Thursday, May 20, 2010

You Say You Want an Evolution?

Regular readers of this blog know that lately I have been working on a personal project: A children's book entitled, "Oscar's Naughty Chicken".

I have been working on this project for awhile now, two years to be somewhat exact, and I have noticed a disturbing phenomenon.

When I first began doing the illustrations for the book, my design for the main character, the Chicken, was uniquely mine. I didn't want him to be too cute or cuddly, and I wanted him to be as expressionless as possible, so the reader would never really know what the Chicken was "thinking" as  he did all the "naughty" things the title promised. However, the more pages I produced, the "cuter" and more expressive the Chicken  got. In my latest drawings, the Chicken began to  look like the lead character in that dreadful Disney film, "Chicken Little"!

Maybe it was  the result of not working on the project consistently, or maybe it was the result of spending so many years slavishly following model sheets while working on licensed properties. Perhaps it was just good, old-fashioned laziness. Whatever the reason, my title character's look evolved  from page to page until the character on page one looked nothing like the character on page twelve.

As a result, I  have regrouped, and have decided to start re-drawing the book from  scratch. I know, a lot of you out there are probably screaming, "Hey, you idiot! Just fix it in Photoshop!" Sorry, but I just don't swing that way. I want this whole thing to be as "hand drawn" as possible.

Besides, all the unused illustrations will make great "Special Features" in the collector's edition of the book!



Blogger Chris Sabatino said...

How do you know that Disney didn't time travel into the future, check out your character design in your best selling kid's book and then steal it for their "Little" movie??? They're Disney...they own everything....if there is a time machine, Disney would be secretly using would explain their continued success.
I think you should sue them!!!

May 23, 2010 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger SNeelyArt said...

I've had this happen to some stuff that I've done. When you design something and then start to fine tune it as you draw it alot, you then subconciously streamline little details and simply and add something to it that makes it more functional in terms of emotional visuals or action poses... you then find your character looking like a rip off of a Preston Blair thing and then scrap it all! Hahaha.

You set out to create a cool squirrel character and see that he starts looking like every other squirrel design. The best designs have really all been done to my mind in terms of their funtionality. Disney and some other studios in the 50s really were able to simplify a design so much so that we now tend to over draw something and it loses character with mundane detail that shouldn't be there.

People who are character designers for the most part in today's animation aren't really great designers. They go for a look and don't think how it will really move. It's the STORYBOARD guys who have to go in and take a turnaround of a character and try to make it work. Sometimes it doesn't and they have to be redesigned by them if they can't move in a certain way to convey a certain emotion. The old Hanna-Barbera guys were great board guys who then designed great characters from the git-go since they knew how and what they needed their characters to do. Ed Benedict is my top fave. Though character desinger is one of the few jobs left that we actually don't farm out to Korea...yet.

But I would probably Photoshop it and fix it if everything else was ok, but I suspect the material is personal to you so you want a perfect archived copy of the art to have in your 70's to chuckle at. It why I still do hand drawn stuff for some things, though I was working on my tablet this weekend working digitally trying to do portrait work.

May 23, 2010 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger Bill White said...

Chris- As soon as I get my Mr. Fusion™ fixed, I'll give it a shot.

Scott- Your observations are spot-on. One of the problems in being a cartoonist is that you are so exposed to so many cartoon designs that sometimes it seems like everything has been done. Maybe it has.

I echo your praise of Ed Benedict. How cool would a coffee table book of his art be?

One of the reasons I am going to re-draw the whole thing is that I have the same affliction as many cartoonists: Everything I've done looks bad to me five minutes after I've finished it. I feel it all could look much better. I suppose it's better than settling into a rut and just hacking stuff out, right?

May 23, 2010 at 3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be hard to imagine that an artist’s style and their character designs would NOT change over a period of two years.

I can’t blame you for wanting to go back and give your project a more consistent look, but there are at least two things to take into consideration:

1) Tezuka Osamu was a cartoonist who like to go back and update and improve his works as years went by. This is fine for an artist that has a small army of assistants to back him up and get such things done quickly. As a person working alone you might find that after you are done updating that you feel the need to update again, and again and again. A boss of mine used to say, “There comes a time when you have to shoot the artist.”

2) Editors like to edit. You might go to the trouble of redrawing all this work, submit it, and then find that your editor on the projects wants you to rework all your rework. Sometimes it’s better to leave a few “easter eggs” for the editor to find so that they feel they are doing their job.

Whatever your decision, I wish you the best of luck and hope that you will keep us informed.


May 24, 2010 at 12:20 PM  

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