Wednesday, May 07, 2008

COMPOSITION 3 For Layout and BG artists - Clear Staging

By the way, the reason I put all this information and advice up here, is partly because I'm willing to save people the decades of time I've spent uncovering some secrets of the past and learning from trial and error, but also in the hopes that in a couple or a few years I might have a small army ready to help me make the kinds of cartoons I can direct with skilled and willing cartoonists.

I sure envy the days when Clampett, Avery or Jones could just walk in the next room and have a whole staff of already highly skilled crafstmen and all in a progressive mind set to outdo themselves and everyone else every time they sit down to make a new cartoon.

Don't wait till you're in your mid twenties and your conservative hormone kicks in! Then you'll be satisfied with slaving for the man.


Ryan G. said...

Christ John! Dont quit.. We all look to you for inspiration and maybe even a chance someday to work for you. You are very influential to this industry and most of us realize this and want the same changes as you do. Keep up the lessons and we'll keep up the training

Anonymous said...


R. Banuelos said...

How are you suppose ta' change a whole fucking industry?

But we very much appreciate your knowledge!

JohnK said...

Well I already did 3 times, but I want allies next time.

queefy said...

Yea, don't quit. I work on these lessons everyday.

Hope this blog continues for many years.

Drew said...


I'm only 14 and I've had a talent for drawing since I was born and picked up a number 2 pencil. When I discover REAL art I couldn't and still can't take my peepers off of it. Free lessons from someone who actually knows something is what I've been seeking for a long time and when you started your blog last year, I've been checking it every morning with a bowel of cereal absorbing all your knowledge and reading it over and over again to better understand what you try to get at in your lessons and cram into my brain, using up all the ink in the printer to print your pics out for me to copy over and over again has been quit a hassle and I admit that I've sort of cried thinking that I'll never succeed in becoming a true artist but I've pushed myself over and over again and when I finally get what your saying and can redraw the things I've practiced my beaten soul on, I feel better and better about succeeding in the wold of animation.
So I beg you, I'm on my knees. Please keep posting, you know that I and many otheres are depending on you to teach us to be better than we think we can!

I really hope that in the not too distante future I and hopefully many otheres can help you change this corrupt industry for good.

Shawn Luke said...

I work at a lousy construction job 5 days a week. I come home beat every night, but it pays the bills. There are only two things I do everynight that's the same every night (besides eating and washing - natch!) I check out the latest from your blog and I draw. Every goddamn night!

Anonymous said...

i'm with ya man, to the bitter end! you know i've benefitted from all you've shown and told me. i appreciate all that you've done. you can count on me John.

Anonymous said...

You have a great blog. Would you like to be paid for your writing? If so, email me at for more details. We have a lot of work available.

Shitbitch said...

About the lessons; I don't own any of the PB books, and haven't been able to find them in any of the local stores.

heidi said...

While I am in my mid twenties I still think I have a chance. I have been working full time since I was 15 and drawing and painting everyday. I never had any way of knowing what I was doing wrong or learning more skills because I can't afford school and my parents won't fill out my FASFA so I can't get financial aid (you're a dependent according to FASFA until you're 25) UNTIL YOU CAME ALONG!!! Granted I discovered you a little late but I have set up a lesson plan according to everything you post and draw every night, there is no weekend for me when it comes to art. Stop by and tell me everything I am doing wrong, I won't cry I will only get better. THANK YOU JOHN!!!! Don't stop doing what you're doing I have loved your cartoons since the moment I clawed my way out of my mother's deep dark vagina.

Anonymous said...


Bear in mind that you're contributing to the historical record, too: i.e., due to this blog, you might have better cartoons to watch at least by the time you're retired.

Anonymous said...

You can't quit! We need your lessons to help us look for the mistakes we make in our own work after being exposed to years of bland animation. Please continue posting.

Anonymous said...

Hasdrubal (

John, It's not in vain. I've been applying the information offered on my current toon project, and I don't work for a dammned studio. I thank you, Ducky thanks you.

Keep going.

Peggy said...

I'm glad to have it. I'd picked up a lot of it wandering through Spümcø but it's great to have it all together, and somewhere I can point young cartoonists to - your guides are now my standard link for 'you wanna learn how to draw better?'. I need to grab all of these for my own archives sometime soon. And stop letting myself cut corners so damn much.

If you took the material in all these handouts and cleaned it up into a book (assuming you could get reproduction clearance on all the examples, or replace them with something else demonstrating the principles), I would totally be telling everyone to buy it. It might well turn into an instructional classic that survives for a generation or three.

Posterity doesn't do you much good here and now, though, especially when the lure of a steady job with insurance keeps pulling your students away. You'll always be able to get some percentage of your previous crew back for new projects - the desire for a challenge, and to try and make something that matters again, is compelling.

I wish I had some solutions, or was actually any good at sympathy.

dean said...

You make a difference in people's life's, please remember this. Your mark on popular culture is glaringly obvious.

gabriel valles said...

Yeah John, don't quit I've been a professional for 14 years and I enjoy reading your post everyday. I think I had a pretty good education at The Joe Kubert School. But, I still learn something new or you remind me of things I should be doing. You can get pretty jadded working on one lame project after another. I've been trying to re-capture the fun I used to have when I just drew for fun and you've been a big part of that.

R. Banuelos said...

Hey John,

Not to stray away from the topic but are you gonna' do any post about your earlier work? Like I saw Christmas in Tattertown, and I agree that it's not good but there has to be some ideas learned from such an effort. How do such cartoons get made? Was that Ralph's idea or someone from Nickelodeon? A lot of it looks like Milton Knight drawings.

Did you ever see Pat Ventura's Jamal the Funny Frog? I thought they we're good, expecially for what other crap came out with it. Any stories abut Pat?

I know ya' rather talk about older cartoons and the core fundamentals of drawing but as a fan of cartoons I want to learn all about them. Animation has such a poor way of passing information on so it's hard to find information on anything. These blogs help out tremedously and it's exciting to talk with the people who make and work in the industry.

Ted said...

Staying in the public eye can help your own marketability. This type of forum helps to mobilize your fanbase to purchase the works you produce, and bleeds out into other venues where others will be encouraged to purchase your output, or be informed of its existence; this type of community increases your marketability.

Your worries seem to be about creating a commons; c.f., when someone creates a public park across from their home, they do not capture all the value of the park. People use the park, as it is in common; but the people who built the park tend to feel possessive of it, in spite of the fact that they made it a public place because that way they got a permanent park view without having to pay taxes on it.

Encouraging a discourse on something you feel is missing can only help increase the presence of what you feel is missing by encouraging people to engage in it. If you retreat from encouraging people, then you would not be enriching the cartoon commons and others couldn't benefit. But then you won't have a nice tax free view when it comes time to look out the window, or a ready pool of vagrants to fill your hobo graveyard with...

Sean Worsham said...

I can't ever see you quitting John, you've worked too hard fighting for cartoonists to leave the remaining ones who can draw in the dust clueless. You're an example of how most of us got into cartooning in the first place.

I started drawing before I entered kindergarten and didn't realize how many bad habits I picked up in my art until reading your blog. You're a godsend to us all and to hear you wanting to quit only disappoints me.

But then again I see it this way, you can't take the art out of the artist so I have a feeling I'll see your work no matter what in the future because drawing is in your blood and whenever you see something wrong in the world you're going to want do something about it by showing people how you see the problem and the world with your art.

Plus look at the family you've created through becoming an artist, Eddie, Steve, Marlo, Katie, Marc, Chad etc. You're not going to let the ones closest to you be disappointed eh?

I'm off my soapbox now, it's time for me to attempt to continue your legacy by drawing some more.


Kris said...

Dogg, do not quit. Your lessons are always interesting and thought-provoking, even if I don't have a lot of time to work on them during college semesters. I feel like I've improved a lot just from doing the first Preston Blair lesson.

I hope I have time to do more next semester, but meanwhile don't stop doing what makes your blog so awesome.

will said...

You have presented artistic principles better than anyone I have ever found or heard of. I think we're all born with intrinsic ideas of even the most primal of this shit but as we become grown-ups and sell out we cease to renew our understanding of artistic truth and we do our own self-important thing. (Exupery's The Little Prince was right on every single count.)

I've only seen two art books I've ever remotely approved of. Noone articulates ideas better than you. I'm an art tutor: your presence is felt.

never quit.

Hryma said...

Firstly thankyou for your blog and knowledge. Secondly yes 60 years ago cartoons were better. I scribble because I can't come up with one single idea for a cartoon I would like to make and put every single bit of love into it like the cartoons of the past.

I don't consider myself the brightest spark, though I know what's good and what I like, I'm shit at writing and have a terrible attention span and can't read for long before I want to do something else and am probably dyslexic too.
I learn by doing and when I do I believe I do good.

There's so much shit on the net I end up wasting my time (damn stupid videos and porn).

Maybe some of your viewers are the same as me? It does though seem that they all want to do good!

This is one site that actually gives warming knowledge that is appreciated.

A BIG book with all this wonderfull knowlegde and pretty pictures would be really nice, to get me away from this energy absorbing hell machine, so I can go to a quiet corner and work learn and smile. ?

That's the best I can do to express my thoughts into words, sorry. I'm starting to get restless now and must paint!

