Thursday, 5 November 2009

Milt Kahl: Hands

Here's a model sheet of hands drawn by the legendary Disney animator Milt Kahl. These have a dynamic combination of anatomical knowledge fused with great graphic appeal and shape.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Ernest Watson: Drawing Trees

After my Great Uncle passed away in 2005, his immediate family allowed to me to have some of the books and magazines that were in his studio workspace. Some of the more interesting things I was able to get were a few issues of The Journal of Commercial Art and American Artist from the late 1950s.

Here is an article Ernest Watson wrote for American Artist - Special Summer Issue - June - July - August 1956. It covers a few topics on pencil sketching, but I edited it down specifically to what he wrote about drawing trees.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Chapter 8: Drawing

"Drawing is the language that enables the men of the Ice Age, in the caves at Altamira in Spain and Lascaux in France, to speak to us, today, and to the men of the hundreth century, with perfect clarity. Drawing is the universal language. Draughstmen communicate instantly and effectively with anyone, anywhere in any time."

An inspiring quote from the book "Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting" by Edgar A. Whitney. I'll definitely post more about this great book in the future. The images are from the Lascaux caves in France.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Original Tinkerbell Model Sheet

I apologize for the lack of recent updates. I've been pretty busy at work as well as in my personal life.

Here is one of the original model sheets for Tinkerbell in Walt Disney's Peter Pan. I'm pretty sure it was drawn by Marc Davis. I don't think Milt Kahl did a pass on this character (ala Bambi or Alice), it's 100% Mr. Davis as far as I know.

When I say "original" I mean that it's her original character design. The Disney company has done many variations on her character design over the years due to her popularity. Some are good and some aren't so good, but none of them really come close to the appeal of Marc Davis' original design in my opinion.

I know that we've seen these all before, but I think they're exquisitely beautiful drawings and definitely worth taking another look at. The appeal and design of a pose is so important in animation and these poses are wonderful. I hope to do a post elaborating more about the design of a pose some time here in the future.

Even though these aren't extremely cartoony or pushed, I think there's some really fun stuff happening with her proportions here too. Her small hands, larger head, tiny feet and wider hips really play off each other and contrast in an interesting and appealing way. I also think Marc Davis' knowledge of the human figure really shines through in these designs as well.

I wish I had a better copy of it, but this will have to do for now. Hopefully I can do another update here sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Hill Farm

Here's another animated short that I really enjoyed seeing at animation festivals while I was younger.

It's a film called "Hill Farm" by Mark Baker.

It's fairly long for a short film, running at approximately 15 minutes, but if you have some time to spare I think it's really worth watching. The animation in this film is fun, caricatured, and beautifully done. I also love the fact that there's not a word of dialogue in the short, only the sounds of the animals, props, environment and the music.

Thanks to Minkyu Lee for sharing the link with me.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Richard Condie

I really love these Richard Condie films. Seeing his work at animation festivals while I was growing up was a big inspiration for me.

This first film, "Getting Started", was funny to me when I was younger mostly because of all the crazy physical gags that happen in it. Now that I'm older though, I can really relate to the main character's battle with procrastination, and it's even funnier.

The second film, "The Big Snit", is also another favorite of mine.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Hayao Miyazaki: Starting Point

I just bought Hayao Miyazaki's book "Starting Point" from the Kinokuniya Bookstore in Little Tokyo, here in Los Angeles. It's the English translation of a book containing articles which Miyazaki wrote for various publications, transcriptions of his spoken lectures, as well as some interviews with him where he shares his thoughts on Animation, Filmmaking, Current Social Issues, and more. Here's a picture of the original book that was published in Japan along with a photo of Miyazaki himself:

It's a tremendous opportunity to be able to finally read the thoughts and philosophies of a modern day master in English. Kudos to Viz Media for translating and publishing it. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Christophe Blain and a few other things...

I was initially introduced to the fantastic comic book work of Christophe Blain by my fellow artists on the "Up" story team a couple years ago. Since then I've purchased pretty much every comic that he's done which has been translated from French into English.

A few months ago though, I was chatting with Louie Del Carmen about Mr. Blain's work and he brought in a couple books that Blain had done which I had never seen or heard of before. I was blown away.

"Carnet de Lettonie" and "Carnet Polaire".

"Carnet de Lettonie" is my favorite of the two. Here is the cover and a few images from inside:

The book is basically a collection of Blain's amazing sketchbook/reportage drawings. Unfortunately, since I can't read French, I don't really know what the theme of the book is. The drawings in the book are exquisite however, and there's quite a lot to see on every page too since the book is mostly artwork, not text. Blain's command of light and dark values, as well as his use of pattern and texture, especially in his landscapes is incredible. He also changes what media he uses a lot from sketch to sketch-- using a brush with ink, pencil, fountain pen, watercolor, sometimes even some crayons. I've been trying to do more observation sketching myself lately, so this book has been a great inspiration for that.

The other book,"Carnet Polaire" is very similar to "Carnet de Lettonie". But there's a lot more text in french, which I can't read, and it seems to be exclusively focused on a trip that Blain took to the south pole. Here is the cover and a few images from "Carnet Polaire":

This book is awesome too. What I like the most about Blain in these books, beyond his ability as a draftsman and painter, is that he's always experimenting and doing something different. He approaches things in so many different ways, with so many different types of media. He never seems to get stuck in a formula or a rut. His work is always fresh and always different from one page to the next. His ability to capture things he has observed is organic, lively, and honest.

These two books are available to purchase at Stuart Ng Books, or for those who can read french well enough to order them.

The next recommendation I have is for a DVD I purchased a while ago, and finally got around to watching recently. The DVD is called "The Cutting Edge - The Magic of Movie Editing".

This documentary is basically a series of interviews with Film Editors and Directors, covering the history of editing as well as it's vital role in making a film. It's not perfect, but I think there's enough interesting information in it to give it a recommendation. Watching Walter Murch cut together a sequence for the film "Cold Mountain" was the highlight of the documentary for me.

Finally, I wanted to mention an artist's website that I was introduced to recently-- Rodolfo Damaggio. A live action film storyboard artist. Click on his name above to visit the site.

Although I'm personally more inspired by his drawings than his paintings, there's no doubt that he's a phenomenal artist. There's a lot of great work on his site that is worth checking out, especially in the Storyboards section.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Some Great Interviews

A friend introduced me this website recently:
It has quite a few interesting interviews with some of the best artists working in the field of animation today, as well as with a few legends from the past.

Clicking on their names here will link to the interviews.

Alice Davis talks about her husband Marc Davis' work.

Burny Mattison also talks about Marc Davis' work.

Joe Moshier talks about his work at Disney and his move to DreamWorks.

James Baxter talks about working on "Enchanted".

Pete Docter talks about "Up".

Jan Pinkava talks about his history of working at Pixar on "Geri's Game" and "Ratatouille", as well as his future.

Enrico Casarosa talks about storyboarding on "Up", "Ratatouille", and his personal comic work.
Part 1
Part 2

Henry Selick talks about Joe Ranft, "Moongirl", and "Coraline".

There's a lot more on the website. Please check it out.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Fine Art of Marc Davis

One of the nice things about living in Los Angeles is that there always seems to be something interesting going on, especially events which relate to Hollywood's rich history of cinema and animation. Recently there was an exhibit of the legendary Disney animation artist Marc Davis' Fine Art work at the Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale. It was amazing and very inspiring. I went there twice to see it.

I was fortunate to get one of the last few brochures that commemorated the exhibit. The cover is posted above. Inside the brochure there are quite a few gorgeous reproductions of some of his paintings in the show. Here are a few of my favorites.

I fell in love with this Harlequin piece above at the gallery. It was awesome to see it in person.

