As we have been moving more towards body acting, our class had looked at various different ways of portraying character through movement and body language. This included lots of physical exercises, moving a partner around manually and looking at balance as well as trying to suss out what your partner was trying to portray in the movements that she made you do.
We attempted to “animate” each other by guiding our partners around the room, embodying a character that we had thought of. Here are some drawings I did of the characters we attempted to portray:
This was a warrior princess, skilled with a bow and arrow and thoroughly bored by the constraints of royal life. She was quite fun to play as it involved a lot of swinging about of an imaginary sword and shooting of arrows! My character was a grumpy, isolated houseboat owner with a little cat:
He enjoys painting (mostly paintings of his cat) and used to be a chef, but his life on the houseboat can get lonely at times. I may have a think over this idea and use it in a future project… Next is green screen projects, which is a daunting but exciting prospect!
First week back in class and on Wednesday we had a class trip to the Natural History Museum to draw some of the animals there. This was really useful to teach us a bit more about anatomy and bone structure, as we have been working on our animal runs and gallops this term. I started out by trying to draw some skeletons, which proved quite challenging:
This horse skeleton had a lot more ribs than I bargained for, meaning I only managed to fit about half of it onto my page! Most of our class started with the mammals, moving on later to the other exhibits. Here is another drawing I did of the African Civet:
As well as the animals themselves, we also focused on recreating the environments around them, which was a useful exercise in working with different perspectives as well as providing some context to where the objects were. I sketched some of my classmates as they did the same to me, looking at the different shapes and planes of the exhibits:
In my feedback I was told that I should be thinking more about tone, as some of the drawings had a tendency of looking quite flat. As my style leans naturally toward being cartoonish, I did at times find it difficult to create realistic-looking drawings, especially when it came to creating animals like mice and bats. However it was great to get a feel for animal anatomy. Here is a link to my first animal run:
This week, we started to work on a couple of walk cycles, which I found to be a really fun exercise. We started out with simple walks, then moving on to more complicated styles of walking such as tiptoeing, running, catwalk prancing and sneaking – I tried a couple out on TV paint, using a ballerina as my character. Here’s my ballet dancer tiptoeing:
Here she is walking normally:
Though I wanted the arms to follow through a bit more and swing more fluidly, I was quite pleased with these two, particularly the normal walk, as I had had some problems in the initial stages trying to make the walk look natural enough. After being dissuaded from trying out the fashion walk (a little too much hip movement for an initial attempt!) I thought that the normal walk ended up looking good, if a little wiggly still. We then tried out similar walk cycles in Animate CC, using shapes:
I found this exercise a lot more challenging and somewhat frustrating, as I managed to get the legs moving but struggled much more with the arms and torso – the bounce of the body and head was what I found most difficult with this task. One to go back over and look at again for sure! Walk cycles are really useful for displaying different moods and feelings in a character, and doing these exercises definitely helped me a lot when we began to do our character mood changes later on…
One of our projects this week was looking into character design in a bit more depth, with the help of Pen Mendonca, who told us a little bit about what she does in terms of educational illustration. She showed us some examples of strong characters, and we talked a little bit about what sorts of things made a strong character; we came to the conclusion that it was complexity, a sort of ‘grey area”, that made characters seem the most realistic and authentic. Having used the Stanislavsky 7 questions in our previous class to try and flesh out characters, this class built on that idea significantly. Here is an example of some character poses I did for my librarian character, Millicent Quark:
As you can see, she has a penchant for organisation and red lipstick! I wanted to add some depth to her character, as I felt that she was a little 2-dimensional, so this class was a very useful one for me. Our class wrote out character descriptions and then passed them on to students further round the room to draw out and elaborate on. There was a mixed response to this – I found it strange having a character in my head created by someone else, but it was interesting to see how my description was portrayed, and other students suggested that it was actually less pressure to draw to someone else’s brief. Some of the animal characters became human, and vice versa, and things got very complicated when we started adding friends and enemies into the mix.
Character design being one of my favourite parts of the process, I really liked this class and the exercises we did. Maybe Bob has some potential yet…
This week at life drawing, our model posed with a variety of different props with his favourite seeming to be a black fedora. I have been working on making my drawings look more three dimensional, as Vanessa pointed out to me that I have a tendency to draw my lines down very definitively meaning my objects don’t have as much structure as they could have. I think it’s definitely a habit informed by my background as a cartoonist, rather than a fine artist! The circle technique proved really helpful to me, so I used this as much as possible (though I still draw heads first, a cardinal sin. Sorry!) As well as using as much construction as I could, I also took the time to shade my drawings properly, as you can see here:
I hadn’t previously given much thought to adding shadow to my other drawings as I was more focused on the outlines and basic shapes. This time, I focused a bit more on light and dark, muscle tone and anatomical definition which meant I felt that my drawings improved lightly. I do feel like, when it comes to life drawing, practice makes perfect, or at least makes better! I was quite pleased with the drawings I came out with this evening, as they showed a bit more accuracy but retained my style at the same time which is one of my objectives. I’m definitely feeling more positively with regards to anatomical drawing!
One of our projects this term – a rather unusual project in fact – has been to shoot and edit together a two minute chase scene film. Our group decided to shoot on campus, as it would make the most sense for us, and after writing out some story boards to plan our scenes we decided to cast Melissa as our starring role, along with a friend of mine to play her stalker. I also had a brief cameo as her friend in the first scene!