P.S. Apologies straight off,
last year I made my debut cartoon and it would really make my day/life if I could give you a copy, I'm not after your address or anything, I'm sorry you must get this all the time. Anyway I live on the other side of the world and I'm not gonna buy a ticket just to find you.
Could I please send a copy to a buisness address or PO/Box?

I would love some helpful criticism
not like a certain Oscar short animation nominee who called it 'tecnicolour vomit', luckilly I'm not that bright and don't know if that's good or not.

Thankyou John K

-Your biggest fan,

Randy said...

Yeah honestly, John, there are a LOT of us reading. You're making a much bigger difference than you realize. Even for a hack amateur like me. I'll always be an amateur because my true passions lie elsewhere. But my dumbass scribblings have gotten a little less dumbass since I got the Preston Blair book. There's now a hack out there, making silly doodles for his friends, WITH COMPOSITION! Crap just got a little less crappy. Just imagine how much the truly talented are benefiting.

Stephen Worth said...

There's a kid at the archive right now working with the Preston Blair book on your drawing course. He's been in every day the archive is open for the past two weeks, drawing all night till we close. This stuff is getting used.

See ya

Neftaly Hernandez said...

John, if you quit, I'll probably cry. Big ugly man tears.

Ape Lad said...

I also vote not quit.

Kevin Williams said...

John, you keep bringing up topic they never taught me in school, or if they did teach me, they didn't go into the detail, theory, and history that you do.

keep up the good work, and we'll keep learning


sean said...

wow, i think you get a lot of feedback from people. and it sounds like a lot of people take to heart, your lessons. i know i do, I've already tried to send some links to pictures i've done for my classes at UotA. in every single piece i've done in the past month, i've chosen colors influenced by your lessons.

Mitch K said...

Don`t fucking quit!!

Sure, you ripped apart my scribbles, but I`m going to school, working a graphic design job, and just dealing with feeding myself, so I`m a little slow at this stuff!

But god damn it I`m reading everything you put on these pages and I`m taking it seriously. I`m applying everything I can to my school projects (in which I get good marks), and my own personal work.

When I have a bad day at school I come home to this blog and I learn something! Amazingly, you always post something which is the topic of the day at school, and I always learn a lot.

Don`t you fucking quit I`d be nothing without your teaching!

I`ve started those Preston Blair lessons when I have free time -- otherwise I`m applying what I learn to my schoolwork. You`ve also exposed me to so much that I`m ever harder on myself. You wanna see some lessons? Well, once I`m satisfied with myself, then you better believe I`ll show `em to you!

Don`t quit! MAN I am so pissed off that you said that! And I`m not sorry for saying that in honesty. I completely appreciate the free wealth of knowledge, but flashing this in my face and then taking it away forever is devistating!

But if you do quit this, I'll just have to take everything you taught me and then try to find out all the secrets of the past on my own... and don't think I won't do it, buddy!

I have the talent, man! I've made progress with no skills! Now I'm working on those too.

I'm young and naturally rebellious! I've always been that way, so it ain't gonna leave. It's a part of me.

So KEEP IT GOING on your side, and I'll do the same on mine. TRUST ME.

Nico said...

i am constantly checking this thing, and learning stuff every single post. The color theory posts LITERALLY opened up my eyes, and for the past couple weeks i can't help but analyze the colors in the cartoons i'm watching, if they are good or not.

if i were you, i'd keep doing this blog. there's a good deal of us out there who will be submitting to you in the next couple years, as soon as we can move/afford/get situated. i'm planning on being out in LA by this time next year. and damn it, it would be a DREAM to make your cartoons.

I. Wolf said...

I think the lessons are valuable, they are providing a much needed contrast to the art-schooling I have received over the last 5 years.

It's amazing, but although I understood the concepts from class, I didn't really see how they should be applied (other than trial and error to see what works and what doesn't). At least you are more than bluntly (which is a skill lost in N. American society) showing prime examples, and more importantly, explanations.

It's nice to know why something is good, and what makes something wrong, in more of a manner than formal art theory definitions.

I still feel that people aren't learning all they can from their seniors, they have all these years of experience, and our generation (I'm 24) has no interest in learning and preserving it, and most shall be doomed to start again from scratch, re-inventing the wheel.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

For God's sake, don't quit! If you want to take a month off then do it but don't stop completely! The industry and art in general needs you! I'll write more about this on my own site!

Anonymous said...

I'm LEARNING! And i take special vitamins that fight off conservative hormones. ( i call them grapes!) An'd my head is even gun-free.

Shawn said...

Nobody makes cartoons like you! Where else could anyone learn from the best?

WIL said...

You might as well quit.

We children of the New Dark Age are just mindless consumers anyway. We'll watch, listen to, eat, drink, smoke, shoot, snort, fuck, & buy anything they put in front of us.

Thanks anyway...

toonamir said...

I agree with Mitch, it’s amazing how we come back from school all confused, go to your Blog, and read an amazingly educating post on the SAME TOPIC!
It speaks to the heart. We need an alternative voice in animation, and we’ve always loved to have you.
I remember the drawing lessons you wrote me about 8 years ago, it was the first time I ever listened to a grown up about these things.
Within one year I could see a huge improvement.
I don’t intend to spend my career as a drone,John. I’ll enlist in your army.

The Craze Ziggurat! said...

Thanks to your blog, I have hopes of making a decent animated feature for once! Even though I'm 24 years old and a pretty mediocre artist, I'm still giving it a go for life! Keep it up, Mr. K. We love you!

JohnK said...

>>The industry and art in general needs you! I'll write more about this on my own site!<<

You missed the point Eddie. What do I get out of it?

Don't bother, you'll just get hecklers.

The Jerk said...

keep this gold coming! I don't want to keep looking at sites where people gush about how good each other's stuff is, without any kind of critical thought at all, and the stuff you share here is invaluable information to use to analyze whether or not something is working, and if not, how to fix it so it does work. I read this stuff every time i see a new post on here, and every time i'm learning something new, or at the very least reenforcing the good things i learned already. FEED MY MIND!

Wicks for Candlesticks said...

I was afraid of this. It does seem like a lot of people are not posting or just gave up on the lessons. Many decided they did all the lessons so why continue to post. But they don't realize that you just don't stop at the end, you have to keep repeating the lessons over and over and over until you get it right. I think that was the main instruction when the innitial school thing started. When you see the amount of people who started on lesson 1 and the ones that are still left, it's amazing on how small the group diminished. I think a lot of people thought that you would personally critique every time they drew a line. That was never part of the bargain. The point was to put the lessons out there and have the students analyze their work and find out what they need to improve upon. That's how you learn. I say keep posting because the ones who are left I'm sure will be 100% into helping you out whenever you need them. If I ever get to the point (skill-wise) where I can be of service to your future cartoons, be sure that I will. I'm an old coot but I'm trying my hardest to break myself down and start all over. Keep on posting because there are still some hardcore people out there willing too keep on posting their lessons and follow you into the fight.

-David O.

P.S. I'll stop my scribblings that have nothing to do with the lessons.

Nathan Robert said...

Hi John K,

As for what you get out of offering your knowledge and advice:

Apparently I'm a little late starting the $100000 Animation Drawing Course but I intend to follow through. I'm motivated to get good by my own selfish reasons, but frankly if at some point down the road you ever saw fit to use me I'd be honored to offer my services in any capacity. I live in LA so this is a possibility as far as I'm concerned.

Even if you quit now I'd probably have more than enough material to study to get my own projects done, but if you keep going there's at least one person who's going to try and suck up every bit of knowledge, and is willing to work for you if the time comes.

I didn't want to show anyone my weblog until I'd gotten better, but if you like you can check on my progress. (Today was my first entry coincidentally.)

Please don't stop if you think I'm worth the effort. (Hint: I am.)

Nathan Robert

PS If anyone else is interested in helping me out, I wouldn't mind some feedback. There's not much to comment on right now, but in the future it would be much appreciated.

Mad Taylor said...

Well John, I always believed you would lead an animation revoulution. You're laying a great foundation with folks like me that grew up on your cartoons. Setting goals, communicating what you know, and sharing lessons with us has me returning back here nightly. I've been in L.A. for four months now and between discovering this blog, the ASIFA archive, and even 1 trip to your house I feel I've gotten priceless schooling and giant steps in the right direction. I'm willing to help you battle and you' are helping me to get ready. Don't give up!

queefy said...

--What do I get out of it?

happy cartoonists!

The Butcher said...

If anything, don't take down the lessons you already put up. Maybe years from now it'll sink in with someone.

Anonymous said...

isnt teaching outdated animation techniques kind of like posting a blog on how to use a telegraph???

Anonymous said...

I worked for you some 14 years ago, and it took about 6 months after I left in disgust for your "tough love" principles of art to kick in. Once they did, though, my work improved by leaps and bounds and now I am a much happier cartoon-drawin'-guy. My message is: Don't give up! Somewhere out there is a young you- or even a young Bob Clampett, who is licking all this info up with mustard!
Ain't that worth it?

Chloe Cumming said...

I get a lot out of your lessons and your insights, John, I'd be sad if you gave up on this. I think you msut speak to an inner logic in even the most idiotic young scumbag.

There are profound cultural implications to all this stuff. Profound! Although I realise you're all about the concrete and the practical. You make me have magic thoughts.

