Wednesday, November 29, 2006

BG painting 3 Art Lozzi- scooter looter-paint technique-

How about a cartoon with layouts by Ed Benedict, animation by Carlo Vinci and BG paintings by Art Lozzi? Add it up and get cartoon ice cream.

I want to start talking a bit about painting technique. Technique is different than color.

So far I've talked only about color theory and nothing at all about brush technique. They are two completely separate things. You could be good at color but not so good at technique. There are a lot more artists who are good at technique but are not as good at color. I don't know why exactly. I guess you can learn technique but not taste.

Art Lozzi was excellent at both. Look at this beautiful painting below.

The color thinking on this tree BG above is very similar to the color thinking in this Frazetta painting below, yet the two styles look completely different. Why?
Because the painting techniques are different.
Here's a painting by Kristy Gordon. Similar thinking in color. Another different painting technique.

The general technique that Lozzi and Monte and the early Hanna Barbera painters used was painting with sponges and friskets.
This one above is by Monte.
Below is Art. Simlar techniques but different styles.
They would cut holes in cells (friskets) in the shapes of certain objects, like the trees above, and then dip a sponge in paint and apply the sponge over the frisket.

Then when they peeled the cel off the paper, there would be a textured tree in the shape of the frisket on top of the BG color.

Sometimes they would keep layering sponge textures on top of the paint and even use smaller friskets to fill shadow shapes in with.
Below you can see contrasts in techniques. There is some flat color (the sky), some sponge (the tree on the right) and some dry brush (the trees on the left).
If the painting was completely filled in with equal amounts of texture from left to right, the BG would be indistinct and hard to read. Contrasts are important in all aspects of creativity. Contrasts are punctuation. They are what tells you what to pay attention to. Stories need contrast, dialogue needs contrast, acting needs contrast, composition needs contrast, design does, animation does, timing does-everything does.

Here is a similar technique with less contrast from Disney. See how more monotonous it is compared to the better designed, better colored and contrasty styled HB BGs? Looks like wallpaper.

Without contrast or punctuation you have monotony. Controlling contrasts is very difficult and I'd say even impossible for weaker artists or actors or writers. Today's prime time cartoons are extremely monotonous because they have no punctuation or contrasts in any of the creative aspects of them. Everything just drones along at the same pace, volume and evenly spaced design. Nothing is more important than anything else. It all just lays there and expects you to weed through the morass to find what the entertaining parts are.
This BG above has all the paint techniques I've been talking about plus some pencil shading on the grass and hills and trees. Lots of contrasting textures, values and negative shapes.

These HB painting techniques can be very simple...
..or more complex
Even the lines on the trees are full of contrasts. Some are close together. Some are far apart-they are not evenly spaced. Some lines are painted on, some are drawn with colored pencils, some lines are curved, some are jagged.Even though the striking styling of this is bold and cartoony, the control of the contrasts in techniques and design and color makes it all organic and natural.... as opposed to today's mechanical computerized looks.

God, those multi million dollar budgeted prime time cartoons don't even HAVE painted backgrounds. The flat characters vanish right into the flat fluorescent backgrounds. These HB cartoons were originally budgeted at $3,000 each-or $9,000 per half hour and they are infinitely more complex and skilled than what you get for 3 million. Here's millions of dollars worth of artistic achievement.

I've asked Art if he would be willing to explain to us his step by step procedure in painting backgrounds like this. Tell him in the comments how much you would appreciate that!


Kali Fontecchio said...

Such eye candy!!!!! The simple, and complex paintings are both great! I'd like to know more!

Oh please, Mr. Lozzi, tell us about your step by step process!!!!

Kris said...

I had never really paid much attention to the backgrounds in Hanna Barbera TV cartoons until you talked about it in your blog. But wow, those backgrounds are beautiful! And they look even more beautiful when you put them next to Family Guy and The Simpsons scenes that look like they were colored exclusively with Photoshop's floodfill.

I for one would love it if Art would tell us about his techniques. I'd like to try my hand at making some backgrounds like that.

