Monday, October 23, 2006

Color Theory- look at the sky before you paint a sunset

I wonder why there is only one way to paint a sunset anymore in cartoons:












My suggestion to BG painters is to look at the sky instead of looking at cartoon sunsets. Here is a pile of free ideas from God, the greatest color stylist:






















Ideas are everywhere, but as I've said before, animation is such an inbred world that many artists don't take advantage of the richness of inspiration just outside their studios to draw from.

Instead we tend to rely on what has been done over and over again in our tiny little field that seems to get tinier with each generation.

Let's turn our senses back on and reflect a wider world to our audience.

39 comments:

Art F. said...

John, you are an inspiration to us artists. why does nobody teach this stuff anymore? the only color theory class i ever took required us to buy a $200 set of what ammounted to paint chip samples from home depot. WTF! we could've just went outside and seen more colors and tints for free.

Pag said...

very well said!!

Mitch K said...

My childhood bedroom window had the greatest view of every kind of sunset! Every night they were different. Living in the country was wonderful.

The Butcher said...

I love the sky. It's a shame I can't do it justice yet.

Anonymous said...

Even the trainyard in the center of downtown Toyohashi, not too far from where I live here, turns pretty under a summer sunset. And Toyohashi's a pretty blue collar, hardscrabble little town.

Do the people who paint these modern cartoon sunsets only look at other cartoons? It seems like they could eliminate a lot of the color theory problems you've been talking about by just walking outside.

Was it on your blog that I read a Peanuts cartoon where Linus or somebody drew a picture of the sky and Lucy got angry, declaring, "The sky is blue!"

And Linus said, "No, I can see some red, some yellow, touches of green, a little purple..."

So Lucy went to Charlie Brown and tried to explain the whole mess, to find someone to agree with her set idea that the sky was blue.

And Charlie Brown said, "No, I can see some red, some yellow, touches of green, a little purple..."

Or something like that. The sky is pink and purple! And airbrushed, dammit!

Neutrinoide said...

Oh my,

That's remind me when I tried to explain to my boss that water isn't blue.

Neutrinoide said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Crumpled Up John! said...

Picture number three is brilliant

Anonymous said...

One of our homework assignments is to do thumbnail paintings of a variety of different skies. I'll attack it with more vigor now.

Freckled Derelict said...

The perfect example of colors done right using inspiration from nature is the finishing tree background in Ren seeks help.

Ted said...

The Batman Beyond scheme might be better characterized as the light pollution of a Blade Runner-style neon-lit dystopia rather than a sunset. The cover does look like ass tho. The show itself has much more palatable backgrounds.
The following three shots are from the first half hour of the show:
This first one takes place years before the main show; it's taking the sky palette from the last season of the regular BTAS:
http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/781/3347/1600/batmanbeyond1.jpg

Here's a shot of the daytime sky palette for BB Gotham, smoggy and smudged:
http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/781/3347/1600/batmanbeyond2.jpg

And here's a general BB nightime background, full of purple, but more interesting looking than the antiquated DVD cover you used:
http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/781/3347/1600/batmanbeyond3.jpg

Clinton said...

Hey John K., been a long time fan of yours, ever since childhood. Lovely pictures of sunsets there, I agree, there should be more variation in sunsets in animation. Here's a lovely shot of a sunset I took when I was in Ireland for vacation. One of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.

http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/22747774/

JohnK said...

Hey Ted,

Red and Blue is a color scheme?

Ollie said...

Hey John, i'm really enjoying these colour theory posts. What do you think about the colours used in Disney's Tarzan?

Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure how fair of a comparison that video game screenshot is, but otherwise I entirely agree.

sean said...

i am currently an illustration major at university of the arts in philadelphia. our department is closely tied with the animation department, and many student venture off in both majors and incorporate different elements of each major and come up with some very interesting stuff. the animation department here still teaches students traditional animation techniques (drawing with a pencil instead of a wacom tablet pen) and they leave it up to students (in their junior year) to decide whether or not to persue digital. This then leaves animation major's to learn how to paint with real brushes on real paper.
when i see the art that these kids are doing theres always something nice about all the little flaws and inperfections that make each one different. from what you've posted (and what i see in the animation world in general these days) it seems taht when making these background sunsets the artists work mostly digital. i think when artists work digitally they lose that 'accidental" variety and in turn all create things that look all the same.
but i suppose computers are just a tool. like a brush or pencil they just allow the artist to achive an image.
its very back and fourth, maybe i am just a sucker for traditional stuff. so much expressive.

anyway, i am sean. i dig your stuff and i really like your stuff. maybe you could check mine out sometime. www.seanmetcalf.deviantart.com

ciao

Ted said...

Just ask Ray Zone...
Red and blue are not normally a combined color scheme in the modern Batman cartoons.
I really like the way the red, black and white dominated Gotham Knights era stuff looks. The background elements are (largely) not as good as the earlier BTAS stuff, but the main cityscape colors really convey an oppressive summer in hell. BB's blue/purple doesn't strike me nearly as much (and I don't like it even as much as the original BTAS colors), but it makes sense to me in the technolgical dystopia future Gotham presented in BB.
So, yeah, the color sets work amongst themselves, they look from pretty good to really good in practice, so I'd say they're color schemes in practice whether or not they meet a technical definition.

Peggy said...

Hell yeah.

S.G.A said...

Those are some beautiful sunset pics. thanks

Aggie said...

This has to be one of my favourite posts by you. Simple as that.

Ze (Zuplemento.com) said...

Last 3 post: brutal! \m/

Ze

Randy Siplon said...

>the only color theory class i ever took required us to buy a $200 set of what ammounted to paint chip samples from home depot.<

This is funny to me because I took a similar class. I got an A in the class, but learned nothing in the process. But that's what you get from most art schools, teachers who are failed artists helping others to become just like them. I like learning from people who are successful at what they do. That is why I love this blog. Thanks John.

Brian Romero said...

It seems crazy that anyone wouldn't get reference together for what they're drawing or painting. With the internet and sites like Google Images doing photo research is easy. I try to never to totally make anything up, especially when it comes to props, backgrounds or clothing. I look at what's really out there and many times make my own version of something based on reality.

Anonymous said...

GO OUTSIDE! i totally concur. The other day i was walking home and saw some leaves blowing on the ground in a certain way i had never noticed. I thought to myself, "I don't think i've ever seen leaves blow like that in animation." It made me realize how many elements have been recycled to the point where no one even thinks about doing them any another way than what they're seen done. I think people are too scared that their audience wouldn't understand. Like for a split second i had doubt: If i animate what i just saw would anyone realize those are leaves? The next moment it occurred to me thats how true originality manifests. You have to take chances like that or else you're just a copycat that will die alone with 40 cats re-hashing steamboat willie.

Peter said...

I remember reading in one of Frazetta's about how he used to carry a camera around with him to collect reference wherever he went. This should be even easier today with the everpresent digital camera.

Anonymous said...

The greatest cartoons were created by people who went againgst the norm. I still don't understand why animation and film companies don't realise this instead of spawning each other's crap. Most importantly though they've done what they've wanted to do- they just basically said 'fuck this,' and did it in their own vision

Jordan said...

Yeah I always thought the timm Batman stuff had great colors. Especially once "gotham knights" or the new adventures started. One really well directed/storyboarded/colored episode is "Double Talk", when the ventriliquist is set free from Arkham.

urgh just did a google search for screencaps but found none.


Jordan

paul etcheverry said...

John, I'd be very interested in your comments on color design in the 1942-1945 predecessors of "Cartoon Modern" from Warners, Screen Gems and the earliest days of UPA: John McGrew, the Fleurys, Bernice Polifka, Zack Schwartz, Paul Julian, etc.

