Friday, September 30, 2011

Films: Treasure Planet

The other night I finally got round to watching Treasure Planet. I've been meaning to for ages; the idea of a Disney film incorporating steampunk elements seemed almost too good to be true.

I'll admit I was slightly dubious after reading a couple of negative reviews, but in the end I'm glad I watched it.

To be honest I don't actually recall much of the story of Treasure Island. I remember watching the Muppet's version as a young kid, but other than that, not much crosses my memory. So the story itself did hold my interest - I'm aware this was a problem for some other audiences who were already more than familiar with it.

I didn't find Hawkins to be the most engaging protagonist, simply because the quiet, brooding and rebellious teenager is a character I've seen many times over. However I did feel pangs of emotion at the scenes showing his father leaving and some of the moments between Silver and him. The development of their relationship and the breaking down of Silver's tough, villain-like exterior, was very touching.

My slight fascination with steampunk meant that the scenery, character design and general style was more than enough to keep my eyes from ever leaving the screen. I found Silver to be a little too heavy and grotesque; I did like his robotic limbs though. My favourite was perhaps Amelia, I love her design and I thought she had some really funny lines.

I actually also found B.E.N's insane antics to be quite entertaining, I seem to be in the minority there though. I was amused when one review called him the "Jar Jar Binks of Treasure Planet". What a coincedence, I quite liked Jar Jar... (should I admit to that?)

Anyway, similarly to how the film wonderfully fuses traditional aesthetics with sci-fi, I thought the 2D and 3D animation complimented each other perfectly. The 3D brought a great sense of the vastness of the environment, something which might not have been achieved quite so well with 2D alone. The use of CG to animate robotic parts, such as Silver's arm, and characters such as B.E.N, also made the movements much smoother and more realistic.

However, the quality of animation between the characters seemed to vary somewhat. Hawkins' facial animation seemed much less fluid as some of the others, particularly in comparison to Delbert, whose animation was flawless; he was expressive without appearing ridiculous. Perhaps this is simply a matter of how defined their physical features are; Treasure Planet certainly hosts a fascinating array of non-human creatures.

All-in-all I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm interesting in exploring more of the less mainstream Disney films.

Next on the list, I think, will be Atlantis.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Artists: Brian Froud

Whilst mulling over the waif-like appearance of my character, I began to look at "fairy art". One of
the names that usually pops to mind on this particular subject is Brian Froud, known for his designs for films such as the Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Browsing through his work, I was instantly inspired by what I found.

The persona of the woman in this painting reminded me very much of my character: A mysterious and alluring being that dwells in the trees, who is often encountered by unwitting adventurers. She appears mournful and sad, which hints at a past tragedy; this is something I'd like to show in my character. The way her ghostly form entwines around her surroundings gives a very beautiful and ethereal effect.

His figures wear elaborate clothing, often adorned with flowers, leaves and other naturally found items. Their beauty sometimes contrasts pleasantly with mischevious expressions, poses and actions, which tells us of a more quirky personality.

Froud's artwork has spurred me into drawing further ideas for designs, which I will be refining and uploading soon.

Character Archetypes

A vast majority of stories fall under the conventions of the Hero's Journey, or monomyth, a term coined by scholar Joseph Campbell. Generally speaking, it is as follows:

“ A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. "

In this narrative pattern we are able to distinguish seven distinct character archetypes: Hero, Mentor, Threshold Guardian, Herald, Shapeshifter, Shadow and Trickster.

To clarify:

Hero: Usually the protagonist. their story is generally one of self-sacrifice; they must leave their familiar home and endure hardship in order to achieve a set goal and eventual self-actualisation.

Mentor: Often the "wise old man/woman", they impart their knowledge to the hero in order to better equip them for their challenge ahead. This may include the giving of gifts/rewards after the hero has completed a set task.

Threshold Guardian: They act as the gateway to the unfamiliar world that the hero will be venturing into. They often impose upon the hero some sort of challenge in order for them to prove their worthiness. Although often related in some way to the antagonist, they can also be neutral characters.

Herald: The person, event or force that disturbs the equilibrium of the hero's life and reveals their upcoming adventure.

Shapeshifter: Often a "morally grey" character whose true intentions are difficult to understand due to their shifting roles. They bring suspense to the story by keeping the hero, and reader, questioning their beliefs and actions.

Shadow: Represents the negative aspects of life, and acts as the force against the hero. They are usually the antagonist. If they are a villian, they are the ultimate opponent that the hero must defeat, usually in a dramatic conflict that renders one or the other dead.

Trickster: The mischief maker and joker who often brings comic relief to an otherwise heavily dramatic or serious story. They are cunning and sly, and may be a friend/sidekick of either the hero or villain.

Of course, our own characters must fall, no matter how vaguely, into one of these archetypes.

After thinking about the personality and lifestyle of my character, I thought she would befit the role of Mentor, Shapeshifter or Threshold Guardian, or some combination of the three. I can imagine her as somebody who is difficult to read; people will initially be suspicious and afraid of her due to her sombre nature, even though she is not at all violent. She is the only being truly aware of the enchantment infecting her land (and the only one to experiment and research with it), and could therefore be the source of important information and advice for the hero.

Photoshop Induction

Although I (somewhat clumsily) have taught myself to colour with Photoshop, and have grasped the basics of layers, filters and adjustments, I've realised I'm barely even aware of the vast number of tools it utilises, and effects it is capable of.

