Tom replies

ImagineFX - - Imagine Nation Artist Q&a -

The dy­nam­ics of cloth and other flex­i­ble fab­rics can be de­cep­tively dif­fi­cult to mas­ter. It’s of­ten tempt­ing to del­e­gate the task of com­mu­ni­cat­ing the pres­ence of a cape or scarf to a se­ries of amor­phous, flow­ing lines. In some sit­u­a­tions this can be ex­pres­sive, but it rarely re­flects the prop­er­ties of real ma­te­ri­als.

The im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber is that the cape, just like the su­per­hero fig­ure, is a three-di­men­sional, phys­i­cal ob­ject. It has weight and mass – it re­flects light and casts shad­ows – just like other ob­jects. The only thing that be­trays its flex­i­bil­ity is move­ment and it’s re­la­tion­ships with other ob­jects and forces. Oth­er­wise, it might just as eas­ily be moulded from clay or carved from stone.

Be­cause this isn’t an an­i­ma­tion ex­er­cise, I’ll rule out any ac­tual move­ment (al­though I’ll do my best to sug­gest it a lit­tle in the static im­age), which leaves us with re­la­tion­ships. The ar­rows in the main pic­ture rep­re­sent the re­la­tion­ships that de­fine the con­tours of the cape. Pri­mar­ily, it’s be­ing pulled be­tween two rigid ob­jects: the su­per­hero (yel­low) pulling one way, and the an­tenna (green) the other. Be­tween the an­tenna and the fig­ure, the cape is pulled quite flat, with a lit­tle sag to sug­gest that the fig­ure has slowed down or stopped to check what’s hap­pened. How­ever, the an­tenna has bro­ken the in­flu­ence of the hero’s mo­men­tum, so ev­ery­thing to the left of it falls, tent-like, to the force of grav­ity (the red ar­row).

Ob­serv­ing th­ese ba­sic prin­ci­ples en­ables me to cre­ate a cape that looks rel­a­tively re­al­is­tic, de­spite a colour­ful, comic-book style.

A cape’s folds and con­tours will be de­fined by the in­flu­ence of sur­round­ing forces and ob­jects. Un­der­stand­ing th­ese will make for more con­vinc­ing de­tail.

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