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    Unhappy Crits on Cartooning work

    I've been doing a lot of head sketches and trying to work through my approach to cartooning lately. I personally feel like I've started making a breakthrough on the work and how I want it to look but I've also been told that there are some huge issues with the work in general. (too naive and childlike) I'm trying to zero in on the mistakes I'm making and some crit in that department would be really helpful.

    Any advice on how to approach cartooning work would be greatly appreciated.

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    Crits on Cartooning work

    Crits on Cartooning work

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    I'd put more effort into studying the structure of real faces. I mean some of those look like you're trying to go with something more real but then the features are just slapped on with no consideration and you're relying in symbols of noses and eyes etc. Try grabbing photos of interesting looking people and stylize and exaggerate those. Collect art from artists who are good at stylizing and study how they stylize their stuff and why they stylize it as they do (this thread should give you bazillion artists to study: http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=241262).

    EDIT: This may be of interest for you: http://whitetrashpalace.deviantart.c...LE-1-169660607

    Last edited by TinyBird; May 6th, 2012 at 09:05 AM.
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    Ah sweet. That's very good. I've seen something similar to that before.

    I think the reason I felt I was finally finding my groove is because I was finding some eye and nose symbols I actually liked working with in a cartoon context. Is using symbols purposely a bad thing? Also I'm drawing most of these from life or photos of real people. Thanks for the insights.

    EDIT: I figured I should probably show some of my reference material. most of the pictures in the long collection of sketches is from drawing people in a pub.

    The first one is meant to look like Henry Rollins:
    Crits on Cartooning work
    I think his head is a bit rounder than I gave it.

    And then the last one is based off this 8 foot tall Russian Boxer
    Crits on Cartooning work
    I think the nose is a bit crooked on my piece, and should be more in line with the lip crease line (since the lip crease and center part of the nose between the nostrils should line up)

    Last edited by TheDonQuixotic; May 6th, 2012 at 09:10 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDonQuixotic View Post
    Is using symbols purposely a bad thing?
    Well, it's definitely not bad and it's unavoidable when stylizing stuff, but if there's no understanding of the subject and you rely on the stylization to avoid it, it shows badly in the end product.
    Like as I look at your images, everything that has a form in the photo is pretty flat in your drawing. Like with the Russian guy pic, it's not just that the nose is crooked, you have drawn it to be in a wrong angle too. And I don't think it was what you meant to do.
    And the Rollins' guy has a real, strong chin that I can just see jutting out, but this is not conveyed in your image (and I actually thought the first guy was supposed to be Samurai Jack-type of guy).

    But if you are using real people already, have you tried first doing as-close-to-real image of them first where you really study what they look like and how their faces are structured, and then trying to simplify that?

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    Also heh, this might not help you (sorry 'bout that) but I really had to give a go myself to that last guy, he's so bizarre.
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    Thanks for your insight on these things, as I try and understand what I ought to do. I've been working on figure drawing for the last couple of years so I was coming back to cartooning to see how I could apply that stuff here, though I don't think that I've achieved a perfect level on the figure drawing stuff yet of course

    I can totally see what you are saying about the russian guys nose. About the Rollins picture, I am trying to make it look rather flat. Thats another thing I've been experimenting with lately, particularly looking at Japanese woodblock prints art nouveau stuff and how they flatten images.

    I didn't do several takes on the people in the pub, but I have done similar things before. For instance, I've done a couple of different self portraits.
    This portrait for a figure drawing class a couple of years ago has some large issues with the shading but it's when I first really started looking at my own face.

    Crits on Cartooning work
    And then here is a recent attempt at a caricature of myself:
    Crits on Cartooning work
    I'm trying to focus on the angular nature of my chin and my sort of curved nose. My hair of course has changed style.

    And then the most symbolic abstract attempt is this one:
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    Here I just abstracted the eyes to dots and my thick eyebrows, and tried to emphasis the whole angular chin thing. Also I was just screwing around with my hair, trying to do something similar to what you see in art nouveau pieces, where the hair has heavy outlines that outline the entire silhouette of the hair and sort of flatten it, kind of like in this, sort of like this

    Also your piece is really cool. This guy has such a weird face! I love finding faces like that.

