Monday, July 05, 2010

Swipe File: Howie Post Exteriors

A lot of artists keep "swipe files" for reference. Kirby and Wood used to talk about it. No one knows what everything looks like and an organized swipe file of photos and other artists' interpretations of things is handy reference.

I am not good at drawing backgrounds or coming up with interesting camera angles. Howie Post is a great reference for me. He has already done all the work of studying what the world looks like and has simplified it. When I look at a real scene - like a park, or a street or a living room, my brain is confused by all the clutter of the details and it's hard for me to see the simple shapes that hold all the details together.When I look at Post's scenes, the world makes more sense to me. He has eliminated the clutter of real life and boiled it down into bite sized easy to digest chunks. He also draws the simplified shapes with flair and cartoon license. Nothing is on a straight line. Everything is swollen in old style cartoon fashion.
He doesn't generally stage things left to right - which is my natural tendency, having been bred in Saturday Morning cartoon studios.
I like the way these 3 girls are grouped together in perspective. Their feet are not lined up in a horizontal plane like you see in most TV cartoons. Howie breaks up his comic panels into multiple angles and shots to keep everything lively and natural.
He has also worked out a handy 3/4 walk position.
Doing quick sketches from these panels helps add variety to my own finite collection of poses and angles.
Howie draws nice sidewalk and street scenes. He varies the types of fences. Here's a stone fence. I usually resort to drawing the stock wooden plank fence when I draw a fence. Maybe now I won't.
If you ever wanted to draw a nice stone hole, now you can.
Simple cartoony trash basket.

I don't suggest stealing these layouts exactly for your cartoons or mine, but sketching them and trying to understand the general shapes and concepts makes it easier to create new scenes.

I think I'll keep adding to this online swipe file. It'll be an easy way to find reference quickly.

12 comments:

idrawtoons said...

Thanks for the great post! I had never heard of Howie Post until I saw him on your blog (I know, shame on me!) It's refreshing to see some different artists and how they stage a scene, create backgrounds etc. It is inspiring! Also does anyone know what issues Post worked on?
Thanks again!

Roberto Severino said...

I think it would be interesting if you took a "swipe file" of some camera angles and shots from any well-staged classic film, but maybe that would be more complicated because it isn't as simplified as these Howie Post comic book pages and there are a lot superficial things that could distract you from fully absorbing the important stuff, like clear compositions and staging.

By the way, I just saw Detective Story for the first time ever. What a classic! The characters all felt like real people and ones that the audience would really want to know and Kirk Douglas' acting was top-notch. Sometimes, the whole scenario even felt real because the actors had so many different ways of communicating their feelings, through their facial expressions, gestures, and even body posture. The actors truly set the tone and mood of the whole movie. I can see the big influence that movie had on your cartoons and how it must have surprised you when you first saw it.

Guy Cx said...

It sure helps to keep these artworks as references for our own creations.

John, this may have nothing to do with this post, but it's something I really wanted to know: what are your thoughts/feelings about non-cartoony, experimental/abstract animation (stop-motion, eastern european stuff, like Jan Svankmajer creations)?

Craig said...

I like the second from the top, where Lucreetia is stepping out of the frame (the pale pink and lavender brick sidwalk is killer, too.)

Roberto González said...

This is quite useful to me, thanks, I'll try to make sketch and memorize this kind of thing. I have the kind of problems you describe all the time.

manuel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J-Rod said...

Awesome Post post! I'm not a professional, but I'm trying to learn to be a better storyboarder for my own projects and I had a certain amount of guilt attached to directly referencing something but now you're saying talented artists keep other people's good work ON FILE which is a real load off for those of us without the god-given vision to visualize every single thing.

Also, @manuel great tip for shortsighted people! I see things weirdly without my glasses all the time and now I know I can use that to trick my brain into simplifying. Thanks! I just feel sorry now for all you saps with perfect vision (yuk yuk)

Trevor Thompson said...

Can we see more of your versions?

BadIdeaSociety said...

There is a lot to like about Howie Post's work. But I find his line-of-action to be somewhat Filmation-esque. His characters are sometimes just dropped into scenes not making eye-contact, not interacting, but the characters and the backgrounds are top notch.

Thiago Levy said...

I am struggling with a "messy room" environment. I am having a hard time simplifying whats in my head and my references. I will try sketch some of these drawing to get hang of it. Thank again for the help John!

RooniMan said...

I never liked drawing a scenry from real-life. I tried it ounce, and the result was clutter up the wa-zoo.

Mark Sahagian said...

Great observations, I need to know more of Howie Post.