Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Layout-Composition 16 , the Big Picture Designed Owen Fitzgerald

Owen Fitzgerald's layout and composition sense is great for study. Why?
Because he doesn't use a lot of detail in his scenes. It's all about the overall statement and clarity.

He uses plenty of empty space in between more filled areas.

He doesn't compose anything directly in the middle.
Nothing is evenly spaced.
He uses a combination of controlled framing devices and intersection. Nothing is placed in the scenes by accident.

He uses lots of contrasts, tall and thin, short and wide, characters posed on angles to contrast against perpendicular furniture and buildings. Organic VS geometric shapes.

His scenes have an overall clear statement. The whole frame reads as a design.

You know how you can tell if you have a good composition? An overall pleasing design statement and a clear image? Not just a bunch of clutter?
Look at the image small. If you can still easily read what is happening and the overall shapes add up to a clear design, then you are probably there.

Frank Frazetta has beautiful intricate details in his work, but his images also are stunning simple compositions. The whole image is a design.

Tricky angles
Owen can draw scenes from any angle, and he is still careful to organize the elements in the frame so that everything reads clearly and is a handsome design.

In my opinion, a good clean handsome layout beats a ton of evenly spaced cluttered detail any day. Especially in anmated cartoons where you keep cutting from scene to scene.


Nate said...

Great stuff. I'd love to see his drawings for animation. Anybody got any?

Aaron said...

It's all about clarity and elegance eh?

Timefishblue said...

I love these posts. Layout just blows my mind for some reason.

Maybe because good layout is rare nowadays? It's not something I'm used to seeing.

Bitter Animator said...

I love those Frazetta paintings. The shark is absolutely fantastic.

On the bit where you say Fitzgerald doesn't compose anything directly in the middle, the image on the right seems to have the woman's head smack bang in the middle, which threw me initially given what you wrote but there's a great natural line of focus in that image - the woman speaks first, leads us to the man, who then leads us up to the window. To me, the composition doesn't look that simple but he leads us through is so well. It's a great image.

But one thing with that one image is that I find it harder to read the text than look at the picture - my eyes are drawn constantly to that pattern of woman, man, window. Know what I mean?

I wonder how the lettering is worked out in these - does Fitzgerald outline where the text is supposed to go? Does he even have the full text worked out?

Guillermo GC said...

Hi John,

I don't know if you have received my new mail with the G.L stuff.

I am sending it againg to your email address.


HemlockMan said...

Ah, the great Frazetta.

I see what you mean. The comic panels present an overwhelming pattern.

I've noticed that Jack Kirby often did the same thing.

Sherm said...

That tiny shot of Bob Hope standing and looking at the "fashion show today" window...I can't stop looking at it! It's such a nothing panel, but Owen pumps so much life and zest into it, I just want to frame it!

Thanks for the inspirational cartoon booster shot!

trevor said...

Nice! My eyeballs thank you, John.

It's strange, but DC Comics artists used to be very good at composition, adhering to a natural path that the eye will take.

I stopped reading comics when I had to look at both pages and backtrack to figure out what I missed.

Thanks for nothing Todd McFarlane!

- trevor.

PS: Are there ANY artists named McFarlane ( or MacFarlane ) who aren't hacks?

Bob said...

Thanks John for these past posts they are all really inspiring. The angles and composistions are pleasing to the eyes and I also really liked the Jim Tyer stuff.

Anonymous said...


Could you do a post showing how we learn how to use construction to copy artists like Fitzgerald, Drucker, Capp, Caniff, etc?

I'm finding that since they have less obviously organic shapes and negative spaces than 40s pear-and-sausage characters this is harder to learn.

Weirdo said...

Excellent post Mr. K. These are real treats for the eyes. I love those Frazetta paintings. I like being able to read the pages clearly. Thank you very much for posting.

MasterK said...

I just found this blog you might find interesting about "animation writers" sorry, I don't know how to post links in comments.

Rudy Tenebre said...

Wally Wood streamlined his work in the 60's: improved his foreshortening, reduced his economy of inking, reduced the general economy of his composition, and by all rights considered himself a better artist.

I'll take his cluttered, feverish, and overworked EC stuff over his later work. The later work hasn't an ounce of the investment, or the PATHOS of the stuff one considers full of formal flaws.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I really like the two-point perspective one at the top- and the latter pic at the bottom. Taking notes!

Elana Pritchard said...

you rule as a teacher you know. can you do a post about drawing from different angles and still retaining the look to a character/ scene? i have found that to be very challenging...

Peggy said...

Hey, John. Totally unrelated to the comics at hand - but do you know anything about Jot?

Not so hot about the Christian morals, but damn that's some awesome designy work. The sheer audacity of having him turn into a bouncing ball to save on animating walks - and those backgrounds!