November 29, 2005


This post really should be about writing, I'm still not online at home so I can't furnish you with pictures or drawings of any sort. As well--I've run out of time. I'm leaving for a vacation on sunday. So what's to become of this blog between now and then? Not much I'm afraid until I can scan some stuff in, and anyway, I'm busy tying up loose ends. Needless to say, this makes it difficult to show any sort of progression as far as my portfolio film goes--

Oh well. A few more before I leave. We'll skip writing for now and say that it was very difficult and time consuming and in many ways the most fun. But of course along with it came the problem of finding suitable music for my short. I surveyed jazz and blues and dixieland music, but had a tough time finding something in the spirit of what I'd envisioned. What was peppy like Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom?

From the pages of my sketchbook, some jazzy research sketches. I think my favourite is Mr. Jimmy Smith, about halfway down. I hope y'all dig.

Cartoon Modern

Yay! Thanks to Amid Amidi for mentioning me at Cartoon Modern, and to everyone who's visited since. I just moved, so my internet is down (and anyway, I'm busy unpacking) but hopefully I'll have some new posts soon.

See you then!

November 23, 2005

Adventures in Music

Too often it seems like things don't, won't or can't progress smoothly; then again, maybe they shouldn't. Anyway. After so many births, deaths, conventions, fairs and hiccups, here at last, another installment in my series of intermittent portfolio reveals.

Today an acknowledgement of Ward Kimball, Charles Nichols, Dick Huemer, A. Kendall O'Connor, Victor Haboush, Eyvind Earl and Tom Oreb, who variously directed, wrote, styled and designed the classic Disney short, Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom (not to take away from every one else involved which included Marc Davis in animation).

They're pretty esteemed company, and to even try to approach their level of accomplishment is foolhardy to say the least. Ward Kimball's second film (after the first Adventure in Music: Melody), Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom embraced the more stylized modern asethetic of UPA, at times combining it with full Disney animation. The result is rich and textured, clever and very very fun animation--yet even then the film relies responsibly on its writing and look, its energetic song/story played against bold, imaginative designs and bright, daring colour. It's a solid little piece.

I had seen the short a number of times off the Fantasia 2000 DVD set (which also features Meldody), and contrasted and compared it with its 50's contemporaries Gerald Mc Boing Boing, The Unicorn in the Garden and The Telltale Heart courtesy of Ron Kurer. I've also managed to watch a number of other 50's shorts from both the Disney and UPA camps, including The Saga of Windwagon Smith, Casey at the Bat, A Cowboy Needs a Horse, Rooty Toot Toot, Christopher Crumpet, Madeline and Ballet-oop, all made available from the rich film archives of Chuck Gammage. The information resource also has a number of great films, including one entitled "Destination Earth" introduced to me by my friend James Robertson. This one was also designed by Tom Oreb and Vic Haboush, but features more limited UPA styling than the fuller cutout-y Toot stuff. After seeing its contemporaries, for the story I wanted to tell, Toot, I decided, was my model.

Repeated viewings offered important clues to its specific mechanics of writing and structure. It's organized into segments that contain their own rules of staging, colour, styling and storytelling--it's a little idiosyncratic, which is kind of nice. It was pretty paramount to try to understand some of the logic of these choices to create something even vaguely in the same spirit, but comparing and contrasting it with its predecessor Melody helped immeasurably in understanding how the style and structure had matured into what it was. It is, in the end, a fun, attractive, informative and completely unique film. It's very much of its time, but strikingly fresh--even today! I don't tend to draw in the retro-graphic style that everyone seems to these days, so it was actually a bit of a push to get me into the arena of flat shape. And tone. And colour. And composition. And... well, it was all a challenge we'll say; but I guess more of that later.

Anyway. Thank you to the creators of this terrific short. A big thanks to Ward Jenkins for offering such a terrific resource, and from whom these images are lifted; Amid Amidi's Cartoon Modern Blog for sharing information on animation's interesting history; and to Disney for their forthcoming DVD release Disney Rarities: Celebrated Shorts, featuring many hard to find stand alone shorts.

All that for this: a few little composition studies.
I promise there'll be more artwork later.

November 21, 2005

November 19, 2005

The first snowfall

The other day in Toronto,

while somehwere in LA...

All the best to
Ronnie Del Carmen
Enrico Casarosa
& Tadahiro Uesugi
on their show!

November 16, 2005

Sandy Boy

Hi everybody--thanks for visiting and commenting.
Our family dog died yesterday; poor little Sandy.

November 15, 2005

The Royal Winter Fair IV

Well, no winter fair this year. It's the first time in years that I've missed it--too busy I guess.

As the bookend to my Royal posts, a final entry thanking Drazen, Smook, Justin and the Doodlers for also doing into the animal thing. And, although they're clothed, Uli Meyer too. And thanks to everyone who left comments--it's very stimulating, and I do hope for more.

Anyway, a year ago I was wrapped up in my little suburb project, so I didn't draw too many animals at the fair--instead, I took it as an opportunity to sketch people, as the weather outside had already become inhospitable. At the fair there's always a good mix--farmers in overalls, barreloads of kids visiting for school, the elderly (and myself) watching cooking demonstrations, and noisy suburban families at the superdogs! show; all terrific subjects for my story about the everyday. The most entertaining folks to watch, though, I'd have to say, are the multitude of kids at the petting zoo--most of which are trying to lift up little goats and carry them around. Poor things!

Oh, 2004. Carmine red on Chromacolour.
Maybe I'll make it for 2006? I guess we'll see.
Thanks for coming by y'all.

November 09, 2005

The Royal Winter Fair III

There's a wee antique show on one floor of the Royal, and I've actually found some good things there. Mostly it's old plates and antique furniture, but there are a couple dealers who sell books; one lady in particular who sells early edition childrens books. One gent had two enormous "table albums" of the drawings of Charles Dana Gibson (we're talking huge) from the turn of the century--if I'd had more money at the time (and a truck with which to carry them) I surely would have bought them. I've seen a number of the little travelogues by one of my favourite artists, Joseph Pennell, and I think it was at the fair that I bought my antique copy of The Practice and Science of Drawing by Harold Speed. Good stuff.

But while the Practice and Science is a good manual, it's entirely different to put drawing concepts into practice. I was speaking with James the other day about the severe test that quicksketch is--particularly animal drawing. You can't draw well what you don't understand, and the *tricks* learned from habit quickly fail in the face of moving, unfamilar subjects. Could anything be better for you?

With birds, (this year removed for avian flu precaution!) I found that success lay in getting across their invariably complex, elegant silhouettes and interior shapes. Birds especially test your ability to render shape, form, anatomy, texture, and weight. Needless to say, I didn't find success, but it's a wonderful challenge anyway.

A few more from 2003; these again with the pentel sign pen
Notice the skinny pigeon!

November 05, 2005

The Royal Winter Fair II

There's a bit of magic in the air at the Royal--something to do with the combination of natural leather (still on the animals), apple dumplings and hay. The giant & fancy vegetables are also fun, as well as the fowl (absent this year) and the petting zoo. You really could spend days here. It's a terrific introduction to the bigger world of agriculture that most of us are ignorant to.

There is such a variety of display, activity and people, it's difficult to choose subjects to settle on, although inevitably, everyone gets drawn to the horse rings. It's fine to draw them in their stalls, but you can only do so many studies of horse bums and legs. It's something else entirely to try to capture them in motion. Thanks to Vilppu, Stanchfield, Muybridge and many many anatomy books for their insight into what's going on. Nothing's like careful observation though, and long hours of struggling and struggling and struggling. So many bad drawings can only inevitably reward... with an apple dumpling.

Puts Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron in perspective (as well as Degas).

Pentel Sign pen on bond; 2003

Ehn! No motion here!
First, a lady and horse dressed in Native American getup;
Clydesdales (I think) gussied up for pulling wagons;
a page of cows & horses being positioned for judging

The Royal Winter Fair I

Busy as I am I probably won't be able to attend the Royal Winter Fair this weekend. I really do enjoy going though. Canada's big agricultural fair, it's something of a tradition that I go for at least one day to do some sketching-we used to go all the time in school. I believe last year I went like everyday or something. I actually did a bunch of drawing at the Royal before Sheridan, and it helped me get in! Unfortuately the fair also aggrevates my breathing and is full of big meaty sandwiches which I can't eat. Oh well, potatoes then. Maybe next weekend. If I do, I'll take pictures.

Yes, in lieu of new stuff, old winter fair drawings. 2002?

November 04, 2005

Goodbye Sunny B

Oh-ho! Another aside. *sigh*

Perhaps you remember that image of a kid wearing a feather headdress from my grid of influences? Perhaps you read the post below? These are by a one Sunny B Cook; one of the bigger influences on the short film I'm working on now, and a favourite illustrator of mine. Please read my unfortunate Ebay experience at my Preservation Hall blog.

November 02, 2005



Going through my library led me to favourite illustrators who exemplified the fun-ness and qualities of draughtsmanship I sought. I was going after a bright 50's storybook look:

One of my favourite illustrators, the elusive and mostly unknown Sunny B. Cook merged a keen observational sense for posing with a strong control of shapes to sell characters who, though very stylized, had tension, weight, elegance and a gentle sense of reality to them. Very pleasant; light, graphic and full.

Miroslav Sasek of the THIS IS... series created fully realized worlds, matching taut, detailed observational drawing with his trademark graphic style.

Mary Blair is full of bold, brave choices that I wrack my brains over and enjoy; colours and shapes that defy convention. She mixes a distorted brooding quality with whimsy. Her work reminds me to not just choose the first solution to a problem--and that I have a lot to learn about colour (from my friend Dani as well).

JP Miller managed stylization, design, composition and colour with clarity, control, and elegance, making his worlds engaging and full of life. I liked that there were smaller stories being told through pantomime, costumes and props; business--bits of storytelling that hadn't been written in the text.

Marc Simont draws with a simple controlled immediacy that I'm extremely envious of, capturing very specific characters doing very specific things; incredible posing, staging and storytelling drawings; charming and real. At his best, he cannot be lauded highly enough.

Al Hirschfeld is of course the man who made caricature a science, distilling personalities in simple elegant shapes. I really admire the energy and seeming spontaneity of his drawings--especially those with figures dancing. He draws the personalities of people, not just their appearances-his graphic symbols a product of heavy observation and careful thought about the specific attitude of a person.

And last but certainly not least, the works of Aurelius Battaglia, Sempe and Quentin Blake. Lots of fun, energetic stuff going on here--everything has a sense of lightness and delicacy while managing strong, spirited storytelling. There's a relaxed, throwaway confidence to them that I like-an assuredness that certainly adds to their appeal. Terrific confluences of subject and handling. Good work fellas!

A book I would definitely recommend is Mr. Blake's from Klutz.