Sunday, February 9, 2014

Turning Points

Tomorrow, Monday February 10, 2014 is my 38th birthday and like every year around this time, I think of my birthdays past. There is one particular birthday that always stands out to me. It was 30 years ago, my 8th birthday, a sleepover birthday. I had a handful of friends over and I was super excited. Before my friends came over my dad took me to rent a couple of videotapes. I know I rented two but I only remember one of them, Filmation’s Zorro. I was a huge Zorro fan (still am) and it was one of my favorite childhood cartoons.

So, after cake and opening presents, my friends and I went into my basement to watch the videos. I put on Zorro. Boy, was I super excited but my excitement quickly turned to anger. All my friends started making fun of Zorro and me. I’m nit sure what they said but I ran upstairs crying to my parents. I was so hurt and wanted my parents to send all my friends home. That didn’t happen though. I went back down just pissed off. To my recollection no one apologized and the party went on. I’m not going to lie the next day I was trilled when everyone left.

To most people that probably wouldn’t be something they’d forget about as they got older, but I didn’t. I thought about it for a while after it happened and once in a while as I got older, but every time around my birthday I think about it. Every time I think about it I still get angry. This year was different though. I’ve been thinking about it more and more over the last week and a news article I found on Facebook spurred it on. A young boy name Michael Morones attempted to hang himself after being made fun of for being a brony. If you ware unfamiliar with the term brony, it is a male who like My Little Pony. I am not the target audience of the show and have only seen very little of it. What I get from what I’ve seen is that it’s a show all about friendship and sends out a lot of positive messages. It is truly sad that a Michael felt that this is his only option and he is now in the hospital fighting for his life, especially when he loves a show with such positive messages. I do hope he pulls through and wish all the best of luck. You can read more about it here,

Michael’s tragic experience made me think of all the bullying I received growing up. Anyone who likes comics, cartoons, sci-fi or anything having to do with “Geek Culture” gets bullied at some point in their lives. People need to learn to accept people for who they are. Now, I know bullying will never stop. You can say kids will be kids and you have to let be kids. But what I find living in this world of “Geek Culture” is that we are some of the nicest, kindest, happiest, and friendliest people you will ever have the pleasure of being around. Maybe because we all have been bullied or at least understand what it is like to not be accepted by others, sometimes even by those closest to us.

Here is a picture I drew for Michael. It’s of his favorite pony, Pinkie Pie and her toothless alligator, Gummy. I still need to ink and color it.

That childhood moment was a big moment for me, a turning point in my life. I’ve always loved to draw and been doing it since I could hold a pencil. Comics and cartoons were the greatest thing in the world to me. It was the day when I realized not to care what others think of me and what I like. I also realized who my true friends are. I don’t care what age you are, the truth is a real friend would never make fun of something a friend likes. You accept it, even if they don’t like it. It was because of this moment I stopped wanting to be around my “friends” and focused on what I really loved, art. Because of school, cub scouts, and events the whole class were invited to like birthdays I still had to be with them from time to time but when I was home I’d pull out my clipboard full of paper, some pencils, and throw myself into another world.

That year I know I became more and more serious about my art. I created my first character and began writing stories. I started to learn to animate and made some of the worst flipbooks ever. I worked so hard at it and devoted my life to the craft that when I was 18 and just ending my first semester in college I got my first pro art gig designing and animated characters for a small children’s educational video game company. Since then I have went on to work in a variety of fields such as video production, graphic design, and puppetry. Today, I teach traditional and digital art and freelance illustration and animation.

I’m not going to say I now look back and I am glad I went through it. I hated going through that experience as a child but it was probably one of the most important experiences and lessons I learned. It did some good things for me. Whatever, it did for me, its now 30 years later and I love my life. It’s sad that it took Michael Morones experience made me figure out 30 years of anger and I do hope that when I think back on that moment I can look at it with less anger and more of the lesson that it was.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Justice League: War Review

Last night I watched Justice League: War the animated movie from Warner Bros. based on the DC Comics characters and their New 52 storyline. The New 52 comic books were first released in September 2011 after the story arc Flashpoint. When the books were released I picked a few out. I primarily collected DC books so I checked out some of a them. They were Superman, Wonder Woman, and Demon Knights featuring Etrigan the Demon. I thought the first couple of issues of Wonder Woman were good but it was nothing that kept my interest. Superman wasn’t good either. Demon Knights had the most potential of what I read but didn’t hold my interest either. I also read the first issue on Justice League and didn’t feel the need to go on and continue reading. However, I am a huge geek for all things comic and cartoon so of course I was going to watch Justice League: War.
Now I don’t want to give any spoilers away so I will say very little about the story. I will say that the story was just fine. It felt like a typical Justice League story. It was an origin story for the Justice League based in the New 52 universe and I felt some of the character’s personality changes weren’t needed. Green Lantern, Hal Jordan seemed too much of a hot head…I mean more than normal, though they did do a great job showing him to be fearless. I also enjoyed Wonder Woman and especially Cyborg. Actually, Cyborg was the best part of the film. I really tip my hat to the voice actors. They did a fantastic job bringing these characters to life.

