Monday, 21 April 2008

The Street Art Animation Project

I am working on a short animated film about street artists.

Over the years growing up in New York and traveling I have seen graffiti and street artists do really insane and crazy things to put up their respective art works. Covert operations and daring do type things like sneaking into a zoo to paint the animals(Banksy) to climbing drain pipes and towers to put up a piece.

One of the most memorable things I have ever seen was a full animated half a minute animated piece on the no. 6 train line between Longwood Ave. and Hunts Point in the Bronx when I was a kid. Let me explain why this was so spectacular and probably the most dangerous feat ever: Whoever the artist or artists were, they climbed into the subway tracks ,walked down the tunnel inbetween the 2 underground stops, and with some knowledge of how fast the express train travels they painted a scene(frame by frame) of a woman dancing with a man at exact points on the wall under the tunnel lights. The amazing affect was that when you were on the train going by if you happen to be looking out the window at the right time you would see this long really detail animation play in real time. Half a minute= 30 seconds at 30 drawings per second (larger than life size) =900 drawings!!!! I can't imagine how long that took standing in a dark scary rat infested tunnel and standing in a crawl space as trains passed by. Hats off to whoever they were. Primetoonz simply don't got that kinda gusto!!!

My little film is kind of a tribute to the idea of street art and those who make it.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

5 Min. Comic Book Character Sketches

Yesterday I was in a neighborhood pizza joint. As I work from the house sometimes I need to get outside. I sit someplace and work on my laptop drawing away in some corner as I eat. Some kids came in and seemed interested in what the heck I was doing. I was working on a new SPATZ cartoon and showed it to them. They thought it was funny and recognized the character from seeing it around the city on the streets. They said they always wondered who did those and that they thought SPATZ was "wicked". For those of you over 30 "wicked" means cool. It made me feel good that some young teenagers got what I was doing with SPATZ. I hooked them up with some SPATZ T-shirts later that day and they were happy.

While we were at the pizza place one of these kids says he draws and is into comics. I showed him flash and let him doodle around with my Wacom drawing tablet. He was into it and I gave him the web address to download the demo. He definitely showed potential for a 13 year old kid, nice sense of balance in his characters. I also gave him one of my old tablets and a pen(I have like 6 wacoms and 14 of those stylus things and they're just sitting around). His mom has a new Mac so he'll be fine. You never know... he just might be the next Frank Miller. Even if he's not, it's nice to see someone want to express themselves and get really excited about learning. People helped me along the way so now I encourage kds like that when I met them.

While we were all talking at the pizza place they asked me if I could draw Wolverine from the X-Men as well as a few other characters. Spider-Man. Spawn. The Hulk. Below are the results of about 5 mins drawing of each(Spawn took about 10-15 because while I know what the character looks like I really wasn't clear of the details of his costume. The fact is I have grown up with these characters but I have never drawn them.

While I was in high school I was pretty much into Charles M. Schultz and animation and sci-fi stuff. I found many of my male peers wanted to draw comic books. They would always draw these guys with huge muscles(so huge I couldn't imagine them moving) and women with really unrealistically large breasts. I loved reading comics and still do but back then I didn't want to draw like that. I had brought up the subject with Frank Evers on one of my weekly visits to the New York Daily News and his take was I keep learning and practicing how to draw realistically and then later I could really draw anything.

My life took me into cartooning, illustration and 3d animation among other things. What I found interesting was not only that i could draw these characters so quickly because they seem to be part of the American collective consciousness, but also that when asked o draw them I really thought about and knew who they were in their motivations, actions and ways of being. This is a huge testament to the people that created them and maybe a lesson to all creators of characters. No matter what their flaws we identify with them. Wolverine when he was first introduced to the X-men was like this really explosive, psychopathic and homicidal individual.
Spider-Man was just some kid that can't pay his bills and gets bitten by the radioactive spider and does the right thing but still can't pay his bills. And Spawn is this huge Shakespearean kind of story about a guy who at the end of the day is trying to redeem himself. That said I have always thought that Spawn was cool and at the same time kind of creepy. I have friends working on technology that will allow people to more easily tell stories. It would be interesting to see Todd McFarlane do a Spawn movie true to his vision of his character rather than one he has to make by dealing with the Hollywood system. Perhaps soon.

