Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ballantine- Principles, Design Sense, Assorted Influences

I found this book at a sale the other day and it is illustrated by someone named Ballantine. I don't know anything about the artist but I really like him (her?) and can deduce a few things from his cartoons.
Strong Principles: His cartoons show that he has had solid training. His compositions are organized and handsome. His poses are natural, yet exaggerated. He uses negative space to draw attention to the positive images. His drawings are organic, use line of action, clear silhouettes, perspective. His shapes are varied, imaginative, appealing and fun. He is impressively skilled.
Design Sense: He has a strong and personal sense of design, although it's obvious he has influences. He tries different styles in different illustrations.

Varied Influences: He is influenced by many artists and life itself.
There are certain artists who have developed powerfully recognizable styles that have followers who do their utmost to imitate their heroes' styles.

Jamie Hewlett
Al Hirschfeld
Mort Drucker
Ronald Searle
Frank Frazetta
Disney
etc.

Each of these artists has a huge assortment of their own inspirations and heroes, but many of their followers struggle to merely imitate the surface details of these complex creators-and it's always obvious when you see it.

"Oh, that's someone copying Mort Drucker", or "Let's See, how does Hirschfeld draw arms again?" or "We're doing this cartoon in the "Spumco style." etc.

Jack Kirby was probably influenced by Milton Caniff, but nobody would accuse him of being a Caniff imitator. Kirby invented tons of things and was in turn imitated by an army of followers- some who are just imitators, others who were inspired and developed their own styles. Barry Smith, for instance started by emulating many Kirby techniques but soon developed a really amazing and original style of his own.

There is a big difference between being inspired and influenced by a lot of artists, and just copying the superficial aspects of one or 2 heroes.

Superficial style imitation second-guesses how someone else would draw something and severely restricts the range of ideas and images you can create. It's self-censorship.
When I look at Ballantine, I see possible influences from Searle, Hirschfeld and others. But Ballantine still has his own style(s) and still takes in tons of information from the world around him and mixes it all together with his own opinion and personality-his "style".
Look at this very designy forced perspective. Beautiful!

In order to be able to truly express yourself and have a personality and style in your work, you need to:

1) Know how to draw- principles (principles aren't style!)
2) Have a wide variety of influences and interests- don't just imitate a "style" you like
3) Keep your eyes open-look at the world, people, animals, things - let the world be your style, don't filter what you see through how you think cartoons are supposed to look

I'm trying my best to help anyone who would like to have strong controls over their pencils. I hope it benefits someone out there. Maybe even I'll be able to take advantage of it someday and make cartoons with other like-minded artists who would want a director to encourage them to put their personalities into the scenes - as long as you have functional principles first!




****Blammo sent us this audio interview with Bill Ballantine:

http://wiredforbooks.org/billballantine/index.htm

56 comments:

toon_monkey said...

and now....the cavalcade of sycophants nodding in agreement---yes john... yes john... we agree john... without any consideration of the fact that when r&s first came out, professionals said "oh that's someone copying bob clampett--- with booger jokes" and when jimmy the retarded boy came out many people i know said "oh that's john k copying a clampett cat--- with booger jokes"... and john, again, your an amazing artist... just cut the crap with all this self-congratulatory masturbation... the time you have spent doing that you could be making the next great show... i just hope it holds up to your exacting principles... theft is theft just admit it instead of parsing ''influence vs whatever''...

Dume3 said...

That was done by Bill Ballantine. He was an illuastrator and writer for many magazines. He worked as a clown at one time.

JohnK said...

Thanks Dume!

Taber said...

Can you really blame John for pushing us all toward overcoming the most blatant and crippling deficiency in animation today: the lack of fundamentals? Without the amazing teachers at my school and John pointing out what's great about knowing how to draw, I know I would've fallen right in line with thousands of other budding animators and not learned my fundamentals. So thanks John!

JohnK said...

Hi Taber. Thanks.

What school do you go to?

Sean Worsham said...

Toon_monkey,

While it's valid to make criticisms it's not so valid to simply make attacks. John takes his time to write on this blog so we could all think about something and maybe improve ourselves in the end whether we agree with him or not. I never saw a single bit of self-congratulatory masturbation in that particular article, he just wanted to give food for thought and for taking his time in doing so deserves praise in and of itself.

