Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hal Foster...In His Own Words

By profession I am a cartoonist, and my work is displayed through the medium of the Sunday comic section. But in reality I am an illustrator, and my methods are those of an illustrator. A through foundation of perspective, anatomy, composition and color are essential. Like most of the artist who draw story or adventure strips, I spent many years as a commercial artist. Cartooning is the presentation of ideas. The best illustration or the funniest caricature is static unless it is the visual part of an interesting or comic idea. Prince Valiant is written in novel form, corrected, changed and researched. The the page is laid out and the story broken down into captions; the first panel takes up the story where it left off the previous week, and the last panel suggests suspense to be told the following week. The layout of the page is a pencil sketch, so that each panel can be planned to offer variety...the portrait, half-figures and intricate and detailed scenes. Two-thirds of the "novel" is discarded, for the captions must be reduced to a minimum. Nobody ever wants to read a long caption.

The page, 29 x 15 inches, follows the pencil sketch. The finished black-and-white page is then Photostatted and the 'stat' colored. It is this colored photostat that the engraver follows in making the plates. Much research has gone into the illustrations; the costumes and weapons, architecture, harness, even the farm implements must be of King Arthur's period. Even more care must be taken with the story, for each actor must remain in character, and the action must be ever-changing. Too much drama or violent action can be boring, so I try to follow with family scenes, introduce new actors, or add a touch of humor, before the next dangerous episode. There is an old saying among cartoonists, "No one ever sold a funny drawing, but a funny idea illustrated puts meat on the table!" I have emphasized the story idea here, because of all the aspiring young students who have asked my advice, no one has seemed to consider it at all. Their interest was in the pens and brushes, the paper, size, how to draw a funny figure...and would I introduce them into my Syndicate.

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