Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Tinkerbell: Peter Pan Peanut Butter Model Suggestions

Back in the good old days, even when they redesigned her for Peanut Butter commercials, the Disney artists kept Tinkerbell looking appealing.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Life Drawing: Reaching for Inspiration Outside of the Classroom

Study by John Singer Sargent
Actually I'm not quite done pontificating yet, but this time I have some artwork to go along with it. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to do a post about Life Drawing, so here's my first attempt at it. I'll try to keep it as brief as possible, even though there is quite a bit to say on the subject.

I'd first like to preface this whole post by pointing out that I do not consider myself to be a master of Life Drawing by any means. I think that the Life Drawing I've posted on my personal art blog illustrates that I still have a lot to learn about it, as well as practice. I also have no problem admitting that I have some confused and conflicting opinions on the subject too.

I've taken quite a few Life Drawing classes from many and various professional instructors throughout my life, and I consider most of it to be time well spent and a great series of learning experiences. I would not be where I am today without them. I think it can actually be a very valuable thing to take an experienced Life Drawing instructor, especially as a beginner, because they can offer you an approach/method to solving the problem of drawing from the live model, which can be extremely difficult when you are first starting out. So I hope that I have made my feelings on all this very clear before I continue, as I will be critiquing some of what I consider to be the more problematic aspects of Life Drawing Instruction and the environnment that can develop in the classroom.

The main problem I've often found with many Life Drawing Instructors is that most of them consider their own personal style of Life Drawing to be the only way to do it. Alot of these teachers will only be happy with their students if they end up drawing exactly like themselves. So thus begins the quest of the young student to practice earnestly in order to draw exactly like their teacher. At least this is the experience that I've often had and witnessed, maybe it hasn't happened to other people, but it got to the point for me where I actually got derailed from why I was doing Life Drawing in the first place, which was to study how to draw the figure better so that I could tell stories visually and animate characters, not to copy someone's figure drawing style. This is why I found the passage that Chuck Jones wrote about his Life Drawing instructor, Donald Graham, so interesting. He said that Graham did not impose a personal style of drawing on his students, and as Jones says that's a very rare thing.

Many Life Drawing instructors seem to see Life Drawing as a means unto itself, rather than a means to an end. In other words, the pure act of simply achieving a "good" figure drawing is the entire goal. The Instructors will often get the students hooked on solely trying to get a "good" figure drawing, according to the parameters of the style that they are teaching, and convince them that once they accomplish getting that "good" figure drawing, that the students will then be able to animate, storyboard, design characters, or illustrate a scene with ease. But in my opinion, it takes a lot more than just studying a style of Life Drawing to be able to do any of these things really well. Some people who haven't even studied Life Drawing all that much, sometimes actually do these things better than some people that have mastered it. Now, I don't mean to imply that studying Life Drawing isn't important or beneficial, but there's a lot more to do than just drawing the 1-30 minute poses of the model in the classroom.

Another interesting thing that can often happen within the Life Drawing class is that a stock style pervades and is sometimes encouraged, where many students begin to draw in a similar way to each other, imitating themselves as well as the instructor. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, and oftentimes it is actually a great/natural way to learn as well as to produce some beautiful results. The problem, however, becomes that the students and the instructors are now only looking at themselves in the classroom as a place for inspiration when there is an entire world of art created during the span of human history to become interested in and learn from. I've also noticed that this narrowed perspective on figure drawing, which tends to develop in the classroom, seems to neglect other important aspects of picture making and the basic design principles of art. Things like directing the viewer's eye on where to look in an image or clearly presenting a narrative idea with a specific character in an emotional state.

I realize this is getting to be very long, but please bear with me.

I put the following drawings together of some professional Life Drawing instructors, labeled with numbers, to discuss some of these concepts here:

I don't think many people can deny the high quality of draftsmanship in these drawings that comes from the hundreds of thousands of hours of experience in drawing from the live model. That's not the issue here, but since I've been in more than my fair share of Life Drawing classes where the teacher has vigorously critiqued some artist, artwork, or art school (and that's putting it mildly), I figure that it's okay, for the sake of discussion, to share some thoughts and maybe even some respectful critiques on these drawings as well.