I have no idea if I'll ever work on a cartoon, but I've been Preston Blairing it on the quiet because it's such good discipline, and such a specific kind of skill and dexterity that's needed, it can't help but enrich my understanding of cartoons and all the good stuff.

I'll be your ally! In some form! Words or pictures... Bloody hell!

Robert Hume said...

Wow, I don't know wether I should encourage you to keep posting lessons, or to just feel generally insulted....What ever the case, I just turned 28 so you obviously weren't talking to me. I've always liked your art, but do what makes you happy i guess! Maybe you should create a site and have us pay to read these posts and view the art on here. Shane Glines does that and my friends and I pay him every single month to view them. I mean there's some pay off for you right there! BTW, Good help is ALWAYS hard to find. I almosts lost EVERYTHING I own moving out here to L.A. at the hands of incompetent moving hands I hired. I'm sure it was the same for Chuck Jones, and Bob Clampett back in the day as well...but maybe not, what do I know?


Neutrinoide said...

How much you need to make the animation of you dream? (with all the skilled artist you need)

I'll start a Toon-o-thon right now.

Gabriel said...

You missed the point Eddie. What do I get out of it?

Can't you say what exactly are you hoping to get? What is your specific purpose? Are you waiting for the next Katie Rice to emerge from the people who read your stuff?

Oh, yeah, and don't quit!

Kitty said...

I find all of ur stuff interesting. I find something to help me. I'm 15 and most of my life, I have wanted to be a cartoonist. I look for influences everywhere... but this blog and ur info has been a true blessing. Please don't quit... :(

Daniel said...

Don't quit either!

Your color and composition theories are ensuring that Im getting better everyday. You're the one bright clear bunch of ideas in a great big fucking fog of vagueness.

You are the best teacher ever.


Felix Petruska said...

Dear John, I work in Italy as an illustrator, and, recently, animator. Or something like that.
I discovered Ren and Stimpy in June (I red an interview with Bill Wray on an Italian underground magazine). I saw some episodes around the net, then I bought the 1st and 2nd seasons DVDs.
In a few words, I reborn in George Liquor.
On September I started working on my second cartoon. During the entire work your blog has been THE daily appointment. I felt very lucky.
Your analysis of cartoons is priceless. You do point out and name some aspects that everybody sees, but just unconsciously. These few selected concepts are the result of a life of work. They are simple and darn well aimed. And incomparably useful.
I finished this short cartoon in October, before you started your lessons about colors. Now I'm eating my liver out, because with some of your advices it could look way better. And I'll omit talking about the composition (I'm starting to post some bits on my blog. I'll post the entire short when the movie will be released).
Willing or not, in a few months, from the other side of Atlantic Ocean, I have been strongly influenced by your school.
Don't quit.

Anonymous said...

if its cause of the inane troll comments, Im the one making most of them and I freaking love your blog and think its the best art resource online by a mile

Fire Exit said...

> You missed the point Eddie. What do I get out of it? <

How about a name that transcends time like Frederic Chopin?

I havn't been following these lessons as religously as some people but in the 2 weeks I've been doing them, my drawings have become 10x better. Doing stuff rather than just reading about it all day actually works! You convinced to me to get off my lazy ass and actually do stuff and make me feel like I'm achieving something everyday instead of just getting older slowly.

I posted my first lesson by the way.

Lisa said...

Please don't quit.

Dave_the_Turnip said...

This lesson hits home for me. I've really neglected backgrounds when i draw because i've always felt they interfered with my characters (at least when i do draw them). The thing is i feel a background is almost needed to add to the suspension of disbelief of a cartoon.

This emphasizes that i had the right idea (not having a background interfering with the character), just poor execution.

And i will echo the many posts i imagine telling you not to quit this. Your lessons and dissection of cartoons and animators has been a daily enthralling read for me. It has inspired my work and has improved my ability when following what you teach.

Your blog is an amazing resource and i hope i am not the only young cartoonist who thinks so.

Jennifer said...

Hi John,

While the idea of a blog is a good one because you get instant feedback, I agree with Peggy - the lessons would be better if they were more organized in either a book or on a web site.

The problem with blogger is they only display a certain amount of links at a time, and if someone isn't technically savvy, some lessons could be missed. Maybe get Stephen to help by putting them on the AFISA web site (not the blog).

Re: your question "what do I get out of it?"...what do you want to get out of it? Let me know - it might me something that I or others can do.

Anonymous said...

john please do not quit these blog posts. you are doing the art community a great service by training budding artists and retraining jaded older artists. i have reinvented myself as a better artist from your informative posts. i have learned more in the few months i have spent reading your posts and applying the PB book concepts than i did in 4 years of school.

if posting examples of our practices and progress would help i will start posting my core skills practice.

you are right about the networks snatching up all of your ideas. i would add that they are snatching up your retrained skilled artists too and making them pump out mediocre work. personally, i would not offer my services to any studio if i did not respect their art. (mebee thats why i still haven't gotten into "the field" yet) lots of these skilled kids get stars in their eyes when they think their works will be seen on tv or big money gets flashed around.

i hope what you "get out if it" is the satisfaction that many people read and believe in what you have to say about the medium of animation. you really are an excellent person for allowing us to read your observations over years of insight and experience. it certainly has changed me into a better artist. i can see and feel the difference from my old sketchbooks.

who knows, maybe you will not get your reward during this lifespan. maybe you will be immortalized like your predecessors. maybe you will be greeted in the next life by a harem full of buxom, bountiful, pneumatic, ever-so-soft and smooth maids of heaven who are incredibly motivated and highly skilled artists ;p.

Craig D said...

Hey, if that weirdo-looking guy with the hugh afro can babble on about painting imaginary landscapes year after year on PBS, surely there is an audience for these theories and instructions you are providing.

I've been hammering away at them since May.

But does this benefit YOU? In my case most certainly not, as I am TWICE the upper-bracket age of the group you hope to influence.

Will any of this EVER benefit you? How'm I supposed to know? I ain't no Nostradamus!

Just put me down as being most appreciative of the lessons and the motivation to finally crack the binding on my 25 year old copy of Preston's book.

That is to say, "Thanks."

Anonymous said...

I strongly suspect that with this site (along with a few of the other good ones the ASIFA Blog, Mark Kennedy's site, etc.) you're planting the seeds of real renaissance in animation where new artists embrace all the old almost lost principles.

Give give those seeds time to sprout John...and DON'T QUIT!

You should also really put all this together in to a kick-ass book!

Anonymous said...

Aw man, don't quit! I've been learning from these lessons and taking them to heart and trying to get my artist friends to use them too!

I thumbnailed an entire 24-page comic and I'm currently re-doing the whole blasted thing based on these most recent lessons... they've really reinforced and made clear some of the stuff I'd been paying lip service to forever.

Although the downside is, the stuff on my blog is the crappy pre-John K-ification process, so I can't really show you anything to make you convinced I know what I'm doing.

Which maybe I don't, but at least I feel like I'm capable of doing whatever it is better than before.

This blog is a prime resource for me. I read the entries, sketch in my sketchbook, go look at other artists to see how they've applied these principles.

Well the 20s have passed for me but I've never developed that conservative gene... don't want it. Couldn't function with it. In fact, if I ever had it, it's been worn away by your relentlessly hammering these points in your blog.

Damn... I wish I had some art to show you but I'm in Japan without a scanner and all that stuff.

One of my friends is a young cartoonist from Brampton, Ontario, and she's been doing some work in magazines and campus papers. I've been pushing your lessons on her like crazy and hoping she'll start putting it all together. She's got skills and she needs a real teacher.

You're right about your entries too- they're definitely concise. Well written. Unlike my comment here.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah... and I guess I missed the point too. But yeah, you do need something in return.

And I mean beyond gratitude. Something concrete and kick ass from some of those really amazingly talented people who were doing your Preston Blair lessons.

Where are they now? Are they still around?

Trevour said...

isnt teaching outdated animation techniques kind of like posting a blog on how to use a telegraph???

That's one stupid thought. Really stupid. Oh, but an anonymous posted it - figures.

John, don't quit! It hasn't even been a year since you started this thing. It's sure opened up my eyes like everyone else. There's gotta be artists out there who are applying all of this theory and technique to their own projects right now. Great cartoons will begin to emerge in the very near future, thanks to this blog alone.

I also must thank you because I've discovered some great artists out there through these comments. Sure, there are plenty of 'fans' posting here, but there are also cartoonists and artists who congregate here and 'get it' when it comes to your discourse. They're starting to understand what it takes to make good cartoons - even if a lot of them suck at the moment (myself included).

Keep posting - it doesn't even have to be as frequent - because this is the blog I visit the most. And it's not just because I've always been a John K. fan - it's because I want to learn.

Nina said...

I've been reading and thoroughly enjoying everything you've posted ever since my cousin Justine pointed me to your blog. All that colour theory stuff—I've really been paying attention to it more when I'm painting. I'm not really a cartoonist, per-se, but I'm notorious for my storyboards here at film school. So, I appreciate all the stuff you put up here! Keep it coming!


Colpetto said...

hi jonh ,visit my blog...

I. Wolf said...

Unfortunately, you just aren't getting much out of it. It's costs you the time to write the posts and reply to the comments (which you actually do). And I'm certain that most (if not all) of us can't compensate you your going hourly rate to make it worth your while.

