Wednesday, 31 October 2012

More Clay Practice!

Well today I've been very busy!

I didn't manage to get everything done that I managed to.

(That lovely research proposal keeps avoiding me).

So today after I finished the character development sheet, I went online and bought some clay and some tools.

I bought two different types of clay, and a packet of better tools than the flimsy ones I currently own.

So the first first type of clay is by a company named Chavant. The clay is a sulfur-free modelling clay and was recommended by The Gnomon Workshop.

Chavant is recommended by The Gnomon Workshop.
The clay was very affordable, so I'm interested to see if it will be of a high quality.

The next purchase was the very popular "Super Sculpey" from Polyform. It's a polymer modelling clay so I'm very excited to use that for the first time and hopefully make some awesome models.

Next, I made a couple of models from my Newplast again. Using a book I previously mentioned "Modelling Heads and Faces in Clay", I had a go at making a small, realistic human skull.

I'm pretty indifferent to the result. But there's definitely an improvement from my previous model.

But I can see progress. Hopefully with the better tools and actual modelling clay I will get better and better and begin to experiment with more interesting figures and ideas.

And last, but not least...a very helpful video for anyone interested in sculpting.

How to create your character armature. Which I have discovered is an extremely important part of the process. Not only does the armature actually keep your model actual standing up right, but it allows you to decide the post you're going to go for before you've even touched the clay. So you can see the basic idea of the pose straight off the bat.


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Character Sheet Task.

So today I decided to take a painting I did over the summer..

and pluck the character from the painting and develop his personality.

I had to first figure out which sort of personality this guy could have?

So I decided, he's obviously fond of nature. I like the idea of him having to urge to stare at the moon every night and not know why. Similar to Disney's Hercules always feeling like he doesn't belong on earth.

Then I realised, he's sitting in what could potentially be a rather difficult area to reach. So he could be very agile and a skilled climber.

So I threw these ideas together and created this character sheet.

character development exercise.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Industry Interviews.

The last few weeks have flown by.

However, I have a few exciting things happening in the development of the project in the very near future.

Exciting thing number one!

Junior Concept Artist Sarah Morris from Atomhawk has agreed to help me out with a bunch of questions I have concerning my project.

Atomhawk's visual designs are breath-taking.

Also, my Academic Tutor (Lynn) has been kind enough to get in touch with freelance Concept Artist Kenneth Anderson on my behalf. He has also been kind enough to help me out. So it looks as though I'm going to meet up with him and conduct a sort of discussion/interview about his practices.

So I'm currently drafting up questions and topics that I'd like to hear their opinions about.

Will hopefully remember to record that interview, because I'm sure I'll get some really valuable advice.

So a big Thank You to those mentioned I feel is in order.

Exciting thing number two!

Kenneth Anderson, whom I previously mentioned, has an awesome portfolio on his website, and so I decided to take the colour palette of one of his paintings and use that to do my own concept design work.

Here's the end result.

Also here is his original, which i took the colour swatches from. 

Andersons' artwork has a very interesting style. 

What did I learn from doing this? Well quite a lot actually. 

I got a lot better at blending colours and facial tones. (Even making the nose and ears a bit rosey adds so much to these studies, it's quite unbelievable.) 

I also learned that I need to keep practicing in order to get to the quality of work expected in the industry. So I may do more of these studies. 

However, I feel like the first two characters I drew (the top two), are the strongest of the four, and the last two are visually weaker. So I think I need to think more about the sort of character the person is more thoroughly before I dive in and start throwing colours around. With the first two I knew what sort of characters I was after, and with the final two I was just sort of trying to make something that "looked cool." And that just didn't cut it. 

I have also managed to add some books to my collection since my previous post. 

One that I started reading recently, "Drawing Basics and Video Game Art" by Chris Solarski has me very excited. The book is very much "as it says on the tin", in the way that it teaches drawing fundamentals and thereafter goes on to illustrate how these translate into the world of video game art. 

The book explores the work of Da Vinci, Rembrant, and others.  

Like a book I read last year, ("Creating Characters with Personality"), Solarski also provides the reader with exercises to complete in tandem with your reading of the book. This is something I am a big fan of, because it feels like you are getting so much more out of the words written on the page by actually doing, and taking the time to think about what you've actually read, as apposed to merely rushing through book after book hoping that something will stick. 

The next book is "Watchmen: The Art of the Film".

I've always loved the graphic novel and the film. So I had to track down this one for my honours project. In honesty I came across this book by chance during a visit to Dundee University's library. 

The Art of "Watchmen"

Nevertheless, at a glance the book looks like it's going to be a great help. The fact that the concept artists for Watchmen did very much adapt the style that was already in place from the graphic novel makes this a great resource for my project specifically. So hopefully I'll pick up some useful advice. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Short Pose Sketches.

The model couldn't make it to life drawing this week so we all took turns to draw each other. 10 minute sketches. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

More Silhouettes. Sorry.

I don't think I've mentioned before, but for a few months I've been watching tutorial videos on the excellent CTRL+Paint website.

The website's founder Matt Kohr, now a freelance concept artist, creates these excellent video tutorials which can all be accessed FOR FREE.

One of his videos focuses on silhouette iteration, and today I've basically been doing the tutorial. The videos are really easy to follow and he goes into just the right amount of detail that it just sticks.

Anyway, I'd highly recommend giving his website a visit if you would like to improve your 2D skills.

So the tutorial basically allows you to experiment with the inner detail to silhouettes using masks in photoshop. I created a silhouette which I liked, made several copies, and made the inner detail different each time to suggest different results from the same silhouette. Rather fascinating.

Anyway here's his example.

 And here's my efforts.

I know the styles seem rather different, but the point is to experiment and discover some cool ideas. Not to do an exact copy of his work.

Clay Sculpture?

So I've been researching clay sculpture a lot recently.

Hopefully this blog post will not only let me express my personal views on traditional sculpture but also entice yourself to perhaps consider giving it a try!

My first proper attempt at sculpture (high school aside), was during the development of my short animation that I made in third year - (before the summer).

I used an easily accessible product named "Newplast". The modelling material is ideal for stop-motion animation; However, it can also be used for creating still models.

"Newplast" the industry standard for stop-motion flicks.

Neat fact: On the London studio visit trip I noted that Tandem Studios used Newplast almost exclusively for their stop-motion projects. So I was glad to have made a good choice.

Since then I've made two more sculpts from Newplast. Thankfully, I seem to be getting better each time.

My latest rough sculpt. Newplast.

However, for my exposition I would love to use polymer clay, or an oil-based clay to create some really polished character statues/maquettes.

I guess I should share the sources I've found during my research!

This video is a great two-parter, which gives a neat little intro to the life of professional sculptor, Tony Cipriano, who, despite sounding like a mafia boss, explains his work excellently and clearly.

I've also bought a couple of books on the subject to get me started, and help me hopefully pick up the foundations of modelling.

The first is "POP SCULPTURE", by Tim Bruckner. This book is actually recommended in Cipriano's videos, and really does lend a massive hand to people eager to learn this way of art.

Recommended by Tony Cipriano

On a more basic level, "Modelling Heads and Faces in Clay", tells you the step by step process to making convincing human heads. Which although perhaps seen as boring by some, is obviously essential if you want to be a great character sculptor.

So hopefully in the coming weeks I'll have finished a first draft of a clay sculpt. And hopefully it'll be on the way to being awesome.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Art Dump Ver. 1.1

Finished reading "The Skillful Huntsman" today. (I'm reading other books parallel to this one). And got inspired by the incredible artwork yet again. So here's some character sketches for y'all.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Update/Pitch Summary and Reflection (Week 4)

Today I had my first progress presentation of my honours project.

It went really well! Got some really useful advice and now have a much greater idea of where I what I want to do next.

I basically put across my vision for my final project. - Which I have just realised hasn't been discussed on this blog.

To begin with, I've changed my entire idea. About a week ago, if memory serves.

Research Domain: Story Illustration and Design

Aim: To design an appropriate universe and artistic style for a story and interpret the importance of visual creation in adaptation.  

(Current) Objectives:
-Examine existing design processes and interpret reason behind creative directions.
-Critique and contract justification of bringing a stories' universe "to life".
-Create a broad visual realisation of a story, and assess the design process.

So basically, I'm going to completely realise the visual feel for a short story. And the process is going to be fun/interesting part.

This is kind of how I envision my final showcase to look. This is of course very early doors. But I like where it's heading.

design process: silhouette-thumbnails-refine-scenes-polished final concept art- high quality clay sculpts.
So this will allow people who view the exhibition to see my entire thought process in terms of design direction and decisions and, of course, experiments. I also would like to add a bit of inter-activity also. For example, I have a set of head phones which should be worn when viewing to add to the experience of the project. The head phones could either: Tell the story, in a compelling rhythmic style, play ambiance & foley sounds appropriate to the story- (through the help of one of the CSP students perhaps)- or even a mix of both.


Tips I received from pitch session:

- expand my research horizon, look into more books which cover the design process for films/games.
- consider making a timelapse video tutorial/info video about how I go about designing. (They do say the best way to really learn something, is to teach it). So I'm quite excited about the idea of that.
- What makes my design process/ideas different? What other creative professionals have done this well?

So as soon as I left the pitch session I headed to the library and got a hold of a few goodies.

- 2 DVD's (Gnomon Workshop):
"Character design for Games and Animation"
"Anatomy of A Short Film"

Image courtesy of

(Gnomon DVD's were particularly recommended by Robin Sloan.)

I also grabbed a book which caught my eye.

Image courtesy of
Because one can never draw too many naked people.

But seriously, I started flicking through this in the library, and ended up reading about 15 pages, so I couldn't not take it home. Some of the points made are incredible, and I only wish I'd discovered this sooner. I will no doubt post more about this book as I read more into.

Up until the start of third year, I hadn't bought a single art book. This fact is more than slightly depressing. But at the same time I'm now getting my hands on every scrap of art literature I can.

For adaptations such as "The Lord of the Rings", the studios release the accompanying "Art of" books. Although some of these books don't really explore the process that well, some of them can be incredibly interesting and can really help illustrate the pipeline behind visual development for adaptations.

So for my personal development I want to become much more well read in these Art of Books, and in Art books in general .

'til next time,

Clay sculpt test.

Another art dump. Enjoy. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Silhouette Studies.

Over the summer I came across a blog while researching silhouettes and basic character design theory. 

"Academy of Art's": "Character and Creature Design Notes".

This blog is a great resource for character designers. They don't post too often anymore; But they make up for it by having one of the most awesome archives.

I'm a massive fan of silhouettes. I love being able to get down the idea for a character, (or any design for that matter), and then having all your options on the table to choose from. Readability is such a key factor in design, that it almost seems silly to me NOT to harness the usefulness of the silhouette. If you have a strong silhouette then you have an advantage of an interesting design from the word GO.

Because of the tremendous fundamental benefits which silhouettes can lend a design, improving my illustration through the use of silhouettes will be a major part of my personal development.

If i can make my first step (silhouette) in the process as great as possible then it serves to make sure the journey itself goes in the best direction.

Seriously though, it's often thought that with a thumbnail or silhouette, the key thing is that it must be done as fast as possible. But that has very little to do with it. It's the readability of the design which is key (Jason Chan 2009). So ultimately, I want the foundations of this design project to be as strong and interesting as possible, so that in the end they best represent the story.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

London, and why it was awesome.

Back in August, myself and a few classmates were lucky enough to visit several Animation and VFX studios in London.

MPC, Tandem, Studio AKA, Frame Store and Double-Negative (D-Neg to the townspeople), were the ones I managed to visit.

Personally, the highlights of the trip were Tandem and Studio AKA, but that's just because I dig animation and the style of work those guys create. Of course that isn't to say the other studios weren't awesome; They were - extremely.

I loved Studio AKA because it was very clear from the moment I stepped in the front door that they had such a love for the work they were creating. At first it felt more like of a gallery than a studio, with an enormous amount of framed concept artwork covering their walls. Unfortunately, I wasn't permitted to take a photograph of the work; But some of it may be available online if you dig deep enough.

The studio has become famous for their Lloyds' TSB commercials., amongst other things.

The other Studio - "Tandem" - another force to be reckoned with in the advertisement world - had the most refreshing studio to visit. The studio roof consists of several huge window panes, which allows the building its amazing lighting conditions.

It also happens to be the studio where, albeit a separate division, the famous online short animation series "Simon's Cat" is created.

"Simon's Cat" boasts over 1million subscribers on Youtube. 

The reason these two were my favourites, was not only because they were the animation studios of the visit. More than that, they seemed like the sort of company I could easily see myself working for. They clearly loved story-telling. You just have to watch Studio AKA's charming "The Big Win", or Tandem's hilarious "Crash Bang Wallow" to see this.

I could also see how important all areas of the creative process were to them, and how seriously they are about it. Their characters, environments, stories, music, visual effects, were all so beautifully designed that some of the stills alone were enough to make me burst into a full-on dorky, tooth smile. 

So what did I learn from this?

Well, what became apparent to me was that I wanted to create something like the short films of Tandem and others. 

Realistically, the odds are really against in me in being able to do this in the time I have. 

Do I have years of animation skills and training? No.

Could I do this alone? And survive? probably not. 

But that doesn't change the fact that I very much want to do it. 

At the same time. 

Do I have years of animation skills and training? No. But, do I have a fair amount of time to get as good as possible? Yes!

Could I do this alone? Probably not. But, are there probably many people who would love to help out? Probably so!

I'm constantly researching character design, and loving it. But at the same time, I'm also writing short stories, and studying film theory and layout and loving that.  

So we'll see, I guess. 

I'll leave you with my latest character, and why I designed him the way he is. 

"Chuck"  - Because who wouldn't love a DIY chimp?
Character design theory. 

Next steps. 

- Do an animation Jam. 
- Finish Ed Hooks' "Acting for Animators". 
- Meet with Lynn (Programme tutor), again.
- Panic less. 
- Work more. 


Monday, 1 October 2012

"Personality Dictates Design"

Hello again,

For the last few days I've been reading journals from various character artists/animators around the globe!

One that really stood out as concise, well presented, and just awesome was the journal of Walt Disney character animator Bobby Pontillas.

The "article" is simply the slides from a presentation he had made to his fellow colleagues about the way he discovers and experiments with his characters. He goes into detail about the shape theory, and the importance of silhouette. He has a bunch of other great posts also, so I'd be sure to check out everything he's put up if you're into character design/design in general.

There's also an article on how he found his way into the industry.
It's simply just a collection of useful pictures which I thought I felt I would share. I sure found them useful.

Lastly, I used the advice in the slideshow to brainstorm some of my own characters!