Wednesday, 28 October 2009

character stuff

Ok... so we're currently working on the cross pathway project which means personal stuff will once again be taking a bit of a back seat however.. after seeing the recent Sony phone advert and a banner on facebook I cant stop thinking of designing characters! :D

also with the recent brief induction by John Patterson into the 3D facilities I'm planning characters that I can cast and make a mold for and produce :D (hopefully I can make a tonne of them and give people on the course their own to design how they want.. nothing new and ground breaking but personal).

one of the many 3D tutorials I've dug out but this is by far the best in terms of clarity...

Friday, 23 October 2009

helping hand

Since I listed a link to a tutorial in the vain hope that someone may see it and benefit from it, i thought I might as well list the other places I "borrow" inspiration from...

I never claim to be great with programs such as Illustrator or After Effects (however I'm quite fluent in Photoshop ;P ahhaha) but I often find random tutorials and just play about to see what I can make with them whereas others may go out in an evening ;)

Computer Arts:
packed with tutorials in photoshop, illustrator, after effects and interviews/reviews

Digital Arts:


more focused on digital painting than general use of program tools

the .Tuts Network:

they also do some good interviews as well as tutorials for After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator

Monday, 19 October 2009

illustrator shapes/patterns

Found a great tutorial over at Computer Arts which is pretty much what I was doing in Illustrator.. but if anyone is interested... check it out as you'll be able to start making patterns similar to those in the last two posts I made...

polish paper print and pattern

alliteration done and dusted... I couldnt help feel there was something familiar about my carpet design. My mother is Polish born but she came to England when she was young and stayed with a friend of the family who I grew up with calling 'Grandma'. I always remember visiting her house and tracing the patterns over on all the fabrics with my finger.. following the loops, curves and petals of flowers. Through this blog ( ) I found reference to these Polish Paper Cutouts, creating circular patterns from repeated shapes and similar to 1970's fabric patterns. With fashions and trends coming round again and again, if the patterns above were made in Illustrator it probably wouldnt be long before they were on a shelf somewhere printed on a bag, diary, or skirt.

some 60's/70's patterns:

Via the GrainEdit blog I was made aware of a Brazillian illustrator, Fernando Volken Togni, who does use Illustrator to create retro patterns from simple shapes and muted/limited colour pallettes.

carpet diem

In a project inspired by Siggi Eggertsson ( ), we were asked to create a carpet design for the fashion brand Mulberry as if it was to be used in a flagship store and for various vinyls around the store. Below is Eggertsson's own design and that is pretty much all we were given to go on...

This was was really meant to be an introduction into using the program Illustrator, just like creating our animations was an exercise in getting to know After Effects (or iStop). Given Illustrators knack for drawing shapes and repeating them to form patterns I began experimenting overlapping shapes and altering the opacity/blend modes, nothing too fancy. Below are two outlined practice examples and the coloured version is what I decided to call it quits with...

colours sampled from the Mulberry website and products:

The main inspiration behind my coloured design (although it looks like a poncho) are these traditional Indian flower arrangements called Pookalam, created over 10 days in honour of their beloved King, Mahabali. On the first day, the design is sketched out onto the floor and over the following 9 a new tier of flowers/colour is added to the design until finished. The intricate patterns are to attract the attention of the spirit of their King, much like Los Dios De Muertos where homage is paid to the dead over a two day festival.

The only problem I found was, in my own designs the patterns lose their unique appeal. A 2D image on screen and crisp colours dont have the same affect as seeing these flower arrangements in 3D. I think in the next couple of briefs I need to remember to include my passion for interactivity and tangibility and produce something 3D whether its a toy or sculpture :)

These then reminded me of a piece of work an old tutor of mine created in Manchester ( ). Jo Vickers took thousands of flowers and arranged them on the ugly giant concrete walls in Picadilly Gardens as well as over the entire floor of Albert Square outside of the Town Hall.

Initially I was looking at traditional patterns and fabrics commonly associated with stately homes, then moving onto needlepoint floral patterns but they reminded me too much of all the filagree stock vectors which are readily available. Although my design above isn't anything fancy nor technical, patterns etc are something I havent tried creating before in Illustrator. We've recently purchased a new rug for the home which made me think less about carpet designs (which are often very dull) and instead about rugs like the B&Q ones below.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Shapely Curves 2

I can't talk about the use of shape and flowing lines without mentioning the work of artists such as Shane Glines and Bill Pressing. They both have a retro pin up style, which focuses on the shapely figures, curves, lines and proportion and exaggerates them to draw more attention to the bust and waist through thinning the stomach, neck and legs. When the likes of Bettie Page started bringing more wide spread popularity to the art of striptease/burlesque shows (like how Dita Von Teese has revamped it again in the last 10 years), the attention isnt directed towards genitalia/crude nudity associated with porn but their sexuality and curves to tease/suggest ideas of the erotic, with their bodies covered/hidden you are left to imagine what lies beneath rather than baring all and removing all mysetery.

