Nominated for an Academy Award, this 1961 fable directed by Chuck Jones (with co-directors Maurice Noble and Abe Levitow) tells the tale of a singing giraffe whose life takes unexpected turns. It touches on the cult of celebrity and the addictive nature of fame plus it’s absolutely endearing. You’re bound to fall for Nelly. (Several years ago, we had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the world-famous San Diego Zoo with Chuck Jones. He had spent many a productive hour at the zoo over the years honing his drawing and watercolor skills. One of the highlights of the tour–there were so many!–was visiting the giraffe compound. They are truly elegant, beautiful creatures with exquisitely long, luxurious eyelashes that flicker languorously over the deep pools of their obsidian eyes and the longest, blackest tongue you will ever hope to see!)
Sometimes things happen for a reason. If you've been following this blog, particularly the Image of the Day posts, you'll know that some of our favorite images by Chuck Jones are those done at the regional zoos, whether it was the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park or the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park or even the smaller Santa Ana Zoo in Orange County, Chuck Jones loved to draw animals (and homo sapiens!) So, imagine our delight when today, poking around in a file we hadn't had our nose in before, we came across this terrific photo of Chuck speaking with a zoo keeper at the San Diego Zoo.
But, of course, this post would not be complete without a drawing of a denizen of the zoo, so please welcome our 'gnu-est' addition to Jones' 'gnu'anced bestiary portraits, 'Gnu'dara Gnu from Gnu York (pen and ink, with brushwork, on sketch pad paper, 9" x 11" approx.)
Is any other animal on the planet as ripe for a cubist rendering (or parody for that matter) than a rhinoceros? Although Chuck Jones was not one (a Cubist, per se, although his non-animation art in the late 1950s and early 1960s utilized his keen sense of the geometry of life,) he saw the possibilities when visiting a local zoo. Forthwith, we present two sketches by Chuck Jones, (graphite on 12 field animation paper) that clearly exhibit his delightful sense of the absurdities of life on this world:
"…I do believe it's true…just a fine and fancy ramble, to the zoo…" so sang Simon & Garfunkel in 1967 and around that time, Chuck Jones often found himself at the zoo drawing his 'notes' in a notebook such as the one we feature today.
Culled from the incredible archive of the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity (visit their website by clicking here), these drawings give you an insider's view at how the mind (and hand) of this master artist worked.
Each drawing, even as rough as these are, exudes character and personality, not only of the animal, but also of the artist. His sure hand in delineating form, his perceptive eye capturing character and texture; all of which combined bring you a little bit of time, the time he spent contemplating these animals. It's a gift.
The Chuck Jones mantra, instilled in him at an early age at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles was, "you have 100,000 bad drawings in you, start getting rid of them now." And toward that end, Jones, each and every day, drew, almost constantly. Whether he was on the phone, having breakfast, sitting at the beach, having lunch at his favorite restaurant; there rarely was a moment when he wasn't drawing.
These three sketches of big cats may have been done at the San Diego Zoo (a favorite destination for him) or judging by the fact that two of the drawings are on MGM animation paper, it may be that he was at the Los Angeles Zoo. Wherever they occurred, Jones trademark economy of line distills the character and personality of each of these three big cats; whether in repose or leaping at you, each one exhibits what Chuck deemed most important: they are believable.