Yesterday I saw this slideshow of the evolution of Kanye West's style. It's a bit crazy that celebrities have their outfits tracked and put into public slide shows for the world to see. It's also fascinating to be able to click through images and get a sense of a person's style evolution. One of my favourite blogs is The Cut by New York Magazine. A favourite "celebrity" of this blog is Kate Middleton and she's got her very own slideshow there as well. On the front page there are links to the most popular or trending slideshows and you can access them all if you hit "more look books".

Personal style is personal expression. Sometimes we want to dress down, sometimes we want to dress up. We may have a current favourite colour or fabric or pattern. Maybe we follow trends or reject them. There's a reason behind our choices. A film maker or character designer would do well to remember that the personal style of a person reflects how they feel at a given moment and that personal style evolves, just as does the person wearing it.

AuthorAndrea K Haid
Monster's University is a good movie! It was mild in terms of new content or bold character or story choices but it was extremely well done and quite entertaining. It was extremely family friendly. Everything in the film was well developed and beautifully executed. Very worth a watch.

Here's the sign from my press section seat :D
I ended up getting free tickets to see this movie. I noticed an ad in a newspaper that asked me to text my postal code so that I could get 2 advance tickets. The line up at the theater was long. When I was only 5 people away from getting in there was a bit of a wait and I thought we would be told that all the seats were filled. But instead we were told that the rest of us in line would be getting the better seats in the press section! We had to make sure our phones were shut off while everyone else in the theater had to surrender their phones for the duration of the film. This time being fashionably late paid of.
A view of the MU campus
Interestingly, I felt as if the film was a metaphor for working in the animation industry. Though I suppose it could just represent any industry. Here's a list of ways in which I felt that the film could be a metaphor for educating oneself and entering an industry (such as animation):

1) picking a great school and being excited about learning and meeting like minded peers
2) hard work is very valuable
3) riding on your "talent" or your name is not a way to succeed
4) people are valued for their own particular unique strengths
5) being creative
6) being responsible and professional
7) it's important to recognise the value in older employees at a company that perhaps don't have the same speed as in their younger days but still have great technique/value/experience
8) one may enter an industry via an unconventional way
9) one does not HAVE to graduate from university or college; educating oneself and having dedication and being hard working are more important than a piece of paper that says you graduated. (However completing higher education is valuable and often necessary depending on your industry and the path you take)
10) starting small in an industry and working your way up is a great way to learn

Before the film started the audience was treated to a new Pixar short; The Blue Umbrella.
When this short started my eyes were glued to the screen. The realistic but charming world was "filmed" in a way quite unique to animated shorts. The short felt very artistic and looked as if it was expertly shot with a camera. There were several shots of elements in the environment and of "smiling" objects on a city street on a dark rainy night. It was stunning actually. The story ends up being about a blue umbrella that notices a red umbrella and a love story follows. The music was really sweet too. Unfortunately the plot of this short was exactly the same as the last Pixar short; Paperman. That is; boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again. Why must the boy always be the pursuer, the action taker, the plan maker? It's true that society expects women to be the pursued, but it is a tired and outdated stereotype that men and women all want this to be the norm. The red "girl" umbrella (you can tell she's a girl since she's got eyelashes, which is another animation trope) is passive. Of couse it's ok to have a story like this, it's perfectly lovely and wonderful, it's not an unrealistic story possibility either and it is charming, but I'm a little disappointed that the same boy meets girl formula (which was just used in Paperman) is used again here and there are no real surprises.

Saschka Unseld was the director of this short and truly, it was beautiful and extraordinarily charming. When I saw the environmental elements smiling on a rainy day I thought of those old 1952 Disney shorts storyboarded by Bill Peet; The Little House and Susie the Little Blue Coupe. Unseld says that he got the idea for this short one rainy day when he was walking in San Francisco and saw an abandoned umbrella lying in the gutter. “It was the saddest thing,” he said. “I stood there and wondered what had happened to him. I think that was when I got the idea of giving him a story.”

