Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dennis Sunday Pages

I've probably posted this Sunday page before in a post on another topic with other people's art, but it's worth its own post.

I love these early Dennis The Menace Sunday pages. They are masterpieces of design and layout.
Ist of all the whole page is layed out well, each panel fits and contrasts well with all the other panels.1st of all Ketham has a very "modern" style. In other words, it's graphic, has some angles; it's not made of generic 40s spheres and pears. But that knowledge and foundation is behind his variations on it.

He started out as an animator and designed this character for some navy cartoons in the 40s.You can see him starting to break away from the purely generic Preston Blair style here. It's half pears and spheres style, and half "modern" style.
here's the generic 40s design style to compare to

Have you ever seen the Clampett cartoon starring Ketcham's Hook character! Wow! It gives you a sense of how Clampett would have handled more stylized animation, had he stayed on at Warners into the 50s.

Ketcham doesn't think in terms of designing each little piece. Instead, he crafts the whole composition as a design, and then goes and fills it in with details that conform to rather than detract from the overall graphic statement. His use of negative shapes is phenomenal. Each neg space is a design in itself.

I like how that desk is in silhouette while the characters are full color. There is so much information in the shapes that make up the desk, that there's no question what it is - and note how small the details are in comparison with the overall shape of the desk. Small details don't break up a large image. Big details compete with the objects they are part of. This should be taught in every cartoon school today!

Even the curling lamp neck makes a really beautiful negative shape that then in turn relates to all the other shapes, both positive and negative around it.
His poses are always strong, definite and customized to the story and the characters.
Pure silhouettes were a standard technique in old comic strips. Ketcham was an expert. I noticed that the lines of action of the adult characters in silhouette are less extreme than the lines of action in the younger characters. Makes perfect sense to me
Someone told me that Ketcham didn't do all the Sunday pages himself, but whoever did was following his style very closely.

To me, this kind of work is real design - it's not just abstract stylized shapes for the sake of them.

Everything is tightly controlled and thought out, has a purpose and reads very clearly. There is no wonkiness about it.

Check out Ger's site for lots of great Ketcham art.