I say this toon-monkey (ugghh you had to use "toon" in your name, you should change it to "tude-monkey.") why don't you create something that breaks ground like Ren and Stimpy, revolutionize Flash animation and do something wonderful like giving young artists a chance to learn and teach for free on a blog. Maybe then your attacks would have some sort of impact.

I think the point John was making about having skills and principles without overly imitating something to the point of carbon-copying has validity and is definitely something to look for when improving one's skill.

toon_monkey said...

john is a great teacher and artist, yes... i've been around almost as long as he has, and i still learn new things here.... but all this who-stealing-from-who-and-everyone-steals-from-me talk discredits him and makes him sound childish and petty... everyone steals from people they learned from.... that's how it goes.... but john gives the idea that he's the only one who is allowed to steal... he often confuses bad taste with theft... because the ''theft'' label stings more... john, i love you, but cool it, yo.

Taber said...

Heh, an Art Institute, the newest one in the Inland Empire to be specific. Since they're still new, we were able to push for a lot of fundamental study such as life drawing sessions after hours, a story telling club, etc.

Rafi animates said...

right on John! Your blog continues to be an inspiration, I find myself working hard at the principles, life drawing and soaking up a variety of influences. Not blindly copying, but learning from it all.

it's so true that mastering the fundamentals gives you the skills to explore any and every style, to invent.

The best thing about reading your posts is that I'm constantly reminded to look beyond the glut of repetition and rehashing in the animation industry - instead analyse and explore the infinite possibilities the artform has to offer.

You've really opened my eyes to the possibilities and reminded me exactly why I love to draw in the first place!

Chris S. said...

I think this blog is fantastic, and toon_monkey's the one being "childish and petty." What a joke - when Ren &Stimpy came out when I was in high school it was a bolt of energy I haven't seen in cartoons since I was a kid! I could give a damn what the professionals thought - this was what cartoon fans were wishing for! There were a lot of unsuccessful WB rip offs (even from WB), but John's work was inspired and influenced by the greats ALONG WITH an original, breakthrough idea. Not often accomplished, mr. monkey.

Please keep it up, John. I'm currently attending AAU in SF for character animation (part time because of my full time job) and this blog has touched on the fundamentals that are at the heart of why I love animation.

Call me a sycophant if you wish, but I'd rather just be considered a student that wants to learn something.

Unkle Wash said...

Hi, John

Thank you from a fellow Canadian for this great blog and the time you put into it for us.

When you say:

"Superficial style imitation second-guesses how someone else would draw something and severely restricts the range of ideas and images you can create."

Isn't this exactly what model sheets do?

Also about being influenced by other styles. Ever since I was a kid I've been able to look at a cartoon drawing and absorb about 85% of it without drawing it, then draw it later without looking at the source. In fact I probably have 20 different cartoonist styles hanging beside my drawing desk at any one time.
But the thing is I don't really have a style of my own. I'm not sure how that comes into play. When I draw my own stuff it just looks bland.
So how does one go from the influence of other artists to incorporating it into their own work?

http://www3.telus.net/public/smluke/

Thanks for your time.

JohnK said...

>>Isn't this exactly what model sheets do?<<

Well model sheets have a purpose. They show you what characters look like and how they are constructed. You have to draw in a style that suits the show you are working on. Some directors will allow you to have the characters act with your added viewpoints and ideas. Some won't and I can't understand why, but you gotta eat, so do what the director tells you!

>>Also about being influenced by other styles. Ever since I was a kid I've been able to look at a cartoon drawing and absorb about 85% of it without drawing it, then draw it later without looking at the source.<<

You should have someone else judge how accurate those drawings from memory are! (Not your Mom)


>>But the thing is I don't really have a style of my own. I'm not sure how that comes into play. When I draw my own stuff it just looks bland.<<

Analyze what goes into the art that you like. This blog is designed to help you do that!

>>So how does one go from the influence of other artists to incorporating it into their own work?<<

Keep at it and let it happen naturally.

