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!

Erle is Kinsey’s husband. In writing the script his character has been developed beyond his role in the short story. I like the exploration of their relationship.

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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 Time21_Hermux221_Hermux

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!

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.09_Shasta

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.

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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.

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Captain Frederick Wentworth, for those who haven’t read (or watched) Persuasion, is the love interest of Anne.

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Fraser was enjoying a walk on the beach with his dog when he came across something extraordinary …

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Inktober is an annual drawing challenge which I’ve taken part in before, but this year I’ve decided to do it a little differently. As the name suggests the drawings are supposed to be in ink, but this year I’m going to cheat and draw digitally. My aim with this challenge is to develop my character design skills, so I want to focus on that and not on my inking skills. I will also be taking the weekends off as I think it’s important to have a couple of days to rest or catch up, depending! To that end I’ve created a list of 23 characters (some mine and some from favourite books), many of which I’ve been meaning to draw for a long time.

Elsa is the first – not wholly a character, but certainly caricatured for my Selkie storyboard.01_Elsa

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.

While boarding the Pigeon Crumbs animatic I posted a few weeks ago I drew these reference sketches and character models to help me figure out how the character would look, feel and act.

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One of the good things about taking the train is getting the chance to doodle away. Here are a few drawings from a recent trip. Mostly I just scribble, but the first group below are some characters from an old story of mine. I’ve been wondering about storyboarding the idea, or developing it further in some way.

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