Monday, February 17, 2014

Concept art progress

I'm still struggling to pin down what aesthetic I want to achieve in this animation, I've been creating quite a lot of sketchy designs but none of them really stand out to me, and I feel most of what I've done so far seems a little uninteresting. 

These are the character artboards I created for the last module (some of these images have been posted before). As is probably obvious I didn't finish them or come up with final designs... I find that both, especially Nycteris', don't really capture the essence of their character and their personalities to the level that I want.

More early designs I developed after the end of the module:

After getting this far I decided I really didn't like it or feel inspired by it, so I've scrapped it and have been trying to push it further into different directions.

This is probably what I like the most so far, especially the one standing on the left. I think it has a certain amount of 'wonkiness' that adds appeal without making her too distorted. 

Most of the art I create for Photogen seems to just be Disney style:

Although I actually like this style with him, if I'm going for something completely different with Nycteris I obviously need to make sure he compliments her. I'm working on that now. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Use of Time in Environment Design

As the title of the fairytale suggests, time plays a big part in Day Boy & The Night Girl. The main characters themselves seem to be living representations of the tropes associated with their respective times, with Photogen being full of energy and laughter, and Nycteris being melancholic and mysterious, and frightening to those who don't know better.

I did a little bit of research into the symbolism of different points in the day. I found some interesting information --here--. I've copied what they wrote about the symbolic meanings below:

"For purposes place symbolism, the major components of day and night can be broken into smaller divisions which have their own symbolic significance. These elements which form a daily chronological symbolism are sunrise or dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, sunset, evening and midnight. Within these divisions there are two twilight states: a morning twilight state before sunrise and an evening twilight state after sunset.

The day begins with the gray twilight state between darkness and light, between black and white. It is a boundary time which contains elements of both night and day within it and is not dominated by either one. Sunrise comes from the east and symbolizes a new beginning, the birth of a new day. It can also symbolize a quick revelation such as the "dawning" of a particular revelation. The morning is full of daily rituals in preparation for the growing day. Noon, as Jung notes, represents the zenith of the day. Interestingly enough, it is also the time when no shadows are possible because the sun is directly overhead. The afternoon is the waning of the day and a slowing of daily rhythms.

Sunset ushers in the world and place of night. The sun sets in the west and the setting sun represents the death of the day. Certainly a setting sun serves as a setting in numerous forms of romantic stories. The image of lovers parked by the ocean and watching the sun set into the ocean is a common image. It is romantic because they are watching more than the death of the day. They are really watching the birth of the night and its dark potentialities and secrets.

Another twilight time follows sunset which again marks a hazy, water-colorish time between day and night. Twilight means "half-light" and the half light of morning or evening is a symbol of dichotomy, representing the dividing-line which at once joins and separates a pair of opposites. Twilight, notes Cirlot, is characterized by lack of definition and ambivalence, and is therefore closely related to the space-symbolism of the Hanged Man or of any object suspended between heaven and earth. Evening-light is associated with the West, symbolizing the location of death." 

I find these really interesting as, if I were to be adapting the entire fairytale, it would definitely be effective to use different times to signify the relationship between Photogen and Nycteris, particularly the use of twilight to show how they are bonding in spite of their extremely opposite natures.

Many of the key emotional milestones of the characters in DB&NG occur at sunrise, sunset or are characterised by the presence of the sun or moon. In order to effectively convey the atmosphere of a certain time of day so that it can enhance the narrative, it is crucial to understand how it appears visually; what colours are used, how light and shadow appears, etc.

I was shown this short animation, Adam and Dog, and was struck by the effectiveness of the naturalistic lighting in the illustrative environments. The film takes place in Eden, and follows a dog as he befriends Adam, who goes on to find more interesting companionship in Eve, so Dog is left wandering alone.

The film uses a number of strong colour schemes that work really well at depicting the times of day. The dog meets Adam during sunrise, showing the oncoming of the warmth of a new friendship, and they spend many happy moments together in the sunshine. When the dog is left on his own, he is shown in less vibrantly coloured environments to reflect his loneliness, and then sunset, the 'death of day' or the seeming end of Dog's new friendship. Towards the end of the film, Adam and Eve are shown more dejected and distorted, causing animals to run away in fear. This seems to be a depiction of them after they have been exiled from Eden. Everything in this sequence is more twi-lit and grey. The film ends with an ashamed Adam and Eve leaving Eden, and Dog wondering whether to stay there in the lush environment, or follow them out into a vast bleak desert. He decides that their companionship is more worthwhile, and so joins them, much to their surprise.

