Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Self Education


I've always been about making education if not affordable, well at least free. 
"But Danny now you are teaching for a hefty price... what gives?"
         -Yes, I thought about that and that's why I'm writing this post. There's a lot of people out there who can't afford colleges, animations schools or workshops. They lose hope and don't know Self teaching is an option. It's hard but IT IS POSSIBLE. I came across many students trying to teach themselves how to animate as I did research on this topic. Some had the self taught route under control and knew what they were doing. I'm passing along what I found so that it may be a guide to those who want to become animators but are lost because they can not afford higher education.  

       Personally I can relate to the self-taught route because growing up all I did was study on my own and teach myself to draw. Even though teaching yourself how to animate and teaching yourself how to draw are very different, they share a lot of the same hurdles and issues. Self Education is not easier than going to college, in fact it is harder because you are doing this on your own with no teachers or mentors. Many people try to go the self taught route and fail (True Story)


       - Yourself is not a walk in the park, teach at your own pace, smooth merry go round full of fun. It's as much work as a full time job. The amount of effort you put into your self education is equal to the results you should expect to receive from it. If you spend 5 hours a week self teaching while there are students in colleges spending 6 hour days, 5 days a week taking classes, what do you think your chances are when it's time to hire you or them? 

       -You have to want your goal really bad, but your WANT can not be more than what you are physically willing to do. Example: You want to be an animator but you didn't realize it was so tedious to create animation. You must have patience and foresight to keep the light at the end of the tunnel with in reach. 

        -Surround yourself with people who do better than you, work harder than you and want their dreams just as bad, they just might rub off on you in a good way

We aren't all just destined for greatness - it takes hard work to get there!

Here are some Idea's I compiled from online sources of things to do for experience:

  1. Make your own animated film, even if you have no budget. It doesn't matter if it's very bad,  stop motion with Lego figures, or an experiment with Post it notes. Making a film will show you exactly how much work goes into everything and help develop perspective and respect for the business. (though making a film should not count as practicing working on your skills - PRACTICE ROUTINE)
  2. Watch a lot of movies, take notes, and listen to the director commentary tracks. The commentary can be a gold mine of information on why directors made the choices they made, the challenges they faced, etc. Sometimes they'll call out things you never even noticed.
  3. Learn a lot about story structure, and what makes something engaging, entertaining, satisfying. Here are book I found people mention
    • Invisible Ink and The Golden Theme by Brian McDonald
    • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
    • Francis Glebas' blog (especially his "Ride the Dragon" story structure)
    • The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
  4. Once you've figured out story, then learn about Visual storytelling. It's is an awesome tool for your 'mental toolbox'. In any film, but especially animation, you want to say as much as possible with the visuals, and use as few shots as possible to get it across. Watch really good movies, do sketches of the key moment in each shot or a whole scene and take note of all the different shots there are, and put them together in a reverse-engineered storyboard, so you can see how they were constructed and why the director and story artists made those decisions. There are a few books that have been recommended to me on this subject, but that I have yet to read:
    • The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media by Bruce Block
    • Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative by Will Eisner
    • Prepare to Board! Creating Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts by Nancy Beiman
    • DREAM WORLDS - Hans Bacher
    There are also plenty of video tutorials on Vimeo and YouTube, if you search for them. One great video lecture I read that was recommended Sherm Cohen on Vimeo, about the 7 Hidden Patterns of Successful Storyboards.
  5. Take a look and see if there are any workshops, classes, or other resources you can tap into to help inform and build your knowledge to create your own curriculum. Skillshare is popular, and it's very affordable as well. there are courses from Sarah Zucker that teach a bit about story structure with the added benefit of valuable feedback from peers. The course was Screenwriting: Writing the 10-minute ShortDaniel Gonzales, an animator at Disney, is also teaching a course called Constructing a Story: Advanced Visual Storytelling, and his lectures have been invaluable from the visual storytelling perspective. Another resource that you may be very interested in is a new book by Tony Bancroft, who directed Mulan. The book is Directing for Animation: Everything You Didn't Learn in Art School.
  6. Learn how to make decisions. There is an interview once with Brad Bird, where he compared being a director to being one of the grasshoppers who get pummeled with seeds in that scene from A Bug's Life, when Hopper makes a point to his gang. The seeds are questions, and as a director, you are buried in them every day - you have more than you can possibly ever answer. But as director, you can never say "I don't know..." you always have to know, because you are the #1 decision maker, and there is no one else for you to go to. So figure out how to look like you know what you're doing, so your crew can trust that they can come to you and get an answer.
  7. Aim to make your work compete with the quality of the work of someone who has a job you want! Aim high and never settle
  8. LEARN FROM ALL ARTS: straight from Lips of Brad Bird (Director of the 'Incredibles')

        So those are some things to do. I know the reality right now is that you'd love to go to a school and have a mentor, work with peers, and get all the benefits that a study course would offer... but you can't. I hope this post is a little beacon that gives you a little more guidance than you'd have other wise if you are thinking about taking this scary journey on your own. 

Why is it great to be an animator. Here is Steven Spielberg saying why

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lecture on Value 101

     When an image flashes in your mind, as an artist your first instinct is to capture it exactly. That's the amateur in you reacting. The experienced artist will view that vision as a guide and know it is ok to divert from it. It's ok to change it and apply principles to make it better. Think like an artist!

      You eventually have to draw your perfect vision so one important principle to always keep in mind is value! Value is very important. Art teachers always said the word 'value' and talked about it's importance but knuckle-headed younger me never truly understood value. Not until I looked at the work of Hans Baker. His work opened my eyes to how value can be used to tell story but for this post I will only focus on Value itself and what it is...

Hans Baker, Value sets mood, space, composition. 

Light source/Time of day
      It's very important to know what the light in your picture will look like: will it be ambient? Will it be sunlight through a window? Be decisive! Below is a solid example of establishing a light source. The artist's name is Anton Azbe. Drawing with light source in mind can give shape, volume, and definition to your subject.

Anton Azbe - light source example
     Here below is another drawing of a figure, It's VERY well done. You can see form, shape and volume in the figure drawing. This piece of art was made by an artist named Den Drolet. The top drawing is not better than this one nor is this one better than the top drawing. I am comparing the two so you as the viewer can see the difference of having chosen a light source and note having established a light source. Remember that there's is no BETTER way to draw/create something. Every choice must be thought of as a tool. The 'tool' of the light source was chosen to not be used in the photo below to define the figure.

Den Drolet - using line instead of a light source to define the figure

     This by far has to be my favorite principle or 'tool'. If you ever hear me speak about movement, line, value, film or critique something, I will always mention the word 'contrast'. In value you can play light against dark. But once again, there are no rules! (I'm getting worked up just thinking about contrast!!) If you have a bunch of pictures that use dark vs lights, try making a picture with light-against-lights or even dark-against-darks! Contrast can be used in an image or used across multiple images. You can contrast where ever you want, maybe thats why I like it so much! (calm down danny you might scare the children..)

Hans baker using contrast in many ways! always draws your eye to the focal point
by making it stand out with contrast!

Balance in Texture using Value:
     A nice drawing is a nice drawing. but what separates great drawings from the rest? Many people have their opinions so I don't see why I can't put my 2 cents in :)

     I believe a good drawing PLAYS with the viewer. Plays with the principles and techniques or art. By play I mean manipulate and use them in an interesting way that gives a bump to it's aesthetic value. Whats this word Aesthetics? Click here for a Kantian view of aesthetics and arts. Let me show you some examples:

     I found this image above on the inter webs and sadly I do not know who created this pencil drawing. It's really good, no one will argue that. But let me bring your attention to the following image below by Igor Kazarin and notice that something about it captures you a bit more firmly than the drawing above. Is it bc he's looking at you? Is it bc it's nicely shaded...?

Nothing but good things to say when it comes to Igor Kazarin and his art

       I believe the Image of the bearded man is stronger bc the artist is using value to direct the viewer. He's controlling the viewer's eyes even when there is no need to (notice it's not as if this was a very crowded busy image where you had to search for the focal point.) This image has areas where there is a lot of detail and a lot of contrast to draw you in. It also has areas of rest where the value and the area surrounding it has similar shades. As the eye looks around the image it is hit with detail, it has a lot to absorb so when it comes across an area of rest (places where the value doesn't vary much) the eye relaxes and processes the piece of art. When you are hit with too much detail and no places of rest, the eye will look away.
     "LIAR! Danny but there are tons of great complicated drawings in the world! What up?" 
     True, but those still have areas of rest and there is joy in taking time to view them. But that doesn't take away from the point that I am trying to make that there is something about these drawings that push it to another aesthetic level. Where as some super photo realistic drawings are trying really hard to blur the lines between photo's and art like the Julia Roberts one above, other drawings such as the bearded man are also photo-realistic but they don't let you forget about the thinking artist behind the art.

      Which one is more interesting (Danny how dare you ask a subjective question!) To me, the one on the right is more interesting to me. The lack of lines, the use of a light source, and the contrast between values are all pushed to the extremes. The image below and the top right are made by the artist Ileana Hunter. I don't know if it's the drawing skills or the fact that it's Audrey Hepburn but I like :) 

        If Leonardo Da Vinci was doing it hundreds of years ago.. then there must be something to it wouldn't you say so?
Leonardo Da Vinci controlling the Eye like a boss
Value in Color
Who cares, draw with the wrong colors! Its all about if the values are right! A little purple in the tiger never hurt anyone...

greg manchess
Art: Stephan anderson
 Mood is Value
      Dark values are usually associated with dark feelings a low moods and the opposite goes for light values. Manipulate your values and you can have Mood!

      Wolfgang Znamanack was one of germany's most important theatre stage designer in the last century. Look at not how his colors set the mood, but the value of the colors... These stages had to be designed for dramatic Wagner Operas so it's appropriate for the mood to be quite dramatic as well!

      I made these last two images smaller on purpose to force to to click on them and get an up close view of these super cool designs! This art goes to show that your occupation can be anything and if you put good creative principles and a determined mind you can inject art/feeling into all kinds of things.

      Before you finish your drawing remember to step back and make sure the value works. Squint or step really far back. Even when you can not see details your value should still make sense and look right. :)

     All this knowledge and tips I posted here today are not things I discovered on my own. All this is an accumulation of knowledge from artist all around the world that I'm putting in one spot for you! Knowledge needs to be passed on, and I hope you take a step back and realize that now that you have read this it is your duty to pass it on to somebody who might need your help one day.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Art of Disney's FROZEN


“Now then, let us begin. When we are at the end of the story, we shall know more than we know now: but to begin.”   -Hans Christian Anderson, "The Snow Queen" 
Anna Drawing Artist: Jin Kim

Elsa the snow queen by Jin Kim

 How do you take an idea and show it to the world? DRAWINGS!
        It took about 600 artist to make the movie FROZEN. All 600 deserve their moment in the lime light but I want to specifically bring attention to some amazing art made by some talented people at Disney. It took 70 years of off and on development, innumerable story variations, and many failed attempts but the Snow Queen finally has finally been initiated into the disney family. Enjoy these concept/visual development drawings and paintings I have collected from the corners of the internet of my fellow Disney Artists. David Womersley did the following landscapes!

Landscapes show scale and can set the tone of the story (Artist: David Womersley)
Snow isn't just white, snow can reflect a spectrum of colors! (Artist: David Womersley)

       Keep in mind that 80 percent of all art work made for a movie is never seen by the outside world. Why? Because when an artist is drawing for a movie, they are exploring the film. For example: this means an artist might do a hundred drawings trying to figure out how a character should look. "Is he too short, no he should be taller, he looks too old in this drawing, ooh how about a beard? Is he too skinny?" The artist draws and draws until finally, he/she comes across a drawing the director likes. That chosen drawing is the only one to live on while the other hundreds of exploratory drawings are put away. These drawings below by Brittney Lee and Bill Schwab are golden.

Artist: Bill Schwab
arttist: Bill Schwab
Artist: Brittney Lee
In my opinion, this is one of the best Disney dress of all time (artist: Brittney Lee) 

      These following model packets show the range of emotion for the sisters and Olaf. As an animator these drawings serve as guidelines and they help us keep the characters on model. Every character has a specific personality, We work to make sure everyone knows every characteristic of each character so that they are believable when they are up on the screen. They really capture the essence of the "Disney appeal." Jin Kim and Hyun Min Lee are the talented artists responsible for model packets below! 

good drawing = strong knowledge of techniques and life drawing (Jim Kim)

I love to practice drawing these on my spare time (Jim Kim)
Olaf and appealing mouth shapes! (Artist: Hyun Min Lee)

      Below are some Paintings from Lisa Keene. She is great at showing a full emotional range of color within an icy white setting. Check out these next three paintings by Her

Artist: Lisa Keene
Artist: Lisa Keene
Artist Lisa Keene


“Many a winter’s night she flies through the streets of the town, and peeps in at
the windows; and they then freeze in so wondrous a manner that they look like flowers.”

“It was a lady; her cloak and cap were of snow. She was tall and of slender figure, and of a dazzling whiteness. It was the Snow Queen.”

The Snow Queen by Elena Ringo
“… a woman, dressed in garments of white gauze, which looked like millions of starry snow-flakes linked together. She was fair and beautiful, but made of ice — shining and glittering ice. Still she was alive and her eyes sparkled like bright stars, but there was neither peace nor rest in their glance”

Copyright Disney Enterprises Inc

Artist: Marc Davis

Disney has been trying to make this movie for years..  Copyright Disney Enterprises Inc

       Why was it so hard to make the Snow Queen into a film? Mostly because in the original story the Queen is described beautifully but is lacking in personality and is completely un-relatable. Her actions are unexplained and she is not even present in the climax of the original story. How could one make an entire movie out of a character that has no dimension? This has been the question of the century in the Walt Disney studios since 1943... 
     Finally, the making of The Little Mermaid, another tale by Hans C. Andersen, was a success for Disney and literature once again springboard for Disney features. Many people tried to work on the story of the Snow Queen, even Disney Legend Glenn Keane tried but to no avail. After Tangled was a success, in 2010 the studio again tried to thaw the story of the Snow Queen with the directors from Beauty and Beast and an army of established artists.. John Lasseter also joined the fray as executive producer but again the story did not work...
      Disney then announced the film under the title, FROZEN! It was to be made and they gave it a release date and all! No story, no characters, no where to start!!!?? One simple suggestion changed all that:

“What if Anna and Elsa were sisters?”

      The rest is history, from that little suggestion the Snow Queen snow balled into what it is today. The resulting story is inspired by the original story and nothing more. The integral themes of the Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale are still intact: Love, Family, and finding your inner strength. This movie no matter what flaws it may have, has an equal number of reasons to be able to stand on it's own and hold a place in the pantheon of Disney Classics. 

David Womersley and Brittney Lee

Art: Lisa Keene

Shape and line must me continued through broken structures (design) Artist: David W.

    Go watch the movie and I hope you like it! Stay after the credits and you'll get a bonus clip and if you search and look hard enough, you might see some cameos by another Disney princess!!!! That's all I'm saying :) Thanks for reading, soak in the art and always keep in mind, my blog = my thoughts. They are not facts, just insights from my world here at Disney that I love sharing with you!

Artist Brittney Lee
Artist: Hyun Min Lee
OALF!! Artist: Hyun Min Lee
Shiyoon Kim