Friday, September 30, 2011

AAU Animation Drawing Workshop

Every Friday the Animation Department hosts a workshop for students where they can practice their life drawing skills. More importantly, the model serves as a template for your own characters. Right now I am improving my gesture skills but soon I want to start incorporating my own characters into the poses. Below are some 2 - 5 minute sketches from the past two weeks done on 18 x 24 drawing paper with Col-erase pencils:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thoughts on Animation I

I am currently taking Traditional Animation I and while I am enjoying that class it is kicking my butt. I knew that animation would be difficult, what I did not anticipate was how much timing and spacing played into animation. Things that vaguely made sense in books are beginning to come into sharper focus, but I admit that 1s and 2s, anticipating, drag, timing, spacing and the like can be quite confusing. Add to this watching the work of some of my peers, which is downright phenomenal in some cases and not so great in others.

What I constantly remind myself is that:

a) Everyone is in a different place

b) I am there to learn. If I already knew this stuff I would already have a job.

It is evident that everyone is in a different place. Some people come from an animation background and have a better understanding of the principles. Then there are people like me who gained everything they know from watching DVDs and reading books. Fortunately, this class can be the great equalizer. Even things that seem outstanding are picked apart by our professor - he sees the issues we do not. It's amazing what he is able to see that we miss.

Interesting enough, the simplest animation tends to be the best. By simple I mean the projects that forgo fancy hair, clothes, eye blinks etc. and focus solely on movement. My goal with my project was to accomplish both. I created a pretty simple character - basically a stick figure with mutton chops and a turtleneck - and am trying to get him to move in a way that does not resemble animated grated cheese. I've found that for every smooth movement there are quite a few that appear jerky.

Sometimes the animation is pretty good. Other times it's irritating, other times disappointing, especially when my aspirations are so high. Growing up with Disney, Warner Bros. and Don Bluth cartoons sets the bar pretty high. Now when I watch cartoons I am simply in awe. Hair blowing in the wind! Delay with movement of clothes. Multiple characters interacting with each other!

Weirdly enough, half the time I feel like I am not competing with my peers but people who already have jobs in the industry, aka people who know what they are doing. What gives me hope is that the people I admire started animating before I was born, so by the time I am their age I will be much better than I am now.

Overall though I am going to continue to grind my way through the process until I have something I can truly be proud of. Then I will continue to animate until I have something else. Then one day I can look at my first animation tests, have a good laugh and continue working on other projects. I will say this though - I am definitely not bored.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Evening with Craig Thompson

San Francisco's very own Cartoon Art Museum celebrated the release of Craig Thompson's latest graphic novel "Habibi" this evening at 7 pm. It was a delightful showcase of Thompson's artistic endeavors as well as an in depth look at how the artist created the 600 + page tome. That's right folks - 600 pages of gorgeous art. Not only is the line work beautiful but Thompson was open and honest about feelings of doubt, writer's block, and how he persevered through the seven year undertaking.

After describing the process and themes of the book, he answered a generous helping of questions from the attentive crowd of all ages, ranging from who inspired him to how the Islamic themes in the book have influenced his own perception of the world and its' peoples. He noted that while he understood a great deal about Christianity, having grown up in that environment, he knew little about Islam and Muslims before starting his epic research quest (something he likened to procrastination). As he worked on the book, he became acquainted with many Muslims who later became close friends. They offered him advice as well as helped him translate many of the passages in the graphic novel from English to Arabic. Thompson also studied the Koran in English, and the novel is filled with passages relating stores such as the tale of Abraham's sons Isaac and Ishmael.

Currently I am on page 20 of his work and I am thoroughly enjoying every bit, from the lavish ink detail to discovering the deeper meaning of the stories being told. And as a fan of "Blankets," one of my all-time favorite novels, graphic or otherwise, it was quite exciting to meet Thompson in person. I found that comic book artists in particular are fascinating people, and it is refreshing to know that there are individuals out there who still love using pen and ink to create. Computers are wonderful devices, but they cannot replace the tactile beauty of watching pigment soak into a page. Praise also goes to the Museum for showcasing a truly talented artists. The general public often thinks of men in tights whenever comics are mentioned. Superheroes are awesome and no one compares to Spider-Man, however there is more to this art form than caped crusaders, and I salute an institution that widens the eyes of the public.

Thompson is an honored guest at the Alternative Press Expo this year, so if you were not able to attend the Cartoon Art Museum's lecture, it is worth your time to visit APE and hear more about Thompson's artistic process and purchase a few books as well.