Q&A: body lan­guage

Hamil­ton Mad­dock, US

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents -

An­swer Tom replies

Good ref­er­ence ma­te­rial is a must when you want to con­vey a spe­cific emo­tion in your char­ac­ters, but I of­ten find it dif­fi­cult to source pic­tures of peo­ple emot­ing con­vinc­ingly. Stock pho­tog­ra­phy is of­ten very ob­vi­ously staged and us­ing my­self as a model re­lies too heav­ily on my own, piti­ful act­ing abil­ity.

A few canny changes in my im­age search cri­te­ria can make all the dif­fer­ence. For ex­am­ple, foot­ballers are al­most al­ways ei­ther wildly elated or in­cred­i­bly an­gry. This af­fords a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity to the stu­dent of hu­man be­hav­iour, as pho­to­graphs from foot­ball and other sport­ing events of­ten pro­vide a unique glimpse of raw, un­fil­tered emo­tion. For sub­tler ex­pres­sions, I turn to screen ac­tors. I try to think of a mem­o­rable per­for­mance that con­veyed the emo­tion I’m try­ing to re­late and seek out screen­shots from that film, or pause the DVD, if I have it.

I try to track down at least two pic­tures of dif­fer­ent peo­ple for each ex­pres­sion. I then look for the com­mon­al­i­ties, to di­vine what is uni­ver­sal about how a cer­tain emo­tion af­fects the face and body. Once I iso­late those vis­ual cues, I ap­ply them to my char­ac­ter.

Your char­ac­ters have a po­ten­tially lim­it­less range as ac­tors, but util­is­ing it can re­quire a bit of home­work. I used seven pho­to­graphs for ref­er­ence here.

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