Thursday, 30 August 2012

One heck of a tree surgeon...

I've been working on updating my showreel with proper animation for a good couple of weeks now. My idea of a good showreel (whether it's right or wrong) is to include a good measure of what it is you love about the industry. Showing that should land you a job doing what you love with like-minded people right? Well that's my theory anyway. Something else I've definitely wanted to include on my showreel is 'versatility'. I need to prove to people that I'm not just some knock off failed Jamie Hewlett/Passion Pictures fanboy or whatever and that I can be a blank canvas to studios. Something they can build upon (i.e. give me their characters and trust that I will know them and stay on model etc)... That's asking a lot for a first job when mine will probably be running around making sure all the folks have enough caffeine gas pumping in them, but I just like to try and keep my bases covered.

It's good to have influences and identity, but I think sticking to one strongly could be somebody's downfall, and I don't want it to be mine. I just don't think I'm in a place right now to force my so called 'voice' upon people. Nobody's gonna listen to a guy that's all talk. I still have plenty to learn before I can even aspire to take creative control, realistically.

So the plan is to kill two birds with one stone by studying what I love: Tex Avery MGM shorts, Looney Tunes, and Hannah Barbera shows, all those bloody great reruns I grew up watching. What I've been struggling to emulate for weeks is the style of Tex Avery's team on

'Ventriloquist Cat' (1950)
(c) copyright MGM

Directed by Tex Avery

Produced by Fred Quimby

Animators -
Walter Clinton
Michael Lah
Grant Simmons

With every new skill comes that grinding period. Though I can't remember what the street name for it is, it can be compared to that tedious, brutal phase of gaining experience points in an RPG. The part where you can't progress until you do some serious levelling up. In the art world it breaks many a man. Heck it's probably broken me and I don't know it yet. It doesn't help that copying Avery's character designs is like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle ON FIRE. The character's expressions are like rubber and squash and stretch out of imaginable proportion. Seriously Spike looks different in every scene. It works pretty seamlessly somehow. It's particularly magical.

Hey Spike


Spike? Is that you?

Oh god! What happened to your face?!

How does it work?

I love Avery's version of Spike. He's a stripped down and basic lump/sack of a character. Though he's basic, the details are slight and are surprisingly hard to replicate. So I've been trying to emulate the various dumbfounded expressions for a performance piece I have in mind. And I'm struggling.

If you compare Spike here to what he looked like in the first few shots you'll notice his head shape and general physique are quite different. Sometimes the top of his head is flat, sometimes it's curved, he looks a whole lot chunkier earlier on, whereas here he's slimmer. That's just a few things. His jowl for instance changes regularly with expression. But it works. Why? Because it's a cartoon.

This bit is fantastic how the stalk parts of the fruit are animated to look like eyes. I didn't notice it the first time I watched it which is weird, cause it seems pretty obvious now.

And finally, here's the best of what I've been up to. It's pretty embarrassing how off model I am. It's tough but it's amazing how much you learn from emulating the old styles. My understanding of pose, weight, expression, and construction have all improved from doing this exercise.

The expressions are great. Cartoony and extreme. It's because of this that the cartoon has so much life. Not a lot of modern animation goes to such great extremes. It's a real Avery trait.

Poses like the one above, right are absolutely wack. Can you imagine even trying to do a LAV for a run cycle like that? You'd probably pull something brutal. The point i'm trying to make is that the pose is extreme, but in full flow you don't question it.

I think this is the most dog-like you ever see Spike in the short, the rest of the time he's on his hind legs all anthropomorphic. 

A truly sucky attempt at breaking down the face. Trying to understand how the facial features wrap around the head on a 3/4 angle... Obviously going about it the wrong way. Why a square?

Assymmetry = liveliness. Nothing natural is perfectly symmetrical. Something I learnt from reading John K's discussion on Ed Benedict.

Dumb-founded expressions. The roll of fat on the back of the neck is a great observation.

Prime example of the elasticity and looseness of Avery's designs. Totally readable though.

the baggy physique is hard to detail.

construction attempts from memory... Arms are far to big (I think I have a tendency to draw lankiness), and torso is to elongated.

What the body should look more like. Big gut.. less barrel chest. I'm mistaken, the shoulders shouldn't always be raised, it only occurs when the arms are brought up.

Too angular for starters. attempts from memory probably 24hrs later.

That awesomely stupid expression. You can tell which one was traced.

original poses. more construction.. Too humanistic. Not extreme enough.

Struggling to teach myself to keep the details basic and curvy. 

Sort of rough thumbs/keys for my performance idea.

Already lost it. A long ways off capturing the look...

So this is one thing I've been up to. This prelim phase of sorts has turned out to be quite a lot more challenging than expected.

 It's worth mentioning why I started doing all this in the first place. Basically John K recommends the drill on his blog. I recently discovered how brilliant his blog is. Pretty educational stuff and it's FREE!

Till next time.

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