Thursday, September 27, 2007

A conversation with a young girl animator...

First...who the heck am I commenting on your blog? I'm someone who studied and worked in animation and was a licensed cartoon character artist. Stopped for a few years to raise my young daughter and now works freelancing as a character designer and illustrator. I suppose that's my disclaimer like.."the words you are about to read have a lot of experience behind them"....

I am an avid reader of John K's blog as well, where I found your post. Which lead to your blog..which I read...

I grew up, as you did, a Disney fanatic. By the time I was four, I wanted to work for them. Eventually, I was trained by them as a character artist for merchandise and freelanced regularly. It was a realization of a dream in some ways and an eye opening experience to the Dirty side of Disney. BUT... I have never lost my "awe" of the art. Today, they are not what they once were, but I have high hopes seated on the back of John Lassiter.

As I got older, watched more and more different kinds of animation, my knowledge of techniques..styles...GENRES grew. I love Hanna Barbera and Warner Bros and Terry Tunes and Jay Ward and Walter Lanz.....Aardman...Colossal Pictures, "Aeon Flux" I drool over Miyazaki and Pixar...and I freakin' love Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends. BUT .... my love or dislike of one has no effect on my feelings on another. Cause I see them as seperate styles and genres. I don't compare Norman Rockwell to Rauschenburg. But I like them both. There's plenty of art that's not my cup of tea, but all of it, I respect. Because that's someone's soul up on that canvas or at least their sense of humor. Or someone's three+ years of sweat and skill in that film.
And one can debate anything...on and on..Skill vs. Style...Story vs. Comedy...Cartoon vs, Animation. The actual word "cartoon" comes from Italian cartone "pasteboard, a sketch of a planned drawing or painting done on heavy paper," from carta "sheet of paper," from Latin charta "piece of papyrus". Da Vinci's and Michealangelo's sketches and studies are called CARTOONS. Cartoons are not by definition funny. They are a reflection of life which is all things...funny...touching, sad , grotesque, sarcastic, weird, heartbreaking.. magical.. satirical..political...and damn it, I'll say it....sweet and CUTE.
If you can love Robert can believe that the Frank and Ollie boys existed. Because Robert Crumb is a reaction to that culture. The man lusts after the early twentieth century. Unfortunately for him, he was born too late and into a wacky family...but we all benefitted...from his..kookiness.
I had the pleasure of meeting Chuck Jones while working on some Warner Bros. merchandise. He was his work. He was sweet, funny, mischeivous, flirtatious and so kind. I also had the greatest thrill to correspond with Charles Schulz. He was as dry and subtlely funny as Peanuts. Artists of that era poured their whole beings into their work. And if there is something horribly wrong with cartoons today, it's that young cartoonists/animators don't get that. When I read your blog... I read a dismissal of an entire generations' work. And that sucks. Take from everything...draw from every artistic expression available..put it in your mental blender and consume until full...then pour out what you don't want. But be nourished by some parts of all of it.

John K- I respect him..I love Ren and Stimpy... I'm not a huge fan of his ego, remember: He is only one source. Choose your mentors carefully or mix and match them. He shows only his way...or the highway. That's fine if you want to be like him. But he took so much from so many....I think the best way to follow him is by following all who came before him. And they...were all classically trained artists. So draw...draw...draw and draw some more. And best of luck. I love to see young women aspiring to be cartoonists..there weren't many when I was aspiring....Kelly


zoe said...

Kelly, I am at once honored that you composed such a heartfelt response to my blog, but also a little confused about your interpretation of what I'm writing about.

What hurts hardest is when you say, "When I read your blog, I read a dismissal of an entire generation's work." I couldn't imagine doing such a thing – I know the post about vulnerability seemed kind of harsh on Disney, and that's why I wrote another right after to follow up and clarify where I'm coming from.

Frankly, I am also mystified at what seems like a defense of Chuck Jones and Charles Schulz, as though I had or would ever say anything against them. It’s rather frustrating for someone to imply that you don’t love your heroes enough!

If you think I share JohnK's prejudice that cartoons must be funny above all else, you won't find anything in my blog to suggest that. I don’t have any particular fealty to him, but he does have the distinction of doing the most of anyone out there to try and teach the next generation (at least on the medium of the internet), which I appreciate and avail myself of.

This blog is not intended to be an exercise in criticism, and I don’t believe that it is, either. It’s a diary of just trying to take in all this material, to learn how to draw and animate well, and above all, to express something emotionally using the medium of cartoons. It’s also where I go to write when I’m frustrated: frustrated with the process frustrated with my artistic heroes, frustrated with myself. When things are going great, when I find I am learning something new, when everything flows from the heart…those times, I don’t write, because I’m too busy drawing.

Your encouragement is still deeply appreciated, and I hope you check back when the mood strikes you.


Kelly Light said...

"In the case of #1, there is a kind of goody-two-shoes, drink-your-milk, go-to-bed-early version of childhood, the kind kids affect when they're trying to please their mothers or their teachers. This kind of stuff gets you a pat on the head and sometimes a cookie, because it's comforting and nonthreatening. When you think about this kind of stuff coming out of the hands and minds of grown men, however, it's nothing short of perverse. The Frank/Ollie "boys" don't exist! (Thank God)."

That was the paragraph that moved me to write. Believe me I get the blog as emotional spew thing.... but I was hoping to counter act he anti-Disney (more specifically the artists that worked there) feelings you were having by a little of my personal experience with the 2 artists I could speak of with first hand experience. Obviously they're not Frank and Ollie but they were artists of that age and of that ilk.... hence the bringing up their names..

Out of the pencils of Grown ups who never lost the kid within has come (in my opinion) most of the great art of the last 100+ years. From Doctor Seuss to Maurice Sendak ...I had trouble with that word "perverse". ??? I see John K's current work more along that line. Is he giving away free lessons on his blog? Sure... but I think it's feeding a need in him more than anything else. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.? I don't dismiss his opinion or knowledge, but I take it with a gigantic huge mountain of salt.
So, it's rough to have a diary that others read, and can comment on, but that's the nature of the blog. I always feel a little sad to read John K's blog comments with so many young artist's not looking beyond what he's selling. I spoke up this one wasn't meant to be advesarial but maybe a as a nudge back to when you saw things with a little more awe. Kelly

zoe said...

Maybe one of the reasons that I feel so critical of that Frank/Ollie innocence is because I remember often feeling frightened, mean, selfish, and otherwise very flawed as a child. Most of the other kids around me were, too. I always liked Peanuts a lot because I think it represented the whole reality of childhood, how the sweetness is tempered by human weaknesses. It's that balance that I have always found lacking in characters like Mowgli, or Wart, or even Hogarth. When Lilo came around in "Lilo & Stitch", I thought to myself, "Finally!" Here is a real little girl, one I could finally relate to. Bill Watterson once said "I've never understood people who remember childhood as an idyllic time." For me, it's not an indictment of innocence or fantasy, but just a reminder that the richness and truth of childhood is darker and more complex than I have usually seen in Disney. The art, of course, is unassailable, and it's my life's hope to some day approach their skill and expressive beauty.

Thanks for the response, it takes a load off my mind.