C. A. M. Thompson said...

Just wanted to say how much I love posts like this. The color is just so perfect in those Hanna Barbara examples. Just makes you feel good.

Taco Jack said...

I'm not expecting anything from The Simpsons Movie that we couldn't get from the TV show - flat simple backgrounds in the style of Matt's black and white 'Life In Hell' comic (which is infinitely greater and funnier than the Simpsons imho) only colored in.

The last 'family' TV cartoon that I recall before The Simpsons is 'Wait Til Your Father Gets Home' - and I had no recollection what the backgrounds were like in that show since I was maybe 2 or 3 when it was on the air. But your post piqued my interest.

Looks like HB was still using color theory and simple backgrounds, and therefore the character animation pops.

Did Art have any involvement with this show? Either way I'd love to hear/see how he approached his BG paintings.

Enclothe said...

Fantastic post! This is why I keep coming back here over and over again. The kind of insightful stuff i'm not seeing anywhere else.

John, do you think this kind of aesthetic can applied be 3d animation?

Also I would love to hear Art Lozzi share his process.

Anonymous said...

A Lozzi tutorial would be much appreciated, and an important animation historical document to boot.

-David O.

tom Feister said...

I would love to see more. What a fantastic blog. It's become my daily art lesson.

JohnK said...

Wait Till Your Father Gets Home...Yikes!

That's Hanna Barbera at its worst! That's the show that predicted modern cartoon sitcoms. No style technique or point. Just wall to wall blandness.

miss 3awashi t said...

oh please great mr. lozzi teach us your greatness!
i've also never noticed how beautifil hb backgrounds can get. now i' filled with the sudden urge to buy a sponge

Anonymous said...

That BG art totally blows my mind. As a kid I wasnt exposed to a lot of HB, so it wasnt until I started reading your blog that I realized how amazing that early stuff was.

Mad Taylor said...

An Art Lozzi lesson would be great! I think the backgrounds to the Venture Brothers have been some of the better backgrounds in a while. Here's a few:

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

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Try our animation studio. No registration required.

Please give me your feedback, I would like to incorporate them into MySkits to make it even better.



Shawn said...

"Scooter Looter" is my very favorite Yogi Bear cartoon! The backgrounds and colors in that cartoon are the best! Yogi does some really funny walking at the beginning of this cartoon while he sings something like, "abazoo doodyum bum bum zoooby doo to you" (or something weird like that). And his feet make crazy sounds when he walks too, "BINK BONK BONK BINK". Then whenever he's off camera, you can't see him, but you can hear his crazy walking. It's hilarious! Sorry to get off topic with that..I just think it's cool that those old Yogi cartoons could even make a simple walking cycle really funny and entertaining. I laugh every time I watch it!

BTW, A post with an Art Lozzi tutorial would be great!

sean said...

i would definitely like to see a step by step, i feel like i am getting close with this thing, ironically i've been working that way with the sponges for years. never really realized that it was done that way for backgrounds. makes me awfully excited.

Eripuuu said...

Would we EVER appreciate it! thanks for the opportunity, John!

Benjamin De Schrijver said...

We don't just want, we NEED that step-by-step explenation!

Anonymous said...

i wanna hear the step by step process!

cableclair said...

Yessss! pleaaase Mr Lozzi! I'm so curious about your step by step process!

Anonymous said...

Well, I am a Simpson fan, but I'm not blind. I can see how great those HB backgrounds are. However, I hardly notice when I watch a HB cartoon. I'm not such a big fan of the characters and the stories in them as you and I guess I don't watch them with so much attention. So, if you weren't posted this, I would have never realized the backgrounds in those cartoons were so beautifully done.

Franky said...

awesome! Those are some really gorgeous backgrounds. There is nothing being created today that can compare.
I would love to know the step-by-step process.

P.S. I loved seeing Yogi on a scooter.

Anonymous said...

