Friday, July 20, 2007

follow up to last post

Holy Crap!

The comments are getting ugly again.

Hmmm...I think I might have sent the wrong message in that convoluted post, so let me try to clarify what I was getting at.

Pt 2.

I'm not advocating that everyone run out and develop their own personal styles - exactly the opposite! The slavish obedience to decadent styles are our biggest handicap to creativity.

I want people to be able to draw REAL solid universal principles


and to be able to tell the difference between modern inbred stylistic habits and real human art

we should go back to our roots and start over

Most artists don't have strong styles and never will, but they do have personalities that could be translated through their drawings

The ones that do have natural style will inspire the new movements

But if everyone draws better and doesn't copy bad stylistic tricks each artist will still be able to put some of himself into the art - naturally - and all can contribute to growth and fun again

good drawing is the most powerful tool we have to create with, it gives you the control with which you can have a lot more to say

having a cheesy restrictive style based on tricks really limits what you can say with your art

you can only say what your crippled fingers can scrawl out, and you have to abandon all the thoughts you might have that are too hard to draw

If we recognize the decadence we are drowning in and decide to improve our ability to draw and observe life for real and with control,

then we can move ahead and make honest and sincere cartoons again, not just degraded copies of non-human formula cartoons

I may put up my bland test post for a couple hours tonight to get some more comments and then I may revise it when I see if the message gets through clearly or not


Benjamin De Schrijver said...

The comments were getting ugly? I thought they were getting interesting. No-one was insulting anyone, I felt. I did feel a bit offended by what Stephen said about me, so replied on that, but not with foul intentions. Besides that I thought we were having a good discussion.

I definitly - again - agree with this post. Instead of basing our work on past animation styles, we should be basing ourselves on life, observation and solid drawing skills.

But - I feel I have to bring it up, even I know you disagree - to me this is what the film Mind Game was doing. Don't mistake that director for not being able to draw. Some of his other work clearly shows skill, though stylewise that work is definitly based on past styles (usually it weren't his character designs to begin with). But the man can draw. However, Mind Game was based on a comic book with a very spontaneous stream-of-consciousness narrative. That's why he decided everything about the film had to feel similar to that. Sometimes there's an edited live-action shot thrown in, sometimes backgrounds are naturalistic, other times abstract, etc. Character design and animation wise, the character's shapes were always adjusted to the shot's intention. The guy knew what good drawing was, but decided to leave certain principles out a lot of the time to give that spontaneous random feeling. They even "cleaned" up certain drawings into the rough angular type used throughout the movie, so it would feel that way. The director HAD something to say with his film, and felt this way was the best way to say it. It was a specific design choice. In a way much like you decide to draw certain things more flat at times. Was it a good design choice? I guess you feel it wasn't, and I feel it was. Was it amateurish? I wouldn't say so.

It'd be great to hear your reaction on this...

Emmett said...

David B. Levy, president of ASIFA-East, wrote a book about the animation business. One section that particularly struck me was called "It's Not about Style, It's about experimentation." His point was to try out different things and not get bogged down with having your own style. Otherwise, you run the risk of defending bland artwork. Is this close to what you are saying?

And when you say "universal objects," what are you referring to exactly? There are a lot of things I have never tried drawing.

Raff said...

Looking at the comics you posted, I can't help but wonder if some of the freedom you see there came about because no one had to think of the limits imposed by having to animate.

Look at all that crosshatching. Look at the the background; sometimes it's complex, sometimes simple, sometimes wacky, sometimes not there at all depending on what's needed for that point in the narative.

A lot of the early animation was an attempt to translate the newspaper comics to animation, and preserve as much of the spirit in the transfer as possible.

Maybe that's the right way to go - get good drawing skills down, design freely and worry about the technical tangles after. I've seen animation taught the opposite way: technical limitations first and skills last. Dull.

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Oh, and my other comments on anime weren't so much about the spirit of your post, but rather about parts of it. Eg. I pointed towards some japanese tv-shows just to say how sometimes they do deverge from modelsheets. And my question/comments about Tokyo Godfathers didn't even have anything to do with the post. I've been wondering how you felt about that film for a while now (if you've seen it), if you feel perhaps even just slightly different about it than other anime, and since I was already talking about anime, I thought I'd ask.

JohnK said...

Anime is Japan's Cal Arts

Gabriel said...

You know something, i don't think i could copy any artist's style with much precision, even if i tried really hard. I think this is true even to those superman you talk about here. Could Rod Scribner not draw in his style, and do it as, say, Bobe Cannon would? He could probably fake to some level, but the way he drew was so much a part of his personality that he probably wouldn't be able to rid himself of his style even if he wanted to. I'm not talking about simply developing in a direction.

