Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Simplicity, Appeal, Line of Action, a lot of blabbity blah and Jordi Bernet

It's been hard to blog lately because of many reasons. One of the things that makes it so hard to post is that I always try to be concise, clear and professional in my writing as I blog. It takes a lot of time and effort to be coherent and re-write until I am as concise as I can be.

But that is difficult and time-consuming. It takes some of the fun out of blogging to feel pressured to be accurate and precise and write a perfect post each time. So today, I am taking a vacation and I'm going to do soemthing fun. I am going to ramble! There are a million things I want to talk about on this blog. I've gotten to maybe six of them. So here is a clearinghouse - some thoughts that are rolling around in my brain. I always try not to talk about myself on the blog - I try to keep it about the work. But today I will be self-indulgent and talk about me and how I think just for a little bit, because I am trying to say soemthing nebulous and personal, and I am free-associating here because it seems like fun for a change. And I apologize for the scans - I did them at too low a resolution. They're too small, I know. Hopefully you can appreciate them anyway. Perfectionism can keep me from posting, and I'd rather have a sloppy post than not be blogging! I will scan other Bernet drawings soon, at a better res. Some "risque" images ahead.....if you are easily offended, please click over to www.disney.com instead of reading further! Anyway.....

Line-of-action (or gesture line) is such an important topic to me. I love directional drawings. It's such a modern idea - painters of old were so preoccupied with portraying reality and didn't do this. I'm not actually that knowledgeable or interested in classical art (I know, I should be, it just doesn't do "it" for me) but I love the work of classic illustrators. Probably because drawing to me isn't about drawing for drawing's sake. I wouldn't draw except that I love the way drawing can communicate and tell a story. Many classical painters just seemed to be working around on the canvas to find something pleasing, but to modern eyes it can be hard to tell what they were trying to put over. You usually have to read about the paintings to understand what is going on in the peice.

But illustrators of the last century up until now face the same challenges that story artists and animators do. Telling a story with drawings. Every kid who loves to draw starts out by drawing what they like - aliens, monsters, whatever - and they draw what they can draw easily. That's how your love affair with drawing starts, right? But the thing that fascinated me about animation in particular was that you HAD to draw what you HAD to draw. You can't hide Aladdin's hands because you can't draw hands (like you can when you're drawing for fun in junior high). You gotta draw them, and they have to be doing what they have to be doing. They can't just be appendages at the ends of his arms.

One of the very first scenes I was given to animate was from "Beauty and the Beast". It's a scene of Phillipe the horse, running towards camera and jumping over the camera while Belle rides on his back. From bouncing ball to this in three years - sure, no problem, right? The whole reason I got issued the scene is that nobody else wanted to do it. No personality, just a pain to draw. But the point is that I couldn't change the staging to make it easier to draw. I couldn't get rid of Belle - she had to be there. I had to draw what had to be drawn. And I had to make it clear and tell the story too.

Again, that's why I love our business, and I could never have a job where I just draw whatever I want. What keeps me going is the idea of constantly being challenged to draw stuff that I don't know how to do. I experiment with every idea to figure out how best to do it, and that's the fun - finding the best way to tell the story, with drawings. I don't even get to draw much anymore...I'm in meetings 85% of the time. But the best part of my week is those precious few hours when I can sit and work out some drawing problems.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I love directional drawings. I love drawings with a strong line of action. Even in a seemingly "static" pose - like when a character is standing upright, I love pointing every line upright. Or when a character is just looking to the right, I love pointing every line to the right. See below.

One of my favorite artists of all time is Jordi Bernet. Just like I said I'm not all that interested in Classical Art, I'm not all that interested in Comic Artists either. Most of the people I work with really like that stuff, and I totally respect that, but it doesn't do much for me...never has.

I don't know, I was never that interested in art in general. I always have gotten most of my inspiration from real life. I love watching people and figuring out why they do what they do. I love trying to get that into animation and creating original personalities. That's what gives me a kick. Everything - painting, sculpture, comics - it's all an abstraction of real life. So why not study the source material?

Anyway, there are few artists I really love, but Bernet is one of them. Everything he draws is really directional.

I talked about "appeal" before. Appeal is a vague term to describe a drawing that's pleasing to the eye. SIMPLICITY is a big key to appeal. Detail tends to "uglify" a drawing and it loses it's appeal.

Directional drawing is easier when you draw SIMPLY. One of the keys to really directional drawing is to make EVERY line on the figure "point" the way you want it to. Nothing on the figure fights the direction line. Once you start adding tons of detail, few people are good enough artists to make ALL of those little details "point" along the direction line. All the detail starts to point in different directions and you have a stiff-looking mess. So drawing simply can help you do very directional drawings and stay appealing at the same time.

But darn if Bernet isn't a good enough artist that he can do it both ways. His work on "Torpedo" has a ton of direction to it, and yet tons of detail as well. Lots of characters with well drawn clothes and faces full of wrinkles...but every detail contributes to the line of action! And even with all that detial, it always stays appealing (to me, anyway). How does he do it?!?

I love the combination of drawings that feel realistic and yet feel very caricatured. Compare and contrast, for example, some stuff by Moebius from "Blueberry". Really well drawn, TONS of detail, very realistic. Moebius is just going for solid, not trying for caricature.

It's worth pointing out that the story of "Blueberry" is very realistic, very dramatic. The "Torpedo" stories are humorous, more crazy action. Each style fits the material well. The Blueberry stories have a lot of realistic drama and action in them. The "Torpedo" style would undermine the realism of the stories and the drama would be diminished.

Flip through a "Blueberry" book sometime and then a "Torpedo" if you can. The "Blueberry" figures tend to be very straight up-and-down, like real people. The people in "Torpedo" are rarely straight up-and-down. They're full of movement, always jumping or diving or falling. Really animated. I always believe in drawing your figures with an action line that isn't straight up and down. It gives your drawings instant energy and a sense of direction.

Anyway, that's what makes the world so great - different strokes for everybody. I love Bernet, and that's just my opinion - no right or wrong about it. Moebius can do great caricatured stuff do, no doubt about it. I'd give my left arm to draw like either one of those guys!

And if you do go looking for Bernet stuff, be warned - he rarely draws anything that isn't pretty adult-oriented. If you're offended by violence, nudity or sex...........well, don't seek out his stuff. I wouldn't want to be responsible for offending anyone. And if you're offended by my meandering post, well.....

Blame Bernet for that too, what the hell.


Benjamin De Schrijver said...

Awesome! I'll definitly check out some of his work.

Oh, and if you're looking for storytelling in drawings of classical artists, you shouldn't be looking at their paintings, but at their observational sketches. Take rembrandt...


Maybe they haven't got any extreme line of actions, but they're full of life, character and observation. Great stuff. To me :-P

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

Bernet is the man! Coincidentally I just pulled his book off the shelf and started perusing it again, marveling at his mastery of black and white!

MisterZoobadoo said...

you know, this blog is awesome. The only other thing I've read that has been this informative was walt stanchfield's notes on drawing.

thank you for taking the time to do this. It inspires me to get to work. You're rambling is VERY appreciated.

mark kennedy said...

Cool! Thanks for the comments! You know, benjamin, that's amazing you should say that. Rembrandt is one of the few artists that I really love. I'm thinking of posting some of his stuff to talk about line of action too, believe it or not!

Robo! Love the "Art of Bernet" book. You have that one, right?

Misterzoobadoo-glad you like it. Thanks for letting me know, it means a lot.

Jorge Noujaim said...

Great post!Evertime I read something about line of action the examples are more "cartoonish", animated drawings( mickey etc..3 to 5 heads proportion body). It was really good to see it in altought caricaturesque but more semirealistic drawings.
I really like Bernet work, especially in black and white, first work I saw from him was a comic strip called Kraken with story by Antonio Segura. Great storytelling.

OV! said...

Bernet is great. while we are talking about dynamic/simplified artists, id point out Alex Toth and Will Eisner at their prime. thats the freakin cream of the crop!
Toth's work on Zorro is amazing.


Steve said...

Mark I always enjoy your posts, they always help to understand a little better why it is I love what I do so much =]

pbcbstudios said...

if jordi bernet and alex toth were in a fight who would win?

- wrong!!!!! milton caniff would kick both their asses.

OV! said...

Milton Caniff, the godfather of them all. ohhh yeah.


mark kennedy said...

Noel Sickles taught Caniff everything he knew. Sickles could wipe the floor with all of them!

ashess said...

loving your blog and reading through it day by day. gotto mention though, you're giving the old masters very little credit here! an old painting usually did tell a story; quite a complicated one in fact. old art made for the church told biblical stories in layers, showing part of the tale, but also depicting objects that had meaning to the public at the time to hint at the conclusion of the tale. later, commissioned art depicting victories or portraits did the same. most of the object's meanings are lost today of course... still, if we could read the signs there'd be a story told!