Friday, December 08, 2006

Kali copies Mel Crawford and I give a critique

Kali has done a good thing. She is copying someone really good to try to learn from him.
She copied a page from my favorite Golden Book of all time, "Pebbles Flintstone" illustrated by the king of Golden Books, Mel Crawford.

I remember seeing this book on a golden book shelf in a drug store when I was 11 and my eyes popped out of my head. The wrong colors on the characters, the brash painting style, the angled yet organic drawings just exploded in my brain.

I begged my nanny, Mrs. O'Neil to cough up the whole 29 cents to get me this amazing thing and she did. (She also bought me Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" for Christmas after my Dad refused to get me any of that dirty hippie music!)

Anyway, more on Mel Crawford later.

Everyone can learn faster by copying the greats. But copy with intense self criticism. Don't be a pussy! If something doesn't look exactly the same as what you copied, then it's wrong and you should analyze why it looks different and then try to correct it.

It helps to have someone who is a pro already to help critique it for you, and if you are so lucky, then be like Kali and appreciate the free help! If not, then keep copying and fixing your copies as best you can and have no ego about it.

Having an ego when you are young is a huge detriment to your progress as an artist.

Kali is brave enough to let me share my critique of her very good copy with you so that if you are young and eager, you can also benefit.

Spumko (3:45:23 PM): hey that's pretty good
Spumko (3:45:29 PM): you did it with markers?

Kali Fontecchio (3:45:33 PM): hey
Kali Fontecchio (3:45:34 PM): ya
Kali Fontecchio (3:45:42 PM): i thought it was pretty bad!

Kali Fontecchio (3:45:49 PM): i see everything i did wrong
Kali Fontecchio (3:45:53 PM): the drawing for starters
Kali Fontecchio (3:46:03 PM): i didn't have the right purples for dino

Spumko (3:46:13 PM): want a bit of a critique?

Kali Fontecchio (3:46:14 PM): so i tried to make up purple with pinks gray and blues
Kali Fontecchio (3:46:17 PM): it got too dark
Kali Fontecchio (3:46:19 PM): YES!

Spumko (3:46:40 PM): your observations of the angles and style are really good

Kali Fontecchio (3:46:52 PM): yay

Spumko (3:47:01 PM): too much shading
Spumko (3:47:08 PM): overdoing it

Kali Fontecchio (3:47:16 PM): ya totally

Spumko (3:47:23 PM): you are adding colors and shades that aren't on the original
Spumko (3:47:32 PM): and it is muddying it up

Kali Fontecchio (3:47:38 PM): ya

Spumko (3:47:47 PM): use more restraint
Spumko (3:47:56 PM): don't fill the whole area with shadows
Spumko (3:48:01 PM): it creates a blur
Spumko (3:48:11 PM): and distracts from the subjects

Spumko (3:48:28 PM): also your shadows come too far into the objects
Spumko (3:48:35 PM): Mel puts them close to the edges

Kali Fontecchio (3:48:44 PM): oh ok

Spumko (3:48:49 PM): look at Dino's tail
Kali Fontecchio (3:48:58 PM): ya i did that terrible gradient thing- because i kept adding pointless colors

Spumko (3:49:03 PM): just next to Pebbles

Spumko (3:49:14 PM): see how thin the area of shadow is?
Kali Fontecchio (3:49:17 PM): oh ya!
Kali Fontecchio (3:49:18 PM): shit

Spumko (3:49:31 PM): yours comes almost to the center of the tail
Spumko (3:49:40 PM): AVOID THE MIDDLE
Kali Fontecchio (3:49:44 PM): ok!

Spumko (3:49:49 PM): do not split your images in 2
Spumko (3:50:05 PM): Dino is the image, not the shadow

Spumko (3:50:27 PM): the shadows are just there to help define separate parts of the images
Spumko (3:50:38 PM): like the cat's arms

Kali Fontecchio (3:50:54 PM): i forgot one arm
Kali Fontecchio (3:50:58 PM): because i'm retarded

Spumko (3:51:07 PM): if they were painted flat tan color you wouldn't see them where they cross his body
Spumko (3:51:29 PM): Mel uses shadows sort of like cartoons use lines
Spumko (3:51:37 PM): just to clarify separate parts
Kali Fontecchio (3:51:43 PM): oooh

Spumko (3:51:50 PM): they are not sensible
Spumko (3:52:01 PM): not like light and shadow in real life
Kali Fontecchio (3:52:17 PM): i see that now

Spumko (3:52:40 PM): in most of the images, there is less shadow than main body colors
Kali Fontecchio (3:52:48 PM): ya the cat's butt originally had a sharp shadow line

Spumko (3:52:50 PM): except at the bottom of Dino
Kali Fontecchio (3:52:51 PM): mine is fuzzy
Spumko (3:53:04 PM): but there the shadow is MORE than half a leg
Spumko (3:53:18 PM): which makes the thin strip of main color seem like a highlight

Spumko (3:53:42 PM): avoid taking anything near the middle...usually
Kali Fontecchio (3:53:48 PM): ok

Spumko (3:53:58 PM): see Fred's feet?
Kali Fontecchio (3:54:01 PM): ya
Spumko (3:54:23 PM): in Mel's painting the red shadows are only on the toes, not the top of the feet

Spumko (3:54:33 PM): see his face?
Spumko (3:54:46 PM): in yours, he has more shadow than he has face

Kali Fontecchio (3:54:50 PM): ya
Spumko (3:55:03 PM): see the shape of the shadow on Mel's?
Kali Fontecchio (3:55:05 PM): ya

Kali Fontecchio (3:55:09 PM): it's much smaller
Kali Fontecchio (3:55:11 PM): muuuch

Spumko (3:55:18 PM): it's a softened triangle

Spumko (3:55:26 PM): hey
Spumko (3:55:31 PM): save this IM
Kali Fontecchio (3:55:34 PM): ok
Spumko (3:55:41 PM): would you mind if I blogged this?
Kali Fontecchio (3:55:45 PM): uh
Kali Fontecchio (3:55:46 PM): ok
Spumko (3:55:47 PM): it would help others

Kali Fontecchio (3:55:54 PM): can i make a better version before you do?
Kali Fontecchio (3:55:59 PM): so like the before and after
Spumko (3:56:04 PM): yeah

Kali Fontecchio (3:56:07 PM): yay

Spumko (3:56:14 PM): see the blue shadow you put on Pebble's face?
Kali Fontecchio (3:56:18 PM): ya
Kali Fontecchio (3:56:32 PM): it's wrong
Spumko (3:56:38 PM): you should avoid putting a cold color as a shadow on a warm color
Kali Fontecchio (3:56:45 PM): oh ok

Spumko (3:56:48 PM): it makes the colors look dirty
Spumko (3:57:06 PM): like you didn't wash your brush before you painted her face

Spumko (3:57:19 PM): make the shadows out of RELATED colors
Kali Fontecchio (3:57:26 PM): ok
Spumko (3:57:30 PM): not opposite colors
Spumko (3:57:48 PM): otherwise you get a muddy dingy image

Kali Fontecchio (3:57:57 PM): ya it looks like she has a five o' clock shadow on her forehead haha

Spumko (3:58:06 PM): make your shadows have shapes-draw them on instead of pushing them around into nebulous shapes
Kali Fontecchio (3:58:15 PM): not blended

Spumko (3:58:16 PM): that don't mirror the form they are on
Spumko (3:58:34 PM): no parallel shadows
Spumko (3:58:39 PM): like on Fred's legs
Kali Fontecchio (3:58:43 PM): uh huh

Spumko (3:59:09 PM): it splits the leg into two images if you make shadows that are parallel to the object they are describing
Spumko (3:59:43 PM): In Mel's the shadow fades out faster and avoids becoming a darker stripe on his leg

Spumko (4:00:34 PM): Important point: Don't put a whole bunch of textures and different colors all in the same area. Like on Dino's body near the spots
Spumko (4:00:43 PM): it becomes messy and a jumble

Spumko (4:01:24 PM): the spots are the important design information there, so try not to distract from them with extra colors and stripes and textures
Spumko (4:01:29 PM): too noisy
Kali Fontecchio (4:01:33 PM): ya

Spumko (4:02:11 PM): in Mel's, the purple texture starts around the far edge of the spots and leaves most of them in the clear where you can see them easily

Spumko (4:02:40 PM): Follow the general thoughts here?
Kali Fontecchio (4:02:52 PM): ya completely
Spumko (4:03:13 PM): OK, try copying another painting and see if you get a clearer image

Go thank Kali here for being a good sport!


Swick said...

Sweet. Thanks John and Kali. Very imformative. I'm going to try this myself.

Julián höek said...

thanks kati and john for this! it's a great way of learning by geting critics and this one was very honest and from the kind that really helps you.

Max Ward said...

I've been wanting to get my studies critiqued but I am afraid to send you an e-mail or send it through the mail...that could be invading your privacy.

Thunderrobot(aka Chet) said...

I hate copying other peoples work directly, id rather make cheap nockoffs lol.

Hey John, do you have any drawings that you made when you were say, 15? 16? 17? 18?

How long did it take you to understand construction?

Katie said...

Hey, great job Kali!! Your marker work looks great! Thanks for letting all of us learn from John's critique, which was super informative. It's sometimes impossible to see your own mistakes without the help of someone more experienced. Of course, there will always be lots of people who refuse to see their mistakes even after someone with more experience has pointed them out.

On another note, I think I've had good results before with mixing cool colors over warm colors for shading, and vice versa. Maybe too much muddies up the colors though?

JohnK said...

Hi Katie

you are able to break many rules because you have an uncanny gift of a great eye and taste and I mean that sincerely. Your colors are amazing, but hard to analyze.

When other people mix warm and cool they get mud and dinginess.

You should tell us your secret!

Thunderrobot(aka Chet) said...

Usually when i draw somehting i love it. I jump up and down in astonishment of what i have just created,and show it to my family.

The next day i look at the drawing again and notice 27 different mistakes. Even if i know there are mistakes in the drawing, i usually cant find them untill the next day.

What i really need to do is what Kali is doing and then re-draw the drawing and get rid of the mistakes untill i have a drawing im truly proud of. Unfortunatly i dont have a drafting table or any real ''drawing surface'' so i usually just draw somehting new ''because its funner''.

Im going to build a drating table soon, and hopefully then ill be able to have some solid drawing practice.

mike f. said...

Great first attempt, Kali. Thanks for sharing John’s critique with the rest of us slobs.
I’ve been watching and listening to John critique artists and students for 18 years now. As always, his commentary is direct, articulate, informed, educational and ultimately invaluable.

As with Art Lozzi’s HB work, Mel Crawford’s classic Golden Books are a great place to learn design and color theory. They’ve been inspiring cartoonists for more than forty years.
The great Mel Crawford is alive and well and still painting, or course - but !I just found out he teaches, too. For anyone living in the New England area who may be interested in taking an art course from a genius, here’s his website:

Drop him an email and tell him how much you admire his brilliant Golden Books!

Anonymous said...

She's already so good and yet she's still pushing herself to get better. And your critique is very reasoned. Clarity. That's what I like about it. Clarity and specifics.

"This is wrong, this is why, try this instead."

I wish more teachers were into that kind of thing. I had maybe two in my art school days. One was a former army helicopter pilot/Vietnam vet. Maybe being in an actual war eliminated a lot of the touchy-feely indirectness.

People should understand this kind of criticism isn't saying you're bad at drawing. It's a learning tool to become better!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah and the resistance to copying as a learning tool. That's mere foolishness. Every art technique has a precedent that's identifiable. You have to learn them in order to use them properly and that requires copying in some way, shape or fashion.

When you're learning shading, more than likely you're trying to shade in some way you saw in a picture you admired.

People forget that in all the "art is subjective" talk, the tools and methodology of art are objective. They exist in history as a body of knowledge to use and learn from.

No one goes out to build a house without having first learned how to hammer nails and saw wood and take measurements. And they learn these things by copying what other builders have done.

So it is with art.

Writing too. Rod Serling said all writers start off copying someone. He said he himself started off as a third-rate Hemingway imitator.

"Everything I wrote began with 'It was hot,'" Serling said.

Copy in order to learn.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Kali!! i'm still too chicken to try color. i've benefitted a lot from John's critiques. he's honest and helpful.

Ted said...

I like the way Kali's Dino looks more than Mel's. Except the straightness of Dino's back, the head hair and the corners of the mouth in the original are more pleasing. The head in Kali's Dino is especially nice; the paleness under the eyes and on top of the snout is much more interesting.
Of course better is almost as bad as worse if you're going for an exact copy...

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Well done!!!! Once again John proves that this is beyond any doubt the best art sight on the net!

Kali WAS a good sport! I admire her for taking it on the chin in public so we could all learn something!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Katie. Teach us like Art Lozzi did, break down the art work piece by piece. That would be cool.

