Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bullwinkle Shows Good Design Principles: 1 Asymmetrical Construction

How about if I use this drawing to do a few posts, each one pointing out a separate aspect of good cartoon drawing?


These characters have good construction, BUT notice that the forms that make them up are not perfect ovals or circles. They are ORGANIC shapes, asymmetrical.

Not mirror images left and right, or top and bottom.
This is a hard technique do right. First you have to understand basic construction. Then you have to be free enough that you can draw shapes that are not mathematical, but still look convincingly solid.
The asymmetry has to be subtle, not wild and wonky, without any form at all.
Real things in nature have form, yet hey are not perfectly symmetrical, and a god cartoonist applies this concept to his drawings to make them feel natural. Warm and not clinical.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Rocky and Bullwinkle Genius Bumper

How the Hell did they come up with this great bumper? Not only is this frame the best drawing of Bullwinkle, but just about every aspect of the cartoon is inspired.

It's designed and cut expertly, full of stark graphic images-but what do they mean? There's no real story or even continuity.
There's a thunderstorm

Rocky and Bullwinkle run around in the storm
These poses are tiny, yet incredible. Perfect silhouettes and full of clever planned design. You barely catch them because they are not only small, but they are being interspersed with flashes of lightning. So much graphic thought for such little time to absorb it!
Beautiful clear poses!
Why is the ground breaking up?
What does it all mean?

They plummet down a crevice. Crevices are always entertaining. No mystery there.
then their faces appear and rise up through the ground
followed by their bodies - and such great stylish drawings!

Asymmetry-Organic in every way
Clear sillos
Great use of negative spaces around and within he characters
Contrasts in sizes and shapes, direction and in angles versus curves
Details much smaller than he major forms
Everything that toots my whistle

They are reborn and pop out of the dirt with the season's sunflower crop. Makes perfect sense!
How would you plan a cartoon like this? Certainly not with a script. I don't think you could do it with just a storyboard either, because it has no logical continuity , but it all seems to go perfectly to the crazy wonderful music. Did the composer write the music and record it first and then hand it to a director to figure out something to go with it? Did he smoke a joint and sit back and listen to it a bunch of times, till this sequence of images popped into his head? Or did he have malaria?

Is this drawn by Bill Hurtz? I'm dying to know the process that went into making this. Any Ward experts out there?

Anyhow, it has to be just about the best cartoon bumper ever. Every time I saw this as a kid, it put me in the mood to sit down and be ready for a real cartoon show. Then the story cartoons would be kinda disappointing by comparison.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Owen Fitzgerald and His Descendants


You know, a funny thing about DC comics. Their "cartoony" artists are generally much better draftsmen than their "realistic" superhero artists.
Owen Fitzgerald is kind of the father of the DC "funny human" comic lines. Owen was an animator and layout artist for many classic cartoons and drew comics on the side. He drew a beautiful comic series in the 40s called "Starlet O'Hara in Hollywood"
Starlet O'Hara in Hollywood (1948) 1

and a few others before he started doing Hollywood star comics for DC. His Bob Hope comics started a style that was adopted by other top cartoonists at DC who all developed their own takes on what was basically Owen's style.

Owen is a master of pretty girl art, in fact, in my opinion, far superior to any of the Archie artists, even though I like some of them very much. Owen is a much more observant artist than the average comic artist. While most comic artists imitate other comic artists, Owen actually draws his style from life. His poses are very natural, his anatomy (esp. the girls) very studied and yet he brings an elegant animated cartoony flair to his work.He is great at composing crowds of girls, and manages to give each one her own distinct pose, while at the same time making all their poses flow together into a complete design.

He also gives each girl her own hair style, so I imagine he must have collected fashion magazines and copied real hair styles to get his ideas from. He does the same thing with their clothing. He doesn't use stock skimpy outfits that most men draw on their sexy girls.

Owen doesn't use a lot of detail within his scenes. His poses and compositions are so strong they carry the work. He is working on the top levels of the drawings. Many lesser artists try to clutter up their lack of knowledge with lots of details, hoping to hide the fact that the underlying drawings are weak.

Owen's style evolves constantly. If you collect his comics you can see him trying endless variations of his basic style.

Not sure who this is, maybe it's early Oksner, but it looks like it's imitating Owen's style pretty closely...

A lot of people mistake Owen's books for Bob Oksner, another skilled cartoonist. Oksner had a different style before he started doing celebrity humor comics for DC, and it looks to me that he was influenced by Owen's work.
Oksner is more detailed and less cartoony and less fluid than Owen, but he has a solid knowledge of real anatomy, great compoistion and perspective. I loved his comics when I was a kid.

I'm not sure if this one is Oksner. It could be Adams or maybe Ross Andru, but it's all part of the DC funny human school of drawing, which is much more natural and less stiff than their typical superhero books.

Here's Oksner's early style, obviously influenced by Milton Caniff. It's funny that Owen's background is animated cartoon style and Oksner's is comic strips, but the two later converged into similar styles coming from such different directions.

Here's Oksner's hippie style, still amazingly solid and composed.

Oksner or Adams??

I remember Shane Glines telling me that Mort Drucker spoke highly of Owen Fitzgerald's work and said that he was partly mentored by him. (Shane tell me if I got that wrong!)

Mort is a giant in his own right for his work at Mad, but I also love his DC work. He, like Owen is a real admirer of female charms.

I don't know if Neal had any contact with Owen, but he certainly spoke highly of Mort, and Adams' own cartoon style is very reminiscent of Drucker's.

Oksner or Adams? I've seen them credited to both.

All 4 of these artists' styles overlap and sometimes it's hard to tell who did what. Here are a few that I'm not sure of, but they are all great.
The girl in this one sure looks like Owen, but the rest seems like someone else.

I don't know how they grew artists like this in the old days, but I sure wish there was a way to do it today!