The only thing you have going for you is that this information is on the internet, where it will be archived for many years, and be referenced as a resource for those who find it. You're contributing to the contemporary history, and actively influencing at least 5% of the readership, and more who will have it lodged in their subconscious where it will eventually rear it's hear.

But in the end, like most things done for the public good, you will get nothing out of it for yourself to compensate for your time and effort, other than the knowledge that your assisting others, and maybe a good feeling.

In the end, it's still up to you whether you feel it's a worthy cause to persue, as doing something just for the sake of doing it isn't that fun and probably just adds to the stresses of life if you're feeling obligated to keep on updating often.

Lattaland said...

Jeez dude, way to make me feel old! Hey,I 'm learning so much from this blog- I 'm tellin' you- you're opening my eyes. I gotta long way to go!

Jamie said...

"Shitbitch said...

About the lessons; I don't own any of the PB books, and haven't been able to find them in any of the local stores"

Hey! You can ask any clerk at any Barnes and Noble and they can order it for you...its not the same book John has...but the lessons are the same, just no tom and jerry etc me, its worth it.

and to John!
I don't really know what I could say that everyone else hasn't already said. What do you get out of these lessons? Obviously you aren't getting any kind of satisfaction- which is perfectly understandable. Any other teacher in any other subject gets to watch their students grow in their abilities and talents where as you are denied that in this anonymous internet setting. Seeing is believing, especially now a days. I wish I knew someone with talent enough to inspire you to continue. Just think about how daunting that task is- the student good enough to inspire John K? I'm personally too intimidated to even show you my own work- but I HAVE been getting better and I suppose thats all I really have to offer.

benj said...

Keep the lessons up! I'm getting better because of you.

and as you said in a couple or a few years you might have a small army ready to help you make the kinds of cartoons you want with skilled and willing cartoonists...
It 'll pay off John... keep it up!

and BTW Thanks for all the free lessons.

Anonymous said...

Hi, John -

What do you get out of it? You get ripped off! You train artists and theyll go work for someone else! (I'd like to hire some skilled artists to work on my hack productions! - but Nick, CN & DW keeps hiring them)

Another thought: When I started in the Animation business, most of the "old timers" didn't want to share their secrets with young beginners. If you wanted to learn something, you had to really want it and work assisting the experienced artists, and little by little you learned. Giving this stuff away for free,a lot of people won't appreciate how valuable it is. If you work & struggle to learn something, it's important and you appreciate the value.

On the other hand - What you're doing on this blog is a great thing - You present a lot of ideas in a clear & logical form that is directly applicable to making cartoons - If you printed these as a correspondence course you could charge people hundreds of dollars and make some money off it - I don't understand the people who say they can't find the Preston Blair book at the store - THE DAMNED THING IS ONLINE!

Anyway, thanks for doing what you're doing

Kent B

ed press said...

thanks a lot for all this master-class online!

rex said...

Hey John! Please don't stop! Your recent posts on form, color, composition, and the awesome Lozzi interview are all amazing! I love getting all the tips from your blog. Maybe you should publish a book.
Whenever I'm blown away by a post on your blog, I always make sure to click on a bunch of the ads. I don't know if that helps much...

Anonymous said...

The people who are reading this will be geeks who liked Ren and Stimpy, since it seems, more than anything else to be your signature cartoon. I liked Ripping Friends all the same


but when people think John K in the cArToOn WoRlD first thing that jumps to mind will be R&S.

When I started college three years ago, I was 18, and with alot of people my own age, who, it appeared knew little or nothing of art. Mt art teacher kept pushing me to get an A in my 13th year exams, and these people I was thinking to myself probably got on the course with a D (not that that should give you a reason fo' hating them, just a bit dissolutioning about the nature of college). It almost appeared that the teachers were trying to train kids (who never had an interest in any kind of art to start with) into mad scientist genius. At the end of the year it looked like most people had turned into something they weren't, it was pretty weird... a girl who had come onto the course as a timid plain jane was now a fully fledged punk rocker dressed in as many colors as a parrot, and with all the clutter of a christmas tree. I don't recall talking to anyone with any real interest or artistic nature apart from my house mate, Matt, who was as eccentric as a cheese wheel. I recall watching the chart shows on the tube, and this industrial indie band came on, and he said 'someone needs to find a new way of playing the guitar whether it can be done or not.' Most people seemed totally clueless lacklusters who were only concerned about having a 'good time' and getting from college perhaps what 'high' [-_-] school
had denied them for the lion share of their teens. So college is a bit gay

It seems to where there is hope 'in anything' there'll be alot of folks telling you what you're doing is stupid. It seems to succeed in any media proffession (especially where art is involved) you go to the depths of madness to try and proove your points and cement them in your living art.

There's so many cartoons where you can point the finger and say that it was because of Ren and Stimpy that this thing exists and the creators will deny it, most Nickeloden animation has that.

Do yer not think that in your mid-late 40s you've outlived your creative genius?? And whatdya mean you changed the industry '3 times??' Didn't you just do that with Ren & Stimpy? You have that bravado character on Venture Bros. who resembles Crag alot, but I'm not sure that Ripping Friends completely change the industry...

Anonymous said...

Fahrenheit 451. You might be off in the woods right now but this blog and what you represent is inexorably becoming the definitive resource for what good animation and cartoons are.

Take solice in that fact that a stuffy uptight stereotypical attorney has been drinking his daily coffee from the Ren and Stimpy Smashed Mug for the better part of a decade. And when ever he sees his son, he has one question for him—“Have you found your stinky?”

ruairi said...


I was in a depressing animation college for three years and it threatened to suck all of my passion for cartoons away but this blog keeps me going, i'm on it every single day so thank you. But please don't quit, you might not get anything material for all your free lessons but many allies are listening intently. i did the Blair lessons but i never posted them and i'm sure there's hundreds like me.

It's my dream to one day work for you and this blog makes me believe that this dream isn't completely impossible.

Please,please,please do not quit.
Your ally, Ruairi.

Rodrigo said...

John, don't quit. My skills have vastly improved in quite literally a week. No bullshit. My fellow graduate students have raised their eyebrows and given me thumbs up for some recent drawings and animations I cranked out, but on the contrary my 3D modeling professor is getting irritated with me for going above and beyond my assignments. (He's a fucking communist in my opinion).

I will keep going, I'm on Preston Blair lesson number 4, so when you decide to make a feature length Ren and Stimpy movie, let me know.

Anonymous said...

Your efforts are not in vain. I'm about to graduate with a BFA in Animation/Illustration and I can't get it out of my head how dismal the job front looks. Not that there aren't jobs - but the industry seems like a cold-hearted place at the moment. Why hire me when you could outsource for much cheaper?
Anyway, I have a ton of peers who are reading your blog. Believe me, you have allies, and we appreciate what you're sharing with us.

JohnK said...

Hi Rex,

you're one of the ones I'd like to work with, but you'd have to get yourself to the functional level. My guess is you'll end up at Nick working on a "John-K. Style" show like everyone else does.

glamaFez said...

I always like to see examples of what NOT to do, along with the examples of what to do. The bad stuff throws an extra clear light on what's good about the good stuff when they are presented together.

PS: Don't quit.

Freckled Derelict said...

John DON'T QUIT!!!
The army you speak of will occur!!
By doing this amazing blog you are not only giving younger generations the tools they need but also the motivation to practice them by offering a chance to work with you as their prize!
You could be surprised by your mid twenties comrades too, were not all conservative zombies.

Anonymous said...

Please don't quit John! There are a lot of cartoonists who read your blog and try to apply the knowledge you post to their work. Maybe you should make it a pay service like Shane. Post lessons and give more hands on critiques to the subscribers. Make some money while training your cartoon army!

Cartoonists have no choice but to work at the latest 'John K Style Show'. They can't work for you since you don't have a show right now. Cartoonists need to pay the bills too and it's better to work on a half-assed cartoon then work at Starbucks or some sort of ad agency doing bullshit design.

Anonymous said...

If you quit John then we all lose. Please don't quit:( I beg of you!! I'm absorbing this stuff like a sponge! I need KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge only you can provide. You may not see it now but there will be very succulent fruits from your hard labors. Trust me.

Anonymous said...

Whaa!!! Don't quit John! I need your knowledge. I absorb these blog lessons like a sponge! You're easily the greatest teacher of all things art. I'm not going to learn this stuff at community college. If I don't learn it from you then I don't learn it at all. So please don't quit. I promise you, the fruits of your labors are real. You may not see it now, but your lessons will pay off.

anna said...

please please please don't quit. I just started drawing again for the first time since forever, and I just recently found this site along with the temple of the seven camels. There are a lot of people, like me, who have never been exposed to _any_ kind of systematic/formal training or schooling. I never really knew how people learned any of the things you've shown: I was always told a person either had enough talent or they didn't. If you had the talent, you'd figure everything out, if you couldn't figure it out, then you don't have talent so no hope for you. Your site is showing people like me to see and think about what we make, and most importantly, that there are skills that we can learn and work at to get better. I just want to be better: I want to make what's on the page look like what's in my imagination. I've been burning up the internet trying to learn and learn. Please don't quit. I just bought the animation book this weekend, and I'm getting my website up for the lessons you started!!

please please stay: I have to learn.

anna said...

oh yeah, if I ever got good enough that you would want me for one of your cartoons, I would be there so fast you'd think I'd been living in your sock drawer. Please don't quit. Fight the good fight, man. You got some new recruits (even though some of us are still wet behind the ears!)

