Saturday, November 29, 2008

Solid Drawing Preview

You might confuse the concept of "solid drawing" with "detailed drawing" or realistic drawing".

Solid just means that the form can be moved well in 3 dimensional space. All the details fit snugly onto the form.

The eyes are in the right place on the head, the face is in perspective....the features don't float around as they do in Terrytoons, Shamus Culhane cartoons and modern Disney fully animated features.

In the 40s, everyone copied the Disney/Warner's style - a style made up of simple yet solid constructions. But not everyone really understood it, so there were a lot of sloppy mushy cartoons made by the lesser studios.No form in any of these drawings.
Some of this sloppiness could be attributed to bad inbetweeners and clean up artists; it's hard to know without seeing the actual animators' drawings.


The more details you have, and the more realistic your proportions (tall characters with small heads) the harder it is to control the solidity of them. 30s and 40s cartoons evolved a drawing approach that made it easier to control your details and forms in 3 dimensions - but you still have to understand form and hierarchy or your characters will melt, like in late 30s early 40s Walter Lantz cartoons.

Here's the gay lead in Disney's "Pleasure Package" who can't make up his mind whether to marry the big burly brute who beats him - or his Mom. (who's the same age as him) (I won't give away the ending)
The animators had a hell of a time turning the character's head in space because he didn't have a solid construction. The angular planes at the top of his head didn't match the perspective of his head positions. His facial features aren't anchored solidly on his face. His nose is too low and too vague. His teeth aren't set into his jaw, so his mouth just floated like a magic hole on a sea of flesh color. - like Anime characters, only not so stylized.
Watch a clip of the character moving if you have this classic in your library. You can see his features floating all over the place. His face is constantly trying to find where his head is. I find this extremely distracting and I can't follow the importance of the storyline of whether he will stay with the butch or leave to marry his Mom. (I won't give away the ending)

On another note, would you hang out with this guy?

Bob McKimson was the king of solid drawing

McKimson was so good at drawing anything from any angle, that he didn't have to rely on animation tricks to move from pose to pose. He could move slowly, directly and naturally - moving his heads and bodies into very difficult to draw angles. His characters move less like typical squashy stretchy cartoon characters and more like people. Clampett was able to act out human scenes to McKimson, who would memorize the acting and just draw the scene straight ahead, with no melting and no reliance on animation tricks.

Milt Kahl is also a very solid animator, but it's a bit harder to see in motion because he does use a lot of the other Disney animation tricks.

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There is a lot more to say about solid drawing. To me, it's the most important principle of drawing there is. It seems to be completely out of fashion today.


What's this hair-theory? Why do so many feature cartoons have male leads with half-hair? Half long, half short. This one even has a rat poo coming out of it. Who at the studios thinks we will identify with a weirdo like this? "The burly man-brute? Or Mom? It's such a hard decision!"

Friday, November 28, 2008

Irv Spector and Style

When people who don't already have strong drawing skills think of "style", they are usually thinking about the last layer or the surface layer of a drawing - the line, the finish, or some trick of the shape of the character's eye.
I know if you make a nice clean storyboard with bold black lines, it impresses the Hell out of executives - even if the drawings underneath the polished line smell like your cat box.

Young cartoonists are a little more sophisticated than animation executives because they can recognize a stylish looser line, but the same problem exists - just to a slightly lesser degree. The youngsters love their squared off fingers and 'tude faces, thinking that they are somehow symbols of high style or that they are drawing just like Milt Kahl. Modern squared fingers and hands (and faces) are 2 dimensional and only have a few easy-to-draw positions vs Kahl's whose are 3 dimensional. These have a potentially infinite amount of angles and attitudes - a huge difference in skill and quality. (I still find them offensively ugly though)

Corners do not make style. Simple surface elements without solid principles underneath are merely excuses for ignorance.

This panel, on the surface looks like Walt Kelly. The loose brush lines on the dog's nose is definitely a Kelly trademark.Spector uses a lot more dynamic angles and compositions than Kelly and also has a very unique style of shapes he uses that distinguish him from Kelly and other animation cartoonists.

If a young cartoonist liked this style, he might think that the secret to it is wobbly lines and shapes.

If you could copy this line style, that wouldn't by itself give you the ability to draw a good composition, perspective, line of action and construction - all of which these drawings have.

You might think the construction is off here because the belly shape doesn't fit 100% on the pussy's form. It definitely doesn't, but I can see that the form is very solidly suggested, but the lines just skirt around on top of the form like a loose glove. The knowledge of construction is completely there though.

Compare to Harvey Eisenberg's lines which fit around the construction like a tight glove.

It's like when a great singer like Sinatra takes the lyrics and melody and just barely avoids delivering it right where it's written in mathematical tempo. Instead he uses and is applauded for his "phrasing" - his slightly loose interpretation of the timing. He starts some words before where you expect them to hit, and some after - and it isn't at random. It's all according to great sensitivity and emotion. He is expertly toying with the listener's expectations. He knows exactly where every note is supposed to land, but varies it on purpose for emotional effects that can't be written in words or in musical notation.

Frank can sing on key, has a wide range, has great rhythm, great control and enunciation - all principles of good singing. The last thing he does after learning his fundamental skills is give you his fantastic moving style.

I like these big pupils but wouldn't assume that if I drew big pupils I would automatically have my own style or could draw just like Irv Spector.

Irv Spector has a unique style - it only superfically looks like Kelly. What actually makes it unique is much harder to define.

It's completely obvious to me though, that he has the same background knowledge and skill that most of the classic animators had. Without that, an animator is crippled. Just like a singer who can't carry a tune.

Listen to Frank and Ollie....starting with "SOLID DRAWING" That's where it all begins - including the journey towards style.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Color Theory 12 - J.P. Miller, Painter of Warmth

J. P. Miller has a way of painting warm scenes. By "warm" I don't mean reddish as opposed to blueish; I mean it in an atmospheric way. His scenes are warm and cozy. They invite you into the stories.When talking about color theory, we usually call blueish colors "cool" and reddish tints "warm". Miller can paint blueish objects like the castle above and make them feel warm. His books are great for bedtime stories, because they make you feel it's night and raining hard outside while you are all snuggled up in a million blankets.

How does he achieve this?


The green on this cave is subdued by mixing it with gray. The flesh colors too...and the browns of the bear costumes.

WIDE AREAS OF NEUTRAL COLORSThis Camel painting is mostly made up of neural colors - in this case browns and tans. Even the green foliage is mixed with tan to subdue it, so that it doesn't compete for attention with the camel.

The one bright spot in the scene is the pink saddle. Even the pink is a soft pink.

SOFT GRADATIONS THAT CHANGE TINT SUBTLYIf you look closely at any area of Miller's colors you can see that where he uses shadows or darker areas, that he doesn't just use a darker version of the same color. He tints the darker area.

The overall fur color on this camel is a tan, but the fringe of fur has more red in it. The tint change is very subtle and it warms up the painting.

If he just used a darker version of the same tint as the tan fur, the effect would be monochromatic and dreary.


Overall picture is mostly neutral.

Accents in small areas of blue and pink.

Soft gradations of tints in the fur. Above has grayish brown as main color, but gradually blending into purplish-grayish-brown.

In another area of the moose, the tint changes to a slight greenish-brownish-gray.

Each area of color in the illustrations above have these subtle changes of tint and value. - Even the brighter color areas like the elephant's red coat.


When you use a lot of warm neutral colors in a picture you can make small areas pop out by using brighter colors that contrast against the neutrals. And you don't have to use an absolutely pure primary or secondary color to make it pop. It can be subdued too, but just much less subdued than the natural colors. It's the contrasts that makes the picture colorful.

Very gradual tint changes in the gray (neutral) skin of this hippo...

POP! The pinkish red mouth really invites us into the gaping maw because of the big contrast against the more subtle ever so slightly changing hues of the gray skin.

If you put bright colors right next to other bright colors, you create anarchy and break up the picture.


He loves yellow and pink.

Miller uses a lot of neutral colors in his paintings, but also seems to like pure yellow and pink and uses them in almost all his paintings.


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You can buy "flesh colored" markers, crayons and paint at the art store. It's not really anything as subtle as actual flesh It's basically a light orange and the ease of buying pre-mixed flesh color entices us to be lazy and never observe how many varieties and shadings of flesh color exist even on one single person of any race or complexion.

I've always been attracted to artists who use odd tints for skin, and J. P. Miller is one of them.


To avoid the jarring effects of putting bright colors (primaries and secondaries and pinks) right next to each other, Miller separates the bright colors with neutrals between them.

Grey, purple, brown. The brightest color-the purple is framed by the neutral colors.

He uses this checkerboard pattern a lot.

Go visit Barbie's great Golden Book site for lots more color thrills!