That leads to this: why is that disney kangaroo so boring in comparison to the kangaroo on the Felix strip? I was thinking about that today and the logical answer i figured out is that the characters must be designed bland and generic so that everyone can draw it the same way. I'm not sure it's true, but it makes sense. It's a pretty horrible thought, to think that a character might already be born insipid as not to give trouble to the artists. Maybe if a character is made too distinct or peculiar, it's unavoidable that everyone would draw it in a different way.

Vixus said...

It is important for everyone in the animation, cartoon and comic industry to have good drawing skills. But your interpretation of good drawing skills will differ from that of someone else.

Someone may reach a certain point in their artistic education (and there's only so much you can get from a college course) and think, 'There. I am now ready to turn this into a career.' From that point forward they will begin setting their 'style' in cement.

How are good drawing skills developed in general? Incessant life drawing? Constant experimentation with a pencil in your own free time?

I've been drawing for a while, however not as stolidly as I would have liked. Otherwise I feel like I'm forcing myself. So how does one develop good drawing skills? A stupid question to be asking at this point, possibly.

When in one's drawing career/hobby can they decide to take their art in a distinct direction? It can't be good to force yourself to develop a style.

Sant Arellano said...

Well.. even if anime is limited in detail and design, do you have any hope for it, John? Have you seen any interesting things coming out from Japan involving animation?

Also, I like all youre doing for us young animators, learning from people that didn't had anything to reference from the medium. I hate the idea of living under the shadow of WB, MGM, Disney, etc.. Thats why I think its important to use animation only as inspiration.

Are there any contemporary artists, animators, or cartoonists that you like?

PCUnfunny said...

John I really think would like LUPIN III, it's like James Bond but cartoony. Here's a clip. Sorry I couldn't find a better dub.

Brian B said...

Well said John, I guess I can see how it can get confusing for some, but it's exactly right. Retaining the principles that were developed that worked in animation's golden age, and adding something new/natural/specific to it should be something everyone reaches for.

It's like the grade school game where the teacher asks you to describe an object and you do it really thoroughly. Then she says pass it on, describe it to a classmate. And you do. You desribe it to the next person. Only the message gets more dilluted as it's passed on, and your original spin you put on itin your description or your personal feelings on the object is rehashed in lesser form. Loses it's meaning as well as the base description of the object

Anyway, it's simple, but it really can't be stressed enough if we're ever getting originality in this field again.

gabriel valles said...

A good exercise that I use often is to compare my drawings or character designs to some of the great cartoonist of the past. Like Roy Nelson, Russell Patterson, Vernon Grant, Milt Gross and a number of others. If you do this you will instantly see all the shortcomings of your own drawing. If you think your drawing is still good you may be blinded by what I call "Arrogant Amaturism". I think you truly become a professional when you can pick out the faults in your own work.

To break out of your "Arrogant Amaturism" do yourself a favor and subscribe to Plug! Plug! There you can see how this stuff is supposed to be done and you will become a better artist for it.

JohnK said...

Why the heck would someone who "isnt funny" and doesn't like funny cartoons wanna hang around here and argue with those who do?

Anonymous said...

"Anime is Japan's Cal Arts "

dang, spot on!

why do people think Anime is the savior of modern Animation? i love a lot of it, manga included, but it all is, at the core, the same.

i'd rather set aside my ego and learn to draw properly. there's nothing wrong with that. i believe we SHOULD go back to our roots and learn why we were seduced by cartoons in the first place. experimentation and "style" just for progress' sake dilutes the artform.

PCUnfunny said...

"I think you truly become a professional when you can pick out the faults in your own work."

Exactly.Every time I get better by copying drawings from 40's cartoons,I look at my previous stuff and realize how much it sucks.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

A lot of cartoon art I see today seems to be built solely around the artists lack of skill. So much of it looks flat and stiff, and not by choice! They're using a graphic style as a crutch or a way to mask their poor abilities. In effect, their 'style' is more like a summary of their weaknesses rather than a demonstration of skill and command over the medium.

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

John: you replied in the wrong thread ;-)

I never said I didn't like funny. I love funny. But I wouldn't be able to create funny myself. I don't feel a personal need to either. Doesn't mean I don't love to watch and analyze it. Plus, I'd be stupid not to hang around here. Solid drawing is solid drawing, no matter what type of story you try to support. Even though I don't always agree with some of your opinions, I've learned tons from this blog, and even only the fact that you challenge the status quo has made me think about what I want to do and how I should go about it, instead of just doing what others have done before me. I mentioned that I want to be true to myself with what I do, and that's what you're doing, only in your case it's creating funny cartoons. And in order to be true to yourself, you need the skills to back that up, and this is one of the resources I'm learning that from.

