Saturday, June 30, 2007

TOLSTOY'S "WHAT IS ART?"

That's Tolstoy pictured above. I was thumbing through his "What is Art?" today and I was reminded all over again of what a terrific thinker the man was. I don't always agree but it doesn't matter. The best best writers are worth reading whether you agree or not.

Here's (above) Tolstoy's definition of art. It has to do with the transmission of experience. I assume he means transmission with skill but he doesn't say that.

The word "infected" is important. It keeps coming up again and again. A great work of art infects its audience like a benign disease. They're mostly incapable of resisting the infection and they'll likely spread it to others. That's how art contributes to the spread of great ideas.
Some people through malice or stupidity are resistent to artistic infection and Tolstoy has no use for them. For Tolstoy critics fall into this category.


I wonder what Tolstoy would make of the picture of the grimacing boy above. My guess is that he'd hate it. He believed that in order to infect, a work of art has to be capable of infecting. In other words, it must contain an experience that people will welcome or that touches them deeply.


Tolstoy was a Christian and he believed that Christian themes are uniquely appealing because they deal with the universal brotherhood of man and exclude nobody. He said art can inadvertantly become exclusionary, appealing only to aristocrats or to people we'd call "hip" today. Amazingly he said Beethoven's Ninth was like that. It was something for the art crowd.

Examples of art he approved of were Dickens "Christmas Carol" and "David Copperfield" and Hugo's "Les Miserables."

Dickens also put a lot of stock in sincerity. The editor who wrote the preface thought this was ridiculous since, if you take it literally, it means that an actor who plays a killer must really want to kill the other actors. Maybe Tolstoy did take it to this extreme but the idea is still useful on some level.

Sincerity and earnestness is precicely what a lot of modern media lacks. It's a measure of the greatness of some writers that they dare to voice great truths even though the truths are intuitive and are often difficult to express with words.


Friday, June 29, 2007

MORE CARTOON ANATOMY!

How about a few more words on how laughter happens? I'm obsessed with finding out why the cheek enlarges so much, even for a smile as shown above. Mark Mayerson says the cheeks enlarge to accommodate the extra skin which is pushed out of the way by the smile. He's
almost certainly right, but... well... where's the wrinkles you'd expect to see if skin was being packed that way? And why don't you see the skin traveling upward in steps, into the cheek?
I really shouldn't pursue this. The answer is probably obvious and I'm just being dense.


Here's a picture (above) that seems to confirm Mark's opinion. The cheeks don't bunch up much, maybe because the skin is spread all over the side of the face. Boy, this face resembles a screaming baboon!

The small picture on the lower left (above) is interesting. It shows the lower jaw receding backwards into the face as the woman laughs. The upper teeth don't seem to move much.


Of course it's an effort to hold a smile very long. You get tired of keeping the cheeks up. When the strain becomes unbearable (above) you stop supporting the cheeks and the meat collapses downward, back into it's home in the muzzle.
I've seen lots of flabby muzzles, especially on middle aged men and Star Wars fans.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

ANATOMY FOR CARTOONISTS

Right now I'm reading "The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression" by Gary Faigin.
I must have seen this book in stores and on friends' shelves dozens of times and for some reason it never made an impression on me. Maybe all the formal anatomy put me off, maybe the author's drawing style failed to impress. It's funny how you can be indifferent to something one day and be utterly blown away by it the next. That's what happened here. I love this book now!


Here's a sample lesson dealing with the way we smile. I'll begin with a description of the human mouth. OK, think of the mouth as a Coke can. The teeth (above) wrap around the can then, at the ends, the mouth flares out a little to the side.


Here's (above, left) a downshot of the human muzzle at rest. The Coke can effect isn't evident because the muscles around the mouth are slack and sagging and cover up the can. The mouth is flat against the face.
Now the face smiles (above, right). The smile muscles pull back the skin around the mouth and stretch it in the direction of the ear. The Coke can is now revealed.


I know what you're thinking: what happened to the muscles that used to sag and droop around the muzzle? Where did they go? The answer is that they travelled up into the cheeks!!!! Um... well... don't quote me on that.
I'm ashamed to say that I don't know how muscles expand and contract. I assume the fibers elongate and contract like the straw tube in a Chinese finger trap. Whatever the real explanation I prefer to think that the mouth muscles have little legs and run up into the cheeks where they sit and play cards till the mouth is ready to normalize again. It's my blog so I can believe whatever I want.

The chin seems to raise a little when we smile. I suppose that's because the skin and muscles in that area stretch out and become thin. That dimple on the extreme left, next to the cheek, seems to indicate that a muscle up there is pulling on the chin.
Fascinating, isn't it!? I'll post more about this as I read it.


