For the third year running I’ve taught animation workshops at a creative arts holiday (ages 12-18) over the summer. The last two years I’ve focused on morphing workshops, but I decided to try something a little different this time. I introduced the idea of emotions in characters and how to translate that clearly to an audience. To to this, everyone animated a character changing from one emotion to another.
The children grasped the concept and ran with it, creating funny and inventive pieces.
I also ran a specialism, which gave participants free rein to do whatever they liked. After going into a bit more detail about weight, timing, and movement (I even introduce charting!) the children storyboard an idea. Over about five hours they then draw their entire animation. With my help it’s photographed and edited, ready to play to the rest of the group that evening.
You can see more videos from workshops I’ve run on my Workshops page.
Move Summit is an industry-focused animation conference in Edinburgh now in its third year. In 2017 and 2018 I was a volunteer, but this time I was able to attend. This year it was a three day event jam-packed with speakers from Pixar, Axis, Aardman Animations, Blue Zoo, and many many more. The first day, Wednesday, was geared to students and those new to the industry, though they could also attend the other days.
Noah Klocek, Art Director at Pixar, spoke on Thursday about ‘The Importance of Authenticity in Animation’. Noah spoke in depth about considering the story when designing, but much of what he said could be applied to other areas of filmmaking. I found this talk particularly inspiring.
That afternoon Noah ran a workshop which recapped and further explored the idea of authenticity. Especially emphasised was research – he said it’s better to have great research and a bad drawing than a beautiful drawing without research. It was thought-provoking, and has challenged me to think about and change how I go about my projects.
Mike Sharpe, of Found Studio, spoke about how he split work into three categories: Base work, Investment, and Unique. The first is the general day-to-day work which pays the bills, the second work that’s more exciting but doesn’t necessarily have the budget, and the third the space to play and try out new things as part of personal projects. Other speakers, including Jon Yeo and Noah Klocek, spoke about this work/play balance. It’s something else I need to rethink, and challenge myself to do.
On Friday I attended the character design talk and workshop led by Kenneth Anderson. It was great to learn about his journey into character design, and pick up several of his tips. In the workshop we worked through a character design for an evil and eccentric hunter child zombie. Beginning with really simple shapes, everyone developed their own version of the monster. I enjoyed watching his process, and seeing how much was very loose and undefined. I think with character design I tend to rush ahead, and get stuck, when I need to spend more time at the basic stages to set a good foundation.
The other part of Move Summit is the networking! There are plenty of opportunities throughout the days to catch up with or get to know other artists and professionals, but there are also evening socials. At Drink and Draw, I took the time to sketch some of the others there as well as have fun doodling.
I had an incredible time, and came away full of inspiration! It’s a fantastic event for those studying or working in animation. Be sure to put it in your diaries for next year!
For the penultimate character I’ve drawn Kinsey, who I’ve illustrated before but wanted to explore more. I’m writing a script of Kinsey’s Sword and am beginning to think more about what her character will look like.
Hermux Tantamoq is a watchmaker who is pulled into all sorts of adventures in Michael Hoeye’s books. My drawing is from Hermux in Time Stops for No Mouse, the first in the series, but my favourite is The Sands of Time.
A double update! Both characters are from The Princess of Nowhere, the first novel I ever finished writing. Trennte is the manservant of Prince Jespar, and is the prince’s friend and mentor. Jeffrey is a tie. For some reason I cut Jeffrey out of the later drafts, something I regret as he was one of the things that made the first draft special. It’s possible that one day I will return to the story … I think it may work as an animated series, something a bit mad where talking clothes make sense. With that in mind the Trennte sketch is Gravity Falls-inspired.
Miss Minton is a severe but wonderful woman in Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea, a beautiful book set in the early twentieth century about a young girl discovering the Amazon and the people who live there. I’ll be drawing a couple more of the characters over the next few days.
Back in 2009 I wrote The Dance for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which takes place every November. Sarah is a maidservant in the court of the king when a magnificent ball takes place. Though she is cleaning, Sarah is asked to dance …
For Sarah’s clothes I took directly from this Crows Eye Productions video. It’s worth checking out their YouTube channel for more videos on period costume!
Manaus is Rudy’s son and as such has been through many of the trials she has.
There is something very interesting about the ‘relationship’ between a writer or artist and their characters. It’s possible to be very cruel to them to serve a story. I don’t remember thinking much of it at the time, but looking back now I feel very sorry for Rudy.
Rudy is a very old character of mine, but this is the first time I’ve draw her. In her world centaurs are considered like animals and are hunted for sport (though not to be eaten). As such the stories I’ve made up about her are often quite grim. I’ve heard that many peoples’ first stories can be dark. Her stories will likely never see the light of day …
For today’s character design I’ve drawn Esther from the Book of Esther in the Old Testament and Tanakh. A Jewish orphan, she became queen of Persia. I enjoyed researching Persian clothing and hairstyles around 500 BC, though I haven’t had time to research in great detail! For Esther’s face and figure I’ve heavily referenced Meg from Hercules.
Bree (or Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah, to give his full name) is the titular horse of The Horse and His Boy. Shasta is the boy. I had wondered about drawing Aravis and Hwin, the other main characters, but there are so many other characters I want to draw I initially decided against it. Now I’m two weeks through the list I made I’m starting to wonder about some of the characters I initially scheduled, so Aravis may appear later in the month …
Like yesterday, I’m looking at The Secret of Kells for design inspiration. Several of the animals like wolves and deer have legs that come to a point. Though it’s quite elegant I think, if I were designing for a real film, I would rework Bree to have hooves.
Shasta is the main character in The Horse and His Boy, my favourite of C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia books. I would love to see it on screen as I think this story has so much scope – adventure, horses, battles, an escape across a desert. Now Netflix will be developing new films and series (see here for more information) it’s possible my dream will come true!
For design I’ve followed Cartoon Saloon‘s style quite closely, particularly their film The Secret of Kells. If you haven’t heard of them, check them out – their work is beautiful, especially Song of the Sea which is one of my favourite films.
At the end of a bitter battle with a dragon, a knight searched its layer and discovered its egg among the treasures. Feeling its warmth he found himself unwilling to kill an innocent, unknowing creature. Instead the knight wrapped it carefully in his cloak and cradled it on his saddle as he rode all the way home.
This is the opening of a story I wrote a few years ago about what happens when a knight tries to raise a dragon. In short, nothing good. Today’s drawing is of the young dragon the knight keeps chained, and drugged with herbs.
These next characters come from Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, a fantasy novel I adore. As it’s set in the desert land of Damar I took inspiration from The Prince of Egypt for design. Harry (full name Angharad) is the heroine, and I show her here near the beginning of the story when she has been kidnapped by the hill folk.
Though I took time to colour her I really like the pencil lines, so I’ve uploaded them on their own too.