Monday, August 02, 2010

Kirby Is Killing Me


I know you're dying for an exlanation of that crying tree.
It all started with an assignment I have to draw an illustration using some Marvel characters in my style.
My idea was to do a cartoony caricature of Kirby. As you can see, this is not an easy task.
I'm trying to come up with one good pose of Crystal from the Inhumans.

So far, not happy with any.
Drawing girls is hard enough.
Trying to draw them in Kirby's style adds a wrinkle.
Then to draw Kirby's style but with a big cartoony proportioned head only adds to the problem.
rrrrgggghhhh...

So I have been doing a lot of studies of real people with varying degrees of success in the hopes of discovering some secrets.
I even have been trying to figure out how legs and hips work in balance. Nightmare.
I tried measuring the pose above and then drawing it in proportion.

Something went wrong because I ended up with stubby legs.So then I tried again just to draw straight ahead by eye alone. A bit better but still wonky.

So next was to try drawing different ways of standing to see if I could start to figure out the mechanics of knees, hips in assorted balanced poses. It's a long haul.

Anyway, Eddie has been laying awake worrying about me studying how things really look. He's afraid I might have a revelation and decide to stop cartooning. He says he's known cartoonists who started trying to improve their drawing skills and then ending up abandoning cartooning for the delicate art of painting sad clowns or trees.

So I've decided to combine the 2 arts and become a black velvet crying tree clown artist. Am I the first?Now if I could only paint.

62 comments:

ComiCrazys said...

Is Eddie making a sly inference to Bakshi?

JohnK said...

I doubt it. That would be foolhardy.

Mykal Banta said...

I can't agree with your self assessment. That second "hips" drawing doesn't look wonky to me. I can sense the body's weight and footfall, and it all seems caught in motion to me

Pete Emslie said...

If it's in the fine art of black velvet painting that you wish to establish your reputation, John, I'd suggest you put your crying tree clown either in a matador costume or dress him up like Vegas era Elvis. Paint up that winning combo and you'll be able to retire on the print sales.

Dr. Depo said...

I can imagine that sad clown tree being a sort of moany emo-type character. Like that goth girl in the film "Beetlejuice", only a tree.

Oisin O'Sullivan said...

There's another reason you'll go into the history books.

SparkyMK3 said...

Stop being so hard on yourself John. Even these drawings are better than any of that dead, lifeless TV cartoon crap from Filmation and DiC. They're at least fun and appealing looking.

Speaking of fun and appealing, i've been wanting to find some Tex Avery cartoons. Any VHS tapes or DVDs you would recommend? (i already have the Droopy set) If you can lead me to find some, i'll be able to study and watch them and i'll really appreciate it.

John A said...

Sounds like a job for Lynn Naylor.

-jjmm- said...

jajajaja. Man, by an equilibrate apreciation, you are the best artist & know so far.

Elana Pritchard said...

John yer funny.
Don't worry. We all have faith you'll pull through.

Time Lord Victorious said...

I'm honestly digging these.
I think you might just be going to hard on yerself.

btw regarding this Kirby like style. Have you heard of Darwyn Cooke? He's done some stuff for DC that for some reason reminds me of a simplified Kirby mixed with some Dick Sprang...maybe that's just me.

I'm wondering cause maybe he has an approach you haven't yet looked at? I could be wrong though since my eye isn't as attuned to what works like yours is.

RooniMan said...

The tree knows the pain.

Ollie said...

This looks really interesting John. How did this job come about and where will the finished picture be printed? Will you be doing any more work for Marvel?

Roberto Severino said...

These drawings are amazing, John! The second Kirby drawing is my favorite out of the bunch. Don't be so hard on yourself. You draw better than so many other people can, honestly. Be proud of that.

"Now if I could only paint."

I feel your pain. I've always wanted to be able to paint, but no teacher so far has ever taught me properly. Is there still hope for me?

Kirk said...

I dig every one of them Crystal studies, I recognize the character immediately... Kirby is not exactly a hallmark of fluid and accurate figuration, so what's yer problem Johnney?

SoleilSmile said...

Need some free help? I'll take a stab at a pose for you.

Zartok-35 said...

Hmm. Black velvet crying tree clown artist; Thats very interesting. Good luck in this new and exciting venture!

Say what you will, but thoes are some fine legs you have there.

SoleilSmile said...

Here you go: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/QCuf1zlcnVotAcvWWKq2BZcZt7o568RWVWwjkeSxaqA?feat=directlink


...or do you need something more realistic?

HemlockMan said...

You know what's weird? Trying to make Jack Kirby look toonier ends up looking kind o' like Chuck Jones style!

The Nerdy Duo said...

Buck up! She does have pretty stubby legs in the photo. Being a cartoonist, you took an obvious trait and exaggerated it.
Also, I have the same problem and end up with stubby legs all the time. Photoshop and a Wacom screen have helped.

Mitch K said...

