Project Research

For my essay I have decided to go with the man who many consider the father of animation Winsor McCay, as the brief tells us to create the essay in the style of the chosen animator, I have decided to pick and choose the elements I find myself most able to recreate from his work, for instance the neat and consistent layout for my text boxes and drawn images as well as the use of dark lines and black and white to emulate his drawings like can be seen in Gertie the Dinosaur and other projects.

Winsor McCays life story beginning to end (Collected Notes)

  • Born – 1869 to 1871 – 1934 (some believe Canada, others think Michigan). Full name Zenas Winsor Mccay.
  • Though not going straight into animations Winsor began drawing at a young, with by the age of 13 having work of his like a picture of a shipwreck drawn on a blackboard being photographed and copies of that photograph being sold. His attention to detail for his drawings is what attracted his audience with the extra use of colour and perspective to bring the worlds he created alive.
  • Traded techniques with neighbouring painter Jules Guerin while living in a shared studio in 1889 with Guerins use of eye-catching techniques, direct visual messages and charismatic characterization in his work on pamphlets and posters for the National Printing and Engraving Company having some influence on Winsors earlier drawings.
  • Despite his obvious love and ambition for drawing at a young age, his family, more especially his father, when Wensor was at the age of 19 in 1891 enrolled him into business school in order to push him into what they considered a proper career much to the dismay of Winsor, who ended up rarely actually attended any of the schools lectures.
  • Instead of attending lectures at the business school he enrolled at, Winsor instead spent that time in the nearby city of Detroit, working his first job at the Dime Museum creating portraits of customers who came for the price of 25 cents a piece; his keen eye for observation and quick speed at drawing making his one of the go-to popular attractions, though not yet animating, this kind of push to continue drawing and honing his expertise made him become even better at his passion, with him starting to push into the fringes of a role as a commercial artist with crowds often gathering to watch him work.
  • As talk of his skill started to grow, word spread to an important and life changing figure in Winsors life; a professor of drawing at Michigan State Normal School by the name of John Goodison, who went on to provide the first ever formal lessons Winsors had ever had with private lessons focused mainly around the use of perspective, an understanding of geometry and a sense of substance that would influence the rest of Winsors subsequent work.
  • Though Goodison urged Winsor to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, he instead took the job of an apprentice for a local printing company, spending the next two years moonlighting in another dime museum until moving to Cincinnati, Ohio where he would go onto work as a billboard painter. It was here he yet again attracted the attention of crowds, with his unique way in drawing, something he continued to enjoy with his love for performing.
  • As life went on Winsor would go onto marry and have two children, and to help support his family got extra work in painting signs and not long after started to make drawings for a local newspaper, the Commercial Tribune.
  • While working for the Tribune, Winsors skill for producing quick and accurate drawings of events and people, most of which would be just from his talent of drawing from just memory, put him ahead of his competition in a time when newspapers did not have the technology to reproduce photographs.
  • Winsor got to show his more lighthearted humor when working for the premier humor magazine at the time, Life, which was a collection of cartoons and short pieces, with Winsor contributing single panel cartoons to the magazine. All the while taking influence and inspiration from fellow Life artists, one such artists being A.B. Frost, whose sequence cartoons (a series of panels captioned with text that would tell a story) would later be employed as a technique by Winsor.
  • At the turn of the century in 1900 he was employed as the head of the Cincinnatis’ Enquirer art department.
  • Working as the head of the Cincinnati Enquirer art department, Winsors work begun to flourish, with him being allowed to experiment new ideas; gag cartoons in the Enquirer and sequential strips in Life, by the year 1903 creating works like The Tales of the Jungle Imps; a series of 43 hand-coloured illustrations based on poems about pixies and the imaginary animals they encounter throughout the story written by the Sunday editor George Randolph Chester. The Tale of the Jungle Imps featured three imp protagonists; Gack, Boo-Boo and Hickey, each representing primitive natural forces, the strip also featured a lot of the racial stereotypes common for the early twentieth century publications.
  • By 1904, Winsors work had caught the attention of James Gordon Bennett, owner of the New York papers the Herald, and the Evening Telegram, who got Winsor to work drawing editorial cartoons and illustrating news stories for both papers.
  • It was when Winsor was working for the Herald that he first began to employ the comic strip form, which at the time were still new and extremely popular to audiences, with comics beginning to start selling the papers, something that appealed greatly to Winsor.
  • While his first three attempts; the Mr. Goodenough, Sister’s Little Sister’s Beau and The Phurious Phinish of Phoolish Philipe Phunny Phrolics failed to gain the attention Winsor expected, it was his fourth piece, the Little Sammy Sneeze that became his first successful comic strip, followed later in the year with the Dream of the Rarebit Fiend and what would become is most well known strip the Little Nemo in Slumberland, published later in 1905. With Little Sammy Sneeze, it was his use of finely detailed and highly accurate persistent repetition with the positioning of Sammy (the consistent character in each of these strips) that caught the eye, as well as the use of shattering fourth walls which extended to the strips panel boarders themselves.
