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A Selection of Drawings from My Days in College

November 27, 2011

 

One minute gesture drawings:

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Ravenskye City/ Ravenshire Castle

November 14, 2011

The following pictures were done for a Facebook game, Ravenskye City, developed by Lolapps. 

Digital Painting for the intro:

Lolapps

The tonal study in pencil:

Lolapps

Owl Totem concept (digital paint):

Lolapps

Ravenshire Castle, another Facebook game and part of the developer’s “Raven-World” concept (Ravenwood Fair, Ravenskye City). We aimed for beauty and warmth, but with a dark or heavy undercurrent.

Below is a sketch of the world map environment. The game plan is based on an isometric grid and any hint of perspective is actually a cheat. I thought the golden hour (time of day) would work well for the project.

Lolapps

The castle interior including characters.

Lolapps

I was brought onto the project just as the castle itself was being developed. The walls existed in grey and one level high on the isometric grid. Here’s what I was shown:

In addition to essentially ‘turning on the lights’, I asked the engineers if I could lengthen the walls in the front and create a foreground. This would make the lower portion “unplayable” but hopefully enhance the user’s visual experience. I made a quick concept (below) it was approved, and we went forward.

Lolapps

Andrew Vera made these beautiful elements in Flash based on the above color key:

Lolapps

With ready-made assets, I painted the sample on the right and then desaturated it to explain tonal structure. The idea is to keep the floor toned darkish, the walls middle toned and the characters would exhibit the lightest lights and darkest darks. Any props would be dialed down from the characters but important assets, like “heartpieces”, would exhibit the hottest colors–as seen in the overall view above. The character below is a horticulturist, Rosamunde, designed by Josh DeLeon, the shelf is a Christopher Flork creation (and belongs in the “Wizard Room”). The chair design by Connie Kang:

Lolapps

My light, color, and tonal guide for the interior of the castle:

Lolapps

Tonal structure for elements OTHER than the character:

Lolapps

How to lighten and darken from warm to cool:

Lolapps

© 6L

Two contemporary painters who have done lots of stage design are David Hockney and Gottfried Helnwein.  I drew inspiration from both of these artists:

Helnwein:

lolapps

Lolapps

http://www.helnwein.com/

Hockney:

Lolapps

lolapps

http://www.hockneypictures.com/

 

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Origins in Staging

November 13, 2011

Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) has been credited as the first artist to create a type of picturesque ‘staging’ in the landscape. The formulas begun by Claude are still employed in animated productions today.

Notice the tonal devices used in the following examples: Dark and contrasted foregrounds versus a softly lighted backgrounds.  There are tonal shifts related to the horizontal planes against the verticals. Trees function like draw drapes leading the viewer to the center of interest.

View of Tivoli at Sunset:

 

Disney films have utilized Claude’s formulas very well:

Tivoli?…

 

One of the most influential production designers in the animation business is Hans Bacher, who began his career more than forty years ago. He’s created a wonderful book on production design called Dreamworlds. On a separate occasion, Hans has said that you can watch a Disney film from across a room and still identify the character or focal point. That doesn’t always hold true for other film studios, and even less so in the gaming industry…But most recently that’s changing.

And back to influences…In Europe, artists have been creating a type of stage in their pictures as early as Cimabue, and further developing the stage during the Baroque period. Theater and film have long influenced pictures which may have originated with the early European outdoor plays.

Mary and the Angels 1280

 

Below is, The Lamentation, 1305, by Cimabue’s great student Giotto, who abandoned earlier conventions about composing figures within a man-made structure in favor of more life-like, dramatic scenes. Christ is seen at the lower left corner of the composition, a weak spot in the visual vocabulary of western culture, and appropriate in reinforcing the idea of death. All other elements draw our eye there. The sad expressions are so moving.

The Lamentation, 1305

 

Domenichino, The Last Communion of St. Jerome, 1641: Here is St. Jerome, nearly at his death. You can see the similarities with Giotto’s picture, such as the placement of the dying man, but Domenichino includes an architectural structure, like Cimabue, but with the addition of a deep space in the background. The scene is made to feel real (as we suspend our disbelief of a snuggling tiger and floating putti, of course!).

It’s another touching picture of a holy man at his loving death.