Woah John, You really "BUST BALLS" with Simpsons and FG, and rightfully so...the bright colors are visually unpleasant..actually hurt my eyes.
You are very good at making your point! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Haveing such a great BG artist explain BG would help me with my projects. Like the repeating backgrounds. And in some cartoons, the overlay BG. (like yogi riding the skooter into the tree.) Please, Mr. Lozzi, give use your wisdom.

Anonymous said...

On the repeating backs, what is the trick to creating the BG cards. The starting point and then to finishing point and then to the starting point again. That has always confused me.

Peggy said...

Oh, man, I just realized what "Simpsons" and "Family Guy" are doing, unintentionally and badly: the same thing Tintin did. One unchanging lineweight for everything. Flat colors.

Except Hergé made it work by using iconic colors on the characters, more realistic colors on the bg, and careful composition to highlight the important elements of each panel.

Not, I think, that anyone trying to turn Groening's cartoony-without-solidity drawings* into a consistent, repeatable look was consciously going for this. It's just what could be codified and sent to Korea.

*i mean, sheesh, his actual comics look like what fell out of my head when I was watching "Rocko's Modern Life" while completely baked - but he does at least use a heavy, often-variable-weight line to set his fgs off from his bgs!

Jorge Garrido said...

If Art is reading this, please give us a tutorial on your HB backgrounds! We'll all shut up and listen to everything you have to say!

>That's Hanna Barbera at its worst! That's the show that predicted modern cartoon sitcoms. No style technique or point. Just wall to wall blandness.

What do you expect, the 70's were a terrible time for all animation, worse than the 60s and 80s and now. At least the 60s had early Flintstones and the 80s had The New Mighty Mouse

I love that textured dry brush and the brambly look of the forest! Did they use gauche?

brian smith said...

A lot of people i know would be interested in reading what Art might have to say about his painting technique.

The Butcher said...

I have a new favorite artist and it's Frazetta. Not only are his paintings awesome to look at, but I like what's going on in them too. Jungle madness! Kick ass.

I think these are the best Art Lozzi paintings you've shown so far.

Anonymous said...

Art - PLEASE???

Background painting is something I'm still new with - I've painted some in the past, but the public will never see them. :-) Even one general tutorial by your expertise is better than anything I'd learn in any painting instruction book!

:: smo :: said...

reading about art's techniques has already been an invaluable experience. to read these things first hand would be priceless! it's amazing what art minded people can do under a budget! the use of sponges and friskets as you mentioned must have saved tons of time, but still allowed for the execution of these amazing layouts!

thanks already for all you've given us art! anything more would be amazing!

and john, perhaps it's a moot point since it's already all on the web, but have you ever thought about publishing a book? i know much of what you're covering is art theory most people should know, but it's astounding to find out how many people don't! perhaps having a theory book by john k. would wake up those people who fell asleep in art school.

S.G.A said...

Mr. Lozzie please explain your wonderful creative techniques with us Pass 'em along and keep your techniques alive!

S.G.A said...

Is there a blog or site where you can go to reference good cartoon backrounds like these?
I'd love to know the address!

SteveLambe said...

These breakdowns on color and technique are amazing. There's so much to learn in those HB backgrounds. It's weird but I've analyzed those bgs before, but didn't pick up on half the things that you've pointed out. Thanks so much for breaking it down, John.

So yes please, ask Mr.Lozzi to post about his process. I bet it'll be super educational.

This is a different topic, but have you given any thought to doing a post about traditional painting vs computer? It'd be interesting to hear your thoughts on it.

JohnK said...

>>This is a different topic, but have you given any thought to doing a post about traditional painting vs computer? It'd be interesting to hear your<<

Hi Steve,

I've never seen computer BGs that come close to the naturalness of a good real painting.

I used to think you might be able to do the HB sponge style using Painter and we loaded all kinds of sponge and other textures into the program and did a few BGs in my Ranger Smith cartoons. It was more trouble than it was worth and it doesn't look as good as the actual paintings Richard Ziehler Martin did.

If someone would make a logical painting program that had brushes in it that really looked like actual brush strokes it might be possible. I doubt it will ever happen. Most programs are full of gimmicks for amateur artists but no real art tools for anyone with a sensitive artistic eye.

Sorry for the long winded answer, but it was a good question!

Ryan G. said...

Whoa! Wait till your Dad gets home looks like a 70's version of Family Guy. The dad even looks like Peter. Anyway.. those trees are absolutly beautiful. These are way better than the great ones you showed us just a few weeks ago John. If Mr. Lozzi could give us a lesson that would be fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Thanks John for sharing the H-B technique with us. Very interesting and useful stuff!!!!

Can't wait to hear the step by step process of The Great Art Lozzi!

I was wondering John...

What kind of Canvas/Paperboard they used to paint these?

and (Maybe it's a stupid question :/ ) but what kind of paint they use in general? is it the same for everything? (brush, sponge, dry brush)

Thanks a lot...
and keep it up John!


Matt J said...

C,mon Art, spill it!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Art Lozzi will comment his technique in this blog??!!
The true and only Art Lozzi??!!
I am expectant!
I can't lost this chapter to me!
A greeting for Chile, Mr. Lozzi!
Greetings from Chile!
With admiration and respect

Chloe Cumming said...

These Hanna Barbera posts are a big fat eye refresher for me. I think it's much easier to see and comprehend the beauty of those colours in the bolder more stylised Hanna Barbera paint applications than in the Frazetta painting.

Colour stuff is hard to verbalise, perhaps there aren't even subtle enough words in the english language, but you do an excellent job with the stills you pick out to illustrate your points.

I wanted to respond to the digression about computer painting vs. real painting...

I got frustrated yesterday trying to explain on the phone to a cinema loving but non-painter friend why I found CGI generally ugly, and specifically talking about the fact that the BGs on all cartoons now seem to be done with computers. It was hard for me to put my feelings across without sounding like a philistine, but... well, there's no absolute reason why computer painting by definition should be ugly. But the fact remains that to my eyes, it almost always is. It tends to be that the only time it looks any good is when it very, painstakingly closely imitates real paint and physical painting techniques, in which case it just makes me sad that they've been abandoned. And really, why?

I think it's the mindless and absolute way the technology is adopted that irks me most.

Real paint of all consistencies is hard stuff to tame. I'm sure it does a lot to instill principles of skill-growth and organic beauty.

The stuff about friskets and sponges is fascinating. I might mark this in my diary as Frisket and Sponge Thursday.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Art Lozzi will comment his technique in this blog??!!
The true and only Art Lozzi??!!
I am expectant!
I can't lost this chapter to me!
A greeting for Chile, Mr. Lozzi!
Greetings from Chile!
With admiration and respect

Anonymous said...

John if you please, since you don't like computer painting programs to do backgrounds, what about the characters? Do you draw out your characters on paper first, scan then trace them with a computer drawing program? That takes so much time!I can't get the same kind of drawings from the computer, using a wacom tablet is like using a computer to play guitar for me.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVED this post. I'm new to the art world and I'm currently creating a children's book (using - guess what? - Paint Shop floodfill techniqes). This post really opened my eyes to what I was (am) doing wrong and I'd love to hear (read) Mr. Lozzi's step by-step process.

NARTHAX said...

Marty Murphy designed "Wait 'til Your Father Gets Home", a series touted as being H-B's version of "All in the Family", for some reason. Murphy is still living and occasionally still works designing things. He may have done time at UPA, albeit in the Henry G. Saperstein era rather than the John Hubley one.

NARTHAX said...

Murphy also drew some cartoons that were published in Playboy over the years.

Alex said...

Yes, please telll us Art. We need to know! The animation industry is depending on it...

Max Ward said...

I would love to hear Art Lozzi's techniques. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but from your posts I have developed a very keen eye and can read pictures in your color theory and composition posts very well, even before I read your captions. But technique is something I'm not so keen on, I would love to hear more.

Paco Sordo said...

