Saturday, September 30, 2006

Take It From Katie - an essay about style versus skill

Katie sent me this comment and it's brilliant. She said what I was trying to say only she said it much more succinctly. Her experience can be yours if you follow this logical advice!

Katie:
I almost think that anyone who can tell you what their style is, or openly talks about "developing their style" is in danger of never finding a real style whatsoever. I tend to think that your "style" is similar to your personality- something that grows as you get older and learn more, but that you're born and stuck with none the less. A real artist's style is like a thumbprint...unique and impossible to really recreate. You can copy an eye shape that John invented or a particular Chuck Jones mouth curl or whatever, but you can never master their "style" because you can't absorb what really matters- an artist's personal point of view, their emotions, or their personality. I guess this sounds sort of cheesy, but it's difficult to explain!What John said about learning skill before style is extremely important. People today are far too interested in "expressing themselves" and trying to prove how unique their points of view are to take the time to learn. No one wants to waste time learning how to do something right. In most other professions this is ridiculous. Would you get up onto a stage to sing some song you wrote in front of the whole world if you couldn't play your instrument? If your ideas are so important to you that you want to show them to the world, do yourself a favor and take the time to learn the skill. I can say from personal experience that studying and practicing and eventually getting better is EXTREMELY rewarding. Before working on APC my drawings were REALLY crappy. I had no skills whatsoever, although I talked a lot about construction and perspective and all that. I didn't actually learn anything until I was forced to while doing layouts for John. After the season ended I woke up one morning and realized that something new had clicked- where a year before I could only draw someone standing perfectly straight with no expression or life, suddenly I was having fun drawing poses that I had previously thought to be too hard. It seemed like almost over night drawing went from being arduous and kind of entertaining to being thrilling and super fun. It's been two years or more since then and I'm only now coming off of that high. I'm in no way saying that I made the leap from amateur to professional- I've only made one tiny step towards being good enough to tell the kinds of jokes and stories I like through art.The thoughts in this post aren't very organized…sorry! There's one more thing I want to say though- I've observed something about the modern world, and that is that it encourages creativity and uniqueness in people than ever before. This is very bad. I learned in school that it was more important to be "unique and creative" than it was to be smart or knowledgeable. Dumb people on MTV or in artsy fartsy magazines who aren't smart or creative tell you what smart and creative stuff to like. I wasn't around until a somewhat short while ago, but I believe in the past people who were meant to be artists simply became them because there wasn't anything else to be. Today there are millions of "creatives" fighting to be the most popular with our dumb modern culture. Ask yourself if you have no choice but to draw funny pictures for a living (for some reason it seems so glamorous to people). If you are reading art/theory blogs like John's and you love the art but aren't helping yourself out by following the advice, then perhaps you ought to look for work in another area. If that makes you mad and you don't want to be thought of as a faker, then take what John says to heart and better yourself. You'll be happier, and the people looking at your work will be happier too!

go check out her drawings:
http://funnycute.blogspot.com/

50 comments:

Amber said...

I love Katie's drawings, and what she said really struck a chord with me. What put me off a bit about your post on the subject was the way you seemed to dismiss anime as being a negative influence (whereas it's obvious it has had an impact on her work). That's just me being too sensitive, because there are a lot of failings in anime that deserve to be harped on. It really is more about skimming what you like from what you see and throwing away the negative. Focus on structure and learn from a variety of influences, both in art and life.

I'm not sure I've said what I want to with this comment, but the bottom line is thanks for sharing.

Evan said...

I think one of the biggest problems is, people don't have an eye for being able to tell when their own work is good. I crap out a lot of bad drawings that I'd be too embarassed to post online, and I have some I do think are pretty decent. I see other people's blogs where I can't believe what they post, and I can't understand why they aren't embarassed by it. A lot of fellow students in my art classes didn't seem like they could tell when their artwork sucked either. They need to be constantly comparing themselves to the skill of their influences, instead of being slightly better than their own work from a year ago.