Art: I would never say anime is the savior of modern animation. I just feel a few of them are doing certain things better than us, and I think it's worth noticing.

SlashHalen said...

I completely understand what you mean when you say to not run away and make your own style. And I know it's best to train and practice doing art from classic cartoons. My only problem is being able to draw those cartoons exactly. I even sometimes have the hardest time just drawing off of a model sheet. Sometimes I feel I just can't do it.

Then again, I did only just start doing art, and nothing is perfect. But it still pisses me off when I try to draw Tom and he doesn't look exactly how he should or how I want.

It's not so much that his head is tilted to far back, or to far forward, or his thumb is bent just a centameter to much, or his ass is just a LITTLE BIT to fat. I don't care if his head is tilted just the tiniest, you would never really tell, bit forward or backward. Get or it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that no mater how much you try.... or I try, you can never really copy the originals. You might be able to make it better or worse (Some people like Bob Dylin's Knocking on Heavens door, some like the Guns N Roses version better), But it's never exact. How many people have tried painting there own version of Da Vinci's Last Supper? How many people perfer Da Vinci's over the others?

Of course, practice makes perfect, and I gots a lot of practice to do.

Stephen Worth said...

For the past couple of years, John has been incredibly generous, sharing his knowledge with young artists via his blog. He consistently defines his terms and provides clear examples to help folks understand his points. He's provided a million references to artists to study. He's even put together a course on drawing for animation to help young artists develop the skills they need. But still people continue to argue over silly stuff.

If you have acquired the experience and frame of reference to look back over the past 100 years of cartooning, it will be painfully obvious to you where we stand today. The need for better draftsmanship and a higher level of thought will be self evident to you. The very best of today can't even hold a candle to the average of the past. That's a fact.

You can hope and pray that John will say something nice about Anime or CGI or whatever current stuff you're a fan of, but it isn't going to happen unless the stuff you're a fan of stands up to the best of the past. (Odds are, it doesn't.) It's not a matter of personal taste or preference. John has a clear set of criteria for judging what he sees. He doesn't make excuses for lack of skill. If it's poorly drawn and badly planned and executed, he's going to call it that way.

I keep seeing people linking to their own work asking John to take a look at it. There is only one way for that to have a positive outcome. You have to have the skills John is talking about. If you are a cartoonist and you read this blog to learn, you had damn well better be doing the exercises in the Preston Blair book. If you aren't bothering to do the work and you're still here arguing, you are wasting everyone else's time. Once you've done the work, THEN you've earned the right to have an opinion.

The internet offers young cartoonists an unprecidented opportunity to learn from the top talents in the artform. These comments are your opportunity to ask questions and learn. But use the opportunity wisely. This isn't just another "Sonic The Hedgehog Fan Forum" where you troll for internet battles.

You're being judged by your comments. (Yes, spelling counts.)

See ya

Stephen Worth said...

Gabriel Valles,

Would you consider donating high resolution scans of some of the things on your blog to the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive? Drop me an email if you get a chance.


elephantmarchblog said...

The thing is John, I think the average animator (I can only speak for myself, of course), agree with most of what your saying.

All the stuff about specific poses and expressions, learning drawing skills as opposed to depending on cheap style tricks. All the examples of older art that should be rightfully studied.

The problem, as I see it, is that your preaching to the choir.

We can all agree and disagree with you till our lungs implode , the problem is getting the "business" men to agree with you; people with no passion but who can afford to pay for all this. And whether or not our slanders of them are warranted, they are unlikely to go along with us on anything we're saying if all we can do is Knee-jerk them whenever we don't like there decisions.

When you put up some posts on how to sway (or more often trick) the business men into letting us apply all of these principals, then I think you'll truly be doing something to revolutionize the industry....

pinkboi said...

The problem is bad stylistic tricks make it so easy for someone who lacks talent (or who has it but is just lazy) to feel a sense of accomplishment when in fact he made nothing new or noteworthy. When there is an easy and bad path, the good and difficult path is less likely to be taken. It's basic animal psychology

T' said...

John, there's a common saying in English classes regarding creative writing: "show don't tell." I wonder, if you have the time, if you could show us your designs for the some or all of the Disney/Pixar characters you went through in the last post to better show us what you mean in regards to good design? Even one or two of them, say Pinocchio or Peter Pan would really help illustrate your point. And perhaps then show us why those designs would not only work better, but would connect more closely with an audience. For me, at least, it would go a lot farther towards making your point. Thanks.

Ryan G. said...

Hey, lets stop talking about Anime. Most of us are here to learn and absorb things about animation, not the lack there of.

elephantmarchblog said...

I would be happy to describe Remy's personality:
He's the non-degenerate version of you.