    I think it's more realistic than I want to go for. More like in a superhero comic, while I think I'm going for something more like Hewlett's work for the Gorillaz, or Jessica Fink's work. Not that I'm shying away from realism, because thats what my focus has largely been on for the last 2-3 years. Rather, I'm trying to see how much I can abstract pieces using stuff I've learned from realistic figure drawing.


    Also I hope I don't come off defensive. I'm just trying to understand stuff better. I'm just having trouble seeing things.

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    Well, I did go through your sketchbook before I made my first comment, which is why I still said "I'd put more effort into studying the structure of real faces".
    It's just that you seem to be jumping into trying things that you don't understand, like the art noveau hair, if you don't understand how hair moves and looks, it will not look good even if you superficially copy the style.

    I'm just having trouble seeing things.
    Exactly! And you learn to see things when you study the real things.

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    Symbols aren't bad in cartooning, but different ones are going to signify different things, so you have to use them with forethought and not just apply them across the board.

    And actually, while I think that you should study real stuff, you should also continue playing like this. Okay, you're going to end up with a lot of naive cartoons until you figure out design. That's fine. All those experiments help you figure out what works and what doesn't. Just don't skip the step where you think about what's not working and you'll be all right.

    The one thing I'd do if I were you would be study 3D structure and construction using simple 3D shapes. You say you want this stuff to be flat and that's going to be fabulous right up until the time you have to draw your character from a different angle, at which point you'll have to work out how all your symbols would look rotated 30 degrees. If you ever plan to draw scenes with these dudes, save yourself some future effort and start thinking construction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vineris View Post
    The one thing I'd do if I were you would be study 3D structure and construction using simple 3D shapes. You say you want this stuff to be flat and that's going to be fabulous right up until the time you have to draw your character from a different angle, at which point you'll have to work out how all your symbols would look rotated 30 degrees. If you ever plan to draw scenes with these dudes, save yourself some future effort and start thinking construction.
    Okay, that just clicked with me. I haven't actually thought about how I was going to approach symbols from different angles. I have mostly just been drawing everything at 3/4 view because... thats just kind a default. I will try doing more angles, and also the 3D construction stuff. Do you mean practicing drawing cubes an stuff then?

    EDIT: Oh wait, you mean practice drawing them as if they were formed from simple 3D shapes?

    Quote Originally Posted by vineris View Post
    you're going to end up with a lot of naive cartoons until you figure out design. That's fine. All those experiments help you figure out what works and what doesn't.
    Thats really why I'm confused. I got the original crits from a non-artist friend and he hasn't been able to articulate exactly what he means about what works or doesn't work.

    I don't know what doesn't work! To me, I feel like most of the stuff is working pretty great, and I feel like I'm settling into the symbolic language I want to use. But I am being told by artist and non artists that it isn't working, but I can't see it. I mean, I do see stuff like where an eye should be shifted down, or a nose is set at the wrong angle, but most pieces just fine.

    With realism stuff this is easier for me, because I can sort of compare and know "Ah! Yes, the arm is objectively too long here" or "His eyes are not that large", but with this cartooning stuff I don't always get it. I'm afraid I may just be too egoistical to see my own faults or something. I don't want to be doing that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDonQuixotic View Post
    EDIT: Oh wait, you mean practice drawing them as if they were formed from simple 3D shapes?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheDonQuixotic View Post
    Thats really why I'm confused. I got the original crits from a non-artist friend and he hasn't been able to articulate exactly what he means about what works or doesn't work.

    I don't know what doesn't work! To me, I feel like most of the stuff is working pretty great, and I feel like I'm settling into the symbolic language I want to use. But I am being told by artist and non artists that it isn't working, but I can't see it. I mean, I do see stuff like where an eye should be shifted down, or a nose is set at the wrong angle, but most pieces just fine.

    With realism stuff this is easier for me, because I can sort of compare and know "Ah! Yes, the arm is objectively too long here" or "His eyes are not that large", but with this cartooning stuff I don't always get it. I'm afraid I may just be too egoistical to see my own faults or something. I don't want to be doing that.
    Yeah, realism is a lot easier in some ways. There's more detail but fewer options. People don't get that about cartooning, they think you can just pick a symbol set and any set will do. But a cartoon is reality exaggerated for a purpose, and the whole design has to be in line with that purpose. Design is everything in cartooning.