And the animation itself is striking. The two umbrella characters have very simple facial features but they are expertly animated to convey expressions and micro expressions. You can tell just what the characters are thinking and feeling. I got goosebumps when the blue umbrella notices the red umbrella for the first time. He lets himself watch her a bit, while she enjoys the sensation of the rain falling. At least at first he somewhat tries to conceal his interest. Then he's a little embarassed when she notices him looking.

I did in fact really enjoy this short.

I've been pretty busy recently working on the new adult dragon animation for the game I work on. I put together a pencil test and I've cleaned up the key drawings and finalised the timing based on that. Unfortunaly I cannot share this work in progress until the art is live in the game. But I've been taking notes as I go and I plan to put up a big blog post about my process! So for now, I'll keep working away and when my work is done I'll have a boatload of stuff to share.

Here's how the corner of my desk currently looks:
I'm using a combination of physical and digital media. You can see that there is paper, pencils and a pegbar, but also a scanner and my cintiq.
AuthorAndrea K Haid
This past week I saw Epic; the new animated offering from Blue Sky Studios. I think it's a great idea to support animation (and all film) studios by seeing and discussing their work. I personally want to know who is making the films I watch and what inspired the artists who made them.
I can tell that the crew that worked on Epic feels that the film really lives up to it's name. When I watched Epid it felt like a passion project that was in the works for a long time. After doing some research I learned that was pretty much the case. Chris Wedge and Bill Joyce, the two Oscar-winning directors, were originally inspired to make what became Epic for 15 years before it was completed. It underwent numerous iterations over those 15 years. Chris Wedge is a director, producer, a voice actor, a classically trained animator with extensive experience in stop-motion animation as well as a Masters degree in computer graphics from Ohio State University. He has been with Blue Sky since it's inception in 1986. Wedge directed Bunny, a short film that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1998. I remember being shown that film for the first time by my animation professor when I was still a student attending Sheridan College. Bill Joyce is an author, illustrator, and film maker. Joyce won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film with Brandon Oldenburg for The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, (A gorgeous short film, watch it!!)
The original inspiration for the film was Victorian Fairy Paintings, seen at The Frick Collection in New York in 1998. Victorian Fairy paintings were critically and commercially popular during the nineteenth century. The Frick Collection website says that "Fairy painting brought together many opposing elements in the collective psyche and artistic sensibility of the time; rich subject matter, an escape from the grim elements of an industrial society, an indulgence of new attitudes towards sex, a passion for the unknown, and a denial of the exactitude of photography.

Here are some examples of Victorian Paintings:

Artist: Richard Dadd
Painting: The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke - 1855-64 - A very complex image. The "feller" is about to hew a hazelnut to provide the queen of the fairies, Mab, with a new chariot.
Artist: Richard Dadd
Detail of The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke - Onlookers and the as of yet uncracked nut
Artist: Richard Dadd
Detail of The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke - Queen of the fairies Mab with her rival monarchs Oberon and Titania
Artist: John Anster Fitzgerald
Painting: Fairy Hordes Attacking A Bat

Artist: John Anster Fitzgerald
Painting: The Realms of Fairydom

Sir Joseph Noël Paton
Sir Joseph Noël Paton

The inspiration material is lush and fascinating. The final product; Epic, is beautiful and a breath of fresh air. The characters were well-realised and the world was a wonderful place to inhibit.

I thought that the characters in Epic were well developed and I enjoyed watching the relationships they had with each other change and grow. Two of the main characters, Mary Katherine (MK) and Nod are yound adults and they act like it. Mary Katherine goes by "MK" now since her full name is too young and dorky for her. I liked watching the affection between them grow as well as the strengthening relationship between MK and her eccentric dad, Professor Bomba. I really enjoyed that at the end of the film the connection between the tiny world and the big world of "stompers" was not lost; MK gets to keep chatting with her new friends. It felt a little bit bittersweet as the full size version of MK and Nod can never "be together" and the small forest characters and the big stompers will have a screen or a magnifying glass between them. But all the same it was a unique twist and a lovely ending.