I think this could lead to the lack of skill problem because kids think they're "good" and never try to learn more, and skip to just developing a "style".

SmittyCartoons said...

This is great! Very to the point. Having taught high school and college art, I've seen firsthand what she's talking about. What I try to stress at the high school level is that drawing skills are SO important regardless of what kind of art you might eventually see yourself making. But you have to be careful here too. With high school art students I try to make it fun, have them learn about some basic elements and principles of design, but what I stress above all else is that art can have a meaningful place in their lives whether they become professional artists one day or not. On the college level, however, I am more harsh and to the point, much like Katie's excellent post. You have to be. Many kids don't want to hear it and would rather blindly and halfheartedly waste a college career going through the motions of what may ultimately be a dead-end. Many of those kids should not be in art schools to begin with but $ presides over portfolios, grades, and common sense. I think it is important to realzie also that the statements Katie is making are not (or shoudl not) aimed directly at college students or 'amateur artsists'. Those statements should be taken into account by professional working artists today no matter what their level of expertise or accomplishments may be. Everyone can improve and learn more. Finding a comfort zone and staying in it will only retard your growth as an artist. Drawing EVERY day should be a part of every artist's menu. It's natural that we admire and even borrow tidbits from other artists, but that is not STYLE. Your own voice will come (and SHOULD continue to evolve) but without the skills to back it up, that 'style' will be hollow or a cheap copy of someone else's work. I still haven't found my 'style'. Perhaps as Katie suggests, I am looking too hard. Her post was a good reminder of that!

Evan said...

thanks for pointing out the painfully obvious on my blog john! haha.

i didn't mean to say i was above needing to learn more, i DEFINITELY do. i havent done enough of the course, i never practice enough, and get rusty, and etc. i've barely drawn in months. My point was supposed to be that i think a lot of people think they don't need to learn more, when they do. people need to be able to recognize their suckiness.

Alessa K said...

You all read my mind. Thank you all so much for your posts. Every aspiring artist should read this.

Peggy said...

Style is like love. It sneaks up on you when you're not looking.

Peter said...

"I learned in school that it was more important to be "unique and creative" than it was to be smart or knowledgeable."

Tough love! Thanks for this. There is alot of people pleasing and bellyrubbing in school art education. If all the students dropped out because they thought they were bad, how would the professors and administration get paid? Holy education system issues, Batman.

People can't rely on the approval of peers they pay (or are non critical) for their success as an artist. Enjoy it, always improve, approach it with a blue collar and work hard. Thanks John & Katie for the advice on improvement! We should never stop learning and getting better.

Joel Bryan said...

She's absolutely right! And also you are... but enough of the ass-kissing. Right is right.

When I was in art school, there were always these kids lounging about on the steps... first year kids... complaining to each other about how "My art isn't about structure and that shit they're trying to teach us in class. My art is about feeling and freedom!"

Which is all well and good, I guess. I mean, if you want to never learn or grow into any kind of artist at all. Self-expression and freedom are wonderful things, and should be cultivated but not at the expense of actually learning where all of these wonderful concepts and ideas came from. Not at the expense of dumping all the knowledge our parents were putting out huge quantities of cash for us to learn.

I don't know... somewhere or other I went way wrong myself and probably won't ever get back on track. I have the influences and I try to work on construction and form and use the lessons I got from the decent instructors there, and the amazing stuff you're giving away for free here...

And I've gone to all those blogs in your links list...

Wow. That's some seriously great stuff.

Shawn Luke said...

Yeah, I gotta thank Katie for that one. It caused me to reflect a little bit on where I place my values. Humble pie is always a good way to start the day.

Chloe Cumming said...

Katie: Your words are very powerful, if you were in any doubt, you explained yourself beautifully.

The fallacious emphasis on ‘being unique and creative’ pervades more than just art schools. These ideas have become twisted into uselessness. It makes me angry that what it really means is that the people who DO have the potential to truly ‘be creative’ (to make something of lasting worth and beauty) are neglected, never taught the skills that would enable them to grow at a natural pace, and are ultimately kind of swamped among a sea of attention-seeking posers.

And if no one has the sense or the guts to spot the difference, how do you stop this from happening?

The other reason I was quite touched by Katie’s words is that the visual people really need a voice.

I just listened to a British radio program called Serious About Comedy, and this week they actually reviewed the original season 1 & 2 Ren and Stimpy DVD. The apparently articulate panel, some of whom I thought I respected, really didn’t get it at all. I felt a little bit sick. There was one female comedian who just said that she was a ‘verbal girl’ and that visual humour just went over her head. Unfortunately it is the ‘verbal people’ who inevitably tend to spill the most words, shout the loudest, and who APPEAR to have the consensus opinions about the world. They don’t make beautiful cartoons though, or paint beautiful pictures.

To my mind, a purely abstract or intellectual understanding of the world seems unbalanced. It’s something that only a very small number of people are really suited for, maybe philosophers and critics. We aren’t all philosophers and critics. The uncontrolled growth of an unbalanced, macho, argumentative way of thinking has been harmful.

As much as the internet helps with exposure to obscure artists etc, it also encourages people to throw their idiot opinions about very freely and relentlessly. Sometimes quietness and humility is necessary for true learning.

I’ve always tried to be analytically in tune with my visual intelligence, but this blog really makes me want to raise my game and put my pictures where my words are. Even now I’m ‘talking a good game’ and wondering if I’ll truly be able to follow my own logic. Words are too easy.

But it’s wonderful when visually brilliant people like Katie and John are able to put their experience into words, because these are not just ‘different opinions’ to shove into the mix, this is an entirely different mode of thinking, with different motivations behind it.

Ryan G. said...

Hey John! What is your theory on constructive critisism. I think many artist dont know how to take constructive critisism, therefore, never really improving.
Alot of artists only listen to non-artist views (mom and dad, friends) that dont have any artistic skills and therefore think there art is great only because they themselves couldnt do that.
But when a real artist critisizes there work, they get all huffy about it.
But at what level do you take the critics advice?
Do they have to possess a technically superior artistic skill greater than yours to be valid?
Some teachers at my school have low expectations for students work.
They praise them for mediocrity, and dont offer any solutions for their problems. Other teachers are brutally honest and make some students feel insignificant and embarrassed. I love the teachers that are honest and although taking critisism might be tough for some, it will better them in the end.

Katie said...

Hi Evan! I agree that many people don't have the ability to judge their own work, even though they can still choose which cartoons or drawings they like to look at. Being able to tell just how good you are, or how good someone else is, comes from lots of hard work and eye-training. I think the solution is to just always assume you're not as good as the people you look up to- it's usually true, and it keeps you in a state or perpetual improvement. I've never met a truly great artist who said "well, I've reached the top! There's no way I'm getting any better...guess I'll just settle here where I am!" and that's why they're as good as they are.

Also- being hard on yourself doesn't mean hating your artwork or punching yourself repeatedly for not being perfect. I think that drawing only gets more fun the better you get at it, and the more passion you put in. Imagine watching your favorite cartoons (or movies, or comics, etc)after training yourself to have a better eye- things that went over your head before will jump out at you and entertain you in new ways. Things become more inspiring too!

Brian Romero said...

Without any solid skills you'd be very limited as to how you can express yourself artistically. It riminds me of the lazy kids in life drawing class who complained when a pose was 'too hard'. My thought was always 'the pose isn't too hard, your skill are just weak'. You never hear writers saying 'all that spelling, grammar and reading will just hold back my skills as an author'.

Dan DeHaan said...

Here! Here! I've learned more on these blogs and the books they've recommended than the art classes I've taken. I was quite frustrated with the fact that all of these "art teachers" were trying to teach me to discover my style before I was shown tenchnique! Eh...If anything I probably taught them a thing or two about how to draw dog feces. Cause....I drew a lot of dog feces in those classes.

Andrew said...

I work in a different albeit slightly related field (puppetry) and I find that so much of what you say John can be applied to a whole range of artforms.

There really has been a decline of traditional skills in a lot of artistic fields and this "style over skill" problem isn't limited to animation. I know older special effects artists who freak out because grads coming out of SPX programs think their FX work is great, but don't understand basic photographic concepts like perspective and composition. In my own work I've hired graduates of art schools in the past who wanted to build puppets but lacked basic skills like sewing and even being able to cut a straight line!

I don't exempt myself from this problem either. I was a style over skill person for a long time. Fortunately I got to work with a number of older, more talented artists who kicked my butt until I began to learn things I've never knew I never knew.

Thanks so much for these great posts. I know everyone (not just animators) who reads your blog really, really appreciates and learns so much from them!

JohnK said...

Hi Ryan,

Teachers should be blunt but encouraging if you have talent. If you don't they should give your money back and kick you out.

When you learn something you should have no ego about it at all.

I take tap dance lessons. When my teacher tells me I'm doing something wrong, I don't tell him "that's my style".

I try to fix what I'm doing. It doesn't hurt my feelings at all.

I used to beg Bob Clampett to tell me what I was doing wrong so I could get better.

Katie said to always look up and never rest. I agree.

There are always people better than you. If you can find them, beg them to tell you their secrets and don't argue, unless like some folks who post here, you want to draw like a 10 year old for the rest of your life.

Shawn said...

I know that there's a lot of weaknesses in my art. Sometimes it's hard to tell what they are though. I need someone with a good eye and the balls to tell me what I'm doing wrong so I can get better, but so many people just want to be polite and say, "it looks good". Well that doesn't help me at all.

Brian Goss said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pedro Vargas said...

Wowwy wow! These past few posts (including this one) are breathtakingly strong in advice! I feel more stabalized now that I've read your post on influences. Thank you John, I can't wait to talk to my friends about this! I'll deffinately make sure they see your posts. I'm tired of seeing animation students at my school seeming relaxed because they know what they're doing and in fact they don't. I don't know either, but hell I try at least to figure out different things and learn diferent things and apply some of them into my art. Those animation students put on that stupid Bugs Bunny face when he's being a dick to Daffy Duck. That bothers me 'cause it looks like they're comfortable w/ the postion they are in now and seem like they aren't encouraged to learn new things and that's not good. I've seen their stuff and it's the same old shit. Fancy 3D camera angles and way to much over-the-top actions. It's beggining to make me outburst with anger in front of these people. I've recently showed your blog to my animation proffessor and was real interested in seeing what you had. I hope he understands what you've written in your posts and can maybe apply some of your information in his teachings.

Once again thanks, John! I think your making a big change with this blog.

Pedro

Chloe Cumming said...

Perhaps there’s a problem with the phrase ‘express yourself’, because ‘yourself’ is never what’s on your mind when you’re absorbed in trying to make good art.

The emphasis on ‘expressing yourself’ comes from the diseased ego-obsession of our culture.

It’s not a recipe for boundless joy.

In fact it seems to make people defensive and bad at stuff.

The irony of all this is that John is not advocating that we all have less fun and become really austere, the point is that once you feel yourself really improving, you’ll discover a whole new level of fun, a whole different quality of enjoyment (Katie stated this pretty explicitly). The joy IS the challenge.

There’s also something in the accepted idea of ‘expressing yourself’ that assumes that what you are expressing is something static and defined. Who wants to be static and defined? Isn’t it always better to be expansive and expanding… you ‘forget yourself’ in the act of stretching creatively. And that is a good thing.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Thanks Katie! You're a very inspiring individual!

"I used to beg Bob Clampett to tell me what I was doing wrong so I could get better."

What would he tell you?

Ted said...

"The uncontrolled growth of an unbalanced, macho, argumentative way of thinking has been harmful."