    Start reading animation books and blogs, and looking at a LOT of successful cartoons. Look up the principles of design and try to figure out why other people's cartoons don't work. Often seeing mistakes in other people's stuff makes it easier to see your own later.

    One thing you might want to work on now is line quality. That's likely something that your non-artist friend notices.

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    Unhappy

    Right that makes sense actually. That was the way I was first taught drawing so I should probably go back to the construction stuff.

    I've been following a lot more cartoonist blogs and stuff lately and trying to identify what things I like and what things work.

    I'm really sorry to keep asking so many questions. Like I said, I'm just having trouble seeing things like everyone else. I don't want to sound defensive or challenge people's opinion I'm just trying to get as specific and clear understanding here. Can I just ask 2 things?

    1)You mention how cartooning is about design, if thats true, then what about my design is failing? What specifically am I doing thats not working?

    2)What do you mean about line quality? I've read stuff about line quality and gotten some books on it. What am I doing incorrectly?

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    I suggest you to get either "Fun with a Pencil" by Andrew Loomis, or "Cartoon Animation" by Preston Blair. Both show the systematic structural approach to cartoon drawing that you ought to adopt.

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    Cool. Just downloaded it. I've been doing stuff in his "Figure Drawing for All It's Worth".



    EDIT: So I just realized some stuff. I game Hewlett as an example, but perhaps a better one would be Pendelton Ward or Kate Beaton. Maybe something crossed between the two. This realization brings up a bigger question for me. How do you differentiate between style and skill? Is Kate Beaton "bad art"?

    It certainly doesn't look like the the typical Disney/Tex Avery examples you see in animation textbooks. Personally, I don't want to have that look either. Okay, so maybe I wouldn't go as far as "Hark a Vagrant" but that seems to bring up a legit issue.

    Last edited by TheDonQuixotic; May 6th, 2012 at 05:49 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDonQuixotic View Post
    EDIT: So I just realized some stuff. I game Hewlett as an example, but perhaps a better one would be Pendelton Ward or Kate Beaton. Maybe something crossed between the two. This realization brings up a bigger question for me. How do you differentiate between style and skill? Is Kate Beaton "bad art"?
    I would say that if a cartoon is successful, then the viewer likely never thinks to question the cartoonist's draftsmanship. No one is saying that a cartoonist needs to show off their skill at realistic drawing to validate their work.

    To me, both your cartoons and observational drawings simply read as "learning how to draw". It's apparent in your decision making. The drawings lack substance because the decisions you make are uninformed and undirected.

    I'm no cartoonist, but here's a paintover with a few points:
    Crits on Cartooning work

    #1: The issue I have with this face is that it doesn't communicate anything. You're breaking the face down into simpler shapes, but not shapes that signify anything particular.
    #2/#3: Both lack impact. Think of every character as their own composition. Where's you focal point? In my paintover of #2, it's the guy's chiseled features. In my paintover of #3, it's the contrast between his balding head and his squinty features. Keep this in mind when creating caricatures as well. Henry Rollins has a noticeably larger neck than the average person, so why would you draw him with an average size neck?
    #4: I don't know how to read that guy's face. There are curved lines that seem to suggest that he's fat, angular lines that say he's thin, and a few lines that don't recall any real world facial characteristics. In my paintover, he's fat.
    #5: This one I actually think is good. He reads clearly as being ape-like. But as a point about draftsmanship, there's no reason that he should have a full cheek on his right side, and a big cavity in place of a cheekbone on his left.

    I'm not suggesting any of my redlines are the "right way", just making a point.

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    So your first was refd on that Henry Rollins photo... I must say you haven't learned to see things well. Practically every feature is way different than the original, making your drawing a dull face and the original was so interesting and had a very different expression.
    Practice, I guess. It doesn't matter how long you drew faces, you need to practice them much more.
    You need quicker, bolder strokes as well and you need to draw a lot in order to get there as well.
    And you do something strange with hair. It's hanging from the head, flowing strangely, random, uncertain, the opposite of good cartoon hair. If you don't know how to draw hair, look at some good reference.

