Friday, November 21, 2008

Color Theory 10 - Funny Bunny and the technique of Soft Fuzzy Fur

I've always been impressed by the old fashioned techniques employed by greeting card artists and children's book illustrators to make furry cute animals look soft and glowing.


This artist picks a basic color for each fur coat and then paints gradients-not cheesy airbrush gradients, but gradients made up fine brush textures. The textures don't fill the entire surface of the fur and they have some variations in texture - unlike many of today's cartoon paintings with cover the surfaces of every different kind of object with the same painting texture and lighting.
The soft fur looks even softer when the characters are juxtaposed against objects that don't have the same technique - like this tree which feels harder by contrast.

This artist is also an expert in controlling colors and fitting them into an overall hierarchy.

These birds have more contrast in their separate colors than the BG of the trees and hills behind them. This makes them stand out from the trees even though they are super saturated primary colors.

The birds themselves are gently broken up into areas of neutral colors and brighter colors. The color differences are not equally saturated and none are pure primary or secondary colors.

Even though the graphic look is quite stylized, it isn't harsh - the color and value choices are all tasteful and guided by nature. It gives you a warm feeling - running down your leg.
Awwwww.....

22 comments:

Kali Fontecchio said...

Is that the one with the pop-up part? You should take a photo of the cut-outs!

Niki said...

I've always loved the golden book style, although I didn't understand until I found your blog and the ASIFA page. I'm really going for the more classical story book look, but does ASIFA have a page on learning to paint?

trevor thompson said...

Were any of these painted on fabric and then cut out and pasted?

- trevor.

Caleb said...

The trees on that 2nd to last one are amazing. I always liked the format of Golden Books, how the text is separate from the art. It would be great to see the process that goes into these, there's so many techniques used but it stays simple. I'm guessing they used a combination of big brushes and sponges to get the soft gradients and brush-stroke fur.

Pete Emslie said...

There are still some things that old-fashioned painting techniques with gouache and a real brush can do better than any computer software program. The dry brush effect of painting fur is certainly one of them. It's relatively easy to accomplish too, yet it gives such a satisfying look.

I've experimented with Photoshop and all of the various texture brushes, and I just can't achieve the same effect as I can with the real deal. Photoshop texture brushes are essentially like rubber stamps that move, resulting in an exact repetition every time you touch stylus to tablet. In contrast, you can vary a stroke of a real brush so that your texture is always varied and alive. Also, real pigment on an illustration board is just warmer and more inviting than the painting with light that you are essentially doing with a computer painting program.

Yep, my bias is showing...

Zoran Taylor said...

Yeah, sometimes I look at this stuff and swear I'm looking at a really, REALLY carefully assembled collage. I think that way naturally because these paintings have more distinct breaks between brush techniques than modern OR classical painting! Remember that before the repetitive airbrush stylings of today, before those of yesterday, before the modern age entirely, there was a whole different attitude towards using contrast - there were a limited number of ways you could do it. The elite would puke at the sight of contrast created using only texture, or a texture that was "too distinctive". Everything had to have soft edges if it was against something that looked exceptionally different from that object.
Admittedly, this is mostly intuition and observation, but I have a feeling I'm at least partly right because, theoretically at least, it's yet more evidence of why Dada and Cubism simply HAD to happen in that context. And I guess impressionism was similarly subversive by giving the "soft-lovers" too much of their favorite thing and making their brains explode.
that was a hell of a digression, wasn't it? (Am I even using that word right? I think so....ah hell, it's Fried-day! *as in my brain - you know how it is...*)

Freckled Derelict said...

Hey John,
Love this post and that book!
You can find the whole thing on my site here if interested -
http://goldengems.blogspot.com/2008/03/funny-bunny.html
Thanks so much for all your amazing posts!!!

Hryma said...

Great point Pete,
I'm just putting it out there for any tech geek engineers who may be reading.

What if there were to be a monofilament brush for graphics tablets?

Each bristle working independently
moving the pixles on the screen just like a real brush moving paint and applying different pressures.

Maybe make a sponge too.

Like these images the real deal is always going to be the cooler. What's better hanging a print or hanging the original.

Niki said...

Hay I just remembered this,( I'm working on it now) but I'm taking a film class right now and in the back of the book there were shots from Chuck Jones cartoons! and the project I have now is to analyze a Hitchcock film.(sadly a remastered sound version but good none the less) It gave me the idea, "I'm going to analyze two Jones works and compare them! It'll only show up around January though so if your interested I'll send it here, but for now I will practice painting these! It's high-time I got to doing it!

Gibran said...

you are PHOOOOOODA!

Niki said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujgeNNlP8fM&NR=1

A really old cartoon I found, enjoy! if you have that laden ability, Mr.John

Bitter Animator said...

That one with the birds on the trees is absolutely gorgeous. It's beautiful. I've always wanted to be able to achieve that look but have never been able to (on account of being a talentless hack and slightly colourblind) but, hey, just looking at them is at least half as fun.

But is this really better than the excellent CG fur we can do now?

Oswald Iten said...

This may be off-topic, but I'd appreciate it if you found time to look at an illustration of mine: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_bKUY_4J7fnA/SRwApqu2MOI/AAAAAAAAApE/1GHln26qrAo/s1600-h/donkey_02.jpg

Usually I shy away from pink and turquoise, but here I tried to use those colors here in a less garish way. I'm not sure if I succeeded.

Since I look to you as some sort of an authority on color taste, I'm curious what you think of this.

Thanks anyway for all the valuable information on your blog.

Paul B said...

Hi John

do you know the artist Victor Castillo?

http://www.victor-castillo.blogspot.com/

Frank said...

had a job filming a children's book fair once...

tons of young amazing artist show up there from all around the world to show their portfolios to publishers. i wish i had a chance to look at more.

http://www.bookfair.bolognafiere.it

Jenny Lerew said...

You're at your very best(at least, apart from the You one experiences in real life) )when analyzing and appreciating these things from the "past". I use quotes because vintage though it is it's all brand new to anyone who's never seen it before.

Many people post and drool over such as the Provensens, and well they should-the more the better. But I'm always extra impressed by how cogent and insightful you are both technically and emotionally.

How's that for some shoe-shining? I really mean it Johnnie! Thanks, pal.

Jenny Lerew said...

Oh hey as an aside--I volunteered for ASIFA duty last weekend, lots of folks there; looked for Worth as I've never yet met him but did not espy him. Oh well. Tell him I said hi.

pumml said...

Great post and a great book. I read somewhere that the Provensens were responsible for influencing many if not most of the mid century children's book illustrators. Looking at this and any of their other books, it's clear to see why. For my money they were two of the most solid and versatile children's book illustrators of the time.

And of course, I agree with Pete's comments about traditional v digital. It's a shame that digital work is much more flexible and efficient in a production environment, because there's no topping that rich traditional look.

Gudrød said...

Great post. I want to attempt this type of technique for a project I'm working on. :)

Stephen Worth said...

Hi Jenny

My committee was meeting at the Archive because they ran out of rooms at Woodbury. Stop by the Archive sometime. Lots of stuff you'd love to see! I'm there Tues-Sat from 1pm to 9pm.

See ya
Steve

Niki said...

Mr. John, I found a huge compilation of golden books in my garage! I didn't know I had them! The styles vary in it too, it's really nice looking I'm going to post some pictures this weekend, when I get my scanner back.

Ray said...

very nice what u have done here :)