Click on any cartoon panel to enlargify it!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A note to Marcello

Thank you, Marcello, for your recent comment and continued support. I guess years of doing this is starting to show as far as my composition, staging and draftsmanship goes. I'm humbled that you took the time to even see things that, quite frankly, I'm hardly aware of myself anymore. All my life I've studied the best cartoonists, to try and figure out just what they were doing and why they were successful, I studied the figure and learned to edit it down to a formula that was believable yet also funny, and over the years I've practiced homogenizing my ideas into a visual that would read quickly and clearly.

I can remember, when drawing with other cartoonists whose work I admired, comparing my cartoons to theirs and noticing how much clearer their set ups were than mine, and how well their character's silhouettes and actions read. I believe that's why I have such an interest in doing single panel cartoons; the staging and story telling in that frame is critical because you only have one shot at it... just a single moment, and fine-tuning that moment fascinates the hell out of me. I continue to learn and I'm not always sure when I succeed, so your comment meant a lot to me, thank-you again, my friend.

BTW: When I was at Art Center, there was a general feeling that cartooning was a lesser art form than illustration, which was my major, even though all the theories and disciplines of art could also be found in well-drawn panel cartoons. I began to resent this attitude which didn't make sense to me. I eventually left the school after realizing that cartooning was my true calling, not illustration. I could compete as an illustrator, but my passion just wasn't there like it was with cartooning. Fine artists, musicians and writers move people with their art, but making people laugh is what I crave, and I get a deep sense of satisfaction when I succeed at it. To this day I don't know why. -Ted Blackman

Check out Marcello Vignali's art blog in my links.


  1. those last 2 sentences couldn't describe my own feelings better! oh why oh why is there an ocean and a continent between us ?
    great post.

  2. and you, sir have a great gift in bringing laughs and smiles to people's face.

    Always great to visit your blog :D Look forward for the next posts.

  3. I meant every word, and more. Making people laugh is a wonderful thing, and you certainly have the gift.

    At my art school they took it even one step further. Illustration art was seen as philistine, and it was abstract-art that was the only art-form celebrated as worthy.

    As an illustration major, it frustrated me for the same reasons you describe. The same tools of composition and color were being used in illustration as in abstract-art, but somehow when overlaid with perspective, construction drawing, lighting, figurative knowledge, and general skill in handling the medium, the end result was derided by my instructors.

    Cartooning, good cartooning, I believe is even more difficult because it adds yet another layer to that which an illustrator uses -- the layer of simplicity! It's like you have to develop a whole new language of hieroglyphics out of the same tools an illustrator uses, and communicate two messages, synthesized into one message, in a surprising way that we perceive as funny. As in, "A dog can cook, but uses toilet water."

    Sorry for getting so analytical again. I can't help myself! My daughter Gloria wants to be an artist, but I quickly realized early on that she REALLY wants to be a cartoonist. She loves to make people laugh, and she loves to communicate funny drawings -- so a lot of this stuff has been on my mind as of late.

    Keep it coming Ted. Gloria and I read your comics together.

  4. Interesting points, Moe. I suppose it has a lot to do with the focus of the school. There was a small group of fine art majors at Art Center, and I remember they were looked on as an oddity there by the illustration and advertising majors, since the school leaned so heavily into commercial art. On the other hand, at a fine arts school I imagine the illustrator would eat lunch alone. Apples oranges?

    As for abstract art, I have never really understood it well enough to be able to debate it. I imagine it has all the challenges and disciplines as well, just not as apparent to me as other art forms I've explored. I think because it's been massed produced so badly over the years its effect has been watered down as far as the public is concerned. Of course, it's always a plus if it matches the couch. :)

    Once when I was visiting the Museum Of Modern Art in NY, I heard a commotion in the next room. I found a group of people excitedly discussing a very large completely black painting. They were saying, "Do you see it?"... "Can you see it?" As I stared at the painting myself I was thinking this was a very enlightened group I had stumbled onto, because as I strained to see what they saw, I DIDN'T see it. Eventually one person pointed out the anomaly; there was a smaller black square within the larger black canvas, the difference being that one square was shiny black, the other was matte black. Of course, I saw that immediately when I came in, but was looking for something far more sophisticated and elusive. Evidently the critics had praised this amazing painting for its 'subtlety' and the crowd was lapping it up like simpletons.

    I'm glad you are able to enjoy my cartoons with your daughter, Moe. That makes me happy. I've always tried to create humor that targets the widest audience, because that is the most difficult thing to do. From the most jaded young snob to the most loving elderly grandmother, I would hope to make them all laugh together.

    When I used to go to the comedy clubs I noticed that the weaker acts would come out after about midnight, when everyone was feeling the effects of the booze. These comics didn't have strong enough material to appeal to an earlier, sober audience, so they found their niche amongst a less discerning crowd with dulled senses. Believe me, I'm fully capable of diving into the gutter with my humor, been there done that, but I never liked having to cherry pick cartoons from my collection to please one audience and not offend another. I'd rather create humor for everyone, if that's at all possible. -Ted

  5. Great post and even better comments here, Ted.

  6. What an awesome dialog; thanks for posting it like this (not keeping it to yourself). I couldn't help but identify one aspect of your comments, which I filtered through my own recent experience in Teaching. Even though I got another pink-slip last month (to match the one from last year's -- neither were pink, by the way), I have determined that my place is in the classroom.

    I'm not sure if that classroom will be at another high school next year, but, like your realization that you're in the right the niche, I've discovered (after 27 years banging my head against the Graphic Production wall), that I am a Teacher.

    And not a bad one, either.
    Unfortunately, it did take me a long time to get around to getting my credential and getting a full-time job. Talent and success are not requirements in education; only longevity is rewarded.

    I'll be investing as much time in creating another niche this summer as bidding on jobs at various high schools and junior high schools, in California and (unfortunately) out of state as well.

    I do plan to come up for a visit this summer, though, so let me know if you'd be available some time in July or August.

    -- yer (former) rummy roomie