Anonymous said...

This kinda shtuff is exactly why I come to this blog every day! Thanks for your expertise John and Kali, THANK YOU for agreeing to have your conversation and artwork posted! =)

Anonymous said...

John, I wish I had a teacher like you when I was in art school... Kali's gonna leanr really fast.

Jorge Garrido said...

THANK YOU KALI AND JOHN!! This is so useful!!! I love how SPECIFIC John is, there is nothing extraneous about the information. I know I've said this about 5 times now, but this is the best. post. ever.

Did you get this pic from Clarke' Inspiration Grab Bag or from real life?

Vanoni! said...

Thanks to Kali for being brave enough to experiment with copying and sharing it with the world.

Thanks for letting us learn a little from your experiences.

- C

Anonymous said...

Thanks John and Kali! John, it's really helpful for us to see one to one comparisons and your comments. Sometimes I think I understand your lessons and apply them, but my eye doesn't have enough experience to see the difference or the error in my ways.

Kali, you do fantastic work! Thanks for being brave enough to let John blog about his critique. I know it must leave you feeling a little exposed. But it's really, really helpful!

Brian O said...

Kali: That was fearless of you to allow this to be posted!

You two are discussing concepts that have never been articulated to me before. Fantastic! Once I get off my meds (soon, I hope!) and my hand steadies I can't wait to tear into this stuff!

Now if somebody could critique Kurtzman's choppy inking because I still can't get a handle around it.

Anonymous said...

very good marker work, never tried drawing with markers myself maybe i should try it

could i message ya john to show you my stuff too! lol

Lori said...

Such a clever thing to do and post about. Kali did a great job..if only she could have used aged paper, let's say 43 years old. Really would give it that classic golden book look and feel.

Anonymous said...

This is off the topic. But, is there anyone that could help me figure out what to do with a problem I'm having.

I was offered a chance to do some cartoons for the public access channel in my area. The thing is they want me to do stuff like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sea Lab 2021.

I know I can do it. Heck, anyone can. It's not the challenge that I wanted. I told them I wanted to bring back the quality of the early cartoons like you have been discussing on your blog, John. They said they agreed with me that kids haven't changed, but the t.v. programming has. Then they showed me what they liked and wanted. I started to get sick.

Am I wrong to fell disgusted in what they wanted. It just seemed lazy to me. I'm not a professional, but I'd like to be someday. I'm afraid if I do this I would be labeled a lazy animator.

Should I do it for the money and then make better cartoons? Or, should I just walk away and look somewhere else?

Neutrinoide said...

When other people mix warm and cool they get mud and dinginess.

You should tell us your secret!

I have an hypothesis

I think it still "muddy" but she keep it "consistant" with the rest.

It usually look wrong when you mix a painting sharing mudy style agains no muddy style.

mike f. said...

Holy crap! What language are you speaking?

It started out English, but sounds like you had a stroke about midway through. Call a paramedic.

Neutrinoide said...

mike f. said...
Holy crap! What language are you speaking?

It started out English, but sounds like you had a stroke about midway through. Call a paramedic.

I know.
English isn't my birth tongue. I should stop posting. I look like a retard.

SteveLambe said...

Super fun! Breaking down Mel's work like that was a great idea. Thanks again for letting it be posted, Kali.

I had a class a few night ago that talked about warm colors vs cool colors. The theory was that warm tones bring the subject forward, and cool tones make it recede. Sort of an illusion you can create with temperature.

I haven't practised it yet, so I'm not sure if it works well.

cableclair said...

Thanks! You've just inspired me to stay in tonight and draw. I'm in awe of the marker work. Brilliantly done! Way to go Kali to allow this to be public!

Shorty said...

Wow, that was great! It was really nice to be able to read the points and go back and look at the 2 pictures and see the differences you were observing. Lovely to get an idea of what you are looking for and the guides, better than a spot the differences exercise, hearing the reasoning for doing one thing over the other is excellent.
Thankyou both very much, it is good emphasis on what you have been teaching, and extremely generous.


Arschblog said...

Hey! I train all the time, but you don´t write me, that make me sad. Did you forget me?

huston said...

here's my message on your blog, doodah doodah, I left it lest I might get flogged, oh doodah day

Taber Dunipace said...

Thanks Kali for being inspirational and thanks John for being informational! I made an attempt at this piece as well after reading this great article:

Click for painting