Friday, January 05, 2007

BGs and Style - part 1 - General Style Theory


katzenjammer studios said...

Hey John!

Could you throw all these sheets into a mini book or something? Are they already at the ASIFA Archive? I don't think I'd buy some expensive book, but if you made a bunch of cheap copies and spiral bound them, I'd fork over the cash.

I've found these uber useful. I'm directing other students on my Nickelodeon short, and explaining these principles can sometimes be very hard. It really helps to have concrete examples that you can't really argue with and that illustrate the point.

Anonymous said...

There is much to learn from you. You should put all of these pages you've been posting into a PDF, if you can. I'd download it in a snap. I enjoy all the help I can get.

Anonymous said...

pardon my ignorance but...

who has written this stuff
and who are the authors of the pictures?

Allan L. said...

Awesome! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks John, this is beautifully concise teaching as usual.

I don't think ANYTHING is an excuse to throw rulebooks out of windows. That's a common minunderstanding in our culture. Life is actually more fun and certainly much better looking with rulebooks.

Isaac Pohwat said...

That reminds me of something my design teacher once said. He said that thinking outside the box was BS because you're always going to have those boxes, the trick was to make it look like you never used them.

Great info Mr. K, now I feel like brushing the dust off my old design books and rereading all the basics.

Cayen said...

I agree with Katzenjammer. Make these into a book!

EIBass said...

Short and sweet. I always look forward to these. What a Great lesson.

Jorge Garrido said...

I see Chuck Jones, Speedy Gonzalez, and the last is obvious, but what is that second last one? It's almost symmetrical and I dislike the tractor being in the middle, but other than that it's a great picture!

>Life is actually more fun and certainly much better looking with rulebooks.

Chloe, you just said the most controversial and dangerous statement of the 21st century. And not just regarding animation or design, either.

Is this sort of the Sleepy Beauty vs. Mulan theory again, John? I find it fascinating.

tedtoons said...

Although I agree that a John K how-to would be welcome and awsome, part of the point he's been making is that you should already know this stuff. If you're an art or animation student and can't already name the elements and principles of design, then go punch your instructor in the family jewels the next chance you get.

Those fundamental design skills are why the old WB cartoons and their ilk look so good compared to so many of today's cartoons that just stab you in the eyebeballs.

Anonymous said...

who are the authors of the pictures?

The top picture is from Rabbit Seasoning (by Chuck Jones c. 1952)Layout by Maurice Noble and the next one is from Gonzales Tamales (by Friz Freleng c. 1957) Layout by Hawley Pratt.

Life is actually more fun and certainly much better looking with rulebooks.

I think a better point is that rules should be BENT rather than broken. Like the examples John just used, these abstract-type BG's are quite a departure from the more naturalistic ones from say Disney's The Old Mill or Bambi and yet when one analyses them both, they will see that all the elements of design are within both of them.

On a similar topic, I remember an art teacher I had back in University. He was a fine art eletist who looked down his nose at animation by the way (which is a very unfortunate part of too many art schools). He once said that "the egg shape is the hardest shape to draw". And, if you take a look at lesson 1 of the Preston Blair exercises, you will see that the guy's head is a perfect egg shape. That alone proves that Preston knew what he was doing.

Anonymous said...

Hi David,

I didn't say that rulebooks couldn't be bent. But you can't do anything useful at all in the COMPLETE ABSENCE and in ignorance of rules/structure, which is how a lot of art school ideology basically operates.

There is never any harm in learning, and I'm talking about craft learning, not buzzword-regurgitation learning.

There might be arguments about which rulebooks are the right ones, the art schools try to answer that ambiguity with a nihilistic vacuum, but that isn't the answer.

Which is why John's blog is such a wonderful thing.

The problems (with Art-bollocks) may seem monstrously complicated and philosophically tangled, but the solutions can be articulated comparatively simply. They should be, because you shouldn't have to be a scholar of literary theory in order to be a great artist.

Sorry to get into this crap.

Anonymous said...

Hi John,
I was wondering if you were ever going to make a book out of this.
I'm also an art teacher and this would make an excellent textbook for my students.

Anonymous said...

Thanks John!

I have been downloading every page you put up and now have a nice file with everything in it.
On your great comments on color, I have really tried to restrain myself, but still can't quite manage not to use EVERY SINGLE COLOR in the box on every blasted page, darnit! I'm on it, though...

Thank you so much, for your diligent efforts.

JohnK said...

