Saturday, August 16, 2014

Don Rosa's artistic technique

 So I saw this video of Rosa explicating his artistic technique, which I found very interesting.  Sure, I had had sort of a general idea of how he worked, but this makes it a lot more concrete.  It's a wonder he lasted as long as he did with such obsessive habits.  Of course, we all dig his style in any case, even if we probably wouldn't want every Disney artist to do it that way.  It makes him stand out, no question.  But is it the main factor in his enduring popularity?  It's an interesting thought experiment: what if his writing had been exactly the same, but his art had had a more fluid quality, like, eg, Daan Jippes or Marco Rota?  Would he still be packing conventions?

(And I didn't even realize until I wrote them down that I'd chosen artists to compare him to with whom he shares similar first and last names respectively.  Magic!)


Anonymous Elaine said...

So hard to imagine Rosa himself drawing in a different style, since his obsessive engineer's style is so integral to his personality. I don't think it's *just* a matter of his having happened to be trained as an engineer. (And of course, detail-oriented people are more apt to be trained as engineers.) Surely many of the things we love in his stories are the delightful offshoots of that same obsessiveness: the immense research he did into historical background or physical laws (what *does* happen if you dig to China?), the many extra jokes he fits in in the background detail. I can imagine some of his storylines or particular jokes working if drawn by another artist (or by him in a different style, as per your thought experiment), but there's lots of his material that demands a style that's very detailed and tied to physical and historical reality, both to seem believable and to be funny.

August 17, 2014 at 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think his work wouldn't have been as popular. Disney artists, by and large, shoot for simplicity and efficiency rather than the 'still-frame' quality that I associate with Rosa's work. Something closer to a captured moment in time, ala Time Lord art, rather than the way a traditional artist does it. I think the simplicity lacks personality and verisimilitude (made up for by the better artists with some detailing, good layouts and dynamism), and his work would be less interesting for it.

But if you look at The Son of the Sun, and in fact every story up until The Money Pit, you can see how different his art was. I am almost tempted to say he didn't start using the templates for everything until then.

I would like to see the parallel timeline where that's the style he stuck with, as the less 'professional' style had an energy that Disney work can lack in their effort to keep on model.

But if he was a different artist, or worked solely as a writer? I really do think he might not be as popular, but it would have been distinctive nonetheless. And who knows? With the right partner, he may have told three times as many stories.

August 17, 2014 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

The more I think about it, the more difficult untangling it seems. Elaine, I think you're totally right that you can't just extricate the art and hold it in isolation. Still, we can maybe perhaps imagine a world in which he was just naturally a talented artist and thus maybe perhaps would never have NEEDED to develop that kind of artistic technique, even if it's a logical extension of his personality. And in that case...hard to say. It's probably fair to posit that his career would've lasted longer if it had been easier for him (disregarding for a moment the effect of eye problems).

August 17, 2014 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

I’ll speak just for me (…as I often do) and say that:

(A): That’s WAAAY too much work to engage in for us unappreciative bastards – fans, publishers, and copyright holders alike! I wouldn’t enjoy writing anything, if I had to spell out every word in perfect calligraphy! …And neither would most of you!

(B): The sad thing is, he didn’t have to go to those lengths! It was the grand concepts that made his work special. His completely unique take on the ducks while (in seeming contradiction) remaining slavishly devoted to Carl Barks! He could have drawn like Jippes, Rota, Pat Block, etc. and still wowed us with “Life and Times”, “Son of the Son”, “His Majesty McDuck”, etc., because NO ONE ELSE in America was creating STORIES of that magnitude!

(C): The sad-er thing is, his IMAGINATION has not diminished, even if his eyesight has. He could STILL wow us with STORY, as long as another “Good Artist” worked tightly in conjunction with him!

Aw, but so what… There’s no publisher anymore, even if there were such stories!

August 19, 2014 at 9:48 PM  

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