Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Drawing for Martha, and Odds, and Ends...

I make my living by drawing what other people want me to draw. Now don't get me wrong, it's a good way to make a living. But I'm not the kind of artist who goes home and works on my own stuff. If I'm not working on stuff I brought home from work, I'm studying to get better at what I do.

So when I thought about what to contribute to the Martha Baxton Benefit Auction, I figured I would donate some unused story panels from "Home on the Range" and/or "Chicken Little". But I asked for permission from Disney and I was surprised that they said no. They told me I could do an original drawing of those characters but NOT unused production art.

Which put me in a spot. I'm not the kind of artist that can sit down and bang out a "finished piece" that people will actually want to buy. My strength is doing story sketches - bold and direct drawings that put over ideas. Not fancy paintings!

So now I had to generate something original! I had to sit down and ask myself...what did I want to draw, if it could be anything that I want? What would I draw for fun? The answer turned out to be.......a warthog on a tricycle, of course! Wearing a scarf.

Don't ask why, I have no idea.

I did several versions of this. The first one was a really cleaned up version that I xeroxed onto card stock and did an elaborate watercolor to add color. The problem was that it totally sucked. It was so precious and labored that it was totally dead. So my wife talked me into doing in a way that I actually know how to draw and play to my strengths (it's always good to experiment, but for this auction, it would be best to actually donate something somebody might want). So I used a china marker to draw a quick version of the warthog and colored it using those twist-up crayons that they sell at Staples. I never thought about putting my signature on it until after it was done, and then it didn't seem like I had left enough negative space so I didn't think I could sign it without detracting from it.

It took me about 10 minutes and of course I had spent several hours on the previous version, but that's usually how it works for me.

My favorite fable about being an artist is this one, and it comes from long-ago Japan (as far as I know):

A man goes to see a Japanese brush artist. He tells the artist he wants a drawing of some geese in fight for his wall. Okay, the artist says, come back in a week.

So the man comes back a week later. The artist says, okay I'm ready to paint your picture now. So the artist quickly draws a perfect drawing of two geese flying and hands it over.

The man is peeved. He says to the artist, why the heck didn't you do that last week? If it was going to be so easy why did you make me wait and come back?

So the artist opens his closet and hundreds of drawings of geese fall out: all the bad ones he had to do before he could do one good one.

And that's pretty much how I have to work too. I have to do a lot of crummy versions before I figure out the one that will work. I've got to figure out what won't work before I can figure out what will work.

And the answer always comes back to Design, of course (yes, I am a broken record).

I will post more on Design and Drawing soon. Things are busy at work and these posts are really difficult to write and find artwork to illustrate. But more to come soon.

And please donate anything you can to help out Martha, truly a wonderful person who has helped countless people in our business. My very talented wife is going to donate one of her original, unique and much-sought-after handmade sock monkeys as well. If I had a picture of it I would post that too!


Jimmy said...

Thanks for this honest, inspirational post. I see so many great sketches and drawings by others it's easy to forget what might have come before. Well, anyway, I think the warthog is cool.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree, not many artist talk about the labor or failures that it takes to produce the art people fawn over.
Its very shocking to many when they find out that a lot of artist use tons of references or draw/redraw constantly.
I remember reading one comic artist (forgot who but a big name) was going to do batman and he said he went through a whole sketchbook of just Batman before starting on the project.
That can make people understand that its hard work not always a graceful stroke of a brush that lets people create art.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

It's off-topic but I just want to thank you for the great blog! You should write a book! Thanks also to Jenny for dircting people here.

BTW, are you sure you need word verification? It would be easier to post comments without it and you can always re-enable it if you start getting spam.

sketch-mark said...

Wanted to say how great this blog is. I'm working on a Flash animated project with a few friends, so I hope you don't mind me linking your blog for future reference.

mark kennedy said...

wow thanks for the good feedback. Thanks for liking the warthog Jimmy.

thanks anonymous, that's a good idea to fill a sketchbbok before you tackle an icon like Batman.

Eddie! Wow, thanks for the kind words. Love your blog too. Yes, Jenny is the best!

I was getting a few annoying spams so I turned on the word verification, but it annoys the piss out of me....I will turn it off and we will see what happens.

Hey sketch-mark go ahead and link to me, I would be flattered. Good luck on your project!

Randeep Katari said...

great great post mark
Thanks for everything.


Dave said...

Inspiring words and art yet again. Thank you!

RoboTaeKwon-Z said...

Mark!!! Thanks for reminding me! I'd better do a drawing! I don't do very good finished "art" either.
Maybe a drawing of Chippy and Loopus doing something...I could probably handle that...at a strip club maybe, or playing Bocce ball, or attending a Donkey show.. something cute like that for the kids.

Bill said...

Hi Mark - I had to take a break from the blog world for a bit (stupid work getting in the way) and I come back to find a torrent of useful information here. Thank you for these past few posts on design as well as the earlier ones on story. Keep it up! :D

mark kennedy said...

Thanks again to you guys for the nice comments. It keeps me going.

Robokid said...

great blog!
its good to hear im not the only one having to produce a lot of crap before being able to come up with something decent...
ill link you too if you dont mind...