BTW, thanks to the commenter who recommended this book a couple of weeks ago!

Monday, June 25, 2007

BE BACK THURSDAY!

Bye the way, Jenny Lerew wrote in to say that "Dodsworth" will be on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) this Saturday at 5 pm! Is that 5 pm Pacific Time? I think so.

The film isn't for everybody. It's not cinematic and it's all talking -- no action. It's pure melodrama. What makes it worth watching is that in the details it manages to sketch out the author's image of an ideal man, which is close to my own.

It raises interesting questions about the nature of masculinity, the purpose of life and how it should be lived, and what romance consists of. If you hated my lion post you're not going to like this film because it's all about a lion.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

ME ON A HAPPY MEAL


I've been walking around Disneyland all day and my feet are killing me! I need a subject for a quick post and this Happy Meal is it. This won't impress adults very much but if any kids are reading this they'll think I'm a demi-god for appearing on a McDonald's box.

The artist doesn't want me to use his name so don't try to pry it out of me!




Saturday, June 23, 2007

SHOULD WE STRIVE FOR GOOD TASTE?

Gladys: "You know, I was thinking...don't you guys think good taste sucks? I mean, what is good taste but just the commonly agreed opinion about things? What if the common wisdom is wrong?"

Petunia: " Hmmmm. I don't know, Gladys. You have to anchor your opinions in something outside yourself. If you only have your own reason and emotions to judge things by you'll drift off into craziness and selfish behavior."

Marigold: "I think we're anchored. I mean I wouldn't run around naked on this tree limb if I thought it would fall. "
Violet: "Um, Marigold...I think Petunia meant "anchored" in a philosophical sense."

Marigold: "Oh..."


Sunflower: "Er... can I say something? It seems to me that the Greeks figured this thing out long ago. For them good taste was an aspect of virtue and virtue was something public. Good taste had something to do with making choices that were good for society. So..."
"

Mildred: "Holy Cow! Look! IT'S A MAN!!!!!!


Fred: "Grrrrr! I heard you girls babbling! None of you got it right!! Good taste is something for consumers of art to argue about! For the makers of art there's only the quest for greatness of spirit, for mastery over nature, for something worthy of the miraculous minds we were born with!!!!"


Girls: " (Gasp!) EEEEK! Run for the Hills! Let's book! Eeeeeekkk!!!!!! Eeeeekkk!!!!!!!!!"





EDWIN SMITH, PHOTOGRAPHER

Edwin Smith was an English photographer who did most of the pictures he's famous for in the 1950s. I don't think any of his photos are well-known. He's renowned instead for the consistency of his work. Almost every major picture he took was thought provoking in some way. You won't get a sense of what I'm talking about if you look at the small versions. Be sure to click to enlarge.





Seen large the wrought iron gazebo above is awe inspiring. Imagine a building that large which serves no purpose except to enclose an area and make us aware of the space inside. Our senses are so adjusted that we find space itself beautiful when it's presented to us in the right way. The builder added swirling vine shapes to remind us how profound the simplest things in nature are.


Here's (above) a back room in a country church. The irregular slate floors and white, chalky walls enclose the space perfectly. The window admits diffused light into the room. It's a great window because its design elements of mathematical, intellectual purity co-exist with the primitive, textured, irregular walls that surround it. People are like that -- intellectually sophisticated and primitive at the same time. Even the furniture speaks about this dual nature of ours. Without using words or arguments the room forces us to think about who we are and how we fit into the world.

Here (above) are Roman-type sculptures and buildings in a garden setting. It's a Utopian vision of high human ideals co-existing with nature. A book trying to make the same point would risk skepticism by the reader. Art makes the point wordlessly and it sticks. Visual art is like music. It bypasses intellectual barriers and carries its argument directly to the viewer's mind. Artists have it in their power to change the world every bit as much as novelists and philosophers.


Friday, June 22, 2007

MY HERO, BOB CLAMPETT


I just re-read John K's two excellent posts about "Kitty Kornered" and they left me so excited that I feel I have to get invoved and say something about Clampett too. The problem is that I am sooooo sleepy! As soon as I dot the last "i" I'm outta here. Forget spell check! Forget making sense!
Anyway that's the young Clampett above. That was the first of his three major "looks."
Here's (above) the second. It's the Gabe Swaar Clampett, the 50s Madison Avenue ad man Clampett. Man, I'd kill to have a pair of glasses like that!

Here's (above) the Clampett I knew, the Roy Orbinson Clampett. That's Daws Butler standing beside him.


Here's (above) a publicity shot showing Clampett with Cecil looking very, very phallic behind him. Is that Beany looking like a wino on the ground? Maybe the mop is a reference to the "Rag Mopp" song that Cecil used to sing.


Bob was a hero for all cartoonists because he believed in funny cartoons. In his best cartoons he even went beyond funny, making cartoons that were uniquely cinematic and musical without sacrificing any of the humor. Look at "Coal Black", "Great Piggy Bank Robbery" "Kitty Kornered" and "Book Review". These are visceral films. They're musical even with the sound turned low. They're pure cinema. If you liked Eisenstein's "Odessa Steps" sequence you'll have no trouble appreciating Clampett.
Clampett seems to have been the only Warners director who genuinely liked music. Bob had a collection of Boogie Woogie, swing, jazz and classical and it was intended for use. You get the feeling the other directors considered music to be an afterthought. They worked with Carl Stalling (pictured above) and the Warner Brothers Orchestra... and they wasted them!!!!! Leon was even willing to foot the bill for occasional visiting musicians like Ellington's "Jump for Joy" musicians who worked on Coal Black. Only Clampett took advantage of the situation.
I know, some body's saying "What about 'What's opera Doc' ? Jones and Freleng took plenty of advantage!" No they didn't, not really. I love Jones' opera films but they were almost literal interpretations of the music they were associated with. Clampett egged Stalling on to blend musical styles in the same cartoon. Look at Coal Black where Boogie Woogie blends with Mozart. Even rhythmic dialogue voices and effects become part of the music.
But Bob went even further than that. He paced the films themselves as if they were music! You know the feeling you get when you watch Eisenstein's "Odessa steps" sequence? You feel like you're hearing music even though the film is silent. Bob could do that with funny cartoons! He had a feeling for film, something like the way Tito Puente had a feel for orchestral arrangements. It put his best work miles ahead of the competition!



Bob liked broad action and I'm always afraid that detractors will say about him, "Sure, he was good, if you like big takes and stretched bodies, but cartoons should be about more than that. You get tired of that stuff after a while." My answer is "yes, you would get tired of it and that's why there's tons of subtle action in most of Clampett's cartoons!"
But let's suppose Bob was mistaken and put in too much over-the-top stuff. For Pete's Sake, don't let your distaste for that blind you to the million other innovations in the films. Don't hate Odessa Steps just because you hate to see a baby get hurt!


As a closing shot I thought I'd put up a picture (above) of Bob with Daws Butler and Stan Freberg. Poor Bob! The shutter probably got him in one of those wincing "inbetween" poses I was talking about a couple of posts ago. It's not a flattering picture and Bob was probably crest-fallen when he saw it, but it's funny that he got caught that way. I like to think that Bob laughed when he saw it, even if he had to threaten the photographer with death a minute later.
Now beautiful, beautiful sleep....!


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

KISSING DOODLES



We're all in a romantic mood from reading about the vist to Uncle Eddie ("Theory Corner for Women" a couple of days ago); what could be more appropriate than some kissing drawings?



Tuesday, June 19, 2007

IS THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION DIFFERENT?

You bet it is! The Millennials are the first true computer generation. Gen X and Yers and a few hippies had computers but, looking back on it, their job was only to shepherd the machines along to their present position at the absolute center of the Millennial world.

Young people can easily sit all day in front of the computer with only bathroom breaks. It's not uncommon for them to spend two weeks at a time at home without going outside for any significant time. You do your homework on it, you socialize on it -- everything!


I'm convinced that anime is taking over the animation world partly because it's so accessible through file-sharing on the computer. You can buy anime, trade it, and chat about it without leaving your bedroom. The jerky, limited animation actually helps its internet appeal because it reduces the bandwidth and makes for faster downloads. American lawyers hate to see illegal copies of American classic cartoons even on tiny formats like YouTube but the Japanese product is all over the net, and in really good copies too. This is serious competition.

Pre-Millennials like hippies and Gen-X and Y people keep hoping the programs to come will be will be easier to use. I don't think that's in the cards. It's not just a case of changing technology and software. The gruesome truth is that Millennials have no reason to make the stuff simpler. Their whole appeal on the job market is based on their ability to manipulate hard-to-use programs. If those programs were made easy then half a generation would find itself in the unemployment line.

My guess is that Millennials will replace Gen Xers on most computer-based jobs by the time the Xers reach age 40. I have no idea what Xers will do for work after that. A lot of Xers bummed around for a while after school and didn't really enter the work force seriously until age 25. If they're obsolete by 40 that's a career window of only 15 years! Aaaargh! If you're a working Xer then you better save your money! You're going to need it!

Of course Millennials won't have it easy either. Millennials were conned into taking outrageously big college loans which begin accumulating interest six months after school stops. With interest let's say a college loan of $100,000 dollars will become $200,000 over time. That's a lot of money. And the job market is shrinking. A lot of Millennials can forget buying a house or sending their kids to decent schools. And what if the generation as a whole can't pay the loans back? Yeeesh! It's scary!

Well, every generation has to face something tough. I guess this one is no exception!
BTW, the three paintings have nothing to do with the subject at hand. I just had to do something to lighten this discussion up. Maybe I should have called this post, "Welcome to Serious Corner!"

THEORY CORNER FOR WOMEN (NO MEN ALLOWED)


Imagine my excitement when the editor of Theory Corner for Women burst into my office and informed me that if I hurried I might just be able to get an interview with the world-famous cartoonist and stud muffin, Uncle Eddie, at his fabulous Theory Mansion. I didn't need to be told twice!

It was night by the time I arrived at the house. Uncle Eddie's social secretary led me to the sprawling grounds in back, to a large outdoor hot tub. A maid was lighting up bits of paper in a nearby outdoor fireplace. When it flared up, she threw in kindling wood, then placed a few logs on top. Uncle Eddie was sitting in the in water, surrounded by candles, thoughtfully looking up at the stars.

One glance at Uncle Eddie and I almost forgot that I was a working girl. When he spoke to the maid his speech was odd, a little English or maybe mixed from foreign travel. He had a solid look, with gentle, squinty eyes, and sensuous buck teeth. His hair, almost grey, seemed impossible to keep down. After introductions were made, and Uncle Eddie graciously posed for a picture (above), the interview began.


TCFW: "Do you feel like living, Uncle Eddie?"

Uncle Eddie: "I always feel like living, as you call it. death is just death -- dying off -- disinterest in everything -- decay. And I am not decaying, I hope.

TCFW: "Are you a happy man?"

Uncle Eddie: "What does happiness mean to you? I mean, how do you equate it? For me it's all love, no matter what else you call it. Some people call it power, To me it's very simple -- love, love, love..."

TCFW: "But what kind of love? Body love, spiritual love?"

Uncle Eddie: "The whole works! No matter how it begins, it must end with the whole works -- that's how I look at it."

TCFW: "A woman needs that too...'

Uncle Eddie: "A woman needs many things -- but mostly affection, constant affection."

TCFW: "You make it sound simple."

Uncle Eddie: "I think we're talking too much about it, talking about something that needs very little speech."
The outdoor fireplace was sparking. A twig sprang out and fell on the ground between us.

Uncle Eddie: "This is the way the world will end. Not with a whimper, but with fire -- a big fire."

Monday, June 18, 2007

THE HUMAN LION

It strikes me that I wrote about this subject a year or so ago but I couldn't find it in the archive. Maybe I just thought about writing about it and never got around to it. Anyway here's my thoughts on this subject and if I'm repeating myself then...then I apologize!!

The subject is...the human lion. Every girl wants to marry a guy who has the attributes of a lion. The guy may be short or poor or ugly, but if he's a lion then he's choice marriage material.



I can't define what a lion is but you know it when you see it. When I see a woman who's intelligent and noble and yet thoroughly feminine, that's close to what I mean by being lion-like. Somehow the femininity helps to bring into focus the other qualities, which either sex could possess, and overlays them with a sense of unique character and depth and appeal. When you see a feminine woman with lion-like characteristics you feel (in addition to being horny) glad to be human, in fact you feel positively proud to be human.

Of course the analogy doesn't totally hold because in the end only a guy can be a lion. Why is that? Maybe it's because a man has to struggle past more obstacles or diversions to become a lion. Maybe because the characteristics of a lion perfectly suit the male temperament. It's what all men want to be and very few are able to achieve.


My guess is that human lions are rare. Maybe one in ten or one in twenty, maybe one in a hundred. My advice to women who are lucky enough to know a lion is to push all other players aside and do everything they can to nail the guy. Lions are the kings of the jungle for a reason. No matter what negatives the guy possesses, they don't matter (provided he's not a criminal type). Lion trumps almost any flaw. Unfortunately there's not enough lions to go around. Maybe it takes a lioness to trap a lion.


There's a great movie about this: "Dodsworth" with Walter Houston and Mary Astor. The whole film is a meditation on the subject of the human lion. I wish there were more films like this.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

TONY CURTIS SMOKES


I've had a pretty busy day today so forgive me for putting up a skimpy post. Here's some doodles I did while watching "The Defiant Ones" on TV a couple of days ago. Tony Curtis smokes up a storm in that film but I couldn't draw fast enough to get
most of it.

Anybody know of any films that contain good smoking scenes?