Archive for the ‘illustration’ Category

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Theory: CGI Animators Should Think Like ARTISTS

W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village

You probably have never heard of William Lee Hankey, but he was a pioneer in the field of illustrated books at the turn of the century. Hankey was one of the first illustrators to paint to suit the newly invented four color offset printing process. He would paint loose and wet, and would press fabrics into the washes to create textures. This book, "The Deserted Village" was one of the first big successes using these techniques. It led to a boom in illustrated books during the teens and twenties, which we have documented in our posts on Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac and Gustaf Tenggren. (See the link to the Illustration Exhibit at the bottom of this post for examples of their work.) Hankey was an expert in printing technology. But that wasn’t all. He was first and foremost, an artist.

As I was scanning this book, something came up that I need to address. I hope you’ll bear with me as I take a little time out to rattle your cage and remind you of something very important.

LISTEN UP!

W. Lee Hankey Deserted VillageW. Lee Hankey Deserted VillageThe other day, I happened across a thread in an internet forum for CGI animators. The thread was titled, "Why aren’t animators artists?" The title made me do a double take. I was surprised to find people debating a question that to me seems patently ridiculous. I take it for granted that people realize that animation is an artform with close ties to the traditional arts of drawing, painting and sculpture. It’s always a shock to find that there are people working in the field who don’t see the link.

I started to wonder whether the readers of this blog understand the intent behind the material that we post here. We’re not just presenting "pretty pictures" to inspire in some sort of vague manner. We intend for this material to be used and applied to everyday work. We don’t get a lot of feedback from this website. Other animation blogs get hundreds of comments on each post, but we rarely get any comments at all. I don’t know why that is. But I certainly hope it isn’t because people are taking a passive attitude to the resources all of us at Animation Resources are working so hard to provide.

Normally, I let the artwork create its own context, but today, I specifically want to address CGI animators to remind them that this site is NOT strictly for 2D animators. CGI animators can learn as much from this stuff as the guys with the pencils. I’m going to pick a few examples and show you what I mean. It’s time to start thinking like an artist!

WHAT CAN AN ILLUSTRATED BOOK THAT IS OVER A CENTURY OLD TEACH SOMEONE WORKING IN COMPUTER ANIMATION?

W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village

In 1909, this book was a technological marvel. It used brand new printing processes to bring color and life to the text blocks that had dominated book design for centuries. It can show us how to do the same today using modern storytelling technology if we look closely. For instance…

AVOID EXCESSIVE DETAIL

Too often, artists and animators mistake detail for quality. Rendering out every leaf on every tree, every pore on every inch of skin, every single blade of grass or shock of fur may be an entertaining exercise for retentive types, but all that detail is nothing more than gilding the lilly- distracting from the main point of the design.

Notice how Hankey focuses your attention on the important parts of the composition by rendering those out, while leaving unimportant background information very loose. The choice of colors clearly defines light and shadow, and the carefully balanced values hold the background together as a frame for the subject of the image. Click on these to see them larger and you’ll be surprised to see just how loose the rendering is on the girl’s dress and the background foliage.

W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village

COMPOSE SHOTS ON A HUMAN SCALE

Too many CGI features are set in environments that are completely out of scale to the characters. Rooms are the size of convention halls and gardens are as big as football fields. Everything is wide open, with very little variety to the depth or contrasting perspectives of the structures. Camera angles on wide shots are staged from 20 feet in the air, much higher than a real human perspective. This makes everything look like model railroad sets instead of like real environments.

The way to lay out a background is through skillful composition and a range of different sizes of forms. Look at how Hankey creates a zig-zag perspective on the first image, layers of contrasting shapes and textures on the second, and divides the last example to frame three separate simultaneous actions beautifully.

W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village

COMPOSE GROUPS OF PEOPLE CAREFULLY

Check out these amazingly expressive tableaux by Hankey. Each one defines the personality and situation of each individual character in relation to all the other characters, while directing the eye cleverly through the image from one main focal point to the next. Notice how the characters are grouped to reflect their relationships to each other.