Pedro Vargas said...

John! Man, you have no idea how much I love your lessons! I love your lessons and they're fucking free!! I know I'm not saying much, but what people here are saying is true. Don't go. I reccomend everyone I know to go to your blog to learn about real cartoon art and animation! I tell it to my friends even my professors and they totally agree with all the points you make. People miss good cartoons and great animation. They tell it to me all the time. As for me, Hell, I practice all the time. I always look into the Preston Blair book for inspiration and get inspiration from different artists from past and present. If it weren't for you I wouldn't have known so much about cartoons. I think I would've turned into a brainless hack doing nothing! Cartoons are my life. I'd be nothing without it! And for it to just wither away and die would be an awful thing to watch. I try to motivate people as much as I can to watch good cartoons and to actually analyze them. Go to my blog. I've been learning alot from you and I think it shows in my art.

P.S. I also came up with a notebook to draw and write information on artists who influence me. I got the idea from when Shane Glines posted that comment on your post on the importance of influences. I'll make a post about it in my blog as soon as I can!


Anonymous said...

Dear John,

You should simply turn this into either an online school, think animationmentor, but without CG crap, only pure 2D instruction, or a physical school in LA.

In fact, you should hold a physical school in the Los Angeles area. You could have interns that come directly out of your school and work on your projects.

Now maybe some will hop over to Nick, but 'F em - you'll have more coming up through the ranks. If you're on their tails training them, you'll never run out of talented folks in that green phase before they get greedy. Heck, even you admit you want people green before the conservative hormone kicks in - well think of Nick and others as being a nursing home for your artists once you got some good out of them. And for the truly loyal - they'll be there with you.

Anonymous said...

And here's one more thing about the school bit.
Do you realize that right now there are little operations going on in LA that are inferior to what you would do:

How do you feel about such things?

JohnK said...

>>Cartoonists have no choice but to work at the latest 'John K Style Show'. They can't work for you since you don't have a show right now.<<

I do have work, enough for a couple stars.

Patrick said...

I also believe you should collect all these posts and PUBLISH!!! Although there might be several legal implications in using all those examples! Copyrights and what-not.
I see your blog as a GIFT to all of us! You are SO Highly Reguarded among us artists!
Thank You for your insight!

adam H said...

I'd cry sobbing, sobbing tears if you quit! My story's a bit like ruairi's... I've read this blog nearly every day since I found it & have honestly learned more in less than a year from you than I have in the soon-ending 3 years of college I've paid entirely too much money for. I do my best to apply the principles & I can see my work quickly getting better. Everything I do I try to tear apart & make it better. I don't have anything recent online but I can honestly thank you for making my stuff better.

You're a tremendous souce of inspiration, being my cartoon hero and all. If you quit, my dream of ever working for you dies with it. I know I'm not good enough yet anyway, but the thought of even the slightest possibility creates a tremendous fire underneath my ass. I'm damn sure that I'm not the only hopefully that'll create a newer generation of artists with a good sense to change things around as soon as they have the skill & ability to do so.

Don't quit, someone said, the animation world still needs you, perhaps now more than ever.

Anonymous said...

what do you want?


JohnK said...

Cash and a handful of really creative cartoonists who hate mediocrity and have the skill and talent and will to make fun cartoons.

Not too much to ask for.

Every other studio would benefit from it and cartoons would evolve again.

Frank Forte said...


Your Blog is probably read by the entire Animation Industry. I personally use your theories in practice and professionally all the time. Your blog is very informative. The images you posted with the HB color Bgs were great. Now I'm going to buy the H Hound DVD set and study the colors. You can tell by the responses that many students look up to you and take your theories to heart. They probably learn more from you than their professors. What do you get out of it? It's obvious cartoonists respect you and your work. Many of us study your theories. That should be enough. We all want to see you get another show. What's going on with Paramount and R&S? Any news on George Liquor? These bastards greenlight enough crap.

Anonymous said...

John! I'm learning to draw all over again with the 100,000.00 drawing course and reading your posts everyday! Please don't quit, but if you need to take a break it's understandable. You've posted so much info! Thanks. By the way, can I ask you how are you getting your drawings into the computer? I've been using ToonBoom and drawing from with a Wacom tablet. But it takes forever to get it right. I discovered a scan mode where you can trace over a scanned drawing. Is that how you get your drawings into the computer? (rookie question here, but gotta know!) Chris

JohnK said...

>>What do you get out of it? It's obvious cartoonists respect you and your work. Many of us study your theories. That should be enough.<<

As Jim would say, "Can you EAT respect?"

A cut would be a more sincere form of respect.

Anonymous said...

More and more kids are coming out of "animation" schools knowing how to manipulate software, but not pencils or minds.
Your blog is sorta like first aid to the festering sore the industry is becoming. For centuries people died from simple infections that could have been prevented by basic hygeine. If they'd have read their bible, they'd have known that all along (in Leviticus somewhere I think) there are a couple verses about washing your hands before you treat a wound. To belabor this analogy, you are like an ancient prophet. Artists should be learning and absorbing all of this info already on their own (few of your sources are new), but we need your stern guidance to get us out of the desert.
So please don't stop.
And try growing a huge beard. That might be a good look for you.

Frank Forte said...

Why not publish a book? Amid's Cartoon Modern has done very well. I'm sure a design book by you would sell like crazy. CARTOON DESIGN by John K. I'm sure Chronicle books would publish it. Or teach a class/seminar at one of the local animation schools. Or put up a paypal donation button. Better yet, sell a show so you don't have time to blog!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm 20 about to be 21 i'm getting close to those mid twenties you mentioned, but i've been reading your blog for about 6 months now and i work everyday on what you mention, my work has a long way to go, but johnk without you i would have never bought the Preston Blair book, and for sure would have never taken up drawing again.

seriously, if you stop these lesson i'd probablly end up going back to thinking that its ok for cartoons like family guy to be extremely painful to watch. And i'll probablly also end up going back to thinking that pinks purples and blues are the only colors available for the sky.


Please visit my page and maybe you'll see the fruits of your labor.

Still: every since I started reading this blog I've started to notice quality. I always knew some things were better than others but now I know why, and its because I've been reading these things and now I can start applying these things into my work.

I just hope you get back into the business and that the cartoon industry will start pumping out good things instead of crap like Family Guy.

Raff said...

>> What do I get out of it? <<

An emerging cult of good artistry, and healthy competition. VERY good for you. My thoughts:

You've stated clearly that you're looking to train artists on this board specifically for you yourself to hire. Inevitably, not everyone who uses these lessons will want to work on your productions, and indeed many may work for bigger companies to make a living.

But, as you know, there's new technology now. There's Flash (thanks partially to you) and Wacom tablets, and lots of new software being developed to enable an artist to realize his/her work without the corporate politics. You brought up Jessica Borutski who was doing full animation by 18 and that I Like Pandas think she could have done that in the 80s? And more importantly, new channels of distribution, broadcast and reception are opening up. Even if you or I aren't paying attention because we've "seen it all before", a new generation is picking it up and ignoring bloated old TV.

My point? It is my good faith, I repeat, GOOD FAITH that there'll be a new camp of creators on the horizon. I reckon they're working on it now.

Since things go in cycles, amateurism will go out of style - people will be sick of it - and these new young turks will have used information from blogs such as yours, ASIFA, etc. to develop real skills and use them to compete against one antoher.

Through healthy competition, they'll raise the standards higher and higher. And you, being entrenched in an environment like that, will get inspired to come up with ideas you never thought you'd come up with. Wouldn't it be great to be inspired by living artists and not just dead ones? Plus, you'll have an existing scene to fit into (read: you'll get more help from others with resources and money instead of going it alone).

Max Ward said...

The big reason why I want to get into the animation industry is to work for you. I apply every lesson you give for my own sake and for yours. I don't have a scanner, but I could send my drawings to you in the mail. I take all of this very seriously. If you quit, I don't know if I would want to work in animation in the future.

Anonymous said...

that's a good idea frank. John you could easily do that from cafepress without all the big publisher hassle.

Sally said...

I know blogging can be strange sometimes, since you're broadcasting out to the readers and often don't get feedback, even if folks are reading and enjoying your write-ups. I've been lurking on your site for a while and I love it, please don't stop!!

I have been drawing rather informally my entire life, if you asked me what I was going to do when I grew up from as early as 5, I would have said "I wanna be a cartoonist!" But, pressure from my parents led me to pursue a more "safe" career. I wish I had gotten more formalized training in illustration in college, but I still draw every day and doodle through every boring meeting.

Now I'm working on a comic book about my experiences as a NYC bike messenger right after 911, and I visit your site for instruction, and also inspiration.

Thank you!!!

tedtoons said...


How about this?: tap this resource of your online adherents to complete an original John K cartoon (sort of a "thesis project"). Use your online instructions as a way of "testing in" participants. I'll bet you could find a lot of talented people out there, willing to work on spec*--and under your explicit direction.

I've seen it come up on other animation forums: "hey, let's collaborate on a cartoon..." but it always lacks someone with the vision and authority to lead it. You could certainly pull it off, if anyone could. And I'd bet there would be a marketable outside interest in the result (as well as the process).

