Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to tell if your staging and composition is clear

Look at the pictures small. If there is an obvious shape to the overall page, and you can still see what the composition is focusing on, then you probably have good staging.


tiny dean said...

I think this is pretty good advice.

I admit that, unfortunately, my staging and layout skills are less than adequate. Thus, I appreciate posts such as these.

Caleb said...

Great advice. The same principle works with mixing audio. If you turn down the volume, you can tell which sounds are louder than the rest.

Happy new year!

HemlockMan said...

Frazetta and Wood. Two of the best.

Niki said...

Some of these pictures, I get but some others, I got no clue.(Care bears) but even though right now I'm half blind, Mysteriously, I completely understand the Total Drama staging... Does that mean it's been well done? I've seen it before also, maybe it's because of Dejavu.

JohnK said...

Not all of these images are well staged in my opinion.

The ones that have an obvious shape to them are.

Anonymous said...

Stepping back and looking... haha, I always forget to do that.

Niki said...

Ok that made it easier, and I can see the shape in some of them. Others though, completely lack it. My friends would probably love all of them (Except Total Drama) claiming a good posing in them all.

Trevor Thompson said...

Cuddly Duddly! One of the last great puppets!

Yeah, the stuff that's confusing and cluttered stands out all the moreso when you shrink it down. Especially that Superman page!


- trevor.

Raff said...

Best bit of advice yet.

'Nuff blogging. Wontcha give us another cartoon? A short one?

Ross Irving said...

I can read most of them. Can't read the Gummi Bears one too well, it's cramped and the it probably would have worked if it wasn't a medium shot like that.

Definitely can't read the composition with the entire Total Drama Island cast in it. What do you expect though, there's twenty-two characters! That would be hell to stage. It would have been better if the guys in charge made a series of pictures with a few of the "contestants" at a time.

Frazetta's pictures have more detail, but I can see a general shape in the picture. The last picture with the Disney bears is completely readable. I like how the trees framing the three bears in the last shot aren't symmetrical, either.

Going off topic, I've read posts in the past where you talk about layouts and how you should make a lot of drawings during that phase to keep whatever creativity you can. Layout drawings are usually made of key poses, but that's where I stop understanding. What is classified as a "key pose"? They're just poses that show the anticipation and follow-through of every action, right?

Hans Flagon said...

It seems Wood staged his own stuff better, than when he was embellishing Harveys Layouts. Harvey gave very readable layouts, but the artists were encouraged to fill in every possible crevice with a gag, Elders Chicken Soup.

Frazettas work reads better in color generally. The big cat being attacked sort of melds into the attacker. Beautiful linework, that works well at a larger size. Color would have added more 'blacks' making the image more readable. His paintings use negative space to a greater advantage

The Junior Woodchucks Ranger Cartoon is well staged and choreographed.

Not those saturday morning seventies/eighties big groups. When the cartoon was representing music, that meant it was time to bring out the stock animation of Josie / archie and the tamborine, rather than do something that fit the music. Filmation did this better with the Groovie Ghoulies, because the songs were opportunities for gags, and the character designs, being monsters, were more extreme allowing for more negative space.

Oscar Baechler said...

I did indeed hear through the grapevine that Frazetta's method was something along the lines of "I just draw big shapes that I like, then fill in anatomy and shading and subject matter later."

I think that first one, possibly because it lacks Frazetta's fine coloring, doesn't read as well. From a distance, the primary column of subject matter takes up the whole page, without any big swaths of white space.

Speaking of drawing arbitrarily pleasing shapes and filling in stuff later, here's one of my favorite sketchbook exercises: draw a random abstract squiggly line, then figure out how to make it a line of action for a figure. It's tough!

Keep it up, John.

Pat said...

Frazetta is the master, but some of these images are very hard to read. There's not much of a clear silhouette like the comp of the chickens and superman. Speaking of that Superman composition, you'll find a lot of bad staging in comics. Just awful to look at.

Go to this guy's site

You'll be able to look at his work as small thumbnails. Almost all of his images read so well. Even the very loose sketches work.

Ambassador MAGMA said...

I thought the seventh from the bottom was a weird face, and then realized it was an even weirder close-up of a branch with terribly painted leaves. I clicked on it and realized it was lightning nearly striking a blobby woodland critter. Perhaps art you'd see at on a scary motel wall?

Moral is: Bad staging can be deadly!

To be honest, I don't think ANY of these are staged well! A few are clear as to what is happening, but the shapes are boring (the bears at the bottom or the super rolling landscape). Symmetry always kills staging.

Hans Flagon said...

I think Busby Berkely would differ with the idea that symmetry ALWAYS kills staging.

Consider the Woodchuck bears if there was not any 3/4 views or perspective, and they were always just propped flat up in front of the camera side by side lilke a mac vs PC commercial. All the patterns allow is a use of negative space and a line of action. You know the bears at the picnic table are looking at something.

Contrast with the Josie and the PussyCat styled overlap of characters with no apparent awareness of thier environment.

But sometimes, the favorite part of any gold key comic for me, was the little group shot model sheet they pasted down in the indicia

Bill J. Barry said...

Hans Flagon said...

"It seems Wood staged his own stuff better, than when he was embellishing Harveys Layouts. Harvey gave very readable layouts, but the artists were encouraged to fill in every possible crevice with a gag, Elders Chicken Soup."

Whaaat? Where did you hear/read Kurtzman ever encouraging this?

Pete Emslie said...

A few are clear as to what is happening, but the shapes are boring (the bears at the bottom or the super rolling landscape). Symmetry always kills staging.

Nothing "boring" about those pics of Humphrey and his fellow bruins. The poses are identical and symmetrical for a reason: it's a dance routine! Subtle differences in the poses would kill the effect of them all being in step with each other.

I agree that the "Total Drama Island" and "The Gummi Bears" shots are a bit of a muddled mess with everything fighting for the viewer's attention and no leading of ones eye through the scene. I'm personally a bit disappointed with the Mary Blair "Alice in Wonderland" piece, as the staging is not particularly rhythmic, especially not when compared with her charming cover for the "Surprise Package" book.

Hans Flagon said...

I thought Harvey Kurtzman came up with the Chicken Soup phrase, and seemed to like what Elder did. One starting point would be the issue of Mad that is nothing but heaping praise upon Bill Elder, (the Artist Issue). I doubt Bill himself wrote that.

I have heard that Russ Heath followed Harvey TOO literally (Plastic Sam - you can tell), but could not tell you if that came from Harveys mouth.

But this is all vague memories.

I remember Kurtzman not being terribly fond of what John Severin did with his layouts, Didn't like his inks or the way he spotted, or failed to spot, blacks,and I think he may have gotten irked by both Wood and Davis on what he called Broken Foot syndrome, it seems both of them liked to show the bottoms of shoes so much that they would show the feet at angles they could not naturally reach.

But if Harvey was insistant on the artists at Mad being more loyal to his layouts, you would have seen that much. It would have looked more like Harveys own work. Instead, it seemed rather busy didn't it. So he must have not railed against them for drawing too much.

Anonymous said...

I like these staging posts. I still have trouble recognizing good staging, but these are helping.

Do you have any opinions on Bruce Carrick? He illustrated the Magilla Gorilla Golden Book, and according to google, he now does abstract landscape paintings.

I posted Magilla here: