Sunday, December 02, 2012

A rather involved birthday present

My mom turned 60 this year and I spent the better part of 2 months on a gift for her that I'd had in mind for a while.  A long time ago she wrote a children's story and I've wanted to illustrate it.  So what better incentive to get off my lazy butt and draw?  Of course, my timing could have been better... crunch at Sony is wearing me down.  But it was nice to come home, even late at night, and do something different.  Here's the first page I took through layout into color:

Mom's always been fond of Little Golden books, and has quite a large collection of them.  I went with a simple design and soft pastel palette, similar to many of the stories from the 1950s.  Also managed to track down the font they used to use!  I'm no good with watercolors though, which was a typical medium back then.  I used a rather odd combination of media to get this book done - Maya for image composition, traditional pencil/paper for cleanup and character design, Photoshop for page layout, and Artrage to simulate pencil/pastel in the final color pass.

Why not just use actual colored pencils/pastels, you may ask?  I do enjoy coloring with real art supplies, but I have a few reasons for going digital: for one thing, I have several sets of supplies and still can't find any pencils or sticks with a decent flesh tone.  What's up with that?  Rather than spending a lot of money at Utrecht trying to find all the hues that I need, I can draw in the computer and get whatever darn color I want.  I'm also rather fond of layers and the undo button, and as I'm on a tight production schedule, I don't have time to make mistakes on paper that necessitate starting over.  As an extra plus, I'm saving trees!

ArtRage is a bit tricky to get the hang of, but once you get used to it, it's rather fun.  The brushes react whatever canvas you've chosen, and the color blending works pretty well.  It's really all about finding the right brush settings for your particular art style.  I didn't like the default oil paint tool and was tempted to dismiss it all together, but the right brush helped me really enjoy painting the cover for the book.  I definitely want to paint more in the future.

Mom loved the present, which is exactly what I hoped for!  But what I hadn't expected was the interest from other people at the birthday party as well.  She and I are now wondering whether it's worth trying to self-publish through something like or Amazon.  We'll see...

Saturday, December 01, 2012

How important is the face?

I just saw this interesting article on NPR about human facial expressions and how they can be misleading if taken out of context of the body pose:

Check out this picture from the article:

Can you tell who is happy and who is upset?

As an animator I spend a lot of time tweaking a character's facial rig controls into something resembling the emotion I want to portray, but I wonder, just how important is it, compared to getting the body motion working?  It may seem a little backwards, since I've been told that people look at the eyes and face of a person more than everything else.  There have even been studies done that track where an audience is looking during any particular shot of a movie:

Lots of focus on the face, though obviously in this scene there isn't a whole lot of action going on.  I'd be curious to find another example with a lot of full body motion happening.

Still, I suppose the main point is, getting a strong pose may be MORE important than getting the facial expression working.  The audience may not be directly focusing on the curve of the spine or the position of the legs and arms, but they "feel" the pose subconsciously and know when something is off, even if they can't quite put their finger on it.

Of course, that's not to say that the face is not important at all.  It all works together.  But just think of some examples of characters where the face is very simplified or missing all together, and you can still make out their emotions: WALL-E, Luxo Jr., Aladdin's magic carpet, Jack Skellington (no pupils), Gromit (no mouth).