Sunday, March 28, 2010

Paul Coker's Monsters

Paul Coker was one of my favorite Mad artists in the 60s. I used to try to copy his style but never quite got it.
He's probably most famous for his monsters called "Horrifying Cliches", but he drew all kinds of stuff-even designing animated cartoons.
It's a very 60s style, but very well drawn and fun. The most obvious part of his style is his unique inking. The lines kind of start and stop and blot at each stop. But that's not what makes him good. The drawings underneath the inking are solid, strong and funny. The shapes he uses are as unique and individual as the inking style. Many people imitated his inking style in the 60s, who didn't draw as well. There is only one real Paul Coker.
http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/search?q=Paul+Coker

31 comments:

Eric Noble said...

I love Paul Coker's drawing style. He did some awesome stuff with MAD. I also like his designs for the Rankin-Bass animated specials. He is a truly gifted cartoonist and I want to be as talented as him one day.

MDG14450 said...

There's an early episode of Little Annie Fanny that Coker worked on--it's a little weird seeing his very cartoony characters in that fully-rendered style.

Elana Pritchard said...

Did Paul Coker use construction- the way we practice it when we copy old cartoon drawings- underneath his drawings? Or was it a different version of construction?

RooniMan said...

Holy crap! I've never heard of this guy before, but not I'm liking his art alot!

*adding to the list*

Niki said...

I love and hate these types of drawings, they are impossible to learn!

HemlockMan said...

Yeah, I always liked his work when I was a kid.

Tigeroovy said...

Yeah, it doesn't really look like he does use much construction, if any.
Probably the reason it's so hard to emulate his style is because it is indeed his own, he just draws it that way, It also looks like it's all pen.

Eric Noble said...

"Probably the reason it's so hard to emulate his style is because it is indeed his own, he just draws it that way"

You could say that about a lot of cartoonists as well. Peter Bagge, Sergio Aragones, Charles M. Schulz, etc.

aalong64 said...

Paul Coker is one of my favourite artists. I really love that ultra-loose, sketchy 60s-70s style (think Jules Feiffer, Ronald Searle, and maybe early Lynn Johnston).

I've been hoping for a long time that this style would make a comeback, since it's the polar opposite of the 'everything must be flat, angular and lifeless' style that's been dominant in cartoons for the last 10+ years.

Coker definitely uses construction at least some of the time, he just hides it well. It doesn't necessarily mean that he starts by drawing the characters as balls and tubes, but if you really know construction well, sometimes you can skip that step.
Look at the big guy in the third picture. You couldn't achieve that kind of solidity or heaviness without some use of construction.

The interview with Coker in the book "Humorous Illustration" is pretty neat as I recall, as it gives some insight into his process. The book also has interviews with Mort Drucker, Sergio Aragones (there's somebody who rarely, if ever, uses construction!), Jack Davis and others.

As much as I love Coker's art, I never found the Horrifying Cliches funny. I always had a hard time believing Phil Hahn actually got paid to 'write' those. Literally, all you have to do is think of some expressions with nouns in them, and tell Coker to illustrate them. Some of them weren't even really 'expressions', they'd just be phrases like "paying a fine" or "taking a shower."

Mordicai Sulk said...

He's a great talent, and yeah, his inking is one of a kind. It's so hard to imitate! I've been a fan for a long long time...

She-Thing said...

Wow, Mega-HD-Scans! Thanksssss

She-Thing said...

By the way, I just found something weird which might interest you:

http://www.neatorama.com/2010/03/28/popeye-squirt-gun/

Chris said...

I had always meant to ask what you thought of his work? He is fantastic! My favorite part of the magazine MADs were Paul Coker's drawings.

I have a article he wrote for the Nick Meglin book. I should scan it and post it soon.

If you can find the MAD paperbacks that feature his work exclusively, I recommend them.

Paul B said...

This could have worked well with other types of ink?

Pete Emslie said...

Tigeroovy and Elana - Despite the fresh spontaneity of Coker's pen line, there is still a sense of solid construction at the root of his drawings. Just check out the form on that big lummox - the way the pant line rounds his waist and the way the belt buckle is correctly following the vertical middle line down the center of his torso.

John - I didn't know you were a fellow fan of Paul Coker. He and Jack Davis were my favourites from MAD Magazine. I like Mort Drucker too, but I never was influenced by his approach to caricature. Actually, Coker also had a great caricature style in those celebrity interviewer pieces where he drew the likes of Howard Cosell, Arthur Godfrey, etc. Of course his caricatures were also seen in those celebrity hosts on the Rankin-Bass holiday specials in addition to his overall character designs for those shows. I used to marvel at his simple, yet uncanny likenesses of Danny Kaye and Fred Astaire in puppet form, as well as his drawn cartoon of Jimmy Durante in "Frosty the Snowman". What a talent!

