Thursday, September 28, 2006

Influences Won't Help You Without Skill

Here's part 2 of my post about having a lot of influences.

I repeat: It doesn't do you any good to say you have a lot of influences if you don't put them to tangible use.

I see a lot of people eagerly jumping in and agreeing with how important it is to have a lot of influences, then I click the links to some of their blogs and see that while they may believe they have influences, the art doesn't show a bit of it.

You can't be influenced in any useful way if you have no discernible drawing skills. First you have to get to the point where you can just draw basic principles, before you can start to absorb and use, say... Chuck Jones' personal stylistic flourishes.


What almost all the people I admire have in common is that they have high levels of skills. Then on top of that, they use their skills to express their own ideas and personal quirks and styles.

Now most people today have little or no skill. Why? This is an era of amateurism. The whole idea of skill is a concept from the distant past. There are no schools teaching basic functional skills. There is no general high standard in the arts to look up to that you could at least reach up for or be embarrassed by your lack of the general level of skill in professional art.

The most skilled artists today can't touch the average skills of artists from 1940. The best modern Disney animators are shadows of the masters they look up to. I'm a shadow of Bob McKimson and Rod Scribner. The few of us who have any skills at all are completely bucking the system and having to flounder around and get through sheer talent and trial and error and searching the past. There is no one around to help us.

Well, I'm helping you and you should take advantage of me. What has taken me decades to rediscover from the past, I am offering you for free. I can save you a lot of time, but I can't make you do the work you need to do to get there. You have to actually draw and copy solid drawings that use basic principles.

David Germain admits in the last post that he is too cocksure to copy anything directly. Look at his art and see the result of his attitude.

Now just for comparison, take a look at the drawings of a 22 year old Canadian lass who went to the crummiest animation school in North America.

What's the difference between these drawings and most of the drawings on the cartoon blogs? They look REAL. Like...professional. Well Jess taught herself to draw like this by watching old cartoons when she was a kid and copying them and trying to figure out what made drawings look real.

She taught herself-with the help of classic cartoons-how to do

Line Of Action
Clear posing
A bit of perspective

And on top of that she was doing full animation by the time she was 18! Now Jess is an exceptional case. She absorbs information and things she likes like a sponge. Obviously if everyone had her gifts we wouldn't have crummy amateurish drawings and animation everywhere today like we do.

But everyone doesn't have super human talent. But if you have some talent you can learn this stuff too by following the free lessons I put on this blog.


All you have to do is do the work. Copy the Preston Blair drawings EXACTLY. Do the drawings in the order of the steps he tells you to.
Check your mistakes and draw the same drawings again and fix them.
Then, when you start understanding drawing principles, start copying the best drawn classic cartoons.


Copy Bob McKimson in the Clampett or Jones or Avery cartoons.
Copy Tom and Jerry cartoons. This may surprise you because I have mentioned that I find Tom and Jerry boring and bland as entertainment. I do. I can barely sit through them. They are totally generic.

BUT-they are full of good drawing and animation principles and are perfect for learning these principles yourself.


Preston Blair is not a style. It's an approach to drawing for art that moves easily and well.

On the other hand, while I find many of Chuck Jones' 50s cartoons infinitely superior in style, thought, craftsmanship, wit and humor to Tom and Jerry, I don't recommend copying or studying those-not until you understand the basics, which will take many of you at least a couple of years of steady concentrated study and practice.

It's too easy to be distracted by all of Chuck's stylistic flourishes that he lays on top of the principles, and you will miss the foundations.

You need to be able to tell the difference between fundamentally good drawing-and style. Everyone today thinks he has a style. You don't. You have to be able to draw before you can have a style, Chet. Even among highly skilled animators and artists, very few have original and unique styles. You can't learn style. You either have it or you don't. It's like personality. I only know one person who actually made up a personality. Don't make up a style. Draw well instead.
Study 40s Chuck Jones and you will learn a lot.

This is why I also why I don't recommend studying 50s or later Disney-it also has many superficial stylistic nuances that distract from the great principles underneath.

