Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Private Lessons

I started giving private lessons to a fellow named Tommy who moved out to LA from the midwest to pursue his dream of being a top Hollywood cartoonist and getting beaten down by the man. I ran into him at the supermarket the day he arrived and he dropped his eggs all over the floor and did a Tex Avery take. "You're....HIM..." Jesus. I almost called the manager. Then he demanded lessons. I took him under my wing last week and gave him 2 hours of instruction, making him draw in front of me, then going over the drawings myself. Then I sent him home with a couple assignments to practice. Here are his practice sketches after lesson 1.
I am starting him on basic construction.
I made him draw lots of hands. Hands are difficult.

second batch
Tommy is studying basic cartoon construction and I can see he is undrstanding it.. Next I will help him refine these:

Proportions: Seeing and measuring them
Line Quality: Drawing a bit less rough
Negative Space: Seeing it and not shrinking it- making space your friend

You can't draw enough hands. Hands are tricky. Luckily Preston Blair has devoted a whole page to simplified hands in many positions. I recommend to anyone having trouble drawing hands to copy all the PB hands- and try to understand the logic of the way they are constructed- rather than just memorizing each position.

Then when you get confidence in copying PB's hands, look at some real hands and see if you can simplify them into carton shapes. That way you'll se if you understand how they are constructed and will be able to focus on the forms while ignoring all the complicated details: knuckles, wrinkles, hairs, veins etc.

I also gave him tips:
Stay organized: keep track of everything you draw, and store different things in folders
Clean your workspace every day: Don't leave a giant mess on your desk at the end of the day. You will waste valuable time next day hunting through the mess trying to find what you need.
Write Down Everything You Learn and Observe: The more you write don what you are doing, the better the concepts stick to your brain.
Apply what you learn to your own work: I can't tell you how many people study things, and then ignore them in their own work. It's a mystery to me that I will never fathom, but if you make a conscious effort to do it then all your studies will be rewarded by better drawing, a wdier pallette and maybe even a style of your own some day.


RooniMan said...

Great work, Mr. Tom.

Kristi O. said...

I think I understand three of your tips, but how does the first one, keeping track of what you draw help you improve?

Is it to build something like a catalogue of what you've drawn so you can easily see your problem areas are and address them?

I definitely need to work on the second tip, my room is pretty much carpeted with doodles and sketches, sometimes I forget about a good idea and discover it weeks later when I finally get off my arse and clean up.

Jesse Benjamin said...

I'm looking to move to LA from NYC in the coming year, and I'd be seriously interested in taking private lessons. Can you tell us what tuition is like at the John K University?

Zartok-35 said...

Sound advice. Thanks alot!

Anonymous said...

That Tommy fellow, whoever he is, must have been lucky to even run into you in the first place, and to have you give him lessons for free. He really must have been super talented to get your respect like that. I hope you're still giving lessons out when I'm in my 20s (in about four or five yeras), but in the meantime, I'll keep practicing myself. I've been doing it more than ever at this point.

JohnK said...

Free? Who said free? What am I, a socialist?

Kristi O: I think you answered your own question!

Jesse: It's cheaper than college...for now.

In the meantime, use the lessons on my blog - and feel free to make a donation.

Tommy and I are studying Tex Avery's use of principles right now:

Line of action, silhouettes, clear staging and in particular his masterful use of contrasts.

Paul B said...

Hi john:

I was doing some illustrations for the story of Snow White. I think I have applied some concepts to my drawings, can you take a look?
Paul Blog

She-Thing said...

That's something I admire from you, Mr. K, you give conscience to your students. How every line and shape are crucial for the drawings. That's something I never but must do: jot down my mistakes. I usually don't do that, because when I finished drawing I feel it's useless... it's just one more I did from the zillions sketches and practices.

Thank you for the share. I'd love to save for a living in L.A. but I don't think you'd be still giving lessons in two years time :S

C said...

I think patience is also important. Nobody's going to be Preston Blair in a day.

Hands are a pain, but so important. Tempting as it is, you can't hide hands forever or claim that a shark bit off all your characters' hands so you don't have to draw them.

Niki said...

I actually planned on stowing away on a plane to California to do this one day. Looks like I was beat to it though

darwin_xylophone said...

I can't express enough how cool this is of you.

I have dreamed of learning animation since watching Ren and Stimpy as a child.

Being dirt poor and suspicious of schools anyway, I wouldn't have known where to start if you hadn't started posting these lessons.

I'm starting a bit late, I suppose, but I'm thoroughly excited. I've started the first lessons in the Preston Blair book and can't wait to do the exercises you've posted in your blog.

Thank you for being so humble and understanding of the common folk!


Dan Z. said...

I have only taken one class in my life and it didn't really encourage me to draw better. But this sites tips really help. I've only really ever learned by creating my own things. So I've been applying the techniques (or at least attempting to) to what ever I felt like drawing at the time. This may be a bad thing, I don't know.

I am currently poor so I don't own any professional equipment. All I own is a few sketch books, some pencils and assorted pens.

I've never known anyone who really knows what their doing so I've never had anyone tell me I suck. Most people just ignore me and move on with their life

Anyway here's my blog. You can go on there and complain about how I know nothing.

I really need someone to tell me to either keep trying or give up. Because all I've ever herd is "well looks better then what I can draw"

Regine! said...

Wow, I'm jealous, I wish I could have private lessons face to face. Ah well. You have some really good suggestions, I'm going to start using them right away on my own work.