I´m enjoining these posts SO much,to be honest I felt in love with animation thanks to the HB backgrounds,as a kid I was completely astonished with those backgrounds,don´t ask me why,but one of the few memories that comes to me really clear from my childness was one day I was watching the flintstones and I got so amused by those great inside of Fred´s house bgs that I completely get lost from the storyline or the characters and kept looking at those great rock textures asking me "wow,how can anyone make something like this?".And of course,I still make myself that question.It would be fabulous to see a step by step process.

Freckled Derelict said...

I'm so glad you referenced the finishing tree painting, I love that one and it shows how quality backgrounds can be done amidst the current crap.
Please keeps these posts coming they are immensely helpful, my portfolio will never be the same.

Art PLEASE explain to us your step by step procedure in painting backgrounds!! Do it to help your many fans aspiring to emulate your greatness!

Neutrinoide said...

There is no excuse for Cg to be ugly.

The problem Cg is born in the bads years when studio ask for ugly stuffs and school teach art theories

But there is new softwares that make it able to sculp or draw like the real thing.

Zbrush for exemple. (it's a 2d 3d software.) once you master it, there is no limits.


and you can fin some talented artist here

P.S I love my new T-shirt :)

Neutrinoide said...

Anonymous said...

Art Lozzi's step by step painting proceedure?!!

My digi animation destroyed brain explodes with excitement at the prospect.

my hands are shaking...

Kris Boban said...

Art Lozzi, you need to grace us with your knowledge as John does! Please oh please!

I love the simplicity yet appealing nature of these backgrounds. Although there is a stronger contrast in these compared to the Disney trees you've displayed (from Amid's praising of at the Brew) still do not stand out too much to let the characters remain the dominant force (come forward in space). The texturing without a doubt helps with this also.

Thanks John! And hope we hear from Art soon!

Anonymous said...

I think my contribution is pretty moot at this point but I just want to 1/46th the vote for Mr. Lozzi to tell us his techniques. I love reading anything by those old school guys who made my childhood brighter and more fun without my even being aware of their professionalism and dedication.

It's inspiring. It should be celebrated.

katzenjammer studios said...


Anonymous said...

damn! i was just wondering about the step-by step process of these backgrounds today! yes Mr. Lozzi,PLEASE! we would appreciate a step by step process of your technique for the rest of our artistic lives.

Frank Forte said...

Would be great to learn some of Mr. Lozzi's techniques.

Hryma said...

I was a signwriter for 6 years and attempted many times with a brush to paint like that, how daft of me not to think of stencils.
This is a blog I've been waiting for for a long time!
Please Art, I would be the most appreciative man if you gave us a lesson on your techniques.


Anonymous said...

I would love to hear your step by step procedure, Mr. Lozzi!

Ale said...

I wouldn't blame nowadays cartoons for being that simple. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE old school cartoons, but I think that as any art, they respond to different cultural situations.

Nowadays what I'm seeing a lot is how technology affects all sort of designs. Everything is being done as sinthetic and simple as possible, and cartoons seem to go that way too.

So I guess it responds to a period of art/design we're going through, and I think it's sort of narrow minded to just say they suck (I say it all the time too, but I hope you get the point).

The Ad Mad!

El Bergo said...

mr. lozzi, explain us!

Anonymous said...

Dare we peak under the hood and witness the workings of THE CREATOR in action! THE CREATOR who made all that is visible, the whole spectrum of existence which is inhabited (by park rangers and bears)! ...!!!! Yeah, that would be swell. (!!!!)

The only benefit I can see to making flat backgrounds with no texture or painting is to somehow integrate the characters into the world around them. The boom boom. For instace, soemtimes in cel toons part of the background that is about to move, say a trap door, is drawn whiel the rest of the background is painted. In which case, you can totally tell it's about to move simply because it looks like all the other things that move, and unlike all that is stationary. When everything is flat you can hide shit liek that. But of course most of the rest of the time things that SHOULD stand out don't.

Anyway. My other half of this point is that with such huge budgets why not upgrade the look of the characters rather than downgrade the backgrounds?

Anonymous said...

Sponging onto the already-painted background also creates harmony, because the colours show through or make up part of the new colour that was layed on top.

Fantastic post! Beautiful paintings. Thanks.

