Cartoon Cute Animals

Cartoon Cute Animals cover
Cartoon Cute Animals
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Christopher Hart’s latest how-to-draw book is subtitled “How to Draw the Most Irresistible Creatures on the Planet!” but I would have called it “A pose book for ripping off Chuck Jones”, since all these adorable kittens and puppies and chipmunks look like they stepped right out of one of his cartoons.

There are plenty of examples of expressions and poses, with chapters determined by animal type: cats and dogs, bears, woodland creatures (including chipmunk, beaver, raccoon, rabbit, mouse, and for some reason, porcupine), birds, sea life, and “animals of the jungles and plains”. That last one had me speculating on which movies spurred their inclusion. The giraffe was definitely Madagascar, while I doubt meerkat would have been mentioned without Disney’s usage.

What really annoyed me, though, was the single page entitled “Feminizing Animals”, which states several requirements for making a girl version: wispier whiskers, fluffy tail, bows or flowers or other accessories, and the must-have almond-shaped, tilted eyes. I hate these kinds of lazy shorthand, but I hate more that, by these rules, all the animals drawn in the book are boys. Why is that kind of stereotyping necessary when we’re talking about cute animals, which are androgynous by definition?

(The publisher provided a review copy.)

37 Responses to “Cartoon Cute Animals”

  1. Christopher Hart Says:


    The last several books of mine, which you have chosen to review – no one forced you to do it – you have used juvenile words to describe, words that professional reviews just don’t use, like “hate.”

    You clearly have a crusade against my books, and perhaps it’s that despite your personal dislike of them, the public ignores your comments so utterly and turns them into best-sellers. As we speak, “MANGA FOR THE BEGINNER: CHIBIS” is one of the most popular art books in the country.

    I suggest that readers look to a reviewer who doesn’t become, as you admit, “annoyed” when you pick up a Chris Hart book. Then, perhaps, the reader will get a balanced review.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Sorry, I didn’t get the list of “words professional reviewers are allowed to use” memo when I started. If we’re going to argue professionalism, though, what about the guideline that pro authors generally know better than to attack reviewers they disagree with?

    If your goal is sales over quality, congrats, you’ve achieved that in spades. McDonald’s is one of the most popular restaurants in the world, too, but I’d rather eat somewhere that makes good food, not just good-selling stuff.

    I don’t have a crusade against you or your books. I just dislike mediocre works churned out simply to make a buck. Since you’ve indicated that’s your priority, well, yeah, I’m sure we’ll continue to disagree. Thanks for stopping by to share your opinion.

  3. Christopher Hart Says:

    In The New York Times Book Review section, authors are typically are allotted space to respond to reviewers. You are obviously unaware of that, since you consider the practice “unprofessional.”

    A book reviewer who does not consider the practices of the New York Times book review section the standard in the industry.

    Thank you for making my point.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Yeah, I’m internet generation, not print. But you’ll notice that I didn’t say “pros shouldn’t respond”, I said “they shouldn’t attack”. You completely ignored my points — that your characters look like copies of better-known versions, that your approach to female characters is sexist and exclusionary — in order to attack me as a person. I doubt that’s the expectation in the pages of the NY Times. (Well, perhaps it is — standards are down all over.) I think your comments say more about you than they do about me.

  5. Christopher Hart Says:

    boasting of not reading the New York Times Book section? As a book reviewer, do you realize how foolish that makes you appear? And even more foolish to blame it on your being part of the internet generation, when the New york Times is online. Perhaps you should quit this debate while you’re behind. Your vitriol is undoing you.

  6. Johanna Says:

    You are reading in emotion that doesn’t exist. I wasn’t boasting, simply noting that my influences are different from your assumptions. And you continue to ignore the substance of the review or respond to my points in order to claim some kind of “win”. This isn’t a debate, and it’s not about you vs. me. I provided an honest reaction to and evaluation of the book, one you have yet to engage. I am confident that my words and history, like yours, stand for themselves.

  7. William George Says:

    “…public ignores your comments so utterly and turns them into best-sellers”

    Quick. Tell her that she’s just jealous of you!

  8. Thad Says:

    Jill Thompson doesn’t appear to have read the book.

    Mr. Hart,

    I don’t actually see you debating any of Johanna’s criticisms. Your objection to her tone is fair enough (nobody likes being insulted — I think “insult” is a fair description, though “vitriol” is a bit of an exaggeration), but “I’m popular” and “You don’t read the New York Times” don’t make for a very good defense of your work.

  9. Johanna Says:

    William, thanks very much for the laugh!

  10. Thom Says:

    I’ve been trying to determine the most divisive way to say this.

    I’ve flipped through a lot of Hart’s books. And they are definitely…not for me. I realize that they are probably aimed at a younger audience, who are new to drawing, but want to learn how to draw like the comics and cartoons they love.

    But I have usually found myself nodding in agreement with Johanna’s concerns she has addressed.

  11. Thom Says:

    Uh… I meant “decisive” not “divisive”. :)

  12. Diana Green Says:

    About a decade ago, a student bought a hart book- how to draw Supeheroines or some such- to my class. I looked through it and thought there were some useful bits of information and some good insights, but nothing I hadn’t seen elsewhere.
    I was quite put off, however, by lines like “this woman has the most legs in comics”. I only counted two, BTW.
    Mr. Hart, if you’re keeping up with these comments, I’m glad you’re making a good living with these books and that so many people care about learning comics that they’ll buy them.
    However, I’ll stick to my Loomis, Redondo, Eisner and McCloud books. I must concur that your writing shows little respect for women at times. If enough people call you to task for something, you might want to stop and ask yourself if they have a point.

  13. Hsifeng Says:

    Christopher Hart Says:

    “…words that professional reviews just don’t use, like ‘hate.’…”

    Professional reviews and professional reviewers use all sorts of words. ;)

    S.J. Stanczak, Chicago Said in a message to Movie Answer Man, Chicago

    Sun-Times, September 11, 2008:

    “Yo dude, u missed out on ‘Disaster Movie,’ a hardcore laugh-ur-@zz-off movie! Y U not review this movie!? It was funny as #ell! Prolly the funniest movie of the summer! U never review these, wat up wit dat?”

    Roger Ebert Said in reply at Movie Answer Man, Chicago Sun-Times, September 11, 2008:

    “Hey, bro, I wuz buzier than $#i+, @d they never shoed it b4 hand. I peeped in the IMDb and saw it zoomed to #1 as the low$ie$t flic of all time, wit @ lame-@zz UZer Rating of 1.3. U liked it? Wat up wit dat?”

  14. Mike Says:

    I have read a few of Mr. Harts books. I’ve learned a few tips to help to see the super basics of his methods, but that is where the learning ends. All of his books seem rushed as well as copied from other artist styles and influences with boring and ‘typical’ character designs.

    There is little to no structure and the characters usually end up flat and boring with bright and miss-matched colors. (Dont know if that was intentional but the color schemes in some books can be really distracting)

    Also, I notice that on amazon, you seem to get people who dislike your books or have negative comments to disappear? But that is another issue altogether

    You have just lost me totally as a potential customer to your works. The fact that you obviously scour the internet looking for negative reviews, and the way you handle such reviews, tells me a lot about your character. Its an effort to pimp out your books and make as much money as you can and suppressing those who you deem are against you.

    The last thing is: Please stop attempting anime/manga…

  15. Aine Says:

    Hmm… I found the two of Hart’s books I’ve read to be mediocre and derivative, and from this discussion it seems he can’t take constructive criticism without resorting to personal attacks. (And as Mike points out above, he appears to be scouring the internet to find negative reviews of his books to attack. Classy.)

    If anyone’s looking for good cartooning books don’t bother. I’d recommend Ben Caldwell’s Action Cartooning and Fantasy Cartooning.

  16. Shae Says:

    If I had seen reviews like this before and knew more about art before I bought a lot of Mr. Hart books, I feel like I could have saved myself quite a bit of money.

