Thursday, February 22, 2007

BGs and Style 10 -use reference, get ideas and inspiration from different styles

There is nothing more creatively stultifying than having a "style". Your style should be constantly growing. When you get used to one style, get mad at yourself and discard it for some new ideas. This isn't easy, but it's more fun than stagnation.
There is no greater evil in cartoons today, than that a show show should have a style. Look at old cartoons and take inspiration. In the 1930s to the 1950s the cartoonists constantly experimented with the looks of their cartoons-especially with the background styles.
A lot of background artists didn't even come from animation. Many of them were illustrators that didn't have pre set notions of what cartoon BGs should look like. Of course they couldn't completely dictate what they would draw and paint. That was the director's job.
The directors of the past would work with them to guide the artists to compose their BGs functionally to help make the characters and stories more effective. But the directors were very open to the BG artists creating their own looks.
A lot of people think that Ren and Stimpy had a style. It didn't. Go back and look at a couple episodes back to back. You will see many different Background styles and character styles too. We constantly experimented and tried to outdo each other and ourselves.

Background styles can and should vary wildly. It's fun to experiment. Just make sure the BGs serve their functions-they compose around the characters, give mood to the stories and tickle the eyeballs.

Don't let the executives tell you that kids crave a consistent look. They don't. Smash the exec in the face and tattoo this post on him, tie him to a chair and make him watch 5 Bugs Bunny cartoons in a row so that he can see that the only consistency there is in a good cartoon series is a consistent desire of the artists to change and get better.

Avoid "wonkiness" and chaotic uncontrolled messy backgrounds, because these will distract from the characters.

Controlled variety is the goal. And fun!


applepwnz said...

hmm, it's really interesting how the clouds in the background of the last picture help to frame the two characters.

NateBear said...

wow, i concur. i never notice the background in Super Rabbit. So much to learn!

Kali Fontecchio said...

The variety is quite amazing, when they are all back to back next to each other.

Perfect timing for my self-appointed project today!

Anonymous said...

i would agree 100% that artists should always be evolving and trying out new things. plus be influenced by tons of differnt styles.

its a real shame though that the society we live in now wants consistencey. I can't bring myself to do it, it makes you feel boring and stale. Im going to be a different artist in year and a completely different on in a 10 years, and if you dont have no dead set style you have no "direction".

I just blame really fucking stupid talentless execs and producer controlling.

Though i agree with what your saying about art should be about experimentation. i think that it works best with a show set up like ren and stimpy and bug buggy where each episode is a bit of a variety show.

thought ongoing serie stories are not used ALOT i think then a little bit of consistancy is needed. Though even then it doesn't really matter.

yo got the right idea my friend! wish more people in the industry thought like you.

The Horns and the Hawk said...

can we see some examples of "wonkiness" in BG's?

also, i've been wondering for awhile, what is a suitable style, in your informed opinion, for a serious or epic sort of cartoon? what's a good example of it?

Jeremy said...

can you give an example of a "chaotic uncontrolled messy background"?

Tom said...

How true especially for today's cartoons. It is really hard to watch any of that stuff since it feels like it is stock BG. That make you sick in the stomach!

jert said...

I like the term controlled variety,
I agree that searching for, and focusing on "style" or stylization can cause stagnation, and can turn your work into boring shit.
I think artists should focus more on voice than style. Developing your imagination, expressing your voice in as many different ways as you can, making mistakes and learning what does and doesn't sound like you. Locking yourself in the "style" box won't do you any favors.

eh, what do I know, I'm broke

enjoy your blog mr.k

C. A. M. Thompson said...

Background wonkiness. I have no idea what this is from, but how could you even put a character into this?

For more examples just turn it to The Disney Channel or Cartoon Network or buy the Animaniacs DVD.

Ape Lad said...

To quote a classic Warner Brothers cartoon: "every day the same thing: variety!"

Matt Greenwood said...

Great post, but I have one question. What's the best way to practice control in lines and shapes? Is it comparing the accuracy of the drawing until it's correct?

William said...

What is the Looney Tunes with Marvin the Martian, in space, where him and Bugs are running around these red pathways & corridors floating in space? When I was a kid I didn't think anything of it, I loved it, but didn't find it strange. Now I see it and find it was was like Dali or something, very surreal, strange, and didn't make any sense. I think kids really live art more than anyone gives credit.

They expect it, in a way.

Which Looney Tunes installment was that? I'd like to find it again.

rex said...

One of my favourite things about watching old cartoons is getting to see all the different styles of backgrounds.
I hope new cartoons start experimenting like this again.

jen said...

It's strange that the people telling us "what kids like" are so far away from what kids are. maybe they've lost their inner child?

love your work jk!

Adele K Thomas said...

Any chance John you can post some more of the Ren and Stimpy bgs?