But there is one thing about the film that really bothered me, superheroes cursing. I have no problem with cursing in general in a story. Truthfully, cursing is probably never really needed but I understand people do it and writers like to write how normal people talk. But are superheroes normal people? The answer is NO! Superheroes are supposed to be above regular normal people. They are something we aspire to be like. Hearing heroes cursing takes away from what a hero should be. Even Shazam (who used to be Captain Marvel and his name change still bugs me though I like the hood on his cape) says hell. He is normally more of a boy scout than Superman.

This film is obviously superheroes for a different era. I was born in 1976 and have been reading comics for almost my entire life. I have seen comics change in a few ways. The 1990’s brought in a big change. Everything was dark and heroes spent more time brooding than fighting crime. There were a bunch of demonic anti-heroes filling the page. After the tragedy of 9/11 comics went through another change. More of reality was brought into comics but to me reality is not what comics need. Comics are meant to be an escape from reality, bring you into a world where anything can happen. When I read a comic I want to be swept away into a different world. A world where a child could be rocketed form a doomed planet or that gamma rays can turn a man into a monster. There is too much reality in comics these days, which was transferred over into this film. Most comics today do not provide that for me. When I go to the comic shop I usually purchase kid-friendly comics because they are just fun, which to me is what comics should be about.

Justice League: War was overall a decent film. I enjoyed the story and the voice acting was great. The art was good but not particularly in a style I prefer. My only real problem with the film is the cursing from the heroes. If this how superheroes are going to be treated in comics and cartoons then I can say these companies will no longer get my money. But if you don’t mind cursing from superheroes then check it out. I’m sure you’ll love it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Drawing Sample

This video was shot in my office at the college I work for. I took it on my iphone. It was just a test to see how the camera handled along with the tripod. I think it came out pretty nice. The video itself is of me developing a wizard character.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bernie Bear Update

I know a while ago I was discussing a Bernie Bear animation much like I am doing currently with the French Poet character. A while back I had to put Bernie on hold for a bit. I promise I will get back to him but right now my schedule isn't allowing me to. I still have him floating around in my head and there a lot of ideas with him up there. I hope to make him my next animation. While I am discussing bears, I'll leave you with everyone's favorite pic-a-nic basket stealing bear...That's right! It's Yogi Bear.

A French Poet Moment: Part 3

Character Design

This is probably the area most people have the most fun. It sure is one of my favorite parts. There is a lot to go into character design but here are a few tips:

  • Keep it simple
  • Believability
  • Appeal

Keep it simple: Because you will be drawing this character over and over in a variety of poses so you'll want to keep it simple. Create your character using simple shapes. Using simple shapes will allow you to draw your character quickly.

Believability: Your character needs to be believable. That means your character has to look like they are in proportion and that their movement looks real. Okay, so I am going to let you in on my secret of creating believability. If you are unaware artists measure characters by heads. An average person is 7 1/2 heads high. Not everyone you draw has to be 7 1/2 heads high. Your character can be 3, 4, 5, 6, and up heads high. Now for my secret. No matter what size you draw your character at, the important thing to remember is that you draw your character's elbows just above the waist and hands fall mid thigh. If you keep the elbow and hands proportion correct your character will always be believable.

Appeal: Whether a hero, sidekick, or villain your character has to appeal. You want your audience to feel for the character. You want the audience to be rooting for, crying, laughing or feeling hatred for the character. This is done in a few ways including facial features, body type, costuming, and color. Think about the type of character you want to create then take some time to research some characters similar to yours. For example if you want to create a superhero look at characters like Superman, Green Lantern, or Spiderman. What makes them visually appealing? Well, they all have broad shoulders, muscles, and wear a brightly colored costume. It doesn't matter what style you are drawing in, if you draw a large muscled guy in a brightly colored costume you have just drawn a superhero. Research and reference is a must before you start any drawing.

Also, never go with your first choice. Draw, draw, and draw some more. Once you finally have your character the way you want, the next step is to create a model sheet. A model sheet is a collection of your character in a turnaround. A turnaround are illustrations of your character in a front view, 3/4 view, profile, and back view. These sheets are used as reference to know how your character looks from any angle. There are also expression sheets, which shows what your character's regular facial expressions look like. Finally, we have pose sheets which shows how your character looks in their regular poses.

