Friday, August 5, 2011
Took a break last night from working in the computer to do some quick sketch figures. I found a website that has timed images of figures that is a bit of a fix for not having the time to go to a figure drawing class. If you are interested here is the site:
Monday, May 23, 2011
A big concept to work through when drawing from the model or inventing poses from your imagination is how rhythms work through the body. When I begin a drawing the thinking is very abstract, because I am searching for the total of what is happening. The first step in the drawing is to really feel this rhythm and try to capture it and have lines move in and out of one another.
If you look at the drawing with the red lines over it - I tried to show how lines flow from one to another and no line stand alone - they all relate to one another in some way. So what you maybe drawing in a hand - may actually relate to the foot, etc. This figure was drawn from imagination just to illustrate this idea.
All of these figures were drawn to emphasize this rhythm idea - I always try to see the movement in its biggest form before starting to break ideas down into smaller movements.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I have been giving more thought lately to the empty sheet of paper or the blank screen and how that first initial approach to something can be so intimidating. I used to do an activity with students when I taught life drawing where I would bring in a bunch of copies of the days newspaper, I did not invent this exercise, I heard about it someplace - I can't remember where now. The students would draw with a brush pen, or a permanent marker. The point of the exercise was to make your marks on a surface that was already covered - by doing this it frees you up creatively. The blank sheet of paper can be hard to mar, difficult to smudge, the perfection of nothingness can end up pulling you out of the game.
When I first started working in a sketchbook I remember battling with myself over the perfectness of even the sketchbook itself. It is bound, it looks important - and getting out those first drawings in one felt like I was placing too much importance on this activity. I felt pressure. I also started studying drawing after college, at about 22, and I needed a way to trick myself into not being let down or stopped by that voice in my head.
I used to bind typing paper into books and just fill them with whatever I was working on at the time, which is ultimately the point. I came across these recently and it hit home how overcoming the blank sheet is something that never goes away and it is always a struggle to gain momentum in your work.
I recently started a new animation shot in school and I am working diligently to chronicle my discoveries about my process and my approach. The goal is simple. Get repeatable, quality results, without spending EVERY waking minute sitting at the computer. I am gaining an insight into my process, trying out new things, tossing out the ones that don't work - and feverishly scouting out resources for new ideas.
The biggest challenge with starting this new shot was just that STARTING. I had my plan, I had my sketches, I did my research, I shot video reference...now it is time to sit down at the computer and stare into the void.
When I worked in animation previously, the scene was not totally generated from scratch. We had the storyboards and the voice track to base the composition and staging on BUT many times this did not resolve anything in terms of acting or physical action, etc. The stage that was really tough and was actually the framework for the whole thing was the comp. This was a more resolved drawing of the board, with proper proportions, perspective, and staging. This was combined with thumbnails for acting choices and brought before the director and assistant director for review. This comp was then placed underneath your animation paper and used as a basis for the scene - constantly referred back to - to remind you what you were shooting towards.
With 3D animation it is the blocking pass that is the first step in getting your ideas for the scene into the computer. The idea is that blocking should make sense without you having to explain to the viewer what is happening. It is a, "here is what I am thinking" phase - but it must stand alone and make sense as to what is happening. It is the framework and basis for what will eventually be the realized animation.
Drawing is by its very nature physical - you involve your arm, hand, body, etc. to make the marks and feel the evolution of the drawing happening. The computer feels so much more "out there" to me, it has been a challenge to get dirty with my process. I remember seeing people doing scenes on The Simpsons and they would cut part of a drawing they liked from one sheet, a piece from another sheet, tape it down to a new sheet, re-peg it and incorporate it into the shot. It was fascinating to see an assistant director take my drawings and cut off the pegs at the bottom, reposition a pose, re-peg and re-flip - and it was a giant improvement. The computer is so much more difficult to feel connected to, to enter into that place where you aren't thinking as much and just creating. I am sure it will come with time but with this last assignment, I think with the amount of over thinking I am doing it makes it even more difficult.
The key to getting the ball rolling and getting my ideas into the computer came down to sheer momentum and fighting through to get something that works. It can come with the smallest thing, I move something into a certain position and then something clicks and suddenly I have a pose I can hang the rest of my blocking on - and once something is there - it is not so intimidating - it is no longer a perfectly blank canvas.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
I gave some lectures last summer at a local school about animation and my experience working on The Simpsons. It felt a bit odd giving a talk about something I did professionally 8 years ago. I did enjoy being able to share what I learned on that job though and show the kids how to draw Homer Simpson and to challenge them to see their favorite cartoon characters as a series of simple shapes. These classes are very similar to how I first became fascinated with drawing.
When I was in elementary school an old Disney animator used to come and teach drawing after school. His name was Bruce McIntyre and he had this whole drawing system that we all used to practice and emulate. He actually had a solid approach to drawing and I loved his classes. My favorite part of the class was the end when he would draw a classic animated character for us to take home - he could literally draw it with a big Sharpie making it look perfect, in 10 seconds flat. I remember thinking it was pure magic, I was hooked. Bruce was actually ahead of his time - he believed that students could learn to draw through the TV and he worked very hard to develop a system of lessons that could easily be absorbed via a TV broadcast. He wanted everyone to share in the experience of learning to draw and he believed anyone could do it.
At this talk I gave last summer, I remember I told the students something I believed was true but now I know to be just something that the DVD extras emphasize more than what is reality. I told them that when a movie like Shrek is being made and Eddie Murphy comes into the studio to do his "read" of the script, the animators utilize footage of Eddie reading the dialogue and base their acting choices on his body gestures and language. Now that I have been studying the process of making feature level animation - I now know that the process of getting a performance on the screen is squarely in the animators hands. The voice-over sessions might be referenced or I would guess glanced at but what is more likely is the animator is video taping their own acting choices and body language. The voice-over is only there as inspiration and for phrasing and beats. I have such a deeper appreciation for the planning that goes into a shot and the research that a professional animator must go through to gain the confidence to approach a shot.
Animation is such a labor intensive art form that it is so important to plan the shot before getting in front of the computer to save yourself from countless hours of struggle. So, although Eddie Murphy may come into the studio and lend his voice to a character - it is really the animator that takes that performance and makes it fun to watch. I am realizing more and more that the more I can arm myself with unique ideas and interesting takes on my work BEFORE sitting down at the computer the better off I will be.
When I worked on The Simpsons it was very different. The TV production timelines are very tight and I was always struggling to keep up with the quota that the studio set for us. I was also a rookie and at that time they had no training department or ramp-up, I had the same quota and expectation on me as an artist who had been there substantially longer. It was stressful to say the least. We had mirrors at our desks for referencing hand poses or facial gestures but to actually explore an action by filming reference and breaking it down frame by frame was a luxury I never saw anyone doing.
I am learning more and more with my approach to my animation now that it is imperative to do the exploration and research before going headlong into a shot. Without a clear plan of attack it becomes near impossible to predict with any certainty what result you will ultimately produce.