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

I'd love to know how these were done!
We tried to to stuff like this on "Home on the Range", but we were forced to water it down in the end,
I'd like to know how it was REALLY done!
And thanks for your color theory posts too!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering how he got the sponge texture with such a clean edge, it all has become clear to me now. Well, not all I want a step by step, PLEASE, Mr. Lozzi!!!

I don't really care said...

I would love to hear anything Mr. Lozzi has to say.

Was watching Samurai Jack (a show as pleasing for its color and scope as it is unnerving for its flaws), when I noticed some really nice, almost Lozzi-esque BG's. Turned out they were done by your pal Bill Wray.

Nowadays what I'm seeing a lot is how technology affects all sort of designs. Everything is being done as sinthetic and simple as possible, and cartoons seem to go that way too.

I got into computers 30 years ago because I believed they were the future of art. Oops.

Mechanical art is much easier to
perform on a computer. Perfect lines, perfect shapes, perfect paralells, instant fills and gradients, these things are all great on a PC.

Computers are great at repeating things, but they suck at randomness and imperfection, and imperfection is where much of the interest in art lies. This explains all the "distressed" typefaces out there. It's not impossible to get a computer to simulate imperfections, but what kind and how much? A smeary "S" looks like a smeary "S" the first time you use it, but the second time it looks like a copy, because it is. The natural world has no such problems. If you hand draw a circle it won't be perfect, and it will be more interesting to the human eye.

Want to make a sales flyer? I see no reason to do it the old way. Want to paint like Frazetta or Lozzi? I don't see how a PC can really help until you want to digitize it. It's only going to restrict your choices. Whatever you might gain in productivity you will lose in flexibilty. The productivity gains will be lost as soon as you try to get the PC to do something subtle that it doesn't want to, or to do it your way instead of its way...

There are no restrictions and no middlemen on a blank sheet of paper. Choice is infinite. You can do whatever you want, as well as you can manage.

PC's are nice because you don't need to clean up anything when you are done, and there is "undo".

Perhaps the ultimate drawback to PC's for art is there is never an original. It's not possible to examine an original for evidence of the artist's hand. There is no blob of paint laid down, no charcoal rubbed on, no physical traits, only simulations of physical traits, and no original to potentially skyrocket in value or get people excited enough to leave their homes and see a collection.

It was probably "Wait Til Your Father Gets Home" That finally convinced me to abandon the animation career path.

Allan L. said...

I'd totally love to hear what Mr. Lozzi has to say!

Pedro Vargas said...

John, my brains explodin'! I had no idea that's how they did it. I got all choked up in excitement when I read that frisket cell technique. I have a cell and maybe I can put it to good use and start using it as a frisket. Man, I'm so happy now. This'll be a great stress reliever for me now that school is over. Oh and I'd love to get that step-by-step process from Lozzi aka coolest painter ever!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the different techniques used in creating these backgrounds. Now maybe Art can give us more insight into his techniques.

ubergrafik said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mr. Semaj said...

I like the sponge paintings for the trees.

The possible reason for the "flourescent" colors in most of today's animation backgrounds is because most of everything is put into a computer. Today's background painters don't have to know the traditional artistic mediums in order to paint on a computer.

Is it possible that, instead of the natural and digital techniques clashing with each other, which seems to be the problem behind today's topic, a middle ground can be discovered? A way so natural techniques can be applied to digital enhancements so that one source isn't compromising the other?

Or is that just another elusive pipe dream? :-/

Raff said...

I've been looking for YEARS for info on background painting!

Rockin' thank yous and Art, bring the info please!

Let cartoons be cartoons again.

BTW on the topic of CGI, I think things started to go wrong when they tried to use CGI to "fake" things: movie special effects, pseudo-cartoons, etc.

That's why I like CGI from the 80s; they had no choice but to take advantage of the fact that CGI just looked like CGI - freaky, electronic and heavy on the camera swoops. They used it in a more experimental, abstract way and used the quirks to artistic advantage.

akira said...

