Saturday, October 5, 2013

Resource 1: Paranorman (2012)

I wanted to look into the design of Paranorman because I found it's visual style to be unique and appealing in a 'wonky' sort of way.

I found an online interview with the film's character designer, Heidi Smith, which goes into a lot of detail about her intentions behind the design work. The film was Smith's first major project after graduating from the California Institute of the Arts in 2008. Her style features distinctively shaky lines and organic cross-hatch shading. 

Chris: The ParaNorman crew said they hired you because your work looked “scrappy and unhinged,” and had a bit of “nervous quality.” How would you compare the portfolio you got this job based on with the kind of work you ended up creating for ParaNorman?
Heidi: Because I worked on ParaNorman for so long, I think the style I used changed a bit as the project developed. My style changes, and I think that’s natural for an artist. You change and you grow, and I think that you get stronger. Your observational skills get stronger; your inspirations change.
Maybe in the beginning with that portfolio and my first bit of work forParaNorman my work was kind of more boxy; it seemed a little more rectangular and boxy. As time went on and I worked on it with the others, my style became more organic, especially in the line-work.
Chris: How would you describe the aesthetic in your work onParaNorman?
Heidi: It has a lot of asymmetry. That’s one of the things they told me they liked about my portfolio coming into this project; they liked the asymmetry and “nervous line” of my work, as you said. It had a scratchy looseness they were looking for. One of the things they pointed out that they liked was that, for instance, in a character’s eyes one pupil might be bigger than the other. They liked it being different.

The asymmetry is one of the things that drew me to the film's style.  Smith's art in general has a very loose, exaggerated quality which I really like - she also seems to work only using traditional mediums, most commonly pencil, charcoal and pastels. See her other work here .

Something I've noted about her blog is how it is an endless stream of small character designs - nothing time-consuming or fancy. I should really follow this sort of work pattern, and work more with traditional media, as I think it suits my style of working more (I struggle with spending long amounts of time on single pieces).


Chris: What’s it like seeing your drawings come to life — not drawn animation but as maquettes and puppets for this kind of stop-motion production?
Heidi: I thought it was amazing. It’s been amazing to work with Kent Melton, who sculpted all the maquettes. He was just as passionate as Chris Butler, and his work inspired my own work. He wasn’t afraid to take risks, which pushed me to do the same with my drawn work. I felt like he not only captured the spirit of the characters I designed, but he made them look better in his own way.
Chris: How did the process work between you two?
Heidi: Well, he would take a drawing and work from that. Sometimes he’d come to me and ask me to do a turnaround of a character to help him, usually of a specific feature like a nose or a helmet. He and I went back and forth to figure out what he needed, and for me to see what was possible with his work. We developed a really good communicative relationship.
Chris: I’ve been told that for the puppets, Laika went so far as to study the textures in your drawings for the clothing. Can you talk about the detail you put into those drawings and it being translated to actual fabric and puppets?
Heidi: One of the more memorable parts of this project for me was when Chris Butler asked me to do these sketches of textures. They would take those drawings and print them out and use them as fabric and what not in the costumes and sets.
Deborah Cook, ParaNorman’s costume designer, was amazing to work with. She would sometimes bring in interesting reference material she had found and bounce it off me to see how I could use it in my designs.  One instance that I distinctly remember was her bringing me this classical painting and she asked me to study the tree bark in the piece and develop a texture based on that. She really encouraged me to do really weird and interesting textures, and not anything I would’ve thought of on my own. It was really exciting to work with everyone at Laika.

Although Smith mainly works in character design, she contributed to the environmental design so that the designs were consistent. I do feel that as an artist I need to push my boundaries and start to work beyond my comfort zone; I particularly need to start practising drawing anything that isn't a human - buildings, animals, plants, etc. as I could be required to work in these areas as well if I were to work on a feature.

It would probably be necessary for me to invest in a copy of The Art and Making of Paranorman, as no doubt there will be much more info there than I can find on the internet.

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