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  1. (The first section includes technical criticism of Archie's art. This isn't intended as bashing or hating so much as it's being used as a point of comparison so I can better explain what I believe SegaSonic art is on some kind of objective level. Frankly I have no opinion on Archie's art other than "it's good," especially since I don't read it, so I'm hoping this isn't taken as a personal attack or- worse- that the topic ultimately derails from this. For the love of chub don't get offended.) =*= This persisting art style we know and mostly love doesn't seem to have any deep analysis here, despite the fact that it can crop up in discussions anyway, mainly as a comparison point for Archie's style or to complain about Sonic's teeth. So I thought it'd be interesting to open up the gates to a path unknown, so we can try to see not only what SegaSonic looks like, but why it looks the way it does and how broad the style actually is. So hold on to your butts children, because Penth's going to blab about artz! First: What's an art style? According to the book Art History and its Methods, a style is a "distinctive, and therefore recognizable way, in which an act is performed or an artifact made or ought to be performed and made"; an academically-loaded way to say how art is done. Style details innumerable things, from the way line, color, and volume are rendered to the way principles like balance, harmony, and repetition are applied. It's not enough to say: "In this style, all men wear hats and all women wear skirts." What kinds of shapes do the hats and skirts take on? What kind of line quality do they have? Are all of them rendered in warm or cool colors? The answers to these and other questions can be gathered into what we call a style. So let's start at the foundation. The most universal quirks I can see is the way basic forms are connected simply and make great use of perspective, giving Yuji Uekawa's drawings a pleasing feeling of weight and mass. Even in their widest poses, characters don't twist mid-form in bone-breaking ways. Take these two images of Vector for example. I tried to find two that were a little similar in pose: Notice how Uekawa uses crosshairs, not just on the face but everywhere. The right shoe followsthe general perspective of his top jaw, belly lines, headphone band, etc.. Their prominent use allows shapes to build logically off one another so Vector alludes he's a single figure. In this Archie panel, perspective is broken which can't just be the fault of cartoony posing: If we note the shape of Vector's head, it actually suggests his skull is lopsided. His muzzle slopes at an awkward angle due to the positioning of the eyes. His back is also broken just by the spikes: they're visible, meaning they're not possibly in the middle of his back but have been haphazardly thrown to the right, until they reach the middle of the tail where they're centered again. I'm unsure how his body is actually flowing, destroying the idea that Vector's one flowing mass. Archie Vector is more unbelievable than Uekawa's Vector despite more variation in his pose! Another thing about Uekawa's style is his interplay with curves, angles, and tapering. From head to tail, Vector's body is one cylinder with a nice flow built in. This is broken up by his mouth which is basically flats cubes. His round legs flatten into the cubic shapes of his shoes, a distinction that further suggests they support a heavy load. Along with the body, the legs and arms gently taper towards their ends. This feeds mass to different parts of the body, which adds weight, suggests an organic feel to the character, exaggerates hands and feet, and frankly it's just easier on the eyes. Archie Vector lacks tapering in his body, looking more like a jelly bean instead; but notice how sharper the tapering is on his arms and legs, making them look skewed, especially as they contact his gloves and shoes. There's also less thought given to the interplay of angles and curves in terms of defining what is supposed to bear weight or suggest bone. Look at his shoes, which are more rounded and look like simple boots. Also notice the broadness and stubbiness of his muzzle; compare how the bottom teeth are placed in the two drawings (Archie Vector is now an alligator!). If I were to draw that same pose more along the lines of SegaSonic style, this is how I would've done it. Excuse Paint scribbles: Now we've only talked about lines, yet we can see their application can result in two completely different renditions of the same character. Also note that the way lines can interact with each other to make shapes is pretty much infinite. The implication of this is that we can have characters of wildly different body and clothing types that still stick within the same style and thus belong together! This is why Vector and Sonic belong in the same universe when both are drawn by Uekawa, even though one is a tube croc and the other's a basketball-headed hedgehog: In Uekawa's Sonic, you can see the same things: Better adherence to perspective, gentle tapering towards the ends of his arms and lower body, smooth S-curves throughout, flat-bottomed shoes to suggest weight-bearing, and other things, as well as compare how dissimilar Archie Sonic is. Don't let anyone argue that just because Vector or Big or Chip don't have Sonic's exact shape like Shadow does that they don't belong beside him artistically. Not true! Art isn't that restrictive, much less Uekawa's style, hence why we can have all of these awesome-looking characters in the first place and potentially many more. =*= So, now we have an idea of the universal attributes that constitute a SegaSonic-styled character, so let's delve into specifics: common body shapes and clothing types. Most of these observations aren't universal. As I argued, SegaSonic art isn't chained down by cyclops eyes or gloves. There's at least one ruling exception to everything yet these unique characters still belong. Remember, the shapes themselves are limitless; It is the way they're drawn that is far more important! So here's a huge mosaic that looked a lot better in my art program but is here anyway for ease of comparison. And can you tell I forgot Cream at the last second? Anyhoo! THE HEAD: No head