Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Howie Post, Tree King

Nate, pay attention!

I love Howie Post's backgrounds. They are caricatures of the general Harvey house style. You notice right away how interesting the details are-the shapes of the trees, the creative bark textures, the clever and stylish shapes of the leaves.

But details don't make a good picture!


What makes the individual objects read especially well is his use of not only the shapes themselves, but the spaces surrounding the shapes, and the spaces within the shapes.

He doesn't fill a whole tree evenly with bark textures. Note that some areas have bark details close together - but these clumps of texture are separated by other clumps with ample spaces in between.

The characters are always clearly framed by the bgs and the negative spaces between the characters.

The empty spaces are just as pleasingly designed as the positive shapes of the characters and objects.

All the details are small and in organic (non-mathematical) proportions. That's so the details don't draw your attention away from the much larger forms that they wrap around.
He has an infinite amount of ways to draw leaves, without having to draw each individual leaf.

Sometimes his foliage looks like it's from another planet.

Post uses hierarchy of forms and spaces beautifully. All those girls running towards Hot Stuff fit within a flowing organic shape. Plus, they are not evenly spaced. That makes it appear natural, even though Howie is completely controlling the image.

Again, besides marvelling at the beautiful cartoony tree, look at how much negative space there is - both:

1) Surrounding the tree

2) Within the details of the tree. (Nate!)

Each layer of sub forms describes a clear and distinct form, which is in turn subject to the larger form it wraps around.


Vincent Waller said...

Great stuff as always. Your post had me doodling Hot Stuffs all day yesterday,

vantazy said...

These are fantastic!- and your descriptions are very helpful. Thanks.

David Gale said...

Really enjoying this latest batch of posts on composition/backgrounds!

Kali Fontecchio said...

You're quite sweet for just pointing this all out in such a clear way. I am madly in love with his trees, and the little faerie that looks like me, tee hee hee.

Gabriele_Gabba said...

AH! Fantastic advice once again! Details within the negative shapes that have large gaps between them ARE more appealing! You know i gotta say i really like the inking too!
I think the reason i like this blog so much is because there is a strong mentality of sharing and observing.

mdouglas said...

Excellent lesson! Those trees are candy! Negative space is one of those rudimentary principals that people (myself included) sometimes forget about. Thanks for showing clear examples and drilling this into my brain!

The Butcher said...

Hey John, I hate to be pushy, but I need that post about clothes wrinkles in comics. I like cartoon skin, but when I do illustrative stuff I seem to always draw lumpy pants. Help me!

Excellent post by the way.

Sean Causley said...

I completely abuse negative space, but I did enjoy your post.

Sven Hoek said...

Just amazing. What a great comic. And spot on analysis (as usual). thanks John.

JonnyPlank said...

Space within positive space, defining details and sub forms! THAT'S why my trees always look good as silhouettes, but I can never get them to look good as line work! I'm being far too heavy handed with the technical stuff!

Thank you John K., you probably just helped me jump at least a month of practice. Now I can practice using the idea correctly!

Chris said...

Thanks, John. Really informative! This is one of those posts that I will read over and over.

Tony C. said...

Unbelievable post John! Thank you so much for bringing well crafted art like this to your readers' attention.

It is especially helpful when you draw on the images to highlight what makes them work.

These posts are tremendously helpful!

rodineisilveira said...

Hello, Johnny K.!

Do you remember of the Dropouts comic strip, which Howard "Howie" Post produced between 1968 and 1982 (and which was distributed for the newspapers from the whole world by United Media/United Feature Syndicate)?
Here's a Dropouts daily strip (dated from 1969), where Howie Post made a detailed drawing of a huge tree (as he always did on Harvey Comics), in silhouette.
This strip is located on the following link:

Enjoy to click on this link!
That's it!

SoleilSmile said...

OK, now how about an urban setting? I find that doing urban BG's are tougher than organic BG's.
Try a Sex and the City scene in a coffee shop, or a night club or walking around the financial district. Sky scrapers are very "liney". How do you keep even the simplest buildings from conflicting with your characters? Better yet how do you keep a cluster of buildings from making a mess of the composition with your foreground characters?

Marc Deckter said...

Thanks for the excellent Howie Post analysis. The notes and color-coding in Photoshop really make these principles crystal clear.

Nate said...

Awesome lesson! I need to get those Harvey collections. Great textures and such lively shapes.

Aimee Inc. said...

I love the line work and the trees are amazing. They look great, even without color. I think alot of work now-a-days relies on color to complete it rather than the lines being able to stand on their own as quality. :)

Jim Smith said...

These take me back to childhood Lubbock Texas 1959. Some of the trees have faces with eyes and eyelashes. I bet Howie did that on purpose.

Timothy Dumpleton said...

This is extremely helpful and perfect for giving me some ideas with tackling my children's books. Thanks :)

Edwina said...

Great post! I did an architectural drawing a while back and pulled this treatment for the trees and bushes out of my memory bank. Loved the simplicity of it and the juxtaposition with the detail of the building. Felt absolutely right.