Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Color Theory 2 - good color without a lot of money - Art Lozzi HB

Some of my painting heroes:
Frank Frazetta
Mary Blair
JP Miller
Mel Crawford
Bill Wray
Johnny Johnston


You don't have to have a lot of money in your production budget to still have tasteful and appealing, interesting, non-generic art.
Here are some BGs from extremely low budget $3,000 HB cartoons from 1958. I find them infinitely more appealing than the purple and pink BGs that appear in movies that cost $200,000,000 and more to make. In Daffy Daddy and Robin Hood Yogi, Art Lozzi chose very atypical colors to paint the forest. Many cartoons paint trees and grass a simple middle green-straight out of the tube or they use 50-50 yellow green and paint all the trees middle brown.

LEVELS OF IMPORTANCE: The painter decides what is important in the scene and uses color and value and texture and contrast to draw your eye to a hierarchy of elements.
The picnic basket is most important, so it has a lighter color than the BG and it is a contrast in hue. The BG is mostly greenish so the basket is orange-tan.
The table is less obvious than the basket but is still contrasted against the forest by being a lighter and more yellowish shade of green.

The values of the trees against the green BG are very close in value to the BG, so that the image doesn't become too contrasty or busy to compete with the foreground elements.
This is very logical or functional.
The choice of colors is then aesthetic on top of their functionality.
They work and they are pretty.
The tree in the foreground has the strongest contrast and thus it stands out and frames Yogi. The analogous colors (colors that are similar in tint) in the green BG give the BG depth. If it was all one tint of green with just darker and lighter areas (as in all the bad examples I showed you in previous posts) the BG would seem flat and artificial.

This peachy sky is surprising and a nice color and adds cartoony happy interest to the scenes.

EVEN STYLIZED IMAGES SHOULD BE ORGANIC: Even though the trees are ALMOST straight lines, they aren't all perfectly parallel. They are just organically different enough to make the stylized BG feel natural.
The trees also are not evenly spaced. There are different sizes and shapes of negative spaces between them.
Note how the flowers are little spots of bright happy colors to liven up the image.

This man is not brilliantly color keyed but at least he is not garish. His colors are related which helps him read as one object-a man. His colors contrast well against the BG painting and make him read clearly against it.

I had Richard Ziehler-Martin reproduce this pan BG for me and I used it in my Ranger Smith cartoons. I tried out so many BG painters and asked them to learn the early HB techniques and Richard was the only one who pulled it off. He then took the ideas from these cartoons and did more elaborate BGs for Boo Boo Runs Wild.

I like how hills and planes are suggested by just putting a texture with one hard edge and then a faded edge.

The log cabin is not the typical tan wood color you always see in cartoons. It's sort of a warmly greyed tan which is cartoony and still feels natural. It's not screaming at you.

Look how happy and colorful this is!

I don't know what Art's thinking was for these 2 cartoons but maybe he figured that thick forests are actually kind of dark, not bright and typical "cartoon-colors".

Part of what makes something fun and colorful is that it differs from what you are used to seeing in a cartoon.

In later Hanna Barbera cartoons, the colors become much more standardized and generic.

For the first 3 years of Hanna Barbera's TV studio there was a lot of experimentation in design and color and texture and animation. All done cheaply, but much done creatively and full of surprises.

Fun needs surprise. Imagine getting the same birthday present every year? That's how modern cartoon studios treat their product. They give you the same thing over and over again.

Even if you genuinely like the combination of pink-purple and green, do you really ONLY want that combination?

Here's another Yogi Bear cartoon painted by Art that is in a different color style.
A still from Threadbare Bear
Art doesn't like to paint the same exact style every time and even on a super low budget cartoon show with a fast schedule still finds the time and will to make his work fun and pretty and full of surprises.

More about Art to come, including his insights and history of 50s and 60s HB cartoons.


person #093485y43675 said...

i wasn't going to make a boring comment. however, they really are great backgrounds, particularly that last one.

eurobikermcdog said...

I love you, John K!

Jorge Garrido said...

Wow! Blue trees! Greysih whitish! The lines on the blue tree are also a different hue, not just the same colour slightly darker! The grass keeps changinc colours! These are great, John!

fabiopower said...

it is evident that this painting style has many influences on the cartoons of John K.
Really beautiful
but, you think that this style can be emulated with the new technologies?

Patrick said...

I'm Frank Frazetta's #1 fan...Visited his museum in Marshalls Creek, PA and saw ALL his original paintings...what a pleasure for my eyes! You've got to see those colors in person.

