A year or two ago, when I visiting Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, the gallery’s proprietor, Mike van Eaton, showed me one of his then-recent acquisitions: a collection of drawings from the estate of animation veteran Bill Perez.
Throughout his career, Perez had kept a morgue file of animation character designs drawn by other artists. Most of these were random drawings that he picked up around the places he worked—quick sketches, discarded character model drawings, rough designs, and other ephemera that would have been lost if not for his collection. Many of the pages had multiple drawings pasted up of a particular subject, like old ladies or cats. There were few recognizable cartoon characters, but the collection was excellent reference for anyone who had to draw in a vintage TV style.
Mike generously allowed me to pick out a drawing of my choosing, and I chose this bull:
I didn’t realize what it was until a few months later when I was looking at another online auction site and saw this color model cel:
Of course, Manuel was Go-Go Gomez from UPA’s Dick Tracy Show (1961). Why I didn’t recognize this at the time is another question, but quickly flipping through hundreds of pages of similar looking artwork can fry your perception abilities. The only thing I knew is that I really liked the grouping of characters. What’s funny is that I had also unwittingly gravitated to a drawing that is almost certainly by my favorite designer of the Cartoon Modern period, Tom Oreb.
One of the last significant jobs of Oreb’s tragically short career was doing character models on the Dick Tracy series, a job he got thanks to his friend Victor Haboush, who was the show’s art director. Oreb commonly used colored pencils during this period, as he does in the underdrawing, but what really distinguishes it as his work is a flawless ability to boil down graphic concepts into the most basic yet dynamic forms. Even amongst the hundreds of other character designs in the Perez collection, this drawing popped out.
I don’t know if Mike van Eaton still has anything from the Bill Perez collection, but next time you’re there, be sure and ask him about it. You may find an affordable drawing or two in there that inspires you like this one inspired me.