He's a snob and an outraged artist, but he's not so self-deluded he needs to go around knee-jerking everyone to make a point. Not every character should be an over-articulate snob like Brad Bird, but not every character should be a sadistic, debased loser with no attention span either. A character doesn't need to be manic and obnoxious to have a personality.

"Straight" characters can be funny and interesting. They are funny when they a frustrated by all the anarchy and stupidity surrounding them; as we all often feel when we have to be the voice of reason. That's what Kermit's personality is, and he's perfectly attainable and interesting. He's reserved to be certain, but we can see him writhing as he tries to keep himself reserved; thats what makes the "bland lead" funny.

Bird's characters have class and tact. Trait's you no doubt see as bland because you cannot relate to them in anyway whatsoever.

I like most of your stuff, but theres more to the human condition (and to life) then bitterness and anarchy.

Gibbs Rainock said...

I've been showing this post off to a few of my artist friends and have gotten mixed opinions. Most people have gotten very defensive over their favorite characters and won't bother reading the post all the way through. I think it's important that we do experiment and break out of a bland lead mold. Mickey Mouse; as much as I love to see his animation and the line quality in wich he is drawn, his personality is a little bland. Mickey is nowhere near as interesting as Donald or Goofy. After a brief discussion with a friend of mine about this, it was mentioned that even in his blandness, a bland character can still provide a crucial role. It is to make the character broad and general enough to appeal to a larger audience. The viewer can more easily put themselves in the main characters shoes. But then you have a character like Popeye who is very entertaining, and has no ounce of bland.

chris said...

John, what are your opinions of the Famous Artist Cartoon Course as a means to achieve the type of cartooning foundations you value?

Tibby said...

I have been reading all the stuff you've been saying and absorbing it all as valuable lessons. Some of the things you have called out I disagree with, but others totally make sense. Although I hold Don Bluth in very high regard and I disagree with you when you go off on how "boring" Disney-esque styles are. Disney has a right to make what it does and they where the ones who invented most of the techniques many animators must learn to be able to do what they do. Sometimes to please the audience, you have to make "bland" run-of-the-mill heroes and heroines. Of course I totally agree that Disney has gotten too washed down by corporatization and marketing BS over the years. They like to do what it "safe". Something that hopefully will not get them sued and the general audience expects that. They don't understand psyco-dramas of Ren flipping out in psychotic episodes or stuff like that. They want something simple, cute (and safe) for the kids, and easy to watch.

I happen to appreciate Anime very much. Not all of it, and yes .. .I am aware that they like to use "stock emoticons" and such. The ones I am watching now - Pani Poni Dash, Ghost in the Shell, and especially Akira are absolutely brilliant. Go rent yourself a copy of Akira John ... and watch it and try to understand the brilliance and skill of it. Akira is the most highly acclaimed Anime feature film on the market in the US. Has been for years. And no - it's not a WB style cartoon with falling anvils and and dog slapping chickens. It's a serious and very intellectual story and super awesome piece of art. I know that bores you to death Mr. K - but really, not everything has to be a silly WB short with 1 shot jokes and silly pratfalls all the time. Sometimes serious and adult, and beautiful contemporary art styles are refreshing.

If the person making all the noise is who I think it is. Don't take it too personally Mr. K, he's usually very ... adamant, when he has a challenging point to get across. I've been thru it too ;)

Here is a flash animation I made, a simple walk cycle.
Walk bit
I talk about my thoughts on Flash animation in my comments area. You should think about posting your art on DeviantART Mr. K. There are some studios and animation ppl on DA, like from Ed, Edd, and Eddy ppl and Frederator and such. If you want to see lots of different stuff, get up on there! The ppl will love you and you get live feedback. It's really good, especialy if you are an established, high end artist.

gabriel valles said...

I wasn't sure if those un-funny comments were directed at me or not but I'll clarify just incase.

I did sound kind of like a jerk. Sorry, I wrote it kind of a hurry. When I said "you" I didn't mean "you". I just realized it does sound that way. I guess in my mind I was picturing all the young artist I've meet that think they know everything and have a lot of "style" but ten years later haven't grown much as the ones with the "Arrogant Amateurism". I wish I could edit it somehow.(if you can feel free to nix it and I'll try to be more clear.) I was actually agreeing with you on using the greats of cartooning for inspiration and how by comparing ones art to them is a good way to expose ones own faults. I guess I should have said it that way the first time.

If you were directing those comments to me I'll have to work on being funny:D

Sorry for the plug gone bad Shane.

Emmett said...

I agree with everything Tibby said.

If I may chime in, animation should be able to portray and express anything. I believe that if animation needs more of anything, it is risk. Whether it be a huge risk or a small risk, it still adds something new. Be it risky content, a most unusual story, an over-the-top art direction, it still gives a freshness to the overall product.