The female form has been idolised for many years, from fertility statues and carvings to masters like Picasso representing it in many different ways but all exaggerate the bust and hips which are seen as the symbols of the female form and thus universally understood/interpreted. In the same way, Glines and Pressing are taking the female form and presenting us with "ideal" representations of women with features that most appeal (to 'us' as men ;) hahah). The shapes used to create these pin up characters again exaggerate and bring attention to body and create the personality of a sultry/sexy heroine/villainess of the 40's and 50's (much like Jessica Rabbit from 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'). Suddenly facial features and details become unnecessary as all the character has already been made through the pose and proportion of the figure. Life Drawing helped me realise this fact, but I still find myself wanting draw the body accurately yet failing to do so as I dont have the patience to practice it repeatedly, instead I found contour drawing removed any over thinking on my behalf and in the end I created something that was much more appealing and interesting than when I try concentrating....

Bill Pressing:

Shane Glines:

Sticking with the pin-up theme, I also found Andrew Bawidamann's pin-ups interesting as although they aren't as heavily stylised and exaggerated they still hold the same sexy vibe and tease qualities but brought up to date through what looks to be Illustrator. He also uses WWII themes for his mascot like illustrations which too is an interest of mine and also based on the era of the pin-ups initial popularity.

Shapely Curves

Recently I stumbled across an artist ( check out her sketchbook work rather than finished pieces) whilst browsing, where I host some of my own work, and decided to get in touch with her to ask a couple of questions about how she goes about creating her characters and their influences. The age old response of drawing from life was her reply but followed by two names I should've already known....Bruce Timm, famous for the Batman Animated tv series and Stephen Silver of Kim Possible and Danny Phantom fame as well as many others.

Bruce Timm:

Stephen Silver:

Silver's work uses more organic shapes and curves rather than a traditional box format for drawing a figure. I've always wanted to be able to draw "the figure" and searched for tutorials on how to draw it properly but as I found with contour drawing... there is no right way, and Silver's work empahsises this and in turn gives his creations more character and personality... whether its the old stereotypes of broad shouldered hero's, or large ox-like hench men with no necks. Even when looking at his sketchwork and life drawings (which by the way, he has published in a book called 'Passion for Life' and sounds quite promising) you get a sense and feel for the characters drawn. Absolute accuracy doesnt always mean it is correct and the exaggeration of fat folds, muscle build and the fluidity of their bodies makes them interesting and unique. Silver also creates caricatures which I feel are sometimes seen as the laughing stock of the art/illustration world.. ( similar to Mime artists apparently being beneath actors ;D ) but show how moods/feelings and personalities can be expressed in a few simple lines and shapes.

His website features video tutorials and podcasts in which he discusses his own art, answers questions from fans and peers and about his own influences (e.g. Norman Rockwell)... if you get chance it's worth a look as this particular one talks of how to avoid losing that passion for drawing and creating artwork... . I find that I don't lack inspiration to create work, but often get distracted by over thinking an idea or trying to decide which technique to use in order to make it and in turn I then lose interest and want to move onto something new.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

"S" word over Function

I had originally planned to take my initial character designs, that were all a bit boring and uniform with no individuality, and make them look like they were screen printed. Chris Madden in the 3rd year has recently pulled this off in his children's book illustration ( )but I was looking at Adrian Johnson' s Robinson's adverts which are clearly digitally made but have hand made/hand drawn appearence (like a cross between screen printing and pastels).

Adrian Johnson:

Ryohei Yanagihara:

What I admire is his use of shape to suggest character and personality... the recent figure project has opened my eyes to this and like Johnson, I too enjoy 40's, 50's and 60's illustration. He names some of his influences (the great Charley Harper and Jim Flora) but I can't help feeling like it's just too easy to mimic this style... I seem to be falling back on this as a way of just producing a piece of work that I think will satisfy the brief. The initial sketches for my animation cast was purely based on the same way Johnson creates characters heads, quite literally like a template.. but I'd like to think the cast I posted in the last post has some uniqueness and that they dont look too similar (e.g. my batman and soldier characters). Johnson actually pointed this out himself in an interview with retro design blog, Grain Edit, in which he talks of how a fellow designer sent him a link to Ryohei Yanagihara's work and how it bares a resemblance to his own. Despite having never seen any of Yanagihara's work before, Johnson doesnt hide the fact that there are similarities but he also goes on to say...