Unfortunately the brochure doesn't feature everything that was in the exhibit. It only has about 25%-30% of what was actually on display. There were sculptures, sketches, and some wonderful abstract compositional studies-- a very large and diverse variety of his work was presented at the show.

I asked a friend to take some pictures for me with his iphone, since I don't own a digital camera yet. I was particularly inspired by Mr. Davis' Life Drawings and Paintings. There was an amazing variety and sensitivity to his work, but most importantly it was clearly evident that he really enjoyed making them. Here are some photos of a few, unfortunately there's some glare, but I still think they are worth seeing.

The paintings on the bottom here are super loose and spontaneous. Very cool to see. He probably did a few of these from a live model at Chouinard, the art school where he taught. It was clear to me from the exhibit that Marc Davis loved being an artist, and that he really took his time to explore creating very personal artwork outside of the studio. Hopefully seeing his work here can inspire more of us to do the same.

(Update: I guess the Marc Davis show is still up through July 26, 2009. For some reason I thought it is was over when I wrote this. I highly recommend going to see it if you are in the L.A. area. I'm going to try and make it over to see it again myself. One of my fellow co-workers at DreamWorks, Jason Scheier, also made a post about the show on his blog. Here is the link:

Friday, 17 July 2009

House of Cats

Many of my fellow graduates and friends from CalArts worked on this. It turned out really well. Congratulations to everyone involved.

I remember when my friend Sean Jimenez told me that Court Lomax had invited him to go to Austria and France for a few months to help develop a commercial for Swarovski, I thought it sounded like an awesome opportunity and would be a great experience. When Sean came back and showed me some of the story boards and animatics he had done with the ideas that he and Court had come up with for it, I was really impressed. They were for the first cat Emily.

House of Cats from Courtland Lomax on Vimeo.


Co-Created by Courtland Lomax and Sean Jimenez
Directed by
Courtland Lomax
Music by
Brian Young
Compositing by
Ethan Metzger
Backgrounds and Designs by
Brigette Barrager
Storyboards and Layouts by
Sean Jimenez

Adam Muto
Jules Soto
Shiyoon Kim
Bert Youn
Matthias Bauer
Erik Fountain
Courtland Lomax
Leo Matsuda
Matt Pugnetti
Jennifer Hager
David Nam

Sean Jimenez
Esther Shin
Jinyoung Park
Juliana Park
Kelli Kuest
Matt Pugnetti

I attached links to everyone's name that I could. Please check them out.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Hayao Miyazaki: Going Rough

If you haven't bought the book "The Art of Kiki's Delivery Service: A Film by Hayao Miyazaki" yet, please do yourself a favor and buy it. It is my absolute favorite "Art of..." book that has been published out of all the books released for Miyazaki's films. The drawings in this book are phenomenal. All the drawings that I've posted here so far are from it.

I wrote about going rough before in a post about Chuck Jones last month, but I'd like to revisit the subject again here with Miyazaki. Especially since I just recently finished a post about Life Drawing.

Most of these drawings were studies done for the characters in the film "Kiki's Delivery Service", but some of them almost look like observational sketches. Very much like the kind of drawing an artist would do if they were out at a coffee shop or at a park, observing and sketching people. Even if these sketches weren't done from life, I personally find them particularly inspirational for that kind of drawing. Miyazaki certainly seems to be channeling things he has observed from life in these drawings for sure.

I apologize for the graininess of some of these images. Alot of these drawings were very small in the book, so I blew them up quite a bit in order to feature them better.

It's amazing how rough these are, but how well they read. Miyazaki's shapes are so descriptive and his attention to the character's emotion and pose is pretty much unmatched these days.

It's incredible how Miyazaki can indicate a leg, or a dress, with just one or two simple lines and create a beautiful shape in some of these drawings, but there are also others here that are very rough and indicated in a looser, less perfect way. I hope that these drawings can all be yet another reminder that it's okay to go rough. It's not all about the fancy draftsmanship or cool stylization, it's about the idea and the character. The poses in these drawings feel real, and the character is alive.

Some of these charming, childlike poses Miyazaki drew in his explorations of the girl I posted here, are somewhat of reminiscent of the work of E.H. Shepard:

Well, I hope that everyone finds these drawings as unique and inspiring as I have. I will definitely be doing more posts about Miyazaki in the future.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Tinkerbell: Peter Pan Peanut Butter Model Suggestions

Back in the good old days, even when they redesigned her for Peanut Butter commercials, the Disney artists kept Tinkerbell looking appealing.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Life Drawing: Reaching for Inspiration Outside of the Classroom

Study by John Singer Sargent
Actually I'm not quite done pontificating yet, but this time I have some artwork to go along with it. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to do a post about Life Drawing, so here's my first attempt at it. I'll try to keep it as brief as possible, even though there is quite a bit to say on the subject.

I'd first like to preface this whole post by pointing out that I do not consider myself to be a master of Life Drawing by any means. I think that the Life Drawing I've posted on my personal art blog illustrates that I still have a lot to learn about it, as well as practice. I also have no problem admitting that I have some confused and conflicting opinions on the subject too.

I've taken quite a few Life Drawing classes from many and various professional instructors throughout my life, and I consider most of it to be time well spent and a great series of learning experiences. I would not be where I am today without them. I think it can actually be a very valuable thing to take an experienced Life Drawing instructor, especially as a beginner, because they can offer you an approach/method to solving the problem of drawing from the live model, which can be extremely difficult when you are first starting out. So I hope that I have made my feelings on all this very clear before I continue, as I will be critiquing some of what I consider to be the more problematic aspects of Life Drawing Instruction and the environnment that can develop in the classroom.

The main problem I've often found with many Life Drawing Instructors is that most of them consider their own personal style of Life Drawing to be the only way to do it. Alot of these teachers will only be happy with their students if they end up drawing exactly like themselves. So thus begins the quest of the young student to practice earnestly in order to draw exactly like their teacher. At least this is the experience that I've often had and witnessed, maybe it hasn't happened to other people, but it got to the point for me where I actually got derailed from why I was doing Life Drawing in the first place, which was to study how to draw the figure better so that I could tell stories visually and animate characters, not to copy someone's figure drawing style. This is why I found the passage that Chuck Jones wrote about his Life Drawing instructor, Donald Graham, so interesting. He said that Graham did not impose a personal style of drawing on his students, and as Jones says that's a very rare thing.

Many Life Drawing instructors seem to see Life Drawing as a means unto itself, rather than a means to an end. In other words, the pure act of simply achieving a "good" figure drawing is the entire goal. The Instructors will often get the students hooked on solely trying to get a "good" figure drawing, according to the parameters of the style that they are teaching, and convince them that once they accomplish getting that "good" figure drawing, that the students will then be able to animate, storyboard, design characters, or illustrate a scene with ease. But in my opinion, it takes a lot more than just studying a style of Life Drawing to be able to do any of these things really well. Some people who haven't even studied Life Drawing all that much, sometimes actually do these things better than some people that have mastered it. Now, I don't mean to imply that studying Life Drawing isn't important or beneficial, but there's a lot more to do than just drawing the 1-30 minute poses of the model in the classroom.

Another interesting thing that can often happen within the Life Drawing class is that a stock style pervades and is sometimes encouraged, where many students begin to draw in a similar way to each other, imitating themselves as well as the instructor. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, and oftentimes it is actually a great/natural way to learn as well as to produce some beautiful results. The problem, however, becomes that the students and the instructors are now only looking at themselves in the classroom as a place for inspiration when there is an entire world of art created during the span of human history to become interested in and learn from. I've also noticed that this narrowed perspective on figure drawing, which tends to develop in the classroom, seems to neglect other important aspects of picture making and the basic design principles of art. Things like directing the viewer's eye on where to look in an image or clearly presenting a narrative idea with a specific character in an emotional state.

