Sunday, May 25, 2008

Getting Reacquainted with Spongebob

In preparation for a possible project, I took a couple hours this weekend to pop in some of my Spongebob DVDs to do some cartoon studies (similar to the ones i did watching Popeye a little while back).

I rarely draw existing cartoon characters. In fact, before now I think I'd only drawn Spongebob once. Most of my friends know I couldn't be a bigger fan of the series. I remember the first time I saw Spongebob...I think in early 2001; I was a junior in college. It came at a time when I was finally getting beyond the art school influences that were trying to beat cartooning out of me. I remember being a little confused about what was going on---who was Mr. Krabs, and what was a Krabby Patty (was it made of crab?). I was struck by intense joy, which only increased upon repeated viewings.

To this day, I am pretty confident in saying that Spongebob is the best cartoon character ever created. If not the best, definitely my favorite. He is a character who is designed to be expressive--his face is his entire body! He can morph into any shape. He is built for easy animation. He is both lovable and annoying, strange and appealing, and surprisingly complex...with a voice to die for. I dream of coming up with a character that hits these marks.

I can't think of a stronger influence on my work to date. For the direct impact, just check out my Jinx the Monkey cartoon from college (it is embarassingly indebted to the show). Bill Watterson was big for me in high school, but I think Spongebob surpasses that. Especially for establishing in me a desire to be cartoony in a way that doesn't feel generic or worn out. But I kind of forgot that, having grown accustomed to thinking of my style as "somewhat" unique. Which I have to say was the most interesting part of doing these studies. I found it incredibly easy to draw Spongebob and all the characters in the show. Of course, after being a fan for 7+ years I know them all very well. To get them on paper was extremely fulfilling.

Anyway, it's now obvious to me that I should have done this a long time ago. I think it's important to study your influences. I've absorbed most of what I learned by watching the show, but drawing the characters (poses and expressions) brings it to an entirely different level of appreciation. I'm not done yet. It's likely there'll be more to come on this topic.


Adam Sacks said...

Wow, these are your first Spongebob drawings? They're perfect.

Have you ever checked out Dave Cooper's stuff? I think you'd like him.

Bob Flynn said...

Thanks, Adam!

Again, I was basically freeze-framing stills to draw from (these aren't out of my head). Spongebob is in my cartooning DNA, so the forms are very familiar to me at this point. When I made the conscious shift in college to get back into cartooning, Spongebob, Gary Baseman, and 1920s style cartoons (especially the Fleischer's) were all guiding the way. Then a ton of underground comic artists, and lately John K.

Honestly, Spongebob is a character built to be easy to draw so long as you pay attention to where the features go on his face. He must be a dream for animators to work with.

Squidward is more tricky, because there are more proportions to get right. But all of the characters are built out of easy shapes.

I'm very familiar with Dave Cooper's work... grotesque cartooning at its finest.

I just noticed you linked to me on your blog, so I'm returning the favor.---Best!

Adam Sacks said...

This just occurred to me. I'm working in Malaysia and Spongebob is everywhere here. Many are hilariously off model. I took lots of photos of them, you can see here