Grad School Update #1

Buh! I had hoped to be updating on a much regular basis, but things have been remarkably busy during the first week and a half of the three week break from teaching. Grad school is in full swing, and because it’s a summer semester, I am doing 15 weeks of classes in 7 weeks. And I’m taking two courses, so that’s four weeks of course work every week.

I’m taking two courses: Clothed Figure, and History and Techniques of Character Animation. The other students don’t know it, but the teacher in the History course is actually an old colleague of mine from when I lived and worked out in LA. Kathleen Quaife, is an FX Animator extraordinaire and did some really great fire and water effects for Slacker Cats and did a bunch of custom lightning, explosion, and light effects for the Johnny Lightning pilot I co-directed. She’s also an encyclopedia of animation history knowledge, she’s really teaching the hell out of the course.

Though I have taken a course like this in the past (and taught some as well), I am learning things in this course that I never knew before, and the online discussions have been very enlightening. I’m beginning to realize that I’m different from a lot of other animators / students in that I’m no longer (and possibly never was) infatuated with the technical history of animation. I think multiplane cameras and rotoscoping and the invention of cels and all that is perfectly legitimate academic interest, but I’m way more interested in the nuances of the people involved. Their cultures and how their personalities shaped the artform. I’m just not a techie.

Animators I’ve learned about that I did not know enough about to begin with: Otto Messmer, John R. Bray.

So far I’m ace’in the course as well.

The drawing course is pretty difficult. For starters: We’re using charcoal exclusively, and soft vine charcoal at that. We’re also using the direct draw method, which means we aren’t doing any underdrawing, or gestural strokes to carve into the pose, instead we pick a spot and start, and then use the details we create to relatively build out the rest of the subject. To top it off, we’re also only allowed to draw overhand, which means you don’t hold the charcoal like a pencil. I’m sure for fine artists this is all old hat, but it’s nothing I’ve done for an extended period of time, so I’m definitely out of my comfort zone.

Also, and this probably shows my level of naivety, but I assumed we would be working from video or photographic reference since the course was online. Instead I’ve had to get my own models for every assignment. So far I’ve enlisted my wife, and my friends Jason and Chris. You’ll see some pics from two sessions with Chris below.

Most of the rougher drawings are 1 – 5 minutes (those I enjoy), the rest are 10 or 20, and the last one is about an hour and half (my latest and best one for this course).

Assignment 1 Rough GesturesFive minute Direct DrawAssignment 1 20 Minute Direct DrawAssignment 1 20 Minute Direct Draw

Assignment 1 20 Minute Direct DrawAssignment 2 5 Minute Direct Draw Stretch and CompressionAssignment 2 5 Minute Direct Draw Stretch and CompressionAssignment 2 5 Minute Direct Draw Stretch and CompressionAssignment 2 5 Minute Direct Draw Stretch and CompressionAssignment 2 5 Minute Direct Draw Stretch and CompressionAssignment 2 5 Minute Direct Draw Stretch and CompressionAssignment 3 Flour Sack Overlapping Elements Stretch Compression and Line workAssignment 3 Photo ReferenceAssignment 3 Overlapping Curves, Stretch and Compression, Line WorkAssignment 4 Photo Reference







































Assignment 4 Diagonals, Relationships, WeightAssignment 4 Mark Up



We often have to mark the drawings up in photoshop to illustrate something we’re learning in the text, so that’s why there are colored lines on some of this. The biggest benefit so far, and it’s taken me four weeks worth of assignments to embrace this, is that it is forcing me to be even more observant and decisive in my lines. I’m not sure if I’ll ever master the overhand and direct draw method, but it sure does train you to look and think before drawing. Look twice draw once on steroids.

I’ve gotten B’s on these so far. But the bottom two sets haven’t been graded yet. (The ones from the flour sacks down).

In addition I’ve been filling any and all additional time doing some Flash Animation for Sesame Street with my new friends (and some old ones) over at Magnetic Dreams. Perhaps sometime soon (though probably not) I can show you a bit of that.

© Copyright John Hill, All rights Reserved. Written For: Awesometania
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