Thanks for posting!

Unkle Wash said...

Hey, thanks for replying!

And I WILL stop asking my mom, though it'll break her heart.

"Some won't and I can't understand why, but you gotta eat, so do what the director tells you!"

I guess that's why I'm a plumber and not a cartoonist....

Mark said...

Great post! You mentioned Jamie Hewlett as an illustrator with a really original style, and I wonder if you could do an analysis of his stuff like you've been doing with other illustrators lately. I've always seen him as kind of being the bastard son of Jack Davis. Really original work in its own right, but I think it succeeds in part because it wears that influence on its sleeve... Now that I see you putting him in that "true original" category I wonder what I'm missing.

Adam said...

There's a big difference between stealing someone's drawings and presenting them as your own, and recognizing someone else's skill and wanting to learn how they acquired it so you can add it to your own mental toolbox. Thinking that 'theft is theft' and grouping what is clearly just influence is not healthy. Oversimplifications like this are dangerous territory.

If you want to create something worthwhile in your lifetime you have to stand on the shoulders of giants... that's influence. Theft would be climbing on top of the pile of giants and then denying that the giants exists.

Honestly, if people want to hide their influences to convince others they're some genius then that's their problem. They'll be too busy guarding their ego to actually produce anything worthwhile anyway.

Shawn said...

Wow! Bill Ballantine!!! That is really appealing cartooning! You always find the best junk at those sales! Thanks for posting these samples!

toon monkey, go soak your head.

Stephen Worth said...

A while back, I did a post at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive on the difference between Inspiration and Imitation. Last night I put up one on the importance of Fundamental Art Skills.

These might be of interest to folks.

See ya
Steve

Pete Emslie said...

In all fairness, I think Toon Monkey has made a valid point when he says, "everyone steals from people they learned from.... that's how it goes."

I certainly concur with that statement. The art of cartooning has a pretty long history behind it at this stage in the game, and I'd challenge anyone who can point to something today that is completely devoid of derivation from anything that came before it. I know that my own "style" is largely an amalgamation of the many influences that I've accumulated over a lifetime of drawing. And, yes, Al Hirschfeld is certainly one of those influences, as are the Disney feature films, Walt Kelly's "Pogo" strip, along with a dash of the MAD cartoonists, Jack Davis and Paul Coker Jr. However, along with this mixture of observed styles that have been rolled into my own, I still think that the resulting artwork is very much me at this point. To attempt something radically different than what naturally flows out from my pencil would feel contrived and phony to me. If some people criticize my style as being somewhat derivative, it doesn't really bother me, as it is what it is at this stage of my career - I make no apologies for it.

Speaking of Hirschfeld, I believe that even he himself acknowledged the influence that his good friend and contemporary, Miguel Covarrubias had on him. If you look at Covarrubias' paintings, you can certainly see the similarities in design style, but Hirschfeld added his own inherent playfulness of line that helped his style evolve into something that was his own.

I agree with what John and several others said recently about young artists not concerning themselves so much with "style". That is something that will develop naturally over time, and is not something you should contrive in the meantime. In my Character Design class at Sheridan College, I don't even like to teach "style", per se. I agree with John in the teaching of good solid foundations in character design that will result in characters with an implied weight and volume able to move within the illusion of dimensional space, perfectly conducive to animation. When a student has that ability under his belt, he can do anything. Personal style will happen naturally, trust me. In fact, after grading several assignments, I can often start to recognize the individual styles of my students, which is as uniquely a part of who they are as is their handwriting.

Eric Carl said...

Hey John, I'd be really interested in a post discussing exactly how to examine and study the work of people we're influenced by. The kind of questions to ask, what sort of things to look at, etc. It's much too easy to get caught up in the superficial layer of the work we like and miss the important stuff.

JohnK said...

>>The art of cartooning has a pretty long history behind it at this stage in the game, and I'd challenge anyone who can point to something today that is completely devoid of derivation from anything that came before it.<<

I don't think anyone said no one should have any influences. Certainly not me. These last couple posts are all about influences.

I'm just pointing out the differences between influence, blind imitation and outright stealing.

