Thursday, November 4, 2010

Looking for More Material

I've got a bit of a mental disorder; I can't really talk at all to people I don't know unless I'm forced or prompted with a script (my mom used to write scripts for me while I was growing up). Typing is no problem, and I can be outgoing as long as I'm dealing with a written medium and have no one's face on the other end, but that's not what I'm discussing today.

It's faces and posture. Facial expressions and body language literally have no meaning to me at all. I don't know what someone's arm or face or body placement means at all, and in order to do this right, I've got to use reference charts (which, thankfully, I've mostly memorized now; you have no idea how much this has helped me. It's because of my attempts to do art (horribly) that have allowed me to actually go shopping by myself, even if I don't talk to the cashier) to even get a facial expression. Still, I'm entirely guessing on annoyance or surprise or anything like that (and as anyone who's looked at my attempts to draw backgrounds knows, my sense of spacial perception is crazy; my roommate finds it amusing to move things around when I'm not in the living room and watch me try to re-navigate when I come back in. Asshole.).

It's difficult, since I learn expressions and postures by rote and chart, I basically have to learn to redraw a face every time I want someone to have a different expression, which brings me to the real main point.

I have a large amount of physical reference material, but it's limited. I keep trying the exercises I can dig up with tutorials online. Anybody out there have any good ideas for helping me improve?


  1. Hi.

    First of all, you might want to do something about the commenting system here.
    It requires you to have an account with one of a few specific services - which i do not - to comment here *at all*.
    It really took me a while to circumvent ;).
    More people might comment here if the requirement was not in place.

    As for what you describe:
    While I certainly am no expert, it does strike me as a typical Asperger's symptoms / Autism symptom. And I suspect that the relevant community has been developing techniques for cracking this code of the 'neurotypicals' (known as body language and facial expressions); but I could not find much material in my ad-hoc search. (I *do* somehow suck at searching the web.)

    I, however, found this:
    Here, at the very bottom of the page, it recommends watching a lot of movies, as actors and movie-makers apparently goes to great lengths to clearly 'show' the emotions of the characters to the viewers.
    On this note I would like to mention that exaggerated expressions, as common in e.g. manga, might be helpful at identifying the distinctive features to look for in a certain facial expression, if you are totally clueless about it. That is to say: If you cannot even recognize that there is a certain recognizable expression on an *actual* human face - so that you miss that there even *is* a question to be answered at all. (To put it mathematically.)

    There is also a rather interesting booklist (which will hardly help you draw better, tho):

    Most of the rest of the stuff I found is dealing with the issues from outside of the autistic spectrum, such as: "How to deal with your autistic child" or "What is unusual about the perception of autistic children". That is of course of little help here.

  2. As someone who HAS Asperger's syndrome, professionally diagnosed, I agree wholeheartedly with the first commenter. It's the most likely explanation. I'd go so far as to call it a certainty; I have to deal with quite a bit of that myself.

    Look up as much on Asperger's Syndrome and/or Higher Functioning Autism as yo can. Some of it might help.

  3. Watch a lot of TV shows, whether it be comedy or drama or sci-fiction (the episodes of Dr Who with either Tom Baker or David Tennant would be good..both have *very* expressive faces!)

    Also watching anime/reading manga might help as well-no harm in going back over Ah! My Goddess or Sailor Moon or Tenchi Muyo!

    I can relate to problems with communication-I was born with congenital aphasia-I didn't get enough oxygen at birth-ironically this is something that they could fix now, but they couldn't then.. I was five before I learned how to speak, and by then, had missed a great many cues physical and otherwise that I should have learned by then. I had to learn by reading, reading and more reading..

    ...and I'm still learning cues at my age (53).

  4. As someone with Aspergers Syndrome I feel thankful that I'm not QUITE bad enough that I need a script. One always must work on it.

    *I* solved my problems by making friends with someone who actually understood, and was always very careful to explain his emotions to me quite precisely. It seriously assisted me in learning his body language. After that I started, SLOWLY, being to extrapolate from him to other people. I still suck at body language reading, but I'm good enough to shut up when I'm annoying people. And that makes all the difference in the world.

    My advice is find a really good friend. They serve as the best reference material

  5. That curious..I seem to have an inverse problem: I can read other people body language fluently, but my own is often screwed up. I occasionally have to practice facial expressions in the mirror to make sure the expression matches whatever statements Im making.

    So for drawing advice, Id suggest studying your own face in the mirror. You may not be able to read other peoples body language, but since you have an insiders perspective, it should give you some clues. Note the position of the eyebrows and the shape of the mouth, as these two tend to be the most expressive facial features. Most peoples expressions and body language are determined by unconscious instinct, so you can extrapolate from how you would stand or what expression you would make in the situation your trying to illustrate.

  6. The mirror is kind of a no-go. I'm a freakin' robot and have no native subconscious body language. Mine is all forced.

    These suggestions have been a big help. Thanks a lot.

    This is probably the best emotion tutorial I've found, and just found it the other day:

  7. Oh by the bye, psycological studies have shown that facial expressions often can cause moods/attitudes. So, you know, if you ever need to be cheered up, smiling actually helps

  8. This is really fascinating! I don't hear these kinds of questions asked or answered /anywhere/, really. (Though perhaps I would have if I had stuck around WrongPlanet longer.)
    Although I don't seem to have too much trouble determining a character's nonverbal language myself, I find that I almost never look at people's faces when I'm interacting with them, and if I do, "reading" them is the last thing on my mind. (I'm not sure whether I could if I ever did try.) I'm almost certain I learned most of what I know from the media (movies, comics, etc.) just as previous posters suggested. I'm almost sure I recall almost a decade ago stating to someone that I liked anime because the expressions were easy to read and occasionally surrounded by sparkly flowers and such to drive the point home. ^_^;
    I think I've progressed beyond the anime stage now, mainly due to decreased access to said anime, and have somehow developed the habit of emoting along with my characters (sometimes by accident at very awkward moments x_x). I guess that wouldn't come naturally to the Mr. Thaxton if emoting itself doesn't come naturally to him. Still, I wonder if it's another thing that can be learned by rote, or if it would be of any use whatsoever if it were.

    ...Also, I am jealous that the Mr. Thaxton's mother bothered to write scripts for him. My mother never believed me when I told her I literally didn't know what to say to people. She's kind of decided for me that I secretly know exactly what to say but won't admit it because I'm lazy and/or have poor self-esteem, both of which may be true but seem to be largely unrelated to the problem. X_X

    ...But anyhow, I think OMS has been illustrated perfectly adequately so far. :)

    Why do I use so many emoticons in my text? o_0
    I'm sorry for rambling.

  9. While I have no suggestions for real life reference, this sorta-tutorial I've seen around should be at least a little helpful. Good luck with finding more!

    (PS, since I'm not often on blogspot, I wanted to tell you how much I like your comic. I found it last night, and ended up reading the entire archive at once.)