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    Though it's more towards the sort of Disney style you're not interested in, you should check out Rad How To - it's a great resource on how to apply structural knowledge in an energetic, cartoony way This post in particular makes a strong point.

    You mention Pendleton Ward and Kate Beaton as examples. Well, a lot of the appeal of their art comes from a strong sense of design, expressiveness, energy... they're all somewhat nebulous concepts, as is appeal itself. Kate Beaton especially makes fantastic use of line, flow, gesture (though maybe not in the sense you'd normally think of it)... Their work is simplified to the point where it makes the most impact and, as Grunler points out, your work right now is missing that impact.

    Last edited by Revidescent; May 7th, 2012 at 06:33 PM. Reason: I accidentally some words
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDonQuixotic View Post
    How do you differentiate between style and skill? Is Kate Beaton "bad art"?
    Kate Beaton's great because she's really funny. Part of it is in her writing, part of it is in her off-the-wall history-and-literature-nerd ideas and part of it is in her ability to communicate story and emotion through drawing. She's a lot better technically that you seem to realize.

    If you want to improve as a cartoonist, draw some comics (and post them online for feedback). The story, and how you tell it, is the important thing. Once you actually start telling stories visually rather than just drawing heads, it will be immediately apparent what areas you need to be working on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Giacomo View Post
    Kate Beaton's great because she's really funny. Part of it is in her writing, part of it is in her off-the-wall history-and-literature-nerd ideas and part of it is in her ability to communicate story and emotion through drawing. She's a lot better technically that you seem to realize.

    If you want to improve as a cartoonist, draw some comics (and post them online for feedback). The story, and how you tell it, is the important thing. Once you actually start telling stories visually rather than just drawing heads, it will be immediately apparent what areas you need to be working on.
    That's a good point. And I actually do think she is good, I'm just trying to understand why I think that.

    Having the context of story etc is important. I think you make a good point.
    Quote Originally Posted by Revidescent View Post
    Though it's more towards the sort of Disney style you're not interested in, you should check out Rad How To - it's a great resource on how to apply structural knowledge in an energetic, cartoony way This post in particular makes a strong point.

    You mention Pendleton Ward and Kate Beaton as examples. Well, a lot of the appeal of their art comes from a strong sense of design, expressiveness, energy... they're all somewhat nebulous concepts, as is appeal itself. Kate Beaton especially makes fantastic use of line, flow, gesture (though maybe not in the sense you'd normally think of it)... Their work is simplified to the point where it makes the most impact and, as Grunler points out, your work right now is missing that impact.
    Thank, I'll check it out. I'm also going to try and understand what I can do to improve my line stuff.


    Quote Originally Posted by Grunler View Post
    I would say that if a cartoon is successful, then the viewer likely never thinks to question the cartoonist's draftsmanship. No one is saying that a cartoonist needs to show off their skill at realistic drawing to validate their work.

    To me, both your cartoons and observational drawings simply read as "learning how to draw". It's apparent in your decision making. The drawings lack substance because the decisions you make are uninformed and undirected.

    I'm no cartoonist, but here's a paintover with a few points:


    #1: The issue I have with this face is that it doesn't communicate anything. You're breaking the face down into simpler shapes, but not shapes that signify anything particular.
    #2/#3: Both lack impact. Think of every character as their own composition. Where's you focal point? In my paintover of #2, it's the guy's chiseled features. In my paintover of #3, it's the contrast between his balding head and his squinty features. Keep this in mind when creating caricatures as well. Henry Rollins has a noticeably larger neck than the average person, so why would you draw him with an average size neck?
    #4: I don't know how to read that guy's face. There are curved lines that seem to suggest that he's fat, angular lines that say he's thin, and a few lines that don't recall any real world facial characteristics. In my paintover, he's fat.
    #5: This one I actually think is good. He reads clearly as being ape-like. But as a point about draftsmanship, there's no reason that he should have a full cheek on his right side, and a big cavity in place of a cheekbone on his left.

    I'm not suggesting any of my redlines are the "right way", just making a point.
    Thanks Grunler. The paint overs help a lot. Thats a lot of what I'm having trouble is visualizing the differences people are talking about. There are a lot of little points I'm forgetting, and I think that having them pointed out to me helps. They all add up in the end.

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