Monday, August 10, 2009

Becky's Top Cat Studies

Becky is a very serious student of funny pictures. She knows that her ample and obvious talent can be pushed much farther by adding knowledge.
When you draw toys, the goal is to understand solidity, perspective and how cartoon shapes move in space from different angles - then to apply that knowledge to your own work.
Top Cat's Hat is cocked at an angle-lower at the left. I missed that myself at first, then corrected it.
I always write notes when I study something so that what I observe sticks with me.

I think TC's forehead is pushed out a bit too far here and the hat is too big
slightly different angle than the photo and the hat should not be wavy. Up shots are hard!

Becky's upshot is at a different angle than the photo and she wants to show you more of his upper face, even though from this angle there is less to see

Becky straightened out TC's hat and eye angle here (I did too. It's a natural assumption!)

Again, I wouldn't be afraid to push the muzzle and nose out and away from the rest of the head. Try not to flatten every feature against the head shape.

Here is my conversation with her if it is helpful to anybody:

John: Becky?
Becky: Hi John! How are you?
John: good
John: I like your Top Cats
John: do you think you got anything from that?
Becky: yes! it helped me a lot with foreshortening
Becky: and thankyou

John: flip them around to check them

John: you should write down what you learned about solidity
John: and then apply it to a character of your own

Becky: could you explain solidity more?
John: well didn't you discover it drawing the toys?
John: the fact that the muzzle sticks out from the face for example
John: and the eyes are in perspective wrapping around a rounded head
John: and are different shapes from each other because of their positions in space
Becky: ohhh, ok

John: that when you look up or down at a 3/4 pose, certain things happen to the features
Becky: so solidity is basically form?

John: the point of copying is not just to copy but to understand what is happening in the things you are copying
John: and then to apply them to your own work
John: like draw your tiger using some of the things you learned from the toy
John: do a toy version of her
John: him?
Becky: ok, I see what you mean now

John: articulate what makes the toy look 3 dimensional
Becky: should I do a turnaround sheet?
John: sure

John: even put the seams in
John: seams on toys help you understand the construction

John: but remember this tip:
John: it's important to UNDERSTAND what you are studying or copying
John: not just to copy for copying sake
John: it's to figure out WHY things look the way they do

John: and then to APPLY that knowledge to what you do yourself - in your own work

John: then when you decide to break a rule - you are doing it on purpose
John: instead of by accident
John: you can control it better

the end

Becky believes (and practices) what a small handful of cartoonists still seem to today; that cartoons oughta look nice - they should appeal to our eyes, not just be gross and cluttered.

Her work is very stylized in an arresting way. It reminds me of one of my heroes: Jack Schleh


J C Roberts said...

Having a good 3D model is a big help in studying a character from all angles. I'd go so far as to say it would be helpful, if you are able, to get some Sculpey or other modeling clay and construct your character to use the same way. I do this with my characters, but then I already have a feel for sculpting.

Just a couple observations here, I notice the term 3/4 view being used to describe an angled view of the face. I had always heard that's called a 1/4 view, and that a 3/4 view is the same thing but toward the back of the object.

Toys are indeed great for such studies, this Top Cat seems a little blunted, especially his hat brim. I guess that doesn't harm the exercise, but his face is a bit flattened for depth studies.

Also, he's referred to a couple of times here as "TP". Must not be a close friend of his,'cause they get to call him "TC". I wouldn't want to use this toy the way you would use what's normally called TP, though, that would probably hurt a bit, as well as being highly disrepectful to the most tip top.

Finally, I just did a little Top Cat drawing myself recently. I posted a link to it in a previous post, but since there's never a way to tell if anyone looks at them, here it is again:

Pedro Vargas said...

Man, her stuff is really great! Really inspiring stuff. I love staring at her paintings for hours!

Ed Choy Moorman said...

what is her website?

Anonymous said...

Interesting material. Learning from toys. And of course, great work Becky!

Brian S. said...

great post! I wonder if that has anything to do with artists today crowding their work desks with action figures...

Niki said...

Will any plastic figure toy work? cause I have a pretty nice goofy looking t-Rex but I haven't tried to draw him yet because I not sure if it should be made in a certain way.

MToolen said...

This going through of fundamentals is why I read this blog. I'm a musician by trade, but seeing the big picture behind things is a key theme in theory and composition. This is basically what I do in theory class-breaking something down, not for its own sake, but figuring out why something sounds like it does, then, as it was said, "when you decide to break a rule - you are doing it on purpose ... instead of by accident ... you can control it better"

Joakim Gunnarsson said...

Ed: Check out

Tom said...

Hey john!
Would you mind posting up some more toys turnarounds? I dont have any toys of mine own (yes, shed a single tear for me) and i'd like to draw something other than the topcat toy.
I drew it a lot, and while none of it is good enough to post yet, i want more practice.
It's kind of like that damn preston blair egg - i practice and practice, always getting the proportions slightly off, and i just have to skip to something else, because at some point it just seems like the egg is taunting me, and i begin to hate it.

In short, more toys pics? thanks!

carlo guillot said...

Hi John.
I've just found this on youtube,
Colonel Bleep

HenriekeG said...

I love Becky's work! Seeing new drawings from her pop up is always a treat.
Aside from her comic, make sure you check out and
My problem with drawing seems to be different- I pretty much know the rules (although I definitely need more practise and still have a long way to go), but it's hard to bring things to life or apply my own style. I think the only way is to practise more and more, it probably comes with the years.
In case you read this Becky (and John too), did the way you draw come naturally while being influenced by things you like, or did you CHOOSE to draw things in a specific way?

HenriekeG said...

Hey John,
Thanks for your comment! If you ever have the time to critise some of my stuff, that'd be great. Most people are being far too nice, which is motivational but doesn't really help me improve.
Thank you as well for the time you put in this blog, it sure has been helping me a lot. Not to mention that I really love watching those cartoon clips over and over again.

JohnK said...

If I have any advice for you, I would suggest trying to figure out some other styles.

You have 40s Disney down pat

Try WB, or Milt Gross or HB

try different styles to understand what makes them different and you will absorb stuff that eventually will lead you to your own thing

Alvin said...

So is this Rebecca Sugar?