Sunday, January 29, 2012


"Tentative, leery and circumspect is no way to go through life son..."

In case anybody got the idea from this previous post that I make a point of pride of having no permanent style, that's not the case. I never landed on one mainly because my assignments have constantly demanded a range of flexibility, something a lot of artist must go through. Anyway, when I was starting out style was on the wane to begin with  Back then everybody was doing variations on a generic style haphazardly cribbed from middle-of-the-road Disney designs. And less from the actual designs than re-imagined impressions of them. The "modern" end of the spectrum consisted of people doing the same thing with generic UPA type designs 20 years or more out of date.  Gradually that burned off and more artists of my generation and younger were able to break out of that mold. 

As for the phase of copying idols I went through as a kid, thatguyjames turned me on to THIS : 'The Dreyfus Model,' something i recognized myself in immediately, with a smile and some sense of relief. A lot of times I would ape a technical thing. Like when I discovered cross-hatching--without realizing that it was a holdover from the days of engraving. And that often it was achieved with a yet another bygone photo process I had no awareness of. That I did not learn all these things in the correct order or context might be more normal than not. I guess I should be glad I could put two and two together as I went along. 

So i guess the shorter version of the whole issue is: substance over style, even at the technical level. But style and substance (obviously) aren't mutually exclusive. 

If you are honing a personal style you want to take with you from cradle to the day you drop, you might want to ask yourself:

Is it a rich style? 

Meaning, does the style allow for growth while still having distinctive features? Will you be able to keep it up to date as the world around you changes . Avoid getting trapped or going stale. Every career has its highs and lows, likely to peak and ebb or at least plateau. Hopefully your style is built to last.

Maybe most important of all: a style should be genuine. The default personal style that leaks out of my pencil is one I have not always gladly accepted. Often I have wished it was more elaborate, more arresting, more standout, more readily impressive. I  like to think it is smarter and subtler than it used to be, even thought that probably isn't all that evident on the surface.

Why it is what it is i will theorize about some other time. 

But at this point in life, the style that comes to me the most honestly and regularly is the one I have to accept. 

For now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Style Thing

One of the comments I got early on when I started posting my own artwork was something to the effect of "Wow, you've got a lot of styles..." Which I guess I do, but I am leery of them all. While I pretty much enjoy the act of drawing for it's own sake, I have always had a personal aversion to locking in to one signature style. That's because on some innate level I just dread the thought of doing one thing one way forever. Perhaps without meaning to I have developed a default style anyway at this point, but even if that's true, I'm no less leery.

Style is important in drawing and sometimes in cartooning it seems like everything. But to me, style can become a kind of mannerism that gets carried away with itself. It can be a straightjacket as much as a hallmark. I get nervous about the limitations of a single style and the expectations that can set in. One has to be very careful not to let a style devolve into a gimmick. Or worse, start out as one and stay that way.

Which is not to say that it always does and often even the most established stylists let their styles evolve naturally, rather than calcify.

Starting out as kid, of course I always had heroes to emulate, who all had distinctive styles of their own. I would copy someone as best I could until I could mimic their style with my own drawings for a season or so. But soon I would get the itch to try something else and learn a different style.  Let me quickly say, like most kids, I didn't master any of these styles by a professional standard; (hey, I was a kid!). But the influences to one extent or another crept into my toolbox. The up side was that this kind of self-teaching helped me as an animation artist, where learning various styles is important. The downside was that I was really just clumsily copying surface tics of each artist without really understanding them, let alone fully grasping the basic drawing principles that were so well integrated that they seemed subordinate to style.

Needless to say, in hindsight, I had it completely backwards. If there was one thing I would encourage young and beginning artists to do it would be draw who and what is around you, with less emphasis on graphic style and with more intention on capturing likeness and understanding of the things you are drawing. By understanding I mean several levels of understanding :

1. Structual understanding; knowing anatomy, architecture, perspective, proportion - the inherent STRUCTURE of things.

2. Historical understanding: costume, architecture, furniture construction. WHY things look the way they do.

3. Human understanding. If you are not sure why you are drawing something it will show. If you don't like it, that applies even more. If you aren't even sure what it is, you are even worse off still. But stay curious and force yourself to draw what you don't excel at from time to time, don't rest on your strengths. I am guilty of that and I find that when I trying to fake something new it won't work. I have to make the effort to understand the actual thing involved and then trick myself into enjoying it. When I can do that, it's most often successful. Otherwise, I miss the mark. 

No one can draw anything and everything of course, so it is important to figure out your niche. But any time you have an advantage to get an understanding of something new, make the most of it.

It is of course very important to have a unique mode of expression, and graphic style is one of the main ways people will recognize you and seek you out. No mistake, recognition is a big deal. But be patient with yourself and allow time to develop fundamental abilities that will be the backbone of your work. If you do this, over time an organic style is more likely to develop that is even more useful and unique than if you just copied everybody else to the exclusion of the basics.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Congatulations Golden Globe Winner

...of 1991! I just learned BEAUTY & THE BEAST has taken the second position at the weekend box office horse race this past weekend, which is not bad for a 20+ year old film. As Cogsworth might say: "How time flies!"

One of my personal favorite scenes. Nik Ranieri of course did "Lumiere" here. 

I have not seen this 3D version as, ironically, I presently am on the road far from anywhere to check it out, but all the same: hats off to the cast and crew of colleagues from "Cogsworth's" Supervising Animator, Yours Truly. Tony Bancroft, Mike Show, Rej Bourdages, Barry Temple, Tony DeRosa and Bill Waldman rounded out Cogsworth's animator crew, with Nancy Kneip, Julliett Stroud-Duncan, and Bill Thinnes on the Assistant crew.