Friday, November 28, 2008

Irv Spector and Style

When people who don't already have strong drawing skills think of "style", they are usually thinking about the last layer or the surface layer of a drawing - the line, the finish, or some trick of the shape of the character's eye.
I know if you make a nice clean storyboard with bold black lines, it impresses the Hell out of executives - even if the drawings underneath the polished line smell like your cat box.

Young cartoonists are a little more sophisticated than animation executives because they can recognize a stylish looser line, but the same problem exists - just to a slightly lesser degree. The youngsters love their squared off fingers and 'tude faces, thinking that they are somehow symbols of high style or that they are drawing just like Milt Kahl. Modern squared fingers and hands (and faces) are 2 dimensional and only have a few easy-to-draw positions vs Kahl's whose are 3 dimensional. These have a potentially infinite amount of angles and attitudes - a huge difference in skill and quality. (I still find them offensively ugly though)

Corners do not make style. Simple surface elements without solid principles underneath are merely excuses for ignorance.

This panel, on the surface looks like Walt Kelly. The loose brush lines on the dog's nose is definitely a Kelly trademark.Spector uses a lot more dynamic angles and compositions than Kelly and also has a very unique style of shapes he uses that distinguish him from Kelly and other animation cartoonists.

If a young cartoonist liked this style, he might think that the secret to it is wobbly lines and shapes.

If you could copy this line style, that wouldn't by itself give you the ability to draw a good composition, perspective, line of action and construction - all of which these drawings have.

You might think the construction is off here because the belly shape doesn't fit 100% on the pussy's form. It definitely doesn't, but I can see that the form is very solidly suggested, but the lines just skirt around on top of the form like a loose glove. The knowledge of construction is completely there though.

Compare to Harvey Eisenberg's lines which fit around the construction like a tight glove.

It's like when a great singer like Sinatra takes the lyrics and melody and just barely avoids delivering it right where it's written in mathematical tempo. Instead he uses and is applauded for his "phrasing" - his slightly loose interpretation of the timing. He starts some words before where you expect them to hit, and some after - and it isn't at random. It's all according to great sensitivity and emotion. He is expertly toying with the listener's expectations. He knows exactly where every note is supposed to land, but varies it on purpose for emotional effects that can't be written in words or in musical notation.

Frank can sing on key, has a wide range, has great rhythm, great control and enunciation - all principles of good singing. The last thing he does after learning his fundamental skills is give you his fantastic moving style.

I like these big pupils but wouldn't assume that if I drew big pupils I would automatically have my own style or could draw just like Irv Spector.

Irv Spector has a unique style - it only superfically looks like Kelly. What actually makes it unique is much harder to define.

It's completely obvious to me though, that he has the same background knowledge and skill that most of the classic animators had. Without that, an animator is crippled. Just like a singer who can't carry a tune.

Listen to Frank and Ollie....starting with "SOLID DRAWING" That's where it all begins - including the journey towards style.