What would you prefer, Chloe? Discourse has a limited number of modes. You can choose not to have discourse at all (silence or a single view that is the only one that is allowed to be expressed), you can have argumentative discourse, or you can have non-confrontational talking past each other that's almost as useless as no discourse at all. The absence of confrontation implies a tacit agreement by all involved, or that nothing is worth fighting about, or that someone powerful is enforcing a single view. To fail to be argumentative in the face of a contrary opinion is to essentially lay down and say what you think or believe in isn't worth arguing for, or that you are unable to argue for it.
Is that what you want? You don't seem to be on the side of the status quo; do you think an absence of debate will change the status quo? If there is no debate, then all will pray at the altar and believe the lie. Do you believe your faction will provide the winning lie? If what you think is right is not on top now, how will an end to discourse help you? Would you really prefer a quiet life of intellectual slavery or a place where your viewpoint is equally as meaningless as everyone else's?

JohnK said...

Hey Ted,

these aren't posts about how to argue about things not worth arguing about.

It's about learning to draw so that people take your opinions about drawing seriously.

I gave a huge list of different people with different styles and approaches.

I would love to hear all their opinions and advice about drawing.

I bet most of them advocate skill and would be aghast at what's on TV and in the comic strips today.


If anyone doesn't accept the "status quo" it's the artists who I've featured in the last few posts.

Chloe Cumming said...

Ted: I'm not arguing for an absence of debate. That was not what I said at all. You took that out of context.

Actually I like productive friction. But not pointless arguing that veers offtopic.

I was trying to say something in favour of the idea of a balancing feminine influence (but perhaps not succeeding in being one)...

Brian Goss said...

Sorry, I made a major typo and had a brain fart... I meant to say:

Sometimes your creative influences will be the same as your literal influences.

But always, concrete literal knowledge comes first...then creativity.

Ted said...

J: That's why I made my last post. I don't think it's ever a good idea to stop talking about what is good or bad, but Chloe's post seemed worryingly to implicitly promote the idea that debate should stop and somehow magically everything would be ok. There is no more effective way to change people's minds than to explain why you think one position is right and the other wrong, or why one thing is bad and the other good. But in aesthetics, there is a special danger of letting others tell you what is good or bad; look no further than the general flow of the fine art world in the 20th century. And at the same time I somehow believe the contradictory position that the likes and dislikes of someone whose work an observer admires should be meaningless to the observer except to the extent that it will provide the observer with something the observer defines as of merit.

J & C: The discussion of discussion within a discussion is never off topic for a discussion, and I wouldn't bring it up if I didn't think it was worthwhile.

C: I did not say you argued for the absence of debate (tho I think it was strongly implied); I asked you what your preference would be as you were criticizing debate, while giving my position why intellectual conflict is fundamental. What precisely is this balancing feminine influence you speak of?

Jorge Garrido said...

>i didn't mean to say i was above needing to learn more, i DEFINITELY do. i havent done enough of the course, i never practice enough, and get rusty, and etc. i've barely drawn in months. My point was supposed to be that i think a lot of people think they don't need to learn more, when they do. people need to be able to recognize their suckiness.

It really makes me feel better knowing there's other people in the same boat as me. I completely suck at drawing, and I know I got a try harder. It also makes me feel good that John says animation schools are unnecessary since my parents are making me go to University. I'm gonna practice those lessons and get really good! Skill is my elusive target, and I hope to attain it.

I don't really care said...

"Express yourself" and "do your own thing" are 2 platitudes from the 1960's and perhaps not surprisingly you often saw them rendered in fingerpaint.

I steal from the best. I'm not as good as anybody, so I steal what they already did. The art for me is in how well I steal it. Not how well I copy it, necessarily, but how much of the essence I can rob or re-combine. Other people's ideas are often better starting points than my own thoughts.

I'm not really a cartoonist anymore but when I was I had no qualms about drawing like somebody I admired, and as accurately as possible. Some I could touch, like the simpler Preston Blair, and some I could not, like Frazetta, but while you dream of one day having your own brand, the more I compared my own drawings to those of the masters, the more I understood I was not ever gonna just pull my own brand out of my ass. I was only gonna get there by how much I understood and had command of, as an artist and as a thinker.

Since then, non-art has become a lot more popular, as has the notion that skill is a questionable assett. One newspaper cartoonist in a hundred has any skill at all.

Nowadays, thanks to clever new marketing technology, you can in fact pull your own brand right out of your own ass.

I think I am going to open a new trade school that teaches people how to do exactly that, with a 2 -year program. It could be big.

"No Skill? NO PROBLEM!"

Vanoni! said...

Shawn said: but so many people just want to be polite and say, "it looks good". Well that doesn't help me at all.

I was talking with another cartoonist recently and I told him that one of the worst things to happen to me as an artist was that I received so much blind praise and support coming up. He thought I was just being self-deprecating, but I believe it's true.
With nobody pointing out mistakes or areas of improvement - I had no gumption to grow as an artist.
I knew there was area for improvement - but I didn't go out of my way to achieve it. I thought I was - but I was fooling myself. I'd say it's only been the last couple years or so that I reeeally started applying myself properly. (That means I wasted a LOT of time before that!)

At times, I'm still guilty of studying in a vacuum - but when my mind is in the right place, and I surround myself with talented artists whose egos don't prohibit them from putting a critical eye on their work and mine, it can be a helluva lot of fun to learn.

- Corbett

The GagaMan(n) said...

My eyes are hurting from the lack of paragraphing.

But yes, we could all do with drawing a lot more than we do, or have time for, if we really want to get good at it. This is where my art will probably just end up being stuck as scribbly mess forever, unless I really kick my arse into gear with it.

As for all this drawing philosophy, I don't really have any right to stick my views in, so I'll shut up =P

Joel Bryan said...

Chloe- for what it's worth, I get what you're saying and I totally agree. Who wants to be static? Who wants to live in artistic stasis?

And that's what some people seem to be after, no matter how much they claim otherwise. They need to be able to take constructive criticism... hey, they need to be able to take DESTRUCTIVE criticism for that matter, because there's a lot of that out there too.

Also- yeah, discussion is great. Disagreement is great. But as long as it stays on topic and both parties can learn from it. When it gets to the "you said! no I didn't!" phase, it's no longer helpful.

And disagreeing for its own sake is probably the least helpful of all.

allamort said...

I've been following this blog for a while, but have never commented before. I just wanted to say that this last series of posts has cemented my resolve. I am starting the PB course tonight. Expect to see more from me soon. Thanks guys, you've saved me.

Raff said...

I can speak as a musician on this whole age-of-amateurism thing which the style-vs-skill thing centers around (my drawings will take another ten years to catch up). Since music is also about aesthetics, structure, skills, appeal and competition for the audience's dollar, I think the arguements will translate well into the art/animation scene now.

Ok, here's my theory: By the 1980's, pop music was starting to feel like a machine. The skills were there, the musicians knew their fancy slash chords and harmony tricks, a catchy melody was paramount, tight playing and a solid groove went without saying, but ultimately it all started to feel like a machine - a predictable product of rules, principles and seasoned veterans.

What was Gen-X's chosen remedy? The lo-fi movement of the early-to-mid 90s. Suddenly bands that sounded like my wack friends practicing in the garage were getting record deals because of the sheer novelty of letting peasants run the kingdom (or a simulation of such). Having had it with the likes of, say, Rush, music fans moved towards anything that was neither hooky nor harmonically dynamic. So the corporations jumped on the bandwagon with their imitations of this new anti-music, the whole musical landscape changed, and suddenly it was cooler to barely know how to play guitar than it was to rival Joe Satriani. They called it irony - the lowest of dorkiness becomes a cool thing, lousy becomes good.

