Saturday, February 4, 2012

Form Thickening

In the book The Art of The Princess and the Frog, author Jeff Kurtti compares two architectural drawings.

On the left is a real Victorian house plan, drawn to scale. On the right is a layout from Disney's Lady and the Tramp (1955), showing how the smaller details, such as finials and scrollwork, were exaggerated in scale to make them read on film and convey the charm of the setting.

This process of "form thickening" was well established in Disney's Snow White and Pinocchio (1940). In this detail from a layout of Gepetto's house by Gustaf Tenggren, the furniture and props and timbers are all about twice as thick as they'd be in an actual interior.

Heroic sculpture from the 1930s also used form thickening. The figure of Atlas is the centerpiece of Rockefeller Center in New York. The 15 foot tall bronze sculpture by Lee Lawrie and Rene Paul Chambellan also has convex surfaces and strongly defined subforms.

Form-thickening hasn't gone away. In the new 2012 Ford F-250 Super Duty truck, all the details are massively overscaled, which suggests brute force and power. One of the sites advertising the truck describes the Ford logo as "football-sized," quite a bit heftier than the mango-sized logos on most other vehicles.
Atlas photo from Museum Planet
More on Atlas
Book: The Art of The Princess and the Frog (Thanks, Dawn!)
Pinocchio movie


jeff jordan said...

The Victorian house is the Carson Mansion, built by lumber baron William Carson, here in Eureka Ca. Considered by many to be the most beautiful Victorian house in existence.

Matthew Gauvin said...

WOW! This simple concept stated in simple terms has given me a new insight on something I've struggled with for years. I could never quite put my finger on it but I think this will be just the key to help me achieve better results with some of my children's book work. I think I may have accidentally stumbled upon this technique from time to time but I'm sure it will be immensley more helpfull if I consciously try to employ this tactic. Thanks for your blog and all of the helpfull resources and insights you offer us daily!

Erin / Miri-love said...

I love reading your blog - it's always so insightful.

I really love how form-thickening is used on the Victorian house :) It really is such a simple concept, but very powerful indeed.

Brian said...

Great post. I have always like this technique, but was never sure why. It really explains a lot.

A good example might be the settings in the Asterix comic, which I have always loved and now I know why.

william said...

A great example of this in a non-animated movie setting, is Hobbiton and specifically the interior shots of Bag End (Bilbo and Frodo's house if your not a big LOTR fan). Nearly all of basic designs for the sets were done by master illustrator Alan Lee (one of my favorite watercolor artists), and you can see some of this technique in the sets and design drawings for Edoras (capital of Rohan) as well.

Dan Kent said...

Very interesting - I never thought about this before.

First time commenter - I love your blog, have been reading it for some time now.

K_tigress said...

A lot of that is done as well when creating a design for an inflatable. You can't have to much details sewn in for weight reasons and other. Of course you also have to take in to account of the balloon design not being top heavy too, since after all air is going in to these. No matter if its cold air or helium, you still have to be able to control it.

Tom Hart said...

I agree with many of the others here: it's a revelation to have this technique pointed out and discussed. We encounter it so often and register its charm subconsciously. We even use it, many of us, without realizing we're employing a technique. As Matthew Gauvin suggests, having it now noted and named will help us to use it more consciously and, I think, effectively.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention, and thanks to Dawn for recommending what looks to be a great book.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everybody. I'm glad you liked this little observation. I've got a million more ideas like this rattling around in the idea bag. Dan, welcome to the forum -- it's a pretty friendly place. I learn a lot from all your comments.

Carol said...

Form Thickening, Simple comment, Great comment. WOW.

Amrinder Singh Nagi said...

Mr Gurney.,
Im an avid reader of your your blog and your book on colour theory and I have learned so much here it is amazing. This post was very helpful for me. I had been struggling to understand the idea of this concept for long time which I believe many artist use while designing characters as well. This gives me an understanding as to how the characters look the way they do.

As you said, you have alot more ideas like these. I look forward to read them.

C.Deboda said...

Great insightful post. Looking forward to more from this "idea bag". Or time for another book!

Janet Oliver said...

Love this post. I think the artistic use of form-thickening is very comforting. Everything seems to remind the viewer of a warm loaf of bread. I live with a form-thickened creature, a Welsh Pembroke Corgi. Their round stumpi-ness is, I'm sure, a major part of their appeal.

sfox said...

As Jeff Jordan said, up at the top, the Victorian in the drawing on the left is the Carson Mansion. I grew up in Eureka and have been fortunate enough to attend a few events there over the years. The inside is as amazing as the outside. For anyone else who would like to see the actual structure inside and out:

Freddy Wingfried said...

I love Victorian houses. There's something mysterious and magical about them, especially their roofs. And with form thickening, the illustrations here added even more detail to the roofs. I may not be an artist, but I can tell that this technique is definitely useful for emphasis.

Freddy Wingfried

Andy McOyster said...

Can I just say if you're going to google image search "Form Thickening" be prepared for some pretty graphic medical conditions! :(