These drawings are great! Typical artist, being hard on himself.

Do you turn your pencil on its side when you're blocking in your drawings?

Scrawnypumpkinseed said...

That was one hell of an explanation.
Good luck with your sad clown tree career!

And even more luck with drawing Kirby.

Bill Field said...

John, the one thing I noticed about Crystal is, she rarely had anything but a forlorn, totally upset or a passive, almost non-emotive look altogether. Maybe, if you use that as a guide, you'll get more of the "Kirby-ness" you're trying to achieve.

Clean3d said...

Thanks for this post, John K. I mean that from the bottom of my - admittedly empty - heart. I apologize for the feet-kissing-compliments, but to see an artist like yourself express disapproval of your own work is a real kick in the pants for someone like me.

I wouldn't call myself a cartoonist, but your blog is still amazing for the level of quality you demand of your art and your attitude of teaching and sharing discoveries. It's stuff like this that makes me realize I have a LONG way to go and makes me want to work harder.

Okay, enough of that. Keep posting please!

p.s. Dunno about anyone else, but the new background image on the blog REALLY makes my computer slow down. If you're ever interested in fixing it, I would try re-saving it from photoshop (or whatever you use) as a JPG instead of a PNG. Also, you might resize/crop it so it's no more than 1920 pixels wide and 1080 tall. Doing these should make it load and display faster for your readers.

The Butcher said...

Have you thought about "swiping" (referencing) an existing Kirby pose. That way the pose will already be done for you, you just have to caricature it. Or is that what you're doing already?

The Butcher said...

Also like to add that I agree with most of the people here when they say these poses are already really good.

JohnK said...

Thanks. The problem is I have to also add Johnny Storm and make both their poses compose well together.

JohnK said...

Thanks. The problem is I have to also add Johnny Storm and make both their poses compose well together.

SoleilSmile said...

Oohhh, MEN! They're so tough to draw! I'll see what I can do to help. It's comforting to know that a great artist like you has his challenges, Mr. K.

I had to draw a Curt Swan style super-hero holding a bus over his head last week for work. I failed miserably ^_^;; Fortunately, my boss gave me the same reassurance as your fans are showing you here.

It sure goes a long way. You John K. fans are awesome for supporting your hero!

Katy Lloyd said...

These drawings are all super cute! I really love the poses...

Katy Lloyd said...

These drawings are all super cute! I really love the poses...

Katy Lloyd said...

These drawings are all super cute! I really love the poses...

mr paal said...

what you need is an airbrush. Only then can you truly render a sultry & wistful clown-tree reclining beside a photo-real motorcycle.

I like the 7th drawing down, but i love your fantastic hips/knees sketches!

SoleilSmile said...

Okee. These are pretty sloppy, but see if the poses do anything for you.

http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/91zM8x2xqVTKbj80bk2pcJcZt7o568RWVWwjkeSxaqA?feat=directlink


I'm off to bed. Goodnight and good luck!

John Paul Cassidy said...

I dunno about you, John, but I really like your own interpretation of Jack "The King" Kirby! It has plenty of appeal. You actually tried.

Chloe Cumming said...

The way I could really improve is still learning to draw cartoony as well as you can. Sad clown tree pathos is easy.

And you may not think you can paint, but I bet if you did a sad clown tree series you could get a gallery show in LA and Bob's your uncle! Fine art plaudits. People could debate how ironic you're being and praise you for heroically pushing the boundaries between the highbrow and the lowbrow. It is important to push boundaries.

David Germain said...

Like others have said, these drawings of yours look fine to me. I wouldn't feel shame if my drawings came out looking like that. But, at the same time, I can understand why you think they look wonky. Drawing out of your comfort zone can be a harrowing experience.

For instance, I'm in the middle of a drawing dilemma right now. I've got to draw a metal door that's been welded shut. I showed my first attempt to someone. He said it looked like wax dripping down. The trouble is, welded steel looks so similar to melted wax. I definitely have some difficult work ahead of me.

Oh well, enough of my venting. Keep up the good work, John. I know you'll nail this Kirby/Spumco hybrid style before you know it.

Jose Garibaldi said...

Bill Wray does a great exaggerated Kirby

Shawn Dickinson said...

Hey John, you draw the best knee caps ever.

Thiago Levy said...

The camera is tilted John. Check ou the horizon line. It is kind of blurred but you can tell it is tilted. Also they are walking on inclined sand. This picture is a balance puzzle and is in the middle of the motion... AND she holding hand, some weigh look like is being transferred fooling the eye. Because you know John the eye is a fool.

Pedro Vargas said...

Wow! These are all awesome!!

SGP said...

my favorite pose is her standing next to the crying tree.

ComiCrazys said...

Foolhardy, maybe? But hasn't Eddie himself, abandoned drawing his theories on his own blog for the sake of indulging his passion for fumetti? Fum-Eddie? FOOM-Eddie? =)

If Crystal's pose is supposed to work with Johnny Storm, why are you drawing her alone? Might not drawing her with Johnny better help in posing her?

