Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Yearning For Cockamamies

Who can live without skin pictures?
Skin was a much cheaper printing surface than paper in the 1960s.

Remember the song?

"Cockamamies, Cockamamies,
Made from Human Skin.
They will lift your spirits high
How they'll make you grin.

Hide your blemishes and pimples
Wipe away your moles
Drape your flesh in Cockamamies
Purify your souls...

Flintstone Flintstone
Fred and Wilma
Barney, Dino Too
Clothe your flesh in Betty Rubble
Glue a few on Sue

Mom and sister
Dad and Kitty
Evil Neighbor Bob
Covet all your Cockamies
Mouths adrip with gob

Feel 'em, peel 'em
Lick'em, stick'em
Mix your tongue with goo
Cockamamies hide your nakeds
So much fun for you!"

Hanna Barbera Cockamamies are fun for Christians everywhere around the globe!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cartoony, Graphic and Directly to the Point: Kurtzman's Hey Look

Harvey Kurtzman's "Hey Look" is UPA before UPA. It's also something more. It has the graphic qualities of "Gerald McBoing Boing" and "Fudget's Budget", but without abandoning its cartoony roots. It's similar to T. Hee's style, but with a lot more verve.
Technically, Harvey has a lot of obvious great qualities but above and beyond them all is his ability to balance them graphically to convey a sense of uber-life.
His use of space, positive and negative is the best of any cartoonist I've ever seen. He balances the spaces to make perfectly readable and appealing pictures that tell a story in the most direct possible way. I could write a whole page just explaining the genius of the picture above.
His continuity is wonderful too. He only changes what needs to be changed from panel to panel and uses hierarchy in how much he changes each character. The chef above changes more from panel 1 to panel 2 than the guy watching him. He is the active character while the little guy, being reactive, moves only enough to help draw more attention to the main guy.
His angles, compositions, poses and eye direction all serve to focus our attention exactly to the point of the scene. I don't know any other cartoonist who is so perfectly direct in his graphic technique. No extraneous busy distracting details. Everything leads our eyes to where Kurtzman wants us to look.
It's very hard to have this much thoughtful planned skill and still be able to convey a sense of spontaneity and fun.
I love the way his characters are so interested in everything they do. They believe intensely in every pose, gesture, emotion and expression they perform.
Even without knowing the context of some of these drawings, the graphic skill and balance of shapes are aesthetically beautiful. It's truly modern art.

Very graphic, but still cartoony.
Nothing vague about his poses and expressions.
This is such a contrast with today's completely timid approach to everything. No one wants to commit to a clear statement anymore.
It takes a rare kind of talent to have such an unabashed and bold way to communicate clear ideas through his art.
Even though the images are beautiful in of themselves, the content and context of the stories is what inspired every pose and composition. These aren't floating doodles in a sketchbook. They are all continuity drawings of characters acting out a little story.
More cocksure masterful balancing of positive and negative shapes. I feel like I'm reading the comic equivalent of Fred Astaire. This work glorifies in its confidence and show offy skill.
One of the few real cartooning geniuses: Harvey Kurtzman.

To Denis Kitchen: Please re-release "Hey Look"!

Thanks again to Chris Lopez for scanning all the great comic art from his collection to share with us.
HEY LOOK! and Harvey Kurtzman's great MAD covers


Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Incredible Story of Tommy, My First Official Cartooning Student

I was shopping for meat one day and I noticed a tall lanky youth following close behind me. I assumed he could tell I knew my meats and wanted to copy my selections, but after a few minutes he walked up to me, clamped his hand onto my skull and addressed me. He said "Are you........him?" I said "I am one of him." He then queried: "John K.?" Then he hailed his sister over. "Hey sis, it's John K.!" I was about to call security when he explained that he came all the way across country to learn to be a cartoonist in my school. Unfortunately I didn't have a school, but I asked him to send me some of his drawings and I would consider personally tutoring him. The picture above has the first sketch he sent me and then a couple he did after a few lessons.

I didn't have a completely figured out curriculum but I've been following along the general lines of my theoretical ideal cartoon college


I have adapted the lessons somewhat according to Tommy's actual progress. Each week I draw over his previous week's exercises and then sketch out some new concepts. here are just a few of the sketches and concepts from the lessons.

Line of Action:

I explained a little known fact about what lines are for. "Lines do NOT exist. Shapes do. The lines are just borders around the shapes. Always look at all borders of a shape when drawing a line. Don't just focus on the line on one side at a time."Contrasts: Maintaining Guts - Tommy drew the Preston Blair baby on the left, and I explained how to analyze contrasts and then exaggerate them so as not to underture.

Construction: I explained that a 3/4 view of a face is not a flattened skewed mirror of the front view as so many modern cartoonists think.
Construction: studying toys - on this sheet I was explaining the difference between simple and complex curves.We studied feet from different angles one week.
Organic flow
I showed how even the wackiest cartoon animators and directors used all the principles I was drilling into Tommy's head and hand.

As Tommy got more confident with basics like construction and line of action I introduced staging characters within backgrounds using hierarchy.More on organic: how shapes and lines weave in and out of each other. I used model sheets from Lady and The Tramp and Pepe Le Pew to illustrate the concept.

Stiff studies VS confident knowledge. I showed how all artists hate the stiff drawings they do while leaning anything new and suggested that after doing a stiff study to redraw the same picture faster to see if the knowledge sunk in. When it does, your drawings become looser and more appealing.We have started analyzing other cartoonists' styles and strengths, comparing the techniques of great cartoonists.I stressed that principles are just tools not end goals in themselves. The goal is to entertain, tell a story with pictures, express yourself (rather than merely applying principles in the same way that some soulless corporation does) and involve the audience in how you feel about life.Tommy is improving every week and it encourages me.

I may put his lessons up on my college blog 1 by 1 if anyone is interested in following along.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Here's a picture of the person who wrote it

Even More

they are getting progressively crappier, sorry