Friday, February 12, 2010

Life At Cartoon Retro

Here's some relief from all the dead 80s cartoon posts.

"Dead" is about the best way to describe the 80s. No matter whether a cartoon was in a "realistic" style or a cartoon style, what they all had in common was deadness. Something well beyond conservatism or even lack of skill.
Just compare the wide variety of lively cartoon styles that existed decades earlier.
All these look like humans with souls and life and individual personalities drew them.
Some cartoons like Jack Cole's were super wacky, some were stylish but still lively, like Chuck Jones below.
Nobody drew characters standing straight up and down in symmetrical poses with no expression -unless they had no talent or imagination. That was almost unheard of until the mid sixties and Saturday morning cartoons came along to make stiffness and lack of sincerity a requirement of cartooning.
All these old styles also had a feeling of fun, which was totally lacking and illegal in the 1970s and 80s.

Here's Owen Fitzgerald drawing in Hank Ketcham's style. This is conservative but elegant and sophisticated cartooning. The poses are full of attitude and subtle bends and angles. The result is stylish but very natural and organic.
Frank Frazetta is basically a "realistic" artist, but his poses are anything but stiff.
I got all these images just by surfing through one of Shane Glines' great sites.
You can see tons of great stuff at Cartoon Retro, including Shane's own stylish and appealing work.

I forgot about this artist until I found him at CR. Man, he's just great!

And of course, everyone's favorite Playboy cartoonist, Erich Sokol.
There is so much great cartoon art now available on blogs that it's amazing to me that I still hear people defending 80s cartoons, which the artists themselves will tell you stink in every way.

All the ingredients exist today for a truly Golden Age of cartooning. The business is full of talent (we have to unlearn some bad habits of drawing flat, stiff, formulaic and trying to be cool), the internet is an encyclopedia of fantastic and varied cartoon art from the early to mid 20th century - and there are some cartoonists who are willing to share their experiences and knowledge with everybody.

Now if there were only a studio that would take advantage of the situation and shed all the bad habits developed in the last 35 years or so.

Take a look through Shane's site and see if you're not inspired to shake off stiff deadness.