Monday, July 21, 2014

Character Design - misc exercise drawings

One of my favorite parts of the character design class that I've been taking (which I wrote about yesterday) has been the in-class exercises. They've been one of the ways I can tell I'm more cut out for design than storyboarding. When my Story Development teacher would say "time for an in-class exercise," I would immediately break out in a cold sweat. When Jose calls for one, I get excited. I really like challenging my brain to do a design in under 10 minutes. It's just plain fun.

The first exercise we did was to just call out random words. Jose would put 2 words together and we'd have to design something to that effect.

"Pirate Batman"

"Octopus Lawyer"

"Alcoholic Clown"

"Rocket Girl"

I really wish I could show you some of my classmates' design solutions for these - there were some seriously brilliant ones. I remember my favorite alcoholic clown having whisky coming out of a squirty flower pin on his lapel. The fun of it was really seeing all the different designs together after we were done. 

The second exercise was to design a character from a shape that the teacher drew up on the board. We could add to the shape, but ultimately it had to be the prominent mass of a character.

Finally, something I drew in class during the lecture. I used to draw in my notebooks all the time when I was in grade school. It got me in trouble because I never paid attention. Not at art school...

P.S.: Dawn of Planet of the Apes was really, really good.

© Gina Florio 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Character Design with Jose Lopez

My latest class at the Concept Design Academy is Character Design with Jose Lopez. We're about halfway through the class.

I've been working towards taking this class for two years. When I first got interested in concept art, I wanted to jump immediately to character design, but I knew I wasn't ready - I had to study the fundamentals first. This is a complete list of the classes I have taken so far, in this order:

VisCom 1
Landscape Painting
Analytical Figure Drawing
Intro to Digital Painting
Intro to Story Development
Figure Invention for Animation

I took Story Dev and Fig Invention during the spring semester because I was thinking about pursuing a track as a storyboard artist. I subsequently realized that I did not enjoy storyboarding at all - but I don't regret taking those classes. 

Even if most of these classes weren't directly related to character design, I've learned something and made artistic progress in every single one. I don't miss struggling with oil paints in the hot sun. But the landscape painting class made me a much better artist because I learned to pay attention to the big picture, the broader statement of the image. I don't miss calculating precisely at which angle a generic box is casting a shadow. But learning perspective paid off greatly during my character design homework this week when I had to do turnarounds and calculate precisely where my characters' feet would be on the ground.

I would have taken more classes before character design if I had had more time - I particularly would have loved to take Animal Anatomy, and the more advanced Head / Figure Drawing class. But I've been studying those things on my own on the side as I go along. And I knew my fundamental drawing skills were getting strong, but I was sorely lacking in my design skills. I felt ready to tackle a design course.

For Character Design, we were supposed to come up with a story (or choose a classic fairytale) and do designs for 4 characters of our choosing - a hero, a love interest, a villain, and a sidekick. We started off with LOTS of thumbnails, and finally it came down to doing a final design and turnaround for 2 of them.

My characters are Riva, a scrappy cartographer's daughter, Altus, the forest prince, Unnamed Villain, the mayor of Riva's town, and Altus's steed, a creature of the forest.

I did turnarounds for Riva and Altus. I finalized their designs more during the turnaround phase, after receiving a critique on the final design from the teacher.

Overall I have been really, really enjoying this class and I feel like I've learned so much. I already cringe when looking back at my earlier design process!

© Gina Florio 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chinese Animated Feature Trailer - 'Master Jiang and the Six Kingdoms'

I don't know if you could call this a 'trailer' since it's 5 minutes long, mostly wordless and I have no idea what's going on... but I love it.

Beautiful animation / imagery / characters / environments. I'm down anytime there's a reindeer looking thing with 90's-era Ribbon Dancer stuff flowing off of him while he runs through the sky and then transforms into the cutest chubby little cat-reindeer-creature you've ever seen.

© Gina Florio 2014

Monday, July 7, 2014

When It Gets Hard

I hate writing. What I really love is reading. I tell people I became a professional writer so I could be a professional reader. (Adam Phillips: “I had never had any desire to be a writer. I wanted to be a reader.”) - Austin Kleon
Lately I've been struggling with motivation. I've been back at work for two and a half months now and I'm fully reminded of why I took the time off in the first place. We all have to find time for our art, personal or otherwise; that's not a new struggle for any of us. I'm good about making time, before work, after work, on weekends. But even when I do make the time, I have no flow. It takes me a while to get back into the rhythm of creation, and by the time I do, I've run out of time. My progress feels very stilted, jagged.