There were a few interesting morals and theories revealed by Epic and I didn't feel that any of these were pressed upon the viewer too much. The two big ones are that "just because you haven't seen something, doesn't mean it's not there", and the philosophy of "many leaves, one tree".

I highly enjoyed the fantastical and natural world of plants, little creatures and animals. The hummingbirds were loyal and friendly aids to the leaf men. The sight of the little forest people riding around on hummingbirds is pretty awesome. And there was a whole cast of fastastical flower and plant people that were super charming.

I wasn't personally a fan of the voice acting my Beyonce. She has a gorgeous voice, but her acting and dialogue seemed stilted and I just wasn't crazy about her character. She didn't seem particularly "queenly" or royal to me. The romance between her and Ronin was peculiar, obvious and unexplained. I couldn't help but feel like I was being sold a Beyonce product. The song by Nim Galuu, voiced by Steven Tyler was also an oddity. The song sounded good, but the fact that the film was lead to a point where a Wizard of Oz-like showman who didn't add a heck of a lot to the plot or pacing of the film was given the opportunity to break into song was a cheesey animated film trope.

One of the things I did find strange about Epic was the idea that renewal and growth is "good" and decay and rot is "evil", seemingly just because. Truly, forests need rot and decay. It's simply a part of the natural life cycle. In a forest, rot isn't a sign of a healthy tree. But trees eventually die and rotting and decay is simply part of the life cycle of a tree. Ususally a number of factors will end the life of tree. Any combination of injury, drought stress, followed by diesease, rot, root dieback, perhaps a lightening strike, and insect infestation is potentially a cause for the death of a tree when it will then become a snag. A snag is a standing dead tree. Over time the tree will decompose making way for new growth. As the snag slowly breaks down it will provide habitate, cover and food for wildlife and in turn, animals, insects and fungi help break down a tree. As this process occurs, the snag will return nutrients to the soil providing health for new trees. So decay is necessary.

At the end of the film the pod that is chosen by Queen Tara is brought to Moonhaven where it has been decreed that it must sprout and under the full moon so that a new heir to the forest may be chosen/revealed. The villain Mandrake however wants the pod to bloom in darkness so that it will bloom as an evil rotting creature so that no more growth can occur in the forest. I think a clever potential ending to the film would have been for the pod to blood in semi-darkness and result in an heir that represents growth and decay. That would represent balance for the forest.
Cartoonbrew wrote of Epic after it hit theaters and titled it's post "Epic" Box Office Plumments in U.S., Slow Abroad". The tone of and very title of that article were inherently negative, indicating that the box office profits are a clear indication of success or failure. The article has nothing to say of the good points of the film nor the artists who worked on it. It jumps right on it's monetary shortcomings and compares it to the returns of previous Blue Sky films as well as other recent animated films and their week two drop rates. I think that actually seeing the movie is a good first step if you want to talk about the film. Studios and their artists need the support of movie going audiences - and not just to get your money, but so that a discussion can be had.

For the record, Cartoonbrew did have a talkback post for Epic. However that post was not particularly positive either.

I can't wait to see what Blue Sky comes up with in the future. There are obviously a lot of passionate artists working there who have a love for the medium of animation and story. Rio is my favorite Blue Sky film to date and I'm actually excited about a sequel to that when often I'm just flat out not into sequels. Nigel was a huge standout and I would love to see more of the fantastic characters from Rio as well as in future stories by Blue Sky.

A few links:

Richard Dadd's Master Stroke - a fascinating read about a wonderful artist who fell mentally while touring the Mediterranean in the early 1840's

Checking out Blue Sky's New Connecticut Studio

Chris Wedge and Bill Joyce talk Epic - a fun and chatty interview of the two directors

Book Review: The Art of Epic
This has been a busy week for me and getting a blog post finished up for today is a task I started but wasn't able to finish on time. I saw Epic this week and started writing a review of that but I don't want to just rush-finish it and shove that on my blog. I'll finish that up this weekend and get it online soon. In the meantime go see Epic by Bluesky!