If young artists start to think about these differences, they can get the most out of the artists that inspire them, as you have.

Sadly, most current styles are degraded superficial versions of much broader styles from times before, so I would like young artists to see where everything came from before it was copied over and over again and lost its ability to view the world.

JohnK said...

Hey, how come no one wants to talk about how good Ballantine's drawings are?

Dume3 said...

I remember reading one of nine old men (maybe Milt Kahl) saying something at a lecture like "if you see something you like, steal it--because they did." And the audience was shocked.

Aaron Paetz said...

John,
You rock!

JohnK said...

>>Milt Kahl) saying something at a lecture like "if you see something you like, steal it--because they did."<<

Did he say to steal it badly?

Dume3 said...

"Did he say to steal it badly?"

That's the thing--these people have the moxy to blatantly mimic, but lack the skill to do it properly.

I must, as bad as things were in the 90's, its worse now. Pocahontas looks like Citizen Kane compared to the likes Chicken Little, etc. Its the same on television--Spongebob, an amazingly dull cartoon, looks great when you compare it to the "glass shard" visuals of Fairly Oddparents or a direct to video Scooby Doo movie animated by Koreans.

Dume3 said...

Let me correct myself. Some of the 90s Disney animators, like Andreas Deja for instance, probably have ample skill. I guess they have no excuse.

Brad said...

Ballantine comes from an era when picture frames and doorways could be used for inspiration and decorative elements. Do you see those?! Even water jugs were more interesting back then.

Speaking of influences: remember when there was such a thing as real humor and people could actually deliver a joke? All I see on TV is 'The Office'-style deadpan, stare at the camera, uncomfortable silence BS on every television show and commercial. It permeates everything and if you fumble around like an idiot you can have a TV spot.

Its hard as hell to find influence out there.

Callum said...

Sorry to interrupt anything, but the drawing with the barge and the train is really interesting- it's sort of a shame that illustrators with real talent aren't any longer recognised, and yet we have utter crap that is popular/mainstream.

Callum said...

Also, In regards to what "Toon_Money" was saying, the fact that in his profile he says one of his favourite films is the "Iron Giant" says a lot.

Blammo said...

Hey John,
This will shed some light on the man and his work.......


http://wiredforbooks.org/billballantine/index.htm

JASON;)

Dume3 said...

"Speaking of influences: remember when there was such a thing as real humor and people could actually deliver a joke? All I see on TV is 'The Office'-style deadpan, stare at the camera, uncomfortable silence BS on every television show and commercial. It permeates everything and if you fumble around like an idiot you can have a TV spot."

I can't stand that crap either. When did it become fashionable to make all the characters on television unappealing? I want to see cool, entertaining, charming, intelligent characters--not these insecure losers and jerks. I'm also getting tired of the hand-held jittery camera fad.

JohnK said...

Thanks Blammo!

I added the link in the post.

I are da cute one said...

as much as I hate to agree, toon monkey brought up some valid points.

Arn't we all stealing from the people who CREATED animation in the first place?? lol

those are some awesome pieces of work!

JohnK said...

>>Arn't we all stealing from the people who CREATED animation in the first place?? <<

In the same way that we are all equally talented, the same size and weight and the same I.Q.

Blammo said...

What John is saying is getting lost in translation by people who care more about having the last word than learning!

Don't blindly take from a source and use what you see without study.

Ask youself where did this theory or idea come from?
How did they create it?
Why does it work?

If you look at it long enough and work at studying it, your own work will benefit.

Chuck Gammage once told me "Don't just study Bakshi....Study John Held and Milton Gray where Bakshi studied...Look at the parts that build the sum!
Each generation of "mimic,without understanding" waters down the work!
Keep discovering and dig deeper.

If you can fault John for sharing a Principal like that than go for it, you missed the point anyway!

A great find John!...keep sharing we are out here!
J;)

kate yarberry said...

I guess I mainly read this blog for inspiration. I'm not going to go and steal something some one else did, and slap my name on it and try and pass it off as my own. Instead I use it as an outlet to find new/interesting artist that I might not ahve stumbled on otherwise. I also enjoy John's "helpful hints" as I have fondly come to think of them.
I would also like to go ahead and say for the billioneth time that I am an animation student as well and as a result I am always looking for cool stuff involving cartoons. So there. Bite me.

