Tuesday, September 09, 2008
A GOOD CARTOONIST CAN ADAPT TO DIFFERENT STYLES AND MAINTAIN HIS SIGNATURE
You hear the word "style" used too much today. Young cartoonists excuse their lack of knowledge by saying they have a style. Even executives; folks who by nature are as blind as bats toss the word around as if it means something to them. They used to hate the word "style", but for the last decade and a half it has been trendy to pretend you like it.
People call that flat stuff you see everywhere a "style". If it's a style, then it's a style made up of mistakes-and the exact same mistakes that hundreds of cartoonist make just through natural ignorance.
Well at one time "style" did mean something, and actually had more than one meaning. Having more than one meaning confuses things by allowing people to equivocate between the meanings when they try to talk about it.
One meaning of style is "personal style."
Another is a wider general or "house style". Like the Warner Bros. style.
But within the "Warner Bros. style" are 5 or 6 "directors' styles".
Each director in turn constantly experimented and evolved his style.
Within each director's unit are individual animators' styles whose styles also evolved with time.
Looking wider, you can say the Warner Bros. style is part of the "40s pear and spheres style" which also includes Disney, Terrytoons, MGM and Columbia.
The "UPA style" is both derived from and rebelling against the "pear and spheres style".
Through all of these cartoons you can see similarities of wider principles. People confuse principles with style all the time.
When cartoon studios in Canada look at a good cartoonists' portfolio that has solid principles, they say "Oh you draw in John K.'s style". In other words if you draw well and solid and fun and non ambiguous, then you all have the same style, which is ridiculous.
Nick Cross, Jim Smith, Katie Rice, Helder Mendonca, Bob Camp, Vincent Waller
Then there is a whole group of people who draw in a generic style that is a combination of the "spumco and Tartakovsky style".
The above fake commercial is drawn in Dave Sheldon's personal style which came from a lot of influences out of the 50s rebellion against pears and spheres. Dave was one of many stylists I used on Ren and Stimpy. His style was probably the most influential of all the Spumco artists.Genndy and Craig McCracken did their own take on the 50s and created a lot of original stuff.
The imitators of this stuff from the last 18 years combined it into a non custom-made generic unindividual group style. It started in the early 90s in LA, and then made it to Canada about 5 years ago - right when great Spumco artists were being turned away by Canadian studios who told them they needed artists who could adapt to other styles - which meant could adapt to the style that rips us off ignorantly.
Now this resulting soulless flat broken glass style is everywhere and animation executives all think it is hip and modern - but then wonder why none of the shows are as popular as Ren and Stimpy or Dexter's Lab. D-uh!
An unevolving generic group style like fake-Disney, or fake-Genndy is a dead animal, unlike a wider group style like the "pears and spheres" 30s and 40s "style",
Hank Ketcham and Walt Kelly have very individual personal styles, yet both these very different looking finishes are based on the exact same principles of good animation drawing. They were both animators trained at Disney's who broke away from the stifling genericism at the studio to become successful on their own. They benefited hugely from their Disney training.
Harvey Kurtzman is not an animator, yet has a style that uses the same principles again.
This 40s animation technique of drawing is not really a style at all - it's a drawing approach that suits animation and is open to constant development, growth and experimentation - when it is in the hands of clever individuals who don't cage themselves in by the group style.
Whew! Now on to Harvey Eisenberg...
Harvey was an animator, then a layout artist at MGM on the original Tom and Jerry cartoons. Then he went into comics and used the 40s principles pretty generically at first,
but quickly developed his own individual style, and in turn adapted to the changing styles of animated cartoons over the next couple decades.
he was able to adapt to totally different looking styles, because he had his principles of drawing down pat, was really talented and knew how the more modern takes changed from the overall 40s "style" on the surface.
The link below will take you to some Yogi pages drawn by a few different artists, all trying to draw in the same "house style" but still letting their individuality come through.
My point? Good drawing skills are adaptable and give you more creative choices than blind imitation.