The Last Communion of St. Jerome. 1641

 

Around the same time, Claude Lorrain has revolutionized the landscape, as already presented above. Here, once again is View of Tivoli, an idealized and imagined city between towering trees, bathed in the light from setting sun. The landscape dominates in Claude’s pictures. This can be seen not only by evaluating the proportion of figures versus ground but also by evaluating what the light is illuminating. Compare the arrangement to the Ferdinand Bol that follows…

View of Tivoli at Sunset, 1644

A student of Rembrandt, Ferdinand Bol painted The Crowning of Mirtillo, in 1650. The scene is from an Italian play by Battista Guarini called, The Faithful Shephard. The motive for this painting is all about the characters’ story; the landscape’s only functions to give a hint of place. These figures are arranged toward the viewer in a distinctly theatrical composition. In the play, Amaryllis (the central figure), is betrothed to the god Achilles; she had engaged in a kissing game, whereby she evaluates the kisses given by each of the nymphs in her attendance, all the while blindfolded. Mirtillo, who had been spying on the group, was in love with Amaryllis and wished to sabotage her marriage. He disguises himself as one of the nymphs, kisses Amaryllis and becomes the winner of the contest. Mirtillo is seen on one knee receiving the crown. But after a second look at the women surrounding Amaryllis and Mirtillo, it is clear they have realized the true nature of Mirtillo. Bol sets the stage in a pastoral setting, including background characters playing musical instruments. The front lighting illuminates the foreground characters. In person, the textures in this painting are superb and it’s hard to comprehend that a talent as great as Ferdinand Bol completely stopped painting later in life.

Crowning of Mirtillo, 1650

 

Of the Rococo painters, Watteau is my favorites. The Foursome depicts actors from a popular outdoor play. The character on the right has his back turned toward us and we can’t see his expression.  The scene is dreamlike, set in a darkened garden with a kind of omni light effect. The foursome appears to be flirting (the guitar points to Cupid riding a dolphin). Whether or not they’re acting in a scene or hanging around in the evening after the play has ended is unknown. But it’s not hard to imagine how their behavior must have seemed to an artist who didn’t feel he had much stake in this world.  Watteau suffered from illness for much of his life and died from tuberculosis at only 38 years of age.

The Foursome, 1713

 

 

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Disney Feature Animation Backgrounds: John Henry

November 6, 2011

John Henry backgrounds used two styles to set the stage: Scratchboard on a painted acrylic ground–digitally composited, as well as paintings made completely in acrylics that looked like handmade quilts. The crew studied the art of the Harlem Renaissance as well as Krazy Quilts.

Scratchboard paintings:

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Acrylics: (Disney didn’t use this title screen, Bob Stanton, who art directed the film painted a new one lighter in mood and therefore more appropriately Disney-esque.)

© Disney Enterprises, Inc.

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Disney Feature Animation Backgrounds: Tarzan

November 6, 2011

Due to its labor-intensive backgrounds, Tarzan required more painters than any other Disney film: about 50 in total.  Here are a few of my scenes of the jungle in moonlight or illuminated by red ‘flares’.

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

© Disney Enterprises, Inc.

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Disney Feature Animation Backgrounds: Mulan

November 6, 2011

Mulan was my first experience working on an animated film. I was hired while the movie was well under way and painted approximately 30 backgrounds, fewer than the standard 100 or so. Immediately following is and image of the Emperor’s palace, an establishing shot (first in its sequence). Believe it or not, there were some 24 layers painted on acetate and board. This allows for movement of the layers as the shot closes in. The foreground wall below moves to reveal a massive staircase.

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

© Disney Enterprises, Inc.

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Disney Feature Animation Backgrounds: Lilo & Stitch

November 6, 2011

While at Disney I worked as a traditional background painter at a time when so many other artistic jobs were becoming electronic. I was happy to be working with a paintbrush and am now even more grateful for having been a small part of a particular legacy. It was the Disney studio that pioneered techniques in staging and mood for animation emulated by other studios today. But they took their cue from the past, from old masters such as Claude Lorrain. (See Origins in Staging for more on this.)

Director Chris Sanders wanted the background art in his film, Lilo & Stitch to be painted in watercolors, but no Disney film had been painted in watercolors since Snow White. As the story goes, Chris took his idea to the background department in Los Angeles where he was informed that such an undertaking would not be possible. We, in Florida, took him up on the challenge and the rest is history. Needless to say, painting backgrounds on Lilo & Stitch was special. Watercolor is an exciting medium because it’s unpredictable, difficult to control, and almost impossible to correct.  Building value while keeping a clean edge around the forms is also tricky (such as the painting below where the outline of Stitch meets the sky).  I like what John Singer Sargent had to say about watercolor, ‘Make the best of an emergency!’

The following images are reproductions of paintings I crafted by hand– from start to finish. But keep in mind, the character designs, story concepts, layouts, and time of day were created in a collaborative setting in the studio following a specific production pipeline. This pipeline is comprised of very skilled Disney artists, under two directors and a producer. If you’d like to learn more about the production process, I recommend Hans Bacher‘s book, Dreamworlds.

I appreciate what animation author, Tony White, has said about background art: Since the environment takes up most of the screen, it’s in the hands of the background painter to make it look like you’ve spent millions on the production.

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

“With watercolour, you can’t cover up the marks. There’s the story of the construction of the picture, and then the picture might tell another story as well.” David Hockney

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

Walt Disney Feature Animation

© Disney Enterprises, Inc.