Monday, September 28, 2009

More Of My Flat Period Crap

I kinda wavered in and out of flatness, depending on the project. My own characters had to be a combination of flat and curved (organic, not geometric curves) to give me leeway to make poses and expressions that wouldn't look totally dead.

If someone else brought me a show concept that they wanted to be "hip", I would go as stylized and flat as possible, because I knew nothing else about the show would have any interest. No story, humor or personality.I found that some characters just couldn't be made perfectly 100% flat.


If I wanted to come up with a specific gag, the drawing couldn't be restricted by strict geometric rules so I found a middle ground between constructed characters and some stylization - angles in sensible places that wouldn't distract from the overall image or gag - character. These things are supposed to be alive, drawn comedians.

This is actually Lynne Naylor's design of my characters above for a storybible that hid Ren and Stimpy inside. Slightly designy, but not so much as to erase the life from the characters.
This is a model sheet of Mildman, The World's Most Powerful Homosexual. I actually thought I'd be able to sell this concept in the 80s. I probably could now.

There's lots more of this kind of stuff. Maybe I'll put some more up later so you can make fun of it, since I made fun of its modern descendants.


i think a lot of young cartoonists go through their "I wanna be hip" period. I had one, but I kept getting distracted by my natural instincts to want to be funny and entertaining and pure flatness wouldn't allow it.


What I'm amazed by today is that the super flat stuff has lasted almost 20 years - way beyond a normal allowance for what should be a passing trend. And that makes it no longer the least bit rebellious because everyone and his dog does it. It's become so simple that now anybody could draw it. It's now the purist form of conservatism.


Pete Emslie, Design-Master at Sheridan college weighs in. He says it better than me.
http://cartooncave.blogspot.com/2009/09/limitations-of-contemporary-tv.html

38 comments:

thomas said...

With a few exceptions, I'm mostly struck by how consistent your work's been; back to 1979.

Lampshade said...

Even before this post, I always thought something like "I'd rather see all the new stuff be pure derivative from Disney."

spongebob coloring pages said...

Nice artwork, the curves and sketches are good.

Rick Roberts said...

You shouldn't have posted this, now someone is going copy this and make a deviantart based on this style.

Niki said...

My hip period came after the Todd McFarland's "Spawn" movie, I think. Once I started, I drew spawn, anime and girls but I never knew how to move it until now. I think I may have a ton of those drawings in a suitcase in my closet, it all looks like it could have been really popular with execs.

Shawn Dickinson said...

I'm lucky...My "hip period" was copying Rat Fink.

Ross Irving said...

Woah, your stuff from thirty years ago. Do you have any stuff that goes back even further than that, or no? Cool stuff.

My hip period was right before I had turned 13 in 2005. I was trying to learn to draw manga from some book that cost about twenty dollars. Needless to say, I didn't get much out of it. Not to brown-nose or nothing, but your blog was like my wake up call when I first came across it two years ago in the summer. When I learned about cartoon construction, I made the connection to just about everything else or every other style I wanted to try and study from or draw. I still have a lot to learn about anatomy, but hey, it's a start.

A.M.Bush said...

oh man, am I a bad person for totally liking some of those (at least concept wise).

I'm gonna go buy a bunch of old 80's clothes now.

Annie-Mae said...

Hot Damn, I want to see like Mildman, if not just as a show then at least a one time short. He looks neat (you may disagree) and I think there needs to be more gay cartoons out there. Not in the raunchy and lets be so gay it's gross all the time thing, but using the powers of being fabulous to save man kind from the straits and KKK. XD

If anything the character is very art decoy. The lineart is thin and you couldn't recognize it as your creation either. Thanks a lot for sharing.

Meenx said...

Mildman has got to be a better idea than 90 percent of cartoons on air right now. Have you seen "Krypto the Superdog"? Just terrible.

Corey said...

I like these.. a lot.

Rick Roberts said...

My hip period was about 12 to 19. I was addicted to those creatively banal demons like anime, manga, and super hero comic books. I wanted to make serious art, phony pathos and all. Now I have these outlandlish ideas that I fear even I can't exploit.

Niki said...

I also want to say that, though I agree with you I still like Dax, I just think pompadours are cool. Here's lesson 2

Mr. Tat said...

(A lot of us must have been separated from birth.)

Considering the '80s or something, I like most of the Galaxy High designs as well as the work on the Beany and Cecil revival and may not be convinced otherwise!

Nothing wrong with Mildman either, who I think is manlier than Mr. Meek.

Shorty said...

Sounds like rap. I wonder if the producers of both get together and laugh about how simple and cheap they've made their product and can still sell it.

"What I'm amazed by today is that the super flat stuff has lasted almost 20 years - way beyond a normal trendy allowance. And it's no longer the least bit rebellious because everyone and his dog does it. It's become so simple that now anybody could draw it. It's now pure conservatism."

mr paal said...

Woah! You could cut cheese with that chin! Thanks for sharing these, sir.

I find, all too often, that i spend more time trawling through a library of symbols to construct an approximation of a gesture, than it would take to simply DRAW it.

When i thumbnail a scene or draw a gesture that i then have to recreate with prefabricated symbols, it often turns out that what i had in mind becomes translated into something resembling the concept of the gesture. Concepts are meaningless without appropriate execution.

