Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Oh, Tinkerbell...

I have had Tinkerbell on the brain the past few days. And apparently I'm not the only one.

Back in the seventies, myself a wee lad at the time, my family went and saw a re-release of Disney's Peter Pan. It became one of my favorites, especially as my love for art and animation grew over the years. Tinkerbell does strike a chord and I guess it sticks with you. Something about that jealous little tart who betrays her true love makes its way into the ol noggin, taking on new relevance as we ourselves begin to dance around in the world of complex relationships. Actually, I have never read the book of Peter Pan, I am only familiar with the Disney version and the stage play. And I haven't seen Neverland... but I'm curious as to Tinkerbell's origin in that context.

The stage play (which holds an long and odd tradition of casting females in the titular role) I am thinking is much closer to the book than Disney's version. And with the play we have the famous segment of audience participation to help determine little Tink's fate. Tho the play I recall has alot more focus on the Indians, and remember a version a few years ago that -really- expanded the focus with an elaborate drum and dance number that was kind of cool. Which leads me to mention another key supporting role in Peter Pan, despite all this Tinkerbell talk it is a comely native princess who is the actual focus of my fondness for Neverland lore. I speak of course of Tiger Lily, and that is another post entirely.

But back to Tinkerbell, and specifically the drawing of her. Some years ago I was managing a project in Burbank, I had the incredible fortune to work with the now defunkt Evolution Studios, an animation house/would be videogame developer. These guys and gals were amazing artists. This one gal in particular, Gabby, her style was one I really took a shine to, and she was just an all around cool person, yet at the time I was incredibly intimidated by her talent. I'll never forget this sketch she had by her desk, it was a picture of Tinkerbell, just standing there as only Tinkerbell would, and it was the sexiest god damn drawing I had ever seen. It wasn't just sexy as in coquettish, tho it was, it was sexy in it's looseness, it's freedom of line, it was so pure I could barely stand to look at it. But I did. A lot.

In the biz there's a phrase called "on model," where an artist must follow specific artistic rules when working with someone else's property. I've had to do it more than a few times in my career, tho it's not all it's cracked up to be. It is tedious and labor intensive to learn for each new character, as one must constantly measure detailed distances and proportions -- you will be called out in a second flat for any strays and errors. I've also been on the other side of the coin, having to call out those errors to other artists, this can be tricky given an individual's yearning to express some creativity. The drawing may be great, but if it's off model, no go. Eventually you fall into the mechanics of it all, and the model's rules become second nature. You sort of resign yourself over to something that isn't yours and concentrate on the scene, what the emotion has to be, the action, and how to best express that within the rules. A lot of times it is outside these constraints where art blossoms, where the personal styles shine thru and you are overtaken by irreproducable individuality. It's the concept art, the germination of a character that sets my brain on fire. Andreas Dejas, Chris Sanders, Claire Wendling ... names far out of my league and too numerous to mention here.

These picks here, they don't make the cut, they are just me fucking around. It's stuff I have to draw to get junk out of my system, and junk it is. This last pick (above) is about as close as I get to a proper Disney Tinkerbell, and it allowed me to at least approach drawing something that would be appropriate for the young daughter of a long time friend. It's closest in part because it is directly from a Walter Foster book, How to Draw Disney's Princesses. These Walter Foster books, the Disney ones at least, they are fine for someone who's got some grasp on drawing, but beginning artists should avoid them like the plague. They don't actually teach you anything, the lessons are very limited, and they never have a proper model sheet to go by-- something I never understood since something like that would be far more valuable than the five-step disaster that is an average lesson. What they do is show you how to draw one thing, one way, with a couple interesting notes peppered in. There are better ones, Mulan and Atlantis I think are better than average, but the Princess book is a steep fucking hill for the flawlessness that is usually required of Disney heroines. Just thought I'd put that out there.

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