Friday, October 10, 2008

Owen Fitzgerald and Real Drawing Skill, VS Copying Other Artists

I'm amazed there isn't a book on Owen Fitzgerald. There are lots of cheesecake cartoonist books out, yet Owen is the best cartoonist of pretty girls I know of.
You can tell that Owen actually knows how to draw for real. His work is stylized, but caricatured fom observation of the real. He combines life drawing, perspective and traditional "realistic" drawing skills with 40s animation principles.
Then on top of that he has a real appreciation for how girls not only look, but how they stand, pose, move, flow. Besides al his technical skills and powers of observation, he has a very unique and cute style.
Owen can take a crowd of girls and give them each a different pose, yet compose them all so that they make a flowing pattern.
Just for comparison's sake let's look at a cartoonist who is better known for drawing cute girls.

Dan De Carlo is best known for his late 50s and 60s Archie Comics. He was considered "the good Archie artist" by many in the 60s, including me. He has a sense of design balance that some of the other Archie artists were missing. The distance between his shapes seemed mathematically right, where the other artists' seemed to be sloppier by comparison. Dan was also good at designing skimpy, sexy costumes for the girls, which probably added up to a lot of sales for the Betty and Veronica comics. I used to copy his girls all the time when I was a kid.

On the surface, De Carlo has a similar finished style to Owen Fitzgerald's. They both draw girls with big eyes. scant detail and clean confident shapes. But that's where the similarities stop. De Carlo looks like a really toned-down version of Fitzgerald.
He can only draw one face and one body for one thing. He just changes the hair to make new characters.

Compare the posing in De Carlo's work to Fitzgerald's. Dan's poses are wooden and unnatural, as if each part of the girls' anatomy were separate 2 dimensional shapes that just rotate in place to create new poses. Owen's anatomy flows along lines of action, stretches and squashes and he can draw his characters from more angles. De Carlo can only draw 4 angles-front, side, 3/4 and back and he reuses the same drawings, expressions and poses over and over again.
This tells me that De Carlo is self-taught. His art looks like he copied another artist's work (maybe Owen's) and learned how to make a few superficially appealing poses, and then stopped learning. Once he got his style down, he never evolved or added to it.

Today we have many Dan De Carlo imitators who are even more superficial and stiff than he was. Or people who imitate those who imitated Dan De Carlo.

This is the problem with falling in love with a single style. If you teach yourself to draw by copying another artist, you will never have any control over your creativity.

Owen is a far superior artist than any of the Archie artists because he actually is an artist, not merely a copy machine. He uses many more tools and he can make his pencil do what his mind can think up. De Carlo and his imitators can only think up what their pencils have already memorized. There are millions of possible poses and designs that are barred from their work.

This is the state of animated cartoons today. We are copying copies of copies of copies of copies of something invented by people that once had skill, verve, observation, variety, creativity and individuality. Modern cartoons fear creativity, because acquiring the tools that allow for it to happen is so hard to do.


trevor said...

I certainly felt what you're talking about today while standing in line at the grocery store to pay for my lunch.

I thumbed through an Archie Digest and the lady behind the counter said she loved how the style never changed since she was a kid.

I said that to the casual observer that might be true. But it's a generic style now, and the result is akin to xeroxing a xerox of a xerox.... keep it up and soon it's barely recognizable.

She smiled and said, "So, I guess you're not buying it".

- trevor.

PS: They DID change the style temporarily, didn't they? Not too long ago if memory serves.

Paul B said...


hey John, how about harvey kurtzman's "Hey Look!" characters, do you think that harvey use constructions in those comic characters? and how we can learn construction from Milt Gross?

The Kurtzman (Hey Look! and Sheldon) and Milt Gross comics seem to have been done very fast with a very loose style, do you think they really use all the principles (step by step) in those comics or they just drew straight ahead?

i hope you understand my questions and please, come to visit my blog, i post some wonderfull toys!!


TacoTheSmurf said...

It's not just comics: it's cartoons as well. Just take a look at crap like family guy. It's gotten down to the point where it can't even be called entertainment: just cliches slopped together. Luckily, there's still some quality stuff out there like Chowder or Flapjack and it's realy a sight for sore eyes.

HemlockMan said...

De Carlo probably was also faced with having to produce a lot of work on a tight deadline. Having an almost automated production line kind of style means that you can get the work done in time and keep the editor happy and more work coming in.

But, yes, you're right.

JohnK said...

Interesting that you would say that. Owen worked full time in animation, yet still put out lots of beautifully drawn comics on the side.

Khaki Hat said...

@ trevor
If memory serves, I saw a "manga issue" of Bettie and Veronica once.

As for family guy, it now nothing but crude references to 2 yr old 4Chan in-jokes and E-mails sent from grandma.

Hey Mr K, for whats its worth I apericated the post the other day on principals and work. It helped me return to the disciple of proper drawing and study.

Sarcastro said...

John, I'm now dying to know what you think of Jaime Hernandez's work.

trevor said...

Man, that must've been a bummer to go from working in the Chuck Jones unit to working on Tiny Toons.

Not to mention the bloody Smurfs.

- trevor.

trevor said...

how about harvey kurtzman's "Hey Look!" characters, do you think that harvey use constructions in those comic characters? and how we can learn construction from Milt Gross?

Hey Paul:

Read this.

- trevor.

Anonymous said...

Family guy is a fun show to watch and its jokes are funny too.
best animated show out right now
oh futurama and king of the hill are awesome shows too.

Caleb said...

"...because acquiring the tools that allow for it to happen is so hard to do."

I think this is a common problem in movies and music, also. No one is willing to put in the work to improve, or they shut off from learning more. I've made the same mistake, assuming that a computer will somehow correct the things I don't know. It makes no sense that we have better, faster tools but the outcome is bad.

These examples are great because De Carlo looks amazing compared to most stuff today, but seems tame compared to Fitzgerald.

Aaron said...

Great post, John K.

Aaron said...

Me and my friends liked Tiny Toons a lot when we were kids. I don't see why you guys hate on it. It may not be delicious to an animator watching it, but as little people we genuinly enjoyed it, so whatever. Member Wacky World Land, Journey to the Center of Acme Acres, that Citizen Kane Parody? I do.

Amir Avni said...

Fitzgerald's drawing of the girl with the short black hair, in the black sweater Kinda looks like Shirley Maclaine, the way she appears in "Artists and Models"

Kevin Langley said...

Nice post, while I love DeCarlo's pinup drawings he does rather stick to familiar poses. The same tilt of the hips. Fitzgerald on the other hand always throws new poses at you. His drawings are much more alive.

Anonymous said...

I did some searched up Seth Mcfarlane and found this site.


hanna barbera!!!

Nikita said...

ok now I have more reason to use that life drawing book I have.

and tai-chi

Bitter Animator said...

Currently, there seems to be a big trend of copying copies of the UPN styles, I think because it's actually easy to animate in Flash. Some of it is actually coming out quite nicely but I'm getting as bored with it as I am with kung fu animals.

In animation, though, with new generations working in Flash, with budgets so ridiculously squeezed and productions so tight, even with some really talented young people with great raw potential, is it even possible for anything beyond basic copies of copies to exist?

trevor said...

Family guy is a fun show to watch and its jokes are funny too.
best animated show out right now
oh futurama and king of the hill are awesome shows too.

Wow. You're new here, aint ya?

- trevor. said...

Gracias por la información.

no ingles, pero mirando alcansa. estoy por comensar mis primeras pruebas animadas y nesesitaba apoyo.

seguiré visitandolo monsiur.


Richard said...

Hi John, Don't be too hard on De Carlo– he may have been compelled to follow the Archie "house style".

I have been a professional artist for 23 years at a place where marketers set the tone for artists. Its easy to get beaten down and fall in to their bland way of working.

I've been thinking about writing to you to THANK YOU so much for reminding me break away from laziness and market-think. I felt like King Theodan from the LORD OF THE RINGS movies. He had grown tired and mummified from listening to the constant lies of Wormwood (who is the perfect picture of marketers!). Thanks to you, I have been really pushing my work to be better and better.

I'm striving to add life to my drawings while developing a style that is distinctly mine rather than relying on formula principles. The great thing is that I'm having FUN again!

Keep up the good work!


Raff said...

Seems to me that DeCarlo loved cartoons as such but Owen Fitzgerald REALLY loved women. That's the vibe that comes across to me. The other cartoonists are working off proven graphic formulas but I can see Owen didn't settle on a line unless it reminded him of her, whoever she is.

For women drawings I also like Dean Yeagle and Dave Alvarez, but you'll notice in both cases that one cartoon formula or another becomes a distancing factor, so they have to be more overt in what's being drawn to get across.

Paul B said...

"Hey Paul:

Read this.

- trevor."


Guy said...

Aaron: Maybe this will help you understand.

Me and my friends liked Hannah Montana a lot when we were kids. I don't see why you guys hate on her. She may not be delicious to a musician listening to her, but as little people we genuinly enjoyed her, so whatever. Member Children Should Be Seen (Not Heard), A Penny Saved, that Little Mermaid song cover? [I can't actually think of any Hannah Montana songs, but from being subjected to the Disney Channel by my sister they seem to be either Disney covers or songs based on random idioms] I do.

Ambassador MAGMA said...

The panels where the "evil frenchie" is grabbing, then throwing the girl look like modern dance!

limaCAT said...

It also seems difficult to find drawings by Owen Fitzgerald on the internet, judging by a first, not too in-depth, research. Oh well, I love challenges :)

Allan L. said...

@ sarcastro:
I think I see where you're getting at on Hernandez, because De Carlo is an obvious influence on him (among others).
Personally, I love how Jaime says so much with so little. He's able to convey dynamic human facial expressions with a handful of lines. He's done some panels that have just blown my mind.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Looking through all those sunday comics of the late forties and early fifties, I found morre and more samples of precursors to that Dan DeCarlo style. I am still not sure where it started. Penny was a over stylized strip that used elements of it. Much of DeCarlo's style can be tracked back to Bloncdie, though. But I am not enough of a conneseur of that period to know how Chic Young's style evolved.

Aaron said...

Guy, No! It can't be the same. I don't wanna believe it!

Kristen said...

Totally agree w Bitter Animator's comment. Seems to me the only way to create really worthwhile and creative animation is to do it yourself - and then eat ramen noodles and live in your parent's basement while you're doing it. Unfortunately, there's no money in truly great animation. If you're good, a monster company will buy your intellectual property, which gets you the cash to get your car out of hock, but then your 'blood, sweat, and tears' becomes sheep fodder, drained of all it's originality and spice.

And Family Guy is NOT a good show!