Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Principles of Animation applied to character design Pt. 1

I've been working on some character drawings for Urban Expressions and I thought that it would be interesting to use this as an opportunity to review the Principles of Animation as they relate to drawing characters.

The character design is wide open as they want me to basically just do my thing. This is both exciting and now, somewhat scary because I know what they like and I need to make sure that I deliver the goods! Fortunately its my style their after so really I just want to make sure and give em the best of "my thing" that I can. So, in come the principles...

First, here's a quick review of what those are (as explained by the acronym F.A.T.S.O.F.A.C.E, thanks Brian Larson for teaching me this one!):
Flexibility: This can relate to a flow/rhythm on the body, actual flexibility of character or parts...
Arcs: For natural movement to be conveyed, things move in arcs, hands are attached to arms which rotate at the shoulder. The motion of that rotation creates an arc of motion, not a straight path.
Timing and Spacing: This is the actual timing of one drawing to the next and the spacing of elements of these drawings.
Squash and Stretch: Helps define the mass and rigidity of an object. Harder objects have less squash and stretch than softer ones...
Overlapping Action: Not every part moves at the same time, typically, the body unfolds. This creates actions that overlap in motion.
Follow Through: This is the "finishing" of an action, instead of moving and coming to an abrupt halt, even as the main action stops, the lagging parts continue in motion to complete the action as a whole.
Anticipation: The preparation for an action, like leaning forward to build momentum for pushing back.
Counter Action: This is the actions of the secondary objects, like hair. Hair is moved only by the motion of the head and so follows "counter" to the heads movement.
Exaggeration: Pushing an idea, pose, expression... further to make it completely clear and readable.

These principles don't have to be in every drawing that you do but as you incorporate them and think about them, you will bring more life into your drawings. A character on a page becomes a character with a purpose and not just a poser.

Ok, Here is my beginning. I generally start by trying to get some kind of a feel for what the character is, does, and believes in. I don't have any set rules, I just look for something that speaks to me on an emotional level.
These are roughs to help me try and find the character. I know that I want someone who is learning, open, and improving through practice.

I feel right off that the character is lacking some appeal (also a MAJOR part if animation and drawing in general. If you have little appeal, then you are going to loose you audience quickly.

So, I went back to the drawing board and came up with this:

Some things that bug me right off the bat are that ideas like Overlapping action, follow through and counter action are really weak and washed out.

I also think that I can exaggerate his pose, posture and attitude to sell the character more.

Up Next, how to fix these issues!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Re-Awakening of my Blog and Doug Sweetland

So, I'll start by saying that my blog has been sadly neglected for waaaaay to long. Not because I've dropped out of animation, not because I don't still draw every day, but just because some things have changed in my life and I kind of left it all alone to sit and cry and wonder if ever I would return.

Well, I'm back. And because no one really reads my blog way, no one probably ever noticed. No biggie, but I'm back. :)

I'm taking this blog in a new direction now to help me journal my own progress in animation and hopefully collect my thoughts in a way that I can easily refer back to them...

On that note, here are some things that I've learned tonight about story from the Pixar animator/director, Doug Sweetland. (Thank you so much Doug for coming to Portland and talking to us, you KICK ASS!)

I'll start by saying that story is one of those things that just hurts me to do. I feel like my ideas don't make sense, aren't funny, and just don't connect in the right way to tell a good story. On the other hand, I LOVE story, good ones that is, and I wish I had a good idea of how to really create a good story.

Doug has helped open my eyes on some points that I have been unaware of or just not focused on.

1. Story is not a linear process, it is a free flowing process of ideas where you progress by throwing things away.

2. By putting in the work of developing those ideas that you'll probably just throw out, you may just stumble upon little gems that you might not really notice until you've been all the way through the process.Plus, sometimes it is the order of the story elements that is off and in working through them/re-arranging ideas, you can come up with a better, stronger whole.

3. Don't think that you know all the answers, let the answers tell you what they are when you finally get to them.

4. Ask for feedback, brutal, honest, feedback. If you aren't getting the reaction you hoped for, look more closely at what you have and throw out everything that doesn't work. But always get feedback, you don't know all the answers, ask others for their opinion and listen.

Doug explained the process that he went through in directing the short Presto and it really blew me away to hear how much he went through to get to such a wonderful little gem. Presto has that feeling of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons while still being done in 3D. It was one of the films that really got me excited about 3D again because of the fact that it wasn't trying to be some amazingly grand production but instead relied on the simplicity and beauty of the struggle between the two main characters. Pixar is pretty good about not trying to do super realistic 3D which is another thing I truly appreciate and the two ideas play together so well. It's no wonder that it is a product of some very hard work.

Thanks again Doug and please come back to Portland any time.