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Ode to the 3/4 View

Ah, the three-quarters view. How I sing it’s praises. How good it looks to draw characters in that way. Perfect for showing a full range of character expression – you can see the full face, but the character isn’t looking directly at the reader. You’ll know it immediately if you see it: one arm obscured by the body, face fully showing but one ear missing, both legs showing with one foot placed slightly higher (further away) than the other. It may look a bit awkward if you think about it too much (and there’s a little cheating going on in order to draw a character that way, in terms of realism), but it’s much better, in my opinion, than when a character looks directly at the reader. Honestly, I think it’s creepy when a character turns to the reader, either as an acknowledgement of the absurdity of the situation the character is in, or with pleading raised eyebrows as if asking, “is this normal where you’re from?” My comics are not documentaries; the characters are not being filmed by a crew, they don’t take coffee breaks and complain about their contracts. Well, maybe the owl. He’d probably like to get paid, he just has to figure out how to do it.

The three-quarters view reminds me of theater staging. Very rarely do you see an actor directly from the side or a direct front view. So, while it may seem a bit strange that all the characters are ideally posed in every panel, it has precedent.

I’ve long been working on ways to draw my characters from the back. If they’re talking facing each other, or running away, it helps to show the back of the head every once in a while. Besides, it gets boring drawing the exact same pose over and over. I found that Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics were really good at drawing characters’ backs. Donald’s back looks as interesting as his front, which is pretty cool considering there’s much less expression you can see on the back of one’s head. Another challenge (for me) is feet when they’re facing away. You don’t want to make them look like their feet are flipping into the air when they’re just standing there. But that’s all a matter of perspective.

Even when drawing characters’ backs, I still use the three-quarters view.

One notable exception to this is Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. You see him from the side or (rarely) straight-on. It’s a very interesting style, but one that is so unique that it defies imitation. In my opinion.

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