*Something for your lawyers to write up, but the end result will be owned by you, to be exploited however you see fit. Participant artists would agree to "X". (perhaps some kind of profit-sharing--pending any profits realized; or flat fees, pending...; hell, you could probably get artists to work just for the bragging rights of saying they worked on it. I would.)

The time you're already taking out of your day to manage this little experiment in instruction could be time invested in an experiment to redefine the animation industry.

Jeremiah said...

I do hope you continue, though my reasons are selfish. This blog has been a monumental inspiration. You're giving us solid principles to hone our skills and sharpen our senses, and a sorely needed kick in the ass to USE these principles and not get stuck in our heads with theory.

Cartooning is just a hobby for me, but I'm finding myself applying these principles to other areas in my life, particularly filmmaking and acting. How will this benefit you? Time will tell, I suppose.

If you stop now, there's always the risk of people spreading bastardized versions of these teachings. Students will dogmatically repeat ideas they barely understand. They'll found a Church of Kricfalusi, which will either become powerfully corrupt or just a laughing stock, no matter how much you try to denounce it.

Then again, this might happen even if you continue your blog.

Oh well. I tried.

Corey said...


just teasing. yes, please continue. even us hopeless over 20 animation students find your posts useful.

Freckled Derelict said...

John if money is the big issue why don't you start a subscription based web site like cartoon retro to raise funds for your cartoons?
The only down side is that it probably wouldn't reach the young and impressionable as well as your current blog since their parents might not pay for it.

Bill said...

John, your blog is the best thing out there right now for animation. You won't see an instant turnaround in the state of the industry, but the seeds have been planted. I read every day and always learn something new. Please don't quit now! VIVA LA REVOLUCION!!

Anonymous said...


I don't believe you actually thought about quitting. Anyway, I read your blog every day, I'm 19 years old, I study in a lazy south-american film school, and I could cry if you stop posting this kind of stuff, ...but I'm almost sure you won't do that.

Anonymous said...

You are doing God's work.

Anonymous said...

Please don't quit. I read your blog nearly every day. I live on Maui and hate my job as an engineer, for the same reason most anybody hates their job in America today, the very reasons you spell out in this here blog: imagination is always punished. For efficiency we trade so much. Reading this blog is one of the few sources of sturdy opinion that helps me, and many of my friends (we never comment because we feel that most of it would be superfluous, or even a pat on the back, of which you have plenty) get through our days.

Watching the world become genericized and paved over is depressing enough. Please don't leave us. I've been smoking myself retarded every night for the past two months and watching the Ren & Stimpy Season 1-2 DVD and the Adult Cartoon Party DVD. It keeps me sane.

Thank you for what you've done so far, but please don't quit.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing to compete with you. I already posted the link a lame example of what's here. You need to Teraform this town to your liking.


I'm serious John, what's your take on making your own school in SoCal?


Max Ward said...

You should sell a book on cafe press. Have extremely clear and indepth chapters about artistic principles, other chapters about your cartoons and an inside look at the former spumco animation studio.

Jorge Garrido said...

>Cash and a handful of really creative cartoonists who hate mediocrity and have the skill and talent and will to make fun cartoons.

Would you have discovered Kali if you didn't have your blog? What about Marc? It's working John, it's just that people like me are too thickheaded. Don't quit, there's lots of great youngsters!

Kevin's doing them, and he usually has the best comments, so you know he knows about cartoons:

David O. has tons of great lesson posts:

This is hte best site on the internet, if it ended now it'd be when Clampett quit Warners in '46.

Jorge Garrido said...

I frogot, the Archive has links to all the people who did the lessons:

At the end, where it says "Links to this post"

JohnK said...

I would happily found a school, but have no idea how to go about doing the business of it. I would need a partner who can run it.

I have the curriculum worked out.

A real non-hippie-art school would certainly spark a revolution and bring back quality cartoons against the will of the established industry.

Max Ward said...

You should do occasional classes at the archive. I'm sure you'd actually have to get a bigger place than the archive.

Fire Exit said...

Quick question:

How come everyone else who is doing your lessons uses fancy coloured red and blue pencils, are they any harder to rub out than normal black pencil?

And can you get coloured lead for mechanical pencils?

JohnK said...

Don't ever use mechanical pencils!

Unless you want stiff robotic drawings...

colerase blues and reds are pretty good for rough drawing

then clean up with 2bs or softer-depending on the brand.

Danne8a said...

Please don't quit!
I apply all this knowledge to my my sketchbook daily!
Even when I get home exhausted from work, I still take time out to apply this knowledge to my drawings!
We all appreciate the knowledge you provide!!!!!

Anonymous said...

So John, are you scanning your drawings into the computer and tracing over them with a wacom pen or just directly drawing them in Flash? Is there and area within the archives that might have this kind of info?

Thanks man!

Serge said...

Hell john the reason i want to be a cartoonist is to change the goddam industry, im sick of all the slackers that make cartoons nowadays.
Right now im working at getting better and your blog helped me get into the right direction. Id be glad to help you and join your little cartoonist army in a couple of years.

If you dont mind working with mexicans of course.

Josh "Just What the Doctor Ordered" Heisie said...

Well at risk of repeating things or saying things you don't want to hear, I can't send you millions of bucks, but I'm seventeen years old and sure as hell sucking everything I can out of your lessons, and I'm insufferably grateful for it.

Like somebody already mentioned, after the color posts my 'eyes have been opened', and I quite seriously see things in a different and critical light. I don't have any of my own stuff good enough to back that claim up, but I'm practicing.

Please don't stop. By the way, what ARE you working on now? Now that the music videos are done?

PCUnfunny said...

"I wish there was a way for me to know that this is doing any good. I'm kinda thinking about quitting."

Please don't say things like that John. You have influenced people who actually have an apperication for the art of cartooning on the web.

Desiree said...

Hey John
No NO, there aint no quittin gona be going on anywhere round here. Certainly not from us (learners). And indeed we are learning and don't wana stop.

All this stuff you've been saying, is exactly why i went to college and was so dissapointed when I soon realized I wasn't gona learn anything and they wasted my years. I'm very angry! THough I wouldn't know whereelse to look to find this info either. Well, but now there's your blog and i read it everyday. My drawings have gotten so much better, I draw expressive faces now (let alone faces thanks to your charicatures inspiration) I've just started animating lipsync (uni never taught that either..) I'm 3D modelling now which i never thought I would do, I paint using fucking photoshop which I hate becuase i wana clean up my stuff as pretty as yours, I learned so much especially about storyboarding, framing, and mood, staging and not to mention Layout WOW I love your layout!! If I hadn't discovered you a year ago I would be just as dumb and desperate now as I was then.

I'm also working on my shortfilm now that Uni has prevented me from doing for the past 3 years, well now Uni is done and I'm doing it and trying to implement everything I've read on this blog!! I go to work (modelling), come home 9 hours later and sit down to do even more artwork. Why? becuase I see I'm behind (my expectations) and sort of dissapointed with how little Uni has left me with to show and especially myself. Your work is so MOTIVATING and your lessons are so clearly and simply presented.
People that work for you or Looney or the old Silly Symphony guys Are Artists, they KNOW their shit and I thikn ure the only bridge that is willing to pass the knowledge onto the next generation of animators and so I wouldn't know whereelse to look to learn all this stuff from if u stop BLogging Mr K!

Stephen Worth said...

People continue to take the drawing course. A LOT more have begun the lessons since you put up the first one. Take a look at the links to all the blog links listed on lesson one...

Links To Lesson One

That list grows every day

See ya

Desiree said...

All the things uve taught us are a lifetimes worth of knowledge, so please bear with us as we try and implement this info in our own work.

You know, I was supposed to start my course at VanArts in Vancouver this year (yes a FOURTH year). BUt I decided to stay and get a job in the London animation industry instead (i hate london). i took your advice regarding animation school and I'm learning SO much and I'm having a blast like I haven't had in a VERY long time!
So Thank You for the advice and I really do appreciate it and probably should have told You much sooner. Very very very few people are out there that give Good advice for free and you're one of em!

cableclair said...

Would quitting make you truly happier? If so, by all means do it.

It would be a true true pity though,

I hope you realize you DO make the difference, with our without the please don't quit replies. That you know it in your heart.

The difference you make for me? You're one of the extreme rare people (1 out of 3 to be exact, and that's in 24 years) who manages to make me feel so gosh darn lazy slacker about myself when I don't give anything near 300% that I get my ass in gear and actually manage to get the concentration and dedication to the point where I forget to breathe.

I'm changing. I've already changed, the process already sparked and there is no way back for me anymore.
Anything less makes me feel like crap.

And that's the spark you caused, through all this. Might be a speck of dust for you, but it's huge-gantic-enormous for me.

Thank you.

P.S. Don't be bitter earwax. It always takes longer than you want to see the effects, but they WILL show up. Right now it's like you just planted a seed and expect a tree to shoot out of the ground at this very instant. You'll defenitly get some money out of it along the line, I think that is irriversable, money likes to mingle with success, and there is always ways to find money, you're creative enough, but you will also reap something that's worth more, that money can't buy and that nobody can take away from you.

Wicks for Candlesticks said...