  • His most successful strip was the Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, this strip contrast greatly with the Sneeze, this being aimed at a more adult strip with themes built around adult nightmares and phobias.
  • Alot of Winsors comic strips were all made around a specific formula – a new setting for Sammy to sneeze, a new nightmare to exaggerate, and so on, it was with this use of a formula that Winsor was able to focus all his attention and creativity towards the art and drawing, so at the height of his career in the 1904 to 1905 he was able to run three seperate strips each week within two newspapers, as well as other cartoons and drawings daily for the Herald.
  • In October of 1905, when Winsor was at the age of 38, he would come to create what many consider his masterpiece with his use of experiments with the form of the comics pages, the colors, timing, pacing, the shape of the panels, the perspective, and many other details; the Little Nemo in Sumberland comic strip, it was so well received it manage to run weekly in the Herald from October 1905 to July 1911.
  • Not satisfied enough with creating all this work for two newspapers, Winsor also began to take part in Vaudeville performances, more specifically in what is called chalk-talk artists – where an artist would stand in front of an audience and draw onto a chalk board. Not surprisingly he became a hit with his work here too, balancing his work for the newspapers with his touring, often taking to create many of strips in the backstage dressing rooms or hotels as he would tour.
  • It was during his time in New York for five years that Winsor, who at the time was one of the biggest artists and performers in the city, began to combine all his works; the comic strips, the drawings and the chalk-talk art, all of which were based around pacing and movement, into one new art – the animated cartoon, said to have been inspired flipping through his sons flipbooks and the early films of Emile Cohl.
  • Though animated cartoons weren’t anything new, it was with Winsor that it became a more defined industry, and something he would continue to dominate with an understanding of the medium and pacing that was far ahead of his time.
  • In conjunction with his newspaper comic strips and drawings, Winsor would draw each of the individual 4,000 cells for his first animated film, Little Nemo, himself, along with his second film, the even longer 6,000 strong animation called the How A Mosquito Operates to be released in theaters.
  • Things started to change for Winsor in 1911, when, after conflictions with the Herald over taking time off to perform in Europe, he decided to move over to the Hearst paper, The American, after his contract with the Herald was up.
  • At the time it was clear to his audience and contractors that Winsor wanted to move more into animation following the release of strips like In the Land of Wonderful Dreams (the same comic strip as Little Nemo, with a title change due to Herald owning the rights to the name Nemo). His comic strips released for the Hearst from 1911 to 1913 featured a lack of attention to detail and a blandness in coloring that was very apparent to the viewers, the reason at the time being that Winsor become more devoted to focusing his energy of his next animated release Gertie the Dinosaur. In December of 1913 he was told by his employer that he was to give up on his comic strips and focus on more “serious” editorial drawings.
  • Gertie was his biggest work yet, featuring 10,000 drawings that not only included the character, Gertie the Dinosaur, but also for the first time, backgrounds, making use of what he called the “McCay Split System”, in which instead of the usual animating from beginning to end, he would instead create the start and the finish of the action, then fill in the movements inbetween, a technique used by animators to this day under the name “In-Betweening”. Meanwhile backgrounds would be handle by his assistant, John A. Fitzsimmons, he would trace the background from master drawing onto each cell. What made the film appeal most to its audiences was Winsors play on the fourth wall, by drawing the sequences to near perfection of timing in order to allow him to take part in the act himself, directing Gertie to do various actions, and eventually have him walk into the animation to say goodbye to the audience and finish the film with Gertie carrying Winsor away.
  • The conflict between Winsor and his boss, W.R. Hearst, would start to take an effect on Winsors career, as by 1918 Hearst had begun to prohibit him from taking part in his vaudeville performances, though he was still able to create editorial cartoons, and even went on to make six more animated short films, none of which reached the impact of his previous efforts.
  • Winsor would go on to work until the age of 54, continuing his career with Hearst creating editorial works as well as drawing illustrations for advertising until on 1934, after a failed attempt to bring Little Nemo back to comic pages he died in July 26, 1934.

What will I draw?

My ideas for what drawings will compliment my essay are;

Two comparison images of the man himself at the beginning of the essay, and another at the end, the first will be a real image of him at any particular age of his life, the second image though will be a drawn sketch of him like how he appears in Gertie the Dinosaur and this will be at the end of the comic as a sign off. My thought process behind this being that the drawn image at the end will be as if to show him becoming the animator he is at the height of his career.

An drawn illustration to show him skipping lectures at school to go to the dime museum in Detroit and one of him at said museum sketching paying customers to go with his childhood.

Draw him sketching but have the sketch be half of himself as if to represent him beginning to create his own life.

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