And I agree. Not everything can be a Warner Brothers cartoon (even though I would like to see more of it). We are all entitled to our opinions. Mr. K has given us some excellent tips on how to keep animation fluid and expressive.

But nothing can stop someone from being inspired to animated by Disney, or any so-called bland films.

PCUnfunny said...

T':John has already illustrated his points by posting drawings of various 40's toons that have life such as Bugs and Daffy.

Zaide said...

What's all this I keep hearing about "limitations" of animation? By nature animation is limitless. The problem is another "L" word, laziness. So, defined facial features are supposedly imposible for the modern animator... where was it that hard work and fine art lost synonymity with animation? If quality is impossible, especially when it comes to distinguishing features, personality, and identity, how can someone like Bill Plympton manage in the majority of his shorts? Is it because production limitations and time restraints only apply to heartless multinational corporations and the greedy individuals to whom such processes have become method? Maybe he is a true artist, not in the game for money and fame (although the later has become unavoidable), but the creation, not production, of art. For those of you who believe that John Smith in Disney's Pocahontas is as detailed as a man's face can get in an animated film and that facial STRUCTURE is impossible, I strongly recommend that you seek out Bill Plympton's "Your Face" and redefine your limitations. Better yet, think of each frame not as a limitation or difficulty, but as a portrait which you shall breathe life into and complete for the marvel of one's self and those about. Maybe study fine art and how even Stimpy at his worst qualifies to greater measure than whatever critically acclaimed travesty Disney releases. Here's a fun exercise, take the best picture of Bugs Bunny you can find and hold it next to the Mona Lisa. Which one is art? Which one is more appealing? The answers, for those of you consulting textbooks in a ritualistically masochistic fashion are, they're both art, but, no offence to da Vinci, Bugs Bunny is far more attractive, vibrant, and fun, and, dare I say it, human. What so many of you (both here on the comment line and more professionally) seem to miss is that in any art, you're supposed to create UPON the work set before you.

What is to animate? Literally, it means to bring to life. Countless moments have I spent wishing that a "character" had remained dead. Art is about passion, something that apparently has been forgotten. What a beautiful thing it would be if each and every one who reads this becomes passionate about their art again. What a wonderful revolution it would be. I, for one have been inspired by the hurling excuses and the falsehoods of limitation. When you all were children, did you not watch cartoons and think, "This is magic"? I have wonderful news, it is magic. Anything can be accomplished regardless of a pre-existing method. The artist dwelling within you knows this to be true. If one must conform to survive, sobeit, every artist knows that creativity isn't where the money is, but one must not live to work, but work to live. Repressing creativity will only lead to brilliant independent art, free of any employer. When talent again becomes socially acceptable, what a renaissance we shall witness.

Operation GutterBall said...

Here's some kinetic fun stuff hope it doesn't put you to sleep!:

Jake Thomas said...

Could you go into more depth on,

"Clampett encouraged his artists each to draw in their own way and bring their own creative ideas to the design, personality and movement of the cartoons. Avery started doing that in the mid 40s and for a decade or so we had some very individualistic cartoons that didn't follow the "rules" and "style" of animated cartoons."

You said they had the artists bring their own creative ideas to the design and personality, but how exactly? The characters, like Bugs Bunny, though animated differently by different animators is still "on -model". But you also say on-model is bad. Do you mean strictly on model is bad and that drawing on model is good but only when the artist has input on the different facial expressions and things made by the character rather then having to follow a pre-made and approved chart of mouths and such the animator is then allowed to draw?

R. Banuelos said...

One of the things that all the old good animators agreed on was that you have to be a good draftsmen to be a good animator. You must understand everything in this world that is right. How to draw something in a natural way, style just happens it's not something you work on. It's reflected through your drawings, so in this respect you should never practice "style" simply because you can't. Certain style can and should be learned but not over the basic priniciples. It's very hard to make interesting basic drawings, this is the designer. It's easy to see a "flat" drawing and think, I can do that. The Fairly Odd parents are all about that. It's not revolutionary to draw different, very talented artist have been doing that before we were born. But they were very talented. John wishes for artist to learn how to draw well, in a natural "boring" way. It's not bland, it's natural. It makes sense to have equal porportions, and perfect perspective, and nice round features, Volume and shape. That's the natural way to do things, so we think of it as bland because it's everyday. El Tigre is bland because it's full of bad drawings and bad layout, not to mention reusing the same drawing throughout the whole cartoon.

