Wednesday, May 07, 2008

COMPOSITION 1 - For Layout and BG artists - part 1 - Framing


Mary Blair is not only great at color, she is great at composition. A lot of young (and old) artists who say they love Mary Blair's work think they like it because it is simple and stylized. They miss what's really important in her work-fantastic art principles-like composition, the way she arranges the parts of her pictures into a clear and beautiful, functional statement.
Her art is completely logical.

So should ours be.

I see many so-called "stylized" cartoons today -the flat ones- that are cluttered with wonky flat shapes tossed onto the screen in no coherent order, as if they just fell onto the page and where they landed, there they stayed.


Composition is another lost principle of modern cartoons.
This is a big manual all about how to arrange images
within your scenes so that they are easy to read
and aesthetically pleasing to look at.

I made a series of manuals to help service studios
understand the Layout drawings we would send them for The Ripping Friends
because we found they would throw out all of
Jim Smith's, John Dorman's and my drawings and
redraw them in a cluttered, stiff, evenly spaced
wonky style.

The manuals didn't work because they were never opened,
but maybe you can find some use for the principles within.
If you ever want to do layouts or BGs for me, please learn this stuff first.











Continued...

29 comments:

Jennifer said...

Hi John,

Is it possible to convert the complete manual to a PDF format and offer it for download, or do you just have a hardcopy version of the manual? This would be a good thing for layout/BG artists to have as a reference.

-- J

Raff said...

I really like that fact that you explain why instead of just saying "do this - the Renaissance guys did it, don't do that it looks amateur" like everyone else.

Cartoonretro said...

I think these two illustrations are good examples of strong framing and silhouette: cartoonretro.com/forumimages/nelsoncomp.jpg

ncross said...

The Ripping Friends layout guide was easily the greatest and most informative animation guide ever put on paper. I read the whole thing a million times. I still have it too.

Anonymous said...

You should write a book; you're half-way there already.

Anonymous said...

Hey John,

Just wanted to say thank you for this blog.
You're performing a real public service here.
Much appreciated!

-Jeff

benj said...

Thanks a lot for sharing these notes with us John!
very inspiring and useful.

fabiopower said...

Hello John! please, take it easy, but… you would accept to a foreign student for qualification?
I must do an “assistance”(assistant?)about cartoons

Julián höek said...

thanks john and please moreeeee!!!!!!!!!

Jerome said...

An older guy once told me that a bad idea can live through a strong presentation.The compositions in mary's work is as equaly good as the quality of the art itself.Just like Will esiner.His panels and compositioning where used as a storytelling tool as much as his artwork and actual story.

Sebby said...

Thanks a lot for your blog, John. Its really good to have a pro with not only a critical opinion, but also a helpful one.
I've been noticing for the past several years now that it seems animation design is designed for animation designers, comic books are drawn for comic book artists, and children's books are illustrated for other illustrators. It would be nice to see creative people get back to who should be their main target - the audience (if they haven't been lost).

Sebby said...

Thanks a lot for your blog, John. Its really good to have a pro with not only a critical opinion, but also a helpful one.
I've been noticing for the past several years now that it seems animation design is designed for animation designers, comic books are drawn for comic book artists, and children's books are illustrated for other illustrators. It would be nice to see creative people get back to who should be their main target - the audience (if they haven't been lost).

Rodrigo said...

Kickass tips. I'm scheming up a personal animation project, and this stuff is invaluable.

I was reading over the production blog of "Foster's Home of Imaginary Friends", and my heart sunk when they showed the production process. On the wall, were numerous slits of paper pinned up as they typically are for storyboarding, but to my dismay they were filled with WORDS and not pictures. Giant fucking paragraphs on each piece. This was step one. Step two was even worst. . .a big thick pile of script. Absolutely no imagery. The next step was then the voice recording, and I didn't even bother finishing the read.

I've never been able to sit through an episode of this show, and now it makes sense why. The character animation is merely a recycling of pre-set rigs. Nothing new. Might as well make it a radio program.

At least people at Pixar still do it the old fashioned way.

Keep feeding me John.

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william wray said...

Great information, I'm not sure if the Milt Gross stuff is the best example as the has a tendency to get his figures to close to his frames , thus crowding the space, but he was brilliant and horse one is amazing. You touched on it well, but you can't place enough emphasis on:

Layout and composition is to lead the viewers eye. Balanced, same size elements are static and flatten, odd shapes when done right please the eye. and lead to to where you want the view to look. but you said that... Maybe you haven't got to elements that point to the characters as well as frame them and the dangers of tangents... I hope is coming.

Flutopia Unchartered said...

thnks so much for this one again John..you're sooo....i can hug you right now!!! thnks!! i look forward to your next post

Cornelius Danger said...

Dude, I'm addicted to your journal. Conicidentally, it's also very helpful to quasi-retarded teen artists!
Keep it up Mon ami!

-Danger

Nate Birch said...

Very helpful, I await the next parts...

Anonymous said...

Hi John

This made up for some interresting reading, I was looking for pics for my blog and stubbled across yours.
Is weird Al your creation?
Have a great day!

jsl said...

Hey John K.,

Just wanted to let you know that I'm using a lot of these concepts in my graphic design. I know what you REALLY want is trained animators, but perhaps the fact that your lessons have such wide application will give you some kind of fulfillment.

Or not.

:) -JSL

heidi said...

I love these homemade text book courses that you push us all to do, john. I have been dilgently doing all the lessons and have become a better artist because of it.

Swick said...

Hey John, do you have any commentaries on the new looney tunes collection?

Danelectro said...

Please do continue, this is of great value. My students will be forced upon this.

Matt J said...

Oh mama, thanks for sharing this GOLD!!

Anonymous said...

That stuff and the examples echo things Alex Toth was frequently harping on in his editorials and interviews.

I don't have any prospects of ever working in animation, but I am working on a comic book which I'm drawing in this kind of classic mode...

So this particular post is extremely helpful at this stage of the game. Reinforcing things I've been trying to put into my own drawings... and giving some great b&w examples.

mike f. said...

Whoa! Milt Gross, Harvey Kurtzman and Mary Blair in the same post. My head will explode!


...oh yeah, I almost forgot - and Kirby, too.

Anonymous said...

Who needs school. I can just read your blog each day!

Octav said...

these lessons are great! thank you so muuch for sharing