Saturday, February 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Wendy Liebman!

Some time back I wrote a post in reference to a documentary called The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story, which was all about the longtime Disney songwriting team, Bob and Dick Sherman. The documentary was created by cousins, Jeff and Greg Sherman, the sons respectively of Bob and Dick. While the doc covered much of their wonderful songwriting legacy, it was also notable for its rather shocking revelation that these two talented brothers were estranged from each other outside of their professional career, and avoided each other in their personal lives. I'd had no idea of this before seeing the film, nor did the majority of their fans I'd reckon, so it was rather sad to find this out.

However, there was also another revelation that I discovered while watching the film, but this was a very happy one. It so happens that Jeff Sherman is married to Wendy Liebman, the very cute and funny comedienne! Sometime after I'd posted my thoughts on the film, Jeff Sherman actually took the time to set some points straight in the comments section of my blog regarding my impressions from viewing the documentary. In my response, I mentioned how I was pleasantly surprised to find out his wife was Wendy Liebman, as I've long admired her comedy routines. I love her unique style of humour, where she continues a sentence past the point you assume it's ending, allowing the punchline to trail off under her breath. Her timing and delivery are impeccable. (In fact, I even have a clip of her from a routine she performed some years ago at Montreal's Just For Laughs comedy fest that I include in a montage of video clips that I have my Sheridan animation students sketch from, as Wendy has such a wonderfully expressive face.)

Not long afterward, I received a very nice email from Wendy herself saying how much she enjoyed the caricature of The Sherman Brothers and thanking me for my kind words regarding her comedy act. I was thrilled to hear from her and wanted to do a caricature of her someday. Though it's been awhile since that time, I have purposely waited until now to post this recent caricature of Wendy Liebman, so that I may honor this very sweet and talented lady on her birthday. So, Happy Birthday, Wendy, and keep on making us laugh!

Here is a clip from YouTube that shows Wendy at her best:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's Doodle Time!

Usually I reserve this blog to just show my finished art, or maybe something in progress for a tutorial. Perhaps once in awhile though, I might post some of my doodles just for fun. Here are some recent doodles, mostly sketched while having lunch and reading my daily Globe and Mail at a favourite restaurant. After reading all the news I'm interested in, I'll start sketching aimlessly in whatever patches of bare space I can find among the pages of the newspaper.

My favourite subject matter is cartooning the human face, as I love to explore the myriad shapes, sizes, and relative placement of facial features on various head shapes. Admittedly, most of my doodles end up being of cute cartoon girls, as that is a subject I can never tire of drawing! The great thing about doodling on newspaper is that it is so completely inviting and tempting. Unlike doodling on clean white fresh pages in a sketchbook, which can be rather intimidating due to the commitment of the act, sketching on newspaper is just like getting more use out of something that was destined for the recycling bin anyway. Also, there is nothing quite so pleasing as the feel of a ballpoint pen on soft, padded newsprint.

I especially like to doodle because I feel I can draw completely in my own natural style, as loose, spontaneous and free of the constraints I might place on myself when drawing for a paid commission, particularly when the client is expecting something to look a certain way. When one doodles, there is the distinct pleasure of knowing that you are doing it just for yourself, not subject to anybody else's approval nor what they would be willing to pay for it. No, you yourself are the only one to satisfy and, heck, even if you don't like it, you haven't invested much time or effort in creating it. If it's good, maybe you'll file it away for future reference, and if not, it joins the rest of the newspaper in the aforementioned recycling bin.

More cute girls. (Hey, how did that one funny looking guy get in there?)

Often, these cute cartoon girls make an appearance right after I've solved my Sudoku puzzle. Could somebody please check to make sure I put all the numbers in the right place? Thanks...

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Half Century Of Me...

"Holy Crap - I'm 50!!!"

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Drawing Cartoon Eyes

I came across this film still from Disney's The Princess and the Frog by way of John Kricfalusi's blog. John has been pointing out (quite correctly in my opinion) how badly designed and drawn the TV shows from the 80's were. Furthermore, he contends that those bland and soulless 80's character designs live on to this day, not only on TV but also in feature film animation. Though I might be rather more charitable towards Disney's features of the last 20 years, I can't say that John is off target in this criticism either, especially when I see an example like the following that he includes:

John's correct in his assertion that some of Disney's male and female leads are bland and generic in design. I too feel like Prince Naveen in The Princess and the Frog is highly derivative of Prince Eric and Aladdin who came before him. Ideally, I'd like to have seen Naveen designed more ethnically exotic in his actual features, rather than just his flesh colour, perhaps more like the young Omar Sharif, for example. However, despite this criticism, I will defend the actual drawing and animation of Naveen as being highly competent. He is solidly drawn, if uninspired in design.

I'm afraid, however, that I cannot say the same for the three young ladies looking so adoringly at Naveen in this particular scene (undoubtedly drawn by a different animator than the one handling Naveen). I'm sorry to say that I find the drawing of these three very amateurish - more the kind of drawing I'd equate with the aforementioned 80's TV animation. I recall thinking the same thing when I saw the village sequence that opened Beauty and the Beast. There were a lot of village folk very poorly drawn and animated in that film, though all of the principal characters were handled so well. I think things got better in subsequent films, however, and I was glad to see it. But, by virtue of The Princess and the Frog being Disney's first traditionally animated feature in six years, it looks like they're saddled with some newbie animators, likely by way of TV animation, who just aren't up to speed yet with their drawing.

As it happens, I've just lectured about the design and function in drawing eyes as part of my Character Design class at Sheridan this past week, so I'd like to offer my thoughts on that subject in regard to this particular still from the Disney film, as well as this suggested revision in some of the drawing. First of all, I find the construction lacking in the drawings of these three girls, especially when compared to the better drawn Naveen. I think the head construction on all three could be tightened up a bit, and the 2nd girl could do with a more substantial nose structure too. Mostly, though, it's the construction and direction of the eyes on all three that bothers me the most. Girl #1 has eyes that are spreading out too large and show no feeling of being spherical eyeballs behind the surrounding flesh, due to the pupils being drawn without regard to the rounded surface they exist on. Girl #2 at least has elliptical pupils, suggesting a turning of form, yet they are not even close to being directed towards Naveen's eyes in order to meet his gaze. I haven't drawn Girl #3, but her pupils, drawn as perfect circles, also show no indication of turning on a rounded surface and she appears to be looking at something offscreen beyond Naveen's left ear.

I must admit, poorly drawn and unfocused eyes are a big pet peeve of mine, as it it takes so little extra effort to draw them well. Here are a couple of notes from the lecture I give on cartoon eyes:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Birthday, Tommy Smothers!

I've always been a big fan of Tom and Dick, the Smothers Brothers. Despite being only about 8 years old at the time, I still vaguely remember watching their original The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS, and I also recall they had a short lived variety show in the 70s, when I was in high school. But it was their revived series in the late 80s that I remember best and that brought them back to wide acclaim, with fans also turning out in droves to see them again on the concert circuit. Incidentally, that was the series that also introduced us to Tommy as "The Yo-Yo Man". I was lucky enough to see them in concert twice in the late 80s and more recently around 2000.

Interestingly, like other comedy teams before them such as Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, and Martin and Lewis, it was the funny member of each team that was actually the guiding force behind their respective acts. Tommy Smothers, though he played his onstage persona as a childlike, stammering dimwit, was very much in control of the act. Fortunately, younger brother Dick seemed quite content to allow Tommy to direct the course, as Dick was more at ease with his varied offstage hobbies like auto racing and tending his vineyard. But Tommy was the more intense political animal, always doing battle with the establishment, including his sly humourous jibes at both the Johnson and the Nixon administrations in their original TV variety series.

I must admit, my enjoyment of the Smothers Brothers had less to do with their political jests and more to do with their actual song routines, in which a folk song would be started seriously but at some point would be humourously sabotaged by the mischievous Tommy. Here is a YouTube clip of one of their best routines, in a concert with The Boston Pops dating back to probably around 1990. So, here's a toast to Tommy Smothers on his birthday! (Even if Mom always liked his brother Dick best)