Sunday, January 06, 2008


So. I've making work in the studio. I have been doing so since September of last year. Which is fantastic. A rarity but fantastic nonetheless.

Part of this work flow can be attributed to the following phrase, "Stop being such a pussy and just make some fucking drawings." That does help. But part of it, too, can be chalked up to giving myself over to the basest impulses of my childhood: Saturday morning cartoons (and their ilk.) (I know I've mentioned this before but it's something I'm still trying to accept, so I'll probably keep on saying it until the idea sits comfortably in my brain. My thought process is very repetitious/borderline obsessive; this is both a strength and a weakness for obvious reasons.) Here is a slice of my Netflix queue during the last six months...

Land of the Lost: Season 1: Disc 2
Birdman & the Galaxy Trio: Disc 1
Ghidorah: The Three Headed Monster
Ultraman: Series 1: Vol. 1: Disc 1
Super Inframan
Land of the Lost: Season 1: Disc 1-2
Thunderbirds: Vol. 1 (12-Disc Series)
Wizards
Battle of the Planets: Discs 1-2
The City of Lost Children
Heavy Metal
The Dark Crystal
Fantastic Planet
El Topo
Scanners
Flash Gordon: Spaceship to the Unknown
Holy Mountain
Flash Gordon Cartoons: Discs 1-4
Throne of Blood
Blackstar: The Complete Series: Disc1-2
Zardoz

(Zardoz. The name is derived from "Wizard of Oz" Hope I didn't spoil anything for you. (Oh, and Darth Vader is Luke's father.))

Notice the overwhelming manifestation of Sci-Fi/Fantasy? So do I. Don't know how to address that other than to say that--in retrospect--I am looking for design elements. I am not so interested in the plots of these films/cartoons/shows (which drift from simply uninteresting to borderline unwatchable.) I am more interested in their design elements...the costumes, the interiors, the monsters and heroes. And I'm less interested in higher budget/profile stuff (Star Wars, Trek) than I am the more obscure/lower budget stuff. The low budget stuff--Japanese monster flics/Herculoids--is bad but sincerely, well-intention bad: frequently, the imagination of the designers/animators outstrips the limitation of the budget/medium and I enjoy the solutions they cook up. I like the clunkiness mixed with the solid, imaginative design.

I've always spun out stories for my characters but I've never quite given them a suitable/believable home. I usually fell back on that white space solution: oh, yes, they live in a blank void of empty paper. The viewer can fill in the blanks! HAHAH! (Ex: the Plague Idiots drawings.) But I'm starting to spin a world for them. Lately, I've been unable to get enough of Alex Toth--designer for Jonny Quest, Herculoids, Birdman & the Galaxy Trio, all of that stuff. Again, those cartoons are seriously awful/almost unwatchable but the design holds them together. The worlds for each of these series is solid...the skies, the landscapes, the buildings and vehicles, etc. So I am sucking it up and soaking it in, watching a hour or more of bad cartoons a day with a sketchbook in hand to pin down a few quick notes/doodles. I can't deny the effect on my drawings.

(Birdman possesses a particularly garish palate, muddled early-era psychedelia as transcribed by the Hanna Barbera production squares: olive-browns, honey-ochres and dull pumpkins bumping butts with ultramarines, lime greens and candied pinks. All of the elements hug the middle and lower end of the value scale, too, and the lack of strong contrast adds to the muddle. Again, the good design holds it together. And Quest plotlines are, by far, the most tolerable, if heavily larded with with ching-chong chinaman racial stereotypes.)

Thanks to the Animation Archive for having all of the good stuff online.

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