Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween

I've posted this every Halloween, I think....a page from the "Famous Artist's Course" where artist Stevan Dohanos talks about how he went about illustrating a "haunted house". I like it when artists talk through their process and reveal their thinking as they try to illustrate a specific point and tell a story in one image.

Also, if you're interested, I did these drawing as a craft project for my kid's elementary school. They needed drawings that could please a wide variety of ages - they had to be simple enough for kindergartners to color and cut out, as well as not scary or gross so as to not bother anyone's sensibilities. Hopefully the higher grades found them interesting as well.

Anyway, if you're having a Halloween party, or have kids that might enjoy them, I'll post them - they are sized to print out on regular 8 1/2 by 11 copier paper or card stock. They can be colored and then cut out and once you attach the limbs, viola! You've just wasted a bunch of time.

Kidding. Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Squah and Stretch (Part Two)

Okay, so here's the concept I actually wanted to talk about concerning "squash and stretch": how it applies in drawing (as opposed to as a force in animation).

Basically this is all about using "Squash and Stretch" to help organize your drawings and as an aid in drawing forms that are fleshy or pliable.

When you bend over and touch your toes, you feel a stretching sensation across the back of your legs, your back and spine and the back of your neck, right?

And you feel a squashing sensation in your stomach, right?

This can be helpful in drawing. When one side of a form stretches, the other side side should squash...and vice versa. This really helps add life to your drawings, get a better feeling of weight and is an aid in avoiding symmetry. A drawing that is totally symmetrical (both sides are mirror images) is usually a flat, uninteresting drawing. Here's a refresher from Carson Van Osten on why symmetry leads to weak drawing:

 I find myself thinking about Squash and Stretch while I draw and I often organize my figures so that one side is always squashing and the other side is stretching. And the reason that Rapunzel makes a good model to illustrate this is that I used that concept a lot while drawing her. It helped me organize all that hair in a way that prevented it from just being a shapeless mess (well, sort of).Click to see bigger:

Here, I've drawn red arrows to indicate the stretches...and invariably you'll find a blue arrow on the opposite side of the body part indicating a squash.

Wherever the bottom of her hair hits the floor and flattens out in a squash, I was always careful to try and give shape and form to the top side of her hair and add a stretch so it had shape, form and contrast. Here's a less confusing version (maybe?) where I put red lines on the stretches and blue lines on the squashes.

Sorry, it's a rough quick drawing but I hope it illustrates the point clearly!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Squash and Stretch (Part One)

I started out writing about Squash and Stretch as it applies to drawing and then I realized that I first had to describe what Squash and Stretch means in terms of animation. Of course, it's been covered in a bunch of animation books (and covered well), so most people get all this already, but then again I realized that people use the term "Squash and Stretch" to describe a few different (but similar) concepts.

I'm going to start at the very beginning and try to be exhaustive. There may be readers who are totally new to this concept! So let me try to start at square one, just for fun...

One of the first concepts you hear about when you're studying animation is "squash and stretch", which is the idea that living forms (and certain types of inanimate objects) have a certain amount of flexibility and that they change shape as they move around under their own power, react to external forces or change expression.

The bouncing rubber ball is, of course, the first thing most people approach as an animation test to learn about  squash and stretch. Without requiring any complicated drawing, it illustrates how a soft mass can stretch out when it's affected by gravity and squash down when it comes into contact with a hard surface.

Then you learn how to apply this to living forms. As people move from place to place and perform actions, their bodies, limbs, even their clothes and hair (and everything else) are affected by the forces exerted by the muscles working against gravity, wind and air resistance, and this is expressed by drawing the forms squashed down or stretched out. Also, bodies can squash or stretch if they're affected by external forces out of their control (like a person tripping and falling face first on the sidewalk...their face might very well squash into the hard pavement).

Then, there's the more subtle affect of squash and stretch to emphasize an attitude....a character sitting down on a stool, dejected, can sound like a straighforward and static pose, but using a little extra "squash" in the drawing can make him feel like gravity is affecting him more than usual and he has an extra heavy weight on his shoulders...whatever he's depressed about, it's almost like it's physically pressing down on him. Conversely, if he has an attitude change and suddenly brightens up, you might use some stretch in your drawing to show him perking up and escaping gravity a bit. He's lighter on his toes than usual because he's suddenly thought of something that lifts his spirits - a way out of the problem that was troubling him (and squashing him down) a moment before.

The third way I think squash and stretch is really important in animation is to show emotions and thought. There wouldn't be any acting in animation at all without squash and stretch. Squash and Stretch is the only way, really, to show a change of attitude on a character's face and body to show that they're thinking and processing ideas and emotions. When you go from a Squash to a Stretch, or vice versa, you see a clear change of attitude that shows a change is happening within the character's mind.

This last one is one that I find people under utilize in storyboarding, to be honest. If you ever find yourself storyboarding a sequence (or animating one, for that matter) and the viewer isn't quite connecting with the character, and isn't totally clear on what's going on inside the character's mind - what they are feeling and thinking - maybe you're not using the shifts in Squash and Stretch properly to clue the viewer in to what emotional changes the character is going through.

It doesn't have to be an extreme change. Even very subtle shifts of a Squash to a Stretch (or vice versa) can say volumes. We all have seen an actor (or animated character) lift an eyebrow, or purse their lips, or just slump their shoulders, and immediately with that subtle change you know exactly what that character is thinking and feeling and it's more powerful than any more extreme change would be.

Anyway, more to come next time.....

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Virgin America Safety Video

I recently took a flight on Virgin America Airlines. Their pre-flight safety video is a nice piece of work and uses animation in a unique way.

As I was watching it I kept wanting the animation to be more exaggerated - from an animation standpoint it felt a bit restrained. But on the other hand, the gentle quality of the animation had a calming effect, which I assume was a deliberate choice. The style of animation, the quirky designs, the soothing music, the calm narrator and the eclectic humor all seemed like great choices to calm and settle nervous viewers right before their plane takes off.

Also the choice of animation (and the unusual style) is a nice change from the typical pre-flight video which always features real people telling you about the aircraft's safety features. I think passengers are more likely to pay attention to it because it's so unexpected and different from what you expect before a flight.

So I found it to be a smart use of animation and I felt there were a lot of smart choices made in the execution to fulfill a specific purpose.