Pete Emslie said...

Yes, this art by Bill Ballantine is very nice. But pretty much everything from that era of print cartoons is of this same calibre. The gag cartoonists that used to draw regularly for all the major magazines back then were all very accomplished. I just bought an old book compilation of "Punch" cartoons and everything looks great. There's some Searle in there, as well as some early Gerald Scarfe that looks nothing like what he's known for today - his style has certainly evolved into something very unique. I've got several books of Charles Addams' work which is absolutely breathtaking.

I think there was a greater sense of craftsmanship back then, with artists learning the ropes before bending the rules of perspective and such. One thing that also has to be taken into account is the inking techniques they used. Most of the print cartoonists were either using crowquill nib pens or brushes dipped in ink - not many were using fine line markers because they just weren't that available back then, or at least, not as advanced as they are now. As such, there is a greater natural variation in their line quality that makes for a richer drawing. Just look at the Ballantine cartoon with the elephant. There is very little interior line within the form of the elephant, yet look at how the natural thick to thin outline with the brush "sculpts" the form, giving it an illusion of real volume. You don't see that tactile approach much anymore these days, as so many artists are doing that rather sterile digital linework that never seems to really describe the form as well as the old ways.

Incidentally, I don't think it's entirely fair to compare the work of print cartoonists to their animation counterparts. In order to maintain consistency from frame to frame in animation, you can't get as fancy as you would if you were doing a one-shot cartoon illustration for publication. There is an inherent limitation there that you kind of have to accept unless you want your animation linework to "boil", as they say.

Looney Moon Cartoons said...

Off Topic: My first attempt at Bosko's dance.
http://looneymoon.blogspot.com/
These lessons are much appreciated.

On Topic: Your influences have influences who have influences, who have influences etc. It helps if you try to follow the influence chain back. My high school art teacher used to always say "nothing is created in a vacuum." She's a smart, classy lady.

Clinton said...

I am going back to work on the basics of design myself. I know I've said, "spumco style", and other styles in the past. I'm trying to stop that, and do my own thing based on what i see out here.

Stupid Demon said...

Speaking of getting stuck in a style I think this thing has to Mike Mignola feeling he has to draw in his hell boy style. From what I have read in “art of hell boy” and various other places he really struggled drawing “the third wish” and “the Island”. The latter also struggles with him trying to compete with the flick that Del Toro put out. Mignola gave up drawing the book now witch makes me think that how he now draws is as much as how people think is his style than anything that was.

Todd Harris said...

great post, excellent info. you have an awesome blog here. thanks.

Vanoni! said...

I think Blammo just laid it out quite well.

I know I've seen Ballantine's stuff somewhere before. I may have xeroxed a bunch of his drawings from a friend's book (which he found in a second hand shop).
Whatever the case - these drawings are great!
And I agree that back then objects were more interesting and inspiring to draw!

(Though I disagree about the deadpan/silence. Some of my biggest laughs have come from watching Oliver Hardy deliver a deadpan take into a camera during several seconds of awkward silence. Perhaps more about the delivery than the content.)

Uglymug1 said...

Okay all you animation fans and scholars: Here's one that's been bugging me for years: does anyone remember the B&W cartoon where crazy machinery takes a series of big logs and grinds them down into individual toothpicks and places each one in a box? Judging by the fascination with machinery, I'm inclined to think it was a
Fleicsher studio cartoon, but I'm not sure. I don't even remember if there was a main character or just a musical montage. When I was a kid (early '70s) everyone knew this cartoon from TV, now no one does. Anyone? Please?

JohnK said...

>>Incidentally, I don't think it's entirely fair to compare the work of print cartoonists to their animation counterparts...you can't get as fancy as you would if you were doing a one-shot cartoon illustration for publication.<<

Hi Pete,

I don't think these are too fancy for animation. They are very simple and have a lot in common with 50s animated cartoons.

The inking is great, but that's not what makes the drawings so good. That's an added flourish.