Oddly enough, one of my favorite background artists and colorists precedes all that - and I don't even know this artist's identity. He or she created striking background/foregrounds for Ub Iwerks "Color Rhapsody" cartoons in 1936-1938. This artist does amazing work in the art-deco style in MERRY MANNEQUINS and, even more so, in the dark yet psychedelic late-night amusement park setting of THE HORSE ON THE MERRY GO ROUND.

The Butcher said...

Hey John,

What do you think of the colors in Madd Dog Hoek? I really love them, even though it looks mostly piss yellow. I really like how Ren and Stimpy are bluish grey without their fur on.

Could you someday post some examples of how bad colors messed up otherwise good cartoons? Mainly your cartoons.

Eric C. said...

AMEN TO THAT JOHN! God Bless You!

_Eric

Hryma said...

Tell it like it is!
I find that my pictures are always better when draw or paint from real life, but have never really thought about it. Your a smart man John, thanks for opening our minds!!!

The Gaber's Sketchblog said...

These guys are stuck indoors all day. I don't think they've seen a sunset for a long time. They probably don't know if it sets in the East or the West. Maybe they should just do scenes of the Eastern sky to avoide making mistakes.
Is that a shot from the Lion King game? You don't like own this game do you? I'm stuck on this very same level I can't get past the masterbating hyenas. Can you give me a few tips, or did you use a cheat code?

Lupin said...

I've been reading this blog for quite some time now and while I do think that animation is having a lot of problems, I also think that things aren't as dire as they're often made out to be here. I'll admit right off the bat that I'm partial to Japanese animation, but I try to approach the subject rationally. I know that a lot of people here have something against anime and the like, but I feel like it's often quite misunderstood in the west. The first idea that's often expressed is that anime is a style on its own. This is not the case as it's easy fo find examples of animation that counter everything that most people think about anime. I also think that respect and love for classic cartoons and anime aren't mutually exclusive. That being said, I would like to post some shots of the sky from a movie that contains some of my favorite animated sequences, namely the wings of Honneamise.
Now I took a quick look around the net for some pics, if I had more time, I'd make some screengrabs, but instead I'll link to some pics I found, even though they're crappy.

http://www.manga.cz/img_rec/75.jpg

I love this shot of the spaceshuttle getting ready to take off, too bad the pic is rather small..but the sky is a lovely shade of purple there.

http://utd500.utdallas.edu/~hairston/launchsmall.gif

I really like this one too...again, the picture is too lousy to really see very well.

http://koti.phnet.fi/otaku/reviews/woh/wingslogo.jpg

Never saw this one before until just now, but I like it all the same.

There's many more pics of skies I would love to post, but I can't find any of them on-line. Sometimes it's just a matter of keeping an eye out for something. People are too focussed on the negative.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Especially if you are lucky enough to live in LA- har har har! The sunsets here are bizarre! The oil refinery smoke mixed with poo factory smoke and all sorts of smog by the beach where I live make some pretty interesting color palettes.

Gray Poo

Boris Hiestand said...

what can I say...

Bill Wray!

Tim said...

You know, I read this and then didn't think about it for awhile. But, when I was at work Friday night, I went on break and on the television was the Charlie Brown halloween special. So, instead of reading my book, I watched it, it had been awhile.

During some random chitchat, I look back up at the tv, and there is a shot panning back from Linus in a pumpkin patch and i saw probably the most beautiful night sky i'd ever seen. It was absolutly perfect, but not in any sort of bullshit hollywood sense. it just fit wonderfully, and added a whole new level to the tone of the special that i never really noticed before.

I mean, for kids its one thing to watch and be entertained, but i look at it now and there is a beauty there. not so much only in that one shot, but it echoes the entire feel of the comic. there is a beauty to childhood but a pain also. the sky hangs heavily above Linus as he sits there.

I don't know, i think i'm starting to talk out of my ass here.

Jedulous said...

How dare you even mention God. You and your work are a profanity. You're skilled. You're an amazing artist. But you could have been so much more.

Jedulous said...

and I find it cute that you have to filter all your posts. All hail Krikfalusi.

Shitbitch said...

Who the hell are you, Jedulous?