Thursday, October 8, 2015


As with all artists, young people will come to me for drawing advice. Some hints are heeded more readily than others. I didn’t make up most of them. They were handed down to me. Here’s some hints that generally aren’t taken:

STOP WATCHING CARTOONS FOR SIX MONTHS. Most young cartoonists (and currently, many older ones) find it impossible for even a day. I’ve done it longer than that, just to get the accepted “way of doing things” out of my head and to find my own ways.

DON’T DRAW CHARACTERS DOING NOTHING. So commonly, artists will stick to drawing “presentation” poses: characters with one hand up, signaling “hello” in that 1930s way; standing straight with hands on hips; or doing standard eye-pop stances. These are so common because they’re the easiest to draw. Better to draw a character with brains. Draw them actually doing specific things that challenge your own skill. (My favorite is dancing.) A sketchbook should be filled with stuff you haven’t tried yet, not just “funny” heads & “cartoony” poses. And, for heaven’s sake, draw groups of them, two or more, reacting to each other in conversation, as well as objects and backgrounds. Then apply the stuff you have down pat in your finished art.
Now that “exaggerated” cartooning has become so common (it was held in low regard until the 1990s), I suppose my own reaction has been to try to “fake it” less. I want my drawings to be sophisticated as well as fun.
I was present when someone said to Ralph Bakshi that my work was “just like Jim Tyer”. Ralph said, “Naw, Milt’s work has more intellect than Tyer’s.” Whether one would see that as good or bad (even Ralph), it was a proud moment for me.

FORGET CIRCLES FOR A CHANGE; SQUARE THE CONSTRUCTION DRAWING OFF. Can add solidity and even speed. You can become more aware of what your drawings are because the characters are solid objects, not superficial line approximations. Give your characters collar bones and hips. Here’s a heresy for you: put your Preston Blair book away now and then and look at people and animals with your own eyes.

Returning to drawing after a sabbatical, I’m using photos of dancers whose poses are a little new for me to try. In no way am I hinting that these drawings are perfect, or that I’d even allow them to be seen elsewhere. Even as I scan them, I’m seeing errors. They’re the kind of sketches I’ll wait another day to review and repair. Gotta risk being strange before you can be good.




nodnarB said...

Thanks Milton!!!

paul said...

Amen Miltie! I just recently quit watching cartoons for 5 months, for me, personally.