Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Color and BG Painting Reference-Old Golden Books


Old Golden Books from the 1940s to the early 1960s are great painting reference.
There are tons of artists with different styles and approaches.

Many of the artists were Disney BG painters and they did more personal work for Golden Books. I'll put down some thoughts about 3 of them in a bit.

J.P. Miller


(J.P.MILLER'S "THE LITTLE RED HEN" ON AMAZON)



Dick Kelsey


Mary Blair



(Little Verses Part 1)
(Little Verses Part 2)


All three of these artists use the theories and techniques that I have been talking about in the last few color posts.

The result is a wide variety of color combinations and looks and very cartoony fun styles.

The defenders of the pink and purple style keep saying stuff like "Well I LIKE bright colors!" as if those are the only bright colors.

These paintings are far more "colorful" "bright" and candy like than seeing the same old cheesy corporate color stylings over and over again.

The people who made Golden Books back then understood kids and seemed to have liked them. Not only the artists, but the publishers themselves to have allowed the artists to be kind to our eyes and minds.

40 comments:

Patrick said...

Hey...I recently found several of these that belonged to my wife ( we were born in the 60's) in a stock-pile of old books in her parents basement!
They smell pretty bad but the colors are still there!!

fabiopower said...

are you there, John?

Tony C. said...

I grew up with the old Little Golden books and hopefully some of that style got carved into my sub-conscious.

I went out and bought the Weird Al CD/DVD this weekend specifically for the "Close But No Cigar" video. I wanted to have a pristine copy to study.

I think both "Classico" and "Close But No Cigar" are really standout works in both animation in general, and for the John K. Crew. Keep this stellar stuff coming!

fabiopower said...

CORE was the nickname of Mario Silva Ossa (1913-1950), a great artist of my country, Chile.

There is an excellent book in Internet for sale, named simply “Core”

I think that she had a great style. Is also a good lot of inspiration for me.

If you want to see more details, go to this page: http://www.memoriachilena.cl/mchilena01/temas/imagenes.asp?id_ut=mariosilvaossa(1913-1950):coreunpoetavisual

Stephen Worth said...

I just started posting a new Mary Blair book at the archive... The New Golden Song Book. Check it out.

Steve

Ryan G. said...

Damn! I know I used to have a crap load of these books. I might have to go searching in my parents basement to see if they still have them..

Jorge Garrido said...

Miller's green lopsided patch of grass follows the theory that you should vary hue, tone, and value within the same object to make it more interesting. Some of it is darker ,some is light, some is yellowish, some brownish. Look at the the textures on his paper hat!

Great pics!

Gabriel said...

i hear about mary blair all the time, but I wasn't familiar with the other two artists. They're great! That second picture caught my eye because of the lighting, you look at it and instantly know what time of the day it is, before the text tells us.

Eric C. said...

I never would have looked at golding books that way. Thanks for showing to source John.

_Eric ;)

Pat Lewis said...

Dear John,

Thanks for freeing up my Sunday evenings! I used to watch the FOX animation lineup (Simpsons, American Dad, Family Guy) every week, but after reading your blog for a while, I find that I am no longer able to stomach looking at the garish colors, emotionless poses, non-existant acting, and so on.

Although I'm not an animator, I work as a freelance illustrator, and your theories are really helping my work improve fast. Keep up the great work!

Thad K said...

Dick Kelsey did art direction and writing on a few of the classic Disney features as well. His Duck art looks similar to a few of the guys at Western at the time too.

THAD

Jenny said...

Very cogent post with great artists...J.P. Miller is somewhat unsung considering the massive influence he(it is a he, right?)had and has on so many artists, rightfully so though he remains above almost all the rest in that class...one of a kind. His stuff is so appealing and delightful it's hard for me to analyze, like when you want to watch a film for the great staging or lighting and instead you get so sucked in for the hundreth time, you forget to draw or take notes and just bask in it.

This whole series of entries is a real pleasure.
Thanks for putting it all up, great one!

S.G.A said...

what did these guys paint with, gaushe, acrylics, cell paints, water color?
I have alot of these books and, I have always wondered and done lots of trial and error and it's just not the same.

S.G.A said...

I know he wasn't an animator, as far I as I know but , I always liked the old painted richard scarry stuff as well.

Anonymous said...

I really like your recent blogs on colour and brightness/saturation balance. It's something that I've noticed for a while too (although, I didn't spot it in Aladdin). I've found a lot of movies can be too gaudy (New Star Wars movies, anyone?) and the worst offenders I've come across are video games and new-school cartoons (and the super-cliche mainstream japanese cartoons).

Some good examples of movies with great pee and poo colours are Avalon by Mamoru Oshii, and I found even the Matrix movies were nicely colour balanced to show a really interesting aesthetic.

