Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lightning Appeal

I'm not sure how they were able to achieve it. Practice on previous projects? Some unique channel into my psyche? Or creators just having a great time and operating at peak performance?
The question is how is it that the creative forces of Passion Pictures and Jamie Hewlett fused so much appeal, charm, quirk-i-ness, and fine multi-media animation into an introductory short for the 2008 Olympics in Bejing, China. that to this day I can still watch repeatedly?
I was charmed when it was first released on to the air waves. If you haven't seen it, I think you may just like it. If you have enjoy the ride here:
Then come on back and let me know if you thought the trip was worth it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Process Sketch Stages

So tonight I thought I'd share a bit of the process I go through to create some of the drawings I've done for comics, illustration, and animation. For demonstration purposes I've chosen to draw my interpretation of a character from a Japanese manga digest I picked up from a local Chinese bookshop. (It's not a translated volume. I am not sure what the title of the character or book. If you recognize it please let me know.)

Looking through the source material, I chose an adventurous cat character to draw in an action pose. Below I've started out with a very loose gesture of the cat's action pose. I'm thinking about weight distribution (as if I took the pose myself), the thrust of the action through the body, and the volume the figure occupies in perspective. I may be thinking about all these items consciously, but will focus now on getting the energy of the gesture down on paper.

In sketching each drawing has a vitality or "life" which you can feel when you are sketching. It can almost be considered an "energy" much like what we have in our own bodies.
Here is a quick diagram of the major action lines and secondary action lines that i think about when designing the flow of the figures form in the pose.The blue lines represent the major action thrust of the arching back while torso leaning forward over the hips that flows back through the hips down the far leg and exiting the far heel. I imagine the secondary flow (green line) originating from the torso and flowing through the arms. One flow of "energy" travels back in perspective, through the right arm and hand, up the sword blade, and exiting the tip. The other end of the "energy" flow travels down the arm into the hand and exiting the fingers. I'm consciously designing the "energy" flow as I go along through the stages.
At this stage I am starting to think more about defining the "volumes" or mass of which the character consists. I'm thinking about how those volumes are organized in perspective and space. "What would each volume look like if I were really seeing it in front of me?"
Check out Preston Blair's book Cartoon Animation for more details on volume. He doesn't call it that by name but the book has plenty of solid foundation exercises to help artist think about volume when drawing.
You'll notice that I have adjusted the distances of the legs, enlarged the head and changed the foot placement in space. As I refine the drawing and push and pull the volumes to make them feel "right" I still keep it loose. I'm consciously exploring the mass of the figure, not committing yet to hard details. I want to make sure that the volumes, shapes, and flow of the figure are working before I start putting on the descriptive details.
At this stage, the figure is really starting to take shape. I am describing the dimension of the figure by wrapping the folds or edges of cloth around each volume. I'm keeping in mind the flow from the original sketch as I continue to build the figure up. There is still room to tweak the figure before I commit to the finish. More on that later. I'll be back shortly with the final stages of this sketch.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Keep those Creative Juices Flowing!

Warm up sketch this morning from random photo scrap.

Most times when I feel like I'm in a creative slump, it's most often because my creative "being" has been starved of the right "food".

If I think about my personal health, if I were to work 14 hrs a day, exercise and not eat or rest I'd probably only be able to go a day without collapsing. We wouldn't force ourselves not to eat or rest consciously.

Similarly, if we consider our "artistic health" if we worked creatively for days without daily feeding ourselves good art "food" via study of: comics, illustration, movies, etc and reading books, novels, ancient tomes, etc our artistic bodies would collapse into a creative slump. The slump then leading to frustration, anger, doubt, depression, uninspired labored work, etc.
Yet as artists, we often "expect" or "demand" that our creative selves can work tirelessly day after day without taking time to "eat".

The key I've heard from other top artists in my field has been that they are "eating" on a daily basis from the creative pantries of the artist's they admire. Studying the "masters", has been made part of their daily schedule like brushing teeth, eating 4 square meals, going to the gym, etc.
This often keeps them soaring over what ever creative, intellectual, or personal challenges occur during the work day.
I've tried it, and it works. I can definitely feel the difference when I get out of the habit.
For what it's worth,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Directions

I've been working hard the past month or so on another challenging TV episode and a thinking about what it was like when I first started out in the field of art.
When I graduated from SVA with a degree in illustration, I was sure that I'd be working for DC in a year or so. Little did I know that my career was about to take a detour into animation. I've been traveling on that animation highway for about 14 yrs. During that time I've been involved in quite a number of high profile projects like: Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch, Brother Bear. I've also taken smaller roads off the main highway where I was able to learn and grow in other areas of story telling and experience different studios and production schedules: Straight to DVD featurettes, smaller feature film production, video games, and mass market publications.

During my travels, I have met and learned from a number of great artists and storytellers who were generous to share their time and experiences in animation. From talking with many of the talented artists that I admired and had the privilege to work with on those various animated projects, I learned that they too were on a similar path. They hadn't reached the "ultimate state of creativity" and they too strove on a daily basis to improve and exceed the previous day's performance. How could this be? My perception of their art and their ability was that they had soared into the lofty heights of creative excellence.