R said...

Those are some nice colours alright! Gives the real sense of a deep forest rather than a board painted with trees.

Have you seen Camp Lazlo? The backgrounds in it must be inspired by this guy- quite often they can be the best thing in the show!

Anonymous said...

I think when you have less money to spend, you should try to make your work look more expensive by really doing the maximum with what you have.

Low budgets should never mean low-rent. A shitty painting and a great painting can cost the exact same amount to create. So I don't understand when people compromise the one thing they can really quality control with no extra money, be it cartoons or movies, then plead poverty.

I guess excuses are pretty cheap, too.

Those pics are beautiful. I could stare at them all day. Yeah, a thick forest even in the brightest afternoon actually has a twilight-ness to its light, deep among the trees. The colors are cooler. In these, the warmth comes from that distant peach-colored sky.

I'm going to start ripping off... uh... absorbing that stuff and trying it out in my own color work.

Jennifer said...

This is fab! I'm getting an understanding on why the colors being used were chosen.

Question: While Blogger is a nice tool to get feedback on writings, and it hosts the information for free, the downside is it's hard to organize some of the posts. Is it possible to get your "techie" (the person that helps you with this blog - I think his name is Marc?) to gather some of your posts (like the color theories and the art lessons) and republish them on a web site? I'll be more than happy to donate space on my web servers for that.

David Germain said...

The analogous colors (colors that are similar in tint)

I thought analogous colours were close to each other on the spectrum so that for example a picture would feature greens and blues and maybe some yellows or purples. Monochromatic moreso means colours with a similar tint.

That's what I remember from school anyway.

Oh well, whatever the terms are called, yes those old Yogi Bear toons look great colour-wise. It's kind of ironic that they were originally broadcast on black & white tv. (But I guess that was another factor that made a good colour stylist important for those early HB toons).

R2K said...

Great show.

Kevin Langley said...

Nice post John. I posted some backgrounds from Robert Gentle and Art Lozzi awhile back if anyone's interested. Art Lozzi

heidi said...

Thank you so much for all this great advice! You've helped me to see a lot of things I never would have noticed before in animation. You should write a book, go around and lecture.

Anonymous said...

My favorit eting about the peach sky thus far is the way it echoes Yogi's muzzle and most of Booboo (in tehfram where yogi is stting in a branch). Relating the main characters to the main negative space of the foliage, the sky, makes them stand out from the background instead they are woven together and 2 more interesting shapes.
This presumably later Yogi frame is much less interesting. There's yogi and Booboo in the froground and the BLUE sky simply surrounds them. That's not abd thing. It makes sillouetes easier to read. It's just not as interesting a composition.

The tree in the image of Yogi standing on the branch does that same thing for Ygoi's dark fur. Here, most of the pallette is on the warm side so the main contrast is between the light and dark forms. Yogi+trees=1 set of shapes
Sky=2nd set of shapes
And the 2 sets of shapes weave around each other.

Anonymous said...

David the cool thing is they still look great in black and white. If they didn't they wouldn't look good in color.
Or so I'm told.

Russell H said...

" NateBear said...
My favorit eting about the peach sky thus far is the way it echoes Yogi's muzzle and most of Booboo (in tehfram where yogi is stting in a branch). Relating the main characters to the main negative space of the foliage, the sky, makes them stand out from the background instead they are woven together and 2 more interesting shapes."

I also like the way the curves of Yogi's body as he leans forward are almost parallel to the curve of the rope in his hands. And there's also the way the curve of the feather in his hat mirrors the curve in the branch he's standing on, creating the space behind him that emphasizes his pose of being ready to jump. Everything in this picture "fits" so well, you just can't help smiling when you see it.

Jerry Beck said...

David Germain makes a good point. The TV cartoons produced from 1957 through 1966 had to be art directed with thought of how it would look in color and how it would read in black and white (for television broadcast at the time). It's fascinating to observe how they solved this problem with heavy use of oranges, beige and blue-green (look at Fred Flintstone's color scheme for example). They also liberally used blacks, whites and gray to great effect. And they avoided deep reds and blues (which would have read as black) and yellow (which would read as white). In addition to the H-B shows check out the earliest Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Alvin Show and even the new bridges on the 1960 network Bugs Bunny Show.

Fire Exit said...

I really like the colours in these.

Basically there needs to be evil to be good and there needs to be darkness to be brightness.

I particularly like how the trees frame Yogi in the bow and arrow scene.

I think the wooden cabin is maybe a smiidge to bright though.