"The thing is, I’ve always striven not to reference any existing work, full stop… I consider myself more conceptually driven / inspired, with the idea leading the way, as opposed to being more stylistically led."

and... this little bit which is what i really need to hammer home...

"Q: Can you offer any advice for newer designers struggling with the concept vs. style problem? A: I think a lot of students think that it’s all about having a recognizable style- you know, like being a ‘brand’. I get the impression over the last few years (in the UK in particular) that many illustration students / graduates are directly influenced by contemporary illustration / illustrators. It’s all about zeitgeist. It’s understandable I suppose- you just surf the net, see some great websites and there’s your inspiration. Because the internet hadn’t really taken off at the beginning of my career my work was more influenced by the music I was listening to, the books I was reading, or the films I was watching. Whenever I’m teaching (which is not that often these days) I find myself saying the same thing. Ideas never go out of fashion. Style does."

this actually leads me back to an artist both Jo and Eleanor suggested I look into, Rick Myers honestly though i have only briefly looked in his direction but... they both told me that artists, illustrators and in fact all manner of creative folk can be comissioned on their ideas alone rather than their "style". At the time, I didnt see how this applied to me, but it's opened my mind to the possibility that I could be a team leader in an art department (or similar occupation), meaning I dont need to worry about having my own marketable "style" but as long as I keep firing out all my different ideas then I'm safe.

I'm an Animator now!

This is my first "proper" animation made in After Effects, thanks to some tuition by Ian Macklin of the who was kind enough to spend some time with us and teach us the basics. Although Flash looks to have some advantages over AE, you cant knock the simplicity of it and the familiar workspace but this isnt the animation I had planned. Originally I had ideas of grandeur featuring 8 different characters and scenes... but i greatly under estimated the ammount of time it would take jsut to try animate a character that could simply walk across a screen.



I spent the whole 3 weeks dedicated to this project designing the characters and creating a story behind them, to link them all together, i changed my mind tonnes of times on how they should look and feel until I realised they didnt have character/personality with nothing unique or distinguishable between them. Finally though I settled on the designs above, created in Photoshop but made to look like Illustrator (I just work faster in photoshop) and now I just need to get them all walking... it's just a little more difficult than I first imagined. I wasn't even going to do this, I was looking at animated comics like I posted previously but my story lacked any real interest apparently. I can't remember if I've already said this but I love comics and everybody assumes I want to draw comics for a living, but because I love them so much I wouldnt want a job in that area as it could destroy my passion for them... similarly I have avoided animation. I love cartoons... at 23 year old I am often criticised (by friends and family) for STILL watching cartoons before work and uni, from early Warner Bros and Hanna Barbera to modern Cartoon Network shows, and for this reason I feel I would lose any sort of passion for them... but still I've not looked at the positive... maybe because I love cartoons so much, I'd REALLY love making them and creating something fun.... hmmm....

Ian showed us all a piece of work by animator Carolina Melis ( ) who through subtle movements and nuances creates a wonderfully alive characters... in particular we saw her video for the song 'Go go ninja dinosaur' by Four Tet involving a colourful dino going for a walk across a changing background of patterns and shapes.... in fact... here, watch it...

The way the dino bobs up and down, coupled with the timing of the legs, their subtle raising and falling and the moment when a foot hits the floor gives him a bumbling/ambling along kinda feel and personality. Something so simple can have such a huge effect, and its these little details I often miss in my work, but this is why my epic animation is taking so long as I try to bring my cast to life. (check out the 7th animation on her website... 'Walk this Way' for Animal Planet, which features a menagerie of animals mimicing each others movements... but note the lion right near the end with his jointed legs and paws... such a simple idea but executed perfectly and precisely)... I have found an interview with her on the Computer Arts website, but am yet to read through it and extract what I need.

Melis' and my own idea for an animation actually reminded me of old school side scrolling video games, none of this fancy 3D environments :P, but more specifically Sonic the Hedgehog and the limitations of 16-bit computer graphics... but also the patterns in Green Hill Zone's landscape....

Friday, 16 October 2009

October - where has it gone?

Ok, so according to my blog activity... October has been a rather quite period so far... HOWEVER... it's been hectic my end, purely because I'm making life difficult for myself. From the beginning, doing my bike test and failing twice previous didnt fill me with confidence for today but it seems to have paid off, my plans for an animation got slightly out of hand and nearly made me miss the deadline... (if it wasnt for the fact I made a smaller and less complicated one in order to submit it for the deadline) and other things have meant time has been dedicated to other areas, deadlines have crept up and I've put myself under pressure from this backlog of things to do... and I've started part time work again...

so.... bitch and moan over with... now lets catch up on here too...