The past few weeks I decided to dig out my old FoxTrot books and read them.
FoxTrot is one of my huge cartooning influences. As a kid, I tried to copy the style with very little success. You can see traces of Bill Amend's influence in my drawings, such as round eyes and sideways nose, but FoxTrot is something special.
The artwork is minimalist, and many people regard it as crude and stiff. Stiff it may be, but I don't consider it poorly drawn at all. If you examine the strip closely (and especially with the early strips), the drawings and layouts are carefully planned. Everything in the art is there for a reason. The characters make the right pose for any given situation, there are enough details in the backgrounds to give a sense of location, and even the faces are just right, as abstract they can be.
The strips above illustrate what I mean. There are many examples, but let me highlight a few:
- STRIP ONE: You have Peter leaving in the last panel, waving his "hold on a minute" finger at Andy. A lesser strip would simply show Peter just turning around and leaving without him holding up his arm.
- STRIP THREE: Look closely at Peter's mouth in all four panels. In the first panel his mouth is drawn normally, showing that he's speaking confidentially. However, by second panel he's becoming less and less confident. Notice in the third box that his lower lips are raised, showing that he's starting to doubt himself. By the last panel his mouth is near his chin, showing that Peter knows he painted himself to the corner.
- STRIP FOUR: In the second panel, notice how Andy is emphasizing her point by tapping her palm. Any other strip would simply just show her pointing at Peter.
These are just some example. FoxTrot is not the prettiest strip in the world but there's a purpose to its art style that I find admirable. It's not the most appealing art style in the world, but Bill Amend's attention to detail should be commended.