Wednesday, July 25, 2007

WOW. MILT GROSS. style, observation, sincerity, humanity

...all in one cartoonist.

Milt Gross is a designer in the best sense of the word. He loves shapes and balance in their relations to each other.

But he's more than a designer. He's a cartoonist.

He particularly loves funny shapes and that's what makes him a cartoonist, rather than say - a fashion designer or a Dreamworks employee.

Funny shapes are we cartoonists' most basic tool. Let us never forget this!

Milt communicates all his ideas, his every unique view of the human condition through the medium of funny shapes.
Each moment in his stories are funny even out of context, funny and beautiful.

Milt has talents over and above the average merely brilliant cartoonist. He sees the world through eyes unfogged by the dark spectacles of style and habit. He is able to see the world clearly with acute observation. He translates what he sees with his mastery of the uniqueness of every interesting detail.

Tangent: Mastering Yourself In Your Art

To elaborate a difficult concept: It is hard to be yourself when you are on stage, right? Is it hard for you to make a speech - even about a subject you talk about naturally every day? Why?

Because you think there is a formal "correct" way to make a speech and it inhibits you. You can't be you. You imitate (badly) how you think newscasters or professional speech makers speak. Your unique personality - your humanity is lost to the audience and you are a robotic speech imitator. Stiff and unnatural.

You might know someone who has very charismatic or funny personalities. Maybe the life of the party. Maybe he or she has unique gestures and expressions that are really funny.

If you put this person on the spot and told him to "do that funny thing you do" to some new friends he can't do it. All of a sudden he tries to "act" and is no longer himself.

Many cartoonists have this problem with their pencils. We are so conditioned by the system to draw in whatever style we are brought up in or were trained in, that when we get the chance to express ourselves in drawings and animation we can't do it.

The style you draw in doesn't allow for the expressions you actually do in real life. Your pencil won't allow you to be yourself and thus the world is deprived of your unique take on the world. You draw "animation expressions" instead. The ones you have absorbed from years of watching your favorite cartoons. You make your characters move and flail their arms like animated characters do, very similar to the way motion capture actors act. Like how they think cartoons are supposed to move.

But not like true people move or act. And especially not like YOU move and act.

It takes a very special type of talent to be able to connect his humanity, his personality and his observations to his poor pencil. Especially these days.

I know this from direct experience of working with hundreds of artists.

I've had artists that were personally really funny and had unique gestures expressions and ways of moving. I'd tell one-put that in your drawings...and I'd get back a Nelvana or an 80s Disney drawing instead. He couldn't break out of how he had been conditioned, how he is supposed to draw things.

A small few uninhibited cartoonists are able to draw naturally and convey what amuses them about the world and from their pure imaginations. These are the cartoonists that generally, in today's environment, suffer the worst persecution from executives, bland directors, producers and model sheets.

Yet these are the people who can move the whole art forward and inspire everyone else. When they do get the chance they influence the next couple of generations.

Milt Gross is one of the most natural and unfettered cartoonists in history. He has no problem at all expressing himself, free of what is supposed to be the standard cartoon-style of the times.

While some less confident but hugely talented artists stop looking at the world and eventually get trapped in their own stylistic habits, Gross kept growing and evolving right till the end of his life.

End of important tangent.

now...Milt Gross knows that

Each head is Funny

He loves how funny different people are. He doesn't draw the same person over and over again with different hair styles. He doesn't even resort to a small handful of stock types. He constantly invents new designs-most likely because of how interested he is in how unique people are all around him.

The upper crust is always good material for comedy. Milt draws many unique examples of the general snooty type.

The Elemental Sausage
All real cartoonists know that the sausage is a perfect funny shape. Milt made a whole strip that takes place in a sausage shop. He fills it with every human type and countless individual variations of each. He balances their designs with the ultimate cartoon shape, the sausage.Look at the beautiful cat and fish shapes.

I could talk forever about many aspects of his work: the compositions, his encyclopedic knowledge of how things look, his background designs, his dialects and much more, but the most important thing we can get from Gross is his honest and sincere ability to connect his pencil with his outlook on life.

The moral of Milt Gross' cartoon style.
Be Inspired By Outlooks Rather Than Stealing Styles

Milt Gross has a strong style obviously and I'm sure he has many artistic influences, but he is no slave to them!

His style doesn't obscure his keen view of humanity and life.

What he sees in the world is his biggest influence, and that is the inspiration for his style.

He uses his style to convey not how he thinks a cartoon should be, but to make us see life in the unique and entertaining way he does.


special thanks to Marc Deckter for spending hard earned cash to unearth these babies!