I suppose these characters are so compelling because as stated before no matter what their flaws they try and do the right thing. In addition, in a world that at some times seems so unfair maybe we all like seeing character that fight back against injustice.

At the end of the day it was cool sitting with those kids in the pizza place and seeing how into comics cartoons and other things they were. And I'm not gonna lie. I kinda had fun drawing Spawn and the others. Maybe in one of my tutorials I'm planning for youtube I'l do a chapter entitled "I didn't animate SPAWN, but if I did, this is how I would have done it"

Friday, 18 April 2008

The Sketchy Line Revolution

The image here is what most of my cartoons look like. However, I always start out with very sketchy drawings in everything I do. I am a trained artist and illustrator that loves cartooning. From going to an art high school and then Parsons in New York I was trained at an early stage to be able to draw with a continual line and never look at what your putting on the page. If you were drawing from life you observe and let your hand follow the forms you're seeing. Very much like an instrumentalist knows their instrument.

The woman that this picture is inspired by(Joaniqua in the 'hood) told me a while back that I should really explore this sketchy style more in the stuff I do. As of recent, I've decided to really take her advice and some of my street art as well as a current animation projects will be utilizing this method.

The next picture is where instead of cleaning up the picture I start to push the sketch to a place where I am basically sculpting with lines on top of lines.

The final image was done the same way. My sketch books are filled with images like this. I am currently working on 2 animation projects that utilize this style but with movement..will post when I finish the examples.

I kinda dig this style because it really is freeing the artist to push shape, light, and dark around. I think I'm going to do a few youtube tutorials about his technique and animating it all in flash for people that may benefit from it.

I really don't think that people realize the full potential of Adobe Flash. I pretty much do everything in it. From intitial character design, to animatics to full broadcast animation. I've done 3 broadcasts jobs with it, entirely by myself and numerous other projects working for post houses. I think my tutorials will go over drawing free in flash and then animating using Flash to act as an animation station.

When I started in the 3d animation industry back in the 90's I was amazed by the fact that many of the other 3d animators I was working with on major films with really could not draw! They were technical people that knew complicated 3d software like Maya and Softimage because they had the money to study at schools that were offering these really expensive programs in their schooling . That has changed now that high end 3d software is way more cheap. Never the less, anyone who wants to animate should really be able to draw their animations by hand if need be.

This should be fun

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Potter Puppet Pals

(UPDATE: April 20th:
This cartoon was a joke made last month. Personally I back JK Rowlings and hope she wins her lawsuit to stop the publishing of a Harry Potter Lexicon. It is not right that someone can make a guide to her world and characters without her having a say about it. If she loses then anyone that wants to steal a creators characters can do so. That simply is not right)

For those that don't know, some kids in Mass. came up with a very funny send up of Harry Potter called "Potter Puppet Pals".

I saw it a while ago and thought it was hilarious. Turns out they won the youtube award for funniest video a little bit ago. While checking out the huge coverage they got I saw on a blog somewhere that the Harry Potter community on the web (which is massive) were speculating when JK Rowlings and Warner Bros. would put a kabosh on their merry making.

Personally I think she has more to worry about than some kids making fan art(like somebody trying to create a guide to the Harry Potter world. A guide that she has not authorized.) But the idea was funny to me.

Warner Bros.(the House that Bugs built) is so huge and owns so many properties and characters including rights to make the Harry Potter films, Superman and Batman(and the rest of the vast DC comics world, The Matrix, and of course Bugs Bunny and all the Looney Tunes.

I thought an over the top cartoon of JK Rowlings and the Warner Bros. Legal folks having the young puppeteer arrested with a lot of Warner Bros. heavy hitters in tow would bring the point home of the extreme silliness of the notion and also underscore this: It's great when people love a character or story so much that they pay tribute to it through videos fan created stuff and so on. However just bare in mind: When you start trying to make money with some one else's intellectual property Bugs Bunny and a whole bunch of lawyers might come knockin' on our door. I really have to include some aspect of this in an animation project I'm working on(no warner bros stuff included of course) : )