Now let's call the lo-fi movement a type of minimalism for a second. Art regards minimalism as a device that draws attention to raw elements. For example, if there's only bass and drums and a singer, the audience has a heightened awareness of the nuances of the bass and drums and singer, since there's nothing else to pay attention to. But commerce regards minimalism as a way of getting more for less. "All you need is bass and drums and a singer." There goes the orchestra. Why put horn players on tour when you can do a trio?

And then - aha! - the novely of all things minimal wears off but the economic and cultural conditions that produced aforementoned Joe Satriani and Rush got lost while we were listening to Beck. Same way we lost the James Brown concerts when we switched to disco clubs, same way we lost the big swing bands when Elvis and Bill Haley came to the fore.

All because we needed a break and something different.

That's what the jerky Anime and squares-and-triangles flat style and Simpsons/FG are - something different and it happens to be done by lesser means and with lesser skills.

Ian said...

Great Post Katie... I've been through the grinder at Disney in Sydney Australia. Years of intense, hard exhausting work where I was told exactly what to draw, where to draw it and how to draw it. With next to no prospect of creative intup from me what so ever.

Sound like hell?

(after meeting my wife (Hi Honey)) Its the best thing that ever happened to me. because it forced me to confront these very same issues.

Kevin W. Martinez said...

Hooray, yet more Grand Canyon-sized generalizations about "how Modern Cartoons and Comics suck". God forbid anyone give any specific examples of Modern cartoons and comics that suck and why, lets just generalize about every contemparary Non-Spumco animation effort.

I love this blog.

elephantmarchblog said...

Here here

queefy said...

---Hooray, yet more Grand Canyon-sized generalizations about "how Modern Cartoons and Comics suck". God forbid anyone give any specific examples of Modern cartoons and comics that suck and why, lets just generalize about every contemparary Non-Spumco animation effort.


Saying modern cartoons are bad is just an opinion. But its a fact that they're not as well made as classic cartoons.

Randy Siplon said...

ted said... J & C: The discussion of discussion within a discussion is never off topic for a discussion, and I wouldn't bring it up if I didn't think it was worthwhile.

My mind has been officially blown. Are you related to Gary Busey by chance?

All kidding aside, I love this post. John, your blog really warms my cockles. Just thought you'd like to know.

Raff said...

>> Ok, here's my theory: By the 1980's, pop music was starting to blah blah <<<

I wish I could edit that big fat post; I wrote it in the wee hours of the morning and I just noticed my arguements are full of holes. :) By "anti-music" I meant anti-musicianship.

>> God forbid anyone give any specific examples of Modern cartoons and comics that suck and why<<

You're right. So here's one.
Bromwell High
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVXGa2nU2NQ

It clearly uses the software's tweening function as a crutch - and there's no proof that it's anything other than a crutch.

Every other facial expression is smug apathy - that's BORING.

The pacing is monotonous.

And the design is ugly and alienating. "But it's ugly on purpose." WHY would anyone do that??? "Beacuse it's a new style and it's a rebellion against the same old slick realistic cartoons" Fine, everyone loves a change of pace, but do you have to replace the old stuff with something so SHALLOW and IGNORANT? "And it's retro too." No it's not. The 60's used minimalism to experiment and put existing skills to different use. On this thing the skills aren't there.

"Yeah, but it's still funny, and that's all that counts." Um...what happened to giving me something that REWARDS PAYING ATTENTION? Do I have to turn half my brain off when I'm watching something? What if I want to completely escape into what I'm watching, details and all?

I could go on forever like this, but it's already been a mountain of text.

S.G.A said...

Yeah, I feel like what I do is never good enough and what I did last week is garbage.

I feel like I am always pushing for something in my drawing etc.. that I could always do BETTER.

I have to to accept that always wantijng to improve is what keeps me going, keeps me alive.

I don't even know how people view what I do , and I stoipped trying.

The stuff I do that I DON'T like is what other people DO like and vice versa.