The added flourish in animation would be the movement, rather than fancy inking.

TamalH said...

<< Superficial style imitation second-guesses how someone else would draw something and severely restricts the range of ideas and images you can create. It's self-censorship. >>

My illustration teacher during lecture today basically said the same thing. He told us that we should never copy artist's styles, as they are individual and specific interpretations of reality.

Through copying other artist's styles, that's all you are doing: copying someone's interpretation, not the essence or principles of what the illustration embodies.

TamalH said...

<< does anyone remember the B&W cartoon where crazy machinery takes a series of big logs and grinds them down into individual toothpicks and places each one in a box? >>

It was Fleicsher's Crazy Town I think.

Oh and the Ballantine illustration of the garbage can mimicking the drunk's angle to catch the bottle is hilarious.

Uglymug1 said...

Tamalh- No, it wasn't "Crazy Town," that was a Betty Boop cartoon. Lots of good goofy stuff (I love the old man dancing on his fingertips), but that wasn't it. This had a lot of dark backgrounds, I remember that. Thanks for offering that try though! Anyone else? John? You must know!

Bob Flynn said...

Wow, it seems like these comments took on a life of their own. Thanks for sharing Ballantine with us...his cartoons are great, for all the reasons you mentioned, and then some. Good junksale find!

TamalH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Young said...

I read this blog for entertainment as well as study. I'm here every day to soak up not only useful information but also funny little jabs at the things that John finds bogus. Whether or not i agree with John is totally irrelevant, i just want to laugh and maybe learn something. On the subject of influence vs. theft, i spent most of my childhood with the misconception that copying things was bad. I wish now that i'd just copied every goddamn thing around me 'til the cows came home. You have to have some ego to think that you're ever doing something totally original, put simply, us humans are all way too similar to ever do anything that different from each other, there's usually just a difference in quality. That said, I fully agree with John when he encourages people to follow their unique human inclinations within the parameters of good drawing.

Will Finn said...

i was gonna just comment on the drawings posted but i gotta address "toon monkey" (at the risk of being branded as a sycophant)

One of the main reasons i listen to and read John's ideas on this issue CAREFULLY and with consideration is that for all his love of Clampett, any professional would be hard pressed to find specific tropes, designs, scenes etc. ripped off verbatim the way so many other animation artists, (myself included) tend to do with our heroes (i used Ollie Johnston as a touchstone many times and won't deny it) . We all have our favorites and while the original R & S cartoons may have been flaunting the same spirit as Bob Clampett's best work, they were anything but mere imitations. Watch an old NFB CANADA short called GET A JOB for a (good) version of Clampett imitation.

True there are many other influences more directly referenced (Milt Gross, Ed Benedict, Jim Tyer, etc) in R & S, but they are all synthesized in an original and highly unique way that is pretty rare among contemporary cartoons. IMO John's efforts succeed where many others fall short, fail (or simply don't even try for anything other than imitation) and he's walked the walk enough to declare it.

these critiques are for the benefit of artists who want to push themselves beyond typical efforts, avoid traps and bad habits and are willing to be tough on themselves about it. Unfortunately, they all too often get interpereted as "bashing", maybe because of the imperfect print medium.

as for Ballantine, i was gonna guess he was from the UK, ( i agree with Pete E, he looks a bit like PUNCH cartoons from the 1950;s), but i guess not. Love the drunk.

Jim Rockford said...

I dont know why so many people seem to have touble understanding something so simple.
Yes everything is inspired by someone elses work or designs to some extent.
There isnt anything wrong with studying someones style that you admire,What John is advocating is that you understand the fundamentals involved and then use them to create something original,bring something new and personal to your work,rather than midlessly ripping someone off just to emulate a style that has been accepted or is currently in vogue.
Take Virgil Exners "forward Look" cars for Chrysler.when they appeared on the scene in 1957 they created quite a sensation,and suddenly made everything else on the road seem out of date.
Exners "Forward look" styling was very dynamic and purposefull and based in solid design fundamentals
Look at the continuity of form in the side view of a 1957 Plymouth or Dodge,then compare it to the side view of a '57 Chevy which is bulbous and blocky.
the Chrylser cars appeared windswept and to be in motion even when standing still.
The Forward look created such a stir that it in turn sent GM into a panic and they blatantly ripped of Exners style for their '59 lineup.
look at the roofline of the '59 Buick 2 door hardtop or any gm s door hardtop.its easy to see Exners influence.
But they just imitated and in some instances very badly,exners designs,rather than building upon them and creating something new.

