Showing posts from June, 2012


Last week I wrote that animated films are  corporate artwork, polished and refined by so many committees that it is often difficult to find the fingerprints of any individual artist in the end product.

But sometimes an individual artist's voice is so powerful that it survives the corporate de-flavorizing machine.  We can still see the impact of Eyvind Earle's contribution to the film Sleeping Beauty or Mary Blair's contribution to films such as Make Mine Music and Alice in Wonderland-- films that ended up far better off because of distinctive individual voices.

One of the very few artists working in the field today with that kind of visual strength is the brilliant Carter Goodrich.

When I began clipping his work from magazines, I didn't know his name but his distinctive style was easy to recognize.  

I later learned Goodrich's name from his New Yorker covers which strike me as smart, beautiful and true:

His children's books are also beautifully illustrated:


Head Drawing Course Begins July 9th

My head drawing class begins Monday July 9, 7-10pm. To enroll contact TheLos Angeles Academy of Figurative Art(click here for more info), (877) MY-LAAFA (695-2232).
Sure, the class will heavily cover structure and rendering (in charcoal) but in the age of instant digital photography our work needs more than just mindless rendering, so we'll also talk about giving portraits a reason to live through design.

In this lay-in example, I'm carefully finding long lines and shapes that will give the portrait strength and visual interest.

The long line that connects the background to the figure helps make the whole image cohesive and creates a repetition of the triangle shape to give a sense of meaningful relationships between the parts.


Comic artist Will Elder described how he and Harvey Kurtzman made art on an assembly line:
We had to bring in guys to help make [Little Annie Fanny]. We rented a suite at the Algonquin Hotel in New York, turned on every light in the suite, and with the assistance of Frank Frazetta, Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Russ heath and Arnold Roth, we were able to make our deadlines. It was a great time, ordering eggs benedict, orange juice and plenty of coffee. We set up an assembly line type of arrangement : some of the guys were doing backgrounds, some were doing other details.  We were following Harvey's layouts.  After one artist was done with his part of the work, he'd pass it on to the next guy who would fill in the next step of the story.  It would eventually get back to Harvey, who was such a perfectionist that he often had changes to the work.  He would mark the work with his changes and send it back to the assembly line unbeknownst to the artists who thought they were done with tha…

"Student to Pro" this Monday

A reminder that my "From Student to Professional and Beyond" presentation is this Monday night June 25 at the Animation Union.
Post script: we had a great time at the workshop, hope to see the rest of you next year!
One of the many subjects we covered was workspace, below is my desk while we were working on The Road to El Dorado back in 1999.

Here's the finished painting that's in progress in the workspace photo:



A century ago, Howard Pyle painted this classic image of man and mermaid locked in a passionate embrace:

Pyle's image is a metaphor for doomed lovers everywhere.  (As Joseph Stein put it, "A fish may love a bird but where would they build a home together?")

Today illustrators remain fascinated by the gap separating man from mermaid, but their perspectives look quite different.  Let's revisit Pyle's touching scene through the eyes of some of today's master illustrators:

John Cuneo offers this unsettling glimpse into the love life of a modern mermaid:

Sterling Hundley's mermaid has apparently decided not to let go of her man.  No more tearful good byes at the shore line: 

Jack Davis shows us what happens if you give a man too much time to think:

Carter Goodrich shows us a boy who has caught more than he bargained for:

French cartoonist Andre Francois imagines a cooperative effort to deal with the logistical problems:

William Steig helps us understand why a man m…

Upcoming Events!

I have several events in the LA area coming up that I'd like to invite you out to:

From Student to Professional and Beyond! A one evening presentation.
Monday, June 25, 7-10:00 pm. For any student or professional artist seeking improvement (art of any kind, digital or traditional). The presentation will emphasize where and how to focus your efforts as you work toward developing a more professional level of artistic ability. I invite you to take a chance on this one, it will be worth your time! Click here for more detail! To enroll contact The Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, (877) MY-LAAFA (695-2232). This event is held at the Animation Union: 1105 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank, CA 91505.

Head Drawing 10 Week Course
Beginning Monday July 9, 7-10pm. To enroll contact TheLos Angeles Academy of Figurative Art(click here for more info), (877) MY-LAAFA (695-2232)

Launching Your Career and Animation Art and Entertainment Design
Watch the video introductionhere.
How to focus your effort…
Charcoal and pastel on Strathmore paper, 16"x 24".


To finish my (rather extended) week of Gruger, here is one more original with a slightly different approach.

In this ambitious composition of an ancient bacchanal, Gruger uses a thicker line for a bolder, more blocky effect:

Despite its flatter, simpler look, this approach required all of the subtlety, sophistication and knowledge of Gruger's drawings from the previous week.


OK, so these posts spilled over into more than a week, but here are some more scans from original Gruger drawings that show his masterful draftsmanship.

Gruger spent 45 years working long hours, creating thousands of complex pictures using not much more than a pencil.  He found infinite variety in the marks of carbon on paper.

Gruger was an original member of the "charcoal club" founded by John Sloan in 1893.  There, Gruger worked nightly alongside other young artists such as Robert Henri, William Glackens and Everett Shin in a vacant studio, exploring the glories of charcoal.

And in the right hands, charcoal is truly a glorious thing. 


In 1928, Gruger was assigned by the Saturday Evening Post to illustrate a long and tedious detective story.  Rather than draw another dozen pictures of English gentlemen sitting around tables in a parlor, Gruger concoted a wraith-like apparition (not a character in the original story) to embody hidden mysteries. 

Personally, I think Gruger just felt like drawing a cool figure in flowing robes.  Look at how much fun he had with these  pictures:

Another illustration from the same story:

I don't have all of the originals from the story to scan (The two above came from our friends at Taraba Illustration Art ) but if you look at the following printed versions from the Post, you can get a sense for how Gruger drew each wraith distinctively, each with its separate dramatic flourish:


These are not your run-of-the-mill Halloween ghosts.  Here you are seeing Gruger's vivid imagination in action.