Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Color Theory-Art Lozzi on Bob Gentle-Skeeter Trouble

Look at this beautiful background painted by Bob Gentle. The night colors are warm, inviting and comfortable, and all done very simply.

He achieves it without a Dreamworks or Disney budget, just by using skill and good taste- which unfortunately, you can't buy.
If you wanna be surprised at what colors are in any of these bgs, take these frames into photoshop and use the eyedropper to grab certain colors. Then double click the color to bring up the color palette and see what color it is. You might think the shadow on the tree above is brown, but it's actually dark purple. It just looks brown because of its relationship to the blues near it.

Bob Gentle is another BG artist I like in the original HB cartoons.
He had a softer edged style, not as stylized as Art or Monte and his best BGs give a feeling of comfort and warmth like these in "Skeeter Trouble".

The Bgs in Skeeter Trouble were drawn by Dick Bickenbach, who was the most conservative of the early HB layout artists. Dick was an excellent draftsman and always had really good compositions and handsome layouts. He did those great Tom and Jerry model sheets from the 50s too.

The combination of his less stylized drawings and Bob's less stylized BGs makes for a very different look than some of the more abstracted HB cartoons of 1958-like this one below by (I think) Monte and Ed.Someone wrote in and said that they didn't use red or yellow in the original HB cartoons because the cartoons would play in Black and white on TV. I guess that's not so.

I love this accidental mix-and-match approach that HB used in the early days. It made for a wide variety of looks. No "consistency" like they want so badly today in cartoons. Just a consistency of invention which is much more fun for people like me who get bored by repetition easily.

I asked Art about Bob and he said:

Bob Gentle
Hi John,

Bob Gentle, "softer edged". Good observation. Bob G. was from an era that used airbrush, oils, water color, guache, pastels and more. Monte and I never airbrushed. Our paints were the acrylics and an occasional pastel....for the softer edges.

But there was no need to soft-edge the characters which were drawn mostly with thick and thin black outlines, rarely using light and shadow on them. It would be contradictory, not to mention unneccessarily expensive. The word "limited" didn't refer only to animation. It included bg's as well. By the time it would take to pull out the airbrush equipment, set up the space, make sure the windows were closed, etc....I could've been on BG #44. Am I saying this right?
Look at the beautiful warm browns on the logs in the cabin and the also warm table cloth. Very very nice to the eyeballs.

Bob Gentle was like his name suggests. He was gentle, he was soft-edged, always smiling, always willing to be helpful. His training of course was mostly at MGM where we met, as far as I know. He worked there full time. At H and B he was working at home and coming in to deliver his bg's and it always seemed too short a visit. His wife, too, did cel painting at home.

At MGM Bob's style was not really his own creation, but rather the result of what the larger studios were turning out. He was able to please everyone, but you could identify his backgrounds. Naturally it was the layout department that established the bg's then. They were drawn up meticulously in pencil by them, given to the bg painter, where they were traced onto the bg paper and filled in with colors. Houses, furniture, scenics - these were all done in tightish perspective, realistically but also artistically. They even had to consider the viewers who were a simple working class group with families, many of whom had lived through the depression years and WW2. Jerry's mouse hole had to look like a mouse hole -in perspective. Their tastes were not sophisticated. there's a word for you! How does it fit in with cartoon backgrounds? And yet it does.

Hey, my pal Kevin Langley sent me some more grabs. Thanks!


I would sure like to find a BG painter who shares my tastes and need for adventurous color design and texture. If you're out there, I'll find work for you!