Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall, Who's the HARDEST One of All?"

When I was a lad, I spent a lot of time trying to draw my favorite cartoon characters. I would spend hours copying the drawings from newspaper strips, comic books and cartoons on television. I wanted my drawings to be perfect. I didn't just want to  draw something that looked somewhat like Bugs Bunny, I wanted to do a drawing that looked like the real Bugs, the one from TV. 

Some characters were easy to draw. Others were a bit more difficult. Often it wasn't the complexity of the character, it was that the artist's style was such an important factor in the character's "look". For example, Charlie Brown is a very simple design, and just about anyone can draw something that would be instantly identifiable as Charlie Brown. It wouldn't, however, look like THE Charlie Brown. Charles Schultz's unique drawing style was difficult, if not impossible to duplicate. Without his style any drawing of Charlie Brown just ain't Charlie Brown.

Characters designed for animation, that is, characters designed to be drawn exactly the same way by a number of different artists, should be easier, but that isn't always so. Take The Simpsons, for instance. They are very simple character designs, but it takes a lot of work to get them looking "right".

Getting things to look right, of course, is really just a matter of careful observation and keeping the principles of solid drawing in mind while you work. Even so, no matter how much training you have, there are certain characters that are a challenge to draw. For example, MAD Magazine's mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, is notoriously difficult. Even a lot of the longtime pros at the magazine cannot do a satisfying likeness.

I cannot be the only kid who had the frustrating experience of trying to capture the elusive likeness of some character. I wonder, is there  one character in particular that everyone finds difficult to draw? So, I am throwing this question out to all you cartoonists out there, professional or not:


I'm really curious to know what people think, so please leave your humble opines in the comments section. Tell your cartoonist friends (who normally wouldn't be caught dead reading this blog) to chime in too.  When I've tabulated the results, I'll let you know in a future post.

I think I know whose name will come out on top...

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Blogger David said...

One vote for Popeye.

May 11, 2010 at 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superman is harder to get than people realize. Wayne Boring and Curt Swan really fixed this character in people's imagination, so when people riff on Superman and make him look like Keanu Reeves or Wally Cox or whomever, it just never feels right.

However, I think THE hardest character to get right will always be Bugs. The early Bugs when through many revisions until he hot the perfect look, which to me is the one Robert McKimson drew on his famous modeling sheets. When people draw Bugs today, they often miss the iconic representation.

May 13, 2010 at 12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That should be "went" and "got"

May 13, 2010 at 12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my guess is that "cathy" is the hardest cartoon character to draw, as cathy guisewite has been given millions of dollars and several decades of time,and she still couldn't draw the character PROPERLY to save her life.


May 13, 2010 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Bill White said...

I expected more responses by this point, but I'll give it a few more days.

David- I expected Popeye to show up on this list. He seems to be tough for a lotta people.

Anonymous- Don't worry about typos. They are business as usual in these parts!

I agree about Superman with you. Modern artists really miss the boat on him. In my mind, the only one who approaches Wayne Boring (lalways loved that name!) was Ross Andru. LOVED his Man of Steel!

Bugs Bunny was the character I most expected to see. He is such an elegant character, if one aspect of him is off, the whole drawing goes in the toilet.
I struggled with drawing him in a professional capacity, and, interestingly enough, it was a shortcut secret from Robert McKimpson himself that helped me figure out how to draw a decent Bugs. I'll share the secret in a post someday if anyone is interested.

eeTeed- I agree. Have you ever heard Guisewite describe her "drawing process"? It's agony! After all these years, you think she might have developed just a little bit of "polish". Some would argue that that's her style. I say, BLEH!

May 13, 2010 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger SNeelyArt said...

For me, it's Strawberry Shortcake. Hands down the hardest license I ever worked on since it also had to be all done in Adobe Illustrator as well.

Second hardest was Shrek. Mostly for all the revisions Dreamworks gives you...

May 13, 2010 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger Bill White said...

Scott- I feel your pain. SS and her crew are tough. Is it harder still when you have no empathy for the characters?

May 16, 2010 at 9:25 PM  
Blogger P.L. Frederick said...

I don't know about the hardest but I have a friend who will fight anyone to the death who would even hint that any character that ever existed, or may ever exist, in the entire existence of humankind, on this planet or any other, is easier to draw than Hello Kitty. By "friend" I don't mean me.

P.L. Frederick (Small & Big)

May 17, 2010 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger SNeelyArt said...

I didn't mind SS, Bill. You always find a joy in the material if you can and it wasn't a bad time drawing it. Mostly it was that I was really getting in deep with Adobe Illustrator at the time on it and it was a learning curve of getting even more in depth than I originally was with it. The deadlines didn't help either. But I don't mind SS at all. Still waiting to hear back about my audition for the new version of her...

May 17, 2010 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger John F said...

Got to say keeping Linus on model, BW - So few lines that your odds for incorrect placement are pretty high.

Well, he's a lot tougher than Man-Thing.

May 18, 2010 at 1:46 AM  
Blogger Bill White said...

P.L.- If you try to draw Hello Kitty, you deserve whatever pain you feel.

Scott-Glad you can find the positives about drawing SS. As someone who has trouble with all things technical, I can imagine what a struggle it must be learning new characters and a new program at the same time.

Hope you get the gig!

John- As I said, all the Peanuts crew are hard to capture for anyone other than their creator. You're right, though, Linus is the toughest of all. The combination of his head shape and hair pattern present a real puzzle. One that even the artists on the TV specials never really solved.

Never had the occasion to draw Man-Thing, so I'll take your word for it.

May 18, 2010 at 1:52 PM  

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