Everyone stop mentioning Anime too, it has nothing to do with the topic. John's not attacking Animation, he just want to have more "real" cartoons on the air. Something that truley shows the best talent doing the most entertaining drawings. WB cartoons were entertaining and had the best animators doing the most entertaining drawings they could. Every aspect of those cartoons were about pleasing the audience. Today's market for cartoons want to have the most creative talents being completely lazy and redrawing the same drawing over and over again. Why? Because executives don't think people will see that Homer is still Homer if he isn't exactly how they saw him before. They believe that people are stupid and want the same drawing over and over again. I defy anyone to point out a modern cartoon series where a community disscuses individual directors, animators, and muscians. WB has all of this because they did it right. And no, not just the WB cartoons, but a slew of others as well. No one gets taught to draw real well in animation school because everyone wants to do Family Guy and Simpsons. When I was at school, animation had a big reputation for being lazy. I didn't get it, it seemed as though we should have been the most active. We're doing more and learning deeper concepts.

One more thing then I'm off the soap box. If you have a car that can do 100mph (I don't know the Canadian conversion) why do 20mph on the freeway? Animation is limitless in what it can produce, it can go beyond live action. Why stay with Fosters Home and School of 3000? There are talented artist, why not pay them for doing their best? Ren and Stimpy has personality in the drawings and you can tell the directors apart. I don't think it's by coincidence that John made a cartoon so well that it changed modern cartoons, just like the WB changed what cartoons were. John knows what he's talking about, why argue with that? If you think he's wrong about Anime or anything else then don't listen to him. But since we all respect the man and knows what he does is right, then we all got to shut up more and practice what he wants us to if we want to animate and draw better. By the way I've been working on my Bugs. It looks like shit but I'm gonna keep working on him. I would be interested if John would like to see some Bugs animation by his (I guess) students. I don't know what else to call us. Maybe Losers?

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Stephen: I am incredibly greatful to John for his generosity, and I'm definitly slowly reaping the benifits from it. And I do have a pretty good idea about where I stand, which is not far (especially in the drawing dept.). I've never tried to show my work to John because I know I'm simply not there yet. I won't pray John will ever like anime, but if he had the time, I would love him to go more indepth into certain aspects of it (I definitly understand why he calls it the japanese CalArts, and I agree, but there's a slightly wider range over there, and Mind Game certainly isn't your average anime). If not, ah well. I'm already glad he talked about their use of color in the past. I agree todays artists don't measure op to those of 50 years ago, and agree the 60s-90s were much more average than the times before. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to learn in those periods either. John himself has learned from it. I AM doing the work, and still have a long way to go, but I'm just not taking the cartoonist's path, rather my own path. More about film and the illustrator-type draftsman. You're not judging me by my comments, you're judging me by your assumptions of how the comment came about. Letting spelling count is silly. One, English is my second language, and two, if you're writing a comment on a blog, you're not going to spellcheck the way you would when writing a letter.

Saying you have to do the work before you can have an opinion is just plain illogical. For one, I've been perfectly able to back up my opinion, and have not seen any specific counter-argument. Two, if that were true, John wouldn't be where he is today. If he wasn't allowed to have an opinion before he did the work, he'd never have been able to pick the stuff he likes to learn from it. I believe John himself has mentioned that you should look at the artists you admire and try to learn from them.

I'm not trolling for internet battles. On the contrary, I'm trying to have an intelligent discussion about things. Nor am I wasting anyone's time but my own by writing these comments, as anyone who reads my name or the word "anime" or "japanese" can decide to skip the comment. John can decide not to reply to our comments.

I absolutely agree with the people saying that animation should be able to portray and express anything. I have very different goals from John, but many of the basic skills needed, such as drawing, are universal, and that's why I'm here and occasionally engaging in a discussion. I'd like to think that discussions are most definitly a way to learn.

Tibby: Do I know you or have you seen me around the net somewhere before? I know I'm an opinioned person, but whenever I engage in discussions, on- or offline, I'll always back my ideas up. Doesn't mean I'm adamant. Just recently I had a great discussion with a friend who's a veteran of film, theatre and opera, about the value of filmschool in a time where so much is available online and on DVD. Even Guillermo Del Toro mentioned that DVD's are the best filmschool for students today. Well, after an hour or so of discussion, my friend was able to completely throw around my opinion. That's the reason why I engage in discussions like these: other people have different opinions, and you can always learn from their insights.

Anyhow, since it was so kindly requested, I'll try to stop wasting everyone's time. Bye.

PS: Gabriel, don't worry. The unfunny comment was about me. I wrote about that in the previous thread.

T' said...

pcunfunny: That's not what I meant. Those characters (Bugs, Daffy) are comedic ones. There are plenty of good examples of comedic characters that work. The post before this was specifically about the hero character, a dramatic leading role. What I'd like to see are John's principles of character design applied to these kinds of characters so we can better see how character design can be broadened in the ways John has said. It's fine to note that a lot of the Disney heroes are bland but without seeing how they could be made less so, the point of how to fix this is not as clear.

JohnK said...

