Sunday, April 13, 2014

Some background progress

The introduction scene is the most lavishly illustrated as it's the only bit that doesn't have frame-by-frame animation. I wanted to present the introduction in a motion comic-style that would set it apart from the rest of the film and help establish the style and atmosphere of the piece.  

I would have really liked to have done something more involved and creative, such as having them appear as living illustrations inside a fairytale book. I may see if I can adapt them in the future to be like that. 

I haven't ever really painted backgrounds/environments to the extent I have in this film so it's been a bit of a learning curve figuring out what brush styles work best. To create the soft, ethereal atmosphere inspired by the artists I've previously mentioned like Tyrus Wong, I worked mainly with the default Photoshop brush set to very low flow and opacity, slowly building it up in layers before adding definition with a higher opacity setting. I tried to only use a high opacity/flow brush sparingly to define stylistic touches like the twirls on the trees, and also to draw the eye to the focus of the scene. I then played a lot with adjustment layers to create an atmospheric sense of lighting. 

As I'm not brilliant with colour yet (I tend to colour everything far too flatly and desaturated) I played a lot with the colour balance and brightness/contrast settings to really bring out the light and shadows. I then filled a layer with a pinkish, orange colour set to Overlay to pull it all together a bit more.



In this image I only really defined the chest as that is the focus of the scene. The rest gives the impression of the rest of the environment without going into too much detail as it wasn't really necessary and could be distracting for the viewer.





I do need to work on my drawing/colouring of interior environments in particular, this is far too flat and sparse (in fact I'm only realising now how this one lacks any sense of dynamic/interesting composition). This isn't satisfactory for me as the Witch's lab is meant to be full of strange little objects, experiments and gizmos to really give a sense of her reclusive, eccentric character. 


(um, excuse the temporary text)



I tried to gradually transition the colour from a soft, more tonal palette to something more vivid and unnatural once she starts doing the spell, to emphasise how unnatural it is. I think I could have done this more subtly.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Favourite Artists: Revisiting (cont)

All of this information was found on Loish's FAQ.

I've posted about my admiration for Lois van Baarle's work before. She has been freelancing since her graduation in 2009, so I decided to go back and see what she had to say about this method of working.
2.3.3 Promoting myself online
I've been very active with posting my artwork on the internet ever since I started drawing digitally in 2003. Besides drawing on oekaki boards, I posted all my work to Deviantart and maintained a personal website. Over the years, I kept doing these things as well as branching out to facebooktwitter, and numerous other websites. Much of my online following is the result of actively promoting my work online for over 10 years now. For those seeking advice on how to promote oneself on the internet, I recommend staying active and keeping people up to date on your progress. Keep a blog next to a gallery site and stay in touch with people who start following your work, preferably through popular websites such as facebook and twitter as well as a personal website.

3.1 Work
3.1.1 Current work
I've been working as a freelance animator/illustrator in the Netherlands ever since I graduated in August 2009. I’m also working on producing two animated shorts which I am financing myself (for more info visit theTrichrome website).
3.1.2 Future plans
I have the long term ambition of being able to live purely off of my own artistic ventures, but for the time being I am really enjoying the commercial work I am doing and the learning experiences it offers! Next to these freelance projects, I want to release an artbook and finish my personal animation project, which is forever at the end of my to-do list but I am very determined to finish them nonetheless.
3.1.3 Making a living off of art
I often get asked whether it is possible to make a living off of art, usually from people who are about to choose that direction in life and are worried about their future. Your ability to live off of your art depends enormously on what you do, where you live, and what your options are. I am able to live off of my art because of the exposure my work gets on the internet, the possiblity of being able to work from home, the fact that it's relatively easy to register oneself as a freelancer in Holland, and my ability to do work in both the animation and illustration field.
3.1.4 Finding work
People sometimes ask me for tips on finding work, building a portfolio, etc. It’s important to keep in mind that the commercial art industry is different from country to country and the workings of the industry in your location might be completely different from how it works in the Netherlands, where I work. If you're looking for specific advice on what your portfolio should look like or how to approach clients, it is wiser to seek this advice from people who work in the specific location and industry that you want to work in. As for my personal situation, I've found that online exposure has been the key to my career so far. Because I promote my artwork online, it is seen by potential clients who contact me personally. In this way, I have been able to build my client base and work on a variety of interesting freelance projects.
3.1.5 Commission tips
Commissions are paid requests, usually non-commercial in nature (i.e they are intended for personal use by the client). Commissions are commonly offered on art community sites like Deviantart. I've frequenlty been asked for tips on how to price them by people who want to start offering commissions. Personally, I started out offering very cheap commissions and then gradually raised the price as the demand for my artwork grew. But looking back as a professional freelance artist, I have to say that most of the commission prices I see on Deviantart are absurdly cheap, and far below industry standard – including the ones I used to offer before I became aware of how art is priced in the professional world. However, due to the wide availability of cheap commissions on the web, many people have come to expect and even demand these very low prices. If you decide to offer commissions, do not let anyone convince you that your price is too high – this happens a lot and is completely unacceptable. Be aware of the fact that there is a difference between the price of a product – such as an art print – and the price of design, such as an original drawing made in your own style. Design is always much more valuable and therefore more expensive. The best way to approach your pricing is to estimate how many hours would go into each piece, and to figure out how much money you feel an hour of your time is worth, and then do the math. For the rest, I would advise you to:
  • Agree on the deadline in advance, and stick to it.
  • Ask for your payment in advance, and if you can, use Paypal as the payment method.
  • Agree on what your payment will be if the commission is cancelled halfway through the process.
  • Show your client the rough sketch and a rough color version before proceeding to the next step, to ensure that the client is happy with where the image is going.
  • Establish with your client how many modifications can be made to the artwork based on the client's feedback, in order to avoid a situation in which you might have to completely re-do your image.
  • Be dependable and communicate well with your client. Your reputation as an artist is incredibly important
I had a look on her website so see the sort of work she had produced for commissions. Lois is at an advantage as she is able to sell her animation skills as well as her illustration skills. I can see that she has produced commercial work, and her style definitely has a widespread, commercial appeal. I have often dismissed the idea of working for commercials, but her approach to it has made me think twice; I can see that she has put her personal touch onto every piece she's made, so it is possible to work for a range of clients whilst still retaining a sense of ownership over the art.

The fact that Lois has been able to support herself from her art alone for so long gives me a lot of hope. She has a presence on most art and social networking sites which no doubt helps advertise her work, and has been a prestigious artist since her graduation (her graduation film won her awards), so this no doubt gives her an edge. But I'm sure with enough determination, and with the help of the advice that her and so many other fantastic artists give, I might be able to reach a similar level someday.

Collaborating

An important part of working as an artist is being able to collaborate with others, take on board their ideas, discuss them and then give their ideas physical form.

I recently worked with Siobhan on her extended practice animated film creating some concept art for her character, Kirby the Dragon.

This was actually a relatively easy and very fun bit of concept work. Kirby is a young, naive and stubborn little dragon who can't fly very well and enjoys eating. I had various ideas rolling around my head where he looked a bit like a cross between Slowpoke the Pokemon and Stitch. We decided to give him some slightly bulldog-like characteristics, with a flatter face and square-ish limbs. I kept his head and eyes relatively large and gave him one rounded tooth which sticks out of his lip to make him look quite young and cute.





I sent Siobhan some colour variations and she decided she wanted a cross between B and D, so I went with a bluey-purply colour, adding some small scale details to give him a little texture. 


I think this final turnaround lacks a lot of the charm and roundedness of the concept art. This might have just been because I lacked time, or my choice of brush, but in the future I want to try and keep the energetic, lively sketchiness of my rougher art in my more measured and defined turnarounds. 

Final Animatic

This is my final animatic. I wanted to make sure I established the backstory, the characters' upbringing and how they first experience the day/night. It could have probably been cut shorter, but I wanted to have the opportunity to experiment with showing their development as individual characters before they meet for the first time. I tried to apply everything I've learned about shot composition so far, including the use of the rule of thirds, dynamic compositional lines that aren't parallel to the frame, and overall consideration of how the environment is shaped, etc.

In some of the later scenes when Nycteris is dancing through the woods I used more movement on the camera itself so that it isn't just static all the time, however I think I may have over-done the zooming in/out a little on the last scene, so I'll amend that when I've animated it.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Job Opportunities

I regularly check Indeed.co.uk for possible job opportunities. This is making me more aware of the lack of concept art/illustrator roles in the UK, especially for any company that isn't large-scale. Some of the advertisements are downright shocking, this one is asking for "dozens of characters and scenes to be painted digitally" for no pay. 

Some of the other adverts for bigger companies make me realise where my skills as a concept artist would be lacking. Here is one for a AAA game company which requires 5+ years of experience in the industry, and also asks for architectural and industrial knowledge. I'm aware that especially in more realistic games, having an understanding of mechanics and architecture would be very beneficial as a concept artist. I suppose my skills are more suited to stylised and cartoony games, but I have to wonder if I should spend time learning some draughtsmanship skills, even if it doesn't really appeal to me.

Jagex are looking for artists for their Runescape games. I have heard of Jagex having extremely high standards and a somewhat gruelling application and interview process. This seems intimidating as a first attempt at applying for a job, but again, browsing what they expect from applicants is useful as it allows me to compare myself to their ideal candidate and see where I do and don't match up.

I'm still interested in this position at Barnstom games but I really do need to create some more work for my portfolio first.

Rockstar North are looking for environment artists. Again, this is a position that requires highly experienced practitioners and is something to work towards rather than to apply for straight out of uni.

Mediatonic are looking for a  2D artist. Again, requires 2-3 years experience. They also ask for an understanding of usability / user interfaces and the technical aspects of art production for digital platforms. Something to keep in mind.

There seem to be quite a few opportunities for user-interface artists, despite the fact I've no experience of this side of design maybe I should consider it so that I'm able to broaden my CV and contribute more skills. I've already mentioned how graphic design would be useful for me in general. This is something I will dedicate time to exploring after graduation.

I think it's likely that I won't apply for jobs straight out of uni, at least, none that are for an animation/game company. Unless I do luckily happen across a position that is happy to take on inexperienced artists, or some kind of internship. But I think I'd rather train and build my skills more, take on some freelance work, and then look for more permanent roles.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Favourite Artists: A revisit

I recently had another look at some favourite artists, this time with a focus on how they seem to have developed their career and made a name for themselves.

And also some process gifs because these are always inspiring, and make me feel like I could be capable of producing artwork like this.



This is Luke Mancini, also known as Mr. Jack. He works as a full-time concept artist and illustrator at Blizzard, and managed to land a position there after the StarCraft art team found his fan art. He had already applied for a job there but had heard no response, and it was only after the StarCraft team kept seeing his fan art online that they decided to look him up and subsequently realise he'd already applied. Since then he's worked on Starcraft, Heroes of the Storm, the World of Warcraft TCG and Warmachine.

I suppose in this case we are reminded of the importance of keeping artwork updated online, as his job application wouldn't have progressed anywhere if the team hadn't found his art through other means. Luke doesn't even appear to have a personal website, instead favouring DeviantArt and Twitter. Even then, he doesn't seem too active on Twitter, though it is linked with his other medias so that when he uploads artwork, a tweet notifies his fans. I suppose as he's working full-time he doesn't really need to concern himself with this sort of thing too much, it's likely that the sheer quality of his work alone has attracted his considerable fan-base.

He described his workflow. "Sometimes the design team will come along with a strong idea of what they want. Like, they might have a new StarCraft unit, and they'll know they want it do perform a specific function, so we'll then sketch things based on that. I've been doing lots of work on campaign stuff, though. They might have a jungle planet, and they'll say, okay, we need aliens that look like they'd live in a jungle, so I'd sit down and do a whole bunch of illustrations. We have a lot of leeway when we're doing that kind of environmental stuff." (source)

A background of his education: "When I finished high school I didn't really know what I wanted to do; I only knew I wanted to do something art-related, so I applied for some design degrees, as well as a game art course at RMIT," he told me. "I decided that the graphic design degree was a bit broader, so if I came out at the end of that, I could still go and do something else, whereas the game art degree was a lot narrower."

"It was not 100% relevant to what I'm doing now, but I really enjoyed the course. I wasn't too stressed and I could take some time out doing my fan art on the side," he recalled. "I could just spend time developing my skills, plus I think there's a lot to be said for the design sensibilities I picked up during that course. A lot of it is about ways of thinking, so while the typography and layout design I did isn't really relevant to my job, when I'm doing an illustration, it helps me with my design, layout, and composition."

I suppose this has made me think more about whether I want to aim to go freelance or work for a company. It seems that working for somewhere like Blizzard would be a lot of fun, despite the stylistic limitations, and I certainly wouldn't complain about making sci-fi and fantasy art for a living. There would be much more financial security as well as the opportunity to explore other artistic avenues on the side. However you'd have to be very good to get picked up so quickly by such a large company.









Organisation & Productivity

'We are at a critical point in human history where those that lack any active self-discipline will be eaten alive by the deluge of distraction that grows with each day.' (source)
This might be a bit of a preachy, 'self-help' post but these are qualities which are integral to succeeding and building a skill to any sort of professional level. Working as a freelancer requires being your own boss, and that requires a great deal of self-discipline and organisation. (I think it's important to delineate between the two - a person can be organised but still not get anything done, and a person can be self-disciplined but extremely disorganised. Unfortunately I struggle with both.)