Our film followed a student as she left campus late at night, being pursued by a sinister-looking hooded figure who, as it turned out, just wanted to return her student card to her. (Or did he?) Our main problems as film makers stemmed from the issue of light; because we needed darkness to film our scenes, we were limited to very specific times, as well as having to think about our location with regards to how much light could be seen. This meant that we filmed quite intensively over the course of two separate days, shooting about ten or fifteen scenes at a time. Here’s an action shot:
What we learned over the course of making this short film was the importance of angles and exposition in creating a suspenseful piece of work; we tried to vary our camera angles as much as possible, using POV camera as well as long shots to add a bit of interest to the film. Finally we edited everything together using Premier Pro and added suspenseful music, before screening it for our class. I was really impressed with the range of stories our class created in their separate groups, with all of us taking “Chase Sequence” in a slightly different way. Here’s a link to our short film that I’ve posted on my Vimeo:
All in all a fun project, and a first-time foray into film making!
This week was character design week, something I was really excited for as this is what I would ideally like to go into professionally once I’ve graduated. CSM graduate Josceline Fenton gave us a great talk detailing her experience in the industry, both in comics and in advertising for Felix and Virgin Media among other things. She also did work for Steven Universe and Cartoon Network, which I thought looked really impressive! Her talk was mainly focused on the idea of mimicking other people’s styles, which I definitely need to work on. It is a strange concept to me as I don’t think of it as being as creative, but I understand that in the industry you often have to take pre-designed characters for projects more often than not! Here are some of the designs I attempted:
Spongebob proved to be a hard nut for me to crack, despite having watched him religiously since a child; from memory we all struggled to recreate his expressions, meaning we had to look at his character sheet for a bit of help:
Who knew that Spongebob Construction Theory would be the title of one of my scholarly worksheets? Finally we had a go designing our own original characters and passed them to a friend to try and replicate. This was a really fun exercise, though not an easy one! We all have such different styles and trying to mimic them was quite the challenge, though one I really enjoyed. I’m fully qualified to construct my own Spongebob anytime…
This week some friends from MACA and I all went down to Hackney Picturehouse to do an Aardman model making workshop, led by George who works as a junior model maker at Aardman studios in Bristol. There were quite a few animation students in the mix, both 3D and 2D, but puppet/claymation was a new realm for me and one that I was very intrigued by.
As we all received the same amount of clay and instructions for building a character, the workshop didn’t leave as much to our imagination as I might have expected but nonetheless I had a really great time building my own Gromit! Despite working in the same order on the same tasks, everyone’s models came out looking very different with different personalities and facial expressions, as you can see in the photo below of mine and my classmates’. (Mine is second from the right!)
At the end of the session we took group photos of our army of Gromits and asked George a couple of questions about what it was like working in stop motion animation and model making. He told us a bit about the selection process at Aardman, as well as how groups would work together both on short-term and longer term projects. He told us that we should work on creating the best portfolios and showreels we could before applying for jobs, as this was the way to be the most successful in the industry. All in all a really enjoyable and educational experience – maybe next time they’ll teach us how to make Wallace…
This week at life drawing, I decided to put my plan of using circles into practice when sketching our new life model Phil. Vanessa showed my the ropes first, showing me how to start by drawing a circle for the torso, followed by one for the hips and a final circle for the head to get a general gist of the model’s movement and stance. Drawing the spine in also helped to get a feel for how the model’s posture was, as my previous drawings were lacking in this area! I really felt like my drawings improved a lot.
Vanessa’s feedback was that my characters looked a little two dimensional, and that I tended to cut off my lines too early rather than flow readily into one another. As a cartoonist at heart, this made a lot of sense – creating the limbs as cylinders rather than as straight lines helped me a lot in fleshing out my characters and making them seem properly ’round’ in the sense of being three dimensional. Again, we were doing short poses of 2, 3 and 4 minutes, which meant there were a lot of different movements to capture in short succession. Like Jennifer, Phil made full use of the prop selection!
Using the circles helped me massively improve my technique, so I’m definitely going to be using them more in the future!
This weekend a friend and I went over to Brixton to a studio named Under Way Studio to try out a new class – mono printing using silk screens. I had tried lino printing as a teenager in art class but this sort of work was completely new to me! We began in a manner somewhat similar to the shadow puppets, cutting out the shapes that we wanted out of paper and this time using them to create negatives (in that the paint would fill the spaces we cut).
I chose to create a piece inspired by the life drawings I had from Thursday, as I thought Jennifer’s movements were really dynamic and beautiful. I layered a couple of different poses on top of one another, meaning that the end result looked as though she was moving around on the page:
I also added a couple of shapes to layer on top of one another, creating a final piece that I was quite pleased with. Though we only had three colours to work with, I felt that the end result was well-suited to the vibrancy of the primary colour paints. Each layer/colour had to be done individually, pulling the paint across the screen beforehand to “flood” it, then redone over the stencil to create very bold and clean shapes. We then (very professionally) dried each layer with a hairdryer, before changing colours on the screen and printing the next on top. I was really satisfied by the cleanness of the final lines and the vibrancy of my figure’s movement through different layers of colour. I’ll be back for more screen printing for sure…