Friday, November 30, 2012

Today's Mutts

Mutts by Patrick McDonnell has always been one of my favorite comic strips. Today's perfectly summed up my life right now.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

'The Hobbit' Making-Of Video: Post Production

This isn't necessarily art related. Actually it has a lot more to do with editing, which is what I do for a living right now. But you know what?! I'm going to go ahead and share it anyway, yes I am.

Somehow I was unaware that they were even making these 'production diaries,' which is a shame because now I have a backlog of eight 15-minute videos to watch. Anyway, this is a lot like what I do for a living... except about 10,000 times more awesome. (There is some concept art in there though! I had no idea that concept artists stayed on all the way through POST production... a complete revelation to me! Although it makes total sense with such an effects/greenscreen-heavy film.)

To draw a parallel - I feel like a lot of what I've been going through this year, especially how I've become so invested in this drawing thing, has to do with trying to reconcile my personal/artistic aspirations with the place I'm at right now career-wise. I definitely don't want to be editing reality TV forever. BUT I'm also so grateful for this job - and I've made a realization, too. Whether you're a concept artist, a character designer, a screenwriter (my original major in college), a reality TV editor, or the editor of The Hobbit - your job is basically this: storyteller. Almost all creative crafts come back to this - one of the oldest forms of creativity there is. Any book that you read, any art that you look at, any tv show or film that you watch - it affects you because it tells a story that people connect with in some way. You have to know how to make the characters relatable, when to do exposition and when to pull back, what makes a story intriguing. How to create a world that people want to spend time in and know more about. Even a single image or illustration should tell a story, should grab people, make them want to walk into it.

I like my job. I love that it's creative, and I love the act of editing; of finding and putting together the story. I love pretty much everyone I work with. But ultimately I'd just like to work on something I'm passionate about. (Peter Jackson, I know the movie is done, but don't forget you've got two more to make!! I could DEFINITELY pull a few all-nighters for the sake of J.R.R. Tolkein... and I could double as an editor AND concept artist... two employees for the price of one!! Just think about it...)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dynamic Sketching Week 5 & 6

Class sketchbook roundup!

Week 5 - Animals
Most of these were done at the zoo and then colored later.

Week 5 Redesign
Hanglider based on bat anatomy.

Week 6 - Cars, Tanks and Planes
These are all from reference - toys or internet photos.

We were supposed to do 6 pages that week, but Lauren and Justin were visiting that week so I only got through 4.

This week is cars again - last class we went to the Nethercutt Classic Car Museum in Sylmar, which was actually awesome. In general I'm liking vehicles more than I thought I would. I tend to draw more organic things usually. But I enjoy the straight lines and the perspective and the shape variation. Learning to appreciate the design of vehicles more.

To be honest, the part of the class I'm having the hardest time with is the redesign projects. Everyone else's are always so good, they come up with such creative things and seem to really enjoy exploring them. I can never seem to think of anything that I get really excited about. We're supposed to do several pages of design work before coming up with a final version - but I'll draw a few different versions and then get stuck about where to take it next. Not sure why that is. It's discouraging because I love drawing from imagination, and that's really what concept design IS, being able to conceive of many different versions of something and then take it to a finished design. But I feel like I do my best work when I'm drawing from life.

It's been a long time since I had to use my brain in this way. But it's great practice for sure. Overall I've definitely seen a huge improvement in my own work since the beginning of the class. I feel like I'm beginning to draw forms instead of lines. I think that's why I love drawing cars so much, actually - it's much easier to see the forms. It's just boxes and cirlces. And everything's symmetrical. What is on one side will be exactly the same on the other.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Disney's Multiplane Camera and other stories

Sorry again for the lack of posts lately. I know I'm really disappointing the 3 people who read this on a regular basis.

Once life returns to a more normal schedule, I'll have lots of new sketches to post, but in the meantime, I thought I'd share this delightful and informative archive Disney video.

I love this little video for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it seems like Disney, and those around him, put as much thought and effort into the making of his how-to, behind-the-scenes videos as he did into his actual movies. This film, which could easily have ended up very technical, has a story and a soundtrack. Even some acting (around 5:45 - I cracked up at this part). The Disney company in that time was full of master storytellers and artists. And still is - although it's obviously changed a lot!

It also strikes me how much a real work of art those old films were. Hand-drawn cels and oil-painted glass backgrounds that someone would manually wheel to the side in increments. If you dropped one of those sheets of glass while loading it up for the camera, hours of someone's hard work was gone instantly. The finished film was the result of tens of thousands of hours of creative people bent over desks, painstakingly DRAWING and painting, frame by frame. Those films were created by a small group of people and they took a long time to do it. Nowadays we have inconceivably large crews, so long that the end credits take 15 minutes or more on most animated films. They work on computers, creating intangible files on hard drives and backed up online. And animation companies produce a film every other year. "The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry."