Just try to find a grouping like this in current animation! Characters are almost always staged obliquely, lined up like a chorus line or in perfect half circles in front of the camera- sitcom style. If you search through the films of great directors like Chaplin, Hitchcock or Welles, you’ll never find flat setups. The dynamics of group relationships are never revealed in what the characters say- it’s always in how they are arranged visually.

W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village

CREATE MOOD THROUGH UNIQUE COMBINATIONS OF COLORS

John Kricfalusi recently discussed how important unique color harmonies are to animation in his blog, All Kinds Of Stuff. He makes the point that colors "straight out of the tube"- lime green, purple, orange, etc.- are not nearly effective as hues with non-mathematical mixes of colors… colors that don’t have names.

For instance, what color would you call the street in this first example? Pure colors are best used in small areas to create interest and direct the eye, like with the sea green door on the house in the second one. Sometimes the best color harmonies involve muted colors to create a mood, as in the third example here. The colors tell you exactly what is going on in the scene. In fact, each of the three characters is surrounded by an unique set of colors that reflects his or her attitude.

W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village

USE THE CHANGING LIGHTING OF THE TIME OF DAY FOR EMOTIONAL IMPACT

Life doesn’t always happen at high noon on a Summer day. Neither should the action of an animated film. Disney knew this. Check out "Lady and the Tramp". The dramatic scenes with the rat approaching the baby’s crib are heightened by the deep shadows of night. The "Bella Note" sequence depicts an entirely different kind of night. The climactic action at the end takes place on a stormy night. Think about how the changing light of the times of day can add impact to your scenes, just like the light depicted in these illustrations by Hankey.

W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village

CREATE CHARACTERS BY OBSERVING LIFE

The most obvious power of animation to entertain is its ability to caricature life, yet amazingly, observation is exactly what is lacking in character design in current CGI movies. Every day, a million great personalities are all around you who have never been seen in animation- just go to your local coffee shop or shopping mall with your sketchbook. You won’t be able to get all the great characters down on paper fast enough.

So why do we get the same old stereotypical cool dude, smartass sidekick, long-suffering parents, goofy fat kid, and "independent minded pretty girl who doesn’t know how pretty she really is" in every doggone movie? I keep hearing people say that story is the most important thing in animation. Well, that’s a lie. Personality is at the core of all great animation. Don’t plug and play with iconic characters and architypes. OPEN YOUR EYES AND OBSERVE! SHOW THE AUDIENCE SOMETHING REAL!

W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village

POSE CHARACTERS EXPRESSIVELY

This is CGI animation’s cardinal sin. Gestures and body positions NEVER reflect a character’s unique personality. Every character scrunches their mouth to one side and looks upwards when they think- they all lower their eyebrows and narrow their eyes the exact same way when they’re angry- they all throw their hip to one side and lean their head when they’re petulant…

This is "formula acting". If we were talking about the performance of a human actor instead of a grizzly bear or raccoon, it would be called "BAD acting". Formulas don’t tell you anything about the character, yet entire movies are performed by rote. Don’t believe me? Take any of the recent CGI movies, whether they involve animals invading backyards or escaping zoos, rodents in European restaurants, superhero terrapins or prehistoric sloths- and count the number of times the characters deliver dialogue with that meaningless, stock- hands out to the side, palms up, up and down movement on every accent- sort of gesture. What the heck does that gesture mean? It’s just water treading because the animator is too lazy to think of a gesture that actually expresses something.

Now look at the last image in this group- the one with the fella sitting next to the girl. Even his feet tell you what he’s thinking! Every pose in an animated film should be that expressive. There’s no excuse for stock poses or actions.

W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village

An animator isn’t just moving a complex polygon through space- an animator creates a performance from a succession of still poses. That’s the job of an artist and anyone doing that sort of work needs to THINK like an artist. As you browse through this the rest of the images in this post, if you just "look at the pretty pictures" without thinking about what makes them work, you might as well be off shopping or playing video games. This website is a tremendous resource, but it won’t help you if you expect it to work passively by osmosis.

