Friday, October 31, 2014

Scene 28 Clean Pencil Animation—Part 2

Got some more clean pencils done although the hands aren't drawn. That's a whole other challenge.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Essential Skill—Seeing Values

The previous post discussed Andrew Loomis's value lessons from his amazing book "Creative Illustration." Loomis's books, however, can be a little daunting, especially to the beginner.

In a continuing search for accessible ways to learn values, I stumbled upon the site Learning to See. Created by Paul, his goal is to help others improve their skills in the same effective way that he improved his skills. In his "About" section, he talks about being in art school in the 1980's and not learning how to draw and paint. Instead, his education was focused on conceptual and abstract art. This reminded me of being in college in the late 80's-early 90's where there was a discussion about whether or not art history majors should take studio classes. In Paul's case, since so little of his time was spent on learning the fundamentals, he was thrown out of the school!

I appreciate people like Paul who have acquired or improved a skill and now they want to dedicate their time to helping others improve theirs. He's an autodidact (like you and me!) and his before and after work clearly proves that he's in a position to instruct.

Sign up for the free value exercises and click around the rest of the site. You'll find something you can apply to your own work.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Andrew Loomis--4 Essential Properties of Tone from Creative Illustration book

Andrew Loomis's "Creative Illustration" is the most expensive book I've ever bought (although I think my 3-volume collection of The Zohar is close. I was feeling especially ambitious when I bought THAT!)

Out of all of the Loomis books I own, this one scared me the most. It felt more dense and serious than some of his other books and is the most extensive of the bunch. When I finally decided to crack it open (can't let that money go to waste!), I was glad I did. There's a lot of helpful information in this book. Download the pdf here.

Published in 1947, Loomis divides the book into five areas: Line, Tone, Color, Telling the Story and Creating Ideas.

Here's what Loomis says about tone:
Tone is the degree of value between white and black, the lightness or darkness of a value in relationship to other values. Every object has "local value" which can be brightened or darkened by light or the lack of it. The artist is interested only in the effect of light or darkness on the local value, NOT the local value itself.

The 4 essential properties of tone--

1. Intensity of Light in Relation to Shadow. The relationship between light and shadow completely depends upon the intensity of light.

2. Relationship of value to all adjacent tones. Values is like resizing, a proportional relationship must be maintained.

3. Identification of the quality of light. The kind and relationship of values determines the kind and quality of light.

4. Incorporation of the influence of reflected light. Everything upon which light shines also reflects light. Nearly all shadows contain some reflected light. If you neglect to show the reflected light in the shadow, you'll lose your form's solidity and it'll look "dead." Reflected light helps make things appear round, 3-D.

You only need 4 values with which to work: white, light gray, dark gray and black.

Loomis's analysis is deep. I'll post more of it in the future. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 for Great (Free!) Resources

Another helpful website upon which I've stumbled is Lots of great information here including a large selection of FREE ebooks covering the basics of various drawing and painting topics. I've already downloaded 11 books covering topics of interest like the color wheel, drawing basics and basic anatomy. Currently, I'm going through the Drawing Basics book that includes drawing spheres, cubes and cylinders. You're sure to find something of use here!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sucking is Part of the Process

A scene from my "Calls of the Wild."

In the fall of 2009 (OMG, was it THAT long ago?!), I spent 3 months learning about independent animation from Bill Plympton. I completed a 30 second film (see sidebar at right to view it) of which I was proud.

I was proud that I conceived, storyboarded, made an animatic, animated, colored, painted backgrounds, composited, added sound effects and music to a film in the required time (only half of the class made completed films). All of this was a first for me. The sacrifice was unprecedented for me, too. I didn't clean my apartment for 3 months (much to my mother's dismay.) I pulled one all-nighter and worked between 7-8 hours on the weekends to get it done.

But it appears that others weren't as impressed. My classmates voted a less-complete film ahead of mine. A former colleague didn't understand what was happening in the film. Two or three film festivals rejected it.

Guess what? None of this matters. As another, more gracious, former colleague said, "It's a good first effort." And he's right. I can't be expected to make a Pixar-level film on my FIRST TRY.

As children, we didn't fear failure and making mistakes. We recognized that we couldn't do something well until we tried it over and over again. Sadly, as adults, we develop the mindset that everything we do is to be perfect even when we're new to that activity.

A scene from my "Calls of the Wild."


One only gets better with PRACTICE. Adults seem to only understand that concept when it comes to athletic pursuits. Otherwise, we think we're supposed to be experts on the first try. I think it has to do with the nature of work. We're not allowed to make mistakes at our jobs without being considered incompetent or putting our continued employment at risk. So we develop this "I must be perfect" mentality that is impossible to live up to and is detrimental to our development.

I've embraced Adult Toy Story as a "practice" film.

This is my first time doing lip sync.

It won't be perfect.

This is my first time making a 5 minute film, TEN TIMES LONGER than my last film, so it'll take TEN TIMES LONGER to make.

This is my first time working with a sound engineer.

This film won't be great like the work of the students at Gobelins or Cal Arts, but it'll be great for my skills at this particular time AND it'll be a huge improvement over my last film.

And the film after this one will be even better!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

To Paint Great, Need to See Simply

Photo courtesy of Muddy Colors.

After reading this review at the Muddy Colors blog, I bought a copy of Graphic L.A. by Robh Ruppel, art director, concept artist and matte painter in the film and game industries.

Glad I did!

As someone who's been reluctant to dive into color and painting, this book was an eye-opener.

First, there's very little text. Although I usually like a lot of specific information, I quickly appreciated the sparse and succinct text. By describing his process in short, easy-to-remember blurbs, the lessons are easier to instill and recall.

Second, the art is FANTASTIC! This is a great introduction to Ruppel's work and it made me want to seek out more.

Ruppel has developed an excellent method for seeing values, depth and color and he shares the method with numerous examples of his process.

If you want to learn how to break down the complexity of reality into basic shapes, values and colors, get this book. You'll undoubtedly benefit from it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Animate to Harmony: The Independent Animator's Guide to Toonboom

Flash—and now Toonboom—animator extraordinaire Adam Phillips recently published a book that I'm predicting will revolutionize how I and other independent animators use Toonboom Animate/Animate Pro/Harmony. It's called Animate to Harmony: The Independent Animator's Guide to Toonboom. I was so excited about getting this book that I accidentally ordered it twice! (yes, one is going back.)

Phillips is an Australian filmmaker and animator who, according to Wikipedia…has the online alias "Chluaid (pronounced 'Clyde'). His main body of animation work, for which he is best known, consists of flash animation compositions published on his website Bitey Castle and on the flash portal Newgrounds (there, as of March 2010, his movies have over 14 million views and he is one of the highest ranked artists). He is the creator of the Brackenwood series."

Adam Phillips Bitey Castle art.

Phillips knows his stuff. He's produced numerous tutorials and is a convert from Flash to Toonboom. This book is a compilation of his expertise. I've just cracked open the book as of this writing and already I'm liking how the book is presented. Phillips's approach is to take the reader/animator step-by-step from opening the program to creating a file to making an animation. It's easy to follow, there are lots of additional tips and tricks and a special link to download tutorial files.

If you're serious about using Toonboom Animate/Animate Pro/Harmony, I recommend this book despite having only read a few pages. Phillips is an experienced instructor (he's generously provided a free Toonboom Animate 2 video class) and I'm confident anyone who gets this book will benefit.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Animation Masterclass Coming to NYC!

On December 6-7, 2014, Pixar Animator Michal Makarewicz will lead an Animation Demo and Lecture Masterclass in Manhattan. Thanks to the Animation Collaborative and ASIFA-East for giving their members a $20 discount on this class. It's a rare opportunity for us on the east coast to have a major animation studio host a class.

Here's Makarewicz's bio:
Directing Animator, Pixar Animation Studios
Michal joined Pixar Animation Studios in early 2003, where has been an animator on The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up (Supervising Animator on the Up DVD short: "Dug’s Special Mission"), Toy Story 3, Brave, and a Directing Animator on Cars 2. Most recently he was a Supervising Animator on “Toy Story of Terror.” In 2008, he was awarded an Annie for “Outstanding Charcter Animation in a Feature Production” by the International Animated Film Society for his work on Ratatouille. In addition to his work at Pixar, Michal has been teaching animation since 2005. He has contributed lectures as well as taught classes at the online school, Animation Mentor, and instructed classes at California College of the Arts and the Academy of Art University.

I'm signed up and ready to learn how to improve my work. I'll provide a review of the class in December after I've had time to process the information.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Let's Give Ourselves a Break!

Man, I used to love this show!

I took a break from drawing practice because I felt that I was floundering, that progress wasn't being made…

…until I recently opened a completed sketchpad.

I saw these:

And LIKED them! After not looking at this stuff for awhile, returning to it made me see that there's some character in the line work and improvement in the execution.

It's not great…

…but it's not TERRIBLE either!

My goal is not to be Glen Keane or Robert Valley. I'll always be 20 years behind those guys. But what I can do is make personal improvement.

All that matters is that are skills improve from the day before. That's it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bugs Bunny and Friends to the Rescue!

Image courtesy of

To practice or not to practice, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to focus solely on completing the animated film or to take time from the film to improve my drawing skills.

This was my dilemma, feeling that the drawing practice I was doing wasn’t producing results, wasn’t moving me forward. I decided to stop it completely and devote all of my free time to just animating.

BUT now I’m rethinking that strategy. Optimally, I should be practicing drawing every day. The question I’m constantly plagued with is WHAT to practice.

To answer that question, I had to ask another, “In what way do I want to draw?” 

The answer is: classic Warner Brothers cartoons.

Classic Warner Bros. cartoons are the reason why I decided to become an animator at age seven. Bugs Bunny et. al. are the epitome of funny animated cartoon characters.

I want to draw like THAT!

In order to draw like those guys, I need to study what they did. I dabbled a little in this in the past by following the John K. curriculum which includes copying model sheets. But copying model sheets became boring. And since John K. said that the best model sheets are based on poses from the actual animation, I decided to draw from the actual animation.

I’m starting with a Private Snafu short and focusing on the gesture and the expressions, areas in which I need to improve. Now I look forward to practicing instead of dreading it. I appreciate that not all practice is supposed to be fun (studying anatomy can often be tedious) but until my skills improve, I need to keep it fun for motivation purposes.


But am I fairly evaluating myself by insisting that my skills have NOT improved? Maybe I am getting better! More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Scene 28 Clean Pencil Animation

This has been a BEAST of a scene (which explains my long absence from blogging) but slowly and steadily, it's getting closer to completion. I will NOT be beaten!

Here's some animation with clean pencil drawings: