Sunday, August 17, 2008

The "ON MODEL" rut

A couple of people have commented about my differing styles. Here are some ideas about style as it relates to comedy. These days animated shows are usually created and the characters are designed with a clear stylistic choice in mind. Usually they are derived from some previous show or combination of shows like Dexter's and Powerpuff. Fosters home is an example of taking this style in a new direction and refining it. The BGs are beautiful and the over all art direction and animation are amazing.
Now I'm seeing more shows that are taking stylistic chances like Chowder and Flapjack. I applaud these artists for taking chances and breaking out of the post Dexters/powerpuff style. Don't get me wrong, these are great shows but I like lots of variety.I recently directed a series that had that style embedded in it in spades.

Once a show is created, and the model sheets are done the style is written in stone and there is little room for an individual artist to put his stylistic influence into the show. This can impede the shows natural tendency to change and grow.
Look at the old Warners cartoons. An informed eye can tell easily which director or animator did the work and estimate when it was done. But with iron clad model sheets and over seas animators it is virtually impossible to push a pose or character in new and "Funnier" ways. Os R&ST we ignored the model sheets and stuck as closely as possible the style in the storyboard. That's why a cartoon storyboarded by Peter Avanzino still looked like he drew it when it was finished.

The point that I'm working toward is that I never do a drawing with a specific style in mind from the outset. Sometimes I will be working on a show with a set style and I try to be on model but I always find it to be a creative straitjacket.
Look at Kurtzman. His characters are nearly generic in terms of style or model. Harvey was ALWAYS about the pose/expression (same goddamn thing!).

As I've said many times I don't think I actually have a style although some people have told me that they can always spot my hand in the work. I'v had problems my entire career staying "ON MODEL"

Here's my design approach:
I have an idea of a character and the overall form of the show, comic or whatever. Then I start experimenting, scribbling mostly like in the horse and pig drawings I posted the other day. VERY loose. I try to get to know the character first. Draw them as many times as it takes to start to feel like you are getting some where. NEVER start carving out thick black lines in an attempt to get a style. Lots of people perfect a style but do not perfect the underlying character construction, line of action etc. I catch myself doing this too. All icing and no cake. It's a dead end trap. You spend so much time working on a beautiful rendering over a badly constructed or boring drawing.
Once you start getting to know your character, try to create a shorthand version. I find in storyboarding that after I've drawn a character a few dozen times I have developed a shortcut way to draw them that is always more alive, simple and yes funnier. Now that you know who you are drawing you can start to refine the individual moods and emotional states that you will put him through. You know when Ren gets really angry he suddenly develops harder angles and much more realistic anatomy?

Here's the main point of this whole diatribe:
The style you choose for a drawing should be about who your character is, what he/she is feeling. It's about how to use style as another layer to tell the story in a funnier way and not as a way to design the life out of it!

Do not grip your pencil tightly! Hold it loosely and use gesture. Use your whole arm. Do not draw slowly. make quick confident gestures/strokes. These gestures will bring you character to life and you always want to push the pose and expression because you know that once the drawings are translated into animation, much of the life will be corrected out of it.

Being a good cartoonist is like being a jazz musician. You need have great chops and not be afraid to..



Vincent Waller said...

And the congregation says Yes!
Very well put.

Yeldarb86 said...

One thing I absolutely loved about the Games Ren & Stimpy episodes is how each episode reflected the directors' vision. The ones directed by Chris Reccardi are especially outstanding, because he put so much energy into his stories and characters.

Dexter's Lab, under Genndy Tartakovsky's watch did the same thing. My favorite episodes tend to be the ones storyboarded by Paul Rudish, Craig McCracken, and Don Shank.

I might need some help bringing my own characters to life. I have a serious habit of drawing things slowly, even with construction and lines of action, and trying to make things "perfect".

chrisallison said...

thanks bob! good stuff here.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post. I've also run into similar problems in drawing portraits and caricature where I spend a long time adding details only to realise my drawing doesnt look a thing like to original person. Ah well. I guess I just gotta keep pacticing.

Peter said...

Wow, thanks for the mention. I've never had anyone speak so well of my off-model drawings. (Unless I missed the point, of course.)

The parts of the post without my name in them were good too.


monkeyfeather said...

As always, very insightful notes/thoughts. Very well put indeed.

James Sugrue said...

wonderful words of wisdom! I feel the same way you do about the "On Model thing", especially when I'm freelancing for people. I don't mind staying on model when I do stuff for clients( I want to at least have a good working relationship), but on my own time, I don't care much about "Using a model sheet", nor do I care for great amounts of detail on a character because, let's face it, too much detail is too hard to animate. I like to draw my characters in many ways possible, because that's the fun of being an animated cartoonist. Let loose the chains of oppression and set yourself free!

Lluis Fuzzhound said...

Hello Bob!

Thanks for destilling into words your years of experience!!!

thank you

Bob Camp said...

Thanks Vincent.

Thanks Semaj,
It's really nice to hear someone say something nice about those R&St shows for a change.
We worked very fucking hard and some of the best directors in the business came out of that studio. I agree with you about Dexter's. It's OK to draw slow as long as you keep your action loose. Try experimenting as much as you can using different mediums too.

You're welcome Chris.

Thanks Anon, whoever you are.

Hey Peter. Good to hear from you. I always dug your boards!

Hey Monkeyfeather,

Hi James. your right, too much detail makes animation difficult fer sure.
Drawers of the world unite!

Hey Fuzzhound,
You're welcome!