I found this quote in a recent interview with John Lasseter:
There's that funny saying: "I'm sorry this letter is so long, but I didn't have time to write a shorter one." And it's so true. My older brother Jim, who passed away six or seven years ago, was a brilliant interior designer who studied Japanese design. What he loved about their approach is that they'll design something and then they take away until they can take away no more. We have adopted that same philosophy here in our films.
Jim influenced me in other ways too. One day he said something that really hit me: "You know, what I think makes sense in fashion design is to take a really wild fabric and then make a classic pattern or piece of clothing with it. Either that, or you take a classic fabric and make a crazy pattern with it." He said if you design things that way, there is something familiar for people to relate to. But if you do both - take a crazy fabric and make a crazy pattern - people can't make any sense of it.
Very interesting. Especially this line:
they'll design something and then they take away until they can take away no more
This is an essential element to what (I find) makes a drawing appealing. I have been harping a lot on one of my obsessions: every line in your drawing should contribute to ONE idea. If you're drawing a pose that is meant to suggest the character is drinking from a drinking fountain, eliminate every line and shape that doesn't contribute to that idea.
Take away everything that hurts the statement you're trying to make and a drawing will instantly get stronger.
Anyone who's ever designed a character knows how it goes: you start with a drawing that's busy and too complicated. You draw over and over it, refining the design. As you go, you lose what you don't need and simplify until you have something that seems to work (that's how it goes for me anyway).
That's why I love the work of Quentin Blake so much. Every drawing is super efficient. There's only as much there as needed to tell the story he's trying to tell. Nothing extra just to be fancy. And every line contributes to the statement he's making. Every line conforms to the Line Of Action.
I think that's a big secret to making an appealing drawing as well. I find that the simpler the drawing, the more appealing it is. Check out Jenny's recents posts about Freddy Moore drawings to see some proof of that. No one drew more appealing drawings than Freddy and his stuff is always simple. Simple yet very sophisticated.
In my younger days, I was always a big Jack Davis fan. I always thought he was such a great draftsman and for years I collected everything he did and studied it and copied it relentlessly (I even own an original drawing of his). And then one day it struck me that I didn't really find his drawings all that appealing. It's a personal thing, of course. I'm not denying that he's a master draftsman. He draws amazingly well. But being an accomplished draftsman isn't the same thing as drawing with an acute sense of appeal.
Jack draws simply sometimes and sometimes he draws with a lot of detail. He has a "realistic" style and a "cartoony" one too. I offer his work as a counter-point to Quentin Blake because I find that the more detail Jack adds the less appealing I find his drawings. That's why I tend to think that simplicity might be tied to appeal.
I find Jack's more cartoony stuff unappealing as well. One thing he does that I find unappealing is that he draws everything in the frame really solidly and semi-realistically until he gets to the eyes. For the eyes he draws weird cartoon symbols for eyes and it doesn't fit with the rest of the drawing. It looks "off"...to me, anyway.
There are, however, some artists that can add a lot of detail and yet still keep a sense of appeal. As I've said before, somehow Jordi Bernet can draw tons of detail (and disturbing subject matter) and yet always keeps it appealing. How does he do it? I guess he just has an innate sense of design that I find appealing. Also I feel like Jack Davis sometimes has lines in a drawing that don't seem to fufill any function. Bernet seems to always hace a reason for his lines. For example, all of his wrinkles in clothes describe forms by wrapping around the body. Sometimes Jack's clothes are just exceedingly wrinkled. Bernet only draws a lot of extra wrinkles if the character is an especially untidy person and he wants to show their character. Also Bernet is a master at making fabrics look different from each other - a silky blouse looks different than a stiff wool suit. Jack Davis doesn't seem to do that as much. All of his clothes strike me as having the same amout of wrinkles (but I haven't done a scientific study or anything).
Now that I think about it there are some other artists that consistently manage to break this "rule" (not much of a rule maybe). I will post some more examples soon. For now, all of you Jack Davis fans can start flaming me with your withering comments! Ready....go!