I'll start with drawing number 6.

Here we see a drawing of a female figure, I'm assuming because of the body type with the larger hips, from a back view, seated on a pillow which is probably on a stool. Now where does your eye go to in this drawing? Mine tends to go towards her bottom pressed against the pillow and to her upper leg/thigh. I think that's mostly because that area is where the most interest, definition, and contrast is in the drawing. The teacher's concern and effort seems to be mostly centered on the forms and flesh of her bottom and the anatomy of her upper leg, even though there is a pretty nice overall flow to the sketch. Maybe that form is what the teacher was lecturing on at the time it was drawn, and even if it's not, it's still a fine approach and a deftly executed drawing. The teacher is obviously illustrating what they are good at teaching, which is anatomy and form. There was probably not enough time to finish off the other parts of the figure either, but this is a drawing that the teacher chose as an example to represent their artwork and instruction, so I think it's fair to offer some thoughts on it.

I think one problem with this drawing, even though it's very well done, is that the overall design is not completely clear, and the heightened concern for anatomy has overtaken the idea of the figure's pose. This a problem I often see in Life Drawing classes. Design principles are not emphasized as much as anatomy is. Drawing number 4 has somewhat of the same problem for me. Even though the overall pose of the figure is a clearer statement, the anatomical rendering is calling more attention to itself than the idea of the overall pose. My eye seems to get hung up in all the anatomical details of the figure, rather than seeing the whole pose. Drawing number 7, while amazing in it's delineation of anatomy, has this issue as well. Especially if you squint your eyes at it, which is sometimes a good way to tell if a drawing is "reading" clearly or not.

Drawings 8 and 9 are obviously showing a method of constructing the figure with simple forms which is great, but I'm also wondering--shouldn't we be able to tell the pose and attitude of the figure clearly from these? I think they both show it to a degree, but number 8 feels a bit strange to me. It's hard to tell what's happening with the feet and what the arm on the left is doing. The absence of the indication of the neck is also confusing the clarity of the drawing a bit too. Number 9, although very solid in the construction of forms--the overall pose is a bit stiff and feels somewhat forced.

Oftentimes Life Drawing Instructors will be looked upon as the ultimate authority on the subject, especially within the microcosm of the classroom. We should definitely learn what we can from them and appreciate that they've taken the time to teach students, but on the other hand we also shouldn't forget the world of art that has come before both us and them. For example I chose a few Life Drawings from John Singer Sargent here:

These are all possibilities of what Life Drawing can be beyond the classroom, and a bar that has been set to reach and hopefully surpass. Maybe you'd like to ignore them completely and do something different, that's fine too. I personally think these are amazing drawings. I also think they show an overall concern and knowledge of good design, storytelling, and character that is lacking in some of the more anatomy based Life Drawing in the modern era.

Maybe it's an unfair comparison, but look at drawings 14, 15, 17, and 18 by Sargent compared to drawings 4, 7, 10, and 11 by the instructors. In Sargent's work there is a definite knowledge of anatomy, but it's subdued to the overall form of the figure and the big impact of the picture. Even in Sargent's quicker and looser sketches, like numbers 12 and 13, you really get a sense of the person and that he's drawing. In 19 the man feels like a living breathing character with an attitude. It's almost as if Sargent is studying the man as a person rather than as a nude figure. In 18 you can feel the power and the weight of the two figures locked together, as well as the emotional statement of it, without a great amount of rendering. The anatomy does not distract the viewer from the idea of the image, and it's arguably more appealing to abstain from drawing every little bump and anatomical detail. I think Sargent is also just as a concerned with the overall design of these drawings as he is with the figures, if you notice how he organizes his values and shapes of light and dark. Also take a moment to compare Sargent's studies of anatomy in drawing 16 compared with the teacher's studies in drawing 5.

