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Showing posts from November, 2007
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These are a few of many "color keys" I did for Shrek the Halls. Their purpose is to establish the mood and lighting of each location in the show.
Copyright Dreamworks animation SKG.
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FELIKS TOPOLSKI

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Feliks Topolski (1907-1989) traveled the world, illustrating the great places and events of his day.

Born in Poland, Topolski set out for adventure at an early age. He made his way to Britain, the US, the Middle East, Canada, Ireland, France, India, Australia, Italy, Argentina, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Brazil and Portugal. Wherever he went, he kept a visual diary of the things he witnessed. His drawings of exotic street bazaars, ancient temples and crowded cities were collected in highly popular books.







During World War II, Topolski became famous as one of the great war illustrators, working on the front lines in Russia, China, Burma, India, Palestine, Africa, Egypt, Syria and Italy. He was in London to record the Battle of Britain, and in Germany to record the collapse of the Nazi regime. He witnessed first hand the freeing of the concentration camps. Here is a wonderful detail of looters making off with plunder in the streets of Bergen:

Here is an excellent drawing of Jord…

WORDS AND PICTURES

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When words and pictures are combined to tell a story, one medium or the other usually ends up doing most of the heavy lifting.

Personally, I prefer art where the picture plays the central role but I acknowledge that the People In Charge of Handing Out Awards These Days seem to have the opposite view. The most honored graphic novels often combine powerful words with weak drawing.

Take for example Alison Bechdel's touching book Fun Home, Time Magazine's No. 1 Book of the Year and a National Book Critic Circle Award finalist:



Bechdel can write about an "abject and shameful mien" but she sure can't draw one. You'd never guess from these facial expressions that you are looking at a sobered person confronting a shamed person. Furthermore, her commonplace composition doesn't contribute much design or style. So perhaps we are entitled to ask: do Bechdel's drawings really enhance her words, or are they just a place holder enabling the reader to fill in the gap wi…
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Happy Thanksgiving from me and the "Shrek the Halls" crew. Shrek the Halls is a half hour TV special about Shrek's first Christmas with his family. It's an absolute gem and I think people will watch it with their kids year after year just like the Grinch or Charlie Brown's Christmas. It will be on the abc network on Nov. 28 and again on Dec. 11. Check your listings for local times. We developed the show here in Glendale and I followed it through production at our Bay area campus in Redwood city.
Here's an image of Shrek out chopping wood as the seasons change and head toward the Holidays. It's painted in photoshop. The image is copyrighted by DreamWorks animation SKG.

MASTERS OF DESIGN

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I have irritated some readers by criticizing popular illustrators such as Bama, Boris, Rowena or Vargas. These artists have good technical skills; they can paint realistically but they lack something far more important: a good design sense.

"What exactly is this design element you keep yapping about, and how can you claim to know which pictures have it and which don't?"

Like most glorious things, design eludes definition. It can be found in an infinite number of forms. But for those who want to observe it in action, I know of no more lucid distillation than in Japanese woodblock prints.



Look at the marvelous arrangement of shapes and patterns in the picture above, the artful negative space-- this is what I mean when I talk about design.







The great Japanese woodblock artists understood what Peter Behrens called "the fundamental principles of all form creating work."






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.Mark, demonstration with charcoal.

A note about the process here. I show these elaborate line drawings that end up getting completely covered over by the tonal work. This is done intentionally as an exercise for students. Invariably, beginners carefully render parts of the anatomy but are far less careful about relating those parts to each other. (You've seen those drawings that look like a bumpy sack of walnuts.) In class we start with careful construction drawings that force students to properly fit each part of the anatomy into the whole head. Having done plenty of the bumpy, poorly constructed heads myself, I forced myself to use this method and got much improved results. That being said, for my current tonal drawings I do the line drawing quickly and lightly. Not nearly as refined as you see here but with the idea in mind. I hope these drawings make clear how the construction lines can help wrap the light and shadow around the whole head for a solid three dimensional ef…

APPLES, ORANGES AND ELEPHANTS

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We've all been taught that you can't compare apples and oranges. They are as different as... well, a Rembrandt drawing and a Disney cartoon.

Some of those differences may be significant, but many of them are simply propaganda from press agents, museum curators and bankers. Let's investigate.

Here is a herd of wonderful elephants:


Heinrich Kley's elephants courting


Rembrandt


Disney studio's "Pink Elephants on Parade"


Jack Davis, GOP elephant


Jack Davis, study for Time Magazine

You will never see these elephants hanging out together in the same neighborhood; some reside in museums, while others reside in corporate filing cabinets. They were produced by very different hands, centuries apart. They were designed for different purposes and cost vastly different amounts. Yet, these are only questions of pedigree and should not distract the true art lover. As you compare these pictures, you will find we can still judge their most important elements on a level playing fie…
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I've just started teaching my head drawing class so here's a new charcoal drawing for this week. I'll also be posting a few demos in upcoming weeks among other things.
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ART, FLOWERS AND DINOSAURS

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The famous scientist and naturalist Loren Eiseley explained how flowers made human beings possible.

100 million years ago, wrote Eiseley, there was no such thing as a flower. The world was covered with monotonous green vegetation. The inhabitants of that long ago world were mostly cold-blooded creatures with low metabolic rates and small brains driven only by the instinct for the hunt. Their metabolisms made them slaves to weather and limited their lives--they mostly slept through winter, immobilized.

In this reptilian world, our ancestor was an unpromising little mammal who cowered at the losing end of the food chain. According to Eiseley, "man was still, like the genie in the bottle, encased in the body of a creature about the size of a rat."

Then during the cretaceous period, flowering plants (angiosperms with encased seeds) exploded into the world to rescue us. The age of flowers brought us seeds, fruits and nectars-- a totally new store of energy in concentrated form. This…

THE LOW NOTE IN THE HARMONY

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In my youth, I was easily impressed by fine, detailed linework.



Fine lines are a great way for artists to show off. They also feel cool to draw. Artists such as Norman Lindsay (above) and Frank Frazetta (below) sometimes got so carried away drawing fine lines that they could no longer hear the muse urging, "turn back!"



As I matured, I noticed that the better artists exercised greater restraint and often employed heavier, bolder lines for emphasis. These stronger lines are like adding a lower note to the harmony.


Below, the great Alex Raymond draws an entire figure using a fine line, but comes back with a separate tool to make one bold stripe for that pants leg:



Here he does the same thing to accentuate a shoulder fold:



And here he uses that bold line to chisel the most wonderfully sculpted pair of overalls I've ever seen:



Once in a while there are very special artists who go even further. Working exclusively with a thick line they somehow manage to create sensitive drawings…