God-damn John ,this whole topic has got me rilled up. I was thinkin' how it would be if we didn't get your daily posts. That would be depressing. You can see with the comments how much of an affect you've had on us. With this blog you've found talent to help you out on your projects. Like Jorge said, can we forget Marlo or Kali or your assitant Marc? Katie brought in a whole slew of fans to you when she showed your Hollywood caricatures. People who were wondering where their hero John K. had gone. The demand was high and you started this blog. I've never seen such a devotion to a blog. Please reconsider and keep on going. Eddie was right when he told you that your blog would change the state of animation. It's just going to take some time. Corporations are too deep in there but you will see a change and you will get your comeuppance for starting it.

-David O.

Anonymous said...

I would happily found a school, but have no idea how to go about doing the business of it. I would need a partner who can run it.

I have the curriculum worked out.

A real non-hippie-art school would certainly spark a revolution and bring back quality cartoons against the will of the established industry.

I don't know about the U.S. but in Canada, Quebec there is alot of private school that make deal with major university for specialize technic like cartoon.

Those schools actualy have teacher known to there skills in the real industry. Student are usually ready at the get-go.

I'll try to find some info about it.

Syrion said...

Hi John,

I doubt you never heard of sites like these before, but there are some online services to which you can upload designs/illustrations and they'll print it on demand whenever a customer wants merch with your design on it.

I recommend, of which you can find the details here:

Summarized (sp?), they have a fee for the item which is ordered, it's shipping and printing your illustration on it. You decide the margin/profit you want to make on it and he entire costs will be payed by the ordering customer.

Altough it doesn't pay you the time you spend in this blog, I'm sure there are enough readers who'd like to have merchandise with your illustrations on it. (This way you control the copyrights as well, and not some network/studio.)

Best regards,

Tjeerd 'Syrion' van Sas

(p.s. feel free to delete this comment, I just do this as an alternative to e-mail, since I can't find any of you. If you'd like to reply, my email-address is syrionmacal at

EIBass said...

Teaching is quite noble but has never been very profitable. Hell, you teach animation for free.

(Ass-Kissing) I'm NOT smart and I learn something new ever time I come to this blog.

(Pitch) What will it take to get a new cartoon from you on the boobtube ? Primetime or Saturday morning. I’m a dummy but I know Hollywood is all about who you know or who you blow. I wouldn’t condone the latter in your case so, who do you know? Financial backers, studio execs, great artists all of the above? If you spent as much time and energy getting new cartoons made I bet you would reap the monetary rewards. <== (HOOK)

I’m not saying you haven’t tried, just maybe try a different angle. (Inspirational BULLSHIT)

I think everyone could forgive you if you were busy with a production.(Guilt)

(Close on a favor)
But PLEASE don’t stop teaching until that happens.


Anonymous said...

John don't you dare stop with your lessons. I visit everyday and apply what I learn to my own drawings, as I'm sure many others do too. You open people's eyes to what quality is supposed to be like and how things are supposed to be done. Don't quit, we need your lessons.

Anonymous said...

Why not release a book if you want a cut? I mean, it wouldn't be as handy as a blog where you can interact with people and see if they can apply the knowledge themselves by seeing their own blogs, but it'd still be a chance to cash in on your vast knowledge, skill and experience.

For what it's worth though, your lessons and posts are great and I read through every word much like a lot of other people.

Gabriel said...

I thought it was time to read this post again. I'll never be able to describe the impact it had on me. It filled me with hope of evolution, but it also made me feel like crap for not working enough for it. But then again, that's one of the reasons I love this blog. It's just too easy to be lazy, and my big battle isn't even to become a famous cartoonist, but to avoid becoming stale.

JohnK said...

>>With this blog you've found talent to help you out on your projects. Like Jorge said, can we forget Marlo or Kali or your assitant Marc?<<

Marc is there, but I'm doing the art.

I like animation because it is collaborative. I like the mix of different styish artists. We make each other look better and inspire creativity in each other. That makes it fun and always new.

Anonymous said...

To War! To War! Cartoonist are going to war! To take back what the Jackal-networks are sucking the life out of. They want nothing but to line there pockets with blood money! Money made by people that create cartoons for the masses to be seen for generations to come. They get all the credit. And leave nothing but a dry skeleton when they are finished and then throw it away! We need to fight back start our own network, a network for cartoonists, it would be the most watched network on the cable systems. Not like Cartoon Network where some shows are so so. But a network of pure storytelling giants. Hollywood is running out of ideas and they are looking to the
cartoonists to help them make movies now! And then they change the stories to fit their so called molds to fit into marketing. Cartoons are fun and entertaining and profitable. But, if your in it for nothing but the money then you will produce crap that will only make you money, an leave you hollow inside. No sense of accomplishment.

Anonymous said...

the Spumco Network.

Anonymous said...

Teaching may not exactly pay (although if you get the right gig...)

BUT.....OWNING the University or school sure as hell does, not to mention the young girls.

JohnK said...

If you make something good, creative and fun, it will make tons of money.

I WISH the networks were greedy.

Anonymous said...

So they don't want to risk the money? You would think they would want to find things to make them more money then. I guess I had a wrong impression on how the networks are. Sorry, about the last statement then. See you taught me something there, John. Thanks.

kungfukoi said...

Dude, if you don't share this information, it won't be available.

You are creating a resource that I'll use for the rest of my career.

What you are teaching can be applied to so many things IN ADDITION TO cartooning.

You are teaching principles of art that just isn't taught in todays computer-using world.

I'm re-teaching what I learn from you to my artists here at the studio. Granted not working on cartoons, but the rules apply to "appealing" design and visuals in general.

Dude it's gold.

Jordan lang said...

-"I don't build in order to have clients. I have clients in order to build."

-"The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.'

-"Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision."

-"Anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today."

-Ayn Rand

You're a randian figure if I've ever seen one, John. It's in your nature to keep "tilting at windmills", isn't that what you "get out of it"? If blogging isn't the way to go in recruiting your next batch of talented individuals, I'm sure you'll find another path.(selfishly, I hope you keep it up, free education and enlightenment!)

Anonymous said...

Spumco University

Dean of Students- John K.
Dean of Theroies- Eddie F.

First year-
Pie Pirates 101
Layout 321
Gags and Funny Ideas 207
How to sell a Cartoon to netwroks 107

queefy said...

Try to get in touch with Howard Stern. He has his own television thing on cable. Maybe he'll be interested in a show.

Joseph said...

People are reading. I don't have any artistic talent, but I do enjoy them. Please keep it up.

Cayen said...

I'm learning from your posts, and sucking in free knowledge. All the while I'm having to untrain things that have been taught to me.

Anonymous said...

Mr. K-

You've really taught me more then college did - please don't stop. I'm using all of your lessons (with many fun ones of my own) for a new self-published graphic novel. It already has your stink up in it. You can't leave now...(puppy dog eyes).

Regardless, your passion for sharing the craft is an inspiration. Thanks so much!

JohnK said...


Why not release a book if you want a cut? <<

Cause I'm not a publisher. If a publisher was interested of course I'd do it.

bclark said...

amazing blog, keep up the work, it is like visual eye crack and redbull all at once. My wife will think I have a problem if she knew how often i visit this site and read and re-read the info...and pass on your site to others. I think my friends are tired of hearing about it now but I keep sending them the same link going..oh!oh!new update, read it READ IT:)

thank you for your time and shareing of info, don't stop.

Anonymous said...

Can't tell you whether to give up or not but as I'm sitting here in a hotel room in Torrence thousands of miles away from my home in Michigan,
still busting my ass late at night for the advertising gods even after putting a 12-hour day in a local studio...

...have to tell you that I do appreciate your blog as well as your work for the past 20 years. While many people in my situation would resign to continue as a corporate cog, I can't give up cartooning and all aspects of it - I know because, forgive me, I've tried.

I still don't have any realistic expectation of making a living from it so I settle for drawings in my sketchbook, producing the occasional mini-comic, and sharing what slight knowledge and skill I have teaching cartooning to local kids once a week in my spare time.

So if an unrealistic hack like myself can't give up, it's hard to fathom that you would. Granted, I don't know you personally but man, even after all the commentary already posted here, ryan g. in the very first post nailed it.

Regardless, your work has at the very least earned my unwavering respect - more power to you whatever you do.


Oliver_A said...


i have been reading you blog now since you started, and while I am no artist, I am interested in art and cartoons. Thanks to your lessons, I can finally put in words what actually IS so horribly bad about today´s state of animation, and I am pretty sure, that a lot of non-artists reading your blog are feeling the same.

What I´m trying to say is: you are not only training young artists here, but also THE AUDIENCE, who is watching the crap produced today, but can not really articulate why they do it, because they have the feeling catoons are supposed to be primitive and inferior, and have always been this way, so why bother?

In your blog, you are showing us that this doesn´t need to be, that we, as an audience, have a right to demand better cartoons. You are training our eyes, and our senses. You give valuable information what cartoons are worth watching.

So PLEASE DON´T STOP YOUR VALUABLE LESSONS here! You already made a huge difference here with me. I´m VERY positive that I am not the only one.

So again, please DON´T QUIT here!

Your fan

Oliver Achten

Karen said...

Here are some words that come to mind: backbone, legacy, inspiration, simplicity, rebel.

Mr. Joel said...

If nothing else, you've given this comix and animation fan the mental language for WHY I hate so many modern works. You think Shrek is bad (and it is), try seeing all the kid's shows that play in my house. DragonTales is the KING of flat, ugly, pink, and purple.

Anonymous said...

