Chris Allison wrote:
'teach us more, bob! talk about the FUNNY drawing. there's almost no academic discussion on this stuff. big contrasts in design seems to be funny. emphasizing the grotesque. i dunno, sounds stupid to try to technically break it down but there must be general concepts or ideas.'
You know, Chris, It's hard to pin down into really simple terms. Part of drawing funny is being funny and knowing what makes a drawing funny. Study Clampett and Kurtzman, Dr Seuss, Old Mad magazine, National Lampoon. Mostly it's about experience and practice. Try new things and work with other funny people. Ask yourself why a drawing is funny. Look at Tex Avery cartoons. Freeze frame the funniest poses and copy the construction and expressions. I think
the reason I can draw funny and in so many styles is because of my many different
art related jobs over the years and the talented funny people i worked with..
I started out as a portrait and caricature artist at Six Flags over Texas. After that, Vincent Waller, Ben Vincent and I traveled all over the country living out of our suitcases doing caricatures at State fairs and rodeos. Most caricature artists like this have a formula for doing it. Little running bodies etc. We would experiment and try a new funny gag each time, experimenting with no rules. This was a great way to learn cartooning. I had to draw people on the spot all day long for years. This was a great training ground because doing caricatures of real people forced me to be and draw funny.
Then, cartoonist Gary Hallgren convinced me to move to NYC where I got a job doing movie parodies for Crazy magazine. Now I was doing caricatures and telling a story for print! I was lucky enough to be working for Larry Hama who was editing Crazy and all the Conan books as well as GI Joe, Bizzare Adventures and the Nam. He is a tough coach and really helped me under sequential storytelling and good solid staging and drawing.
During this time I was living in mid town manhattan in the back of Gary's cartoon studio where I learned many more aspects of professional cartooning working as Gary's assistant doing inking and painting color seperations for comics like his Mustang Sally strip he did for Swank magazine. Gary taught me everything I know about coloring comics for print.
At this same time I was working at Marvel as the art corrections team. This was a really good training ground because I had to fix ALL the art on ALL the Marvel titles. Now that I think back it's a little hard to imagine that I actually did that. I had to be able to replace a panel or a page quickly and seemlessly while trying to ape the styles of the particular artist of the issue. At this point the original bullpin team of Stan Lee was still there and these are the people I was working side by side all day every day. Many of the early Marvel artists were still working there and I got to stand over their shoulders and watch them, sponging up everything I could about comic art! By now I was working on real comic titles as an inker. I was lucky enough to get to be the inker for John Buscema on Conan. I can't tell you what that was like. People always go on about Jack Kirby but Buscema was one of the best comic artists that ever lived and I actually got to ink his work! I learned so much about not only inking but staging and anatomy!
Now I was doing pinups, covers and and pencilling comics too. One of the best titles I worked on was The Nam which was pencilled by the great Michael Golden. If you don't know Michael's work, get to know it! I still look at his work and wonder, "How the fuck does a human being draw that well?!" I inked his pages and did covers as well. You can learn so much by looking at his work.
I worked with many comic greats doing inking and assitsing artists such as Mike Kaluta who's work is in my opinion on a par with Moebius. I got to work with the great Marie Severin sister of John Severin and one of the original artists for Mad magazine in the 50's and 60's.
I owe this all to Gary Hallgren who introduced me to Larry and Larry who taught me the difference between drawing and drawing well.
During this same time I started doing illustrations for Family Weekly Magazine working for the brilliant art directors Rick Stark and Robert Altimus. Now I was doing editorial illustrations for a national weekly magazine. Each week I was given a new job in a new style which broadened my stylist abilities on a huge scale.
I also was lucky enough to get to draw comics for National Lampoon.
By this point I was living in a loft in Tribecca with Vincent Waller and a bunch of other really talented comic artists. It was an around the clock art studio where we had some of the most amazing parties. I was living, working, around massivle talented and creative people 24/7. Meanwhile one of the many people that lived in the loft was Jim Meskimen who is an actor and cartoonist too. He was doing character designs at Rankin Bass, the animation studio that did all those puppet animated specials in the 60, on Thundercats. I got a job as designer there and did design on BGs props and characters on 6 different series.
After getting burned out on comics and sick of living in the city, Vincent and I packed up and moved to LA and I've been working in animation in one form of another since. There I worked at Dic, Warners and Nick where we did Ren and Stimpy. That was a whole new school of thought working with such talents as John K., Lynne Naylor, Chris Reccardi, Jim Smith, Bill Wray and Vincent Waller.. the list is too long to even try to write down. After that I worked on many other series and lots of feature films too. Each job being completely different and requiring different skills which I drew apon my past experience to do.
So you see the secret is working with so many talented people, being a sponge and absorbing everything you see, and trying as many different kinds of art disciplines as possible. It's about experience.
I will try to come up with some specific theories about what I think is funny for a future post.
"I was lucky enough to get to be the inker for John Buscema on Conan. I can't tell you what that was like. People always go on about Jack Kirby but Buscema was one of the best comic artists that ever lived and I actually got to ink his work! I learned so much about not only inking but staging and anatomy!"
Must of have been an incredible experience! Were you inking from layouts or full pencils? You did a great job. You managed to maintain the energy of Buscema's gestures... which I find was lost on most of his inkers. Dan Adkins was also tops when it came to inking Big John; P. Craig Russell as well.
I agree with what you said about John Buscema. Probably from not being a comic fan\collector, I preferred his style as it looked more solid and had more form to it. Whereas Kirby can sometimes flatten out things with his stylistic touches. Kirby's composition is hard to beat though!
Concerning 'funny', my opinion, and what I read from what you've said here, is that it's a personal thing born from experiences and soaking in what you as an individual find funny. Then spat out like crud. I think there's too many people trying to be funny like 'such and such' and they fall into problems [the main one is that they are not funny]. Trying to be a clone will get you so far but will have that contrived quality to it. An example I would use is 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit', which, whilst i thought it was a good film, ... I cut out the explanation because it got too long and I think it'll be quite obvious.
Hey anon. John didn't really do full pencils that I ever saw. At the time John had a quota of over 70 pencilled pages a month not including pinups and covers which he inked himself. As for my inking style, someone told me that John's favorite inker on his work was his brother Sal. I only actually met John on 2 occasions. He said, "Oh your that kid that inks like Sal". I took it as a great compliment. Also I looked at John's own inks for inspiration. Simple and clear with minimal rendering. Excellent for coloring!
Yeah, John was the best!
True comedy is difficult to draw and write too.
Thanks Bob! I get a lot out of hearing about talented people's experience. It gives me a compass for the decisions I'm gonna make throughout my (hopefully long) career.
I asked another really talented artist the same question about how he gets "funny" into his drawings. He cited Fleischer "shape-into-shape" design. It really helps to push contrasts in your drawing rather than everything melting into one another. I really dug that small nugget that I mined out of him, and it kinda echoes what you're saying (looking to the past, and personal aesthetics/experience).
Can't wait to read your specific theories!
"I started out doing caricatures at Six Flags in Texas".
What was that like, Bob?
And during your travels with Vincent and Ben, did you ever stop by my hometown, San Antonio?
Love to hear what others say about John Buscema.. Thanks Bob.
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