Saturday, 30 November 2013

So...what's cooking?

Oh dear...
I must be one of the biggest Slowpokes on the planet, missing several events that whip past me so fast I have no time to react. I am aware my Blog and Twitter have starved for over a year, so let's get started with some updates.

So...what have I been up to since my absence? I graduated from university in July of last year, I've landed a couple of part-time jobs, one of which is animation-related, and I attended college again for six months to study Youth Work part-time. I currently volunteer for an organisation that works with Autistic young people, so it will surely help in that field.

I did think of reworking some of my past films, but I feel that now is the time to move on to greater pastures. Maybe someday I'll revisit them, but trust me, you won't want to see them in the state they're in now. I'm sure many animators across the field have felt the same about their university work; if you're one of those people, don't worry! We're all in the same boat, and it's a valuable learning curve.

I apologise if I haven't been getting back to people or been as active as I usually am, but the break really did help in a number of ways. I hope to re-energize this little Blog very soon, so keep your eyes peeled for more content!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Animation is now complete!

Yes, for the moment my characters look like this. I was questioned whether this was my new art style, but nope! The animation will look much prettier in the final product!

So it's been around three weeks of animating, starting over the Easter break and finishing today. What a relief! The next stages are colouring and background painting, redubbing a couple of scenes and adding sound and music to the completed film. There's still a lot of work to be done and part of me wonders whether it will turn out well. I have to remain positive throughout and make sure the film is as good as possible, or it will swallow me whole, as it's threatened to do these past few months. If there's one thing I don't want to do this year, it's to fail my course and be pretty much forced to do another film like this for another year (as if my inspiration hasn't waned this semester!). That thought will always be at the back of my mind throughout the course of production, and there's no stopping it, but ultimately it will drive me further forward into completing this film in good order and on time.

From the rough little scraps I've showed to a select few, people seem to like it, so here's hoping!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Journeying into Acrylics and Gouaches (And Trying to Apply These Techniques into the Digital Realm)

Stream to Nowhere, Gouache on paper
Argh, another late post. I've been so busy sorting things out that I haven't posted in a long while. While tightening the current animatic, I've been taking up another hobby; painting.

Not that I'd desire to become a fine artist, but it's now something that I enjoy doing in my spare time. Now I'm referencing as many artists that inspire me as I can, including Henri Rousseau, Gustav Klimt, Henri Matisse and Inka Essenhigh's landscapes, because my earlier backgrounds looked like something a preschooler crapped out. A great deal of patience and analysing existing works will slowly and surely help me improve my art skills.

I'm currently utilising acrylics and gouaches because I originally wanted the film to be very painterly. Some of the former UCA graduates had already used watercolours, so why not go with thicker, more fine-art paint?

Storyboard frame, Digital
Another challenge is creating painterly environments within the computer. So far, I am able to mimic the varying transparency within painted artwork, but the paint bumps and blobs have yet to become convincing. I have developed my own brushes that would be able to paint blades of grass; any open source acrylic brush or preset brush would not be able to draw a convincing blade because there are no sharp edges within the available brushes (and if you're thinking of the preset grass blades that come with the program, well...). Now that I've learned to create new brushes and brush textures (it's actually really simple) I can show off some more creativity within the computer and not be so bogged down by its computery-ness. I know it can be done; many digital artists have successfully achieved a painterly look using detailed textures and brushes, but I still have a long way to go. If, in any case, the digital backgrounds don't work, I'll happily resort to paint on paper.

Stream to Nowhere (an earlier effort), Acrylic on paper
Yet another challenge in itself are the differences between the two paints. Acrylic is known for its fast drying times, but Gouache in many cases has dried faster than Acrylic, especially on the palette. I don't know whether it's the brand (I use Dawler Rowney for both paints) but I don't need to spray water every so often with my Acrylic paints; they stay moist for a good couple of hours (but don't leave them for too long or they will cake into the palette and you won't be able to get your paint off!). When you're finished with Acrylics, you have to soak your palette straight-away in lukewarm water for a good five minutes or so, then gently peel off any dried paint as you wash it.

With Gouaches, it's really important that they stay moist, moreso than Acrylics (unlike Acrylic paint, it washes off easily, so the paint staying on the palette for too long is less of a concern). If your paint is too thick, you can't use brushstrokes, and if it's too thin, it resembles watercolour paint. The paint always has to be at a consistent level or it becomes difficult to paint with. Another advantage Gouache has over Acrylics is that it's easier to mix colours. If I want a blue sky with Acrylics, I can add as much Mixing White into a dark blue and it will always come out with a shade of grey. Gouache doesn't have that problem, and I have more control over shading and lighting than if I use Acrylics.

Well, that's my take on painting. As always, please feel free to comment on my work!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

This new animatic is dragging me like a tow truck.

Hey guys, here's some more fun updates, several days overdue.

After working hard on my dissertation, I now find that there would be better things that I could do than make my final film. Honestly, it's come to that conclusion. I would rather not make a film this year! Really, I feel completely drained of any inspiration of the sort, now I'm under the impression that my film will stink regardless of what I do, and I've no idea how to get out of it. I haven't felt this depressed about a project since last year, and if I had this blog running back then, I would spill the details all out.

Somehow I try not to believe this will suffice, but it has in some cases and I sure hope it suffices on this project. But I constantly have this on my mind; if I can't make this film, it's all over as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps this part of the brain needs some convincing:
Maybe I'm being too negative, and that I'll eventually be out of this mess. Who knows?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dissertation Days

I bet every single university student dreads having to write one of these, but it has to be done.  How else can a degree be academic?

I wanted to write something that has burned a fuelling fire inside of me since I was about 9 years old. My parents knew I had an interest in animation, but were concerned that all it did was make me behave more childish. They thought I was too old to be enjoying animation, and that I had to move onto more age-appropriate things. Problem is, to me anyway, nothing else is more engaging than animation, for there are no limits as to what the medium can do. I'm sure this is a common scenario with most folks.

It took a while for my parents to realise, but once they knew that I wanted to be a part of this medium, they accepted it and soon became very supportive. I remember one Christmas when my father took the time to casually go to a bookstore and find "Animation Art", a massive coffee-table book aimed at newcomers to the medium. It was the best Christmas present ever. Not only did the book concentrate on Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and the like, it also mentions several international studios, producers and directors. This fascinated me to no end. I wanted to find copies of these films and watch them. This was the pre-YouTube era, and before the site became popular and before illegal distribution was advanced enough for these things to be remotely watchable, Videos and DVDs were the only way of seeing them. Sometimes you had to travel far and wide for physical copies. At the time I had no knowledge of animation festivals and there were certainly fewer of them; none of which I could go to because I was not home-schooled. Another thing I can thank my father for is reminding me to record "Animation Nation", a BBC Four programme that aired for three weeks in Spring 2005. It opened my eyes to homegrown British animation, something dearly underappreciated because it only exists outside the mainstream vein.

Researching this dissertation, it becomes clear that emulators are all-too-common in this day and age. A film is ballsy enough to criticise and poke fun of conventions, becomes a hit, and everything and anyone follows its formula until it can no longer stand. That was Shrek, the modern Snow White, causing a change in how people think of animation. Disney is nowhere to be found, except with Pixar's prowess. Anybody can do computer animation these days. But where has the creativity gone?

Fuelling the fire was a conversation with the mother of a five-year-old boy. She had told me her son had looked at a couple of movie posters, and could not tell the difference between Hop and Rio. He had asked her, "Are they the same movie?" I replied to his mum, "No, they are not the same movie. But looking at them, they might as well be the same movie." I thought this kid was pretty smart for his age. Once you get past the fact that one movie is about a rabbit, the other about a macaw, you notice similarities. Look at how the rabbit and the toucan share the same smirk. Notice the usage of blue, the odd-coloured titles, the bright colours destined to attract the attention of any unsuspecting child. All part and parcel of carefully-controlled marketing. Soon my thesis evolves from a criticism of the age ghetto to a criticism of the whole Hollywood industry: the churner of capitalist crap.

Gee, does this look familiar?!?

Nearly every single mainstream animation out there is just as safe, unoriginal and derivative as the next blockbuster Hollywood movie. There's almost no distinction between them, an old adage of "If you've seen one, you've seen them all." They are shameless cash-grabs with little in artistic merit. Sure, the visuals may look nice, and they may be screened in eye-popping 3D, but there's nothing in the content to drive you forward, making these pretty pictures soulless. I'm not the only person here criticising this dull splurge of kiddie fodder. I'm just glad that there are kids like the five-year-old mentioned who aren't fooled by its commercialism. The only exceptions of last year were independent films such as Chico & Rita, A Cat in Paris, Idiots and Angels and the Hollywood-backed Rango, which looks set to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar this year.

Speaking of which, I saw Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked three weeks ago. The nicest thing I can say about it is it didn't prompt me to pull a chunk of hair out...

Currently I'm waiting for feedback. If all goes well, I'll grab a decent mark. If not, well...I'll feel a little betrayed after positive feedback on my first draft, but I would like to be optimistic for a change and believe it will be alright. Here's hoping!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Down Days

Hey everybody, been busy the past few weeks, so here's some updates for my first post of 2012:

I have failed the animatic task. "Yes By Jesus No" as-is won't work as a short film, so my storyboards have been sent to the virtual trash. The entire film will have to be re-boarded if it ever stands a chance of gaining legs. So off I go to the land of misery and despair, trying to save a dying film. Down days indeed. From this point, it can only get better.

Now that I have feedback for the first draft of my essay, I can make fairly minor adjustments before it can be sent to mark. Happy days.

The end of university is nigh. I'll soon be a small fish in a massive pond. No way of knowing when or where I'll ever surface.

Monday, 19 December 2011

My last post of 2011...

Hey there, hope all's well. Still getting used to blogging, still punching words's some final updates before the new year. My resolution: to post more stuff with added frequency!

An animatic is now in progress for my grad film, "Yes By Jesus No". The film has to be three minutes or longer, and I'm finding that there's room for expansion. Hopefully it won't feel bloated, and hopefully it won't feel too slight, either.

Since next year will be my final year at university, a dissertation is inevitable. I'll explore the wonders of commercialism, capitalism and some other detrimental effects mainstream animation has had on this industry. Fun!

Happy holidays to everybody and have a splendid new year. Then again, there's that elephant in the room known as December 21st...let's not panic yet!