How to draw empowered female characters: 7 steps from artist Renae De Liz

A language and content warning for this post – Warning, this post discusses artistic depictions of the human body, and some swears. Proceed with caution if needed.

Marguerite Bennet sent out this tweet in April this year. It’s already August, soon to be September, but it’s important to stop and take a deep breath.

Equality in story telling will emerge when more stories are published that show equality in their visual design.

Art that captures diverse personality, genders, and body shapes, for instance helps build equality. Representation is important.

Here’s another tweet, this one from artist Renae De Liz

De Liz published a set of neat tweets that explain how to de-objectify and empower female characters in comic artwork. I’m no artist, but these tweets show clear steps toward more equal representations in comics (in Superhero comics specifically):

1 – Distinct facial features promote personality.

A common expression in comics is to have lidded eyes, and a pout. While promoting a sensuous character, the side effect is lessening personality. Place personality and uniqueness first. Consider what your character is thinking about when drawing them in a scene, or in a single image.

2 – Commonly, breasts are drawn to outline and accent their shape, and as fully separated circles. What’s realistic for a hero is major support.

Athletes wear sports bras and apparel designed for support. These often have a specific look. Consider that many super hero profiles list characters as having olympic level fitness. It follows they would dress to match their athletic ability.

3 – Give her muscles! If a Superhero you’re creating or drawing from has super strength, or strength best fits her hero persona, you can depict that in her arms.

Arm length and size differs widely, but heroes who can lift a Renault Van, if they are male, have bicep and tricep measurements of around 19 to 22 cm. Powerlifters who are women are more than capable of matching that arm and strength capacity. It all depends how a person trains, moves, and interacts with their environment, or how their abilities have impacted their lives.

4 – Hands are set in a way to promote strength

Hands set in a softer way can reduce the sense of strenght about a character. Set hands in a way to promote strength and accentuate power.

5 – The “arch and twist” accentuates a “boob and butt perk”. Stick to what can realistically be done, using arches without the sexualised intent

The muscular-skeletal system is flexible, especially when trained to be. Consider a circus performer who practices stretches daily. It’s not realistic to flex the spine in such a wound up twist.

6 – Poses overall should be more functional versus simply being for sex appeal

Fairly straightforward, but a functional superhero pose is a different stance and attitude to posing.

7 – On heels. Modern heels amplify stance, but are not too realistic

There is a scene in the Young Justice animated series where Zatanna transforms her heels into comfortable flats. She couldn’t run across a rooftop in heels.

Consider what your character would choose as footwear. Consider low heels, or no heels.

To wrap up, the intent here is to help those who want to promote change in their work, and not to shame those who choose otherwise in their artwork. And for more about De Liz you can read her website . If you liked this post, or you are an artist who can give some more insight, why not leave a comment below?

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