Without doubt, the design should follow the function, not vice versa. I buy a pepper grinder because it grinds pepper, not because it looks cool & represents the idea of grinding pepper...without actually grinding it.

I studied fine art at university. In my first year, they cancelled the drawing & painting courses in favour of something called 'phenomenological studies'. This resulted in all the students having great ideas that they couldn't express. I think that model can be superimposed on this subject.

Best,
Paul.

Maxartwurk said...

Hi John!
My name is Max and I am also a Qu├ębecer and a big fan of most everything you do.
A few people suggested me to show you my site telling me that you crave for a certain type of character design,(psycological yet humoristic) maybe you'll like... So here goes : www.maxartwurk.com

If you have anything to comment, good or less good, don't be shy, let it rip.

Trevor Thompson said...

has lasted almost 20 years - way beyond a normal trendy allowance. And it's no longer the least bit rebellious because everyone and his dog does it.


I think the same thing about the droopy hip hop pants. This trend started when Ren and Stimpy did.

Conny Nordlund (Loathsome) said...

It's all about the money these days.. ugh.

Geneva said...

It's pretty awesome how much people have been talking about this since you brought it up! I'm sure it's something every cartoon lover's been thinking, or at least feeling deep down, for some time.

Geneva said...

Also, I think Mildman is actually pretty cute. You probably could sell the idea, now, but you might have to pretend to be gay in order to.

K. Nacht said...

Your old stuff is still more interesting than it's descendents, which have been even further simplified into elementary rectilinear shapes...

(I do love it when your children echo your catch-phrase pablum, philosopher John.)

AShortt said...

I will be honest, it is all 99.99% horrible. Mildman is a bloody funny idea if he popped in to help the boys 'rip' once in a while but that's it. The Cavalcade colors are nice and strangely enough I seem to really respond to Jeenas tan lines...but the rest is actually ugly to me.

Chris said...

The dog reminds me of when Vinny zips, zips, zips and zips... and zips up his leather jacket in the opening of Bakshi's Hey, Good Lookin'.

Pablo said...

Im so exited to see these designs, they are so fresh and inspired, great work as always.
Do not die ever, john!!!

Paul B said...

"The World's Most Powerful Homosexual"
HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

THAT'S FUCKING HILARIOUS!!

R.A. MacNeil said...

I'd love to see the cartoon cavalcade pitch package sometime.

Hans Flagon said...

Beyond the typical "Flat made easy for Flash production arguments" which I think still hold valid, another reason I see this style actually being popular, is, for those fans consuming these, the flat geometrics are easy to draw. At least their friends know what they are trying to draw.

I often go through periods where I think the simpler designs are harder to hit 'model' for what that is worth. Think of all the people who have parodied Schulz Peanuts badly, because they really couldn't quite get the subtle interaction of proportion and negative space of simple curves and circles making up Charlie Brown or Snoopy. And all of the realistic superhero artists that could barely make their characters look the same page to page sometimes, if not for the costume. They may actually have it easier.

Ian Andersen said...

I could see Mildman in a cal-arts style movie, he's too designy to move fluidly but he looks solid enough to snap from pose to pose without being too weird. It would certainly be more interesting than depressed robots.

John Pannozzi said...

Please show us that bible.

AShortt said...

"Mildman is a bloody funny idea if he popped in to help the boys 'rip' once in a while but that's it."

Ha, I actually didn't mean it to sound quite like that, I just meant as a guest star 'hero'. Geeze why the heck did the greatest 'friends slash superhero show get canceled anyway!?!

Sven Hoek said...

Oh yeah, I can hear Paul Lynde as the voice of Mildman, OR perhaps Charles Nelson Riley.

"You shouldn't have posted this, now someone is going copy this and make a deviant art based on this style."

Yeah, that sums up the last 15-20 yrs of TV cartoons.

And did you see the title card for Seth Macfarlanes new Cavalcade of kartoon crap? It looks an awful lot like Johns title card. Even has the same colors.

HemlockMan said...

The first thing that hit me in the Emslie article was the graphic of Fred & Barney. It's hilarious! Does anyone in modern TV cartoons do anything like that? IT'S FUNNY!!!

Don't know about your marketing "the world's most powerful homosexual" toon. There'd be a litmus test. Some place might go for it, but you'd have to prove that you're gay. Once, when I was trying to get a magazine to review my novel THE FLOCK, which I thought their readers might like, the editor agreed, but first wanted me to prove that I was a vegan. I had to go look "vegan" up. I'm not one, so they wouldn't review the novel.

Rick Roberts said...

John, did you ever have a desire to be more "high brow" ?

Ted said...

Was Dax your self image at the time, or is it just that your basic instincts led to similar eye/hair aesthetics then and now?
(It would actually be a better and far more horrible story if Jeena was your self image...)

akira said...

more Bobby Bigloaf please!!!! i LOVE that Jane Jetson pose too! does the new jetson dvd set (season 2 volume 1) have some of your episodes on it?

callie! said...

Say what you like about flat period "crap" but I kind of want to hear the story behind Mildman. If you can pitch it, you should pitch it!

Also agree with whoever said there should be more gay cartoons. I don't know why but that just appeals to me. There's more humor prospects in that unexplored field.

MickeyCat said...

The forth picture has TUDE in it. No offense, John K.