Pete Emslie said...

Something else I want to add regarding Coker's style is his wonderfully inventive pen textures. He didn't merely cross-hatch, he created all sorts of very descriptive textures, yet used them sparingly while also allowing a lot of wide open spaces so as not to overwhelm the viewer's eyes. One of my favourite of his textures that he used quite often (though not on display in any of these samples) was his technique of drawing little patches of several parallel pen lines and building them into what resembled chip board with all of these little patches drawn at opposing angles to each other. It really made for a very interesting and appealing texture. I must confess I throw it into some of my ink line art occasionally too!

Tom Dougherty said...

One of my favorites. You can see his influence in Bill Watterson, and in many political cartoonists as well. A real original.

lastangelman said...

aalong64 said...
As much as I love Coker's art, I never found the Horrifying Cliches funny. I always had a hard time believing Phil Hahn actually got paid to 'write' those. Literally, all you have to do is think of some expressions with nouns in them, and tell Coker to illustrate them. Some of them weren't even really 'expressions', they'd just be phrases like "paying a fine" or "taking a shower."


In defense of Phil Hahn, he didn't simply write a list of cliches and drop them in Coker's lap. Hahn would think about a phrase, such as drowning your sorrows , and give Coker direction on the joke, describing the scene. Sounds like one of John K's no-nos in animation, the writer describing the action with words only on paper then handing it off to the artist.

Zoran Taylor said...

The tragic thing is that the people involved in things like "Free To Be....You And Me" or "Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home" probably thought they were doing something in the spirit of this.

Mike said...

Love everything mad. Sergio and Drucker are also amazing artists. Good picks!

John A said...

I also liked the "Why Kill Yourself?" subscription ads that ran in the front of every issue.

Paul Coker's designs (characters AND backgrounds) made all of Rankin/Bass'Movies and TV specials really stand out, it's such a shame that most of it was done in R-B's typical limited animation with most of the life streamlined out of it. I would have liked to see his designs fully animated. Did he ever do any TV comercials?

Whit said...

One can theoretically come closer to the Coker style if one reverses one's stroke of the pen once in a while as one feels out the shapes while drawing. In fact, this actually helps some people consider linear forms as solid objects. Coker knew construction well. Notice in addition to the solidity of the characters that there are no perspective errors in any of his work. He's not just inking randomly with no idea of where he's going. His unique ink line is the patina. Thought and structure lie beneath.

Kingfish said...

Always a big fan of Coker. I was just wondering, with all the illustration posts recently, if you'd put your opinions of any of the MAD artists out there. Glad to see this one!

Elana Pritchard said...

Pete- I knew he used construction, I just wasn't sure if it was a different way of doing it (if that makes sense). Guess there's one way and everyone has their own way of doing it.

Rusty said...

The sixties may have been the beginning of the end for the animation industry. Though some of Mad's best illustrative work came out of this decade. A who's who of comic book veterans. Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Paul Coker, Sergio Aragones the list goes on.

seckscab said...

Coker, Kurtzman and Python-era Gilliam are my biggest influences.

aalong64 said...

@Pete Emslie:
I've also picked up on those 'chipboard' inking textures, although I'm not sure if I saw it in Coker's art or somebody else's. Either way, they're fun to draw and look at.

@lastangelman:
That's exactly what I mean though-- apart from the basic idea of the series, each individual joke is pretty self-explanatory. For "Drowning your sorrows", one can guess that it will probably be a drawing of a guy drowning a monster, or a bunch of little monsters. The funny part is probably how the monster looks, but the writer probably didn't come up with that part. Unless I'm missing something, having a separate person doing the 'writing' for such a visual joke seems extremely redundant.

Diego J. Pereira said...

Fantastic artist! I'm under Wolverton's shadow in a way, but wonder what will people say about us, early 21st century cartoonists...

Raff said...

I forgot how good Paul Coker Jr was (is?)!

One big missing element in his imitators in the 70s is the 'glee', I don't know how else to put it. You could just sense him chuckling to himself as he worked. Nothing cold even in the simple dot-eye sketches.

ca60gregory said...

I think Ive seen this guys work before, Mad did some kind of 7 deadly sins bit years ago and I remember the artwork looked a lot like this, very memorable.

Dave Mackey said...

These look like they are from a series Coker did for MAD called "Horrifying Clich├ęs.