I once took an instructor who said, "Sargent can't draw, but he can paint." I couldn't disagree more. Sargent's drawings are the foundation of his painting. Just because Sargent didn't approach his Life Drawing in the same way that teacher did, even he was considered "the wrong approach" in the narrow focus of the Life Drawing classroom. The student can just as easily spend their time studying and emulating Sargent as they can emulating their teacher, if they choose to do so.

A couple more examples of what Life Drawing can be, by one of my favorite artists, Gustav Klimt:

Once again, I think these drawings are amazing, and even though they are a bit unresolved, my eye is still lead to look exactly where it's supposed to be. The patterns of light and dark, as well as the degree of finish on certain parts of the drawing become accents that draw attention to the important areas and strengthen the image's idea. Many of these drawings by both Sargent and Klimt are most likely studies done for larger paintings. They are studies to figure something out or to solve a problem for a bigger concept. In other words, they are a means to end, not a means unto themselves. Even though many of them do stand alone as great pieces of work. Again, there is a quality and knowledge of the fundamentals of design here that you really don't see that much of anymore. Klimt knows what's important, where to spend his time, what to emphasize, and what to leave out. He also has great shapes.

Here's a couple more artists, Ben Shahn and Valentin Serov:

I put these two artists together to show the range that is possible in drawing. I don't know if these Ben Shahn drawings are necessarily Life Drawings, but I felt that they had a great sense of character to them, and they are obviously based on specific people or a situation. They are definitely observed in some sense. It's good to exaggerate/caricature, and the kind of drawing that Shahn does isn't easy to do, try it sometime. Shahn's approach is just as legitimate and awesome as any other great drawing in my opinion.

Serov, on the other hand, has a Sargent kind of quality to his work, but it's more delicate. Again, I think the overall design here is fantastic. Especially in drawing 27 where all the contrast and texture in her hair leads your eye right to her face. Then there's just enough going on with her back and arm to keep it interesting and clear. The use of line quality to indicate the clothing versus her flesh is also amazingly done. There are definitely areas in the drawing that are emphasized and subdued according to the principles of good design. I'd recommend reading "The Practice and Science of Drawing" by Harold Speed, if you'd like to know about how much artists really thought about design and picture making in the past.

Finally, Ramon Casas, a Spanish artist that I discovered quite a while ago:

These move beyond the realm of drawing, and a bit into painting. I wanted to show again though, what's possible in the realm of Life Drawing and studying from the model. Drawing number 30 is something you might attempt in costumed figure session if you wanted to. A great sense of design is also apparent throughout Casas' work as well.

I apologize for the length of this. I hope it all makes some kind of sense. My point is that we should never stop thinking for ourselves. There is no single "right way" to do Life Drawing, and there's a lot more to learn than just anatomy. I hope that I've kind of illustrated that a bit here.

Why not set our sights to the highest levels of art instead of keeping them locked down in the modern day Life Drawing classroom?

There's also nothing wrong with bringing in a copy of a piece of artwork you are particularly inspired by to reference in a Life Drawing class/workshop or bringing it with you to reportage/location sketching as well. It's good to have a goal, and to know what you are aiming for sometimes. Other times, ignoring outside influences and doing some random experimentation can produce some great things too.

I'd like to end with a quote from a great Life Drawing instructor I had, who actually taught a very structured and methodical approach to drawing. One time I asked him while trying to draw something from the model, "Is this okay? What's the correct way to do this?", surprisingly enough he simply said:

"If it looks good, you did it right."

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Update: Internet Explorer

I noticed that this blog doesn't display correctly when using Internet Explorer as a web browser. I don't know if it is the template that I'm using or some bad html code, that I had in an earlier post, which I couldn't seem to get rid of.

Everything here seems to display correctly in Firefox though, so I would recommend using that when viewing the blog.

Update: I think I fixed the bad html code that was causing the problem, but I still recommend using Firefox.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

CalArts Part 2: Teachers and Trusting Yourself

I don't know who I'm really writing this for exactly. I guess it would be for art students.
But it's something I feel like I need to talk about because of some of the discussion that's been going on lately.