  17. GNBraun Says:

    Hmmmm… it’s industry etiquette for writers not to respond to reviews or any criticism, especially in the form of an attack on the reviewer.
    Maybe Mr Hart should rethink his options here.

  18. Ro Says:

    Authors starting flame wars with reviewers is probably the leading reason for why I don’t read certain books. I have read terrible reviews for some books, but still read them myself. Seeing the author act so ungraciously and immaturely is a bigger turn off because I don’t want to contribute my money to someone’s (unwarranted) ego-trip.

  19. Gemma Says:

    I was actually a huge Christopher Hart fan when I was little, I found that his books were (at lease back then) the only “how to draw” books that were actually written by someone who could actually draw. But to be honest, in the Hart books I do have (admittedly quite a few years old now) I haven’t come across anything objectionable. There are a lot of helpful hints in there for the inexperienced artist. Of course the art is going to be derivative, all “how to draw” books are, they are written for people who want to draw and emulate the characters they see.

    That said, I have seen some scans around that do present some troublesome dialogue about drawing women. Representing other forms of women in your books would go a long way to rectify that. Draw some tanks, some older women, elderly women, fat women – just like you do with men.

  20. Jules Says:

    I’d like to point out that there’s probably some decent how-to videos online these days for beginners. For the more advanced artist, head to a university books website and see what texts they are prescribing students. Those books would have been vetted by industry pros. Or why not look up some of the famous early cartoonists and research who inspired them – Go back to the source and learn from the masters themselves.

  21. Durghha Says:

    Okay it really rustles my jimmies when people bitch about gender identifying in animals. WHO THE FUCK CARES? It helps children who watch the damn cartoons have characters to relate to, and help them learn about gender equality. If the cartoon animals aren’t put into gender roles, well, who cares? It’s a preference, and getting onto someone for that is stupid.

  22. Jéssica Says:

    You don’t need to give “feminine” features to a character to make it be identifiable as a woman/girl. Just a woman’s voice, name or using the term “she” is enough.

    Assume that I woman must be “feminine” and cute to be a woman is sexism.

  23. Bob Says:

    Feminism patrol out today it seems.

    Hart’s books were…and still are great, excellent resources for aspiring comicbook artists, character designers, animators.

    If people want to draw realistic women, they’ll do life drawing. If they want to draw comicbook style, they can look at Hart’s books or in a comic. Eventually those artist find their own style after years of combining the two.

    An angry mob of women following a link from a blog is disgusting. Joanna’s comments were just ludicrous. She is of the ‘internet generation’, which means she has no manners and thinks she has the right to say whatever she wants.

    You embarrass our generation.

    I bet no one has complained about all male characters being ripped, or how attractive men have to be in films, swooning over 6 packs.

  24. Diana Says:

    Don’t know why there’s so much interest in this two year old topic all of a sudden, but OK.
    Bob, your notion of “comicbook style” is under-informed, implying there’s only one way to draw women, or anyone or anything else in comics. Look at the incredible variety of women in comics. Once you accept that there is no universal means of portrayal in comics, the issue of what the portrayals mean becomes even more significant. And we have every right to complain. If you disagree, you can say so, but you have no right to tell us we can’t speak up.
    And you would be wrong in your notion that unrealistic depictions of men do not have their detractors.

  25. Mike Says:

    you sound like you’re working FOR hart, (OBVIOUSLY)

    People are entitled to their opinions.

    Hart helps some, but hurts most.

    If you want to do comic books or cartoon characters, you need to look at the masters and learn their Techniques, Not Hart’s ‘put a circle with 2 eyes and a cute nose and call it feminine’ or whatever.

    And to your last comment, a MUCH better artist is Tom Nguyen. Why? While I do not like his style, I love the way he BREAKS DOWN the artwork so the artist can understand.

    He draws the six pack, as well as the ‘fat slob’ Image and everything in between.

    Hart does not. He pimps his books out with characters that have been done to death.

    While I do not like Deviantart, Check out how many other artist use his ‘influence’ or even really mention him.