My long experience of working with many many talents of different degrees of natural ability has shown me that you progress much faster and farther when you learn the "rule" first. I call them tools rather than rules.

If you don't know anything you don't know what rules youre breaking.

If you are a youngin' reading these posts, I would get to applying the rules right away and taking advantage of all this free and lost knowledge.

You will be much more creative after you know how things work.

Anonymous said...

Yeah! John said it better.

Sorry to bring up literary theory and philosophical tangles.

Eric C. said...

Hey John, I want to ask you something and I would really like your input.

I've noticed that you've been poking on Matt Groening and his comic strip style of cartooning alot and shoots on The Simpsons period.

I've heard that you've said something about the writters in 1994 so Matt and the Guys did 2 pokes on you durring the 4th season. I would like to know if you were offended by those pokes.

Plus when you remade the Jetsons, one of them was satiring The Simpsons to be flat CRUDDY Yellow cartoon characters from Twenty Century Fox.

Plus rumors said that you planned on or worked with Matt Groening on Boo Boo Runs Wild and he wasn't credited?

Well, just to sum up the question, Do you hate Matt Groening and his work or you think it's a cheap show or what is this satire about?

Maybe you can chat about this on your next theory.

_Eric ;)

JohnK said...

No Eric, I like Matt.

We together conceived of the idea to have the Simpsons appear on Ren and Stimpy and vice versa. Then Nickelodeon took over the show so I never got to put the Simpsons on Ren and Stimpy, but Matt went ahead and put Ren and Stimpy on the Simpsons.

Matt didn't work on Boo Boo Runs Wild. I don't know where that rumor comes from. I think he likes the cartoon though. He has come to watch that and my other stuff at retrospectives.

Anonymous said...

But you can't do anything useful at all in the COMPLETE ABSENCE and in ignorance of rules/structure

Absolutely. The definition of bending a rule is to play with its elements all while keeping the rule's original purpose in tact. That's something too many people forget.

And that's a big reason why some artists feel threatened by people like John K. saying "follow the old school rules". They feel as though their vision is being oppressed by this. However, what they don't realise is that there is room for creativity around those rules maiking it possible for endless amounts of artwork to come about.

Really, many times the most creative things came about by an artist being under someone's oppressive thumb. If they were smart, they came up with ways to work within the system yet subversively plant little rebelious elements throughout. John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln and Chuck Jones Bully For Bugs come to mind.

I guess the epitaph for this lengthy comment is: instead of trying to break a rule, study that rule so that you can learn how to play with it.

JohnK said...

Principles aren't rules. They are necessary tools that give you control over your brain.

If you have no principles, like David, you can never make a creative statement at all. You can only create anarchy that can be interpreted by an infinite amount of observers in an infinite amount of ways. ...If anyone is willing to observe it at all.

You learn principles to give you knowledge,ideas, skill, control and CLARITY so that you can manipulate your audience and make them see and feel what you intend them to, rather than leaving it to random chance.

No primitive should be offering their inexperienced opinions against the use of knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Great post. You've achieved what Webster failed to do. Defined style.

So hey, I have yet another friend who's digging your animation course. He's even sent me his "Lesson 1" drawings.

I've gone through the 9 lessons at this point (can't say I've "mastered" them), but I'm kind of at a wall now. Shall I upload all my stuff?

Kali Fontecchio said...

Those Flintstones and Yogi Bear backgrounds are, at this point in time, my favorites. The designs and styles are just so appealing. I hope analyzing them along with others will start to seep into my brain.

Jorge Garrido said...

Hey, Kali, is the tractor the Yogi Bear one?

To be honest, John, I'm afraid to even look at any Hanna-Barbera cartoons at this point! I don't want any style or angles to infect me while I'm trying to master construction. It's friggin' hard to draw faces on eggs!

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what the tractor is from.


Jorge! FOR SHAME! How could it be from Yogi Bear? Have you not seen Yogi? You've definitely seen the clips on John's blog here. It's pretty clear that it's not Yogi, Jorge.

Jorge Garrido said...

>Jorge! FOR SHAME! How could it be from Yogi Bear? Have you not seen Yogi? You've definitely seen the clips on John's blog here. It's pretty clear that it's not Yogi, Jorge.

*flustered face*

Hey, I didn't think there was a Yogi BG until you mentioned it! And yes, I've seen Yogi, it was one of the cartoons I was allowed to watch as a kid.

Which Yogi were you talking about? Did you mean one of John's older posts?