I’m back in Edinburgh for a few months, working as a Clean Up Artist (if you don’t know what that is, here’s an example) on a feature film I can’t talk about yet. It’s a really exciting project and I’m looking forward to sharing more about that, hopefully soon. One of the tricky things with working in animation is that a lot of what I do can’t be shown for one reason or another, so this is a glimpse at some of my personal drawings!

This afternoon I spent some time in one of my favourite places, the National Museum of Scotland. I went down into the early Scottish history section and sketches a few objects that caught my interest. Here are a couple of them.

Elaborate Viking sword hilt, Eigg

Pony cap and horns (which were added at a later date), Torrs

I spent some time today drawing quick sketches using the Bodies in Motion site. The Muybridge images are especially good for quick studies, and after exploring a variety of sequences I settled on this one.

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.

My sketch from Noah Klocek’s workshop, researching Akitas
Thumbnail sketches for a Greyfriars Bobby/Hachiko-inspired story

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.

Exploring basic shapes
Refining …
… and refining further – hopefully to be finished one day

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!

I’ve been busy with work and a family wedding, so it’s taken me a while to post anything new! Here’s a group of studies from one of Muybridge‘s wonderful sequences.

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A couple of weeks ago I watched Jaws for the first time. I’m not a fan of horror, which is one of the reasons I avoided the film for so long, but I found it to be much more of a thriller (with a couple of bloodthirsty scenes). One of the things I really liked was the development of Chief Brody, especially in relation to the Mayor, Larry Vaughn, so I’ve gone back to study the cinematography and acting in some of the scenes where they’re together.

There will be mild spoilers below, so if you’re like I was and haven’t yet watched this classic from 1975 you may want to avoid this post!

The first scene I sketched from is when Brody is cornered on a ferry by Vaughn and various others. Brody has just reported a young woman’s death as by shark attack, but Vaughn and the medical examiner try to convince him that her death was caused by a boat’s propellor. He’s unconvinced, but he’s overruled.

From the beginning of the scene Brody is trapped in the corner of the screen. He’s trapped on the ferry, too. He’s surrounded by the car and by Vaughn and by a whole crowd of Vaughn’s cronies. Though he’s the taller man, Brody’s always leaning on something or leaning out of the way. Vaughn even grabs at him at the very start. The Mayor is completely in control, and Brody is unable – and unwilling – to do anything about it.

 

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After the second attack there’s a meeting. The islanders are angry, mainly because they don’t want the beach closed. Vaughn doesn’t want it closed either. Brody has the whole island against him – even the sign in the hallway at the beginning of the scene, which he walks into. Like the previous scene, he’s constantly surrounded by people and pushed to the side. Even when he’s in a position of authority when he stands to speak Brody is a small figure squeezed in a corner, dwarfed by those he’s speaking to, and in one shot even trapped between a door and a window.

At the very end of the scene, after Quint the shark hunter offers to track down the man-eating shark (for a fee), Brody’s finally given a ‘hero’ shot. The camera looks up, slightly, and he’s no longer stuck between the door and the window. It’s Quint, or his experiences with Quint, that will help turn Brody into the hero.

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After Brody and Matt Hooper, the oceanographer, go out to search for the shark they confront the Mayor, telling him that he must close the beach. Throughout the scene – mainly one, long shot – the three characters move around each other as the power dynamic shifts. Vaughn ultimately remains in control of the situation – he usually has the most space on screen – and Brody, as ever, is powerless – ending up squashed to the side and dwarfed. The beach remains open.

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A dramatic shift occurs after the third attack when Brody’s child ends up in hospital. Chief Brody forces Vaughn to hire Quint, using all the body language that Vaughn previously employed against him. It’s now Brody who dominates the screen and has all the space. He even reaches into Vaughn’s pocket for a pen, echoing their first scene where Vaughn grabbed at Brody’s arm. Near the end of the scene, Vaughn’s crushed into the corner of the screen. At the very end, Brody walks directly into camera, filling the screen as he enters the second half of the movie and joins Quint to hunt for the shark.

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If you’ve enjoyed this you may also like to see the studies I drew from The Sound of Music.

The first two drawings, in charcoal, are from a workshop on an artists’ retreat back in February. It was (just) warm enough to sit outside, though I remember my hands freezing. Both charcoal sketches were drawn half looking at the paper, half looking only at the object. The top one has several under-drawings that have been rubbed back. I wouldn’t normally draw in this way but it was a good exercise.

The final sketch I drew in my garden yesterday, in glorious sunshine.

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The snow is beginning to melt, leaving icy pools of water and slush. As I struggled through it on a walk this afternoon I thought it would be a good subject for today’s study.

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Here are some quick pen studies of the views from the train today – mist in front of trees, stubble in the snow, hedges, ploughed fields, footprints, snow melting.

I struggled with this one. Choosing the colour and getting the texture right was difficult, and I don’t feel I’ve completely succeeded in either area. This was a study of a canvas bag. I guess I need to paint more cloth!

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While on a walk with the dog this afternoon I looked out for interesting things to draw and decided on this juxtaposition between snow, ice and water.

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If you’ve been following me for a few years you may remember that back in 2015 I drew ‘Pieces of Sky’, small squares of the sky I saw that day. (Here’s an example.) I’ve been thinking about starting to draw small colour studies again, as I enjoyed the challenge. However I feel only drawing the sky is perhaps a bit limiting, so I’ve set myself a new goal within the same guidelines of a 500×500 pixel canvas. I’ll continue to take inspiration from life, but it will now be from anywhere.

It’s been a very grey, snowy day so unfortunately there is very little colour anywhere. Today’s ‘Study Square’ shows some of the snow piled up outside my window.  I like how mountainous the shapes are despite the fact it’s only about a foot in height!

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