Tia said...

Hi there,

I smiled from ear to ear when I read all your comments about my father's work.

Yes, he was a truly fine artist with a terrific sense of humor who spent a lifetime drawing and writing. After he was orphaned as a teenager, he began to make a living as an artist and sign painter. It didn't take long before folks noticed his talent and wanted his unique drawings for their publications.

During his life, he made hundreds of ink drawings -- many of them as illustrations -- all with the same graceful poetic line and many with as sharp satirical social commentary. His drawings of circus life are heart-breakingly tender -- I cherish those, especially s many of the folk in his circus drawings were his personal friends . . . quite a few of these drawings, if all goes well, will soon hang in the Circus Museum in Sarasota, FL

Oh, those of you who noted that some illustrations in PUNCH resembled his . . . well, he worked for PUNCH for a while in the 1940s:-)

He was also a fine writer -- an essayist who wrote many interesting and always engaging books (remember, he had a great sense of humor!) Check out CLOWN ALLEY -- many fine drawings of circus folk and just many astute insights about circus life.

I miss my Dad . . . After a long illness and an even longer life, he died in 1998, but his art lives on!

Thanks, all of you, for your comments. It's been fun reading them!

aloha, Tia Ballantine

darkat said...

What a find! Thanks John, for sharing these illustrations. Bill Ballantine was my grand father, and one of my very first art teachers, as he was always happy to share his wide and varied knowledge with his grandkids. As I have grown older I have made a point of searching out and finding examples of his early work, and this is some of that have not yet seen, so it was quite a joy to find this, after my mother first tracked it down and commented on this blog. At a very early age I copied EVERYTHING I could get my hands on, from spiderman to moebius to old R. Crumb stuff. I still will copy stuff I like when I see it, and of course it never looks exactly like the source, it gets processed by my own filter and comes out with a bit of me attached to it. The more you do this the more you keep what you like about what you copy, and shed what isn't close to you, eventually producing something truly unique and personal. I agree with what some others have said, to follow the chain of influence, dig deeper and find out who influenced those whose work you appreciate, and who influenced their influences, ad infinitum. It is truly an honor to have the creator of Ren and Stimpy talking about my grandfathers work. Thanks John!
-Ezra Eismont
www.ezrali.com

Marty Fugate said...

Pardon my tangent, but you mentioned Mort Drucker and you got me started ...

Mort Drucker never ceases to amaze me. Just today, was looking at his art for Mad Magazine's parody of "Lost in Space" -- "Loused Up in Space" -- and every panel was jaw-droppingly excellent.

Composition. If you took Drucker's art as a storyboard and had live actors actually do the scenes, it would work beautifully. His sense of framing and composition are unbelievable. At the same time nothing looks posed -- in the Norman Rockwell over-staged, fakey sense.

Motion. His characters all look like they're in action. He's not afraid of motion blurs and being cartoony. But he doesn't need motion blurs.

Modeling and caricature. The dude has a 3-D map of every character in his head.

Inking. His command of line is amazing. It's black and white art that doesn't look like black and white art. Drucker throws away gold. The shadows on the craters. The details of creepy weird alien plants. His art is much, much better than it has to be. No wasted lines. No second guessing.

Lighting. He knows EXACTLY where the light source is. There's one panel -- a bird's eye view of the characters are standing around a giant, glowing diamond. There are hard shadows from the alien sun above them in the sky. Drucker's also put in SECONDARY SHADOWS from the diamond's reflection. It's nothing less than astonishing.

Marty Fugate said...

PS. I once saw Bill Ballantine biting off the heads of some poor, unsuspecting clerks at a local art shop here in Sarasota back in the 1980s. I made the mistake of defending them. He proceeded to bite my head off.