Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sketchbook: Cosmetic surgical procedures

I've been trying to draw more in my sketchbook following last week's sketchbook tutorial. I've got various ideas to explore and develop on from just drawing from references. Also I wanted to find different styles of drawing. 
This is an example of some of the sketchbook work I've been doing in response to those aims. 

As part of the Animation course I watched some third year film pitches last week - one in particular really stood out to me. It was called Skinister and was a stop-motion animated short with a horror plot. I really liked the themes illustrated and also the art style. So much so that I've contacted Rachel, the third year who pitched it, and hope that I can work on the project. 
I've recently become interested in plastic surgery and so I was inspired by this pitch to explore some of my initial ideas around the subject. I started by watching some videos of cosmetic surgical procedures that I could relate to. From this I did some sketches and explored some different styles of drawing. In particular, I thought that the technique of using watercolours to paint the body and then biro to draw the surgeon's hands and tools was effective at showing how the human body was delegated to just flesh during the procedures. I was struck by how non-delicate the surgery was, and I was also interested by the fact the bodies I was sketching were actively hated and not accepted.
I'm pleased with how the sketches went and will probably develop this initial work further, hopefully if I can be involved in the Skinister project I could use some of these techniques. I'm especially keen to experiment with bringing these drawings into 3D by modelling them in clay. 

If you're interested here's the link for you to take a look at Rachel's blog, the girl who pitched Skinister:

Friday, 18 October 2013

Flash Exercise: Anticipation and Overlapping

A quick exercise in Flash - we had to use a simple cube character with no legs so that the focus was on the animation movement. Before the character jumps he bends to anticipate the movement and then after jumping he bends further forward and then back again - this is know as overlapping.
The anticipation and overlapping are longer than the actual action of jumping as they are just as important to creating the illusion of movement as the jump is.
I really like exercises like this as I have always wanted to learn the fundamental principles of animation (and art) properly so i can employ them effectively. By learning how to utilize animation principles in simple exercises like this I can then employ them in more complex animations and in 3D work also.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Storyboard Brief

The brief for this project asked for a storyboard that showed two characters/objects meeting - one had to be travelling slowly and one fast. I was inspired by the ghost stories surrounding Dartmoor and decided to depict a headless horseman intercepting a lost hiker.
This is my first proper attempt at a storyboard, and I have no doubt there's lots of things wrong with it so I'm really looking forward to being able to discuss and get some critique on this project at the next class and then I can improve my storyboarding skills. I did include some aspects of storyboarding that I have learnt so far on the course - for example, the two characters are travelling in opposite directions suggesting they will meet, also their direction of travel does not change until they stop. 
I used Adobe Flash to create the storyboard as I like using the drawing tools, however in future I will be learning how to use Photoshop for tasks such as this.

Preparatory sketchbook drawings

I drew from a couple of references to get more comfortable drawing horses for this project -  Jacques-Louis David's painting 'Napoleon Crossing the Alps'; Eadweard Muybridge's photos of a galloping horse; a book on drawing horses by Lee J. Ames; also Disney and Dreamworks designs. I also did some quick drawings of my friend riding her horse to understand the movement a bit better. These are very quick and basic sketches but they were really helpful when it came to drawing out the storyboard.

Of some relevance to this project is a hand-drawn animation I did using Richard William's The Animator's Survival Kit of a horse galloping earlier this year when I was applying to studying animation. I'm hoping to create an improved version of this animation soon and look at some more of William's examples.

The individual drawings for the animation (flipped)

Following on from a sketchbook tutorial as part of my course at university, I've set myself the task of drawing much more in my sketchbook. I'm planning on trying out various styles of drawing in a similar way to how I did these horse sketches, however I'd like to develop my drawing further on from just working with references - to use sources to understand how the subject exists and works in 3D but then to use this knowledge to draw some really original styles and designs.

Foundation Final Project: Character Models from War and Peace PART 2

The finished models

This is the second post about my Foundation final project. I'll be talking more about how I sculpted the models - apologies for the bad quality photos, due to how much I ended up rushing at the end of the project much of the modelling process was done late at night when the lighting was not great.

Each model has a metal armature inside - these were sculpted using the designs I developed in my sketchbook using references from life-drawings. These were also useful for keeping the models upright whilst I was sculpting and painting them - once this was completed I cut the external wire off.

In the background of this photo you can see a collection of tester pieces I did using the clay. I tried various types of materials - plasticine, air-drying and Sculpey which I ultimately chose. Of the models, Natasha - the model on right of this photo - is my least favourite. I tried to create a dynamic pose for her but as a result I struggled with weighting - if I ever model again I will definitely spend more attention on this aspect as I would really like to create an effective dynamic pose.

These three photos show some of the stages of modelling and painting for the model of Prince Andrei Bolkonski. Even though he is lying down he has a wire and foil skeleton inside. I began by adding clumps of clay to build up the general shape and then modeled by cutting away the clay using a craft knife. For features such as the hands I modeled them separately and then attached them once the rest had been competed and there was no risk of them being accidentally squished. 

I really enjoyed sculpting details such as his uniform and definitely want to try modelling characters again in the future. I am not sure this was the most effective way of creating the models as it was all very trial and error - there were definitely a lot of issues with this method. Also, I would like to experiment with modeling for animation in a similar way to how Aardman do - i.e. creating a number of different mouth poses, or hand poses.

After nervously baking the models I started the painting process. Due to Super Sculpey's properties I did not have to paint the base skin colour - I liked the texture of the clay and how it had a quality of warmth which was great for flesh. I did add some washes of colour on the skin but tried to keep it subtle.

Foundation Final Project: Characters Models from War and Peace PART 1: CATALOGUE

Apologies as this is a very image-intensive post. This is the first of at least two blog posts I'm going to do about my Foundation Diploma final piece, the second of which will focus more on the sculpting process. After the second part I don't plan on posting any further about my previous art projects. Instead I'll be posting my current work which will be more animation-related. 

For my final project on the Foundation course I chose to make some clay models based on characters from Leo Tolstoy's epic War and Peace. I found the project pretty difficult for a number of reasons - firstly, it was self-directed and as a result I didn't really work in the most effective way - I feel that I spent a lot of time exploring ideas that were not closely related to the end result of the project; secondly, I was experimenting with a medium I had never tried before. The models are constructed from Super Sculpey clay and the whole process was experimental - however it was exciting and I did learn an awful lot. I'm especially glad I have some experience with making 3D models now that I am studying animation as I think it will come in useful when I try stop-motion.

As an introduction to the project I've decided to upload the catalogue I created at the end of the project to accompany the models in the end of year exhibition. I tried to include lots of drawings from the sketchbook I kept as development for the project. There's also a number of reference images in the catalogue which I've referenced on the same page as the images appear. It was cobbled together in a bit of a hurry but hopefully it is somewhat understandable and interesting. 

Click on an image to view a larger version.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Monkey Island Nesting Dolls


 I designed and painted these nesting dolls during Summer 2012. The designs are based on the characters from the LucasArts adventure game series Monkey Island - as the games range from point-and-click
pixels in 1990 to 3D in 2009 - there was quite a lot of room for creativity in the design process. For example, below shows the various depictions of the main character Guybrush Threepwood throughout the series.

Image source:

I worked mostly using the pixellated designs from the first two games as this helped narrow the character choice, but I included elements from the other games too. For example, for Guybrush's design I used his coat pattern from the fifth game Tales of Monkey Island.
This was the first time I had painted on a 3D surface, and surprisingly I didn't find it too difficult. The process was slow as I only worked on small bits when I had time but this allowed me to change the designs and to adapt the 2D drawings I did below for the 3D surface. There were some slight issues joining the front and back designs together at the sides. I've actually already bought another set of blank dolls to paint with new designs, however the new set are more squat than these, meaning that I am having to pay more attention to the 'join' between the front and back. So much so, that I currently am planning to do four drawings for each doll - a front, back and two sides.

LeChuck design

Voodoo Lady design

Guybrush Threepwood design

Once I had completed the drawn designs for each doll, I scanned the drawings into my computer. I used Macromedia Fireworks to edit and colour the designs. The whole process was very trial and error, although it seemed to work well and I found that having coloured designs were vital during the painting process. I think this success lay largely in the slow but steady working process which involved lots of planning and designing which ultimately meant I avoided lots of potential problems.

Colour design - front
Colour front - small

The actual painting process was not too long - I began with the smallest first. I sanded the dolls and sketched a very basic copy of the design onto the doll. For the larger dolls I painted the areas at the 'opening' first, leaving the top and bottom of the dolls separate whilst the area dried just so that they did not get sealed together by the paint. I used acrylic paints and applied a couple of coats of varnish to each doll. The largest doll is 14cm tall and the shortest is 2cm.

Front view of painted dolls
Rear view of painted dolls

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

2D Flash Lip Syncing

This is another exercise in Flash animation I did this week on my course. I found this fun to do - experimenting with the drawing tools in Flash. Each mouth shape is a symbol which is then manually synced with the sound recording. The eyes and eyebrows could do with some more tweaking but I am pleased with what I have learnt so far doing this exercise.

2D Flash Bouncing Ball animations

We were given two animation exercises to do in Flash this week - to animate a football bouncing into shot and then coming to a halt, and also to animate a bowling ball falling into shot and stopping. I did a couple of versions for each of these tasks and looking back at them now I am happy to see the improvement. Above are the versions I submitted - I prefer the bowling ball as I think it communicates the weight more effectively.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Foundation Brief: Eccentricities

Left: Pencil and pen drawings
Right: Acrylic painting of character

I worked on this project over the Christmas holidays during my Foundation year. We received a very open brief - basically just the title 'eccentricities'. I decided to try some character design, with emphasis on creating a character with the potential for use in animation. This meant constructing the character from simple shapes, designing a process of drawing them, and also making sure they could exist from all angles.

Development drawings. Top left shows how the character's face is constructed from simple shapes.
I was pleased with how this piece turned out as I think this babushka is an engaging character. I especially enjoyed working out how the character existed in 3D, and using the method of simple shapes to explore how the character could respond to different situations - thus creating a character with thoughts and feelings.

Foundation: Drawing exercises

The first few weeks of Foundation were in some ways the toughest, but also the most useful. We did drawing, lots of drawing! I wasn't used to standing at an easel drawing for hours at a time and found it difficult to start with, but now I appreciate the challenge of drawing for long periods of time as it allows me to really concentrate on improving my technique and ability. It was through these exercises that I discovered that I really wanted to learn to draw properly - to understand and convey in 2D how objects exist in a 3D space. This ambition helped lead me to chose to study animation.
I've just dumped a selection of work created on the first part of the course below with some brief descriptions, so you can get a quick idea of my drawing background and how I like to work. I haven't included any life drawings as I'll probably write a separate post about them at a later date, however you can see some on my main art website now if you are interested.

Here I am practicing measured drawing - trying free hand sketching and then drawing the same scene using the technique of measured drawing

History drawing - drawing the same set-up repeatedly from different angles 

In this work created for the course's Christmas Exhibition, I utilised the technique of layered drawing that I had explored in the history drawing above 

More composition and technique exercises - learning about the Golden Rule and root rectangles. I'm really fascinated by how ideas such as the Golden Rule were developed in history and how mathematics is connected to art.

Experiments with typography and composition

Painting exercises

Foundation Print Workshop: Chekhov book covers

Mock-ups of the book covers designed in Adobe Illustrator

I worked on these book cover designs during the Foundation course with my friend Jamila. For the brief we had to select three books by the same author and create a series of book covers, utilizing three-colour screen printing. I learnt many new and useful things on this project - not only how to screen print, but also preparing stencils in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and most useful in my opinion was how to work in collaboration.

As someone who previously preferred to work alone it was a huge eye-opener, not only to discover the benefits of working in a team, but also how much I enjoyed it! Fortunately, Jamila allowed me to indulge my interest in Russian literature so we chose to design covers for three short stories by Anton Chekhov. The benefits of working in this way included a more exciting development process whereby we could discuss ideas and inspire each other. We both have different artistic interests - I was interested in character design, whilst Jamila was great at natural sketches and patterns.

Our working process began with research - we read the stories and highlighted key imagery, looked at other screen-printed book covers and also at different interpretations of Chekhov's writing in illustrative form. We were particularly inspired by the Czech stop-motion animator Jiri Trnka who had adapted Chekhov's Romance with a Double Bass. We loved the stylized construction of his scenes and characters, and you can see how were influenced by his work below:

Image source:

In my development sketches the characters evolve to become more elongated and stylized as in Trnka's style. The character's personalities are reflected in their shapes. I had not previously worked in this style and I found I quite liked it and saw a lot of potential for future character design. I also had to keep the designs simple for the screen-printing stencils, and to limit colour use for the same reason.

From these pencil sketches, we moved into computer art by scanning the drawings. This method allowed us to work separately on different elements in our respective sketchbooks and then to combine the art together on the computer - trying various compositions and colour schemes. Once we were happy we created stencils from the computer art and experimented with screen-printing the covers. Briefly, the screen-printing process was fairly difficult and required lots of patience, however the quality of line and colour were well worth the effort and I plan to practice more as I think this medium has plenty of interesting potential for incorporation into animation work.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Sketchbook Task 1

This is my response to our first brief on the Animation course, which was to find a toy and to draw it in different locations. I've tried out a couple of different angles and compositions - including high and low angles, and also a variety of locations - the kitchen table, beach, harbour... I've also experimented with mediums to get different colours and effects. I enjoy line drawing as it encourages me to construct interesting compositions, but I found that the coloured pieces are more expressive.

This project has no set deadline, so it's likely I'll continue to do more drawings and paintings for this brief, however first I would like to explore some of my other ideas through working in my sketchbook, building on the techniques tried here.