I just started on lesson one of your 60,000 pounds art course btw. I'll be sure to post pictures when I'm done. :D

Shitbitch said...

Wow, the forests actually look more "green" than the generic, uniform green we usually see these days! That's because they are all different types and shades of green, with greenish non-green colors added to it.

Ryan G. said...

Yes John, these are great. The trees are real stripped down with graphic simplicity.

Shitbitch said...

P.S.- What do you think of the colors used in Nick Park's claymation creations?

Such as W&G, and Chicken Run:

Tony C. said...

This was an excellent post! I have enjoyed the color theory posts a lot especially the "Good" examples from Bambi and Yogi. I would love to see more stuff in this vein.

Ken M said...

That box art link for Chicken Run is not very representative of how the movie itself looks. This still from IMDB is a better example.

Anonymous said...

On another subject,

I think John hurt Seth MacFarlane feelings. :)

Shitbitch said...

That other Chicken Run pic had that pink sky!

The Butcher said...

That Family Guy joke would be infinetly funnier if it was drawn well. Maybe they coulda paid some kind of homage. Still, I laughed when I first saw that.

Anyways, for the past few days, I've been desperately trying to apply SOME of the stuff you've been talking about in my painting since I'm new to color. Unfortuantely I was almost done with it before you started posting these so I started a few things over and changed some colors. Damn you and your good sense!

Anonymous said...

I think the Yogi backgrounds look a little bland, no offense.

Anonymous said...


akira said...

man that Art Lozzi guy is awesome! thanks, John, for telling us more about specific great artists of the past that aren't Mary Blair or Chuck Jones or "the 9 old men." Any idea how Art Lozzi learned to paint like this? besides a natural god-given talent, i'm guessing lots of actually observing and painting the real world.

Fire Exit said...


I was wondering if you had a large version of the 'astrophysisist character' from the Weird Al video. It's so quick and small in the youtube I couldn't see it properly and it looked like a lot of effort went into it.

Jorge Garrido said...

>In addition to the H-B shows check out the earliest Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Alvin Show and even the new bridges on the 1960 network Bugs Bunny

I'd love to see those Bugs Bunny Show bumpers in color, Jerry!


That's not real Yogi Bear anyway.


That Family Guy joke would be infinetly funnier if it was drawn well. Maybe they coulda paid some kind of homage. Still, I laughed when I first saw that.

It would have been funnier if there was a joke in there somewhere instead of Seth Macfarlane going "Oh God!" 26 times.

Anonymous said...

was a joke in there somewhere instead of Seth Macfarlane going "Oh God!" 26 times.

Well that would of kill the whole idea of this gag. It was about cartoony vs reality. When you shoot someone he doesn't have is face all black and write an epic novel.

I'm not there to defend the poor use of the medium. But a joke in this situation would of kill the gag.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to echo part of what Joel Bryant said.

Economy doesn't need to be ugly.

I previously have had a rough opinion of Hanna Barbera formed from memories of the stuff I watched in the late seventies. But the stuff your showing here is beautiful, and simple...

Thanks for outlining the principles behind the work.

Super dd said...

I agree with you about it's not necessary to spend a lot of money to get a good work!!! In underdeveloped countries like mine, we know that every day.
Good subjetct! Congrats!

Vanoni! said...

I realize that many of these are utilizing the same background image - but is it my imagination, or do I often see one object that stands out more than the rest?
One red tree or one blue tree, when all others are made up of greens and browns.
They don't appear to be drawing the eye to a particular place (especially in a pan)

Was there a reason for this? Or am I seeing things?

- Corbett

william wray said...


I'll explain what Art was thinking: He based his choices on real color theory combined with saving time. Yogi is warm orangey red brown of a mid value. Kind of a Burnt Sienna. That a red brown that is known as a "color killer" when you mix it with with other colors, yet is sort appealing when in it's basic pure form. It actually looks better around the right colors that "complement" it, than by itself.

Green is reds complementary color. Use a variety of dark green backgrounds and Yogi will automatically read with out a ton of planning and checking. A fail safe series of color choices if you will. Then the paler peach color skies play off nicely as again the peach relates to Yogi and to the background a complement or to be specific a split complement. There is nothing random about these choices. Smart planning combined with good taste, dictated by logic. Bears are brown , forests are green. The reason Hanna Cartoons were good at the beginning was it was good artist trying to do cheap, efficient cartoons. Then someone let in the bad artists because the good artist wanted more money, now that H and B were becoming rich they were tired of doing favors. I don't know really what happened. I suspect nobody knew the value of the science of color applied here or wanted money more. Great art has a ton a math in it along with confidence and imagination.

