Saturday, August 16, 2008

Kurtzman and Composition

This top panel has 2 large elements:

1) The falling pig.

2) The cliffs/rocks that he is falling off.

Each of those two parts is then again split up into smaller parts that make the bigger parts read clearly and look good.

1) The pig's pose follows a clear line of action and his clothes and features flow along the overall organic curve.

2) His silhouette is framed by the rope and the rope itself has a pleasing design which leads in perspective to the smaller pig in the distance.

3) Between the rope and the cliff you can see a few smaller falling rocks, clearly framed between the 2 larger elements.

4) The clouds have distinct shapes and are then broken into smaller rounded forms that flow along the overall shapes. The two clouds create a pleasing negative shape between them.

5) That negative shape frames a falling pick axe.

You can also split up the cliff half of the image into its individual rocks and the flowing details along the rocks. Everything fits together in an organic pleasing artistic pattern. No wonkiness. No haphazard arangement of unrelated shapes and details. This is all very cleverly thought out. It's not by accident. Every element is carefully arranged to create an overall design.

It is split up into segments, each which then again is split up and carefully arranged into smaller parts that enhance the larger parts. This pattern works al the way down to the smallest details.

I encourage my layout artists to use this system of hierarchy. It makes everything read clearly. It frames the most important elements of the picture and it makes for an overall pleasing graphic statement. It's also very hard to do, but Kurtzman makes it look easy.

Kurtzman is a master of clarity and design. I would love to see this concept of hierarchical arrangement of compositional elements return to cartoons. It's a sign of top professionalism and artistic control - and it both performs a function (making the important elements read well and quickly) and is really pleasing to look at.

Those 2 ingredients make it art.

Function and aesthetic.

Go see more of this lost classic comic by one of the all time great cartoonists!

Milt Gross is another master of composition:

Although his style is different than Kurtzman's on the surface, he is using the same underlying controls to make his images read.

Howie Post has this talent too: