Friday, May 28, 2010

On Japanese Animation

Many of you probably don't know but when I was going to art school, I was majoring in illustration. When I had graduated, I worked as a freelance artist for a while doing many illustration related projects for film, comic books, on-line games, and marketing comp art, to name some fields. I always had an interest in animation, from any country.

I remember being blown away the first time I saw AKIRA. I had never seen anything like it before. Growing up, watching Disney classic shorts and features as well as the slew of animation programming in syndication, I'd never been exposed to animation that was so technically well done. The story didn't quite jive with my western story sensibilities beaten into my subconscious mind from years of Western animation/ film exposure, but AKIRA had an unshakable quality of uniqueness and mastery that I've yet to see rivaled.

A short while into my freelance years, I had the opportunity to work @ Walt Disney Feature Animation on Mulan. That was my first total immersion into the process of animation. It was pretty intense work for someone new to the rigors of animation production. I remember long days into nights sitting at an animation desk producing drawing after drawing to get through each scene. Each drawing had to be of the highest quality so that it could "read" on screen what was being "sold" to the audience through the art itself.
When I think back on the hours, days, weeks, months, and years that I invested in the Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear, it all seems like a blur. Each film, I learned and grew as an artist, through sheer "pencil mileage", working with extremely talented artists, and learning the animation process from the inside out. Working conditions were generally good. We worked hard. Played hard. I met a ton of great people and influential artists. Together, we created outstanding projects that will stand the tests of time for that genre of animation.
So what does all this have to do with Japanese Animation? I was just thinking recently about the huge impact that the Japanese animation industry has had in America. Are the animators that create some intensely awesome and highly admirable animated product revered in Japan as they are here in the US? Are these animation ninjas treated the same as the top talent for major US animation studios? What's it like for them during a production, creating the amazing entertainment we've grown accustomed to seeing on our cable tv and sold in the big box retailers?
Now I can't say that all the statements in the link below are completely verified by a major news network special report. The article does share input from artists in the industry. (It's on the internet, so take it for what it is, right?) At the very least, for me anyway, give me a sense of what animation industry veterans and newbies in Japan go through to bring us their very best exportable entertainment artform.

p=111 What do you think?

Here's a perspective presented by a Westerner in Japan at Production IG:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


This past week we saw the passing of heroes from the arts. So much has been said about them already by many who can deliver a much more eloquent summation of their contribution to life and the arts than I. They have undoubtedly inspired and fueled the imaginations of many aspiring performers, myself included.

Lena Horne June 30, 1917 – May 9, 2010

If on the silver screen or the stretched canvas these artists delivered to their audiences an enthralling performance full of skilled artistry and passion.

Frank Frazetta February 9, 1928 – May 10, 2010

Farewell and thank you for the inspiration!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Process Sketch Stages: Zip and Some Tone

So here we have the sixth stage in the process of this little manga cat character.
I've painted on zip and added a zip texture to the background. For added dramatic effect I've thrown down a layer of shadow with a little gauzian blur to soften up the edges. Now that I'm looking at it, I'm contemplating going forward with color, since I had added a blue grey hue to the BG. I'll have to let it sit for a few days to see if the sketch warrants the time to drop color on to the cat. What's your take? Color or no color?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Process Sketch Stages: Tie Down

So here we are at Stage 5 in the drawing process of this manga cat character.
As I was progressing on this drawing, I was thinking about that this will be one of the first "inked" drawings I've done digitally that feels somewhat successful. Now that CS4 actually has the rotate canvas function, much like Painter does, I can now finally ink curves that I still couldn't get by turning my Cintiq.
I have to stress something about this process. The stages that I've presented so far on the blog, I most often employ when creating art for reproduction ( Comics, Illustration, or Commissions) Even though I dashed the previous sketches out in a few seconds, the stages would be much too time consuming to employ when creating art for storyboards in general. There is especially not much time when story boarding for television animation to ruff out each pose and do a very beautiful clean up drawing. When you have very active sequence with hundreds of poses and dozens of camera set ups/ layouts to draw with tight deadlines there has to be a better way to meet the deadline.
What I try to do instead is pre-visualize my sketch before I draw it. Then in as few lines as possible I try to capture the essence of the pose and characters emotional state, while staying loose and working furiously. I am thinking about the underlying structure of forms, the flow of the drawing, the action axis, the emotional context with concentrated efficiency.

I tried to keep each of the qualities mentioned above alive in the more tied down drawing while attempting to emulate a Manga style. That being said, if I were inking this drawing my traditional way, I would have approached the inks quite differently. Since, I wanted to emulate Manga, I was more conservative with the line weights.

The next stage of this drawing will add the zip tones and we'll call it done.
Till next time!