Friday, January 29, 2010

Cartooning 101: Props and Models

I remember as a kid getting a new plastic model kit like the Aurora Prehistoric Scenes or MPC Pirates of the Caribbean model kit with Snap Action! I'd tear open the box, twist pieces from the sprues, start gluing the pieces together, and then read the instructions that say "never twist pieces off the sprue" and "don't glue piece a to piece b or your model will not work" and "paint these pieces before gluing". Well, fortunately I sometimes find a bit more patience now than I had in those days. :0)

No matter what kind of Cartooning or Art that you do, chances are there will come a time when you'll need a model or prop to help you draw or paint something. In the old days we kept a photo morgue of all kinds of people and objects in various poses and situations, and now of course we have the internet where gazillions of photos can be brought up at the touch of a key. Still, photos don't always do it for me. Sometimes you just can't find a certain angle, or a high enough resolution to work out a detail. A solid understanding of how an object is made is usually necessary to draw that object correctly, or having that object readily available for study.
{Update: I've added the above cartoon which I did a long time ago, just to illustrate what happens when you can't find good reference! I had to keep the boat way up front to hide details off screen, and ended up using an unatractive aluminum skiff. The boys definitely deserve better. :0) ]

Well, with The Inquiring Minds especially, I find myself needing to draw boats, and boats are tricky! All those curves and such... and yes, there are plenty of photos of boats online, but I've never been satisfied with any of them. You can buy toys, of course, cheaply, but sometimes toys take shortcuts, are not realistic, or just don't have the details you're looking for. So... I found a wooden model kit...a Do-it-yourself from bottom up model of a skiff, which honestly left me feeling like a dinghy at times. :0)

Midwest Products Co, Inc has a line of beautiful looking boats of all sorts. Now I have a lot of projects going on, but I just couldn't resist "The Skiff" all wood display model, with a skill level of 1. HA! Okay, it wasn't that bad, but there were times I thought I was crazy for attempting this. The instructions are actually very detailed, and mostly straightforward. There are a few places I took notes where they needed to be clearer, but overall the boat came together with a lot of patience, a little cursing, and a lot of gluing my fingers together.

No, it wasn't easy, but it was rewarding. Even though the wood split at one point, and wouldn't bend at another, I had the smarts to work things out... and hope that paint would cover anything else up. :0)

And since my boat is being used by The Inquiring Minds, a few scrapes and scuffs make it all the more realistic looking. Now.... if I could only think of a name? What would two young boys interested in adventure name their boat?

Cheers, JOHN :0)


Anonymous said...

I asked a man who was once a boy that lived on a swampy river and he said: "The Boat" but I think he lacks imagination! I'm thinking "Adventure" "Explorer" but I too lack imagination...
But yer little boat is so cool! Makes want to play in puddles :o)

John said...

You've got summer on your mind already? Me too!

I've been trying to come up with a name but haven't struck gold yet. I've drawn over 100 cartoons with these guys, and i think the boat was once called The Inquiring Minds, but that's too many words to paint onthe side of a little boat!

Maybe if I get decals?

Ooh, i should definitely post a cartoon here of the boys in their boat!

JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...

Now be honest, you only wrote this article because you wanted an excuse to play with model boats.

I'd call it the Amazon, after the one of the boats in Arthur Ransom's 'Swallows and Amazons', myself.

John said...


of course I wanted an excuse to build a model boat! Just look at her... what a beauty. :0)

I like the name Amazon, but it brings to mind tall ladies with bows, which might intimidate Albert.

I'll put it on the list, though...

Cheers, JOHN :0)