Monday, December 29, 2008

Simple Ways to Improve Any Picture

Sorry about the lack of posts lately...things have been crazy and I'm pretty burned out in all areas, including blogging.

I recently gave a lecture at Disney for the trainees and these are parts of the handout I created. Many times I find that when I'm drawing all day and scrambling to meet my latest deadline, my drawings become "serviceable" - that is, they do the job but there's nothing all that original or inspired about them. I find that the first thing I let go of when I'm stressed out and under pressure to meet a deadline is the idea of creating an interesting visual. I always try to make sure that the characters and story points are being serviced as well as they can be - which is obviously the most important part - but a drawing always works better if there's some actual good design behind it as well.

So here are some simple concepts to help kickstart your artistic brain if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. They are all simple things we all know but I often find that the simple things are the easiest to forget and the ones I need to remind myself of from time to time.


Contrast, as I've often repeated, creates visual interest within a picture and will take you a long way towards obtaining a result that appeals to the eye.

Even the simplest of subject matters can become interesting with the use of contrast.

It can be helpful to organize your picture with a circular or triangular composition.

These are very literal examples - they each have an actual circle in the frame - but you get the idea.

Again, these examples of triangular compositions are very literal - they actually have a triangle in the frame.

Anytime you have a scene of three people you are dealing with a triangular composition. Look for ways to make it interesting. These examples are from the Orson Welles movie "The Lady from Shanghai".

Using a frame-within-the-frame can help breakup the space in an interesting way. Also it can help the viewer to focus on two separate events in the same frame.

These examples below are all from "Touch of Evil".

Lastly, here are five simple ideas that can help add interest to any picture.


Dan said...

Gotta watch more Orson Welles.

pumml said...

Excellent post, Mark! It's great to keep reminding oneself not to slack in applying these principles. Very nice examples too. Sorry to hear you're burned out on things... just so you know, we're not tired of reading these posts! Even so, sometimes a break is needed to recharge the batteries.

Have a Happy New Year!

Kaj-Man said...

I love your blog. It's really inspiring and illuminating. Wish you all the best for New Year!

SunshineFox said...

Heres a question that could be considered naive... but from all these examples of composition.

Could you break down the elements into layers/levels of importance? Such as, creating the environmental design first and then placing the figure(s) or placing the figure(s) first and then building a composition of the environmental elements around the figure?

Regular reader, with deep appreciation for the lessons shared, trying to become more involved though.

Marcus Busher

Jazzy said...

very helpfull post!

Jon Molly said...

Good stuff as always. This sort of thing always makes me itch to get done with the day job so I can get home and fiddle around applying these to my own little projects.

Josh said...

I love this blog. I always have, but you always bring me back to the fundamentals. Glenn Vilppu would constantly say that you have to keep going back to the fundamentals.

I try to be interesting on my blog, but you just keep putting me to shame. Thanks for posting and all your hard work.

mark kennedy said...

Dan - yeah, I want to see more of his stuff too, but I don't really recommend "Lady from Shanghai", the story of the film is quite a mess. Great staging and composition though.

pumml - thanks for letting me know you want more posts...I'm on it - have a Happy New Year!

Kaj - Great, glad to hear it, I will come up with some more posts!

Sunshine - not a naive question at all...I find that I have to construct the background first and then place the character within it. Then once the character is placed I'll adjust the background to work well with the character. But every situation has it's own needs, so it depends on exactly what you're trying to do.

Jazzy - great, thanks!

Jon - I know myself how hard it can be to get motivated at the end of a long day....good luck with all of it!

Josh - thanks for taking the time to let me know you like the posts...I will keep at it!

Will Finn said...

Nice handouts Mark! These are really fine examples.

Happy New Year!

mark kennedy said...

Thanks Will!

Robert said...

The frequency of the posts isn't a problem since they are always interesting and useful. thanks!

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