I just picked up a copy of Richard Williams’ Animator’s Survival Kit from Amazon.com. This book is fantastic — loaded with great techniques for fooling the eye in terms of motion, follow through, keyframes, etc. Something I can really use in making these previs animatics. Most of the information is geared toward traditional hand-drawn, finished animation, but all of it can be applied to keyframed timeline-based previsualization animation that we do with computers these days, whether it be After Effects or LightWave or Maya. Great stuff.
My son Jack and I made the annual pilgrimage to the San Diego Comic-Con via train from Union Station in LA last weekend. It seemed much bigger and more crowded than last year. Jack tends to look for action figures (this year was all about General Grievous), and game cards, whereas I like to get art books and see some original drawing and painting. The Comic-Con is such a great collection of characters, both in costume and presumably not, that I had to draw something. This sketch is from memory — we were walking along and suddenly the foot traffic came to a complete stop. I craned my neck to see what the hubbub was about and caught a fleeting glimpse of a woman in a white bikini and a man shooting video of her. What the heck?? Actually it’s not surprising, considering the male nerd demographic. Note the guy in the foreground with the giant earrings — he had holes in his earlobes as big as poker chips! (I actually saw him a couple hours earlier in a different part of the hall, but thought it would be good to include him in this sketch for color.) There was no shortage of Light Saber-wielding Jedi either. Most had some kind of new type with a fluorescent tube in it. We stayed for the day and returned in the evening. Quite fun. I picked up some great books, too. More on that later.
Jack (age 11) and I saw the latest Miyazaki film the other night, Howl’s Moving Castle. When we got home he asked me what we should do, and I told him I thought it would be good if he drew his favorite characters from the film. I drew Jack while he did this. Note his left hand covering what he’s drawing so I can’t see it until he’s done. I remember using the exact same technique in elementary school during a test so no one would copy from my paper. I got sort of a mini-flashback there…
Part of what I like so much about drawing is that it focuses my attention on the present moment. Few things other than sketching from life force me to slow down and really look at the form and detail of everyday things – stuff I’d probably take for granted otherwise. It’s a little like meditation, of being an observer, a witness, engaging the reality in my vicinity. I also like the fact that, unlike “normal” observation, it requires a learned discipline: does this sketch actually resemble the thing I’m looking at? If not, why? How did I screw it up? The sketch is bound by the common rules of communication. Yet, accurately depicting observable reality is only half the equation at best, otherwise just taking a photograph would do the trick. The fact that eye and hand interpret information from eye and mind in a sketch, selecting interesting from uninteresting, necessarily simplifying the limitless multitude of visual data down to a few strokes of a pencil makes the whole endeavor a bit of a risky challenge. Why would an artist choose to draw this and not that? Why include these details and not those? What is it about this subject or this moment that was worthy of taking the time to try and put on paper? Why compose the objects this way on the paper and not that way? Sometimes the question has a logical answer and sometimes it doesn’t. The fact that the question can’t be answered doesn’t illegitimate or negate the value of a drawing, but may in fact point directly to the wiggly, non-verbal aspect of consciousness. There’s a strong understanding in Buddhist and Taoist circles that the non-verbal, non-rational and experiential is closer to the real. “The Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao.” Or in more western terms, “The name of the thing is not the same as the thing itself,” which sounds ridiculous and stupidly obvious except for the fact that most of us fritter away our conscious hours imagining, manipulating and replaying names, symbols and ideas completely oblivious to the nameless direct experience happening right under our noses. For me, even if the sketch I’m doing stinks, the experience of doing it slaps me back to this realm of the real. And it’s fun.
This is Mushu…
She’s the perfect live subject: she strikes a cool pose, holds it for ten or fifteen minutes, then in the blink of an eye strikes another one. We’ve been using the pronoun “she”, but there’s no way to tell for sure, I’m told, with a water dragon this young. Oh, and she eats 24 small crickets a day!
Today was a great day. Hanging out with the kids and wife, going to a friend’s house in the afternoon to take a swim in their pool (they’re out of town and nice enough to share). There’s something about the smell of sunscreen and chlorinated pool water that reminds me of childhood summers in the North Valley where swimming pools were so ubiquitous that when the Sylmar Quake hit the streets were drenched with water dumped from sloshing pools. Anyway, I made a little sketch after I got out of the water as the kids played – it’s as near as I’ve come to a self-portrait on this site yet (just the feet!). Here’s hoping everyone else had an equally fine three day weekend.
My friend and fellow board artist, Pete Von Sholly, has a bunch of his work featured at Palaeoblog, and an interview with him at Buried.com. Very fun, worth checking out.