Today, I learnt about:
- DPI's, RGB/CMYK, colour gamuts, and other technical bits and bobs (I now finally understand why so many of my photos/digital paintings looked desaturated when printed)
- The correct ways to edit an image, using adjustment layers, so that the original is always available to salvage if needed
- Recording "Actions" and creating Droplet apps so that a large number of images can be edited in exactly the same way, in one go

We're going to be creating an illustration of the environment of our characters next week, which I'm really looking forward to, although it is slightly daunting as landscapes aren't my strongest point.

As practice, we were given a range of images to play around with, and, naturally, I ended up creating this...:

The cityscape was fiddly and doesn't look at all realistic, but it was fun and certainly useful to learn more about Photoshop's capabilites, and I'll be taking a different (and less "destructive") approach to digital painting and editing from now on.

More shall follow on my slowly expanding experience of digital imaging software next week, when we'll be learning about Illustrator.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Artists: Ahmed Aldoori

I've been thinking more about the physical features and build of my character.

Originally a human, she abandoned/left her home around the age of seventeen. She will have been smaller than most other girls her age, possibly around 5ft. As time goes on in her new woodland home, however, her environment begins to distort her appearance, and she becomes increasingly nymph or pixie-like, but not in the typical fairytale sense.

I was struck with inspiration when I saw Ahmed Aldoori's artwork, particularly some designs he'd created for an alien race. 

His figures here are elegant and alluring, yet hold some sort of mysterious, slightly sinister quality. I like how he has drawn the face; I drew influence from this and sketched some very rough designs myself.


Artists: Guillermo del Toro

When I came across "Pan's Labyrinth" I was immediately eager to discover more about the mind behind it. The film wonderfully combines a sense of childhood fairytale, horror and violence; I've yet to find another film quite like it.

The faun is a character who I was fascinated and enchanted by, and his image - one I find both monstrous and beautiful -  kept popping to my mind as I was brainstorming ideas for my character.

On the film's official website, viewers have access to a behind-the-scenes gallery of artwork, photographs, models, etc. which I have found unendingly inspiring.

I found a description of the faun's character on Wikipedia which I found particularly interesting:

"Originally, the faun was supposed to be a classic half-man, half-goat faun fraught with beauty. But in the end, the faun was altered into a goat-faced creature almost completely made out of earth, moss, vines, and tree bark. He became a mysterious, semi-suspicious relic who gave both the impression of trustworthiness and many signs that warn someone to never confide in him at all."

I could imagine that my character, being a similarly natural, fantastical and forest-dwelling creature, would have a similar demeanour. I've taken the idea of her being a hermit further, and thought that the environment which she escaped to would perhaps have some magical effect on her.

The giant skull gave me ideas of a legendary, now-extinct creature whose remains have cast some sort of "spell" on the surrounding land; part of the spell is that it distorts and alters humans into these strange, fairy-like creatures.

This transformation would continue to intensify, until one day, she would be completely unhuman; she would be part of the trees.

Therefore, I would like her to appear to have parts of her "made" out of tree roots and vines.

The concept art of Pan's Labyrinth focuses on the details found in trees, which is going to be a predominant part of my designs, and something I would like to practice drawing.

Also, ideas for how items she might hold would be constructed out of naturally-found materials - bags structured from branches, bones, etc.

Inspired by these designs, I've sketched some rough "doodles" exploring how I might incorporate a similar style into my character:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Inspired by what I found at Leeds City Museum, I further researched crystals, including specific types and colours. This led me into discovering different potential concepts for my character's habitat (and therefore concepts for my character's appearance). These included crystal caves and trees with twisted roots, which are things I've always founded strangely beautiful and mystical.  

I've created a mood board to summarise, vaguely, the sort of atmosphere and decorative details I will be hoping to create with my character and her environment.

Artists: Keith Thompson

A concept artist who has particularly captured my attention is Keith Thompson. What initially drawn me to his work was their distinct dark and/or gruesome quality. He appears to have a great talent for depicting disturbing and yet somehow believable characters.

I find his attention to detail quite incredible, whether it be the folds in clothing or the gory wounds in a character's chest.

I find some of his art reminiscient of the films of Guillermo del Toro, whose work I will also be exploring.

Artists: Wesley Burt

As a lover of drawing faces and figures, I find the artwork of Wesley Burt fascinating and beautiful.

I am always on the lookout for artists who capture true human emotion and character in their figures' faces; for artists who are more concerned in creating an interesting and intriguing face rather than simply "pretty".
I've taken great influence from Burt's work, and hope to be able to create similarly believable expression in my own drawings.
So the journey of my first character creation begins. I gathered images from Leeds City Museum and The Royal Armouries, where I found myself particularly drawn to the intricate details found in crystals and rocks.

I've decided to explore the possibilties of an entirely organic character, with these rocks being inspiration for the setting in which they would exist. 

I also found these skulls, and thought of a concept in which a giant skull would form the shelter, or "home", of the character. From this, ideas for the character simultaneously began to form; ideas of them being some sort of nomad or hermit.

I've decided to look at the works of concept artists for further sources of influences.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Polite introductions

Hello, my name is Sophie. I am a student in Digital Film, Games and Animation. I aspire to create many weird and wonderful things through various different mediums, including character designs, 3D models, animations, music videos, experimental film, etc...

This blog shall include posts about my progress on my degree, any interesting (hopefully relevant) bits and bobs I find on the internet, and snippets of my own artwork. I hope any visitors will find it at least slightly intriguing and informative.

Thank you for reading!