A little play on words here! >) I was trying my hardest to uncanny valley the heck out of these drawings.
Ok, a little quick review; Uncanny Valley is the psychological concept that as the more realistic (human body/face) becomes in either art or animatronic, the more familiar the brain recognizes that figure in an “almost” linear fashion. This means, you have little connection to a toaster, but as it becomes more humanlike, you connect with it more as being “real” or having a human characteristic. So a toaster is 0,0 on the scale and a healthy human is 100,100. Makes sense? HOWEVER, it’s “almost” linear… meaning that somewhere towards the end, like around the 80% mark, the whole system crashes down. This is called the “uncanny valley”, or the area of which something looks very close to being human, but the emotional response towards that figure is pure disgust, horror, or just unease. It’s a feeling that’s hard to explain other than it being “weird”. Also, it’s a similar feeling to seeing a dead human body, especially if it is animated some how (like you make a body pop up out of a casket) or a zombie. They claim that it’s the mind’s way of picking out sickly people since the brain can make judgements on what the human form is supposed to look like and if it’s off, then it says “hey, something’s messed up here, lets pack up and get the fudge out!”.
So, there you have it, uncanny valley in a nutshell. You mostly see this with CREEPY robots that are human form but with some sort of skin pulled over top. Very unsettling! Or a lot with CG movies or games where the people just don’t look right. I think it’s mostly noticeable in the mouth/teeth and eyes.
And here’s the cool thing; this is not at all restricted to just CG and robots! I have found that a great deal of art (especially in the early days) fall greatly into this category because of the slight lack of realism. You can see it all over, even it works by the pros like Michelangelo (good lord he had some weird proportions) and DaVinci (there’s a reason why people just don’t get why the Mona Lisa seems so… off). It happens with the young artists and ones just starting out and as you improve, you have to pass a threshold where it’s getting better but it just has a weird feel. Uncanny valley is a real drag to work with and I don’t think it’s taught at all in art schools as something to be aware of. Sure, you know it’s off when you see it, but you can’t really understand why. Faces tend to be the worst since there is a lot that can go wrong and proportions have to be just right or you risk falling into the valley. Doing stuff that’s more cartoony or just waaaaay off is an easy cover to bypass the valley completely. Probably the best trick I can give to spot check your work is to make a digital version and flip it horizontally; if it looks wrong, then you’ve got something a bit off.
So there you have it! Heard it here first! World exclusive content! Uncanny valley in art! Think I’ll need to write a paper on this sometime all official like, but yeah… Shawn’s Patented Pending Theory of U.V. in the arts!