A Matter of Proportion

Someone was asking me the other day for the official proportions of Lovelace, for the purposes of building a model as an excercise, which is forcing me to face the fact that are in fact no official model sheets of Lovelace at all.  A shocking business!

This whole comic thing is as you may have noticed a leeetle haphazard, and I don’t in fact have proper model sheets for anybody, as I’m sure is pretty evident from the drawing!  I’m kind of enjoying drawing by the seat-of-the-pants, I have to say.  Maybe because I’m still thinking of Babbage and Lovelace as a learning excercise first and foremost– there are advantages to having gone so far without a model sheet from that aspect.  By letting the panel-to-panel needs of the comic dictate the drawing rather than the other way around I think I’ve found some stuff out about how I work.

High on the ‘stuff I’ve found out’ list is that I really enjoy being able to let the characters glide between levels of ‘cartooniness’ depending on what’s going on in the story and if they’re being all cool and heroic or getting up to hijinks. So there’s in fact a sliding scale of proportions, so far between around 5 and 6 heads high:

5 heads high seems to be about the size of Tintin– I’ve been looking at a lot of the beautiful old Fournier Spirou comics lately and I think I could probably push the proportion a bit more.  For academic interest, some comic proportions:

The big head obviously gives the comical, baby-like appeal, but it also makes it much easier to stage panels so you can read the body and the face at the same time.  Terry and the Pirates on the right there is my favorite ‘straight’ comic and Milt Caniff keeps to a very consistent real-life adult proportion; Bruce Timm’s Batman on the left towers at a majestic 8 heads!  I doubt Babbage or Lovelace will ever attain these Olympian heights.  On the other I haven’t gone so far as needing a Chibi Lovelace and Babbage but this was fun to draw:

Oh, what the heck, Chibi Brunel:

In Important Fashion News, I was visiting Bruges a little while ago and saw these boots in a little folk museum, which were so bad-ass and perfect (from the 1830s!!) that I’ve been basing Lovelace’s whole costume around them since the moment I saw them:

The flared breeches I’ve been putting her in these days are totally the wrong period for both Lovelace and her awesome boots but I like to draw them so that’s just too bad.

Organist 10 (of 8) is going along but wow it’s getting awfully huge so we’ll see how it goes..


  1. Alan Saunders on December 26, 2010 at 10:05 am

    My daughter asks me to say that she loves the chibi. She
    squealed like a girl when she saw them (mostly because she is a
    girl, of course).

  2. John on December 24, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Differing sizes: I agree with Pierre, it’s not a flaw at all. It’s a nice signal, subtle enough that I never consciously thought about it, that goes well with the old mix of fonts and such that hint at what’s really going on.

    Book: Yes please. Just take my wallet, honestly, when the time comes.

    Brunel: Is it me, or does mini-Brunel look suspiciously like big-Brunel? Perhaps his hat is a little bigger…

  3. Marion on December 21, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    The chibi versions are alarmingly cute! Particularly chibi-Babbage.

  4. John Spencer on December 20, 2010 at 8:42 am

    I second (third, forth … nth?) Daniel Fairchild’s hard cover book suggestion.

    And be careful with that Chibi Brunel, he looks like he has a life of his own.

  5. Mary Ellen on December 19, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Aren’t breeches in Ada’s style called jodhpurs these days? I’m American and (as J. Lennon might have said) a senior citizen from New Jersey, but I’ve never known them under any other name.

    I agree about the chibi Ada, Chas, and Isembard being great for kids’ clothes! I’ve known 2-year-olds who basically *were* chibi Brunels.

    The question about proportions is perennially interesting. Artists and sculptors and whoever have been arguing about which one is “perfect” esthetically for centuries. Many of the Mannerist and Baroque painters came down on the side of truly Batman-like numbers, complete with small head.

  6. Pierre Lebeaupin on December 18, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Also related: http://www.bouletcorp.com/blog/index.php?date=20101114 (sorry, not translated yet)

  7. Pierre Lebeaupin on December 18, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Fa-sci-na-ting. I suppose it’s partially your day job (where everything is planned, prepared, concept-arted or storyboarded, standardized, etc.) that makes you reflect on your own work…

    Personally, I find it’s totally acceptable to have such slight differences in the drawing/characters appearance depending on the current activity/feeling you want to give (as long, of course, as you’re not trying to pretend the style is ‘straight’). Speaking of Tintin, one of the most remarkable things about it is precisely that while it’s not cartoonish (as compared to Asterix, most Spirous, even Lucky Luke, and I suppose, many comics of the time), it nevertheless eschewed some realistic aspects, simplified, and made some concessions to recognizability (exhibit 1: Tintin’s hair) such that it would work naturally with the medium, all the while not being too obvious about it (if you don’t look too closely, you would think Tintin has a realistic anatomy). Such things seem obvious now, but it must have been a breakthrough back then.

    I was about to say you were young for considering Fournier Spirous to be old, but I went to check and it turns out he took over Spirou back in 1969 ( http://bdoubliees.com/journalspirou/series6/spirou.htm , scroll down to that year). Gee, now *I* feel old (well, I wasn’t born back then, but I thought Franquin had stayed at the helm at least part of the 70’s).

