Friday, September 29, 2006

Vacation Time!

Okay, I will be away for a while and unable to post for at least a week. But how about a rerun? This is one of the first I wrote and I think it's interesting because not many people talk about how layout works, and I don't even know anything about layout, and yet somehow I made myself sound kinda smart. I think. It's too wordy for me to reread right now. But for those of you with more of an attention span, please dive in. If any of you get all the way through it let me know if it makes sense!

From March 2006:

This illustration is from the Famous Artist's Course. It's really meant to be an example of how to add variety to your paintings with different textures and how to paint textures accurately. That's not my reason for posting it - while textures can be used to add variety to a story sketch, it rarely has much to do with putting over the story, which is all we really care about in a good story sketch. Unless the texture has something to do with a story point (like Donald Duck admiring the new leather seats in his convertible, I suppose) we rarely have time to put much polish on a storyboard and do things like spend time drawing complicated textures.

Anyway, my real reason for posting it is that it does a lot of things well that can be used to create depth in a drawing, which CAN be useful for story sketch!

One of the easiest, most effective ways to create depth is by have an object in the foreground (like the cactus) and see smaller ones in the background, further away from frame. The eye automatically assumes that they are all the same size, since they look the same, and assumes that the smaller ones are far away while the bigger ones are closer. Also note that the close ones have a lot of texture, while the far away ones do not. Since we see more contrast and more detail up close, draw a lot of contrast and detail on objects in the foreground. Have less contrast and detail on stuff that is far away because atmospheric perspective makes it seem that way - the haze that occurs outside comes between you and what you see. The further away stuff is, the more dirt and dust and/or water molecules in the air come between your eye and the object, fuzzing it out.

Another way to make it look like there is a lot of area in a story sketch and the field is really deep is to put alternating areas of shadow and light on the ground. See how there are areas of shadow from the clouds and areas of light where the sun is hitting the ground. And the areas of shadow get thinner and thinner as they go towards the horizon, of course, suggesting that the earth is curving away from us. The shadows falling on the mountains to the right also work really well to "wrap" over the mountains and help make them look three-dimensional, keeping them from becoming confusing graphic shapes.

Also the S-curve of the train tracks is really helpful in a lot of ways. It goes behind the foreground cacti and behind the mountain which always helps - overlapping objects on top of each other creates depth. Think about if the train tracks were a straight line from the bottome to the top of the frame - it would cut the frame in half, ruining the composition and also sliding your eye right off the page. And a straight line doesn't describe much depth - you don't see many straight lines in nature. The S-curve in a composition always works well because it takes up a lot of the picture space which ensures that there won't be any empty or dead parts of the frame. And even the top of the frame, where there isn't much to look at, is made more interesting by having the focal point of the train tracks. And I like how the train tracks describe a curve, while the mountains on the left are square and blocky, while the mountains on the right are traingular. The variety of shapes in the picture makes for real visual interest.

And this has nothing to do with the whole depth idea, but you gotta admire the way the two prongs of the cactus in the foreground really frame the train, and the way the little irregular squiggle of the smoke from the smokestack attracts your eye to the train (which is the center of interest, of course) by virtue of being a small, irregular but intense shape. And the three areas of greatest contrast are right in that spot as well - the black train engine on the light desert floor and the dark black right side of the cactus in the foreground, as well as that white spider-shape highlight on the cactus right there. And all the lines in the Composition point to the train - the top of the flat mountains, the lines on the slanted mountains, the curve of the traintracks....

Okay, I could go on forever but I'll stop now. You already know all this stuff, I'm sure, but it goes to the theme I've mentioned before: it's all simple stuff you already know, just applied in ever-more sophisticated ways, and making it look natural, which is a trick in and of itself!

Feel free to leave a comment here and let us know what else you see.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Things They Don't Teach in Art School #1

I recently came across this Iago drawing from "Aladdin" as it's for sale on the Van Eaton Galleries website, and it inspired to write about a simple thing that nobody ever told me that took me years to figure out. It has to do with stuff we've already covered: namely, avoiding parallels and using different kinds of shapes to keep things interesting.

Specifically, it involves the shapes around the area of Iago's belly, where the two wings stick out in front of and behind his stomach.

The easiest way to show you what I'm talking about is to draw over it and show you what would make the drawing weaker. If you redraw the wings and the belly so that the lines are all parallel and the same kind of shape, the area becomes meaningless. It becomes flat and static and it becomes hard to tell what you are looking at.

But when we look at the original again, we see that the artist made the far wing, the stomach and the close wing out of different shapes. The far wing and the belly are two distinctly different kind of curves and the wing that is closest to us is more angular with more of a decisive break where the wing changes direction. This creates a more interesting breakup of negative space between the three lines which creates a tension and makes for a better drawing. It also creates a rhythm between the three lines that is interesting to the eye.

Just run your eyes back and forth between the two sets of curves and you can see the difference.

This seems simple...and it is...but it's not always easy to remember to apply it to drawings. I think when we learn to draw we learn certain ways of drawing things: for example, an elbow is either drawn as a straight line (when the arm is straight) or a 90 degree bend (when the arm is bent). I think, as we learn to draw, we try to restrict the kinds of shapes that we have to learn in order to make it easier on ourselves. We learn a limited "library of shapes" at first so we don't get overwhelmed.

But that leads to a repitition of forms in a drawing. Which leads to flatness in drawing. And it leads to uninteresting drawings. The truth about living forms is that they don't really follow those rules. An elbow is never a 90 degree angle in real life and it's never a straight line either.

But any real living form is much more complicated than any formula we are taught. We've all seen life drawing books that tell you to draw the forearm as a simple cylinder. But a real forearm is very complicated - it's made of two bones covered by many muscles and tendons. A real forearm isn't even straight - it has a change of direction 2/3rds of the way from elbow to wrist.

Real living forms are very complicated. But the point of art isn't to capture life with all of it's can do that just fine. An artist caricatures the world, filters it, makes choices. An artist emphasizes some things and de-emphasizes other things to make a statement.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is this:

You have to free yourself to be able to draw forms in whatever shape you need to do a good drawing. Learning the structure of things is very important. When you begin learning the structure of things as a beginning artist, I think you first have to go through a period where you learn to become facile in drawing the structure of things, moving them around, working with them. Eventually, you move past the stage where you are struggling with the structure and you learn to interpret the structure in the way that works best for the drawing you are making.

A bent elbow can be a 90 degree angle if that works best for the design of the drawing. Or it can be curved. Or it can be an S-curve, as it is in real life. You can bend the forms to your will - make them what they need to be to make your drawing work. Make them be what will contribute to the best statement and/or the best design. If it looks right, then it is right. Design is more important than accurate structure!

Okay...that got pretty heady for a post that started with a simple Iago drawing. I hope that makes sense and is helpful.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wilson pdfs...from the originals

Okay, so long story here...when I first posted the Wilson handouts, I converted them from pdf's to jpegs because I had no idea of how to post pdfs. Some nice people have converted them back into pdf's...but I kept wondering if they lost some quality in the translation. So I finally took the time to figure out how to post pdf's.

So here are the original versions. They can be downloaded here, here, and here.

Let me know if there are any problems.

I've written a couple of new posts but Blogger has been giving me trouble lately. I will post them when I have time and Blogger cooperates.

Also, reader "zimpleton" provided a link to this tutorial on painting. I haven't had time to read it but it looks cool! Thanks, zimpleton!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Rowland Wilson on Painting (UPDATED)

Last of the Wilson handouts!

Okay, I have to admit I don't totally understand this one. I'm not a painter and I don't know anything about color, or painting, or anything about real art. Me only know how to draw cartoon pictures for money. Me big dummy about color. Sorry.

But perhaps one of you who knows things about color and/or painting can illuminate these concepts for us! If anyone can please post this on a blog somewhere and spell it out! That would be great.

***UPDATED 9/24: Susi posted a link to these pages from "Creative Illustartion" by Andrew Loomis. They have examples in color that really help clarify these concepts. Thanks a million, Susi!

So Josh Farkas has turned the Wilson handouts into pdf's (as well as many other things I have posted!). You can find them here. He also turned the "Comic Strip Artists Kit" into a pdf file. So did Brandon Blatcher. You can download Brandon's version here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rowland Wilson on Composition

Okay, here's part two of our reruns...I know most of you have seen this, but there are a few of you who haven't! And every artist should have this. It's totally amazing.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rowland Wilson reruns...part one

So I originally posted these back in March. Since so many new people have found the site recently I will rerun them so everybody can enjoy them before they stop visiting my blog and move onto the next new cool blog! They are handouts from the great illustrator Rowland B. Wilson, who you may know from his many Playboy cartoons. He also did styling on some of the "Schoolhouse Rock" shows. He died just a few months ago.

Believe it or not, I sat in the cubicle across from him when I worked on "Hercules" at Disney. He was really amazingly nice.

There are two other handouts from Rowland that I will also re-post this week. The other two are floating around the web but this one is really hard to find. I tracked it down from a nice guy who sent it to me. They are helpful tips for handing light and shadow.

Click to read.

Friday, September 15, 2006

More "Art Of Disney" Scans

Between Paul Briggs and I eventually all of the new "Art of Disney" book will be blog form.

This catalog is from a Disney exhibit currently on display in Tokyo. In the lobby of our building, they are playing footage from a documentary made about the show, and it shows a Japanese woman outside of the Disney ARL (or Animation Research Library, where all the old Disney artwork is kept).

Anyway, she's talking in Japanese but the subtitles indicate that the address of the ARL is Top Secret for "security reasons".

Seriously? That's too funny. It's a rather poorly kept "secret". Probably all the people who live in Burbank and/or work at Disney know exactly whre it is. Anyway, some more pages from the exhibition to see bigger.

Technical Difficulties?

Welcome to all the new visitors who have found the site through boingboing and drawn.

Okay, this is an interactive post: I need feedback on how the site works, on a technical level. even though I scan and post stuff at a high resolution, and it opens up big on my computer, sometimes I see comments on other sites that my jpegs don't open up big enough when you click on them. Has anyone had this problem? Also sometimes people say the jpeg links are broken or that they experience other glitches.

I create this blog on a Mac so maybe there's a problem when you check it out on a PC, I don't know. I would appreciate some feedback in the commenbts section from people who have had problems and I will try to fix them (even though I'm completely computer illiterate).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Comic Strip Artist's Kit (Redux)

Writing this blog, believe it or not, is a lot of hard work! But there are so many people who have said such nice things about the stuff I've written that it keeps me going.

Another side effect of the blog is that other artists find me. It's great to hear from students, fellow animation people, and every once in a while, a real legend in the field.

The other day I got an e-mail from Carson Van Osten, a famous Disney artist who did many Disney Comic Books and created the famous "Comic Strip Artist's Kit". It was created to help beginning comic artists deal with perspective problems and other drawing difficulties. I scanned my old xeroxes a while ago. It's probably the best thing I've ever seen about practical staging and drawing for storyboards or comic books.

Anyway Carson saw it on my blog and read what nice things people had said about it and it really meant a lot to him. And he offered to send me an original copy of the handout, which is 11 x 17. I'll scan it big so you can really see it well and print it out on 11 x 17 paper if you want to. He was even nice enough to inscribe it to me and if you print it out big you can read it.

Here's the history of the handout, in Carson's own words:

I wrote and drew those sketches around 1975 and I'm so tickled to know that people still find them helpful today. It started as a slide presentation for my boss to show at the Disney meeting in Frankfurt. It went over so well that he asked me to expand on it when he returned. They printed 2000 copies and mailed it to all the Disney offices. My friend John Pomeroy asked for some to give to the animators at the studio. that was the time when the animation training program was going on. Frank Thomas saw it and used it for an animation class he was teaching at the Screen Cartoonists Guild. That's how some sketches wound up in the book that he and Ollie wrote, "the Illusion of Life".

Click to see bigger.

Hope everybody gets as much out of this as I did.

Thank you so much, Carson, for sharing this with all of us!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

D&D7: Rhythm (part one)

What is "rhythm", as it applies to drawing, exactly? There may be a definition written down somewhere, but I don't know where. Preston Blair touched on it in his second book on animation, but it's a little confusing (to me, anyway). Maybe rhythm is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe it means something different to everyone, but I think the drawing of the rabbit on the upper left does seem to have rhythm, while the peanut-shaped fox and lion on the middle right don't seem all that rhythmic to me.

The closest thing to a good examination of the concept of "rhythm" is this chapter on "Curves from the book "Bodyworks". Marbury Hill Brown wrote this book about life drawing, and it's an interesting book because it's a book about drawing that's mostly full of drawings, not text. What a revolutionary concept (these pages are full-page spreads but I didn't put them back together because it would have taken forever). Click to see bigger and read them.

This book really seems to make the point that a drawing with an "S" curve is a sure-fire way to create rhythm in your drawing. Think about it: straight lines don't really have rhythm, and a curved line has some rhythm, but as "S" curve always has more rhythm that the other two kinds. Luckily for us, most living forms seeem to be constructed along the lines of "S" curves. In humans, it's to keep all the forms stacked on top of each other and yet have them all stay balanced. Of course, as you animate or storyboard, it would be impossible to always draw your characters in "S" curves, just as human beings don't always form an "S" curve. When we bend over to pick up a quarter we become more of a simple curve, etc.

Rhtyhm seems to be about creating a "rhythmic" line of action and putting all the parts along that line.

Richard Scarry's drawings don't necessarily have a lot of rhythm to them. They are rarely based on "S" curves and they almost never have a very dynamic "line of action". But they are still appealing drawings.