I had some great teachers and some not-so-great teachers at school. There were also some teachers that I didn't take advantage of enough, because I didn't know what questions to ask them yet. Some teachers that a lot of people loved and thought were awesome, I personally didn't get as much out of, go figure. The following is a continuation of that unpublished post I wrote a while back, and it is about teachers:

A teacher can only take you so far, and some will be better than others. A teacher can share their knowledge and what they think is important, as well as give out assignments they believe will help their students to learn and improve, but the responsibility mostly lies upon the student as an artist to do the work, run into problems, critically self-evaluate it, and then come back with questions to the teacher. The student must also make the effort to find their own answers elsewhere through research and study outside of the classroom to supplement their education.

Why wouldn't you be researching things if you are truly interested in the subject?
I think this is an important question.

I had an instance at school where I asked a teacher a question about the movement of the character’s head in a walk cycle that I was really struggling to animate. The advice that teacher gave me directly contradicted information that I looked up later in the Richard Williams book. At that point it was up to me to decide what to do, who to trust, and figure out what appealed to me. I went with what the Williams book said, because I decided that I’d rather take the advice from an author who had worked with Ken Harris and learned from Milt Kahl, over a teacher that hadn’t. There was also another route I could have taken as well, which would have been to actually frame through some animation to figure it out, or better yet, frame through some live-action reference. The point being that I had many other ways to figure it out and learn beyond the teacher’s advice in the classroom.

Sometimes what a teacher likes might not be in line with what you like, and then there's no right or wrong answer. It's completely subjective at that point, and you have to be brave enough to make your own choice, trust yourself, and choose your own direction. Some teachers might even try to dominate you or make you dependent on them. They might try to scare you into thinking you will never be as good as them or that you will always make a bad decision without their help, putting you in constant doubt of yourself and what you like as an artist. At which point they often become more of a hindrance than a help, because you are not thinking for yourself anymore.

As I stated earlier, I had some issues with my education at school for sure, especially the Basic Design instruction. That's one reason why I've gone so much into researching Chouinard, Donald Graham, and other things that I've talked about here. But as frustrated as I got at school sometimes, I never stopped reading, watching lectures, and trying to figure things out on my own or with friends. Some people are so naturally talented that they didn't have to do things like that, but I had to work at it and research things. Still do.

Okay, I'm done pontificating for now. I'll post more artwork next.

Monday, 15 June 2009

CalArts Part 1: Schools have Libraries for a Reason

So there's been a lot of discussion on various websites recently about the pros and cons of going to the Character Animation program I attended at CalArts. For some reason there's always some big controversy going on with it.

I have to say that I'm glad I went there for the most part, especially at the age that I did. I started my first year when I was 25 years old, so I knew how seriously I wanted to take the school and what I really wanted to get out of it. I also really appreciated the opportunity that I had in those 4 years to really try to learn and grow. It was great to be able to pretty much completely focus on what I wanted to do creatively, and have the uninterrupted time and facilities to do it as well. I worked really hard during my time there, and I'd like to think it was as hard as I could have. I have some regrets on some choices I made there, just like a lot of students probably do, but after all is said and done I think that I grew and improved a lot. Most importantly, I was able to do what I wanted to do--even to my own detriment.

I originally wrote some of the following as a response to a discussion on a website, but decided not to post it there. Mostly because I thought it would fall on deaf ears and the discussion got too negative, to the point of being non-constructive. Some people on my personal art blog expressed some interest in some of my book recommendations though, and since that was the main thrust of my post I'm going to share it here:

The following questions are for the students of Cal Arts; past, present, and future:

Have you read, and please ask yourself if you really understand the information in, the following books?

"The Animator's Survival Kit" by Richard Williams
"The Illusion of Life" by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
"Composing Pictures" by Donald Graham
"The Human Figure" by J. Vanderpoel
"Human Anatomy for the Artist" by John Raynes
"On the Art of Drawing" by Robert Fawcett
"Composition of Outdoor Painting" by Edgar Payne
"Cartoon Animation" by Preston Blair
"Timing for Animation" by Whitaker and Halas
"The Visual Story" by Bruce Block
"Dream Worlds" by Hans Bacher
"The Practice and Science of Drawing" by Harold Speed
"Forty Illustrators and How They Work" by Ernest Watson
"The Merchant of Dennis the Menace" by Hank Ketcham
"Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative" by Will Eisner
"How to Create Animation" by Cawley and Korkis
"Bridgman's Complete Guide to Drawing from Life" by George Bridgman
"How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" by Stan Lee and John Buscema
"A Complete Guide to Drawing, Illustration, Cartooning, and Painting" by Gene Byrnes

These are just a few of the books that I could think of off the top of my head that I've found it helpful to sit down and read.There are hundreds of other books I could mention, that have a wealth of great information about film making/animation, or that have great drawings/paintings in them, and contain very clearly, detailed information in the text about the thinking, philosophy, study, and required abilities that went into creating them. Many of these books essentially explain HOW it's done, what the artist was thinking, or what influenced the creation of the art itself.

Now I don't claim to have read all of these books, or to completely understand them all, but many of them are on my book shelf, and I've at least read parts of them and have drawn/studied from quite a few of them. Most of these books are also available to read at the CalArts Library, and I read quite a few of them there while I attended the school. Some of them I read more than once, in order to try and fully comprehend the information.

Some of the aforementioned books are also available online as .pdfs now, for those who really wish to read something that these great artists felt was importantenough to write about. For example I just recently found "The Eye of the Painter and the Elements of Beauty” by Andrew Loomis through a Google search which lead to a .pdf of the entire book posted on a concept art forum. Just type in the book title and author into Google along with the word ".pdf " and you are sure to find some, and if you can't find them online, you can either purchase them, or check them out at a library. Once you start actually reading and studying the information in these books, you will usually be led to other books and artists that the authors write about in the texts. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you'll see how deep the well of knowledge and inspiration actually goes.

I know some people might get angry that I've given away a lot of "secret" information on what are considered to be some really good books (some of them took a lot of effort, reading and researching, to find), but the more people that know about them, the better as far as I'm concerned. Most people probably won't even read this post or the books I mentioned anyway either. I certainly haven't gotten to reading them all myself yet, and just like most people I like to look at the pretty pictures and completely ignore what's written in the books sometimes too. But the text is often really worth reading, even if it's written in an archaic way. I'll probably end up mentioning these same books again later in subsequent postings, so please forgive me if I seem too repetitive.

In my next post, I'll continue with what I wrote about CalArts as it pertains to teachers.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Do yourself a favor and join Cartoon Retro!

I've been a member of Cartoon Retro for over 2 1/2 years, possibly longer, it's hard to remember. Shane Glines has been consistently updating and adding artwork to the site for a lot longer than that--he started it in 2004 I believe. It is definitely worth joining this site.

I made this teaser image of some of my favorite pieces of artwork you can find in there once you join, and there are hundreds more pieces like this inside. I hope Shane doesn't mind.

I have shown some friends and co-workers some of the amazing artwork Shane has archived there, and they are always blown away. But for some reason they still don't join up. I have a difficult time understanding this. It seems people will readily pay 50 dollars a year for X-Box live, but they find it difficult to pay the same amount to see thousands of pieces of incredible artwork on a site which is updated almost everyday. The site also has a $5.00 monthly option which will grant you access for a month to see if you like it, and if you don't, you can easily cancel. That's cheaper than the cost of most magazines these days.

Nobody has put me up to advertise this, I just think the site is really worth joining. I hope a lot more people become members and support it.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Chuck Jones Part 3: Shapes

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of shape. Shape is what really separates a good artist from a great artist in my opinion. Of course there are other aspects which contribute to making a piece of artwork great like composition, staging, line quality, pattern, texture, value, edge, color, lighting, pose, acting, anatomical knowledge, proportions, perspective, variation, contrast, ect. But when you really boil it all down, it's usually has a lot to do with shape. Good shape encompasses so many of these elements in and of itself.