    Oh, yeah, Chibis are great baby clothes (and one of the great thing of Cafepress and Zazzle is the author need not even have thought of that usage). Why, just last month I bought a chibi Girl Genius onesie ( http://www.cafepress.com/girlgenius.150366586 ) for my cousin’s daughters.

    I think Batman is less tall than his head is being made small, probably in order to make his chest look more impressive. Darn pseudo-realistic superhero comics style…

  8. Ceridwen on December 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Oy, chibi L, B & IKB are so cute! Also love Q’s question about sticking them in Gotham, with that head-to-height ratio. Maybe some weird alternative universe brought about by some nefarious future villain..?

    And, tee-shirts, onesies, rompers with the chibi characters would be great. I have four extant and two expected grandkids who absolutely need these clothes.

  9. Brian on December 17, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Speaking of models … does Ada’s hairstyle have a name? Is it purely a comic invention, or did women actually wear their hair in that fashion? I feel like I’ve seen it before, but when I went looking for real-life examples, I couldn’t find anything. Having a name to search for would help.

  10. LucasVB on December 17, 2010 at 3:19 am

    Hah, you did it! This is great stuff! Thank you!

    I’m not building the model as strictly as an exercise, though. It’s just a hobby, and I just want to have my own awesome Ada Lovelace figure. :D

    And now I also want the chibi Lovelace, Babbage and Brunel! Damn you!

  11. Derek C. F. Pegritz, Gentleman on December 16, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Speaking of Brunel, are you aware of the novel The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder? It’s really quite a brilliant combination of detective fiction, steampunk, alternate history, and Victorian penny-dreadful sensibilities. And it features Algernon Charles Swinburne and Sir Richard Burton! Brunel is a major presence, as well, even though at the time of the novel he has since passed on. Nonetheless, his influence is all over London in the form of the Cheapside Geo-Thermal Power Plant and all manner of other inventions.

  12. Captivated on December 16, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Enjoyed your discussion on proportions. Is is just me, or is the “cartoon” Lovelace somehow scrawnier
    than serious comix L.? And she’s probably even less than 5 heads due to the high heels?

    Second Sara Davis, especially Brunel. (Hall of mirrors, fun-fair scene perhaps? Accidental background?)

  13. Gail on December 16, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    On one hand, Chibi Brunel is so danged cute, but on the other hand I’m just so reminded of Baby Herman.

  14. Redshift on December 16, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I wouldn’t want the comic to consist of the Chibi versions, but they are quite awesome!

  15. Sara J Davis on December 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Well, I enjoyed that comparison immensely. Thank you!

    I must also put in a request for some sort of Chibi Brunel. Actually all the Chibi are fun.

  16. Jha on December 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm


  17. Julian M Bucknall on December 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Sydney: Chibi Brunel on a toddler’s t-shirt/jumpsuit/whatever PLEASE. It would seriously rock.

  18. Q on December 16, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    But what would a Lovelace and Babbage look like in Gotham instead of London?

  19. Minivet on December 16, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Are you sure toon Lovelace is 5 heads? I notice she’s sort of curved in your example – maybe she’d be 5.5 if straightened out.

  20. Daniel Fairchild on December 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    First. What I’ve seen of you on this blog and the down to earth curious honesty and playfulness that seem to permeate everything you’ve done here is exceptionally wonderful. Thank you for that.

    Second. Will we ever get the chance to buy your beautiful black and white Ada Lovelace art printed on high quality paper in a hardcover book? My main reason for asking is that my daughter, is now 14 months old and I could imagine that she’d be able to loose herself in intricate details of your drawings about now. When she gets a little older, it will be a blast for her to have a book about the crazy antics of the heroine she’s named after. Yeah I’ve named my daughter Ada, for simple beauty of the name itself and a number of connotations mentioned here: http://blog.fairchild.dk/2010/03/ada-lovelace-day-10/ (I’ve made sure to compile a list of impressive women in technology for ALD-11 btw.). Incidentally naming here Ada made a friend recommend that I take a look at your work, and happily anticipating each sporadic update for about a year now. And btw. please keep taking the time you need between updates, good things are worth waiting for and the most important thing is that you enjoy it with as little stress as possible.

    Third. That Chibi-Babbage is a better portrayal of me than any photograph could ever be. So much that I’d like to use it as my profile image for stuff like facebook, chat programs and stuff like that. I’m not asking for exclusive right to use that image or even your endorsement of me using it, but please let me know if that would not be okay with you and/or if you want me to make sure that I use the image in a way clearly pointing back to you as the creator. In return I’m offering to dress up like Babbage and send you a picture of me in that pose (feel free to opt out ;))

    In closing I’d like to add that I enjoy your intricate descriptions of your background research and period details at least as much as your artwork and comics. Would be great to have some of all that love and attention to detail accompanying the stories and art in the Ada Lovelace hardcover. Just sayin’ ;)

    Once again thank you for all this.