The way to fix it is to let someone who is good at creating distinct characters create the characters, instead of just letting any old executive or animator copy what has already been done.

Clint said...

The decadence mentioned is so excepted now in art and other modern forms that it is hard for most of us to distinguish. I think it takes a while to recognize it much less work against it.

It is like trying to tell someone why fast food is not good, why most manufactured products are cheap, or why political correctness kills people. It comes off as cynical and snobbery, but unfortunately it is true.
There was a huge decline in quality in the last century that we are still suffering from. That lack of progress is decadence.

The rebellion to technique(learned ability) goes back as far as just after World War I with literature, art and music, but it really reaches its last usefulness in the 50's and just declines into a factory minimalism from then on. The rebellion against technique became decadence and laziness - and during that time no one bothered to teach us techniques everyone had learned to disdain.

We started with painters who knew how to draw and paint discovering new forms like cubism. (Useful and not decadent) And then we became artists who did not know how to draw and paint faking new art movements that involved peeing in jars, then lying about how great it is (not useful and stupid).

In the past couple decades there has been a growing surge of folks who want to know how things were done before the 'Modern' flood. The next cycle of rebellion hopefully will pull us out of the "do what you want" theory to the "learn how to do it and then do what you want" standard.

Then maybe schools will actually start teaching something useful. (I'm just kidding - that's not going to happen.)

These pre-decadent techniques are not the only way to do things. It's not the only style or even THE style. But to discard them for as long as we have is absurd. Any true progress should include influences learned and taught in the past, otherwise it isn't progress. A lot of what we have today isn't even part of the original rebellion - it is just a mush of pre-chewed chemical chips that we force others to admire through the threat of ridicule because we lack the learnable skills to accomplish what was done 60 years ago.

Epilogue (concerning animation)
Most animation today does suck because it lacks style and individuality, and even worse - overall humor. Its like sugar cereal - pretty and tastes good but you will die if you try to live off of it. Some Japanese animation is really good - but most is horrible. Same goes with most of what is on Cartoon Network and over 3-Dized films like Shriek. There is no individuality - because the companies funding these things want to make money and individuality is scary. (Individuality is a financial risk. Why try a new interesting dish when the same old gruel is making me money?) The 'Modern' flood works well for folks making production decisions -- they can feed the audience whatever they will eat. And right now we are mostly eating cardboard. (I am not kidding - our friends in China are making food with cardboard and we are eating it.)

Stephen Worth said...


You won't learn anything from John unless you sit down and do the exercises he gives you. It's not good enough to just read his blog and not apply it to your drawing. Words alone won't make you a better artist. You're always ready for lesson one. Start at the beginning of John's drawing course and post your results. That's the way to learn from him.

I looked at the life drawing on your site, and I will be posting a resource for you today at the archive site that will help you if you use it. It's a book on drawing the human figure by Willy Pogany. You can find it at your local art store, right alongside the Preston Blair book.

You can't do quick gesture drawings until you've mastered the solid, careful construction of anatomy in studied life drawing. It's putting the cart before the horse to do quick sketches before you can draw at all. This isn't magical stuff that just flows out of your pencil. It requires hard work and lots of thought. Get the basics down first.

Set aside the keyboard and pick up the pencil for a while. Work on your basic drawing skills. That's my advice.

See ya

Raff said...

>> I'd like to see are John's principles of character design applied to these kinds of characters so we can better see how character design can be broadened <<

Me too. Show it with the pencil once in a while. Sure a bunch of people will disagree with the result and say so, but it'll interesting to see demonstrations every now and again. "Flat." (original pic) "Not flat." (redrawn) "Bland" (original) "Not bland." etc.

C. A. M. Thompson said...

I think combining the point that animation owes a lot to Messmer with your point about inbreeding was a little distracting.

I think the point is that the principles developed for 40's animation are really functional for animation. Skilled artists were able to create a lot of variety within this system. But if you look at some of modern animation "styles" there are things that do not serve a function, people are just doing it because the guy before them was doing it or because it's their "style".

One thing I think people need to realize is that you can vary the proportions of the tubes and balls and flour sacks these characters are constructed out of if you want more interesting characters and variety. They don't all have to use the same construction and proportions as the seven dwarfs. Look at characters like Popeye and Olive Oyl.

JohnK said...

>>>> I'd like to see are John's principles of character design applied to these kinds of characters so we can better see how character design can be broadened <<<<

If the character doesn't have a personality in the first place, there isn't much to inspire a specific design.

It has to be all or nothing.