Willpower definitions:
The ability to control or reject unnecessary or harmful impulses.
The ability to arrive at a decision and follow it with perseverance, until its successful accomplishment.
It is the inner strength that enables you to refuse to indulge in unnecessary and useless habits.
It is inner power that enables you to overcome inner and external resistance and obstacles.
It is the antidote to laziness and procrastination.

Self discipline definitions:
It is the companion of willpower. It gives you with the stamina to persevere with whatever you do.
It is the strength to withstand physical, emotional and mental hardships and difficulties.
It stands for perseverance and tenacity.
It is the ability to reject immediate satisfaction, pleasure or comfort, in order to gain something better, even if it requires effort and time to gain.

If you lack these, you can find yourself in the same, self-destructive ruts, such as :

1.) You feel overwhelmed
2.) You procrastinate
3.) Work piles up
4.) Go back to 1.

or

1.) You feel uninspired and demotivated
2.) You don't manage to achieve work to a standard you are happy with
3.) You feel unhappy with your work and want to get away from it
4.) Go back to 1.

Neither are at all good mindsets to be in, but it can seem very difficult to escape them.

There's lots of self-help gurus on the web right now who make a living writing about all these amazing ways to 'change your life' and your habits. I spend a lot of time reading up on them, but in the end it's a matter of consistency and putting into practice everything I read.

Here are some links to a few to keep in mind in the future. Each guru usually has their own 'style' and approach to the topic - some are more intense and unforgiving, others more sympathetic and relateable. All include great points to consider.

5 Simple Ways To Get More Self-Disciplined:

11 Proven Ways to Increase Your Willpower and Self-Discipline

7 Simple Acts of Daily Self-Discipline that Will Make You a Better Artist / Ninja
- this page has great advice on ways to compartmentalise your day so you can work and play in a focussed, efficient, pain-free manner.

The Art of Self-Discipline (and why it's actually easy) 
- I really liked this article as it views self-discipline as an act of 'letting go' rather than this struggle to overcome distraction. 'Self-discipline is the art of choosing what to be attached to and what to be detached from.'
Some examples of letting go in action:
    • Someone succeeding on a diet lets go of his “need” for unhealthy foods.
    • Someone succeeding in writing an annoying research paper lets go of his perception that it’s a dreadful project.
    • An athlete who surprisingly made it to professional sports has not only chosen to let go of everyone who said he couldn’t do it, but he’s also chosen to let go of his own internal voices that said he couldn’t do it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Social Networking

Social networking is a key part of succeeding as an artist nowadays - rather than depending on publishers and agents like in the past, social networks allow you to advertise, sell your craft and communicate directly to your fanbase.

I have been trying to expand my experience of social media, I've been a member of Twitter for a while but I just have no idea how to get started. I'm not really the sort of person to enjoy updating the internet about my life, though I can see how it's great to pick up on opportunities that are available and to quickly chat and share with other people. No doubt once I start creating work I'm happy with I'll start to use it more regularly.

I more recently signed up to Behance, I quite like Behance because it makes me feel more inclined to post finished projects rather than occasional sketches and WIPs here and there. It also appears more professional than some other online art sharing sites. I'm in the process of adding other projects to it, though again, I feel like once I graduate and have time to develop my art in a more focussed manner I'll share more. I've also got a LinkedIn now, I feel that this'll be more useful in a more commercial and company-based setting rather than the freelance route I seem to be gravitating towards. I still update my Tumblr and I plan on making a Wordpress as my personal website when I have a more polished portfolio ready to show.

Speedpainting and Drawing Groups

There are quite a few sketch groups on Facebook which I would like to become more involved in. Currently I'm a member of 'Daily Spitpaint' where each day you're given a selection of topics and you have to complete a drawing/painting of one in thirty minutes. This is a great, quick exercise and a good way to practice if you're struggling with thinking of what to draw. There's a large active community on this page meaning that people are always quite open with critiques and comments. They especially liked my Sniper digital painting and the expression I managed to capture on her face.

'Deathbed'


'Sniper'

'Sniper' - with another half hour added

The site is also great for discovering other artists and seeing how they work - some of the more popular ones post their personal Facebook/site link below their spitpaints and no doubt attract more fans. A little trick I will keep in mind when I create my Facebook artist page.

I've also been introduced to Illustration Friday which I would like to actively participate in as well.