermaid Forest TV. Cool! MSRP is around $31 and shipping was $13, so it's not exactly cheap.) So I wrote her an e-mail thanking her for it and asking WTF was going on (those weren't my exact words).

Then she explained that she had bought the thing last year, intending to send it to me as a gift; and since it was just laying around unused she'd decided to send it to me anyway.

Of course I was a bit disappointed. I was (and still am) confident that S' ex-and-now-fiancee would eventually show his true colors and behave exactly the same way he did that made her break up with him in the first place. I had thought perhaps I'd misread her e-mail from January. Or maybe something else had happened. I figured that all that was probably utterly wrong, and that there was a prosaic reason for her sending me a BD present when we hadn't exchanged so much as a single byte of e-mail in 5 months. Well, it just goes to show that if you expect the least, you won't be disappointed.

Except I was, a little.

Anyway, instead of saving me that, by including a little note, she included no explanation and forced me to write her to find out WTF was up...and so, here I am.

I think it was a pretty nasty thing to do. If you give someone the hidey-ho, you don't send birthday presents. My first girlfriend did something like that to me, once; after she had broken up with me, she called me about something or other--and as she was ringing off, she said, "I love you". I was (justifiably!) irate about that. "You broke up with me! How can you say that?" I demanded.

I think it would have been better for everyone if S had just taken that CD to a used CD store and sold it. I appreciate the gift; what I do not appreciate is the side-order of knife-twisting, however unintentional it may have been.

We all muddle through life as best we can; and we all make mistakes. But even acknowledging that, I have to agree with "Ms. Americanized 2":

Fucking Japanese girls, they really suck.

I just realized I sent her my blog address with that e-mail. Oh well. If she reads this, it serves her right. I'm a nice guy, but even I have my limits.

Fear My Subconscious.

As I was waking up from a nap, my subconscious attempted to scare me awake with a mental image I just had to share. You can thank me later.

I imagined a morbidly obese woman in a bikini taking part in the Iditarod. Sadly, the sled dogs could not pull her immense carcass; instead they ran frantically in place, fearing that she would eat them for a snack, and dug a hole. After a bit the entire works fell into the hole and the woman's gigantic mass fell face-first onto the dogs and crushed them all at the bottom of the hole.

As the logic and reasoning centers of my brain switched back on there was something about a crane being brought in to haul the woman out of the hole, because there was no way in fucking hell she could even turn over, much less climb anything taller than a curb.

I think the primary source of all this would be from the "Cliff Yablonski Hates You" section of the Something Awful web site: . This web site takes pictures of bizarre and stupid people and makes fun of them mercilessly using lots of bad words and acrid sarcasm. I've been re-reading the entire series (it runs to 268 pages right now) and it's still pretty funny stuff. But there are a few pictures of morbidly obese women in bikinis or lingerie.

Since I worked in a nursing home for 7 months there is no way such images can scar me, mentally. On my first day there I saw a piece of human feces 4" in diameter and 6" long come out of a bedridden resident--that set the tone for my whole time there; believe me, seeing a mere picture of an excessively fat woman is practically a vacation next to that.

Even so, I fail to understand how anyone can just let himself go like that. Getting fat, yes; that I can see...but when your body starts to go from rotund to huge, and the scale expires with a spoing and a wail of despair, and all your clothes have more Xs on the labels than any other letter--you know, then it's time to STOP FUCKING EATING and go see a doctor about an exercise regimin.

I know that some people have metabolic disorders which make it difficult for them to control their weight. I know that there are some people who just naturally tend to be heavy. But I'm not talking about those people; I'm talking about people who just eat and eat and FUCKING EAT and don't exercise at all, until they're so goddamned huge that their bodies are 90% fat and they can't exercise, because if they tried to do anything more strenuous than walk, their hearts would explode. I am talking about the people who, essentially, choose to be morbidly obese. They don't wake up one day and say, "Y'know, I'm gonna see what it's like to weigh a quarter of a ton!" They just eat what they like to eat without thinking about it, and they eat lots of it because they like it, and as time goes on they just eat more and more and more of everything...and eventually they end up looking like the Michelin Man.

The ironic thing is that morbidly obese people have strong leg muscles. Typically their legs and buttocks are pretty strong, because they have to be. The goddamned food isn't going to come to them, after all, and that means they have to get up and walk to it.

And when one of these blobs of suet finally understands how stupid it is to weigh 600 lbs (literally; I am not exaggerating) and gets help and loses weight, they've got so much excess skin that they need plastic surgery to get rid of it. I'm not talking about the woman who loses 20 lbs and wants a tummy tuck; I'm talking about NEEDING the surgery, so that the person doesn't have a huge empty sack of cellulite hanging off his body--I'm talking about enough skin to reupholster the guy in Hellraiser who's missing his skin and has all the nails sticking out of his head. That's right, enough belly skin to cover someone's entire body.

It does, however, demonstrate the overall robustness of the design of the human body. I'm positive that morbid obesity was not a problem for proto-humans as they evolved into us, and you never see it happen in the wild--yet people can get that hugely fat and still live. Their life expectancy is shortened, of course, but they don't strangle in their own bulk; that's pretty impressive, especially when it's a woman and she has 100 lbs of breasts on her rib cage. (I think "100 lbs" is an exaggeration. But I'm not sure it is.)