I realize this is getting to be very long, but please bear with me.

I put the following drawings together of some professional Life Drawing instructors, labeled with numbers, to discuss some of these concepts here:

I don't think many people can deny the high quality of draftsmanship in these drawings that comes from the hundreds of thousands of hours of experience in drawing from the live model. That's not the issue here, but since I've been in more than my fair share of Life Drawing classes where the teacher has vigorously critiqued some artist, artwork, or art school (and that's putting it mildly), I figure that it's okay, for the sake of discussion, to share some thoughts and maybe even some respectful critiques on these drawings as well.

I'll start with drawing number 6.

Here we see a drawing of a female figure, I'm assuming because of the body type with the larger hips, from a back view, seated on a pillow which is probably on a stool. Now where does your eye go to in this drawing? Mine tends to go towards her bottom pressed against the pillow and to her upper leg/thigh. I think that's mostly because that area is where the most interest, definition, and contrast is in the drawing. The teacher's concern and effort seems to be mostly centered on the forms and flesh of her bottom and the anatomy of her upper leg, even though there is a pretty nice overall flow to the sketch. Maybe that form is what the teacher was lecturing on at the time it was drawn, and even if it's not, it's still a fine approach and a deftly executed drawing. The teacher is obviously illustrating what they are good at teaching, which is anatomy and form. There was probably not enough time to finish off the other parts of the figure either, but this is a drawing that the teacher chose as an example to represent their artwork and instruction, so I think it's fair to offer some thoughts on it.

I think one problem with this drawing, even though it's very well done, is that the overall design is not completely clear, and the heightened concern for anatomy has overtaken the idea of the figure's pose. This a problem I often see in Life Drawing classes. Design principles are not emphasized as much as anatomy is. Drawing number 4 has somewhat of the same problem for me. Even though the overall pose of the figure is a clearer statement, the anatomical rendering is calling more attention to itself than the idea of the overall pose. My eye seems to get hung up in all the anatomical details of the figure, rather than seeing the whole pose. Drawing number 7, while amazing in it's delineation of anatomy, has this issue as well. Especially if you squint your eyes at it, which is sometimes a good way to tell if a drawing is "reading" clearly or not.

Drawings 8 and 9 are obviously showing a method of constructing the figure with simple forms which is great, but I'm also wondering--shouldn't we be able to tell the pose and attitude of the figure clearly from these? I think they both show it to a degree, but number 8 feels a bit strange to me. It's hard to tell what's happening with the feet and what the arm on the left is doing. The absence of the indication of the neck is also confusing the clarity of the drawing a bit too. Number 9, although very solid in the construction of forms--the overall pose is a bit stiff and feels somewhat forced.

Oftentimes Life Drawing Instructors will be looked upon as the ultimate authority on the subject, especially within the microcosm of the classroom. We should definitely learn what we can from them and appreciate that they've taken the time to teach students, but on the other hand we also shouldn't forget the world of art that has come before both us and them. For example I chose a few Life Drawings from John Singer Sargent here:

These are all possibilities of what Life Drawing can be beyond the classroom, and a bar that has been set to reach and hopefully surpass. Maybe you'd like to ignore them completely and do something different, that's fine too. I personally think these are amazing drawings. I also think they show an overall concern and knowledge of good design, storytelling, and character that is lacking in some of the more anatomy based Life Drawing in the modern era.

Maybe it's an unfair comparison, but look at drawings 14, 15, 17, and 18 by Sargent compared to drawings 4, 7, 10, and 11 by the instructors. In Sargent's work there is a definite knowledge of anatomy, but it's subdued to the overall form of the figure and the big impact of the picture. Even in Sargent's quicker and looser sketches, like numbers 12 and 13, you really get a sense of the person and that he's drawing. In 19 the man feels like a living breathing character with an attitude. It's almost as if Sargent is studying the man as a person rather than as a nude figure. In 18 you can feel the power and the weight of the two figures locked together, as well as the emotional statement of it, without a great amount of rendering. The anatomy does not distract the viewer from the idea of the image, and it's arguably more appealing to abstain from drawing every little bump and anatomical detail. I think Sargent is also just as a concerned with the overall design of these drawings as he is with the figures, if you notice how he organizes his values and shapes of light and dark. Also take a moment to compare Sargent's studies of anatomy in drawing 16 compared with the teacher's studies in drawing 5.

