Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coming Soon! Storyboard Pro Tutorials!

I discovered a great video tutorial resource for Storyboard Pro users. I'll be linking to specific tutorials and then comparing the tutorial to my application of its principles.


Tutorial #1 will be "The Establishing Shot." 

Friday, September 24, 2010

DBD—Don't Be Discouraged!

My senior year in high school I was in advanced placement English. I liked it because it meant no exams and no stupid spelling tests. By the time I was seventeen, I resented having to have my spelling tested, that it was beneath me. Says a lot about how I thought (and I'm still a damn good speller)!

Anyway, the way it worked was that we would learn something about writing, then have to write an essay in class showing what we've learned. If one got a, say, B+ or higher on the essay, you could move on to the next "level."

When people didn't move on to the next level, the teacher (himself a talented illustrator) would tell us, "DBD. Don't be discouraged."

Unfortunately, I didn't heed this advice as carefully as I should have. I started—and stopped—numerous activities throughout my life because I became discouraged. Now, at age 41, I've learned not to get discouraged. I can say for the first time in my drawing life, I don't toss aside the bad drawings and not draw for long periods like I used to. Now I suffer through it until I get it right.

I can honestly say that the pain is worth it. After the suffering, I can actually see the improvement between drawings one and 100. And it's those flickers of improvement that keep me going.

So my advice to you when you hit a wall with your creation…DBD!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Check It Out—Man vs. Art Podcast

The Man vs. Art website and podcasts are by Raul Aguirre, Jr., cartoonist and animator. I just today started listening to his podcasts and found myself chuckling. Although it's possible that he has a tendency to digress, he still makes valid points.

The podcast I heard today (from 8/21/09) was a hilarious tirade with which I totally agreed. Aguirre had the same complaint that Amid Amidi had at cartoonbrew.com: that the work of artists is NOT VALUED! Cheap asses on Craigslist post jobs that offer ZERO money but instead offer lame crap like "killer portfolio pieces" and "profit-sharing, once the property is sold." Yeah, right, ONCE it's sold! So an artist busts their butt to do several seconds or minutes of animation (people don't realize how long it takes to do one SECOND of good animation!) and gets in return…ZERO! And as Aguirre said, when artists accept these jobs, it devalues the work of all of us. Turning down these insulting offers will not only help the individual in the long-term (the time they spend creating a project for nothing, they could be creating their own project for something!) but will also benefit the industry as a whole, too.

I learned about devaluing of artistic work the hard way. I used to do design favors for colleagues at a company where I once worked. In return I got tickets to their shows and, as a chocolate fan, a Hershey bar. But once I stopped working for that company, I requested that I be paid for my work. The response I got from one individual involved something about how "we'd all like to get paid" and "we sacrifice to be in this profession" (in her case, theater.) I responded, "Yep, I'd like to get paid for all of the work that I do and I, for one, did NOT choose the theater life so, yeah, pay me."

Never heard from her again. Bwahahahahaha! Couldn't. Care. Less.

I no longer do ANY design work for free. The only exception I'll make is for a good friend or family member whose request is QUICK. And when I say quick, I mean 30 MINUTES. Seriously, if I can't do your design in 30 minutes, I don't do it for free. Period. I recently declined doing work for a family reunion because I knew it would take more than 30 minutes. Once we pass that mark, we're into time that I could be putting towards my own projects that could eventually EARN ME SOMETHING!

Just because creating is fun, does NOT mean it's easy and does NOT mean it's worthless. Aguirre said that Hollywood wants creators to think that their work is crap when in fact it's GOLD. They know it's gold and don't want the creator to know it's gold because then they'll have to pay the creator accordingly.  So if you believe you've got gold, go with it!

I believe the devaluing of graphic design began stock photography. Once you could easily pick up an image via the web and not hire a photographer, that was the beginning of the end of valuing photography. Then came stock illustration which decimated the illustration industry. But once I saw stock layouts, I knew I had to get out of this profession. Now companies will give their receptionist a computer, a layout program, a stock photo, illustration and layout and let her "design" a layout. Talk about devaluing!

My goal: to never again talk negatively about my work. I am supremely confident in my storytelling skills. Yes, I'm not the greatest draftsman ever, but neither is the guy who created "Family Guy." And he's doing just fine!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Luthor Studies

Since I have this nice software, I want to use it to fully realize my vision. One thing that I want to do more is camera moves. I think camera moves add to immersing one into an animated film. Live-action camera moves were used in "The Incredibles" to excellent effect.

So after my opening pan, I want the camera to travel through a window to introduce the viewer to Luthor. He'll be sitting in bed, a sheet covering him appropriately (despite the title and subject matter, this is a PG movie, folks!), puffing on a joint. But I need to get the angle right so I've done a bunch of studies of his body and mouth, on paper, before adding it to the animatic. Here are the studies:






OK, I know, these kind of look like wacky scribbles! BUT with each drawing, I was figuring out just how I want Luthor to look. The last drawing is pretty close to what the final will look like. 

I'd much rather take the time now to figure this out so I'll know if it's working story-wise or not.

This is all a process that I'm thoroughly enjoying!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Watercolor Tests

Here are some early attempts:

Materials used:
Canson Student Light Weight Watercolor Paper 80lb. Cold Press
Dr. Ph. Martin's Synchromatic Transparent Watercolor (Sepia, Black, Burnt Sienna and Coffee Brown)
Winsor & Newton Series7 #3 brush (sable)
Winso & Newton Sceptre 101 #8

I followed the example of the painter James Gurney and outlined the face in Burnt Sienna. Then I applied the method of Alex Ross and established the values (the lights and darks) with black (on the left.) I also tried it with sepia (on the right) to see if there was a difference in muddiness.

I purchased two different brands of 140lb cold press paper which I'll try in the future to see if there's a difference there, too. 

I think the key to painting is to follow more experienced painters' suggestions and apply them to one's own experiments.

More experiments coming!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Wonderful World of Watercolors

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only animator who's neglected understanding color and painting (see here.) Like Mark Kennedy, I've always focused so much attention on drawing and its associate skills that I never thought too much about color and painting.

But now I'm taking the plunge.

Why? First, Schedule 6 in the Nicolaides book has an exercise that involves watercolor washes. Second, I keep looking at the pile of coloring art materials in my supplies bin that I'm NOT using—Dr. Ph. Martin's watercolor dye paints, miscellaneous other watercolors, acrylic paints, Cray Pas, crayons, markers and colored pencils—and longing to put them to use (assuming they're not all dried up!) Third, I read somewhere that if one can become adept with watercolors, using other paint mediums is easier. I'm sold!

So I did one of my favorite activities: I went art supplies shopping! It was wonderful except for being rushed (had to fit it into my lunch hour) and I chose a bad time—back-to-school week—so there were long lines both days at the store.

But aside from those minor issues, I happily bought some paints, a mixing palette and some paper. I had already invested in a Winsor & Newton Series 7 #3 brush (because Alex Ross uses it, of course) and combined with the other brushes and paints I already have, I'm ready to go!

And I'll be sharing the results of my paint lessons despite the quality. I mean, I can't expect to paint like James Gurney or Alex Ross my first time out, right?!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Luthor Skulls & Expressions

Since I'm learning as I make this film, I wanted to take the time to fully understand the construction of my characters.

The first step is to understand the skeleton underneath the flesh. Since I'm distorting the standard human head, it's necessary to understand how the skull works since that's what influences the flesh.

And I couldn't wait to start playing with his face so I did some expressions:





More faces to come!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nicolaides—Schedule 5 complete


Well, this took an embarrassing ELEVEN WEEKS to complete (from Mon. June 21 to Mon. Sept. 6) but I DID finish it!

I said I was going to complete the Nicolaides curriculum to see if it has any benefit and I'm determined to do that.