Like Austin, I got into this because I love art, and particularly concept art. I love looking at it and imagining the worlds. But it's one thing to love it, and an entirely different thing to make it. When all is going well, I love making concept art even more than I love looking at it. But when it's hard, well. I love it less. To say the least.

I find that when I start feeling low, like this is too much work, why am I doing this to myself, I'm no good at this, I don't even like this, etc. etc., the universe conspires to remind me to keep pushing, that it's worth it. Like the video below from Brothers in Art, which a former classmate of mine posted a few days ago:

Or this passage from Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, which I'm currently reading (apologies for the wall of text, but this whole passage really hit me in the gut right when I needed to hear it):

     "You never turned in your story," Professor Piper said. "Did something happen?"
     "I just..." Cath started again. "I realized I'm not cut out for fiction-writing."
     Professor Piper blinked and pulled her head back. "What are you talking about? You're exactly cut out for it. You're a Butterick pattern, Cath - this is what you were meant to do."
     It was Cath's turn to blink. "No, I... I kept trying. To start the story. I... look, I know how you feel about fanfiction, but that's what I want to write. That's where my passion is. And I'm really good at it."
     "I'm sure you are," Professor Piper said. "You're a natural storyteller. But that doesn't explain why you didn't finish your final project."
     "Once I realized it wasn't right for me, I couldn't bring myself to do it anymore. I just wanted to move on."
     Professor Piper regarded Cath thoughtfully. [...] "Why do you keep saying that it wasn't right for you?" the professor asked. "Your work last semester was excellent. It was all right. You're one of my most promising students."
     "But I don't want to write my own fiction," said Cath, as emphatically as she could. "I don't want to write my own characters or my own worlds - I don't care about them. I care about Simon Snow. And I know he's not mine, but that doesn't matter to me. I'd rather pour myself into a world I love and understand than try to make something up out of nothing."
     The professor leaned forward. "But there's nothing more profound than making something out of nothing." Her lovely face turned fierce. "Think about it, Cath. That's what makes a god - or a mother. There's nothing more intoxicating than creating something from nothing. Creating something from yourself."
     Cath hadn't expected Professor Piper to be happy about her decision, but she hadn't expected this either. She didn't think the professor would push back. "It just feels like nothing to me," she said.
     "You'd rather take - or borrow - someone else's creation?"
     "I know Simon and Baz. I know how they think, what they feel. When I'm writing them, I get lost in them completely, and I'm happy. When I'm writing my own stuff, it's like swimming upstream. Or... falling down a cliff and grabbing at branches, trying to invent the branches as I fall."
     "Yes," the professor said, reaching out and grasping the air in front of Cath, like she was catching a fly. "That's how it's supposed to feel."
     Cath shook her head. There were tears in her eyes. "Well, I hate it."
     "Do you hate it? Or are you just afraid? [...] You can't do anything with fanfiction. It's stillborn."
     "I can let people read it. Lots of people do read it."
     "But you can't make a living that way. You can't make a career."
     "How many people make a career out of writing anyway?" Cath snapped. "I'll write because I love it, the way other people knit, or... or scrapbook. And I'll find some other way to make money."
     Professor Piper leaned back and folded her arms. "I'm not going to talk to you any more about fanfiction [...] but I'm not done talking to you." Cath took another deep breath. "I'm afraid," Professor Piper said, "afraid that you're never going to discover what you're truly capable of. That you won't get to see - that I won't get to see - any of the wonder that's inside of you. You're right, nothing you turned in last semester compared to Simon Snow and the Mage's Heir. But there was so much potential."

© Gina Florio 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why We Need Fantasy

A great quote from something I found today on Reddit.

"Sometimes, a little fantasy can make all the difference for people, whose lives are filled with many hard realities. I got into costuming to escape, and sometimes I can help other people escape too. We all need a breather sometimes, a little bit of air, and pretend, before we can shoulder it again... So don't listen, please, to people who say things like 'useless fantasy'. That means they probably never needed it, and I'm glad for them that they don't, because that also means their lives are pretty good. But they don't understand, and frankly, we don't need them to. We can change the world ourselves, for the better, using *what* we love to help those *who* we love. Us, with our ridiculous outfits and hobbies and obsessions, can do a kind of good that serious and practical people can't. So please, do something with what you do."

Here's the photo album with the quote in case you're interested (the costumer in question made his own, very impressive, Iron Man costume and entertains children with Downs Syndrome).

