Tuesday, May 26, 2009

George Baker's Sad Sack Evolves

I love seeing the progression of a talented cartoonists' style. When I was a kid, I bought all the Harvey Comics' Sad Sack books, just for George Baker's covers. Unfortunately the insides were mostly drawn by a very generic boring artist, but the covers were wildly stylish.

Baker's early style was not anywhere near as extreme as it became, but you can see the beginnings of his signature approach.
He was very good at drawing scenes from slightly high angles, looking down on his characters.


As his cartoons became more and more angular, he still maintained a gruff kind of regular joe feel to his work. He didn't become stylish to prove he was high class. I think his style just evolved naturally, a bit at a time.

Watch how the dog evolves over time...

MIDDLE PERIODBaker was great at feet, whether they were human feet or dog paws. Stylish, but firmly planted on the ground. You can't draw a horizontal line through the left and right foot as you can with most characters today.

Great use of composition and hierarchy!

His late period was extremely harsh stylistically, but I love it. It's so uniquely his own style, and doesn't seem self-conscious at all to me.
I love how solid his backgrounds are, and the feet keep getting better and better.

No matter how stylish and severe, Baker's drawings got he still maintained some basic skills-his great compositions, and dynamic perspectives and angles. He really had a talent for planting his characters' feet solidly on the ground plane.
The dog always show off Baker's talent for mixing high stylistic license with solidly thought out perspective and construction.
His vehicles were fantastic!

Aren't these beautiful? - in a manly, chunky gritty way?

I've struggled in the animation business with all the controls and systems set in place to stop styles and regular characters from evolving naturally. Many producers think it's a sin for characters to ever change and they make huge model sheet binders filled with arbitrary constrictions to clamp down on any individuality or inspiration, or just plain stop the process of slow natural evolution. Studios beat this into their cartoonists, until they finally get to the point where they are afraid to let their natural feelings or personality guide their drawings.

The other extreme is when young cartoonists think they need to express their unique personality through an artificially created personal "style". This usually consists of skipping the steps of learning basic drawing skills in general and going right to copying someone else's already established style superficially or or doing a slight variation of a school of style. This also gets in the way of natural evolution and the ability to express one's self.