is fully angular. While Knuckles, Tails, Marine, and Chip have square-ish heads from different base shapes, there still exists curves, usually around the mouth area and to soften potentially hard corners. Circles are the default shape. The eyes on a character are usually pretty lengthy, probably about half the length of the head or more. Ridged brows are most prominent in tough male characters; completely absent for females. In return, only females have eyelashes. Proper wrap-around for both the eyes and brow is paramount in keeping consistency and volume and establishing a head direction. The classic elongated pupils should not be fat or pill-like; I'd best liken them to grains of rice instead. Every character has a differently-colored mouth/muzzle. Female muzzles lack the prominent stop of their male counterparts. Their noses also tend to be short and triangular, even if a male of the species tends to display another shape of nose. Mouths must again properly wrap around the head although one is not restricted to the "Felix the Cat" look of floating lips; Prominent mandibles, such as on Vector and the Werehog, are plenty allowed. Ears- if they're there- all tend to emerge from a general triangular or diamond shape. Sharpness, roundness, straightness, length, and positioning can vary as seen fit. THE ABDOMEN & APPENDAGES The typical center mass of a character tends to be an inverted triangle or candy corn shape: broad at the top to support a heavy head and humanoid shoulders, and ultimately tapering down at the pelvis. Of course, this is merely the default. Pudginess, rotundness, feminine shapes, lizard bodies, and rationally anything else or inbetween are all allowable. However, a neck is almost always absent. Arms and legs work are solid tubes and function roughly the same. The wrists and ankles are usually just slightly wider than the shoulders and femur respectively, although depending upon the body build the opposite can be true for the arms. If the angle of the bend in one's elbows or knees isn't extremely acute, then suggestion of bone is absent in favor of perfectly curved limbs. Hands are what I would consider a slightly cartoony version of a human hand. The palm is roughly the length of the fingers, of which there are five. Fingers are limber, long-looking, the same width all around, and in many cases visibly possess three bones like ours. The relationship between curves and straights is most apparent here: a character's knuckles can be shown with straights which lead into curves at the fingertips, tendons in the palm, areas that are wrinkling. Also, characters have fingernails now; thank the Werehog for that. But feet- when visible- are much easier: they're flippers that are roughly the length of the entire body. A character's tail can be nearly any shape that is best appropriate for the species, but a common quirk is that they end in a point or series of points. Whether completely round like Cream's or fluffy like Tails, a tail usually has a point of some sort. FUR & FEATHERS The coat of most mammals and birds is very short, meaning actually drawing hair or accurate feathers is off the table by default. In cases where fluffy hair exists, it only needs to be drawn in pointed wisps or bunches emanating from the source. Species like foxes, long-haired cats, or werewolves where fur would be long all over do not need to be rendered all over as such: keeping it simple with suggestion at certain points is preferable. Hair styles are usually a blatant extension of a character's fur depicted as such. A separate mop of hair of a different color entirely like in humans is usually out of the question, being only present in Vanilla. CLOTHING The most common dress for males consists of gloves and shoes. The former tend to be white, although usually the cuff is more decorated with colors, metal bands, and studs, usually to coordinate with the shoe. Shoe types are fair game: sneakers, sandals, boots- ankle or knee-high- air skates, buckle-up, slip-in, laced, etc. Accessories are not out of the question: belts, chains, necklaces, glasses and the like are typical. An entire clothing piece, usually a jacket, is rare although seen on special occassions and events. Pants are almost always absent. The rules for gloves and shoes are the same for females, although they must bear the burden of clothing that covers at minimum their chest and groin, which means suits, dresses, tops, skirts and pants are far more plentiful. Even on the most clothed characters, wrinkles are sparse, only occurring around a few points like on cuffs or the waist and in large, angular bunches. Two folds are enough; anymore and you potentially lose the simplicity of the style. Also, normal fabric is rarely thick and as such has sharp edges. =*= In summary, what does SegaSonic style look like? Characters are always a solid conglomeration of simple shapes that build off of one another with the excess aid of perspective. This helps suggest volume and mass. A general flow is built into the character through the use of curved lines to define body parts as well as the way a character is posing, an "action line". This makes a character feel organic and believable. Curved lines play against more angular or flat ones where necessary, such as on spikes, clothing, and shoe soles. This differentiates between different parts on a character and those parts' purposes. These three main observations I've made are not restrictions, but a foundation for a wealth of design. They can apply just as much to a hedgehog as they can a cat, and just as much to a cat as they can a chameleon, and so on and so forth. Ultimately, they allow Sega to unify a whole host of creatures of various looks, personalities, and clothing choices, and give us a cast that is both highly varied yet ultimately unified. I'll draw up some unseen species in the style as best I can to further prove this assertion, but it's like 2:30 or somethin' and I'm much too exhausted for any artistic foolishness. Discuss, debate, advocate for some other things I haven't talked about (color maybe?), the usual. But ultimately I hope you learned something, or at the very least came to better appreciate the style that we'll probably continue seeing for many years to come.
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