Anyway, thanks again for outlining this kind of colour consideration. I've always liked more subdued colours and now after reading your blogs I'm now putting more time tweaking colours for a harmonius and comfortable balance in my own works. If only we could get most American and European video game art directors to do the same!

Anonymous said...

I like the 50s influence in Ren and Stimpson- gave it it's off the chain twisted side.

EGGG YOOOOOOOLLLLKKKIIOOOO!!!

Anonymous said...

I don't think yer need to be strictly concerned with JUST animation to find influence in color schemes. Ideas come from everywhere and usually when...wait for it...your not thinking. Whenever I strained my brain for...err...'genius,' it never came. But the better part of my ideas came from fucking around with a pen and paper, crayons, whaetever man.

Anonymous said...

After looking at that Little Verses cover, the kids playing remind me of the ones that featured of those 'in between cartoon' commercials on Ren & Stimpy- LOG, err...sugar frosted Toast-Man (tm)??

latisha said...

How does one get in touch with you? Do you have an e-mail address or something? I have a question about your cartoon, Ren & Stimpy.

Anonymous said...

I don't know but that Dick Kelsey example is wonderful. Halloween doesn't always have to be lurid purple, orange and green.

The sense of autumnal atmosphere is perfect. The way he blue/grays out Donald's nephews to create the feeling of the thin, cool late afternoon light of a fall day...

The mellow pink of the sky in the pumpkin patch... with BROWN clouds...

That's the stuff that I loved about Halloween as a kid, the feel of it in the air, and Kelsey captures it perfectly.

Graham said...

Hey John. Still loving the blog and enjoying your recent posts about color. Color is something I'm pretty bad at, and your ramblings have been a big help.

Actually, your posts on color helped me to identify what a piece of crap the new "Class of 3000" cartoon is. Aside from the animation being a bucket of poop, the color schemes and compositions are hideously bad. I would appreciate if you would take the time to grab some frames from it and ream it out for a bit.

http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/promotion_landing_page/classof3000/index.html

FLAMINGPINECONE said...

I grew up on the golden books so seeing all that familar warmth makes me feel like I've drank a nice warm cup of hot chocolate by the fireplace =)

Cheesy, I'm sure, but oh man what a relief from crap like Curious George.

Liz said...

3 great illustrators! John- don't leave out the freakin' amazing Gustav Tenggren out of the Golden group-write him up, too...c'mon...do it!

Shawn said...

I've got a whole mess of these! Disney, Hanna Barbera, Beany and Cecil! I love them!

I also like how old books smell.
Sometimes I like to flip the pages and smell them.

mike f. said...

[I used to watch the FOX animation lineup (Simpsons, American Dad, Family Guy) every week, but after reading your blog for a while, I find that I am no longer able to stomach looking at the garish colors, emotionless poses, non-existant acting, and so on...]

Hurray! It's working!
Congratulations, Pat Lewis. YOU HAVE REACHED THE FIRST PLATEAU!


Regarding Little Golden Books: I remember when they were sneered at by the PTA and other snobbish organizations because they weren't "real" books - whatever that meant.

Today, LGBs are an American icon. The Smithsonian Institution includes Little Golden Books and artwork in its Division of Cultural History. Sometimes things change for the better.

This post just scratches at the surface of John's LGB collection. I can't wait for upcoming samplings of Mel Crawford, Tenggren, the Provensens, Gergely, Art Seiden, and other great Golden Book illustrators..,

Wicks for Candlesticks said...

The skill that these artists had is jaw-dropping. To think that all this goodness was packaged in such a small package and for kids! I feel bad for the kids today that have to read dull painted books and watch cartoons about kids spending all their time in a school(what a depressing premise). I went apeshit when I saw a bunch of these books recently for a buck a piece it was like being 6 again. I was as giddy as a schoolgirl. I have no idea about their techniques which make them more magical.

-David O.

Mitch K said...

I really like Dick Kelseys stuff!

Jorge Garrido said...

>what did these guys paint with, gaushe, acrylics, cell paints, water color?

Drybrush Gauche, I read somewhere. Sponges, too.

>I also like how old books smell.
Sometimes I like to flip the pages and smell them.

I love how they FEEL! Thick and puply pages with thos great thick covers and you gotta crack the seal on the spine part! When they're new they're really sturdy, but when they get old the corners come apart and you see the brown part, it's the classic look.

>Actually, your posts on color helped me to identify what a piece of crap the new "Class of 3000" cartoon is. Aside from the animation being a bucket of poop, the color schemes and compositions are hideously bad. I would appreciate if you would take the time to grab some frames from it and ream it out for a bit.

