In particular, this toy from their company:
It allowed me to watch, forwards, backwards, and frame by frame, animation not readily available for viewing any other way when I grew up. Sure, I watched cartoons (Bugs and Daffy, in particular). But this little machine let me figure out HOW they did it. I'd seen the hand held crank toy, but never owned that one. But my folks bought me this for Christmas one year when I was in elementary school, and I loved it.
Ralph Eggleston's first pencil tests.
My camera stand was a Black and Decker Work Bench, and it was shot on Super 8mm.
Please don't laugh.
MAD magazine a close second.
My mother died of cancer when I was seven, so I didn't really know her as well as I would have liked. In adulthood, I sought out my eldest sibling, my sister, Mary, to find out more about my mother and fill the gap. One of the things Mary had of our mom's was her old cedar hope chest. We went though Mom's things together and talked about each of them. These drawings of mine were in with her treasures. The first was done when I was not quite yet two years old. The story my sister told was that my mother asked what I was drawing and I said, "A bird." Mom clearly saw the bird, and marveled, but everyone else thought she was crazy.
I don't know if it was her belief in me as an artist that made me into one, or if she was simply keen to some innate talent I had, but whatever the reason, I kept drawing. She saved these other two I drew at five (right before starting kindergarten.)
I had just left CalARTS and begun working at Disney when I first learned all of this, and it meant the world to me.
It was pretty chilling and wonderful to find out about my Mom saving my drawings like that. I had no idea. I got little to no support or encouragement from my Dad or Step-mom in the years to follow, so it was very cool to discover I had such an early advocate. Apparently my mom was quite the supermom - one of my aunts commented that my mom was the only woman she had ever met with six only children.
Artwork for this article is the property of their credited artist.
"Fred" by Danny Jeup, 1968.
Danny Jeup, 1968.
Ironically, who knew that years later I would eventually meet and learn from Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Bill Peet and many other greats who contributed to the Disney classic animated features. Together, their collective output has yet to be surpassed and continues to influence my work to this day.
Looking back. I think I really responded to characters with simple appealing shapes.
In the late 70's/early 80's, I used to watch Saturday morning cartoons and draw the characters on the backs of reports from Hughes Aircraft that my neighbor supplied. It was like doing life drawing, but using animated characters as a model. Since TV characters didn't move that much, I knew that if I didn't capture a 3/4 view of the character quickly enough, I would get another chance soon. This was before we had a VCR, so I couldn't record the show and pause it. I would make shorthanded notes for myself, then after the show go to the kitchen table and, from my notes, construct a final drawing. Luckily, my mom thought to keep my drawings and date them. This was when I was between the ages of 6 - 12.
I was also introduced to pen & ink illustration via the old Choose Your Own Adventure books illustrated by Don Hedin (credited as Paul Granger). I also would check-out books from the library by Ed Emberley which would show you how to draw almost anything step-by-step using basic shapes.
I was also into video games, so I drew a lot of Pac-Man and Dragon's Lair. This was long before Google, so in order to get images to draw from, I would go to the bookstore and thumb through computer magazines - then I'd have to determine whether it was worth the price of the magazine for that single image. Or I took a piece of paper to the arcade and copied what was on the game cabinet.
I used to copy a lot. I had a light board, but I could only use it for a little while because the bulb would make the plastic hot. During the day, I would hold a book up to the window and trace from it but after a while, my arm would ache and I'd have to put it down.
Jamie Lopez' "Star Wars", 1977.
Eventually came up with my own characters (called 'Pan-Heads') and made tiny comic strips on lined school paper. My sense of humor was definitely sarcastic and a play on words.
"Pan-Heads" by Jamie Lopez, early 1980's.
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