© Gina Florio 2014

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Portfolio Reviews: round 1

Hey everyone, just a quick update - I've been off the grid for the past couple of weeks while I had a couple of (informal) portfolio reviews with two former CDA teachers (which went well!). Also wedding planning. Every once in a while I remember "Oh right I'm engaged" and spend a couple of days glued to Pinterest. (Which I actually think is pretty unhealthy but that's a story for another blog. The best thing I've read on the subject is this post: "My Fantasy Football Wedding". If you happen to be planning a wedding I do recommend the A Practical Wedding blog as a go-to for your daily dose of sanity in an otherwise insanity-dominated endeavor).

My takeaways from the portfolio reviews:
  • Give yourself enough time to research and get solid prints. My prints came out kind of shitty because I was rushing to get it done.
  • Both teachers said put your best piece first, 2nd best piece last and 3rd best piece in the middle.
  • Both teachers emphasized having a sense of flow throughout the portfolio.
  • For a design portfolio, one recommended putting ideations and sketches on one page and the finished product on the opposite page, to show that you can take an idea to a finish.
  • Do NOT be a sucker like me and get one of those pre-bound art portfolios with pages for loose-leaf prints like this. They're nice, but the shiny-ness of the plastic page covers make your prints hard to see, and since they're pre-bound you're going to end up with a bunch of empty pages, which looks bad. Both teachers commented on this. They recommended printing up little books through Blurb or Lulu, OR just using an iPad. They both said iPads have become the portfolio device of choice.
But my biggest takeaway was,
  • Everyone is going to have a different opinion of what your portfolio should be. Both teachers recommended wildly different approaches for me to take. 
  • One of them said it's basically impossible to become an environment painter or character designer, so build a portfolio out of only props and vehicles, don't even include characters, and only use 2 or 3 pages of observational sketches and studies in the back. Completely focused.
  • The other one said to take a more holistic approach and design an entire world (or two), with characters, environments and props, to show your storytelling ability. But he also recommended keeping the sketches and studies to a minimum and letting design be the majority of the portfolio.

That's all I can think of for now, feel free to ask any questions you would like!

Also here's a painting I finished since last time I posted! It's from a sketch that I drew about a year ago.

© Gina Florio 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Power of Ideas

Muddy Colors' Howard Lyon just wrote a post on Ideas vs. Skills - what matters more in art. It's an extremely worthwhile, thought-provoking read (as pretty much anything on Muddy Colors is.)

What is it that makes you love a particular piece of art? Is it the technical skill on display in the piece? Or is it the idea, the emotion, the story behind it? Which do you value more in your own work? Lyon says it certainly doesn't have to be either/or, but it's worthwhile to consider what's important to you.

Everyone's answer will be different. But I realized a long time ago that for me, the idea is key. I actually remember the exact moment that I realized this. And you guys are gonna think it's way dumb.

Way back when I first started concentrating seriously on art (and thus was in a constant state of extreme frustration with my skill level), I was looking for fun geeky t-shirts and came across this one (link to shirt on Redbubble). I grew up infatuated with Pokémon and so I instantly loved it, but I also had another reaction - just being in awe of its simple brilliance. This isn't exactly a technical masterpiece. There's nothing wrong with it either - it's just simple. I can't imagine that making this image took more than an hour or two at most. But (if you know Pokémon at all) you know what it is instantly. The colors are perfect. The silhouettes are perfect. And most of all, it communicates perfectly what the game and the ideal of Pokémon is all about - evolution. Growing stronger. My two simultaneous reactions were "This is so simple that I could do it" and "That's brilliant and I love it." (I still haven't bought the shirt of course.)

By the way, none of this is meant to slight the artist - here is a link to lomm's profile on Redbubble (and if you love Pokémon I really recommend checking him out). I can't find any further info on him but he is clearly a VERY skilled artist.

Personally I am at a place where I'm trying to get my skills to catch up to my ideas. (I think all artists are always trying to do this, no matter how good you get... but I could do with a little more closing of the gap than most.) For me, there's a certain amount of technical skill that's necessary to express my ideas effectively. So what I am concentrating on, in the day-to-day, is leveling up my skills. However, it's always in the service of how I will execute my next idea.

I love, love, love beautiful pieces of art. I will stare for hours at certain technically masterful pieces trying to understand how they got everything to look just so right. But the pieces of art that linger in my head for a long time are the ones that fulfill me the most intellectually, emotionally through their ideas and their storytelling.

© Gina Florio 2014