If you live on the central eastern side of the USA, you have no doubt seen trains that look like this.
That strange logo is for the Chesapeake & Ohio RR, the C&O, or Chessie (Incidentily, the railroad line that John Henry died helping to build).
Anyway, as a youngster growing up in East Tennessee, I often watched this strange shape go by our car windows. I could never figure out what it was supposed to be. I mean, I knew it was a "C", but what was that organic shape in the middle? A country? I knew it wasn't the shape of Ohio, was it Chesapeake? What is Chesapeake"?
Something about it told me instinctively it was a cat. I think it was the ear shape on top. I often stared at patterns in carpet, woodgrain and floor stains and saw pictures, and this was no different. My Dr.Suess/Muppet fixated imagination told me it was an animal that looked like this:
Eventually, I asked my dad what it was, and he told me it was a kitten. Ah-ha! I was right! I had imagined the very thing that they were trying to get across! But something gnawed at me. It wasn't right. If they wanted to draw a kitten, why hadn't they done a better job? And why did they want a kitten to represent a mighty Railroad company?
Years later as I thumbed through a book of trains, I think it was when I was researching John Henry, I stumbled upon this advertising illustration:
What the - ?!! That is the kitten living in that "C"?? How was I supposed to recognize that?? (It's from a 1930's advertising campaign about sleeping like a kitten as you travel. The kitten's name was "Chessie".) Every recognizable shape is covered up by an invisible blanket, for Pete's sake!!
Which brings me to my point: When you draw a picture, or compose a shot, and you want something to be recognizable, work for good silhouette value. Breaking up a shape like this is camoflage. It's why animals have stripes and spots... to break up their sihouette so that they are more difficult to see.
It's not to say that all drawings must be in profile to have a clear silhouette, they just must be readable. And what's more, it's the action that must be readable more than the figure itself. It's the subtleties in posture, the tension and repose, that create the action and emotion. And as storytellers, that's what we want, right?
Of, course the consideration here is time. In filmmaking you only have an instant for an image to read to the audience. If you want your shot to say "cat crouching, ready to pounce", make it clear. It's the visual equivalent of mumbling if you don't. Granted there are times you want the audience to ask questions, to create mystery. But that's another post.
Try these on for size (we have lots of cats and kittens at our house. There's always something to draw):
And by the way, I still see things in floor stains, paint spatters and gravy left on my plate after Thanksgiving dinner.