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Stephen: I actually have done some of the exercises he gave, but granted, not all, nor very often. I'm getting lots of opposite drawing advice from different places and people, and from looking at different draftsmen I admire and trying to find how they work, and am starting to believe there is no one way of drawing. Some construct, some kind of trace their imagination. Some do both, depending on the drawing. I'm trying to find my own way. Those lifedrawings were from the first exercices of a book called "The Natural Way To Draw" by Kimon Nicolaides (I've read somewhere Chuck Jones learned from it, but I don't know the truth behind that), and this book has definitly helped me progress. They're pretty old though, and I've definitly improved since. Whatever way you draw though, I feel the main principles are the same, so I try to always consider them while drawing (eg. construction, though I might not always draw the simple shape), and have made a list of as much drawing principles as possible I could find on this blog and Mark Kennedy's blog Once I've "finished" the drawing I look at the drawing with a critical eye, and try to find what principles I missed, and where the drawing needs improvement. Looking forward to your archive post!

Jim Rockford said...

"Anime is Japan's Cal Arts"

You hit the bullseye!

Anime all features the same lifeless stiff movement,generic stock expressions and design cliches.AND ITS NOT FUNNY!
It's like they are still working off the model sheets from Speed Racer. I dont see any creativity too it.
I am baffled at the grip it has on todays generation,but then again we live in a society that things 200" chrome spinning wheels with rubber band tires looks cool!

Dooley said...

> 200" chrome spinning wheels with rubber band tires <

That would be hilarious. Monster truck sized rims on a tiny car with actual rubber bands for tires. And the looney tunes 'rubber band' song playing as this monstrosity makes its way down the street:

Jim Rockford said...

"If you have acquired the experience and frame of reference to look back over the past 100 years of cartooning, it will be painfully obvious to you where we stand today. The need for better draftsmanship and a higher level of thought will be self evident to you. The very best of today can't even hold a candle to the average of the past. That's a fact."

Great response Mr.Worth!No truer words were ever spoken and you summed it all up so eloquently too!

I admire John K's conviction to this often maligned artform.
The fact he devotes so much of his time and incredible knowledge to these priceless lessons and insights which he offers us FREE on this blog...all in the hopes of inspiring future cartoonists to return to the inspired,funny,creative,entertaining cartoons we once had in the past speak volumes for his passion for this artform.

I couldnt agree with you more when you say that our "best" today cant compare to the "average" of our past.
Sadly this spills over into all aspects of todays and products are poorly designed and ugly,music is crap,and we dont have any real actors or comedians anymore.
Where are the Jackie Gleasons or 3 Stooges of todays society?..all this amazing talent we had in the past and the suddenly after the 60's its for the most part all gone!
I am glad John is honest about his opinions on things...he's almost always right!

PCUnfunny said...

Benjamin: "The Natural Way To Draw" was,according to animator Emery Hawkins,nothing but gesture darwings. You'll never how to draw using that book.

PCUnfunny said...

Jim: I think if you watch Lupin III,the secound series to be exact, you will find many cartoony drawings.

Tibby said...

While this topic brings up Cal-Arts:

Mr. K would you like to elaborate in some finer details on what you think the "Cal-Arts" style is? You toss this term around very much and I don't have any idea what you are talking about. I've been to the school's website and viewed some of the student galleries and I saw some pretty awesome stuff. Why does you put down this school so much? I never went there, I don't even live in California so I have no idea of refference of what John K is griping about when he says it is a typical "Cal-Arts" style. Many students probably spent a butt load of money and 4+ years learning stuff there. To have their efforts and artwork shot down like that from someone they consider to be a Pro, hurts a lot. If you John K, REALLY want to make a change on what you percieve as this bad style - then you should go there and become a teacher there full time. Instead of snarking about it in your blog like you do to the rest of your clique of animator buddies from Spumco. What is typical "Cal-Arts" style? Define it in your terms so we all get a clearer idea of what you are constantly ranting about. Tell us what you percieve it is what it is and why you lump so many artists and animators into this category.

JohnK said...

Cal Arts style is Disney, Bluth, Pixar

pretty recognizable style to cartoonists who don't draw in it.

cemenTIMental said...

Why the heck would someone who "isnt funny" and doesn't like funny cartoons wanna hang around here and argue with those who do?
Dunno, (and don't think anyone here actually fits that description really) but some people like funny cartoons AND serious animation.

It's possible to love Marx Bros films but also love Tarkovsky films, so why is it not OK to love warner brothers films but also Akira, or any number of great animated 'art' films from around the world?

Anime is Japan's Cal Arts
That doesn't really make sense, but that's because the word 'anime' has been used in such a way that it now doesn't really have a meaning at all. Obviously there are many styles of animation in Japan, even within "anime style". Equally obviously there are cliches and derivative stuff in the majority of mainstream Japanese animation like anywhere else, and definitely just about the worst thing western animators can do is to copy the surface gloss of "anime style" while ignoring all the actually good things about the best Japanese animation...