The mind comes up with so many complicated reasons why an artist is "awesome". We haven't seen the process they go through to create "awesome'. We just see the final result. So we can trick ourselves into believing that there is some "secret to awesome" they possess.
Now a bit more mature, I have come to realize for myself, that the journey is never over until it's over. There is "no" final arrival point for artistic growth, no "Creative Nirvana", no Pantheon of the Art Gods that bestows a vessel of ultimate artistic elixir to a select few.
No, there is only the select few that drive themselves and work their hardest at each sitting at the creative table to do their absolute best work every time. This constant toil to plum the very depths of their creativity and bring all of their tools/skills to the fore produces fruit which we view as "awesome". They study, practice, and work their asses off on a daily basis.

You may be saying to yourself right now, if you've made it this far into the entry, "No duh, Phil! I knew that already." Well that's good for you that you figured that out. For those yet to discover it for themselves, it may be something to keep in mind. I'm just coming to terms with the new direction that I need to take knowing the facts above. It all comes down to the sweat equity you put in to what you are passionate about. Sometimes when we're on the journey of our lives, careers you can distracted by the promises and hype from advertisers about "instant success", "Fast results now" or "instant anything". Which ultimately, distract us from the reality that artistic growth is anything but instant. It is for some a lifetime commitment to practice, study, and continued application of extreme effort.

You probably know that already too. Just knowing that the artist's I admire are "awesome" because they worked their asses off, put more time or experience into a work, takes the edge off that "awesome". Don't get me wrong, I still admire them. But thinking about the hours they put into training to get to what I consider "awesome" reframes my perspective and is motivating. "How much time have you devoted to your artistic growth?" I might ask myself.
If the answer isn't satisfactory, "Then you know what you need to do."

I originally started this post with the intention of sharing some of the ways which I have stimulated artistic growth on my own artistic journey. I also wanted to share insights with aspiring artsists who want to get into storyboarding and possibly pass along something useful to those artists already working professionally. With that in mind, I thought I'd just run down a list of helpful books that have helped me through the years keep sharp and inspired:

The Five C's of Cinematography by Joseph V. Mascelli
Film Directing: Shot by Shot by Steven D. Katz
Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video by Gael Chandler
Animation From Script to Screen by Shamus Culhane
Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodrigez
The Animators Survival Kit by Richard Williams
Story by Robert McKee
The Business Side of Creativity by Cameron S. Foote
The Complete Guide to Perspective by John Raynes.
The Visual Story: Seeing the Structure of Film by Bruce Block

By no means is this an exhaustive list, merely a small selection of books that has aided and equipped me in various stages in my career. In the coming day's I'd like to share with you all some insights into storyboard production for television animation. I have a list of topics that I will cover at some length. No hard or fixed rules, just general observations or tips that may help you on your own journey.
Till then, hope that you get into some inspiring reading.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Current Affairs

Dear Blog Readers.
I have removed older post images dated post 01-01-09 to a private collection, in the efforts to curb improper or illegal use of posted art.
In the near future, art posts between 01-01-09 and 12-31-09 may also be moved to a private collection.
It is uncertain if continued investing in this portal is in the best interest of The Art of Phil Allora. The current future of this blog is being re-evaluated to determine the best showcase for artwork. This re-evaluation is in light of the incredible draw http://pallora.deviantart.com/ has received in the recent months.

Reader input regarding this matter could greatly influence the continuation or discontinuation of this blog showcase.
I hope that all of you out there reading this can understand where I'm speaking from.

Friday, April 9, 2010

What's the richest nation in the world?

"Do-Nation" This small excerpt of a conversation I had with a homeless gentleman on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum in NYC many years back. This was interesting because the guy comes over to me as I was sketching people on the steps. After a little friendly banter about art, he offers to draw something for me. Hesitantly, I accept , and hand him my sketchbook. He knocked out a unique line drawing of an African queen. Then I paid him for the sketch, and he headed off to buy himself a hotdog lunch. He was a slick cat for sure. I've been getting many an email from former coworkers or acquaintances, or friends of friends on FaceBook who are trying to get pet projects off the ground using websites to collect votes so they can win cash or are calling for donation from their own websites. There is a growing trend of donation funded entertainment projects. It's a internet phenomenon that has been growing for a few years now. Probably the first I've heard of it was reading a blog run by a female film maker who was trying to collect a dollar from a million people across the globe to fund her film.
I believe the contributors would be credited in the final film.
It's a contextual thing. I'm not cheap, but with the recession going on, I'm more inclined to give money to folks that could use it, pay bills/ buy food/ save a life/ than to fund home grown entertainment projects by individuals that may very well have $ in the bank. Even if I wasn't looking for back end residuals : $$, credits, free art. Short sighted or shrewd? P.

Friday, April 2, 2010

When I was attending art school, one of my instructors recommended that the class pick up a copy of the book "The Art Spirit" by Robert Henri.
One of my trips to the Strand ( an incredible book store in NYC) I picked up a used copy for 3.50. Totally worth it. You can still find the book in print on the major book sites and is probably still recommended in art schools far and wide.
In my current artistic journey there are new developments. The recent lack of posts is due to new additions persnally and professional duties.
Deadlines and board production have been fast an furious of late, so it has caused a significant lack of my posts.
But as I sit up at night assessing the work I've posted here, I've picked up my old copy of The Art Spirit to listen for whispers of insight from the past.
I found that this statement struck a chord:

"When the motives of artists are profound, when they are at their work as a result of deep consideration, when they believe in the importance of what they are doing, thier work creates a stir in the world". Robert Henri.

Do you think that the art posted here has to say "something"?
Will it be remembered in the nano-second it takes to click to another web page?
Is it enough to post art for art sake or do we need something more?
What do you think?