Tips that Yoga can teach us in Illustration

For my new Twitter/Google+ header I thought doing a series of movements of a character would be a great way to fill up that rectangle space, which got me to pull out some books I have on animation. While I was reading through, brushing up on all the fantastic tips and techniques, it got me thinking of how there is an overlap between doing illustrations and Yoga, two of my favourite hobbies (and soon to be professions as I will be doing a Yoga teacher’s course next year – very excited!).

So what can we learn from drawing and Yoga?

Yoga IllustrationYoga: Inhale/Exhale

Illustrations: Stretch/Squash

When you watch a Yogi doing sun salutations, they will inhale when their bodies expand and exhale when their bodies contract. So for example, if they go into a cobra pose, they will breath in and expand their chest. They might afterwards bend inwards, lift their hips, lean forward, touching the ground with their feet and hands while exhaling and go into downward dog pose.

In illustrating we must do the same. Illustrations should never be the phase between poses, it should be the pose. So characters must either be breathing out and squashing, or breathing in and stretching. When they stretch, their full body goes into it. If they were to point it wouldn’t just be a finger, it would the finger, the hand, the arm, the shoulder, the whole moment. If the character jumps, they would stretch as they flew in the air, and then squash as they land on the ground.

Racoon YogaYoga: Holding the pose

Illustrations: Silhouettes

Once a Yogi reaches a pose, they often hold it. A pose is never a half-hearted thing, with maybe a foot out and a shoulder up – no. It is always a full body holding position. In Warrior II, the feet must face the right direction, the one leg stretched out behind, the other is 90 degrees, tailbone tucked in, shoulders down, arms out straight and horizontal, chin slightly in, eyes gazing at a distant point to stay focused. Feel the spine aligning and like there are little strings holding from different places, like a puppet. Everything is balanced.

Look at your character on your paper. Is he/she/it in a pose? If you take the outline and fill the character in so it becomes a silhouette, do you still recognize your character or does it just look like someone blotched ink on the page? Is it defined?

Racoon YogaYoga: Keeping Balance

Illustrations: Where is the weight?

Most poses in Yoga the weight is equally balanced. But sometimes, like in the Tree Pose, a Yogi will find themselves one foot grounded with invisible roots into the ground, while the foot might be on the knee, thigh, or in half lotus. The arms are up in a ‘Y’ Instead of concentrating on balancing, Yogi’s must rather concentrate on stretching. Their bottom half goes towards the ground, their top half towards the sky. By doing this, balance is achieved and the weight is evenly distributed and a Yogi can stand on one leg with no worries (in an ideal world. Sometimes even Yogi’s have days when they aren’t balanced!)

A character also has weight. They might have a large round tummy. Might be an animal with a big bottom. Even a majestic lion has muscle mass and large shoulders that need to move correctly. When your character moves and ‘poses’ an illustrator needs to think of what happens to that weight and muscle. How does it move? If they are walking, the tummy will bob up and down. The bum will shift from left to right with the legs.

Racoon YogaYoga: Move! Strech!

Illustration: Move! Strech!

Of course the biggest lesson an illustrator can learn from Yoga is to not sit still for long! Put an alarm on so that every half an hour you just do a little stretch! Gently follow the contour of your collarbone with your chin. Place your hands on your shoulder and move your elbows (your shoulders and hands will follow) in large circles. Five times one way, five times another. Of course if you’ve spent half an hour huddled forward, you now need to counteract and stretch the other way.

If you have a sturdy chair, place your hands next to your bum. Now gently, with your legs stretched out, lift your pelvis, lower your head back and go into a gently back bend lifting your pelvis up and inhaling. Of course you suffer from any back injury or have any medical injuries then please consult with a professional yoga instructor before attempting.

Stand up, walk about, do a dance, get some water, and breath!