Mr. Lozzi,
please, I, too would love to hear anything from you.. advice, how-to tutorials, stories from the studio, etc. I'd like to hear what you think about bg's in modern cartoons, and i'd LOVE to see what kind of work you do "for fun." or do you work best under a deadline?

ZEE said...

I found The Simpsons' BG styling to be really fresh when the show was in its early years. The purposefully bland designs combined with those eye-searing colors and the near-total lack of gradients and textures was something I'd never seen before, and it seemed to fit the tone of the show perfectly.

That said, it's not 1989 anymore, and I don't think the look has aged very well. Much like the series itself.

Jason White said...

amazing. i love the unusual peachy orangy color they use for the sky. it does a great job making the greens of the grass and plants stand out. these guys really did take it to another level.

Anonymous said...

Those backgrounds are so simple and yet look so good. Nothing like today's cartoons. It reminds me of a book by Art Instruction Schools about Les Kouba a wildlife artist, in his early stages of a wildlife painting he would use certain kinds of brush strokes and sponges to get certain effects. I do hope Mr Lozzi will share with us. Thanks Neutinoide for the tips and links.

David DeGrand said...

I can't even express how cool it would be to read Art's description of how he painted those backgrounds, each one of those are works of brilliant art! Fabulous post, I can't believe how much I'm learning for free from you!

Blue said...

I would definitely appreciate Art's comments. I've been very interested in your discussion of color and technique - and I've been trying to apply that to my own artwork as well. And I'm 17, folks!

william wray said...

Hey John,

Great post, but what is the point of complaining the background on the Simpson's are bad? Who doesn't know that? The art direction is bad, the animation is formula and the writing is funny with top voice acting. All the money is spent on the later two, they could give a fuck about quality backgrounds. You imply they are spend a ton of money on then not true it's all for the writing and the voices. I can see Homer, everyone's else can to. I don't think they enter the Simpson's in art direction categories at the Annie's. Is it a shame these shows look bad? Yes, but blame Matt Groining... it his style and he approves everything.

What would make more interesting is to go after stuff that is considered good like backgrounds at Disney in the last 30 years. Saying pink video boxes suck is a no brainier. Break down stuff that's considered state of the art like Disney and show them why much of it is weak.

Thanks for the big scan on the art Lozzy stuff, I did laugh out loud when you mentioned the innovative use of colored pencil. That’s a big cheat you would have never allowed on R and S. Admit it. Pencil on backgrounds looks like hell and you liked a nice finish on the backgrounds. Art's good, but he did it to save time, knowing if the background looked a little sloppy it didn't matter the camera would hide it because the general color and value was right on. Why try and re- write history? They were hacking this stuff out. They just were really good at what they did. They cheated it in everyway, no special thought other than how to save time. Stencils are not a brilliant innovative art form, they are a way to cheat and keep sponge off another part of the BG and could be used over and over again. That totally goes against you innovation theory. It was innovative the first time by accident to save money. It turned to formula shit soon enough.
Thank God for the forgiving camera... I miss film. The heart of your argument they had basic color and paint training that was good. They rarely good training today, because fundamental teaching art schools died in the sixties.

I totally respect you dedication to educating the masses on this stuff, but to overate everything makes it easy for people to dismiss your theories as the ravings of a lunatic. If you were more rational/ pragmatic about it more people would listen. You should be heard, your theories a mostly great, but you get to set on winning the argument at the cost of rational thinking. There is a reason Art sys there was nothing special to what they did, they were just getting it done. One cartoon came out better than another because one artist was better that another, no crazy magic.

John Coulter said...

excellent post! please have art explain his technique. it will be invaluable

JohnK said...

Bill, you might want to reread your post tomorrow then delete it to save yourself some embarassment.

Chris E said...

I was just talking to a friend about that a moment ago. I was bringing up the movie, The Secret of Nyhm because I remember the original movie and I recall seeing the box art for a sequal(?). I remembered the movie having dark colors to go along with the story which I think worked, but the sequal (which Warner Bros. whored out in the past decade) looked like it would probably be some bright-colored, Disney-fied garbage loaded with song queues every five effin' minutes.