*cough cough* John did or is going to do the guest animation design for one those those cartoons *cough cough*

>Cheesy, I'm sure, but oh man what a relief from crap like Curious George.

Hey, I liked Curious George!

william wray said...

Lots of pink and purple in golden books. No color is bad. It's how they are applied/ mixed. I could do a pink and purple background you would like, I'd would just have to mix them subtly. As you know it's colors straight out of the tube that is the problem. Pure color is to hard on the eyes. Complements= Subtly, harmony. Add value and you have it.

Anonymous said...

"Complements= Subtly, harmony. Add value and you have it."

Definitely.

I hate how some people take things said on here so litterally as if it's some simple formular with colours to avoid.
Just generally those are colours that tend to be misused with brightness and clutter.

will said...

My wife and I, bucking our early-20s peers, have always been avid pre-1970 children's book collectors(hoarders, rather) and now that we have a 6.5 month old daughter she's using it as an excuse to amass quite the arsenal. I've really started to study the brushstrokes of Beatrix Potter and George Herriman lately- genius!
I'm hunting for an art tutoring job now so I can corrupt the youth of today with 'limits' and 'forms' and...yes...mouths that aren't magical gaping holes in the face. I weep for a generation weaned on Dora the Explorer.
Anyway, Mr. K, if you have any tips as to how to harness the youth and yoke them to the tyrannical oppression of form and composition, believe me I am all fucking ears.

I didn't think Curious George was that bad. The colour was desperately primary, but they found an amazing variety of outright use constricting themselves to only the most basic colors they could. I didn't personally find a chord with it, but the motion was constantly smooth on the screen without being Emperor's-new-groove choppy and the use of mood-lighting was consistent and professional, albeit not entirely youthful. I was okay with it beacuse it wasn't entirely destructive, I guess.

I gotta admit Dick Van Dyke's voice helped.

Hryma said...

Aren't they just beutiful!

cemenTIMental said...

Some good examples of movies with great pee and poo colours are Avalon by Mamoru Oshii, and I
The monochrome sepia tone stuff in Avalon is, i think, a fairly overt homage to Tarkovsky's "Stalker"...

'Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence" has pretty amazing colours and some truely outstanding animation... great film.

Chloe Cumming said...

I have to get some of these books...

The Mary Blair stuff you've posted has really opened my eyes to her skill with colour... kind of magic. And complex too, there's a lot to learn there.

There's a subtle principle that you've put over to me in the colour posts, and that's a kind of naturalness which isn't a literal copy of nature. It does take a certain sensitive frame of mind to look at nature and pull inspiration from berries and mist and then 'interpret' those colours in the internal logic of a composition.

But I do think the most magic or 'creative' stuff comes from looking and seeing first. Extreme ugliness is not extremely creative... it's like you have to build on a certain foundation of moderation or conservatism before you can make something radically good.

Interesting what Bill Wray said about pink and purple. I have to admit when you come down hard on pink and purple it makes me want to give myself a challenge and find novel ways of making pink and purple look good.

But the way I read it you're mainly against lazy garish repetitive corporate colouring, which has made pink and purple into villains.

Menstrual Shark said...

Hi John! Would you devote a few words some day to Surrealist Color Theory? I'm a big fan of black and white films...horror and film noir....and I kinda think the only real way to achieve the same emotional intensity of those images when you switch to color is to use heightened or exagerated colors. I'd love your opinion. Thanks.

Randy said...

The colors in these Golden Books are absolutely gorgeous. I love the way they look, but it would be very hard for me to articulate WHY I love it. It would be hard for me to say what about it makes it work. You, John, have an incredibly brilliant way of putting that sort of thing into words and helping us all to understand. Thank you a thousand times. What a swell fella!

Andreas said...

I love the Little Red Hen, I think I still have that on my self of books from when I was little, along with other Golden Books, and Richard Scarry. I hear they made his books politically correct. Grrr.

Dave said...

Mr. K -

Thanks a ton for the great great info here - excellent analysis and examples. I practiced some of your color stuff (ripping off the excellent Blair work). Not there yet, but progress (and I think you might like the subject). Thanks again.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourpaldave/374247943/

kurtwil said...

When Marc Davis was gracious enough to allow me to visit his house (and for dinner, yet !), I got to see many Mary Blair artworks, revealing Marc's great respect for her work (btw, Marc absolutely despised computer assisted animation !!).

There are a few animatics (one about Beauty and the Beast) which use Mary Blair-ish (or Marcia Brown-ish) styled images and scenes, minimally animated, to great effect.

However, would Blair designs have the same impact if animated Clampett style? Any good examples of such a pairing out there?

Hobo Divine said...

I really like how the artist treats the two pages as 1 composition divided by the gutter. A great relationship and balance of colour between the pages.

Thanks for posting!