I took some screenshots below. The film uses a wide range of colour schemes to show the passing of time, and I thought that the composition of them was really well-done.

I'm planning to do some studies myself as my animation will take place mostly during night-time, so I'll need to understand how light and shadow act and effect colour, and how to make elements stand out.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ralph Steadman Interview

This morning the college hosted an interview via Skype with prolific British artist Ralph Steadman. Steadman is perhaps most well-known for the illustrations he produced for Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but his work has been used for many things from stage costume designs to beer bottle labels. He has also produced illustrations for a number of classic stories like Alice in Wonderland, and manages to imbue these well-known images with his recognisable, darkly amusing style.

When I first came across Steadman's art I was instantly struck by his loose, unplanned style and how each of his pieces has a 'mischievous' quality - as he said in the lecture, he believes keeping in touch with that childlike naughtiness and being unafraid to express this through drawing is what keeps work fresh and interesting.

Through the interview he showed us a wide range of his drawings, from those he produced as a student up to studies he created whilst travelling for research for one of his many book projects, like I, Leonardo (1983) and Sigmund Freud (1997). Whilst describing these drawings, he made it apparent that he values a sense of spontaneity and rebelliousness in art - he said that this is what gives work an 'edge', and after all if there is no edge in a work, and it doesn't excite him, then what would it do for someone else?

He reiterated the fact that his art isn't necessarily for anything, and there doesn't have to be any reason behind it, though it does have to evoke an emotion otherwise there is no point. His works are frequently darkly amusing with serious undertones that inform the viewer of important issues, most notably in work he has produced for charities, like the below image for Homeless International named 'Christmas Dinner 1930'. He is often quoted as saying that he wished to use his drawing skills to 'change the world for the better'.

I admired the way that he described his approach to drawing, likening it to an adventure where there are 'no such thing as mistakes'. He never pencils in his work first, preferring to immediately use ink and make 'splats', which reveals possibilities on how to progress the work. He described it as being a dialogue with the paper, where the artist manipulates mediums without a particular method behind it but uses this to a creative advantage.

At this point he talked about how he doesn't like work that is produced entirely digitally, as it lacks texture and raises the risk of becoming 'mechanised'. However he did say that the computer can be used as a tool to aid the process, as long as the artist fights against that over-digitised flatness. I could definitely relate to what he said here, as I often feel that the work I produce traditionally is much more visually appealing than that I produce digitally, simply for the added texture and hand-drawn 'feel' of it. However in being aware of it, I'm able to experiment and use the digital tools to create that textured appeal that traditional art has.

Towards the end of the interview various students went up to ask questions, one of the questions being how to accept the inevitable mistakes that happen when making art. Steadman again said that you can't make mistakes, and that being an artist is about being 'slovenly, clumsy and messy'. Disregard the rules and regulations and be true to yourself, and don't think about what other people want to see or what is commercially viable. He said that when he was working with Hunter S. Thompson, his mantra for the creation process was 'for no good reason'. Just create, and enjoy the process of creating.

As words of advice to us students, he said to 'dedicate yourself to making mistakes that matter', which I found really quite moving, as even though it is advice that is exchanged frequently through the art community it seemed to mean a lot more when hearing it first-hand from such an established illustrator who's work exists because of his rather rebellious and chaotic approach to it. Mistakes are inevitable, but don't erase them - use them as a new way to progress the piece. In terms of drawing, he said to develop a flow and rhythm, and to 'pretend to be a conductor' in the way that you move your arm to get that loose but strong line that is so prevalent in his work.

Much of the creative work I really admire all have a similar spontaneous and rather dark quality - for example, the work of Gerald Scarfe or Francis Bacon - yet I've never managed to express it in my own art. I really would like to, in my own time, create more illustrations which 'externalise myself onto a page' as Steadman put it. I feel that having this approach in concept design for my Extended Project will also help to give the look of my final animation a certain individualistic edge.

Attending this lecture has really inspired me to rethink my current mindset when it comes to drawing. I allow myself to get too bogged down in technicalities, focused on mimicking the work of artists I admire to the detriment of my own personal 'voice'. I have lost a lot of the childlike adventurousness I used to have with my art, and I really want to change that. Steadman clearly has never lost his sense of individuality in his career, or the idea that the creation process of each of his pieces is an unfolding adventure - and his work is much more engaging for it. I really hope I can apply this more to my own work.