Print the stuff in this blog out. Put it in binders. Analyze it. Categorize the concepts. Make notes. Talk about your ideas with your fellow artists. Apply these ideas to your work.

Here are a few more illustrations from this great book. Can you see the principles we discussed above in these images? What other ideas do they give you?

W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village
W. Lee Hankey Deserted Village

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

TheoryTheory

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Theory.

IllustrationIllustration

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

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Illustration: John Bauer’s Bland Tomtar Och Troll

John Bauer

Like many of the artists we feature here on this blog, John Bauer is a name that not many people know. His career was relatively short, but his influence was far reaching.

John BauerJohn BauerBorn in 1882 in Sweden, Bauer studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. In 1904, he illustrated his first book, Lappland, but in 1907 he began work on a series of Christmas annuals that would make him famous. Bland Tomtar Och Troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls) is a Swedish tradition, beginning in 1907 and continuing to this very day. I’m afraid I don’t speak Swedish, so I can’t speak for the folk tales Bauer is illustrating, but the illustrations are stunning.

Bauer had a way with trolls… they are grotesque, yet appealing. The simple, yet elegant compositions conveyed the essence of the image clearly with a sense of humor that both children and adults could understand. His style influenced generations of artists from Gustaf Tenggren (who took over the Bland Tomtar Och Troll series after Bauer’s death in a shipwreck in 1918), Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielsen to Brian Froud and Jim Henson (The Dark Crystal). This particular edition of Bland Tomtar Och Troll is from 1915, but the images are timeless.

John Bauer
John Bauer
John Bauer
John Bauer
John Bauer
John Bauer
John Bauer
John Bauer
John Bauer
John Bauer
John Bauer

MORE BY JOHN BAUER
Einar Norelius
Einar Norelius
Einar Norelius
Einar Norelius
Einar Norelius
Einar Norelius
Einar Norelius

Very little information on Bauer exists outside of his native country of Sweden. There is a museum dedicated to his work in the city where he was born. If you have any information on this great artist, please let us know about it in the comments below.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

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

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

E-Book: Louis Raemaekers- The Cartoonist Who Helped Win The First World War

Every other month, members of Animation Resources are given access to an exclusive Members Only Reference Pack. In May 2016, they were able to download this collection of WWI cartoons by Louis Raemaekers. Our Reference Packs change every two months, so if you weren’t a member back then, you missed out on it. But you can still buy a copy of this great e-book in our E-Book and Video Store. Our downloadable PDF files are packed with high resolution images on a variety of educational subjects, and we also offer rare animated cartoons from the collection of Animation Resources as downloadable DVD quality video files. If you aren’t a member yet, please consider JOINING ANIMATION RESOURCES. It’s well worth it.


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PDF E-BOOK:
Louis Raemaekers

Raemaekers Cartoons
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Land and Water Edition Volume One

This e-book faithfully reproduced the first volume of The Land and Water Edition of Raemaekers Cartoons. It is set up ready to be printed double sided on two sided 8 1/2″ by 11″ punched paper, and is optimized for viewing on iPads with retina screens.

REFPACK010: Raemaekers Cartoons
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Louis Raemaekers

Berntstorff- The Next To Be Kicked Out

LOUIS RAEMAEKERS

(1869-1956)

“The cartoons of Louis Raemaekers constitute the most powerful of the honorable contributions made by neutrals to the cause of civilization in the World War.” -Theodore Roosevelt, 1917

Louis RaemaekersLouis RaemaekersLouis Raemaekers was born in the Netherlands in 1869. He led a quiet life, painting landscapes while studying and teaching in Amsterdam and Brussels. In 1906 he was asked by a newspaper in Amsterdam, Het Handelsblad, to produce a series of cartoons. His initial attempt at a comic strip was a complete failure, so he turned to politics.

Raemaekers’ interest in international affairs led him to speak out about German ambitions for expanding their territory into Holland and the Allsace region of France. This got him into trouble with the editors of Het Handelsblad. The Netherlands was neutral and Germanic aggression was a hot issue, so they started cutting back on the number of cartoons by Raemaekers in their pages. When a rival paper, De Telegraaf offered him more editorial freedom and as much space as he could fill, he jumped at the chance.

