Sunday, May 19, 2013

Is there an art director in the house?

Continuing with the last post's theme of using reference material to create a suburban background, I made some obvious choices and came up with this:
Well, it's a house.  Which either faces west into a setting sun or east into a rising one.  In either case, it's pretty straight forward and not too exciting.

A studio would have an art director overseeing background work so as to maintain the look and feel of the project.  I doubt if the uninspiring background I drew would pass muster.  In fact, I doubt if it would be approved beyond the blue pencil stage. 

You'd probably want more dramatic angles; maybe a height perspective.  Whenever you have the opportunity watch Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated.  Buildings are always featured from a bird's eye view or a worm's eye view.  In either case, the effect is melodramatic.  This is the very obvious way we create interest in our sets and then draw attention to our characters and the action of the cartoon.  Makes sense, doesn't it?

Maybe we ought to try drawing a couple of established background shots before continuing.  Here's a couple that I like:
This is from Mighty B! which is supposedly based in San Francisco.  I really like this imaginative cartoon and I generally like the sets.  This example of a police station is great. 

Note the background: enough info to convey hilly San Francisco but otherwise extremely simple.  A squiggly line, one side painted green, with some translucent rectangles to represent buildings. 

This set would be an excellent drawing exercise because there it satisfies 2 competing priorities: an impulse to "overdraw" and make things look almost photo-realistic (shading, perspective, color) but also the necessity to keep the composition very simple.  Melodramatic, but simple.

Here's Huckleberry Hound's Foreign Legion fortress:
Now compare this very early 60s H-B background to the recent Mighty B! background above.  Again, the battle for competing priorities has been won by the need to keep things extremely simple.  The shading, the light, the perspective, the colors, the textures... all highly realistic.  And yet the composition is so simple: we never loose sight of the fact it's a cartoon.

An art director would keep the background artist's impulses in check.  By all means incorporate realism, but keep the composition so simple we remain focused on the characters and the action.  We don't need distractions, we need simple and declarative paintings against which our action takes place.  We want consistency in color, in tone, in the look and feel...

Well, never too late to learn.  Let's treat the police station painting as an exercise and see what it reveals.  Onward, then!

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