JohnK said...

Thanks Bill

you oughta write up your color theories for some of your cartoon paintings on your blog.

I'd do a big post about it if you did!

Share the knowledge!

Bob Davidson said...

Most of the stuff today has very little emotion to it. People spend less time looking, thus emotion is removed and awful stuff prevails. Thank you John K. for showing what real talent is all about and teaching us a lesson or two why masters like Hanna-Barbera and the original Disney crew meant so much to me.

william wray said...

Start a school, lets get paid. ;-)

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

These Yogi Bear episodes shown on this article (Robin Hood Yogi and Daffy Daddy [both originally presented on the first season from The Huckleberry Hound Show]), had the layout made by the legendary Ed Benedict (who was involved in one of the Yogi Bear shorts directed by you [A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith]).
But the animations differ by themselves. Robin Hood Yogi was animated by Kenneth Muse (Michael Lah animated part of this episode), while Daffy Daddy was totally animated by Carlo Vinci.
Well, this was what I've had to ponderate here.
So long!

Rodinei Campos da Silveira (from São Paulo, Brazil)



brian smith said...

First of all, thank you for these posts about color theory. I’ve been doing this professionally for a long time now (and very proud to say I worked with you on these “Boo Boo Runs Wild”as color stylist) and what you are saying is a great lesson in simplicity.

I can’t resist adding to what you’ve said about levels of importance; maybe some of your readers will find it interesting. I had it taught to me in different terms; avoid clown puke (ie too many colors), but it means the same thing. Find two or three things you want to emphasize, that are important to the story (which includes characters and props of course), and knock everything else back. This should be obvious (any high school art class would start with this), but it is not so easy sometimes.

These images illustrate the point so well. Of course the leaves and the foliage are just a hint of sponge texture (in close to the same color- a little darker or lighter) so that they barely read as something. I would draw attention to how the car and the trailer (the 9th image) are just one solid wall of blue. That is something you rarely see in background art these days. People want to detail things like that out, and they use up all their color possibilities. Those objects are important, and should stand out from the forest, but not as important as the character situation in the foreground. Notice how the lady, her chair, and the book are also pretty much one color, which is going toward red (the complimentary color), but not so boring and obvious. He kept her in pink and peach, which is really pretty, and they are related colors so that she reads as one solid shape. That way your eye is drawn to the overall situation, not the book, the dress or the chair. The little boy is the most important single object, and your eye goes to him because he has contrasting complimentary colors (orange and blue).

Everyone is going for simplicity in their designs now, but often forget that the same rules apply to color. In a drawing you don’t want to render and detail out some unimportant object off in the distance or in the margins. These CG movie posters look so ugly because your eye is going in 20 different directions. Everything is drawn in detail, and there are 50 different colors all competing with one other. Oh man, they are so depressing to look at. Anyway, thank you again for sharing your knowledge about this stuff. I look forward to seeing what you will post next.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing and discussing Art Lozzi's background paintings. I love them! Have you compared Art's Yogi Bear background work to any of his Fred Flintstone backgrounds? I think you will find the same wonderful colors and great work.

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

There's another Yogi Bear episode from the first season of The Huckleberry Hound Show (Hanna-Barbera/Columbia Pictures, 1958-62) which involves the Art Lozzi's backgrounds, the Ed Benedict's artwork and the Carlo Vinci's animation.
I'm refering to Scooter Looter, where Yogi steals one of the scooters for rent, and ends teasing an enormous mayhem in Jellystone Park.
It's on this episode which predominates the Art Lozzi's painting style, mainly on the intense use of green from the trees.
Well, this was what I've had to comment here.

Cheers from this faithful friend who always writes 4 U,

Rodinei Campos da Silveira (from São Paulo, Brazil)



superclosetnerd said...

fireplace - is my site and i'm trying to get newer ideas on layout and i'm thinking of going to blog alone and not a 'normal' site. Bookmark added for future reference, thanks.

Will said...

Never really though of color as such a sciency art, But thanx i will defnitly have a deeper think when planing out my own scenes, keeping color inmind. Thanx John K!

Yowp said...

John, apologies for responding to an old post, but is it correct that Ed Benedict laid out this cartoon? The DVD version has no credits. The character designs aren't as stylised as I'm used to from Ed but they do look similar to what's in 'Scooter Looter.'
The subtle green colour changes in this cartoon are really marvellous. Beats one, flat digital colour any day.