My brother, Tom, was the artist in the family. He was truly gifted, and was supplied with many great books about art. Nobody noticed when I stole them. One of these books was my introduction to animation, a tabloid sized paperback by Preston Blair that I read over and over until the cover fell off and it became a series of loose pieces of pulp (see book above).
Preston blair is the source of multiple bad habits with young animators and students, bad habits that personally took me years to shake. The book is filled with "how to" duplicate, but impossible to understand artwork. The candy like walk and run cycles I still see students tracing today, without a clue to what they are tracing or how those drawings "feel" timed or sculpted within space. Every page is filled with wonderfully alluring classical hollywood designs that completely lack any type of foundational edge or instruction of how to arrive there. Matter of fact, the walk cycle page doesn't even make any sense.(please click below to enlarge and see my revision, I explain why there's always a "jump" when students duplicate these walks)Was Preston Blair a great animator? YES. Great book? Not so sure. The book seems to be focused on creating simple cartoons based on soulless flat shapes, and providing you with breakdowns that would only work if you understood HOW to make them work. Furthermore, the only truly amazing drawings are left with no comment or explanation how the drawings were achieved or timed out (ie the dancing croc.. amazing). I think it is a great piece of animation nostalgia, and NOT a good place to learn about motion or drawing.The great books by Richard Williams(Animators Toolkit) or Eric Goldberg(Animation Crash Course do a much better job, leaving under explained techniques and stylistic distractions aside. I'm currently obsessed with Eric's book.. there is just so many good bits in there! he's amazing. (despite his love for the over-cartoony style) it goes a lot further to explain the HOW and it doesn't limit itself to ill-defined examples with little, false, or no helpful instruction or direction. Eric's book very well could be the best instructional book yet, right next to Glen Keanes very short and to the point notes..Glen's packet includes a vital explanation of the sculptural quality that good drawings have. Blair's guide to constructing characters completely leaves out this sculptural element that is so vital to understand in the early stages of drawing in motion. Keane blows away Blairs shape breakdowns with four easy words and a thumbnail sketch.. (See below, blair art in the background, keane sketch on top)
My personal opinion is that Cartoony-design in general is such an overwhelmingly limited stylistic choice... by using it you are committing to a very short sighted genre where there are few chances to do something original or something based on keen observation that hasn't been exploited a million times in the last century. I think that a majority of contemporary animation is based on this "flat" aesthetic and design that by it's very nature limits the potential of the medium to capture and express the natural world around us.
Preston Blair was truly a great animator. My gripe ends with his book, I have all the respect in the world for the man.