Here are some more Ballantine illustrations with thoughts as to how his style relates to animation.Animation beginners tend to think of design mostly in terms of individual character designs. A really studied designer thinks of the whole canvas.
These characters look superficially a lot like UPA characters or even modern flattish characters.
The characters are good, but to me the design is in how they fit into the larger picture scheme. It's not so much in the individual elements that make up the picture. Simple-looking by itself is not inherently stylish. What makes style and design is the organization of all the elements into a whole visual statement.
All these pictures are carefully arranged so as to be readable and not cluttered, to get the point of the illustration across and then on top of all that to be artistically pleasing.
Some of the pictures evoke the graphic style of the cultures being illustrated.
Obviously, Ballantine understands real drawing, perspective, composition and traditional artistic skills, but he chooses to thoughtfully use some and bend the rules of others.
He is not applying the exact same style to each of his images. He experiments with levels of stylization and different influences.
It's interesting to me that a bunch of animators in the 1950s used their animation drawing backgrounds to aim at a graphic style that had already come about in more traditional ways and more naturally by illustrators.
I think the illustrators were way ahead of the animators, because they had been doing it longer, and in general had higher drawing standards to live up to. There were also many more illustrators than animators. The field was much broader. Let's face it, in general illustrators draw better than animators. At least 50 years ago.
Cartoons developed their more limited graphic tools functionally- simple forms that turn in space easily, lines of action etc. all with the purpose to save time drawing so that they could more easily move the drawings.
Gerald McBoingBoing's characters always fit into the whole graphic image (at least for the first 2 cartoons) but many of the "flat" cartoons that followed didn't see that aspect of the design.
When they came to do the more graphic, illustrative styles they didn't have the strong artistic backgrounds and traditions of the illustrators. Nor the huge talent pool and higher artistic standards.
In some cases, this led to some really great stuff anyway - like the Hubley commercials which combined bold graphics with inventive and appropriate animation movements. In many cases it just amounted to a superficial awkward imitation of magazine illustration, without the good animation to make up for it.
The illustrators started with more detailed, more realistic and more traditional drawing tools and gradually moved towards more simple, more graphic statements that kept intact the broader stronger fundamental underlying artistic sense of order.
If you want to see some of the principles and skills Ballantine is applying to his compositions, click some of the labels below.