Art is meant to draw strong opinions, so let's take a look a very distinct style.
Click below as we look into Jay Fosgitt's contributions to the IDW comic lines.
Jay Fosgitt's style has been drawing more and more debate lately. Having served as the main artist for seven issues, we've gotten a wide sample. Some fans are vocal in their distaste while others don't see a big deal. Some think the artwork is cute, others say sloppy. Of course, the usual format is something like:
Fan A: Fosgitt's artwork is stupid!
Fan B: Fosgitt's artwork is great! You're stupid.
Fan A: I hate you!
Fan B: I hate you more!
Classic Internet. I can only provide my own two cents on this, so let's dig in!
Fosgitt's style is instantly recognizable by the exaggerated proportions for each character. No one can claim that our Mane heroines follow proper biology, yet Fosgitt enhances their proportions to create a different look. I suppose this style would be called "super toon".
Going by the pony's noggin' as a reference, their heads are almost as big as body and legs combined. Proportionally speaking, this is the same style used in Gen 3.5. However, it's worth noting the differences. Fosgitt draws ponies legs as consistently thick, avoiding the odd bulge in Gen 3.5's legs. He also favors a tapering neck line that blends into the head rather than the segmented look in this screenshot.
Both styles are designed to look cute. Big eyes and disproportionate heads remind us of youth, often making the ponies themselves seem younger. Whether or not this actually works is subjective. What I will disagree with is the idea that this art is less professional. The real test of an artist is how they can break the rules with intent rather than mistake. Looking over Fosgitt's web gallery, it's clear that he applies this style to any topic, from original artwork to the Muppets. The proportions are exaggerated, but they are consistent.
The Little Ponies
Proportion is not just how a character looks in relation to their own body, but also to their surroundings. As an example, let's check two panels from Friends Forever #24 and #32:
Rarity is standing at a table so large, she has to ascend a ladder to work while Lilac Links can't address her without standing upright. The overall effect is that the ponies appear even smaller due to the towering surroundings. Similar style with seeing Fluttershy skipping down a flight of stairs. Things like the number of stairs, the height and size of the railing, and the wall panels rising off-page all combine to make Fluttershy seem diminutive in her own home.
The same goes for when ponies face other ponies. A criticism voiced during Friends Forever #32 is how tiny Daring Do and Fluttershy looked against the hench-ponies.
Harder to measure given the poses, but the evil equines are at least twice as big as our pony protagonists. To me, this makes it funnier as Daring proceeds to whoop each of them in a brawl, and it's not the first time Fosgitt has used size to convey humor. It's not wrong to say these proportions are extreme, but this is done by intent rather than accident.
It's a "David and Goliath" style joke. The smaller the pony, the funnier their victory.
So let's finally address the awkwardly posed elephant in the room, eh? It's a rare event to see ponies standing on all four legs in a Fosgitt piece. Very often the ponies will strut on two legs, jump around like Super Mario, or carry things as if they possessed hands. Even unicorns have no use for their horns. That's one of the stranger things to note. In going over Fosgitt's history, I only saw one case where Princess Luna used magic, and it wasn't for levitation.
This probably the biggest disconnect between fans. Some don't mind but for others it breaks the immersion. I'm more the former category, with some unique exceptions, but I think I understand the latter. This show features characters with whom we identify as people, but the visual treat is seeing how ponies move and behave in this fictional world. How do they handle tools? How they design around a pony form? How do they act not human? It's part of the fun, and if ponies can suddenly move and interact with the world like humans, that fun can drain away. Case in point, how funny would it be if Fluttershy had to chant her mantra while holding that lantern in her teeth?
So why am I okay with this pose parade? Because something else fills the void: energy. Andy Price remains my favorite artist for details and expressions, but Fosgitt's art possess the most physical energy. The reason ponies are rarely seen as quadrupeds is because they're in constant motion. Fosgitt's art features many organic curves that convey action. Ponies jump and cheer and dash all over the place. Though they don't move like their TV counterparts, I enjoy the frantic sense within the pages.
The Cutie Kerfuffle
Having just praised the organic movement in Fosgitt's artwork, I now get to talk about the most artificial element: cutie marks.
For whatever reason, Fosgitt does not draw in ponies cutie marks like other artists. They're digitally pasted graphics, often featuring much finer detail and line weight than the surrounding comic. Though often accurate to the show, the end result is an element that doesn't blend with the rest of the visuals. It can be easy to miss, given that a lot of pony poses tend to shift the cutie marks out of sight or draw the eye away. Yet once a person notices, it's difficult to avoid.
It is worth noting that Fosgitt is not the only artist who relies on this. While looking back through the last issue of The Ponies of Dark Water, I recognized that Tony Fleecs and possibly Heather Breckel employed a similar idea. The digital mark did not stand out so much, possibly because Fleecs' proportions are more in line with the show's. Even so, the difference is visible.
This led to one of the greater dramas for the comic fandom. In Friends Forever #22, a character named Chef Chase featured an egg whisk cutie mark that made from online clip art. Though disappointing to see in a professional comic, I view it as a reflection of the larger issue. The digital cutie marks are out of place in the style Fosgitt's developed. Indeed, I recognize that it's less time consuming to paste a digital mark in most comics, not just Fosgitt's, but sometimes the expression of that effort matters more. Even if it meant a loss in detail, I hope the comics' artists invest extra time in conveying the cutie mark in artwork that appears to be hand-drawn.
The Princess Problem
In my eyes, Celestia and Luna are the hardest characters for any artist. Their proportions are already different from standard ponies; their movements different as well. Plus, how does one convey an ethereal mane in a fixed medium? They're some of the biggest challenges and I find that few are able to capture them on paper.
This primarily applies to Friends Forever #22 again. The exaggerated proportions work well for little ponies, but Celestia and Luna are meant to be taller, leaner, and more elegant. Going by a rough guess, Celestia's body proportions are 2.5:1 over her head. So when Celestia sits like a human, her size creates a stronger image of a Celestia cosplayer rather than a pony. Her mane likewise seemed to be a problem, as its placement and flow could create some truly surreal images for Celestia.
Yet by Friends Forever #28, Fosgitt seemed more comfortable with both Celestia's design and Luna's actions. Perhaps Luna's mane is easier to draw with only two tones rather than for hues. Yet even then there were curiosities. Luna's horeshoes seemed to expand up her legs like socks, and like Celestia before, her wings would enlarge to serve the needs of the pose.
The end result being that Celestia and Luna are a tough sell for this art style. Not strictly a deal-breaker, but a greater hurdle than other characters. Yet for every weakness there's also a strength. Fosgitt has drawn the sisters in some wonderful situations and expressions.
That's the long version of Fosgitt's style. It's unique, it's distinct, but it's also very love-or-hate. There are other details that I could discuss, but usually they are limited to a single issue. Instead, there are questions that I can't answer.
I wonder if an individual's reaction to Fosgitt's art style hinges on how they want to view the comics. Are these meant to be extra episodes during the hiatus and in the middle of seasons? Does having such a different style interfere with that idea?
Looking to all of you now. How do you want the comics to look and how much liberty do you think they can take with their presentation?
I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!