Cartoon Cute Animals

Cartoon Cute Animals

Christopher Hart’s latest how-to-draw book, Cartoon Cute Animals, 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.

Cartoon Cute Animals

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.)

16 comments

  • Johanna,

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • William George

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

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

  • Thad

    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.

  • I’ve been trying to determine the most decisive 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.

  • 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.

  • Mike

    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…

  • Aine

    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.

  • Shae

    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.

  • 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.

  • Gemma

    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.

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