inspired: chuck jones.

While researching how to build my website, I did a lot of surfing on the blogs/websites of other artists. One thing I noticed is that most content focused on images of art rather than any inkling of information regarding the person who created it.

I wanted my blog to be different. It was important for me to provide a personal context to my art. What inspires me. What makes me tick. The truth is, most of the art I like is inaccessible in person. Unless I can go to a gallery to see a particular artist, websites are the only outlet for viewing pieces of work. Obviously, the work should shine in this format. However, without any sort of personal context, they’re just pretty pictures.

My goal is to weave personal stories {i.e. about my cat or my farm truck} to tell people who I am. However, I also want to include posts about what inspires me related to my art. I came up with an idea for a series of posts called ‘inspired’ where I focus on a person, place, or thing that really resonates with my creative process as an artist. These subjects may not always literally translate to a canvas. Sometimes, it is more subtle. For example, I love the clean lines of mid-twentieth century furniture. In fact, I’m obsessed with it. Do I create compositions of Eames chairs? No {although that might be pretty cool}. Rather, I try to incorporate that kind of streamlined form in my paintings.

When comparing this series to the art on my blog, it may not appear to completely match up to an ‘inspired’ post. However, I hope through time, people can begin to see all the facets of life that influence my art, subtle or conspicuous.

Without further or due, I bring you the first installment:

Chuck Jones.

CJFilmographyPage-new

There are many artists I wish I could have met in ‘real life’. This guy is definitely in my top three. You may recognize his work from Looney Tunes…

81472-300dpi

Looney Tunes were one of my staple cartoons as a child. In fact, I still watch them today…but only if Chuck Jones is the art director. Yes, I am extremely picky about my Looney Tunes. I always have been.

As far as I can remember, I knew there was something different about his cartoons compared to other animators. The characters always appeared more delicate. The line-weights he used were always smaller, yet more infused with character. Daffy would have little clumps of extra feathers. Porky always had eyelashes. The facial expressions of the characters were always more emotive. His characters just have a different look about them.

Then there are his background settings for cartoons. I was always more mesmerized by the way he stylized landscapes and interiors than the characters. When you break everything down, they are all formed of simple shapes, lines, and color masses. His use of light and shadow are pretty stark. He often achieves the effect by pairing two planes of opposite color side by side. Little to no fading.

And it’s so effective.

chuck_jones-opera-set

Details in the rock are just thin wavy lines. There are hints of bright blue on the shaded sides of the mountain, again very subdued. By the way, this image is taken from ‘What’s Opera Doc?’, one of his most renowned cartoons. The whole cartoon is beautiful. Elmer chases Bugs through several Wagner operas. Yes, I said operas. Seriously, someone could write a thick book analyzing the cultural references in Looney Tunes. But I digress. The backgrounds…

Here is another one from the same cartoon.

whats-opera-doc-316

His use of figure grounds {essentially flat silhouettes} was an epiphany to me as an artist. They are a simple way to provide depth to anything, especially a landscape such as this one. The colors for the ground and sky are distorted, a stylized effect that I really love. He also uses combinations of orthographic {drawing on one plane} and perspective elements to create depth. This is the reason most of his landscapes always look so dreamy. {I wanted to live in the one pictured above}.

As a child I knew, in my own way, that Chuck Jones had to be a tremendous talent as a visual artist to create such beautiful animation. {as shown below}

giclee-151-big

giclee-134-big

giclee-135-big

Most animators have to be. The misconception is that  you don’t have to be talented to draw cartoons. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. You have to be the most talented. In Jones’ day, all of these cartoons were 100% created by hand. You had to be sharp enough to draw the same character or background over and over again, incorporating subtle changes in position so that it created movement when the cells were merged together on film. Grasp of proportion, perspective, color, and composition would have to be on point every single time. Pretty daunting when you think about it.

For years, I tried to draw like Chuck Jones. It’s sort of futile any time you try to carbon copy the style of somebody else because you constantly compare it to the original. It won’t ever look the same. I gave up trying to replicate and instead, just appreciated it on the TV.

Instead, I try to incorporate that stylized approach to my paintings. I’m currently working on a series of paintings that use a lot of figure grounds in the landscape. Buildings are very stylized, asymmetrical, and maybe a little disproportionate. I’m also experimenting with different colors for the ground plane and the sky. The ‘Indian Elephant’ diptych on the ‘My Work’ page is an example of this. The whole background is layered in different shades of orange. I loved it so much, I decided to recreate it on a large canvas. This one will be much more animated with people, and a market scene. I’ll also create some other companion scenes for the series, probably inspired by locations like Bali or Africa.

Chuck Jones died in 2002, at the age of 90. His genius is not limited to Bugs and Daffy. He animated for Dr. Seuss, Disney, and countless other studios. You may  have seen his work without even realizing it.

Unfortunately, the airing of Looney Tunes have dwindled quite a bit for being deemed politically incorrect. So, there aren’t many opportunities on tv to see his work. Fortunately for us, there are many clips and full cartoons on YouTube. I encourage you to check them out. Compare them to other Looney Tunes, or other cartoons in general. Your level of infatuation may be a lot less than mine. However, I guarantee you will see the difference.

Go to http://chuckjones.com/ to find out more about the artist. There is an online store, full of prints, cells, and other fun stuff created by Chuck. There is also a listing of galleries where his work is displayed.

{image credits: Chuck Jones companies and Warner Brothers Studios}

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s