Your lessons will benefit your legacy just as much as anything else you create.

Jack Ruttan said...

Your writing is very inspiring, and the blog is a great medium for putting it across (hope it hangs around, or is saved, for posterity).

Keep it going for as long as it feels valid to you. You've already done a lot. I wonder how Preston Blair would have felt had he had this degree of interactivity with students, fans and other artists?

Of course, there's always a percentage of jerks, but please ignore them.

Lastly, I'm hoping more artists try to learn the biz, and get a knack for attracting money. (ie. become producers). Or at least hook up with producers who pay the bills and don't second guess (I'm a TV writer for a documentary show, who gets pretty deluged with contradictory 'notes.') Art is part of my story-telling imagination, but right now the writing is what's keeping me off the streets.

Ryan said...

you can't quit and you know it.

Greg said...

Top 5 reasons not to quit this blog:

1. This is by far the best record of the history of animation, ever.
2. As an artist you point out details that us, (me), the viewers miss.
3. Your passions for learning, teaching and living are expressed in a very entertaining way.
4. The lessons you teach in color, texture, expressions and all the others have made me more aware of everything I experience - from my job, to my kid, to writing or just watching TV, everything now seems to have more depth.
5. If you don't do this no one else will - then we all lose.

Anonymous said...

"JohnK said...

Don't ever use mechanical pencils!

Unless you want stiff robotic drawings..."

Woah, All I use is Mechanical Pencils..I dont think my drawings are stiff!

Anonymous said...

John, seriously--you could self-publish a book a la Shane Glines' two recent titles and not only would it certainly make a healthy sum instantly, but with the evidence there of sales I'd think a major publisher would pick it up for conventional distribution.
These books are a far, far cry from the old "self-published" crappy-looking things that were all one could get made for years; these books of Shanes, which I'm sure were a cinch to design using Adobe InDesign or some such, are slick and lovely tomes. Anyway, just a suggestion.

mOo said...

For John:
Theres another person who fight for the right:
Reinventing Comics. The controversial 242-page follow-up to U.C. advocates 12 different revolutions in the way comics are created, distributed and perceived with special emphasis on the potential of Online Comics. Nearly every page seemed to step on somebody's toes, and the debates in the comics industry over comics on the Web have gotten increasingly heated since its publication. Reinventing Comics is the only book I've ever written that's been actually described as "dangerous."

Its not a comercial for buying it, is for Revolution!

Scott Mccloud say:

Any advice for young artists?


1. Learn from Everyone.
2. Follow No One.
3. Watch for Patterns.
4. Work like Hell.

arrowhead said...

"Try to get in touch with Howard Stern. He has his own television thing on cable. Maybe he'll be interested in a show."

I think he should work with Dave Chappelle.

Anonymous said...

Don't quit we're learning! What will it take for you to realize how many people are in your corner? Blood? 162 comments aren't enought? You need blood. Okay well i have blood, lots of it-- by the jar full. I have vats upon vats of blood in my car port, just looking for a new home... it okay if some of it isn't human?

your friend and "cartoon army cadet":

Chris Ouellette

Eric Brandt said...


I'm in art school, and I learn more from this day to day than I have in the last 4 years of college. I say, "Stay the course Captain". You can hire me to make you silly drawings next year.


Juan Carlos said...

I'm taking a traditional animation course right now in Mexico, and the first day the animator took out the Preston Blair books.

Maybe all hope is not lost.

I gave a link to your blog to all my classmates and we're all fascinated looking at your lessons.

I know we're a long way from California (we're at the center of Mexico), but seeds are being planted.

It IS appreciated. The hecklers are louder, but the people that appreciate your efforts are much more and also, more sincere.

Maybe you won't get a troupe of animators knocking on your door in a year, but I think the long term effect we'll be grander still. All those kids in countries were there is NO animation will be shown the way.

Now if you'll excuse I gotta go, I've still got 4 pages of PB to copy for my class.


Maxwell said...

Heeeeeeynow! For tha LOVE of GAWD stay with it man! I'm not as young as you'd like your students ta be, but my "conservative" drone gene has NOT been activated yet. In fact, I don't think I was born with one. I tell ya what, I'll be conservative and mindless when I'm unable to wipe my own ass! Deal? Til then, could you PUHLEASE, just keep sharing your passion with us?! And no, I ain't geeeeeeeey, I'm just tryin' ta pay you a totally hetero compliment! Hahahaa! Seriously John...thank you. You simply can NOT get this kind of education in school. In fact, I'm flabbergasted at how accessible and forthcoming you are.

Aaaaaaaaaand in conclusion...uhh..I'd like to say thanks. to ya later.

Anonymous said...

I started reading this blog back in april at the behest of a cartoonist* who freely admitted that you would hate his work if you saw it, but that you were inspirational to him.

First off, know that I am no artist, I fail at drawing in all respects, and quite frankly have no aspirations in that field. But, to hear you so highly praised I had to see for myself, and see I did. I have been regularly reading your blog since, and feel I have came away from it a bit more enlightened each time. I understand the theory behind much of what you say, and appreciate what you deem as the best artistic styles for cartoons.

This is probably like the atheist saying that a preacher has a fine speaking voice, but philistine or not I appreciate your work and your viewpoint, and most of all respect your desire to better the community of your fellow artists.

I like to think I’ve walked away from your blog each time with a new understanding of something, lately it has been finally understanding (and having put into words) why I enjoy the aesthetics of many of the backgrounds of classic cartoons. I would have never picked up on exactly why without your pointing it out, I just knew “I like the look of that” and never analyzed further.

If your words can enlighten me, the most artistically dull of your readers, then surely imagine the good you must be doing for those who can actually apply your lessons. As for bettering the world of art, all I can really do is to say that as a consumer, armchair critic, and most of all, as a man who guides children, that I know quality work when I see it and will do what I can to make sure that appreciation of the old styles does not diminish in my presence, be it involved in debate with my fellows, or showing my nephews the great works of yesteryear.


Gesh said...

It's refreshing to see an artist who consciously understands their artwork, and why it works. I'll miss reading your blog if you decide to leave. Since finding your blog I've bought several figure drawing books, preston blairs books, and learned quite a bit about the history of animation. Although I don't agree with your criticism that modern cartoons are "flat and boring" I love that you are knowlegable in your criticism, and that you explain your reasons. When you decide to host auditions for your cartoon army I will make sure I have something great to contribute!
PS. Since art school sucks so much, I would love to hear your advice on approaching an artist regarding apprenticeship.

Saul said...

Man, the knowledge you are showing is so vast and deep, that I'm lost in my ignorance.

But anyways be sure you have an ally in this humble artist wannabe.

Master Grumpins said...

this stuff your putting up here is super interesting . keep giving out the treats for the kids.

Master Grumpins said...

this stuff your putting up here is super interesting . keep giving out the treats for the kids.

Anonymous said...

Mr. K, I just turned 43 and am beginning to look at doing animation for my own edification ( and that of my friends/family/whoever else might enjoy it). Being able to pick the brain of some one whose work I enjoy AND who takes the time to go back and treasure and break down classic innovative work is something I have to acknowledge and appreciate. I hope you continue to blog, as I too am always here checking on updates.

Steve Buccellato said...

Good God! Please don't quit! I just 'found' your blog 2 weeks ago!

Anonymous said...

My gosh John. Please don't quit. I don't have anything pithy or brilliant to add that hasn't already been said.

I only wish I was younger and had fewer bad habits to break down (and more time on my hands) to get good enough to volunteer to work for you. That would be such an honour.

The day you started posting the animation lessons was a day that had a huge impact in my life. I may never be productive or even get a chance to work on "real" animation. But now I've got the language and the skills to help my daughter appreciate and learn what makes quality animation and what is just plain crap. I may be too old to fight the revolution by being in the army. But I can help ready the next generation.

Thank you for your generosity in giving your time and expertise.

MickFred said...

gawd there's a tonne of waffle on here. if you want a hand John gimme a shout.
all the best- Mick

Anonymous said...

I've just discovered your blog. I'm 31 and doing an MA and finding all this stuff extremely very largely useful. Don't quit, there'll be people like me (and much younger I hope) discovering all this for years!

Timefishblue said...

Please don't quit!
This blog blows my mind with every post and has made me think of all art differently
This blog is a beacon of hope

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...


I would've said something earlier, John. I would've normally been one of the first to post and say you shouldn't quit....

...but thanks to you and the prospect of FINALLY getting to work on a cartoon I know I would enjoy working on...I WAS TOO BUSY DRAWING TO NOTICE!!!

I've wanted to animate since I was eight and first saw Mighty Mouse with you and Bakshi, and haven't auditioned for a job since last week when you posted the George Liquor drawings.

You give us that power enthusiasm and encouragement, John. Don't take it away.

Please? Here, take my five bucks! I know I'm not worthy!

- trevor.

Max Milfort said...

varun said...

Thanxx a lot Sir!!

I really find your posts helpful and they have helped me refine my sense of art , also told me a lot abt my shortcomings and how to improve them. You have done a BIG favour to animators like us who find it hard to learn from right people like you.

Thank you again and if GOD wishes, we,ll surely work together someday.


Varun Rampal

Brenda said...

I'm 18, I'm gonna go to Art Center, I wanna work in Animation and I would be so honored to be part of the great craftsmen who help you with your work!

Thanks for all the tips John!