Friday, May 29, 2015


Here's (above) a 1950s-type Cliff May-influenced ranch house. They're not uncommon in Los Angeles, in fact they're so common here that they hardly raise an eyebrow. That's a pity because this city's ranch homes are much underrated. They so effortlessly combine modernism and tradition that we forget how hard won that synthesis was.

A little history is in order: 

Europeans created modernism but they couldn't make it work. Look at this bleak design (above) for a reconstructed Paris by Le Corbusier. Parisians can thank their lucky stars that he was prevented from putting this into effect. 

Here's a factory-style house by ex-Bauhaus teacher Walter Gropius. What was he thinking of? Who wants to live in a factory?

The public liked the modern look but only for business buildings. They didn't want to live in it. The race was on to tame modernism and make the new style fit for homes, and affordable. The first American efforts (above) were hideous.

Haw! So were the second efforts (above).

Sure, Frank Lloyd Wright (above) could make it work but he built for the well off. How do you make this sort of thing available to the common man?

Eventually a potentially low cost Wright-influenced look was achieved (above) but the look required a house that was big enough to spread out a bit, sympathetic building codes and readily available pre-fab parts. I'm also guessing that the designs, as good as they were, were perceived by the public as too drastic. 

During this period faux modernism proliferated. In the kind of small houses most people could afford it sometimes looked shoddy and tacky...something built for the convenience of the contractor rather than for aesthetic reasons.

The guy who finally made it work was Cliff May (above). His smaller houses weren't exactly cheap and they still required a certain amount of square footage, but they were simultaneously modern and traditional, conceptually simple, and they left the door open for further simplification.

Here (above) there's a gap in my knowledge. Some genius...was it May or one of his disciples?...created the synthesis known to Southern Californians as "The Yellow Ranch House." It's affordable, Cliff May savy, modern, comfortable, compressible, can be built on a small lot...and it's low priced! No reliance on esoteric materials; every component is made of parts that can be had at any large lumber store.

It's the perfect realization of the maxim: "it doesn't have to look modern to be modern."

Boy, Cliff came through for us! He was the Bob Clampett of modern housing!

I'm amazed by the versatility in the interior design of these yellow ranch houses. You can furnish them almost as modern as you like without contradicting the house's design.

A less modern decor (above) works okay, too.

In fact, I'll bet even funky furniture like the kind in this TV set would work in those yellow ranch houses.

Thanks, Cliff! You 'da man!!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Here's a few sketches from my sketch file. This (above) is a title card I art directed. The expert lettering was done by Ted Blackman and the great character art by Jim Gomez. 

I did this drawing (above), as well as the others below. What the heck was it for? I can't remember.

This (above) isn't continuity, it's just a doodle that has sentimental value to me. The sketch on the lower right marked the first time that I realized it was possible to break the rule about silhouette value.

Above, no continuity, just more breaking of the silhouette rule, this time on the doodle on the lower left. I went out of my way to put shapes inside of each other and it my opinion, anyway.

'Just fooling around.

Above, a couple of unused panels from Spumco's "Fire Dogs 2."

Haw! This (above) was an unused idea from the theme park level of the video game.

Above, Little Miss Muffit, my favorite Nursery Rhyme character.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I love this film. It's not without major flaws, and at times it veers too close to corporate hype, but the film has soul, and is a bracing manifesto for a positive future. Some people say it's a film Walt Disney himself might have made, and maybe they're right.

It even displays Walt's knack for picking out charismatic young stars. Raffey Cassidy, the girl in the film, has the same kind of magnetic appeal that the young Haley Mills and Annette Funicello had. Little boys are going to go nuts for this kid. But having the right star is only the beginning. You need a director and writer who know how to bring out that star quality, and Brad Bird was able to do that. He does a good job with George Clooney, too.

Now where can I find posters of that amazing futuristic city?

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Memorial Weekend is here and I thought I'd celebrate by reviewing the pledges people make in the different armed services. Some are beautiful and inspiring, others are less so and, in my opinion, could use a little help. See what you think.

I'll start with my favorite, the "Airman's Creed (above). I'm guessing that a professional poet wrote it. I love the romantic description of an airman as: " of freedom and justice, / My nation's sword and shield, / Its sentry and avenger."

Much less interesting is the Army's Non-Commissioned Officer Creed (above). It's hard to imagine any NCO getting misty-eyed over lines like "I will fulfill my responsibilities inherent in that roll," and vague terms like "moral courage" and the need to take "appropriate action." The creed feels like it was written by a bean-counter.