Speaking of Disney, I wanted to point anyone interested to another incredible art blog - Deja View, by Andreas Deja, an animator who started at Disney in the 70s and was part of the Disney revival in the 80s and 90s, working on such films as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, all the way through Lilo & Stitch. His posts are always fascinating insights and tidbits from the Disney archives - he collected and saved much of the art from the earlier days of the studio, films like Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood, Lady and the Tramp. Here's a great sample post with rough sketches for 101 Dalmations. And another one about the challenges of tough poses that animation presents.

Post-Script: Disney's latest animated film, Wreck-It Ralph, is in theaters now and it's GREAT. Do not miss. Lots of cool easter eggs for those of us who love videogames - but the real power of the film is in its story and characters, which are universal even to those who have never stepped in an arcade or held a controller.

"I am bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There's no one I'd rather be than me."
Post-post-script: I just found out yesterday that Linds Redding, the writer of 'A Short Lesson in Perspective,' died recently and that's why his post is gaining so much traction lately. Very sad.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dynamic Sketching Week 4 - Insects

I feel like I'm having real problems with rendering light and shadow... and I have trouble figuring out how to depict pattern as well as texture and shadow, and have it not be confusing.

I wasn't too happy with my redesign. I started out with this idea of a culture of native american-type people who worshipped and/or had a symbiotic relationship with giant scorpions... ended up having them use the exoskeleton of the scorpions as armor... just tried to do too much in too little time. Working on scaling back this week.

Not to mention, I know of no one who would ever stand like that. Ever. I can't wait to take some figure drawing classes.

Post-script: Today is the first day in a long time that I feel truly proud to be an American. The trend towards social justice and fairness in yesterday's election is extremely encouraging. "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice" - MLK Jr.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Little Perspective

"You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it - I'd like some fresh, clear, well-seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?" - Ratatouille

Latest drawings from class are forthcoming - it's been a busy few weeks and it will only get busier from here. But there are two things that have me thinking lately that I wanted to write about.

A Short Lesson In Perspective, by Linds Redding
 - You should know before going into this that it's written by a man who has been off of work for 6 months getting chemotherapy for a probably-incurable cancer. I know it's long, but it's worth the read.

I have never worked in advertising - I can only bring my knowledge of the TV and film industry (and really, only the reality TV industry) to this discussion. And on top of that, I've only been in the workforce for 3 years now, so I voice my opinion with the knowledge that I really don't know anything. But I see the same thing happening to the TV and film industry that Linds observed happening in advertising. The pace of life that modern technology has forced us into favors quantity over quality (I feel like 24-hour news networks are a great example of this). I've had a few people tell me now that even as recent an invention as reality TV used to be different - one producer and one editor got together with their footage and had a year to cut a show. The business model that I entered was more assembly-line inspired, with many editors, sometimes more than 10, brought in to cut a show within two, three months. Speed is key. A fast turnaround is a must. Time is everything. And a 10-hour day is standard. (I've worked on a few shows where 9 hours is the norm... it feels like an extravagant luxury.)

I'm happy to be employed, working creatively, doing what I studied, with good people. And I'm even proud of the shows that I work on. But I do think, in this and in many creative fields, that quality is increasingly being exchanged for quantity and speed, that artistic risk is becoming endangered in favor of what's already tested well with the target demographic, and a healthy work/life balance is falling by the wayside.

The second thing I wanted to talk about was the recent death of my aunt Kathy on my mom's side. (Originally I wasn't going to write about this since this is an art blog - but it's my art blog, darnit, and I'll write what I like.) She was one of the kindest people I've ever met in my life, with a warm, quiet demeanor, and her early departure from this earth was shocking as well as deeply saddening. But her death also had an impact on me that I didn't anticipate.

When I started getting back into drawing earlier this year, I think I actually became so obsessed with the subject of art and with making myself a better artist that I got into a bad place about it. Everything that wasn't art-related was taking time away from my passion - including people. I started to meticulously plan out every minute of my free time so that I could devote the maximum amount of time to drawing and learning about drawing, and anytime something came up last-minute, I got stressed. You get the idea... Anyway, I had already been starting to get this under control recently, but when I found out my aunt died, the change was immediate. I instantly thought of how long it had been since I'd called or written. And I couldn't attend the funeral either due to hurricane Sandy - but I felt the grief and the love in the coming-together of the Hanlon family from across the country. Since then, I've realized that no matter what you're doing with your life, the only thing that really matters is the people around you. You could have the best job in the world, but the only thing that makes it worthwhile is who you share it with - and likewise, friends and family are what make the unbearable things just a little more bearable.

Like Linds said in his essay, "If you're reading this while sitting in some darkened studio or edit suite agonizing over whether housewife A should pick up the soap powder with her left hand or her right, do yourself a favour. Power down. Lock up and go home and kiss your wife and kids."

Finally, one last word from Anton Ego.

(I rewatched Ratatouille recently and this part of the movie always makes my heart soar... I think it might be my favorite Pixar. Besides The Incredibles. And the Toy Storys. And Wall-E.)