Archive for category Subject: Cartoons

Modern Cartooning || Christopher Hart

The problem with books on cartooning is that they tend not to be written by people whose work you know and love. The result is that, however good they may be, they don’t produce a recognisable result. The obverse of that, of course, can be a good thing: a cartoonist’s work is highly individual and the last thing you want is not to have a style of your own. At least this way you don’t get sucked in by emulating someone you already admire.

So, here I am sitting on the fence. Can I have my cake and eat it? Is it even wise to try to eat cake while sitting on a wooden divider of territory?

I’m going to leave that one (rather like myself) hanging in the air. I think we’re on safer ground if we start to talk about the techniques of drawing cartoons, of which there’s plenty here. The first thing to say is that this is a book about creating characters, not (I contend) about cartooning itself. A cartoon can be a strip or a single drawing, but the point is that it tells a story and there’s none of that here. All the figures stand entirely alone and it’s up to you to put them together if you want to.

The other issue I have is the strongly 1960’s feel to the style and not, I think, in a retro way. This rather limits the appeal of the book. The other factor is that the characters all look like squared-off Manga figures (coincidentally, I’ve reviewed a Manga series by the same author in this batch). It’s the simplified, graphic bodies and the over-emphasised eyes that do it. Then again, if you want to be able to create cartoon characters with a few simple lines and are prepared (as you should be) to do a lot of adaptation, there’s much to learn and a great deal of sound instruction and advice here.

So, come on, what are you saying, should we buy the book or not? Well, I’m still stuck on this fence, remember and I can’t climb down until someone takes this rather delicious chocolate cake off me. I think this is a book you should look at if you can, and certainly before you buy. If you like it, you’ll thank me for bringing it to your attention and, if not, for giving you the heads-up. Now can I have my cake back please?

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Figure Drawing for Comics and Graphic Novels || Daniel Cooney

I’ve seen a number of books on drawing strips over the years and this is easily the best because it manages to feel both contemporary and timeless. The hurdle that all books like this have to get over is that they can’t illustrate real-life examples, nor can they do a sustained book-length demonstration; everything has to be covered in a few pages leaving you, the reader, to work out how to develop the ideas (probably just when you’d welcome some advice on that score).

What Daniel Cooney doesn’t do is attempt to emulate any particular style or genre (although there’s ample evidence that he’s a pretty good inker), but rather show you how to get to grips with the basics, such as figure and character modelling, as well as the construction of strips, including some concise examples of right and wrong.

I’ve waxed lyrical elsewhere about the virtues of Quarto, who put this together. If ever a book needed a design-led approach, it’s this one and they’ve acquitted themselves well.

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Super-Cute Chibis to draw & paint || Joanna Zhou

Personally, I can’t stand this book. I don’t like the style and I can’t help feeling there’s something just slightly wrong about the whole thing.

However, it’s a well-established form and it’s very popular so, is this book any good and will it help the budding practitioner of the style? Well, yes and yes. Joanna gives you forty different demonstrations of both children and animals. Each is presented in a double-page spread with the outline shapes and a series of development drawings that show you the build-up as well as a variety of poses and facial expressions. It’s neatly done without over-complication and, if this is what you aspire to draw, there’s no doubt this forms an excellent primer.

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The Cartoonist's Workbook (2nd Edition) || Robin Hall

It’s good to see this imaginatively-presented look at the art of cartooning back in print.

Presented almost entirely as a series of cartoons, there’s something endearing and at the same time both obvious and not-obvious about this way of doing things. The essence of a good cartoon is to sum up an idea in a single drawing and present it in a way that the viewer “gets” immediately. Often, this is something that would require several paragraphs or even pages to put in print, so what better way to describe the art of cartooning that by drawing itself?

That, of course, is the hard part, because the task Robin immediately sets himself is to reduce everything he does to its basics and there are, inevitably, times when you’re going to want to shout, “Oh, for goodness sake man, just write it down”, but they’re relatively few and far between and Robin’s approach is far more honest than mannered, so I don’t think you’re going to end up hating him.

Is cartooning instinctive or can it be taught? Answers in one frame only, please.

First published 1995, reprinted 2006 (second edition date not given)

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