The Navy Seals' Creed (below), on the other hand, is full of inspiring ideas, it's just too long. It needs to be cut by at least a third:

All of the sentiments above are worthy, but a creed requires compression in order to be useful. I thought about drawing a line through parts I'd shorten, but that seemed disrespectful, so I thought better of it.

I do like the lines about "the ability to control my emotions and actions...sets me apart from other men." The entire last paragraph (above), the one beginning with "I will never quit," is wonderful. Anyway, here's (below) the rest:

Wow! "We expect innovation," "The success of our mission depends on me," "My training is never complete"...these are very interesting ideas!

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Here they are: more caricatures of me! NO, NO...I'M NOT A NARCISSIST! I just thought  artists might find these useful because they're drawn in so many different styles.

Okay, what do you think of this one (above) by Amid? I like the way the nose and muzzle leap out of the page.

For comparison, I just took a wide-angle picture of myself. Even on that setting I couldn't get the muzzle anywhere near as big as Amid drew it...and yet his version works fine.

Haw! I'd just gotten a haircut (above) when I happened to meet John. The caption reads: "The New, Improved Ed!"

Above, another of my haircuts, also by John. I think he lays in wait in the bushes outside barber shops.

Mike did this one (above). I mentioned that I tried a new brand of soap, and this was the result.

Above, me with dog ears. By John, of course.

Me. Mike. Gee, this is a beautiful drawing!

Above, me drawn by Katie. Yikes! There's that "V" shaped head again!

Last but not least: me on a pizza-stained place mat. Artist unknown.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


 What the heck was this sketch (above) for? Was it for this Theory Corner site? I only remember that I started to copy Tee Hee's Kate Hepburn then changed my mind and drew it the way I like to draw women.

I made her a mystery woman..."Madam X."

Above, Ghengis's horse remembers the good old days before he and his master split up. 

These sketches (above) were for Disney's "Nightmare Ned." In this dream Ned lives in a dollhouse and invites his tormentors, The Evil Twins, in for a cup of tea.

Yikes! Looking like it's been stepped on several times, here's (above) more panels from the Ghengis storyboard.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


I'm reading Mike Barrier's new book about the Golden Age of Dell comics. It's pretty impressive. I could happily blog for a month on subjects I've already read about and I'm less than a third of the way through. 

By way of a sample I thought I'd expand on Mike's discussion of rhythm in the Carl Barks duck stories. The opinions and the examples (badly scanned; sorry about that) are mostly mine but it's all informed by things that Mike wrote. Read it and see what you think.

Barks was expert at compressing a story into just the right number of panels. Read the page above where Donald's fishing boat sinks to the bottom of the sea then is yanked out by a whale and deposited on land. In the hands of a lesser storyteller that might have taken two pages at least. Barks does it in one. 

Here's (above) a detail showing the first two panels. Donald is pulled into the upside-down boat, then the cables go slack, then the boat is lowered into the water...and none of that is shown! All the information I just mentioned is implied in just one drawing that shows him already in the boat and shows the boat already submerged. 

Barks gets on with the plot and doesn't burden us with inessentials.

Above, another detail showing the second two panels. The ship settles on the bottom, the cabin floods, the ducks stress out, and the snagged whale doubles back. Amazingly, all this information is contained in only two panels!!!

One more detail: the whale doubles back pulling one of the cables with it. This could have been a large upshot panel showing the massive whale passing overhead. Instead it's handled in one simple side-shot. Imagine how flamboyantly Sterenko or Buscema or manga would have handled this. Not so with Barks. He tenaciously regards the whale's turn-around as just one more plot point.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to understate Barks' achievement here. He's established a powerful rhythm in the page and he rightly doesn't allow himself to digress with a  beauty shot of the whale.

Good page rhythm didn't exactly come natural to Barks, he had to figure it out. Here's (above) an earlier Barks story where the rhythm didn't work at all. So how did Barks make the change? The book hints that he got some help from Floyd Gottfredson. Mike quotes Barks account of a meeting they had:

Sorry for the crude scan. I didn't want to hurt the book's binding by pressing it on the scanner so I allowed the edge to blur. Anyway, Mike's interpretation of Gottfredson's advice was that Barks should give greater emphasis to the psychological aspects of his stories. Barks presumably did and the tighter focus might be what improved his staging.

Talking about Gottfredson, what do you think about his staging? I'm a huge fan of the man but I'm slightly put off by the Tin-Tin type regularity of the layouts. Even so, an artist who had difficulty with backgrounds could find few better influences .