On to Schedule 6!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Influence Map--Part II


Here's the continuation of yesterday's explanation of my influence map:

9. Alex Ross: I mentioned him in yesterday's post. I was never a huge comics fan, and especially not a superhero comics fan, until I saw Alex Ross's work in Kingdom Come. Just…wow. It suddenly occurred to me that the use of primary colors in comics was often a turnoff to me. But Ross paints the superheroes which gives them a vitality I've never seen before. Even a silly character like Plastic Man seems alive and serious with the Ross touch.

10. Andrew Loomis: Alex Ross was influenced by this drawing instructor, too. I've gone to great lengths to buy all of Loomis's out of print books, and it was worth it. His approach to drawing is easy to understand and execute. When I actually put in the time and make the effort (!) I immediately see an improvement due to his clear examples and explanations. Loomis is my number one drawing instructor.

11. MAD Magazine/Mort Drucker: I went through a period in the 1980's where reading MAD every month (I think that's how often it came out) was a huge pleasure. I was fascinated by the art; the various styles and the amazing ability to capture the likenesses of some many people. And those hands! I listened to a Schoolism video of Drucker and he talked about how many artists can't draw hands, that they go to great lengths to hide the hands in some way. Drucker decided he would tackle the challenge of hands and it shows! I love the cartoonyness and the expressiveness of his hand drawings. That's how I'D like to draw!

12. The Graduate: I love the post-college malaise that's captured in this film. Maybe because I, too, felt lost after graduating from college. This film is a model for a story I'd like to tell. I'm just trying to figure out how to make it nearly as good.

13. Will Eisner: It took me way too long to discover his work but now that I have, I can't get enough! I've bought all of his graphic novels, all of the black and white dailies of The Spirit and some color collections as well. Not to mention his books about sequential art. This man was a tremendous draftsman and I look to his work often for inspiration and as a standard to which to strive.

14. Burne Hogarth: My next favorite figure drawing instructor, second to Loomis. Although his work has been criticized for showing every muscle in a state of contraction, I value his drawings for revealing the human musculature. I have all of his instruction books, too, and have found them to be incredibly helpful. Some people prefer George Bridgman but I find his explanations and his drawings unclear. Hogarth is much easier to understand and apply.

15. Classic Steven Spielberg movies: I say classic because it's been a long time since I've loved a Spielberg movie. These are my four favorites--Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark (and, no, I will NEVER call this movie its alleged new name, "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark." GTFOH!!) and E.T. These movies were all released between 1975 and 1982. After that, I've liked a few Spielbergs but definitely haven't loved anything. In other words, between 1984 and 2008, Spielberg hasn't directed ONE MOVIE that I think comes close to my fave four. I hate to say it, but once he got married and started having kids, the "magic" left his films. I mean, really, removing the cops's guns from the re-release of E.T. because now he suddenly thinks that cops wouldn't pull guns on kids riding bikes with an alien from another planet sitting in a bike basket?!?! Are you kidding me?! The average American cop would've put a bullet right through E.T.'s head and asked questions later. Why not, they do it with humans!

Sorry about the digression…:)

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed hearing about my influences. Now go explore yours!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Influence Map--Part I

I just discovered this. The link contains the template and numerous examples of people's maps. Some of my favorite artists/bloggers have made them:

Saskia Gutekunst

It was fun making mine. I hadn't really reflected on my influences before. It was an enlightening exercise to boil it down to the essentials:




I numbered the panels for an explanation of my choices. I originally intended this to be a single post but my explanations are turning out to be long. I'll explain numbers 1-8 today, 9-15 tomorrow:

1. Classic Warner Brothers cartoons: Bugs Bunny is the reason I wanted to be an animator. I was fascinated by his adventures and honestly believed that he was alive. When I learned that a bunch of guys brought him to life, I knew immediately that that was what I wanted to do with my life.

2. Star Wars: Yes, I know it sounds cliché, because EVERYONE'S been influenced by Star Wars! But for those of us who saw that movie in 1977 (I was 8-years-old), it was nothing short of mind-blowing. I had never seen space like that, or spaceships like that, or creatures like that or worlds like that. As I once tried to explain to a colleague who was born in 1977 and who was eager to see the Star Wars prequels (I just threw up a little…in my mouth), then it was new, now it's old hat. A New Hope (which will always be Episode 1, as far as I'm concerned. I don't give a crap how George Lucas chose to number the damn things!) was a genuinely unique movie experience. I'll never forget it.

3. Battle of the Planets: My first favorite elementary-school-age, after-school treat was watching Battle of the Planets. It was my introduction to anime and I was completely fascinated by it. It was exciting and action-packed, qualities I like in my anime to this day. Alex Ross's recent comic book covers for this property take it to a whole other level. More on him later.



4. Star Blazers: My second favorite elementary-school-age and junior high school after-school treat. I even liked the theme song! This was a seemingly endless soap opera set in space (hmm, kind of like the recent Battlestar Galactica) that mesmerized me.

5. Akira: Another mind-blowing movie experience. I recall my jaw dropping the first time I saw it, it was so unlike anything made in the US. I returned to the theater a second time to see it AND bought a poster which hangs in my apartment at this moment. The music, the backgrounds, the emotional intensity. An anime classic.

6. The Incredibles: You know an animated film is good when people who don't usually like animation feel it's one of the best movies of the year. I saw it at a theater in Maui and immediately fell in love. I'm not a fan of the buddy/kiddie/lots-of-heart movies made by Pixar (I'm part of the minority that preferred Ants to A Bug's Life) but this one was such a standout for its story and execution. I study the DVD extras regularly. And speaking of DVD's,…

…[here comes a rant!]…

…The Incredibles DVD is one of the few animated feature DVD's that does NOT interview ANY of the voice actors, except for Brad Bird. I HATE animation DVD's that don't bother to interview the director or the animators…but interview the f!@#ing voice actors! People who get paid millions to stand in front of a microphone in their pajamas?! (20 of those millions to Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy EACH for f!@#ing Shrek. And how much of that did the f!@#ing animators get?!?!)

[rant over. back to influence map.]

7. Cowboy Bebop: Man, I'm glad I learned about this one! It was made in 1998 and as far as I'm concerned, no anime series has come close since (not even Bleach.) Two of my criteria for liking a story are if I believe the characters exist and if I'd like to meet them and spend time with them. Both criteria were met with Bebop. I LOVED this group of characters and was sad when my time with them ended. It looked great, the characterizations were fantastic, the music wonderful (bebop, of course), the stories exciting and the emotions real. It serves as a model for what I'd like to create.

8. The Godfather: Again, a potential cliché choice but, hell, it's a great movie. I rarely like movies about criminals but this is one of my few exceptions (the others are Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction.) Watching Michael Corleone go from war hero to ruthless thug is fascinating. And that last scene…wow.

Come back tomorrow for the rest!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco

Another stop we made during our brief stayin San Fran was to the Walt Disney Family Museum located on the grounds of The Presidio.


This is a wonderful collection that shows Walt Disney's entire life and all of the great entertainment inbetween. As usual, it was the drawings, rather than the painted cels, that grabbed my attention. I was also impressed with the scale model of Disneyland and the numerous illustrations expressing sadness after his death.



If you're a fan of the Disney studio's work, this museum is a must see.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum

My beloved—who is not nearly as into comics and animation as I am—was thoughtful enough to suggest we visit the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum during our recent visit.

It's a small museum but it had several impressive exhibits. My favorite was Before Sita Sang the Blues: Spotlight on Nina Paley. Admittedly, I wasn't interested in seeing Paley's self-animated "Sita Sings the Blues." I felt that the story behind the film was compelling (dumped by her husband via E-MAIL!!! Ouch!!) but the look of the film turned me off. I've never cared for bright, candy-colored animation and chose to skip seeing the film.



The exhibit, on the other hand, displayed the drawings and concept art that went into the making of the film in addition to Paley's early comic art. I was struck by her engaging style and may now check out her film and seek out her old comic art.


After looking over the exhibits, I purchased some low-budget comics made by local talent. Gotta support the locals!

If you're in the San Fran area, I highly recommend stopping by this museum.