I once took an instructor who said, "Sargent can't draw, but he can paint." I couldn't disagree more. Sargent's drawings are the foundation of his painting. Just because Sargent didn't approach his Life Drawing in the same way that teacher did, even he was considered "the wrong approach" in the narrow focus of the Life Drawing classroom. The student can just as easily spend their time studying and emulating Sargent as they can emulating their teacher, if they choose to do so.

A couple more examples of what Life Drawing can be, by one of my favorite artists, Gustav Klimt:

Once again, I think these drawings are amazing, and even though they are a bit unresolved, my eye is still lead to look exactly where it's supposed to be. The patterns of light and dark, as well as the degree of finish on certain parts of the drawing become accents that draw attention to the important areas and strengthen the image's idea. Many of these drawings by both Sargent and Klimt are most likely studies done for larger paintings. They are studies to figure something out or to solve a problem for a bigger concept. In other words, they are a means to end, not a means unto themselves. Even though many of them do stand alone as great pieces of work. Again, there is a quality and knowledge of the fundamentals of design here that you really don't see that much of anymore. Klimt knows what's important, where to spend his time, what to emphasize, and what to leave out. He also has great shapes.

Here's a couple more artists, Ben Shahn and Valentin Serov:

I put these two artists together to show the range that is possible in drawing. I don't know if these Ben Shahn drawings are necessarily Life Drawings, but I felt that they had a great sense of character to them, and they are obviously based on specific people or a situation. They are definitely observed in some sense. It's good to exaggerate/caricature, and the kind of drawing that Shahn does isn't easy to do, try it sometime. Shahn's approach is just as legitimate and awesome as any other great drawing in my opinion.

Serov, on the other hand, has a Sargent kind of quality to his work, but it's more delicate. Again, I think the overall design here is fantastic. Especially in drawing 27 where all the contrast and texture in her hair leads your eye right to her face. Then there's just enough going on with her back and arm to keep it interesting and clear. The use of line quality to indicate the clothing versus her flesh is also amazingly done. There are definitely areas in the drawing that are emphasized and subdued according to the principles of good design. I'd recommend reading "The Practice and Science of Drawing" by Harold Speed, if you'd like to know about how much artists really thought about design and picture making in the past.

Finally, Ramon Casas, a Spanish artist that I discovered quite a while ago:

These move beyond the realm of drawing, and a bit into painting. I wanted to show again though, what's possible in the realm of Life Drawing and studying from the model. Drawing number 30 is something you might attempt in costumed figure session if you wanted to. A great sense of design is also apparent throughout Casas' work as well.

I apologize for the length of this. I hope it all makes some kind of sense. My point is that we should never stop thinking for ourselves. There is no single "right way" to do Life Drawing, and there's a lot more to learn than just anatomy. I hope that I've kind of illustrated that a bit here.

Why not set our sights to the highest levels of art instead of keeping them locked down in the modern day Life Drawing classroom?

There's also nothing wrong with bringing in a copy of a piece of artwork you are particularly inspired by to reference in a Life Drawing class/workshop or bringing it with you to reportage/location sketching as well. It's good to have a goal, and to know what you are aiming for sometimes. Other times, ignoring outside influences and doing some random experimentation can produce some great things too.

I'd like to end with a quote from a great Life Drawing instructor I had, who actually taught a very structured and methodical approach to drawing. One time I asked him while trying to draw something from the model, "Is this okay? What's the correct way to do this?", surprisingly enough he simply said:

"If it looks good, you did it right."