    Hart, coming back as ‘bob’ is not helping your cause.

    You are not professional and while YOU many ‘understand’ how to draw, you are teaching others who buy your books to become one trick ponies with no form or mass behind their work.

  26. Johanna Says:

    Bob, every single one of your statements and assumptions are wrong.
    1. Actual working artists — not those who’ve built a career out of just telling others how to do it — have criticized Hart’s books and pointed out their many flaws. I have yet to hear anyone who doesn’t have a financial interest in them praise them strongly.
    2. “Comic book style” doesn’t make sense, since comics are a medium, not a particular genre. Saying “comic book style” makes about as much sense as assuming all movies are directed the same way.
    3. “Comic book style” is no excuse for sexism.
    4. Male visual exaggeration to demonstrate strength in service of a particular type of story is nowhere near comparable to women being treated as objects.
    5. My name has an H in it.
    6. When women who look similar to Woody Allen or Zach Galifianakis have anywhere near their careers, we can talk about how attractive movie men have to be.
    7. I suspect we’re not anywhere near the same age, because I know better than to wade out slugging at random strangers the way you have.
    But thanks for stopping by!

    Diana, apparently something popped up regarding Hart online recently, which caused more interest in how badly he reacts to criticism of his work, thus traffic to this post.

  27. uromastyx Says:

    Bob, you clearly have no idea what being an artist means or what learning how to become on entails. Life drawing is the best method to learn how to draw, period. Some books can teach some basic concepts, but those books are NOT authored by Hart. They are okay for kids who want to learn how to draw their own characters like the ones they see on tv, but not if they want to learn how to draw.

    Men being ripped with muscles is a power fantasy. They are not reduced to their abs or biceps. Women on the other hand are reduced to their sex appeal, and Hart’s books clearly show they that women have no right being drawn unless they are attractive and ‘feminine’.

    You embarrass our generation by saying a person does not have the right to say whatever they want. Freedom of Speech is a human right.

  28. Ami Angelwings Says:

    Hey! I resurrected this thread complete with a fresh garden-picked troll! XD

  29. Sean Says:

    you know what they say… those who cant do… teach.

    Having a(so-called)Award winning “How to draw” books does not make you a good artist. Your art should be able to stand on its own. And even if you do buy in to a “How to draw” book, id get one thats a bit more technical than Harts simple 3 stage pictures. No one whos ACTUALLY in to art buys the crap he publishes. Talent isnt something thats learned… ESPECIALLY from Hart. (I can back myself up if i need to, so please, Mr. Hart, enlighten us.

  30. Linda Says:

    I agree with Gemma about liking Chris Hart’s books when I was little, and that’s not really something to be ashamed about. Many of the other how to draw books I remember were how to draw in a very realistic, pencil shaded style, and Hart’s books looked fun, cartoony, and anything with “How to Draw” on the cover seemed like a good idea at that age.

    And they were perfectly acceptable books for that age group, when I was frankly too young to notice or care about their various shortcomings.

    When Hart says that the sales of the books speaks for the quality of the books – well. They had appeal for kids, and for the adults who wanted to buy an encouraging book for their kids; they were simple, easy to absorb, and easy to find. Once the earlier books got enough steam, publishers have obviously been happy to keep making them, and people keep picking them up because they are quite dominant in that niche market of How to Draw books.

    I’m not too worried that Hart’s books are particuarly damaging to young minds, despite his dumb in book comments about drawing women, his assumptions about manga, and the general insipid nature of the advice. But I wouldn’t give one to a relative or recommend Hart’s books to someone, because there are much better options available.

    So previous to reading this (and it’s not the first example of Chris Hart trolling/stupidity on the web I’ve come across) I didn’t have a crusade against Chris Hart’s books, (and I wouldn’t be suprised if Johanna had other things to do with her time as well), but after this I gotta say my level of scorn for Hart went way way up. There’s a great solidarity vibe you get from joining in on a “This man is clearly an idiot” conversation. And this man is clearly an idiot.