AuthorAndrea K Haid
I realised that I haven't shared any of the animation that I've done for Dragons of Atlantis online. I was working on my demo reel a little while ago but for reasons it didn't get finished. I would still like to finish updating it and get that online soonish though. For today, please put your eyeballs on the animation I did of the Cloud Baby Dragon!
Cloud Baby Dragon Idle Animation from Andrea K Haid on Vimeo.

I've embedded the animation here but if you want to see a version where his head doesn't get cut off by the left frame, please click here to see it on Vimeo.

I'm already getting antsy to get back to work on my film after being away for just a week! It's like a Siren, calling me. I've watched a few movies since my painting milestone and I made a fitness schedule for myself that in theory would be easy to keep up with. Part of that schedule has me getting to the gym after work and before dinner but since I decided to do that I've ended up socialising or being too busy every evening. Argh! I would much prefer to work out in the morning but, pretty much due to my hair, that means I'm late for work every day. My hair is long and it takes forever to wash, brush and dry it. Dammit. Cut it you say? I don't think so. So I dunno. I really want to exercise more but I have a hell of a time fitting fitness into my daily schedule. Maybe I'll just try exercise in the morning again.

I have made a little bit of time for learning Maya on my own in the last week! I don't think it's going to be a stretch for me to get comfortable animating in Maya. I feel like it's completely within my reach. It would be cool to get better at modeling and just have a general understanding of more Maya tools, though animating is always going to be my specialty and passion. I'll keep at it and put up some tutorials that I complete sometime.
So here's my written post for the week! I binge painted all long weekend; Monday being Memorial Day. My written post didn't come together in time but I happened to have oodles of art done so the visual and written post got switched this week. Here I am at a cafe with my laptop:
Each Sunday morning I go to a cafe with my laptop and work on a blog post for Tuesday. I spend about 2 hours answering emails and writing up at least a rough draft of a blog post. Basically I do something on my computer until the battery dies. It's become quite the ritual for me. I have come to find a lot of satisfaction and contentment in blogging.

Some of the benefits I experience and reasons that I blog:

-I have a regular schedule/ritual which gives me some stability and comfort
-I document the making of my short film
-I share my progress and life going-ons with friends and family around the world
-I retain new information that I research and I am able to look back to posts if something learned slips my mind; tags and linking are especially helpful for this purpose
-Blogging encourages me to keep up with news and watch movies/learn about artists or at the very least jot down thoughts on daily goings ons and be analytic about information that is "coming in"
-It brings awareness to my short film
-I offer something to fellow animators/artists via tutorials and researched posts about applicable subjects - if a non artist type person dares to skim over these posts and read the personal bits they can still get a sense of things that I'm learning and doing and how it makes me feel

My laptop sticker collection reflects the adventures I've been having in San Francisco. There's room for a few more stickers yet.
Since I commited myself a couple of months ago to doing one written and one visual post a week, it really encourages (forces?) me to learn and work on my film and reflect on things in my life. I've been doing a bunch of Toonboom tutorial posts recently since I thought they would be something helpful to offer to fellow animators also getting into the animation software. I keep realising that there is so much more about it to learn!

I have written before that I believe I "bit off more than I can chew" here with this project. I am sometimes frustrated because I want to improve as an animator, a film maker and a storyteller. One great way to do that, as Ira Glass says; "the most important possible thing you can do, is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you're gonna finish one story." Now, maybe a story or animation every week or month is a bit much. Ira is talking about writing and story crafting, he himself is a public radio personality. But the idea of producing a great volume of work so that you can look back on it and improve over time is a really good one. So while I'm happy with the project I took on, I just wish it didn't take SO long to complete. Check out these videos of Ira Glass discussing storytelling. That link there will take you to the first video of four.