Louis Raemaekers

“I was in prison for life, but they found I had many abilities for bringing civilization to our neighbors, so now I am a soldier.”


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At the beginning of the First World War, Germany invaded Belgium. The Netherlands was neutral, so refugees streamed across the border. With them, they carried stories of German atrocities against the Belgian people. Raemaekers secretly crossed the border into Belgium to see for himself if the stories were true and returned outraged at what he had witnessed. He began to produce fiercely Anti-German political cartoons that burned with the passion of personal conviction.

Louis Raemaekers

The Massacre of the Innocents in Belgium
“All in good order. Men to the right, women to the left.”

Raemaekers’ cartoons were picked up for distribution by the British government in a series of propaganda pamphlets. The campaign was so effective, the Germans used their influence in the Netherlands to have Raemaekers tried for “endangering Dutch neutrality”. The charges were eventually dropped, but Kaiser Wilhelm II put a bounty of 12,000 marks on his head. When his wife began to receive anonymous threats, Raemaekers realized that his family was in great danger. He relocated to England, where his cartoons were celebrated in books and museum exhibitions, and syndicated to newspapers across France, Canada and the United States.

Louis Raemaekers

The German Tango- “From East to West
and West to East, I dance with thee.”

Raemaekers cartoons were instrumental in fighting against deeply entrenched American isolationism, and in 1917 the United States entered the war. Raemaekers quickly organized a lecture tour of the US and Canada, rallying the allies to support the French and mobilize against the Germans. The Christian Science Monitor said of Raemaekers, “From the outset his works revealed something more than the humorous or ironical power of the caricaturist; they showed that behind the mere pictorial comment on the war was a man who thought and wrought with a deep and uncompromising conviction as to right and wrong.”

Louis Raemaekers

Von Bethmann-Hollweg And Truth
“Truth is on the path and nothing will stay her.”


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After the war, Raemaekers withdrew from international affairs, spending the last 25 years of his life quietly in France and Brussels. By the time he passed away in 1956, the world had pretty much forgotten him. But in his obituary, the New York Times summed up his career, saying, “It has been said of Raemaekers that he was the one private individual who exercised a real and great influence on the course of the 1914-18 War. There were a dozen or so people (emperors, kings, statesmen, and commanders-in-chief) who obviously, and notoriously, shaped policies and guided events. Outside that circle of the great, Louis Raemaekers stands conspicuous as the one man who, without any assistance of title or office, indubitably swayed the destinies of peoples.”

Louis Raemaekers

The Harvest Is Ripe

Today, Raemaekers is remembered more by students of the First World War than by cartoonists and artists. His work has been looked down upon with scorn by certain revisionist historians who argue that some of the more extreme atrocities depicted in Raemaekers’ cartoons never took place. It is always difficult in wartime to know what is happening behind enemy lines. Although Raemakers made several clandestine research trips to Belgium during the war, he also depended on second hand accounts, some of which have since been proven to be untrue. But no one denies that Raemaekers himself believed his cartoons to be completely factual.

Louis Raemaekers

A Fact- The brutalization by Major Tille of the German Army on a small boy of Maastricht was verified by an eye-witness.

This sincerity is what makes him important to cartoonists today. He deserves to be remembered, not as just a propagandist, but as an artist who stood up for what he believed. His passion carried him from being a provincial landscape painter to becoming one of the most powerful and influential individuals on the world stage. There is tremendous power in the art of cartooning. It’s not just “ducks and rabbits” and mindless children’s entertainment. It can change the world. No cartoonists should ever forget that.

Louis Raemaekers

The Future- “For freedom’s battle once begun,
though baffled oft, is ever won.”

For more detailed information on Louis Raemaekers’ life and career, see John Adcock’s excellent article at Yesterday’s Papers.

Louis Raemaekers

The Sea Mine- Von Terpitz’s Victims


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Editorial CartoonsEditorial Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Editorial Cartoons.
TheoryTheory

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Theory.