What do you think?

Shorty said...

I assume the Lozzi backgrounds were turned around very quickly, to hear mention of them being cheated doesn’t quite sit with me, or if anything makes me appreciate them more in terms of getting the best result with the available time and resource. They are far nicer than the paint by numbers we see so much of.
I’d love to hear more of the techniques employed, and also of the amount of artistic freedom given to the creation of these backgrounds. I get the impression there were many less restrictions placed on what the artist was to create for these cartoons, at least in terms of look if not time and budget in comparison to the way things commonly run.
John you have much to say on the degradation of quality as things go through the process, and have some great examples to show where people have lost the feel for what was being created, I’m curious as to things where is may have gone too far the other way? Nothing leaps to mind, and I do think that much is done with no joy in it, and has become very structured and dull, as someone pushing the other way where do need to pull it back in to stop it from becoming too crazy?


Andrew Singh said...

lets see the step by steps!! please?

Anonymous said...

please Art, show me the way!!

Stephen Worth said...

Personally, I don't care if a BG painter uses templates, prismacolor pencils, or if he whips them out quickly. All I care about is if they are well designed, have good color harmony and highlight the characters clearly. These Yogi backgrounds fit that bill. Whenever I see an image that looks loose in the details, yet falls together into a perfect whole, it's like magic to me.

See ya

Mr. Semaj said...

Welcome back, Steve!

Anonymous said...

John K,

I think youre absolutely right. I loved the BK work of old HB cartoons. The contrast made those cartoons jazzy, sort of unpredictable. The style was played out by the Jetsons, but who cares. It was part of the whole So.Cal Googie architecture, modern art thing. How about some studio heads giving animators more leeway? How about bombing Bratz back to the stone-age? Ugh!

Anonymous said...

John K,

I think youre absolutely right. I loved the BK work of old HB cartoons. The contrast made those cartoons jazzy, sort of unpredictable. The style was played out by the Jetsons, but who cares. It was part of the whole So.Cal Googie architecture, modern art thing. How about some studio heads giving animators more leeway? How about bombing Bratz back to the stone-age? Ugh!

Captain Napalm said...

The single funniest thing in this post is the shot of Homer, for precisely one reason: look at his eyes. They're gawking straight out at us. HE KNOWS WHAT WE'RE SAYING AND HE DOESN'T LIKE IT ONE BIT!

"Hey John, what the hell, man? This is the second time you put me up here in my briefs! What are you, sick in the head? You're friends with Reardon, right? So call him! WERE THE HELL IS HE??? He used to draw me like a decent artist does, but then POOF!! He goes out for a smoke and never comes back! Same with Silverman! And Rich Moore! Look at me now - That sag in my face? That ain't age, uh-uh - THAT'S JUST BAD CONSTRUCTION!!! Jim wouldn't pull shit like that. They took the paint off the walls, they screwed my face up....and then they TOOK MY FREAKIN' PANTS!!! THOSE BASTARDS!!!!"

This is a tough time for Homer, John. I know you hate him, but if you can find it in your heart to get him some help, (Milt Gray? He drew him one or twice....) I might be able to sleep at night again.

wendog said...

I think that animators really produce some incredible art. I also hate the computer colors you get by default. Maybe I'm a jerk but in order to find colors not readily available I will pick colors from masterpieces of an earlier age. Stealing? Maybe. Hopefully it's just a way of not losing craft.

You can check out the card I painted:, you'll have to scroll down to see it, it is for a place called the Roanoke Inn , using colors from the Donald Duck John K. raved about it. Painting technique. Bring it. We don't want to lost the greatness.

MickeyCat said...

I think the Disney one looks like it was done by a professional artist more than the HB one. That's my opinion.

Gexton said...

I want to start talking a bit about painting technique. Technique is different than color.
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Taber Dunipace said...

Hey John,
I love love love this looks and decided to give it a try using Photoshop brushes I created myself in an attempt to carefully reproduce the look and feel of these backgrounds. Here are some links:

Background 1

Background 2

Background 3