Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Harvey Eisenberg - Tom and Jerry comics - construction, difficult angles and other skills


Harvey Eisenberg was a giant among cartoonists.

He was a layout artist on the early Tom and Jerrys and then he migrated to doing comics in the 1940s.

He could draw almost everything well, because he understood all the principles of good drawing in general, and then good cartooning/animation principles on top of that.

He could draw a character and a background from any angle, no matter how difficult. This gave him a much wider canvas to create from than today's flat cartoonists who are limited by only being able to draw a small amount of poses and only in 2 dimensions. You might be able to imagine a certain expression pose and angle in your head but then find that your pencil won't give it to you, because you have been relying on drawing "by design" rather than learning your skills properly.



Construction and asymmetry

Difficult angles and great perspective


Varied and interesting compositions

Lively and fluid, yet solidly constructed poses

He can draw characters from any angle

Organic shapes and forms-even the shingles and chimney


Fun poses, his characters seem alive and motivated

These are the kinds of skills I think they should teach at cartoon and animation schools.
The more knowledge and skill you have at principled 3 dimensional drawing, the more creative choices you have to draw from.

Harvey could draw in many different styles. He later did Hanna Barbera comics more in the TV style, but they are great looking because of how well he could draw technically.

If you are young and are drawing in a flat stylized style, you are severely handicapping your creative choices and your future. Learn the principles well and you will be much more creative in the long run.
AND....YOU WON'T HAVE TO STRUGGLE SO HARD TO GET YOUR PENCIL TO DO WHAT YOUR IMAGINATION WANTS IT TO.


Here's more great info from animator Kent Butterworth:
Harvey Eisenberg started doing comics around 1943 at Timely (later Marvel) comics, then he and Joe Barbera started their own comic book company, Dearfield in 1946 with "Foxy Fagan" & Red Rabbit". Joe supposedly wrote the stories & Harvey did most of the art. (Jerry Eisenberg told me that Joe & his dad worked out of a small shed in their back yard)

After this, he drew Tom & Jerry comics (and other stuff for Dell) from the late '40s though the early sixties.

His style became streamlined in the '60s, but there was always a great sense of action and perspective in his shots. It was never "flat". He really knew how to show depth in a layout with a minimum of simple shapes. A carefully placed fence or picnic table would give a perfect sense of "camera angle" and describe a 3-d space, and then a real nice dynamic shape for the characters in motion in the scene (foreshortened so they are "in the scene" not flat like a model-sheet lineup). Lots of nice "low angle" shots so we could see both Tom & Jerry in the same shot (Jerry in the FG) and see the facial expressions on both of them clearly.

He makes it all look really easy and simple, but there's a lot of skill in laying out these panels.

25 comments:

sean said...

what exactly do you mean when you say flat and stylized?

i notice that i like it when things are first drawn 3d and then turned flat.

Jim said...

Wow, you can see the motion in some of these panels. Remarkable.

Fire Exit said...

This is some great stuff. Expecially the line of action on tjfc12.jpg.

Do Tom and Jerry usually talk though? I don't seem to remember them ever having a 'line'.

Kali Fontecchio said...

These are great! I love the poses! I'm gonna beat my brain up until I can think three-dimensionally.

Max Ward said...

Wow, I have never seen cartoon character comics that look as good, or even better than the actual cartoon its based off of.

Thad K said...

You're welcome for the scans. I haven't updated that site of mine in almost a year and should probably do so. Eisenberg is one of my very favorites.

Kent B said...

Harvey Eisenberg started doing comics around 1943 at Timely (later Marvel) comics, then he and Joe Barbera started their own comic book company, Dearfield in 1946 with "Foxy Fagan" & Red Rabbit". Joe supposedly wrote the stories & Harvey did most of the art. (Jerry Eisenberg told me that Joe & his dad worked out of a small shed in their back yard) After this, he drew Tom & Jerry comics (and other stuff for Dell) from the late '40s though the early sixties. His style became streamlined in the '60s, but there was always a great sense of action and perspective in his shots. It was never "flat". He really knew how to show depth in a layout with a minimum of simple shapes. A carefully placed fence or picnic table would give a perfect sense of "camera angle" and describe a 3-d space, and then a real nice dynamic shape for the characters in motion in the scene (foreshortened so they are "in the scene" not flat like a model-sheet lineup). Lots of nice "low angle" shots so we could see both Tom & Jerry in the same shot (Jerry in the FG) and see the facial expressions on both of them clearly. He makes it all look really easy and simple, but there's a lot of skill in laying out these panels.

Josh Lieberman said...

Beautiful
That panel where Jerry is pulling himself up on the window shade is absolutly brilliant

gemini82 said...

I love reading this blog every chance I can get. It be nice though if you could point to some actual resources for the young artist trying to learn principles of good drawing, outside of animated drawing (i.e Loomis books)

Even though you have posted information relating to good drawing principles, it be nice to have a recommend book list in addition to your blog.

Gabriel said...

hey john, what do you think of Andrew Loomis' 'Fun with a Pencil'? I've had a copy for years and there's a part on perspective, but it all seemed so daunting when i was younger. Maybe it's time to pick it again.

Rodrigo said...

Wow, this guy NAILS perspective.

Just yesterday I was looking over a scan from some sort of Disney layout guide, and they strongly discourage interesting angles because of the difficulty in getting the sizes and perspective right. The only angle they allow is a slightly overhead shot in case something important needs to be read or pointed out. (like a map on a desk).

And come to think of it, all the Warner classics used very straight forward perspectives.

The only type of cartoon that I can think of that extensively uses perspective (successfully) is Anime. Good anime has cinema-like cinematography. Spirited Away, anyone?

The straight forward staging however, only demonstrates how masterfully classic cartoons were animated. They can retain the audience without MTV editting techniques.

The exact same thing goes for the likes of Laurel & Hardy.

Kris said...

I used to go to antique stores and fairs to collect old Tom and Jerry comics as a kid. I think I have this one and a few others with art by Eisenberg. The expressions and poses are great!

I should get those old comics out from the box under my bed and have a look at them again.

gemini82 said...

Gabriel I know you ask John k about 'Fun with a Pencil' I thought I just thought I add my to cents about the book.

Well you be better off reading 'Drawing the Head and Hands' than 'Fun with a Pencil'. The majority of the information thats is "Fun" is in "HH" plus "HH" includes some additional material.

I think 'Fun with a Pencil' was geared more towards a younger audince, not that it isn't a useful book, there are better books with the collection.

P.S. Now back to your regularly scheduled blogger comments

Thunderrobot(aka Chet) said...

Hey John,

Im finally doing hardcore Preston Blair drawings, every day for 1-3 hours. Im glad you are trying to teach young cartoonist how to draw, i hope i can learn alot. Ill post some drawings soon along with the underlying construction.

Jorge Garrido said...

Thad, where the hell does a fellow 17 year old Canadian get these comics? I want stackcs and stacks!

hen said...

Please, John, be so good and tell us about the (nonexistent?) connection between simple storylines and stunning visuals / visual gags.

Because I wonder why so many wonderfully animated cartoons use the same A-versus-B-conflict, or an other overused plot like "kid runs away from home, gets scared by the cruel world and runs home again".

Rafi said...

For a while now I've been telling my fellow animators how this is the best blog around for inspiration and resources... and with every post it keeps getting better and better.

John, this stuff you keep putting out for us is like gold dust and is SO essential for where I'm trying to get with my art and technical skills.

You mention in this post that a solid foundation in all-round drawing skills is essential, and I fully beleive that too, but do you have a list of books or exercises that can keep a budding cartoonist focussed in developing these skills?

Thanks for creating such an awesome resource and keep it coming!

cheers,
Rafi

Lattaland said...

Man! I can't believe how good that comic looks! Usually, with the noted exception of Carl Barks' Donald Duck, comics based on cartoons are beat. I 'd love to find more of Eisenberg. His work would be better without the word balloons!

S.G.A said...

What exercises/practice do you do to develop skills like these as an artist?.... Perspective drawing, lifedrawing class?

Kent B said...

Loomis' "Fun With a Pencil" is an excellent book with a good basic explanation of perspective. It's out of print, but it's available online in PDF. You need to learn the technical stuff of "constructing" perspective to understand how it works - but I don't think you can construct a good composition using rulers. I have no doubt that Eisenberg freehanded most of this stuff (to get a good composition to tell his story) and then used a "perspective grid" to "true up" tabletops, etc. and work out tricky stuff like the window blinds and shingles on the roof. The basic principles of perspesctive are pretty simple: The "camera level" is where the horizon is placed in the shot - the camera is "looking up" at things above the horizon,and it's "looking down" on things below. Parallel lines recede to a vanishing point which is on a line with the camera etc etc. It's all in the book.

Josh Lieberman said...

>>And come to think of it, all the Warner classics used very straight forward perspectives.<<

Go back and watch any Frank Tashlin short
He'll prove you wrong

Rodrigo said...

You mentioned 3D character construction, and I suddenly thought about Bill Tytla. He was one of the first few animators who had any real art background for Disney, and his sculpting experience really shows, don't you think?

This day in age, I don't know too many folks who dabble with sculpting, but 3D modeling is kinda hip. If you model with the intention of quality, I think the same part of your brain is stimulated, no?

Also, here's something I threw together yesterday. It ain't much, but the drawings really flowed out. I think it's due to all those Blair lessons.

(BTW, stupid blogger shifted everything to the right a bit.)

What are ya???

I think I ought to copy more model sheets. . .

Rodrigo said...

>>Go back and watch any Frank Tashlin short He'll prove you wrong<<

Will do.

Bryan said...

Hey John, I'm a student at The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. I thought you might like to know that the program here is very intensive on the elements you discussed in your post.

lastangelman said...

I noticed this on ebay; did Bob Clampett actually write and draw Beany & Cecil cartoons for Dell Comics?
http://cgi.ebay.com/Bob-Clampetts-BEANY-AND-CECIL-comic-book-477-1953-FC_W0QQitemZ140083538064QQihZ004QQcategoryZ3972QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem