Friday, December 19, 2014

Finals and the "Reverse Star Wars Effect"

 After giving many finals, here is an observation with regards to the beginning and end of a typical semester. Each one has a predictable reverse Star Wars effect.

A semester begins with loads of smiling students who all clap with eagerness, just like the end of Star Wars.  "Golly," says every instructor, "look at all of these shiny young people, this will be a great semester."
Class meetings pass, and just before midterms, everyone seems to buckle down, paying close attention to lecture and demos. Notes are taken, attendance is good.
 Shortly after midterm grades, A limited number of students stay focused while others start to goof off or focus attention on games or other stuff, attendance drops off, assignments are missed and at least one guy gets sick...for three weeks.
The end of the semester arrives. Project due dates pass, assignments are missed. Notes? What notes? Computers crash, files explode and the bodies of once smiling and clapping students lay strewn under tables, at desks, and the final brings out the war zone of time management, just like The beginning of Star Wars.
Happens every defies logic, I tell ya! So, the reverse Star Wars Effect repeats and repeats and repeats and ....

Emails I get.

"If you were an evil villain...

"Hi Jef, 

I was wondering, If you were an evil villain, what would you be? I kind of lean towards demon from hell. And lets face it, a demon from hell can fly, breathe fire and still fit in your house. So you have the cool factors of dragon with the convince of sleeping on the couch or a normal bed... Anyway, I realize that not everyone wants to be compared to that  and I'm sorry if being called a demon from hell offends you. I can also see you as a bear that uses a burrito bazooka or a sith lord. But I figured I'd ask you. Also people still ask about that semester and  what happened. So I figured if I was going to talk about what its like to see you mad I'd ask you. 
(Name removed to protect dignity)
I like orc warlord as a villainous position. But again ... Sith Lords shoot lightning"

"Office Appt. 

Mr. Jeff, 

It has been quite some time since our paths have crossed. (I emailed your school email already last week, but I really hope I didn’t receive a reply because you didn’t check it and not because reasons.)

This is unacceptable.

Fill out the proceeding form with a black pen (not blue) in triplicate (by hand each, do not use that triple page thingy with the yellow and pink pages that fade all the information, I mean, who can read that):

Official Office Questionnaire

  1. What times and dates are you available for a meeting of utmost importance?


Please respond in a timely fashion,

Mdme. (Another name removed to protect dignity) IV, Esq., PhD."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pushing your figures: Leading OR Head Shoulders Knees and Toes...

We discussed leading the other day, and by that I mean using a part of the body to be the main part or start of the action. There are lots of ways to lead and all these ways say something more or push the character but NOT doing so leaves your figures feeling stiff.  So I drew these in class requiring some class participation below:

Seeing as the head is at the top of the body (usually) we started with that.
All poses may not be as active so here is 'leading with the head' a little more naturally.
Just like the song, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes", shoulders are next.  Shoulders tend to be pretty aggressive if you think of breaking a tackle in football or body checking in hockey or a space warrior babe alien thing. 
But shoulders also act as shields to try to protect feelings or the spirit inside as in the case of a shy person as suggested.
Next most logical body part to lead with is the chest.  This may be considered the "being on display" pose, the look-at-me walk etc.  Leading with the chest can express confidence, superiority, heroism, confrontation etc.
Working our way down, we get to the stomach. I going to digress for just a moment and say, I had a room mate, a well fed room mate, back in college who lead with his tummy.  If you were having a conversation (or doing any sort of activity) The tummy would arrive first, leading the 'mouth' which would drop whatever opinion the room mate had at the time. Below are just two examples of stomach lead.
Which brings us to the pelvis. All of us, at some time place our weight on one foot shifting our bodies into a contrapposto position.  This is a form or leading with the pelvis and there are lots of methods to this type of leading, four are below:
"What about twerking?" "Ahem...yes that is form of leading with the pelvis...but I'm not going to draw that." "Ahh." "...Um try this."

Leading with the knees tends to push the body backward awkwardly, this is great for describing a lanky or under-exercised figure.  But, if you look at people taking a photo on their cell phones, they tend to lead with the knees to try to angle the body back to get more into the shot.  If you look at "the Lovers" from Commedia del'arte, you will find that these characters (who usually lead with the chest) may fall back to lead with their knees when they stand still and let the warm emotions of love and happiness wash over them.  Same is true of people who are experiencing a true emotion.
Leading with the toes lightens the character's movements.  A sneak, sashay, or sexy walk (though a sexy walk also is a lead with the chest and shoulders as well) are examples of leading with the toes.
"Can you lead with your arms?" they ask.  Of course!  Leading with the arms of hands gives purpose to the intended action of the appendages and they really to have a reason to up.  It's very hard to sneak with the arms up as it places you off balance, in this case, arms are better positioned near the core of the body to act as ballast.  A high dive is an obvious lead with the arms/hands, entering a dark or smokey room would be cause to lead with the arms/hands to prevent collisions with unseen objects is also a good use of the arms leading.
More on leading later, for now think about what your character would lead with and continue to push your posing and animation. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Like Superheroes? Check this out!

The Superhero Auction for Jules Jammal will be happening happening on Sept 6th, 2014.  Have a look at this gallery of fantastic art and make a bid to benefit a scholarship in Jules' name.
We lost a great man and good friend and SJSU and Animation Mentor instructor in the Spring of 2014.  But the Animation/Illustration program at SJSU is raising money to help his memory live on through a a special scholarship award for future students.  The Super Hero Auction is an effort to make this scholarship a reality. Artists from ILM, Dreamworks, Disney and many other studios have used their talents to create super hero themed pieces ready for bidding as we speak. Please click the link above and check out some great work and make a bid.  A live auction will take place on Sept 6th at 6:00pm in the San Jose State University Ballroom. Also a book is being made with prints of the art work up for auction, signed by the artists!
The winning bid for my painting(s) will receive a free print of Hula Hoopin' Wonder Woman above. Thanks for stoppin' by!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Animal Drawing: Gorilla

Skeleton, keep it simple.  The shape of the ribcage is of more interest (at this point) than drawing each actual rib.  It's a huge barrel, just be sure to follow the form of it. Study the skeleton of your animal, measure the skull and compare it it to the lengths of the other bones in the body.  This will help you make more accurate drawings.  Students of animal drawing tend to draw the gorilla's arms a little short at first.
 (The cervical vertebrae are much longer than a human's for more surface area for the muscles of the neck to attach. Scapula come forward more than humans, cross your arms in front of you - that's how gorillas' scapula sit naturally as shown below.

Gorilla surface anatomy is very similar to human anatomy.
The muscles labeled below.

 ...And all of that stuff underneath fur

To keep you going, I have added some gorilla models sheets from Walt Disney's Tarzan (1999) (Hehe:)
 Or if Tarzan isn't your style, here's a fun one from "Superman; Terror on the Midway" (1943 Fleischer)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Composition: Seabiscuit - Point of View

A truly beautiful film which came out in 2003, directed by Gary Ross, (Big, Pleasantville and The Hunger Games) which none of my students saw, apparently "because it was about a horse", was based on a book by Laurie Hidebrand which was primarily shot listed rather than storyboarded is called:
This film doesn't have loads of explosions or laser gun battles, it doesn't feature women in tight spandex trying to save the galaxy or giant robots in a fight to the death and that may explain why few people I know saw it.  But, despite the slow pace and basically the same cast that was in Pleasantville, it is a well crafted, expertly designed and shot film and worth a watch- even if you're not a Tobey Maquire fan.  I really liked how the film is edited and what the directer and cinematographer John Schwartzman did with the camera(s).  Each shot carries an attention to hierarchy of character and conveys an great sense of story. I also really like movies that portray a relatively accurate historical essence. 

My favorite scene(s) take place toward the beginning of the film before the introduction of the "main" character, Seabiscuit - the horse.  The scene opens with Charles Howard, a wealthy business man who built his fortune on selling automobiles is talking to an associate on the phone about how bad things are getting due to the stock market crash of 1929.  Charles stands in his "castle" but the shot is set at a POV other than his own. After careful observation, the room is seen through the eyes of Charles' son Frankie.
Cut to an MS of Charles.   He is full of worry and speaks into the phone but looks toward the camera, his son;
 No. No, Bill.
I'm not gonna do it.
No more layoffs.
                  Well, it can't get any worse.

He casts a glance at his son.

And cut to Charles' POV of Frankie.

Cut back to Charles.
Look, if it stays like this, we'll just--
                 Bill, we'll be fine, really.
We will.
                   All right. l'll see you in town.
The Audience knows what he says is a lie because of the way the cabinet obscures his face.  It's also nice bit of foreshadowing considering he's looking at his son. "We'll be fine..."
Charles moves to walk out of shot.

Cut to an up angle (Frankie's POV) on Charles.  Note how Charles looks off the right slightly and above camera.  Even though it's an up shot, Charles doesn't feel like he is possessing the weight of the shot, merely passing through it.  He is troubled and worried.
 Frankie, come on.
It's a glorious day outside.

Cut to an ERL on Frankie as his dad stands in OTS to the left. The camera position gives Frankie ownership of this scene.  Frankie is his dad's whole world, the man would do anything for his son and this shot drives that point home.  Charles asks:
Why don't-- Why don't you go fishing or something?
Frankie answers,
I'm reading.  
Cut back to Charles still in up shot but staged to the left of frame.  With everything falling apart with his work, he hopes to gain control of just one thing in his life at this point and says:
You can read when it's raining.
Come on. I'll teach you to drive the truck.

Cut to centered Frontal ERL of Frankie. Frankie, without a doubt, has dad wrapped around his finger.
 You already taught me how to drive the truck. 

Cut back to Charles.
Well, what are you reading?
Cut back to Frankie, camera still on his ERL.
 Flash Gordon.

Cut to CU Charles, still at left of frame as he sighs.  

Cut to CU Frontal of Frankie (his ERL).
Come on, Dad. It's about the future!

Back to dad, he scoffs. He has lost this battle too. 

Cut to Ext. shot of the car being loaded and the trunk closing.  
 Charles and his wife are going back to San Francisco and leaving Frankie to stay at their house.
 Charles tells Sam how long they will be gone.
 Meanwhile, Frankie lies on his bed, reading, as he can hear his dad speaking outside.
 Frankie gets up and looks out the window.

Cut to Frankie's POV as he looks out the window. He watches as his parents get in the car.
Cut to a really interesting double framed composition of Frankie basically from Charles' POV.
Cut back to Frankie's POV as his dad waves and drives off.
Frankie watches the car go.
The music builds and starts a montage of insert shots. We see Frankie's feet stand precariously on a box.
Hands reach from out of shot and lift a tackle box.
In another insert, we see a hand gingerly grab a fishing reel.
A hand places a sandwich in the tackle box.
The box gets pushed on the seat of a car...or truck...
Another insert shows the key turning in the ignition.
A truck engine bangs to life, sending a flock of birds into the air...uh oh, Frankie is going to tack the truck out and go fishing. The birds cawing are bad sign.
More inserts reveal the difficulty Frankie is having putting the truck in gear.
A long shot reveals the truck careening up the hill. Frankie hasn't yet mastered driving the truck.
Cut to Frankie barely able to see over the steering wheel.
The truck continues unsteadily up the hill.
Frankie looks forward to being able to go fishing alone. The size of the wheel emphasizing the danger of the situation.
Long shot, the truck continues upward but another, larger truck is headed down.
Up shot on Frankie, he has to take his off the road to shift gears.
The truck continues up the hill...
The other, down...
RING RING! Cut to a phone.
Cut to a great shot of Charles answering the phone as seen through the windows of a car.
Hello, What?
What makes the shot great is the staging; the very thing that made Charles' fortune is the same thing that brought his son's demise. 
 Cut to more inserts which show the aftermath of the accident.
Popcorn floats in the cabin of teh truck as it sits on its side.
The wheel spins awkwardly framing a smashed windshield and broken head light.
Cut to Charles speeding home in his car.
He runs to the house...
And is seen in this insert crying, holding the limp body of his son. The sound gets pulled out here and the white object and blurred plant leaf suggest a barrier between the action and the audience.  This is now a private moment of grief.
Cut to long shot of a beautifully composed image of the funeral.  The sound is pulled almost completely, this is a very sad and private moment for the Howard family.

A little later in this scene, we see the Howard's car being loaded very much the same as what we saw earlier when Frankie watched his parents leave.
Only now, Annie, Charles' grieving wife is being driven alone away from the Howard estate.
We see Charles look through Frankie's window in a throw back to Frankie watching from his room.
The same window frames Charles as he watches Annie leave.
She drives off...
...leaving Charles alone.

You can watch the scene here, it's pretty amazing! Inserts can be your friend!  Thanks for stopping by.