Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Art Appreciation: Bill Peet

I grabbed these frames off of the "Sword in the Stone" DVD. I wanted to post them so everybody could check them out, but there are a lot of great sites that just post cool drawings. I love those sites, but I want to have a site where I post cool drawings and talk about what I think it is that makes them cool. It's a lot more work, but hopefully everyone enjoys it. And if you don't feel like reading you can just check out the cool drawings!

This sequence of four is amazing. A tiger (a transformed Madam Mim) leaps and then stops in mid-air and backpedals.

1. In the first sketch (top left) the tiger anticipates to leap. Check out the great line-of-action - in all of these, the spine is the line-of-action. A cat can't prepare to leap unless it bends it's spine first - like sqashing down a spring before letting it go, so it can shoot up into the air. I love how the tail continues the line-of-action flow and then curves around to point to the tiger - keeping your eye in the frame. Of course the stripes around the tiger help define the tiger's form - a nice touch that makes the tiger feel solid. And notice there's only a ground plane in the first and last frame - you can't show an anticipation to leap without seeing what the tigerr is pushing off from. And in the last panel, it's easier to say "backpedaling" if you have a ground to push against.

2. The second one (top right) is better WITHOUT a ground plane - the leap into the air feels higher and stronger because she's way high above the ground now and having it drop out of frame will make the leap feel more powerful. Again, check out the great simple line-of-action - it's the spine, describing a great "leap" shape. The far front arm continues the line-of-action instead of interuppting it or haveing a different line-of-action, which would weaken the drawing. The closer arm is kept close against the body so it doesn't detract from that streamlined lin-of-action, keeping the tiger sleek and making it feel like it's moving fast . All of these drawings have great silhouette value (see earlier post "And Again..." for information on silhouette).

3. The third one (lower left) is all about "Stopping in mid-air" - obviously, the tiger saw something that made it want to terminate the leap in mid-air! Notice the great difference in this drawing and number 2 - now, instead of all the parts in unison, working together, they're all akimbo and sticking out in different directions - a real key to drawing an expression of surprise. When this drawing is cut together on film with the drawing before (the leap) the change of shape from "curved spine and all parts flowing together" to "bent spine and everything flailing" will really sell the change in attitude. The eyes closed in drawing #2 to the eyes popping open in drawing #3 will really sell the idea of surprise as well. Again the tail does a great job of echoing the gesture of the body - it's not just stuck on, it's an extension of the spine (as it really is in real life).

4. The last one (lower right) clearly sells "backpedaling" - getting away from whatever scared the tiger. The shoulders are up high and the head is back behind the pelvis to show that the head is trying to go backwards but the feet still have too much momentum. The feet are silhouetted in the classic "backpedaling" icon - it's all there, even the little piled-up dirt infront of the tiger's front leg to show the resistance of the ground. Again, it's hard to say "backpedaling" without a ground plane to push against - so it's back in this frame.

Simplicity is always effective - a great "frame within a frame" created by Wart's hand, teacup and hair. Wart's posture, the way he drinks his tea and the fact you can only see his one eye sell the idea of a timid boy sitting at a table with a wizard that intimidates him. Anytime a character's (or a real life person's) shoulders go up that high you can tell they're uncomfortable. And Wart's unkempt hair feels very boy-like and tells you a lot about his character. The teapot, plate of cookies and areas of tone around his head keep your eye from wandering off the page. Nice!

Drawing "disorganized clutter" is really hard, actually, To keep it reading as several different objects and not have it turn into a jumble of shapes and tones take a lot of work. The only true black-on-white is reserved for the train - the center of interest because in the next beat, Merlin is going to pick it up. As we already know, the eye goes to the greatest contrast - usually black on white. Great variety of shapes makes it feel like many different objects. great contol of tone - only black, white, light grey and dark grey are used. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking each object must be all it's own tone - like all grey or all black. This doesn't simplify, it confuses the eye. Each object here has areas of detail in the light so you can tell what it is, and then some areas are allowed to fall into silhouette so that the detail doesn't get overwhelming.

Okay, enjoy some without me yapping. More to come!


Rocco said...

Mark, you're a seemingly endless source of enthusiasm and information. Reading your blog definitely sharpens my awareness. After you point out the subtleties of those not so subtle drawings of Bill Peet's, I begin to notice things that I might not have otherwise.

For instance, seeing the drawing of Merlin picking up the train, I notice that in the previous drawing with all the clutter, your eye is drawn to the silhouette of the smokestack. This very subtely sets up the next action. Amazing continuity.

Keep up the great work.

matt said...

Boy, that drawing of Wart looking up from the cup is outstanding. I'd love for someone to put out a nice big book of Bill Peet's storyboards someday.

Also on that DVD there's a drawing (I think it's Peet's) of a giant unicorn/elephant thing during the wizard's duel...wish that had made the picture!

Thanks for another great post, Mark.

barry johnson said...

Thanks for posting these, Mark!
The drawing of Wart sipping tea is wonderful and is going up on my desk today.

Danny said...

Nothing to add to your wonderful posts. But i'll comment anyway, just to let you know your writing is highly appreciated and every post read.

Thank you very much!

Magnus said...

"I love those sites, but I want to have a site where I post cool drawings and talk about what I think it is that makes them cool. It's a lot more work, but hopefully everyone enjoys it."

Yeah! Thanks a lot for this great blog!

mark kennedy said...

Thanks for the support everyone! It keeps me going...that and caffeine.

Jenny said...

Oh, wow, I love these!! Second what everyone else says.

Steve said...

really wonderful Mark, I went on a search at all the bookstores in the area this past weekend and purchased every Bill Peet book I could find...

I'm now reading his autobiography and this stuff is a great addition to that material =]

keep the inspiration coming =]

Nick Sung said...

Terrific Mark!
Keep 'em coming!

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Wilbert Plijnaar said...

Maybe anonymous knows where to find a few secret Bill Peet books.
Thanx Mark, Bill Peet is the best. Last week I had a chance to spent some time in the Disney Animation Research Library and inhale some of the pastel he used in his older boards and sketches . Able to study the originals, It struck me how confident Peet's line was in what must have been his first pass. No underdrawing or pre-sketch . Just BAM! right on target, in resolute lines, clear staging and shape solidifying lighting.
Amazing and masterful.
I would give up your right arm to draw that way.

mark kennedy said...

I would give up Kevin's head to draw that way.

No kidding, Bill's stuff is so confident and economical that it fools people-they think it's too simple to be good drawing.

Skribbl said...

Hey Mark,

You might want to turn on your word verification mode so you don't get those pesky ads from "Anonymous" anymore. Those damn internet robots will get you every chance they get. And as always, great posts! You still got the juice!

mark kennedy said...

I thought you were pro-robot??? If I get any more spam I will turn on the word verification. In the meantime, I will take any comment I can get!

Kevin Deters said...

My wife likes my head. I would, however, be willing to part with a toe.

mark kennedy said...

Dear Kevin-
Sorry about that, that was uncool. My bad. I'll give you a toe on Monday.

But not one of mine.

SMacLeod said...

you're right, the comments make me cherish them more, THANKS!