I spoke recently with someone about how it can feel frustrating to have this project (my short film) on the go that is taking so long to complete. They suggested that maybe I should just "wrap it up". What does that mean? I instantly went on the defensive to say that I'm happy with the film and it's what I want to do. How on earth could I just wrap it up? I instantly visualized a version of my film with rushed paintings for backgrounds and still frames of character poses instead of any animation. It was a piece of advice that perhaps came from a well-meaning place. But I can't imagine just quickly finishing this film and being ok with that. Often it seems that people naturally seem inclined to suggest solutions to problems that aren't necessarily even problems, or issues that I wasn't actually seeking advice on. Sometimes that is helpful. For the most part, when I tell people that I've been working on my film in my spare time the usual reaction I get is; "oh it's good to hear that you're still working away on that", which is great. I actually love to hear about other people personal projects and going-ons as I find that sort of thing highly inspiring. It's exciting to be able to direct your own project and get it just the way you like it! Do you have any personal projects or goals on the go? What are they?

This past weekend I reached a milestone on my background paintings. I've got all the backgrounds that serve as backdrops for character animation done or nearly done. A handful of shots I'm going to leave for now and finalise the lighting when the animation is done. That way the action will get framed just right and I won't have to paint it twice. I would like to shift gears a little bit at this point now that I've accomplished so much on the backgrounds. I will probably relax my dedication to Pickled for a couple of months and in that time try to get to the gym, life draw, play my ukelele and learn more about animating in Maya. I actually picked up my ukulele this week for the first time in about a year and a half! I just didn't want to look at a computer screen anymore.
AuthorAndrea K Haid
Normally Tuesday is my weekly written post but I'm going to change things up this week! The long weekend let me get a good bit of painting and not much writing done. I binge painted pretty much. Yesterday I touched up the cathedral. It's been bugging me for ages that the light in the wedding scene is yellow but there is nothing to make the light yellow. I had figured ages ago that to fix this I'd make the natural light more white and was just putting it off until I had the time. Yesterday I opened up the background in question and couldn't bring myself to nix the yellow light which I really want to have in there and which is so appropriate. So I just added stain glass windows with yellow panels over the windows! Here are some crops of the cathedral background:

I've let shots 26, 27 and 29 go for now. Those are the ones I've been working on recently. I was starting to just get obsessive about detailing and texturing them and when it came to putting down the light and shadow layers I decided to just hold off. I can do the animation first and then make sure that the lighting frames the action as needed after animation is roughed in.

I threw down some texture on shots 31 and 32. I haven't touched those backgrounds in a looong time. The lighting on these is a rough suggestion, I'll jazz that up with some nice brushes when the animation is working.

So I had my paintbrush on 5 paintings this weekend! Not that any of them were started fresh this weekend, and only one of those is final. But the 4 incompletes are close to being done and I'm going to finish them up when animation is done. I feel accomplished!
Hey, so this week I actually found some time to dig in on painting backgrounds! I went a bit further with background 26 and then laid down some basic colour on 27 and 29. It's exciting to make progress!
Next I'll take 27 and 29 into Corel painter for a base texture layer. I love Corel's brushes. I think I'm going to bring each of these to completion in stages at the same time. That should help me stay consistent with style, colour and brushes.
I've been painting a lot in my spare time recently, (not that I have a lot of spare time). Today I actually stayed at the office until 8:30 pm to help ensure I hit my Friday deadline. A few other artists stuck around too and it was cool. When there are a handful of people who stay beyond dinner and the sunset at the office to crunch on a deadline, I feel this kind of glamour... I love the idea of working hard to make a deadline on a project that you care about with other people. It gets sad to stay behind at the office and be the only one there in the cold and in the dark. Anyway. I feel so desperate to finish up these background paintings! I've been painting here and there in scraps of spare time since... April 2011 ish! So just over 2 years. Even though I say to myself that I have 5 paintings left to finish up, there are actually even more. The title card, a bunch of food prop paintings and then the credits. I'll work on the 5 scene shots first.

In honor of feeling like I'm stuck painting forever, here are two rejected concepts. One is a background I sketched up and colour concepted but then deleted entirely from the film, the other is a colour concept for the kitchen that I decided not to use.

AuthorAndrea K Haid