Composition, at it's most basic level, is pretty much how one arranges shapes within the frame. Look at this background Maurice Noble (I assume) did for one of Chuck's cartoons.

It's essentially just a lot of great shapes arranged in an interesting and appealing way. Some could argue that the tree branches are linear elements, but even then, their thickness in terms of shape and how the branches break off into smaller linear shapes is what makes it look great, at least to me.

Sometimes we might look at an artist we admire and wonder how they are drawing hands so well, or what makes the way they draw a building or paint a tree look so good. The basic answer is most likely because they use great shapes and organize them well. There will be subtleties within that of course, and the artist's experience and knowledge of design, interesting proportions, anatomy, perspective, and so forth are probably big contributors to why their shapes are so good. But at it's most basic level great shapes are usually what makes an artist like Milt Kahl stand out above some one like Preston Blair. Both are great, but one arguably has more appeal in his work than the other.

That's my opinion for now anyway, maybe it will change later. I'm just trying to make the point on how important shape really is, since we tend to get stuck on anatomy, form, and all these other things so much sometimes. Solid structure on top of a bad shape, won't save a drawing. The shape is the graphic foundation, so it should be a great shape. Sometimes drawing a solid structure will create a bad shape, so we need to have the eye for a good one, and change it accordingly.

Here's one thing Chuck Jones said about shape:

It's interesting to see Jones articulate that animation is essentially dealing with shapes, he also mentions some great things about character as well. I put the drawing of the dog here because it has a great use of shapes. The shapes of his forearms with their straight sides contrasting their curved sides as well as the interesting variations of shape with his ears are all fantastic. His overall pose is a nice simple shape as well.

Again I would like to point out that these drawings and quotes are from the books "Chuck Amuck", and "Chuck Redux". Both are worth purchasing, or checking out from your local library.

Here are some drawings Jones did for a series of cartoons starring a young boy called Ralph Phillips, who has an out of control imagination. Some of my favorite cartoons he ever did.

What expresses shape more than this figure standing in silhouette?

If you really analyze this drawing there are so many great things happening with shape here. The skewed and brutish shape of his head with his asymmetrical ears is so varied and interesting. Look at the way the changes in the outside of the shape represent the material of his shirt and pants. Again, we can see the interesting contrasts of one side of the shape to the other side-- Simple versus complex, straight versus curve. This is what makes the drawing look appealing, adds interest, and gives it character. These shapes don't seem to be random or haphazard decisions either. It could be completely intuitive on Jones' part, but I'm of the opinion that he put a lot of thought into these drawings.

Finally, just a couple more examples of Jones' work that I think have great shapes.

I don't know what cartoon this was done for, but I really like it. Especially the girl cat with the stripe down her back. Talk about some amazing shapes! Her head shape, and especially her body shape down to her feet, is gorgeous. Not many people can draw shapes this well anymore.

This horse is truly awesome in my opinion. Not only does it have great shapes, but it expresses the overall character so well. You can really see that Daffy's main concern is how cool he looks riding on his horse. This drawing really expresses Daffy's pompousness, illustrates how well his horse in manicured, and all the wonderful shapes here are a part of that expression. It is a drawing worth studying, especially for its use of shapes.

So even though I was long-winded about it, I hope it's clear how important shape can be in a drawing. Shapes can be based on many things like knowledge of the form, anatomy, perspective ect., but at the end of the day it should just simply be a great shape, and I think that Chuck Jones exhibits this better than most. His shapes are really pushed and interesting, yet some how remain balanced and harmonious as well.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Chuck Jones Part 2: Going Rough

Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to do the perfect drawing right out of the gate. I know there are some artists who can quickly throw down a series of five or six simple, beautiful lines and it's always an amazing drawing. Everything is there. Perfect. Ready to hang on the wall of an Art Gallery.