I haven't had a chance to draw out the French Poet's model sheet yet so I went online and downloaded a few model sheets to demonstrate how they look. You will notice on these model sheets there are lines on the model sheet at specific places which we use to make sure all body parts line up in any position. Also, feel free to add notes to your model sheet incase you are not the only working on your character so other artists know what they need to know. Take your time to review these model sheets which I found on the internet. I think they are great examples of what I am talking about.

I hope you all learned something today. I will post my model sheet soon. Just remember to practice and continue to observe all around you. Characters come from everywhere. You can get inspired anywhere from a family member, classmate, a person in a store, coffee house, or on the train. So keep your drawing pad with you at all times. Until next time, keep your pencils sharp and your head in the clouds.

A French Poet Moment: Part 2

Today's discussion will be about scripting your story.

Depending what kind of story you are working will dictate the method of your script format. Since this is an animation, I will write this in a television/film format. There is a rule in film and television that one page of script is equal to one minute of film. Some animation writers follow that format however, there are those in animation who follow the rule that every two pages of script is equal to one minute of animation. For me, I don't always follow either. I could spend a lot of time on a description of an animated take. Note: When you write a script don't put a bunch of detail in it. Just put in enough to tell the story. Its the storyboard artist's job to create what's going on in the scene, but for the sake of this project I am wearing all the hats. So, when I write a story that is just for me and not a client, I just write the story then figure out the timing when I go to the storyboard stage. Since it is my story I can make it as long or as short as I want. In the last post I think I mentioned that I was planning a 10-15 second animation on this project. After writing the script, I am estimating a 35 second to 50 second animation. I haven't done the storyboards yet, so that could still change.

Before you begin the script you will need to understand what a script is and what goes into it. Below is a video I show to my students when I teach scripting. In this video you hear them mention outlining your story and creating a treatment. I haven't discussed that, but probably will in a future story. For something as short as my current story I didn't feel I needed to do either. If I was to write a film, I would use a treatment. Outlining is always a good idea no matter the size of the story. When I outline a story, I usually use bullet points for every important part of the story. For example, I will write the title of the story, then write Scene One, and finally underneath that I write the bullet points of importance. Then I move to the next scene. Everyone writes different and outlines different. I am explaining my methods. You should experiment and see what works best for you.

Here is a piece of my script for the story. I am not showing everything as I do not want to spoil the ending for you. Just click on it to enlarge it.

Well, that's it for now. I'll be back soon with some art work to show. Next time we'll discuss character design and model sheets. Until then, keep your pencils sharp and your head in the clouds.

A French Poet Moment: Part 1

Okay, so here is what's going on. Ever since I was a child I have loved cartoons and devoted my life learning the craft. I was lucky enough to have my first job back in 1994 as a character designer and animator for a small gaming company. Since then I have done lots of jobs but no job is more fun for me than when I am creating animations. I love the entire process from concept to completion.

The picture above is of a character I created back in 1994 when I was eighteen. He is designed like a stereotypical french man from the old cartoons and movies. The idea of the character is that he would try to write poetry and then get distracted by something. Usually a woman who he would then hit on in a cheesy way. I also planned on doing the voice giving him a bad french accent. Why a bad accent? Easy, because I can't do a good one. Also, I thought it would add to the humor.

Anyway, I never got around to animating him. The years passed and I thought about him here and there but for the most part he was forgotten. Well, the other day I was thinking about him and I haven't really animated in a while (my work has been primarily in education and illustration lately), so I sketched out the above drawing.

I have been wanting to do an educational blog for a while now using it as a place where I can share my knowledge. Thus Toon-Lore was born. This blog is dedicated to educating about the art of illustration and animation. I decided to start with the French Poet as my first project. I will document my process as I work on this.

Today's post is about getting your idea. The idea is key. Ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes a picture like the one above inspires an idea or it come from something you've read or observed. The best ideas come form not limiting yourself. Read whatever you can get your hands on. Watch everything. Observe the world. Step outside of your comfort zone. Let your imagination soar. When it comes to something like comics and animation you are only limited by your imagination and skill with a pencil or computer program. Most importantly, TAKE NOTES! I always keep some kind of pad with me so I can write or doodle. You never know when an idea will strike. It can be while you are at the gym or standing in line for a cup of coffee. If you have that pad you wont lose your great idea.

There is an old saying, write what you know. Does that mean when I write about this guy I know about about hitting on women in a cheesy way? Well...let say I know what I need to. The important thing to remember is that a story must have conflict. The French Poet's conflict is that he gets distracted. I think that is something I know all too well and something I can write about easily.

So what are my next steps? I'm going to need a script, character and background designs, storyboards, then comes the animation, and finally the editing.

Well, I got the idea, so next time I'll see you with a script. Until then, keep your pencils sharp and your head in the clouds.