Saturday, May 15, 2010

Committing to a line with Frank & Doug

Between 1995 and 1997, 2 teachers- Frank Stack and Doug Compton completely changed the way I draw. Thank God! Above is an example of the kind of obsessive scribbling I was doing as of '95 ( a friend's sheep and Frank Stack). I thought I was Feliks Topolski.

Underground Comix legend Frank Stack was teaching at the University of Missouri where I worked at the time, and he allowed me to sit in on his figure drawing classes. He would patiently talk to me about the importance of committing to a line while drawing, resisting the urge to sculpt a figure out of thousands of tiny, searching scratches. If one continues to draw using a series of timid 1/8th inch long tic-marks, the result is a fuzzy image that's probably not proportioned very well. I was fussing, not really drawing.

I hardly paid any attention to him. I was clearly a genius and besides, other students thought I "drawed real good!"
By the time I hit the Joe Kubert school in '96, I realized something had to give. I look at most of my figure drawing during that time makes me wonder what kind of rash the models had that coated them with such moss made up of tiny line segments.

By the summer of '96, I was committed to cleaning up my act. I would still search for a good line with pencil, but at least they were honest lines. I was amazed at the improvement. In 2 months, my sketchbooks looked like they belonged to another person.

In '97, I began the animation program at the Kubert School. Our instructor for in-betweening was Doug Compton. He was my living nightmare. He'd worked for Warner Bros., Ralph Bakshi, a lot of big names. He was storyboarding Pinky and the Brain at the time. He was a perfectionist and he wanted us to be too! Imagine! I spent most of my time in his class re-doing assignments and choking back tears of frustration.

A cruel caricature taken during class.

I noticed, however, that when he wasn't eviscerating someone, he was drawing. He never stopped drawing. When I had the chance, I'd pass his desk and watch in amazement as he'd lay down the richest, juiciest lines- fast. It was like the drawing was finished in his head and he was hurrying to catch up. No hesitation. When he drew, he took no prisoners! I learned from Doug what Frank was trying to teach me years earlier! Commit to a line- everyone searches for the right form and shape, but search with a strong, bold line and move on!

Two scans from my animation portfolio in '98 that got me work. Please buy Frank Stack's books available from Fantagraphics Publishers ( I think ) and visit Doug Compton at Whenever I draw, they're both rattling around in my head!


  1. I worship Frank Stack like a God! And I'm an atheist!

  2. Are you familiar with his work?

  3. Didn't Frank Stack do "The New Adventures of Jesus" and some other underground comics? That's what I remember of him.

  4. Yep, and he drew Harvey Pekar's "Our Cancer Year"