  31. Christopher Hart’s Next How-to-Draw Book Goes Kawaii » Manga Worth Reading Says:

    […] Hart, the bestselling author of how-to-draw books who doesn’t take criticism well, will be releasing another book on August 7 from Watson-Guptill. Manga for the Beginner Kawaii […]

  32. Kat Says:

    I like Chris Hart’s books. I started with manga for the beginner and that book helped a lot with my stay at the hospital. I also have The Big Book of Manga, and the equivocal versions of how to draw hentai and kodomo style(separate books lol). I’ve also checked out Chris Hart’s Chibi book at the library which I loved.
    You completely ignore the fact that it says “beginner” on the front of the book and virtually all of his books are intended for novices and not necessarily for people looking to draw their own manga. I’ve also read McCloud’s “drawing comics” which is probably the best way to teach comics and “Drawing Words and Writing Pictures”? is a suitable substitute.
    Hart was not intended to be used to teach a class or help a seasoned artist step up their game. His books are for people who doodle in their school notes and want a solid entry into drawing. And books like his animal themed one are OBVIOUSLY for children. This hipster doofus righteous indignation where we can’t have physical traits to distinguish the genders of animals is idiocy at its finest. Would you prefer an 8 year old get a lesson in drawing genitalia, or maybe we can just take some simple characteristics to distinguish genders. I mean is the guy who drew Ms. Pacman sexist for making her wear a bow? What about Ranma 1/2, is that sexist as well?
    We get it, you have a blog and are the master of the internet, but these books are like the $25 Wacom tablets that newbies buy, I mean if you want to draw an anime person, and have never drawn anything substantial before, you could do much worse than Hart. And I’m looking forward to the Kawaii edition Chris.

  33. Johanna Says:

    I’m glad they were helpful for getting you started, and I’m glad you’ve moved on to more substantial works. (I’m assuming you meant Scott McCloud’s Making Comics.) I’m not sure everyone agrees with you that the books are just for kids, since the publisher (for example) didn’t provide an age rating, which is normally done for books aimed at younger readers.

    You’re missing the point about sexism. The problem isn’t that the girls wear bows — it’s that the male is considered the default, with the female an afterthought exception. You can read more about that in more depth in other websites, though, if you’re interested.

    In future, you might have more luck fostering discussion and having your points taken seriously if you didn’t descend to insulting those who disagree with you. I see that’s another way in which you’re following Hart’s lead.

  34. pygmy Says:

    I’m just… I’m speechless. That is possibly the least mature reaction to criticism I’ve seen, and I browse a website full of thirteen-year-olds daily.

  35. Benjamin Says:

    I used to read, and buy, Hart’s books. None of them helped me at all, not when I found anatomy books to study, and life drawing lessons, instead. Hart’s HTD:Manga/Anime books just irk me. Limited, anatomically incorrect, and copy-pasted. If you want to teach anyone to draw, I suggest looking at muscle structures and life models first.
    Cleaning up the attitude and deflating your enormous ego would also help. Just because you’re a published “artist” does not mean you are flawless. Rob Liefeld is a good example of that.

  36. Gwynn Says:

    As a “professional” artist, you would think that Mr. Hart would be able to handle criticism a little more professionally. His attacks on your review were both immature and biased. If you are to be taken seriously as an artist you shouldn’t be bothered by something as just one review. Especially by your attacking the reviewer, Mr. Hart, I have lost my respect for you as a professional artist.
    However, I’m not sure whether to call his work professional or not. I would like to see some real works of his, not sketches or drawings of random, background-less cartoon characters. If this is all that he can accomplish, then I’m afraid I am going to have to take his words with a grain of salt. As an artist, your work should be able to stand by itself and be admired, not by teaching others how to copy it.
    I must admit that for a beginning artist his books would be quite helpful. Of course, this learning artist should not use the books as their only resource, and should definitely disregard them once they have begun to get skilled. This is to enure that they have a chance to develop their personal style of drawing.

  37. Sven Says:

    I thought this might interest you, because it’s kind of hiilarious :D




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