Part of their charm, actually, seems to be that they don't ever get too extreme or distorted, even when his characters are involved in violent action.

Well, anyway, that's as close as I can come to telling you what I know about "rhythm". To make things even more confusing there is another definition of "rhythm" used in art that I will define some other time!

More "Art of Disney"

Paul Briggs is scanning more of the "Art of Disney" catalog on his blog (as well as stealing scans from other people's blogs). Click over and have a look. Also, he has a link to the first copy that's for sale on ebay.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Art Of Disney Book

I haven't had much time to post lately, but here's something to make up for that. Today at Disney they are selling this book to employees:

It's the exhibition catalog from the Tokyo "Art of Disney" exhibit. It's full of page after page of amazing stuff. If I just spent the rest of my blogging life scanning in these pages that would keep me busy!

Sorry I can't buy one for all of you, but I have a feeling some of my co-workers will be putting copies up on ebay soon.

These are story sketches from "Sleeping Beauty", done by Joe Rinaldi (I think). I scanned them pretty high res so have a good look (click to see bigger). The scans are a little funky becasue the book is big and I had to squash it on the scanner to scan it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

D&D6: Proportion

This idea entails the same thing as the most basic premise of good composition: an irregular breakup of space is always more interesting than a regular or symmetrical division of space.

This is true of layouts and characters as well.

I think we have a naturally tendency to want to make things even and symmetrical. It's a challenge to train yourself to draw in a way that makes things uneven and interesting, but these elements in a design make it appealing to our brains, probably because it runs counter to our instinct for straightening things up and making them even.

Even in a simple drawing, just changing the proportions so they are uneven can add a lot of interest.

I got these pictures of the "Funny Face" characters from Dan Goodsell's site. It's got a TON of great designs from cereal boxes, etc. Check it out. He was nice enough to give me permission to use his stuff here.

These are so simple and so appealing. There's not much to them so you have to ask yourself "why do they work so well?" I think the proportions make them interesting; they are all a BIG fruit shape with little features pushed up towards the top of the face. Also the features all have a real nice rhythm to them. They are a good example of how much you can do with very few elements! Less is more.

If you check out Dan's site take a look at how the "Funny Face" characters evolved over time. Like most things that were designed in the 1960's, they were redesigned as time went on and by the 1970's they had lost what made them interesting in the first place!

When you design two characters that have to work (design-wise) with each other, it's good to give them proportions that are really different from each other so just looking at the two of them creates contrast and interest. Mike and Sulley are a good example; very different proportions create immediate visual excitement.

Actually Mike and Sulley are a good example of some other things we've talked about already; each has a good variety of:

Small, Medium and Large shapes

Type of Shape (Circle, Square, Triangle, etc.)

Any lineup or group of characters should differ from each other in their proportions as much as possible to create visual interest. When you know two characters are going to be in the same scenes together make them different in their proportions.

In a collection of different animals it's easy to get a lot of different proportions. With people it's a little harder but people come in all shapes and sizes as well. Also clothes can be used to give each character a totally different look and different proportions. We've all seen the old guy with pants up to his chest.

So you would think that it's easy to make two characters interesting; just make one huge and one tiny, which will create contrast and be interesting.

You could, and that would work, but when you think about designing characters for animation purposes, one of the things you realize right away is that all the characters you design have to have the ability to interact with each other just like real actors in a live-action film do. They need to talk to each other, communicate with each other and sometimes they need to be able to have scenes of great emotional weight with each other. So you'll find that if you design a huge character and a tiny one it can be hard for them to interact. It can create problems in staging scenes between the two characters if one has his head a mile in the air and the other one is down in the dirt. Eye contact between characters is essential to their interaction and being able to express themselves to each other. Mike and Sulley are actually pretty unique for characters in feature animation because they are pretty different in height (other than Tinkerbell and Peter Pan, or Pinocchio and Jiminy, of course). I'm sure if you watch any of these three movies you'll see that the filmmakers came up with a lot of interesting solutions with their staging to get the characters face-to-face in the same frame when they needed to communicate with each other.

Proportions are very important and they can be very subtle. Mickey Mouse is a very simple design, and yet it's hard to draw him so he looks right. His proportions are tricky to get in the right relationship to each other.

We've all copied a drawing or even traced over a drawing and it didn't look quite right. Why is this? Because we made a subtle mistake in the proportions that threw off the whole drawing.

Being sensitive to proportions - especially subtle ones - is hard. It takes some time and work to train yourself to see proportions correctcly. But they can make the difference between a good drawing and a bad one.