Look at the difference between say, Sleeping Beauty and Mulan. Sleeping Beauty is phenomenally well drawn and animated and staged and colored. It's a technical masterpiece. Mulan is just a piece.
The only similarity is that both movies draw sharp corners on the characters. But in Sleeping Beauty, the corners are in consistent and sensible places. In Mulan, they just morph and switch places and warp all over the structureless melting characters.

Classic Disney features are waaaay too sophisticated and difficult to draw to be able to help you learn anything. They also use very specifically Disney type cheesy expressions and you will absorb those, as all the Cal Arts kids too. They absorb the cheese without the solid foundation.

Late 30s and early 40s Donald and Mickey's are good for principles and solid drawing, but they are dangerously sissified, so be careful!

Disney is a very dangerous influence. Those original artists had a ton of serious drawing training and they combined strong principles with vacuous kitschy Walt Disney acting and sappiness. The amazing craftsmanship lures you into thinking that everything they did was right-even the cheesy ideas and sick expressions and sissy movements.

A horrible thing about how ignorant people in the business are today-especially management at the studios, is that when you do learn solid and appealing drawing, sometimes studios will tell you that you have the "Spumco style". That's a danger of being able to draw these days. Executives and art directors think that good drawing is a "style". So learn to draw, then hide it when you apply at the flat or wiggly style studios. A friend of mine today showed me the model sheets for a new show being worked on and it was shocking how amateurish the "designs" were. They had not a single drawing principle, no style whatsoever and they were just purely depressing to look at. There are networks that run tons of stuff that look like mean 10 year olds draw and write them.

If you want to do that kind of stuff, then ignore this blog. There are plenty of suicide inducing jobs out there for you.

But if you truly love old cartoons and wonder in awe how they could be so beautiful and fun and out of this world with magic, then do the simple lessons I put up here. And forget worrying about style.

Once you learn basics, then you can start being influenced by a wider group of artists because then you can actually understand some of what different artists are doing and apply a bit of their tricks.

Here's another supertalented gal. Brianne has lots of skill and a very personal style. She obviously has mixed together a lot of influences and added her own personality to tie it together so well. I hope I get to work with her some day soon! I think the girls are taking over!


Anonymous said...

i know i keep saying this but thank you John! i hope to someday be one of the people that have superb drawing skills. i'm no slouch but I KNOW there's room for improvement. well i plan to take full advantage of your knowledge and learn everything i can from you. thank you sir!

Gavin Freitas said...

You nailed it John. My school insist on always showing you Disney (New) cartoons for backgrounds and animation. I think it's ok to check out but i dont want to draw like that, it will take tooo long and it's boring. In my animation class I bring in cartoons like 1940's Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett stuff to watch and show students in the class. However John the 1950's was a great time for Chuck jones too! Check out those backgrounds like in "Claws for Alarm" and "Whats Opera Doc". The writing got better as well. Marice Noble was the best. But YES study the older stuff, this will make you better.......

JohnK said...

Hey Gavin,

you're not reading my post very carefully.

Modern Disney is not sophisticated. Old Disney is. Modern Disney is poorly drawn.

And I said I like a lot of 50s Chuck Jones. I just don't recommend them to copy for self study-not until you know the principles...

S.G.A said...

Great post!

I have spent more hours than I know learning from other artists by trying to draw like them and then mix and match with ideas from my own mind.

I can prove it too, check all my blogs.

They are all different.

Someday I will have style of my own , until then I bust my butt to improve ,

So that one day I can draw so well that young cartoonists will look at my simple style and think, "I can draw like that guy" .....until they try,... and realize how hard it is .

I got into animation drawing because it was something I couldn't DO!

I didn't have that sense of movement that great "mostly dead" cartoonists had, and I wanted it!

I still want it!

I hope this ramble made sense!

JohnK said...

Preston Blair, Preston Blair, Preston Blair...

solid drawing


line of action


Chris said...

I am not an animator but I find this post very inspiring. I am a musician and though I have a degree in music, I never appreciated all I had learned until I realized how important skill was. You could take your post and replace "animation" with "music" and substitute the names of animators with musicians and still have a compelling argument for the importance of skill.

David Germain said...

David Germain admits in the last post that he is too cocksure to copy anything directly. Look at his art and see the result of his attitude.

I never said I was too cocksure to do it, I said I don't like doing it. Someone saying that he doesn't enjoy say cleaning a toilet is definitely not the same as him claiming to be a superstar at toilet cleaning.

I merely stated that when it comes to drawing I prefer using my own imagination. Whether or not enough skill will start backing it up so that it's "broadcast worry" will be decided by time and perseverance.

I'm not saying you're wrong about copying objects and/or artwork in order to study it. I'm just saying that for me it's much more of an enormous chore than other people.

Jeremiah said...

I see a lot of people eagerly jumping in and agreeing with how important it is to have a lot of influences, then I click the links to some of their blogs and see that while they may believe they have influences, the art doesn't show a bit of it.



JohnK said...

You can't have imagination without skill and knowledge, which you get from copying those who do have it.

Do you think Tex Avery and Bob Clampett just made up everything from scratch out of their heads?

They learned from their superiors and then applied their own imaginations to the skills they amassed.

You can't recreate the wheel over and over again and keep up with rocket engineers.

"Imagination" is not an excuse for amateurism.

Sean Worsham said...

This is the greatest post you have ever done. It helped clarify a lot of things out there for me. When I went to school, it seems like others (including some teachers) bag on the better artists out there just because they can draw better by studying the old principles and for the fact that they have real passion for their work. I remember a lot of new stuff got posted on the walls rather than the old stuff (plus it was mostly just new Disney too).

It brought a tear to my eye when people got jobs because they knew someone, not for their skills necessarily. Either that or because they got there because of the place they are being hired by has either low standards or because they won't hire artists because they have no knowledge of 3d animation tools (It seems like most average folks today thinks the computer will do everything for us, pfffft).

It seems the reason why a lot of bad art is sold to us today is because a lot of people (not everyone) expects instant gratification and we've been force fed so much crap today that the level of quality people judge things by has diminished. We need to study the old masters more than ever because things lately have been devolving rather than evolving.

Another prediction I have is that a lot of companies today believe a lot of people fear good art (which is bullshit) because it is something their audience can't achieve and therefore might intimidate them since it takes a huge amount of skill and intelligence to achieve what a lot of the old animators have done, which is why we see a lot of stupid shows today.

An old acquaintance of mine who works at movie studio (whick I will not name) told me one time that "these old-timers" today are just drawing and rembering 40's childhood nostalgia. To him various toons of the 80's based on toys are the crown jewels of animation and not old cartoons of the 40's.

While I believe it is ok to like whatever you like, try to at least study the old masters, try to at least learn their principles and when you are strong enough with that, then bring something of your own to the plate.

Now back to the drawing board, I'm inspired. I can only dream that I can reach the level of my animation forefathers, someday.

P.S. It makes me sadder that kids today only have Pokemon to watch and not Bugs Bunny :(

Stephen Worth said...

You're making a difference.

your pal

Gabriel said...

John, you're so right about everyone agreeing with you but their art not reflecting those ideas. I suppose the first obvious right way to read all this (obvious but that some people will still ignore)is to go take an honest look at one's art afterwards. I just did and I'm embrarassed by my stuff. I just realized I don't challenge myself enough, it's so stupid yet easy to spend all your time just drawing stuff you're comfortable with.

Hey, if a person had done the first three or four lessons, would it be alright to pick up where he stopped even after some months?

And last: if you visit so many of your fans' blogs, do you leave comments on them? I suppose most of us could take some useful criticism from you without crying.

Matt Greenwood said...

I agree about style. Style seems to be more based on bad habbits when you don't have the skill before hand.

I notice you didn't put Ralph Bakshi as an influence. Wouldn't you call him an influence?

Thunderrobot(aka Chet) said...

Nice point John

Ok, now a little defending myself,

1.Im 15, still improving with every drawing scanner has been broke for 6 months now, and the drawings on my blog are ar least 3 months old.

3.Anatomy, construction,lines of action are all things im trying to work at.

4.I still think that a drawing can still be good even if no attension is paid to drawing principals.

I enjoy your post's john but there are a few things i disagree with you on.I think drawing is more an issue of taste than anything.Principals are great and all but i dont know how much i care for good construction on a bad design.

Speaking of design, thats what im all about, not style.

I care aout appealing character design rather than the style they are drawn in.

I dont think your getting me john, iv kinda stopped my direct chuck jones imitations, and have developed a more original style.I wish i had some drawings to show you but as i said before my scanner has been broken for quite some time.

Ok about style, i know some people pride themselves because there drawings dont all look like they were drawn by the same person.

Well i for one like the fact that all my drawings look similar, and i like everyone elses drawings to look similar too.I want to see a drawing and be able to tell who made it without looking at the signature.I dont know what you want to call it, but i call this style.

My style is just the way most of my drawings look.My drawings dont look like Bruce Timm's, or katie rices, and thats because i draw them in a diffrent style.

Now John, perhaps there is a different word for this, other than style but thats what im talking about when i say style.

I also want to take this oppertunity to appologize for the constant bashing i do on your cartoons.

Thunderrobot(aka Chet) said...

BTW John

(not that im trying to start a fight or anything)

but how many drawing principals did Milt Gross exibit?

From what i can tell none, and yet i see no problems with his drawings.

Hammerson said...

Fantastic and incredibly important posts. Every aspiring artist should print this one together with yesterday's post, and read it each morning. Personally, these posts first made me feel ashamed for my own numerous drawing faults and shortcomings. And at the same time, your posts are making me really motivated to overcome these faults, improve, and expand my drawing ability much beyond the current level. Thank you for this!

Thunderrobot(aka Chet) said...

ok john i have a question about principals.

I have never made a final,cleaned up drawing ever.

I draw a drawing once, usually with extremely basic construction in my sketchbook and thats it.I have no desire to finish it up because i cant color it when im done, so this method works for me.

If i were doing a real, finished piece then the right thing to do would be to do a thumbnail, to get the pose,and expression right and then do a constructed drawing of the thumbnail.Then i would draw the final version and then color it.Is this correct?

The biggest problem i have with drawing principals is that i need a pose and expression before i start construction, otherwise i end up with a boring character, with bad design.Is there anything wrong with drawing a thumbnail first.

Dapper Dan said...

I'm in agreement with you on this blog entry, John. I do think that in order to create something that's a distortion of reality, you must first be able to draw it from life. Picasso did it, as with many other fine artists. They took their draftsmanship skills and then pushed it further. Animator's and Illustrator's are no exception. I'm a big believer in that everyone is a student of art. To continue to grow and learn as an artist is a very important part of my life. And by no means do I think I'm any good, as I know I have lots to learn myself. If you ask anyone extremely successful, they'll tell you that they are obsessed with what they do, be it art, music, business, etc. They love it, they can't stop doing it. I think that's a major key in becoming better in art, and anything for that matter. You really have to want it, and not half ass it. Thanks for posting this up and challenging minds John. Making people think nowadays is an excellent and rare thing.

LêA said...

YOU ARE RIGHT!!!I am one of those that haven´t develope my techniques properly. My drawings are not as good and real as they could (and should) be. Yeah, I´m one of those guys (shame, horrible-horrible shame). None of my past teacher find the rights words to encourage me, until this moment, man!!(WOW!! He really mean it!)I appreciate a lot your knowing, and the spirit of sharing it with us, "poor-grotty-project-of something" is really outstandig(excuse me for being slushy).

So I will make my homeworks and I will work hard with those excercises...Oh my god, I will be such a BEAUTIFUL YEAR !!!

Waldemar Schuur said...

I agree with the entire skills thing!

The whole bloody world is full of wierdos that use the "everything is art" excuse to make crappy coloured pencil drawings.
They can't see that they suck.. terribly..

elephantmarchblog said...

Hello John,

You'll get no arguement from me. Granted you're a tough guy to argue with even if I had a reason to.

I fear my generation just has had it too easy, and therefore we just don't have the work ethic it takes to elevate us to the level of the famous artists from the fortys-fifties era.

In addition, I also agree that the girls seem to be taking over. Good for them; hopefully it whips the rest of us into shape.

Apathy is killing the medium dammit. Even as I say that I find myself up until two in the morning struggling to fight it.

Ze ( said...

Hi John

(excuse bad spelling)
I work on a venezuelan comic & ilustration magazine called Zuplemento [] We like to contact you.

We are big fans of your work here!
Your blog is the sh*t!

Thank you in advance,

Ape Lad said...

Great post. Thank you John. I always enjoy a reminder of how and why I suck.
I had a life drawing teacher in college named Ralph Barksdale who taught very similar principles and helped me effectively tear down my drawing "style" piece by piece in order to learn the basics. I think a lot of kids grow up being told by their chums that they draw good, only to forget to actually learn how to draw good.
And a lot of cartoonists make the mistake of striving for a polished, stylish piece from the beginning rather than letting the principles of good draughtsmanship get them there. If that makes sense.

The GagaMan(n) said...

Again, the NEW = BAD, OLD = GOOD thing comes into it (You can't tell me films like Lilo & Stitch and Emperors New Groove don't use these principles) but this is still a very inspiring, if a little biased, post. I would of presumed that Clampett was about as stylised as you can get, but you do know what you're talking about.

I’m going to be doing a “Character Animation” project for my lazy Uni that only gives us Nightmare Before Christmas lip syncs as references. I printed out a bunch of Clampett frames from Duck Walk’s blog and demanded the teacher photo-copied them out for everyone else to use, though. I intend to actually sit down and have a proper go at those Preston Blair images for this project, although I don’t expect to have mastered it for a long time yet. I feel I have some sort of style in m art now, expect that with these principles I would like to improve it ten fold. I believe I have the imagination (hell, a animation pretty much pops up in my head whenever I listen to music) but I haven’t got the skill to put it all down yet, so thank you for posting this wonderful advice. You have been agreat help to making me realise what animation is all about.

JohnK said...

>>(You can't tell me films like Lilo & Stitch and Emperors New Groove don't use these principles) <<

Whoever animated the little alien in Lilo has all those principles. That was some of the most amazing animation I've ever seen. Some of the other characters were pretty sloppy even by modern standards-that black cop guy...yikes!

Chet: You don't have a style. You have a collection of mistakes. Read Katie's comment. Your eye is not to the point where it can even tell what it's looking at. Train it by doing the lessons and you'll start to be able to see the world.

Peggy said...

I think it's easy to end up feeling like COPYING = BAD, ALWAYS.

When I was in elementary school, I wasn't the only kid in my class who drew. I remember one of the other kids was really, really good at copying "Peanuts" - he had it down. It seemed to be all he could do - all his school art projects would use the "Peanuts" characters.

My drawings did not look as good as his. I was just using what I'd managed to deduce from first principles and from trying to make sense of the drawing books I had; he was swiping directly from someone who'd been drawing longer than the both of us had been alive. But they were my drawings. I could try to draw whatever I wanted to instead of being limited to what Schultz had drawn before.

So this idea of copying being at once creatively bankrupt and a route to easy praise just kinda stuck in my head for years. As I taught myself, I'd steal stuff from artists I liked, but I'd somehow never allow myself to work directly from one of their drawings to learn. It felt Wrong, somewhere deep inside.

It took a long time to get over this. I still don't do basic exercises as much as I should, even though I could feel myself getting better after a good session of cartoon life drawing. It's some little emotional loop way down beneath where conscious will easily goes, and if I had some tricks for breaking it, I'd share them.

Jack Ruttan said...

I'm not an animator, and self-taught, and unfortunately, I started with contours, rather than drawing structure. But I'm working on it, and I find that having a strong foundation lets me kick loose with my "style" quirks, and leads to a better drawing.

I draw a lot because I can't help it. Busy, nervous hands.

Also, working professionally to a deadline, really firmed up my "surface," meaning the drawings looked more slick (my brush skills improved)

Thunderrobot(aka Chet) said...

You don't have a style. You have a collection of mistakes. Read Katie's comment. Your eye is not to the point where it can even tell what it's looking at. Train it by doing the lessons and you'll start to be able to see the world.

Again im 15, iv been drawing for a year and a half. Im sorry but i dont have 25- whatever years of experience you have.Im going to have mistakes in my work, but as i said before im working on trying to master the principals.

If my style is a series of mistakes than so be it, its still a style.

All of your drawings look similar, thats because you have a style.Katie Rice's drawings look similar because she has a sytle.Style refers to how your drawings look.

stiff said...

Since we're talking about a lack of skill in the fanbase here: I repeatedly acknowledge that I suck, but I put my drawings and animations on my blog for the purpose of receiving useful criticism, and hardly ever get it. I really wanna get better, and I know that copying helps (I've seen it rapidly improve my skill), but it's still boring and easy for me to lose interest if I'm not getting any feedback. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I know I'd find some good old-fashioned abuse to be motivating. I know I have the talent, I'd just like a little guidance to develop the skill.

Alright, I'm done whining. I'm gonna start back in on the Blair stuff.

Tyler said...

When I was growing up and hanging out with all the other artsy comic book nerds in high school, I would regularly hear from friends that they were going to "try a new drawing style" or some-such. I never understood the concept.

For me personally, it's never a conscious decision whether or not I'm going to use a geometric style or a realistic style or whatever-- it's just whatever the drawing process entails!

I'm nowhere NEAR where I'd like to be in terms of skill at the moment, which is why I still drool over everything from freeze-framed Clampett cartoons to Burne Hogarth figure construction books to Japanese landscape prints at my local art museum. Hopefully as I continue to absorb these things and elements of them get reflected in my work, whatever "style" I appear to have will grow organically.

Thanks for the fantastic post, John... it put this into words better than I've heard it before, and put my brain on "red alert" in case I catch myself doing this.

Carnildo said...

There is a Zen Buddhist saying that always comes to mind when I think about style and influences.

"Seek not to imitate the master, rather seek that which the Master seeks"

Jorge Garrido said...

Holy shit, John is on a roll!! This is another awesome post!!

Alex Kupershmidt

Lilo & Stich
Supervising Animator: "Stitch"

Brother Bear
Supervising Animator: "Koda"

Supervising Animator: "Khan" and "General Li"

The Lion King
Supervising Animator: "Hyenas")

Craig D said...

Egads - you've kicked it up yet another notch!

I've been flogging away at that Blair book since May and, while I see improvement, I also see where I still, to quote Louisa May Alcott, "bite the big one!"

I've been really stuck on the Line-Of-Action business and just keep rocking back and forth, like a $50 beater car stuck in the mud. That's fine in a way, for as frustrating as it is, I'm hoping I'll come out the other side able to pose and draw a character.

Lists of influences? Ain't got time for it. For better or worse, I'm stuck with 48 years of watching cartoons, comedies, baby-boomer TV, etc. etc.

I'm hoping once I get some chops as far as drawing bland, generic forties-style characters I can then think about corrupting them in some sort of entertaining way.

This has been a week of thought provoking K-blogging. Thanks to John and everyone else who have contributed.

The GagaMan(n) said...

"You don't have a style. You have a collection of mistakes."

You sure know how to knock down someone's sprit and kick them while they're down, dontca' John? I sure as hell won’t be asking you to look at my stuff, ’cause I already know what the answer would be like! Gimmie a few decades and I might get back to you on that =P

And Hoorah! I got you to say something remotely positive about a modern animator who hasn't worked for Spumco at some point! I never saw much wrong with the other characters in Lilo & Stitch, but I guess I’m not as keen-eyed on the subject. Lilo did remind me of a Muppet with that huge mouth, though.

Jack Ruttan said...

There's another one, which goes, "copy the masters, but not their mistakes."

sciboy said...

Very good blog you got going here, i have always been a fan of your work, not an active one, but fan never-the-less.

Now back on topic, just to let you know that i'm aspiring to become an animator myself and i do have a heavy Disney influence but that has only helped me to decide to go beyond the bare minimum drawing requirements and try to get a good solid foundation in illustrative and realistic art skills.

I was lucky enough to stumble upon and recieve a metaphorical slap in the face from Andrew Jones 1000 self-portraits about what it meant to practice when it came to art, i owe him big for that especially after the many years i just spent hovering about the art scene and not knowing what i was doing wrong.

To be honest i constantly avoid any particular style, i flip-flop all over the place and it helps me keep focus on the one thing that carries across all of them and learn alot in the process while also recieving the best of all worlds.

I plan to do my work entirely digital, but the traditional methods have been around for much longer than this new medium and have alot more to teach because of their age.

In the end this has really wrapped up to that no matter what style i do it'll always come back to many of the things i've learnt in all the fundamentals and the classics are usually the things that display it at their best.

Whether that be gestures, construction, colour theory, anatomy etc.

Right now, i'm waiting on my copy of The Vilppu Drawing Manual to arrive since i found Bridgman to be a tad too cryptic for me but needless to say once i got it in my hands, i'll have plenty to keep me busy for the next few months.

Keep up the good work, i look forward to reading more from you.

Wicks for Candlesticks said...

Epic post! This post is a mission statement a long time coming that captures the importance of this blog and blogs like it. These blogs are filling the gaps that schools are overlooking. Namely, what you have to do to be good and not just get by. We have the choice now to learn from people who have been doing this for years(be it in art, music, politics. etc.). Many who do those things quite well. Hopefully, blogs are not a passing phase because these silly named journals are becoming essential reading if you ever want to achieve any level of professionalism. We're hearing it from the horses mouth here, folks.

You should link to this post on the top of your blog for the newcomers who ask how they can become better. Something with the title "READ THIS FIRST".

-David O.

Wicks for Candlesticks said...

On starting the Blair lessons the first thing I learned was that I SUCK. Suck in the way that I have picked up terrible drawing methods. None, of which help with the construction of the character. All flash no substance. This was a great thing to discover. I realized I had to slow down my Blair lessons because I was not learning anything by rushing through them. Only by dissecting the lessons slowly does the eye start to recognize good versus bad. Just like any muscle, the eye has to be conditioned to bring out any good results. I realize why John said it's better to be young when doing the lessons. Young people have less experience with bad drawing habits. Being older now, not only do I have to learn proper construction but I also have to rid my drawings of about 15 years of crap drawing methods I've picked up. That’s going to take a hell of a long time but I somehow know that it will be worthwhile.

I have to agree on the girls. They are kicking our balls. Viewing my feed reader I can see that of all the blogs I subscribe to about 80% are art blogs authored by women. Most of the men seem to be blogging about how awesome they draw. While the girls seems to blogging about how they still could do better, even when some are so good now. I'm not sure if they consciously realize that constant examination of the bad in their drawings makes them better or if it's just their nature. I've been guilty of macho blog syndrome many times. I'm working on fixing that.

-David O.

Corey said...

I enjoy these kind of posts the most.

People tell me I have a spumco style and I always tell them NO! I do NOT. I watched Warner Bros cartoons when i was a kid, Ren & stimpy when i was a teen, & I always drew and still draw those characters.

It's like I get paranoid and look around to make sure nobody hears someone saying that to me. I've only been REALLY drawing for about a couple years now, animating only for not even a year. I dont know ANYTHING. But its fun as hell to study those cartoons and try to copy poses and expressions.

I cant stand the word style, everyone throws it around too much.

Eric C. said...

John, If I can clarify on this with you for a second.

Would you like us to copy every single drawing from the original Preston Blair book and not the cartoon animation book that he also did, right? And plus (not or) study and draw the freeze frames from the classic 40s animation shorts, right?

I just want to clarify on these things so I can get it right.

Eric C. said...

John, sorry about asking you the question from my previous post, I didn't get a change to read the hole post. I've been having some trouble understanding some of your instructions about copying the drawings. Now I understand why it's importaint so my drawing construction can become better quaility. I do again apoligize for the misunderstanding. And I'm very thankful for you teaching me and everyone else here the true secrets to the mediums success.

Thank You again John and God Bless You :)


Hryma said...

You're a good man John!

Sophorn said...

Thank you John.

Roberto González said...

I kind of get the thing, but not totally. Exactly when do you know that you have an style and there are not mistakes in it? I usually consider the Preston Blair advices (well, not all of them but I try to use the line of action and a solid construction) but I really spend more time making my own drawings instead of copying others. I'm not obsessed with style, though. I would even try to change styles depending of the story I'm working one (I mostly do comics).

I'm glad you said something good about Lilo and Stitch, cause I really liked that movie, it's the best Disney flick in a very long time.

And yeah, man, you're harsh with the guys here. I would be curious to know what you think about my stuff, though, even if it could be devastating. But, hey, maybe I'd learn something

Mr. Semaj said...

I usually try to absorb the animation art that I'm most comfortable with, rather than simply copying the best examples. I learned how to draw the human figure when I was 12 from trying to emulate the poses of Alice from Disney's Alice in Wonderland. To this day, I could never get the design quite right, but it opened up an artistic opportunity to me that was at one time almost impossible.

What I do with my drawings is develop the best form of construction as possible. Whenever I draw characters, I use basic shapes and lines of action, both of which work better than drawing it "clean" (I swear, I used to do that when I was younger, and I still cringe at how flat and mechanical my drawings came out).

Also, some of your advice is very useful in storytelling. With the fanfiction I've done, I usually strive for half-decent concepts, most of which are on the outlandish side. I don't really care if I'm following a show's particular "style" or not, I just do what I think is entertaining. But I have very weak characterizations. Most of the characters are either very sedated or have no motivation whatsoever. I'm currently remeding this problem by observing different people in my life, as well as my own personality.

SfoAlleyCat said...

Well said John!, I've been a victim of the multimedia studies boom with so many non-artists teaching art software, I've lost my drawing skills and starting back to basics with the $100,000.00 course. Thanks very much for the great posts, Iread them every day!


Colter said...

Hey John

I agree with everything you've said, 100 percent. I just found your blog today, and I'm actually very glad I did (Unfortunately, I already bought The Animators Survival Kit, a week ago, already read it).

I plan on purchasing Preston Blair's books and doing exactly what you've instructed. I'm barely two years over the age limit that you've recommended, but I feel as though I'm up to the challenge of proving you wrong.

I haven't gone to school for animation, or art so I have no mental blocks in that aspect.

Just a wacom tablet, sketch pads and the ability to realize my toons suck, and need work. If you get a chance, check out my blog. I've got some of my work posted there.

Hopefully it doesn't give you a brain tumor, or any tumor for that matter.

benj said...

Great post John.
I'll go continue my FREE lessons!

harpo said...

I don't understand people so obsessed with developing their 'own style'

I always thought of style as something that (might)develop naturally over many many years of drawing, experimenting, study,etc

why would one try to develop one specific style,
to use it for everything U'll do from now till death?

I also wonder how one would create their own style? And how much time they think they need to do that?

Anonymous said...

I'm really glad I found this entry.

I used to do more organic styled characters but somehow got lost from the path as I got older.

I'll use the tutorials listed in this blog to my fullest potential so I can get out of the rut I'm currently in.

Thanks so much for sharing!