AtomicTiki said...

Some of these sketches are great man. Hide them for a few days and come back, I think ya got some keepers there.

MistahB said...

I thought you did a good job

Caleb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck said...

I'm just a somewhat enlightened (thanks to this site) dilettante, but I can see what you're striving for. Your stuff always has such great flexibility and energy that the weight and solidity of Kirby might be almost the antithesis of your work. Sketch number three gets it over to me though, as do six and seven.

Thanks again for the time you put into this site.

Peggy said...

Hmm. These strike me as all being really flat to the picture plane; get some extreme foreshortening in there. That's one of the big things I think of when I think Kirby - sure, there's a few distinctive surface treatments, there's a certain sense of how to marshal 2D design elements against figures and objects, but there's also SHOVING A FIST IN THE CAMERA. You're really only doing the surface treatments.

Kingfish said...

I actually think the third image down is a great Kirby-esque pose!

But I know what you mean, this project is not easy!!!

Maybe I should try something like this on my blog...

akira said...

i think you're just trying too hard. as an inhuman fan i mostly want to see the trademarks of their costumes etc. making the poses too contorted distracts from their simplicity. kirby had an incredible power in his drawings but never pushed it too far. maybe royer inkwork could inspire you with his thicker cartoonier lines? geez just look at some of the recent kid friendly "cartoony" designs that marvel has been selling. just put sody pop in a crystal uniform and you've got them all blown to hell. don't be a perfectionist on this if it means marvel goes to guys that send them back the crappy stuff faster. just draw a big ass Lockjaw in the background with a little kirby krackle around his horn antenna thing and you'll have made a masterpiece i'm sure!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

i haven't abandonded drawing or films, i just shelved them temporarily so I could learn photoshop. it's two different ways of thinking...for me, anyway.

When John told me he was thinking of doing more realistic drawing I almost did a spit take. How many great cartoonists abandoned cartooning to paint marinas and lighthouses? I think he drew the clown tree to put me at ease, which it did.

Nate said...

"Eddie has been laying awake worrying about me studying how things really look..."

This is a topic that I'd really like to see opened up for discussion. I know you've touched on it before in your caricature posts.

How much effort should cartooning students put into drawing realistically?

By the way, I'd love to see your version of MODOK.

Jeffrey said...

What a task! I think the problem is that your women are always sexy in the modern sense. Kirby's women were...voluptuous (and a little butch). As you said, the big head is part of it. I haven't looked in a while, but I think of Big Barda as having almost a square jaw.

Like her:
Kind of a square head, next to her friend

Still womanly, though

A Kirby Gal

The women with faces that aren't soft, but have a lot of angles and edges, really challenge me when trying to make them look feminine:
Simpson

Garner

Kevin Langley said...

Wow! These are amazing.

JohnK said...

Thanks Kevin!

SoleilSmile said...

Good observations, Peggy. I'll remember Kirby's forced perspective the next time I'm asked to draw superheroes :)

Michael E. Vernon said...

a

Michael E. Vernon said...

Boy! I did a Boo Boo. I accidentally made a blank post.
Hi John. Two things. I understand about the fear of cartoonist, becoming, painters, and abandon the good stuff. One such example that I have noticed is William Wray. HE did great stuff for you. Now he's submerging himself in Urban landscapes. If it makes him happy, all the power to him. I just hope one day he might do some more cartoony stuff. The second thing. Your problem with the balance of the woman, with the legs. I've learned that you need to use the center of gravity. In this case that would be just at the bottom of her neck, where your wish bone is. That is the center of her gravity. From that point, lightly draw a straight line towards the ground. That will help you visualize and understand how the rest of her pose works. Wow, look at me. I'm just some guy from Toronto, giving you art advice. Go figure. Thanks for hearing me out. I hope that I was helpful, in some way.

Jenny Lerew said...

"How many great cartoonists abandoned cartooning to paint marinas and lighthouses? "

Okay Eddie, I'll bite: how many? Examples?

I can't think of even one great cartoonist whose study of drawing led to marinas. But you must be thinking of specifics, so who?

In any case it's pretty funny that John's Tree Of Misery mollified you. I suspect you were just trolling for drawings!

Okiesmith said...

When I look at the sad clown tree, all I see is Stimpy.

Thumpasaur said...

I think they all suck. Why don't you apply that knowledge of forms to your attempts?

Chad Taylor said...

The drawings are fantastic. If they're missing an element of the 'Kirby style' surely that's the inking? Half of his look was the gloopy, organic net of black lines that the inking artists drew over the pencils. In later titles the inking artists were credited with creating the Kirby style almost as much as he was - some of his later frames were just a few expressive lines with cross-hatching to indicate where the huge areas of black were to be added. As an animator you would probably never use inks like that. So maybe that's the difference...