Will Ryan asks illustrator, cartoonist, animator, director Milton Knight about his worldwide artistic influences.
Milton Knight is in at least one way the Grim Natwick of our time: he entered the animation business as an already-famous illustrator and cartoonist. He brings to the animation industry not only a strong personal artistic viewpoint, but a depth of knowledge of art, music and animation history matched by few.
I spoke with Milton at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, a short trot away from the Burbank offices of ASIFA-Hollywood, which recently honored Milton with an exhibition of his paintings.
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Will Ryan: Milton, your drawing style is unlike anyone else's.
Milton Knight: Thanks.
Who in the world influenced you?
MK: Right now, Chinese art very much, and Asian art in general. As for oil painters in the Twentieth Century, Xu Beihong. Asian graphics as well. Russian art.
WR: How about earlier influences?
MK: For a long time in my twenties, I was heavily influenced by the Japanese.
MK: Yes, the great nineteenth century printmakers like Kuniyoshi, Kunasada and the rest.
WR: I shall look forward to your "One Hundred Views of Mount Wilson."
MK: Too smoggy, I'm afraid. There are a lot of other early influences, too; I don't know how far you want to go with this question.
WR: Well, we've gone halfway around the world so far. How about American influences? Any domestic animators or cartoonists you'd care to cite?
MK: The New York artists, generally.
WR: Okay, I'll specify a New Yorker. Decades ago you were waving the flag for the animation of Jim Tyer. When were you first aware of his work?
MK: I was imitating his drawings when I was six years old. When I watched his Heckle and Jeckle cartoons at that age, I loved his work. I called him "the stretchy artist." I didn't find out his name until I was in my teens.
WR: What drew you to his animation?
MK: Rather than aiming for academic perfection, he drew as the action would be felt. Academic perfection is nice, but it was Jim Tyer's expressiveness that drew me to his work.
WR: Well, I think there's a similar feeling of strong emotion in your work as well.
WR: One of your many fans is Ralph Bakshi. Any thoughts about him?
MK: Ralph gave me my first job in the wonderful industry we call animation. Sweet. Loveable. Ovenly.
WR: That's one of the great things about you, Milton; you always have an original point of view.
WR: Is it fair to say you were collecting what's come to be known as "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music" fifteen years before its comeback?
MK: That's about right. David Carroll, Werner Mueller, all those guys. LPs that I used to be able to pick up for a dime are now going for, I don't know, a hundred dollars.
WR: You know, Milton, I'm suddenly realizing that you're kind of an advance man for popular culture. Kind of a harbinger of tomorrow's hits. Kind of ... Say, you wouldn't happen to have any advice about ?
MK: I do not give tips on the stock market.
WR: Just thought I'd ask.
MK: But stock up on Silly Putty.
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Milton Knight's new film, Caprice: Teen of Tomorrow, is currently in production. He exhibits widely and his illustrations appear in major magazines throughout the world.
Will Ryan is the creator of the animated series Elmo Aardvark: Outer Space Detective! Hanging in his living room are original oils by Grim Natwick and by Milton Knight.
By the way, Milton was just kidding about the Silly Putty.