So I just strive at for what moves me , and hope to keep working.

And boy, Now I need work.

David Germain said...

You're right. So here's one.
Bromwell High
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVXGa2nU2NQ


Hey, I know some people who animated on that show. Two links on my blog take you to two of them.

True story: after they were done everything, they watched their work when it aired on TV and kept asking each other "Is this funny?"

Craig D said...

I saw a quote from Robin Williams in this weekend's paper that I wish I had cut out. It went something like, "If you find yourself violating your standards faster than you can lower them, then you have a problem!" Ouch - ain't that the truth!

I was somewhat dissatisfied with my posing and full-figure drawing before this. Now I am in an absolute cartoonist's nightmare panic! Damn you, reality! Damn you to Heck!

Honestly, thanks for the post, Katie!

Jennifer said...

Hi John!

Katie's post and your post reminded me of something that I read recently.

Recently, I received an illustrated children's book about some of the greatest artists of the last four centuries. I took a look at the chapter on Picasso, and it reminded me of yours and Katie's posts.

The chapter featured Picasso's works from all stages of his life, including his very early works and his later abstract paintings. His early works looked almost exactly like photographs. It reminded me of both posts because it struck me that before Picasso drew the "crazy drawings of people with two heads and three eyes", he knew how to draw still life. He worked on the skill to draw and paint. Then, he honed his style, which was always evolving.

NARTHAX said...

For basic solid character construction study, it's hard to beat Bill Hanna's 1941 one-off MGM short "Officer Pooch", though the timing is a little slow compared to the point Hanna evolved it later in his career.

greg oakes said...

wow,... that was well said. thumbs up! ;)

Donald S. said...

Good comments. I agree. I'm still aspiring up the ladder someway. But I'm getting better and having fun.

Anonymous said...

This thread is pretty well off the top, I don't really know if i should expect any kind of response to it...but here's a try anyway!
The old animators with a lot of influences - did they do what John K is advising and learn their principles by analyzing and reinterpreting other drawings, or did they have a lot of formal training? I mean - for me, you know, to learn, to get better, should I spend the next few years sitting around copying influences all day and writing out my thoughts on it, or should I bother going to an artschool too and doing a lot of figure drawings and the like, taking sculpture and all the rest, or...what? I'm just kind of lost, that's all - but what you guys are saying makes sense and I'm keen on going with the advice I've read here.
Thanks, I appreciate the help!

pappy d said...

John:

God bless you for starting a serious discussion about cartoons!

Katie Rice is wise beyond her tender years. If you're animating a character starting to walk, the 1st thing to do is tip him forward.

Your critical faculties are like your center of gravity & your work is your legs trying to keep up.

Sometimes your critical faculties surge ahead & you have to run to catch up, sometimes your skills overtake your sense of how shitty you still are & you get arrogant & stop moving forward altogether.

But balance isn't about standing still. Why not just lie down if you don't want to move forward?


I don't really care said...

"Nowadays, thanks to clever new marketing technology, you can in fact pull your own brand right out of your own ass.

I think I am going to open a new trade school that teaches people how to do exactly that, with a 2 -year program. It could be big."


Can I get in on this? I've designed some matchbook covers.

As you probably know, once you stop drawing & your ego's not at stake any more, your critical faculties can get so far ahead of you there's nothing left for you but directing.

Danelectro said...

The problem is that most people think that making animation is just as fun as watching them. I am pretty sure that performing a brain surgery is much more fun that suffering one, but in the animation world, it's the other way around... People confuse having fun with creating fun from scratch. I never met a happy comedian.

heidi said...

Reading Katie's blog from the beginning you can really see the progression. Ever since I started the animation school I feel I have developed, and it is the best feeling ever. Studying the basics has helped me more than I can describe and I still have a long way to go. All I want is to study from the masters, whether it is renaissance paintings or classic animation and maybe someday I can be as good. Thank you for all this great advice, it's like the best school in the world that I don't have to pay for.