Archive for the ‘instruction’ Category

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Instruction: Clair Weeks’ Animal Studies

Clair Weeks Animal Studies

Clair WeeksClair WeeksToday, I’m proud to present more amazing treasures from the Clair Weeks collection. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Weeks was born the son of a missionary in India. At DIsney, he was often teased about his resemblence to a village parson or pilgrim. (See caricature to the right.)

Around 1940, Disney Studios was at its peak. Several animated feature films were in production at once, and the staff numbered at an all time high. Disney instituted a comprehensive training program for the artists at his studio, which included life drawing, animal studies and action analysis classes under the direction of Don Graham. Today, we scanned animal drawings by Clair Weeks from these classes.

Clair Weeks Animal Studies

Animation Resources supporter, Mike Fontanelli was in last night when I was scanning these beautiful sketches, and he expressed his admiration for Weeks’ skill. It’s difficult to draw animals and capture any kind of natural pose because they are always moving. Weeks not only exhibited mastery of construction and posing, but also the ability to embed the spark of life that makes a drawing come alive. His technique allowed for both analytically realistic depiction and cartoony stylized caricature.

Aspiring cartoonists and animators should look over these drawings carefully and make a trip to the zoo to study the animals themselves the way the artists did at Disney in 1940.

Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies
Clair Weeks Animal Studies

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

INSTRUCTIONINSTRUCTION

This posting is part of an online series of articles dealing with Instruction.

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Instruction: Wash Painting- In Praise Of Happy Accidents

Wash Painting

Animation Resources supporter, Mike Fontanelli brought by a stack of mid-1930s Colliers magazines for us to digitize. Colliers was the "Rolls Royce" of weekly magazines for many years, employing some of the greatest illustrators in the business. In browsing through page after page of beautiful wash paintings, I was struck by how rare it is to see illustrations like this any more. That’s just plain wrong.

Wash Painting

In our digital age, programs like Photoshop have replaced brush and pen. But Photoshop doesn’t come close to the flexibility and variety of natural textures that water painting can provide. And in the hands of an experienced artist, a brush can knock out a finished painting much faster than with a computer. It just takes advance planning, concentration and an experienced hand.

Wash Painting

Look at the beautiful compositions in these examples. The artists were working from a carefully constructed drawing, and they worked out every detail before paint touched paper. The light source and the value scale are precisely controlled to make the image "mesh" in your eye. There’s no wasted effort or extraneous detail. The paintings themselves were executed very quickly.

Wash Painting

That’s the exact opposite of the way that a digital image is created. Instead of making all the creative decisions up front, the digital artist makes those decisions as he paints. In Photoshop, it’s typical to build up the illustration in layers, stacking up planes that can be shifted around as needed. The composition evolves, created in sections and joined with blurred seams to connect them. This evolutionary process may result in an image that is acceptably complex, but it doesn’t lend itself to creating a strong or unified statement.

Wash PaintingWash PaintingRecently, I saw a cityscape background from an animated feature that had been created by cutting and pasting pieces of images together. The light came from six different directions. The perspective changed from one part of the image to another. If you looked at any one small section, it looked OK, but the whole didn’t work together. The overall impression was cacophony. Worse yet, the image looked terrible if it was reduced in size or resolution. The scale of the overall composition and the degree of detail was uniform across the entire image. When you resized or reduced the resolution, it all turned to mush.

Contrast that with these beautiful wash paintings… The overall composition reads no matter how small you make it, and there’s a lot of variety between sharp details (in the faces and hands) and loose brushwork (in the fabric and backgrounds). This keeps your eye focused on the important part of the composition. But there’s an even bigger difference… Even when enlarged many times, these paintings still look good because of what watercolor painters refer to as the "happy accidents". Any digital anomaly or seam between layers in a Photoshop image will stand out like a sore thumb, but a loose brush stroke, a bit of paper peeking through the dry brush, or a bleeding bit of pigment can look beautiful. The accidents are natural looking.

Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting

All of the images you see here come from two issues of Colliers from 1934. Every week, the staff artists had to quickly produce striking images to accompany the articles. Speed was of the essence. Wash painting was a quick and beautiful solution.

Wash Painting

One week, an artist might be illustrating a romance…

Wash Painting

The next week a Western adventure…

Wash Painting

The technique lent itself to both realistic depiction and cartoony stylization.

Wash Painting

If you haven’t checked them out yet, make sure to take a look at our previous posts on 30s & 40s Colliers illustrations and Wartime Colliers. There’s a wealth of great images in old magazines like this.

Wash Painting

Many thanks to Mike Fontanelli for sharing these with us. He has a stack of Colliers with Earl Oliver Hurst covers that he will be bringing by soon. I can’t wait to see those.

Wash Painting
Wash Painting

If these amazing images have inspired you, and you’d like a project to sharpen your art skills, here’s a lesson from the fabulous Famous Artists Course. Pull out your brushes and some lamp black and give it a try. Have fun!

FAMOUS ARTISTS ON WASH PAINTING PART ONE: The Fundamentals Of Wash Painting

Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting

FAMOUS ARTISTS ON WASH PAINTING PART TWO: Step By Step Through Paintings By Dohanos and Whitcomb

Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting
Wash Painting

Let me see what you come up with.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

INSTRUCTIONINSTRUCTION

This posting is part of an online series of articles dealing with Instruction.

IllustrationIllustration

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Instruction: Composition- How To Make Pictures

John Kricfalusi recently posted a series of great articles on composition and layout on his blog…

Composition For Layout And Background Artists: Framing
Composition 2: Intersection
Composition 3: Clear Staging
Composition 4: Staging Groups of Characters
Composition 5: Negative vs Positive Space
Composition 6: Asymetricality
Composition 7: Poses Working Together
Composition 8: Form vs. Detail, Lettering, Reference
Composition 9: Study Other Artists
Composition 10: Contrasts
Composition 11: Organic Shapes
Composition 12: Contrasts in Texture and Spacing
Composition 13: Scale
Composition 14: Form Over Detail
Composition 15: Form in Clouds
Composition 16: Flair
Composition 17: Reference and Inspiration
Composition 18: Scene Planning For TV Part One
Compostion 19: Scene Planning For TV Part Two
Compostion 20: More Inspiring BG Layouts

Famous Artists BooksFamous Artists BooksSeeing the fantastic examples by Mary Blair, Milt Gross and Jack Kirby reminded me how UN-designed many animated films and print cartoons are today. Mark Kennedy has a great post on Rhythmic Composition that you’ll want to check out too.

When I went to design school, I don’t remember any real serious analysis of compositional techniques beyond the most basic principles. Compositions were critiqued with “gut reactions”, which might be helpful in identifying a design that isn’t working, but it doesn’t help an artist trying to figure out how to improve and strengthen his work.

I dug through my reference shelves and pulled another invaluable lesson from the Famous Artists Course. This is lesson three from the Illustration Course this time. In methodical fashion, the famed illustrators Albert Dorne, Norman Rockwell, Al Parker, Peter Helck, Austin Briggs, Ben Stahl and Fred Ludekens team up to break down the nuts and bolts of what makes a picture work.

COMPOSITION: How To Make Pictures

Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition

THE FOUR MAIN ELEMENTS OF COMPOSITION

Composition
Composition

1.) PICTURE AREA

Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition

2.) DEPTH

Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition

3.) LINE

Composition
Composition
Composition
Composition

4.) VALUE

Composition
Composition
Composition

Famous Artists BooksFamous Artists BooksThe Famous Artists Course was created in the mid-1950s by Norman Rockwell, Rube Goldberg and Albert Dorne, among others. The correspondence lessons and educational materials are still available at www.famous-artists-school.com. Books from the three courses: Painting, Illustration/Design and Cartooning turn up on eBay as well. I highly recommend these great resources to students.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

INSTRUCTIONINSTRUCTION

This posting is part of an online series of articles dealing with Instruction.