While I'd really like to be able to do that some day, I'm not there yet. I have to go through a process by putting something really rough down and then working with it. Kind of as if I were sculpting, roughing out a basic form in clay and then adding, subtracting, and pushing things around on top of that initial rough shape until it is gradually honed into a finished piece. I don't know how many other people can relate to this way of working, but I feel like I see this process in the work of Chuck Jones.

Of course Chuck Jones' roughs are beautiful, because he drew with such a natural sense of appeal. But look at how rough these frogs are from his "One Froggy Evening" short:

The feet, hands, arms in some of these are literally scribbles and he left them that way. What's really important though, reads--The character and the pose. With these as his foundation, he could do another pass where he works everything out and finishes it off. I have some examples of him doing that here:

These drawings are from his books "Chuck Amuck" and "Chuck Redux", the drawings of the frog are from one of the books as well. The rough of the man sneaking away with the box under his jacket is actually from one book, and the clean-up is from the other. I put them together here because it's interesting to see how he changed and clarified things from the rough to the final. Especially in the drawing of the kid. Jones changed the initial rough and drew his baseball cap on backwards as well as turning his feet more inward in the clean-up, which seems to clarify the attitude and quality of the character. His arm holding the baseball glove has also been made a lot clearer. While he may have lost a tiny bit of appeal from the initial rough, he mostly clarified it and he arguably made it better.

Cleaning up a final drawing has always been a tough thing for me, so I've been tending to try and make it perfect in the rough and as a consequence wasting too much time on it. We can't all be Alex Toth unfortunately, some of us are actually human. As good as Chuck Jones was, I think he was human too, or at least I can relate to the way he seems to draw a lot more. If you get hung up with the clean-up phase like I do, these drawings show how Jones did it, so maybe we can all learn something from them.

The real point of this post though, is that it's okay to go rough, and just leave it. Look at how rough Jones went here, they're almost more a series of indications than they are drawings. We can always go back and do another pass to clean it up and clarify it later. The important thing is to get the idea out.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Chuck Jones Part 1: Chouinard

So I've been busy preparing a post on Chuck Jones, gathering and preparing artwork that I've found inspiring by him to share here. While going through the image files I noticed a particularly interesting block of text that was next to a drawing I scanned. I'm pretty sure it is from his book "Chuck Amuck", but it could be from "Chuck Redux" as well. Both books are worth reading, but more on that later. This paragraph was so interesting to me that I wanted to share it now.

This particular passage is about Chouinard, the art school Chuck Jones attended in Los Angeles. I highlighted what I thought the most important part of the text was, but there's a wealth of information beyond that as well. Here is the text:

Wow. I have a lot I can say about this, but I'll try to keep it as short as I can.

First off, if you admire Chuck Jones as much as I do, then you'll appreciate actually knowing what the most important thing he discovered at art school was, and what his number one rule is for great drawing, because his drawings are phenomenal. It's told straight from Jones to the reader in this book.

If you don't know a lot about the art school called Chouinard, it's worth researching. Marc Davis taught there as well as many other extraordinary teachers/artists. My Great Uncle was actually a student there in the early 1950's and I have some things to share about that in a later post. Chouinard is the school which eventually became the California Institute of the Arts, otherwise known as CalArts. I attended CalArts from 2001-2005, so I also plan on sharing some things about that here later as well. It's also interesting what Jones says about his figure drawing teacher, Donald Graham, in this excerpt too. I'm hoping to write a post later on about figure drawing that relates to exactly what Chuck Jones talks about here regarding "imposing a personal style of drawing" on students.

Finally, I'd just like to make a note on researching things, and what else that I've found important in the text. Chuck Jones mentions about 15 things in this paragraph that are worth looking into. The first one I already mentioned is Chouinard. Chouinard is of special interest to me, because many of the artists I look up to in animation went to the school, and said that they learned a great deal there. The more I can find out about what the students were taught and the teachers who taught there, the better. I truly regret not asking my Great Uncle more about Chouinard before he passed away in 2005, unforunately I didn't really know how important the art school he attended was until he was near the end of his life.

