Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Harvey Eisenberg - Tom and Jerry comics - construction, difficult angles and other skills

Harvey Eisenberg was a giant among cartoonists.

He was a layout artist on the early Tom and Jerrys and then he migrated to doing comics in the 1940s.

He could draw almost everything well, because he understood all the principles of good drawing in general, and then good cartooning/animation principles on top of that.

He could draw a character and a background from any angle, no matter how difficult. This gave him a much wider canvas to create from than today's flat cartoonists who are limited by only being able to draw a small amount of poses and only in 2 dimensions. You might be able to imagine a certain expression pose and angle in your head but then find that your pencil won't give it to you, because you have been relying on drawing "by design" rather than learning your skills properly.

Construction and asymmetry

Difficult angles and great perspective

Varied and interesting compositions

Lively and fluid, yet solidly constructed poses

He can draw characters from any angle

Organic shapes and forms-even the shingles and chimney

Fun poses, his characters seem alive and motivated

These are the kinds of skills I think they should teach at cartoon and animation schools.
The more knowledge and skill you have at principled 3 dimensional drawing, the more creative choices you have to draw from.

Harvey could draw in many different styles. He later did Hanna Barbera comics more in the TV style, but they are great looking because of how well he could draw technically.

If you are young and are drawing in a flat stylized style, you are severely handicapping your creative choices and your future. Learn the principles well and you will be much more creative in the long run.

Here's more great info from animator Kent Butterworth:
Harvey Eisenberg started doing comics around 1943 at Timely (later Marvel) comics, then he and Joe Barbera started their own comic book company, Dearfield in 1946 with "Foxy Fagan" & Red Rabbit". Joe supposedly wrote the stories & Harvey did most of the art. (Jerry Eisenberg told me that Joe & his dad worked out of a small shed in their back yard)

After this, he drew Tom & Jerry comics (and other stuff for Dell) from the late '40s though the early sixties.

His style became streamlined in the '60s, but there was always a great sense of action and perspective in his shots. It was never "flat". He really knew how to show depth in a layout with a minimum of simple shapes. A carefully placed fence or picnic table would give a perfect sense of "camera angle" and describe a 3-d space, and then a real nice dynamic shape for the characters in motion in the scene (foreshortened so they are "in the scene" not flat like a model-sheet lineup). Lots of nice "low angle" shots so we could see both Tom & Jerry in the same shot (Jerry in the FG) and see the facial expressions on both of them clearly.

He makes it all look really easy and simple, but there's a lot of skill in laying out these panels.