The next things Jones talks about here that I think are interesting are the art and artists he mentions in the context of his "most important and stunning discovery" in art school: Cro-Magnon art, Claes Oldenburg, Beatrix Potter, Feininger, Kandinsky...ect. I haven't even really looked much at the work of these artists myself, but they are probably worth checking out if you like Chuck Jones. It's insightful to see who Jones seems to admire and who he considers to be accomplished artists in this paragraph.

Lastly mentioned again, is Donald Graham, whom Jones says was his greatest teacher (Graham also taught classes to the artists at Disney as well). Donald Graham wrote a book himself called "Composing Pictures" that is also worth reading. I started reading it a while ago, unfortunately I haven't finished it yet. I hope to get back to it some time soon. Simon Nicolaides is also mentioned here as being a great teacher too. I suspect that it's a misprint and that Jones was actually referring to Kimon Nicolaides, who wrote a book I've heard great things about called "The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study".

I hope that it doesn't sound too much like I'm lecturing here. My primary goal is to share information which I've found interesting or exciting. I also hope that it can encourage students, and maybe even some working professionals, to supplement their learning with books or to revisit some that have been sitting on the shelf for a while. When I read a passage like the one above, I see not only the great knowledge that Jones imparted about his opinion on the importance of line to us, but I also see all those other names and things to look up and research. Just through reading this short passage and a bit of research we've been lead to two other entire books to read (5 books total if you also include George Bridgman's), and a dozen more people to research further. That's the really exciting thing about it for me.

When I hear people complaining about the instruction they've received in Art School, I can relate to it and had some issues with it myself, but on the other hand there is also always an opportunity for us to read a book and learn something too. I will write more about that later though, for now I'd like to stay focused on the wonderful work of Chuck Jones.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Read @ your library

I can't stress my opinion about the importance of reading enough, and it's why I chose to write about it first. Reading good books is probably one of the most important things a person can do for themselves. If there's one thing someone takes away from this blog, I hope that it's to read books or to read more books. I struggle to do it enough myself.

I recently watched a documentary on the life of Confucius, an important social philosopher, who lived in China during 551 BC – 479 BC. It was interesting to learn the story of his life. One of the most insightful things I took from the documentary was that Confucius spent much of his time in the libraries of his era, reading as many ancient texts as he possibly could. It's no wonder that such an exceptional person, who's brilliant philosophies affected so many countries of the Far East, spent his time reading.

Here's a quote from him:

"You cannot open a book without learning something."

Buttermilk Skies

It's a term that my Grandma uses when the clouds look a certain way.
It doesn't really have much to do with what I plan on sharing on this blog, other than the fact that it's an old term that people don't use much anymore, and I'd like to write about some good things of the past here that people don't seem to pay much attention to anymore as well. But really I just liked the way it sounded in its own weird, sweet, and funny way.

I hope that people can find some inspiration here, but I'm mostly doing it to inspire myself. I plan to make some posts about some books that I've found useful, write about some artists that I like as well as show examples of their work, and I'd also like to share my opinion on some things here and there too.

Some of the artwork I plan on sharing is from books that I own. I hope that isn't a problem. Every time I share something from a book though, I'll be sure and post a link to amazon.com or some other resource to purchase it. If anyone has a problem with it, please let me know. Hopefully it will become clear that my intention is to promote a particular book and get people interested in it.

I don't plan on having the comments option available on the posts, as I will be sharing some pretty straight forward opinions and I'd rather not get involved in a huge debate on a particular subject. So please take my opinion with a grain of salt as they say. I would also like to talk about some other things I'm interested in here that go beyond the realm of art, animation, film, ect. Hopefully it will all come together. Maybe it won't, but it's also an opportunity for me to become more succinct with my writing and to organize my thoughts better too.

Anyway, if you've made it this far, thank you for reading this and I hope that you'll find what I have to share at least interesting and hopefully useful.