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Showing posts from May, 2010

Shrek Forever After: mood roughs

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Black prismacolor in a moleskine.










At the very beginning of Shrek Forever After I had the opportunity to do lots of mood roughs for some spooky new locations. I was the only artist on the show and was experimenting so I had the leeway to do these in acrylic (the last acrylic painting I had done for animation was in 2000). Some of the roughs led to finished photoshop paintings (which I'll show in a later post) and you can see their influence in the ogre camp location in the finished cut of the show.

ELBOW ROOM

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There are artists who make great big pictures of great big subjects:


Albert Bierstadt's "A Storm in the Rocky Mountains" is 12 feet wide.

And there are artists who make tiny little pictures of tiny little subjects:


A page from a gothic illuminated manuscript (circa 1494) at Peacay's superb Bibliodyssey blog.

But it takes a special talent to make tiny little pictures of great big subjects.

Observe how some of the masters of the graphic arts-- Mort Drucker, Leonard Starr and Noel Sickles-- squeeze a feeling of great space and weight into pictures that are not much larger than a postage stamp.


Here you see the difference between digital compression by a computer and artistic compression by a true draftsman. Mort Drucker had a mere 3 inches to convey a school bus crossing a yawning chasm. His radical foreshortening of the bus and his condensed treatment of the bridge preserve our sense of perilous height despite the miniature scale.



Look at the wonderful clarity in this small d…

Shrek Forever After

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Our final chapter in the Shrek series comes out this Friday. I did some early work on the show, tackling emotional color beats and sketches for new locations. I'll post some of those in upcoming weeks. This scene is a version of Shrek's house grown over and abandoned. We ended up going with something more barren but this swampy scene was a great subject to paint. (photoshop)

CHAINED TO THE GOAT-GOD OF ART

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They invented perfect beauty, those ancient Greeks.

Of course people made beautiful things before the Greeks, but it was the Greeks who dreamed there could be a perfect version of beauty out there waiting to be attained.

Aristotle made the first serious attempt at defining "perfection" but even before him Pythagoras and other pre-Socratics speculated about an ideal beauty. They pursued it with the language of mathematics, asserting that objects look better when proportioned in accordance with the "golden ratio." They believed objects would appear more "complete" and "perfect" if they were symmetrical, with clean shapes in harmony with classical archetypes.



They hoped these principles would lead them to perfect beauty. Unfortunately, they didn't get very far before the goat-god yanked them back.

The Greeks were so confident that their culture was superior, imagine their surprise when the good citizens of Athens began to lose interest in high cul…
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How to Train Your Dragon: location design for the Cove.
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A FEW THOUGHTS ON AN EMPTY STUDIO

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When the great illustrator Howard Pyle died in 1911, his heartbroken disciples gathered in his studio. Pyle had been a phenomenal creative force, the illustrator of over 125 books (24 of which he had written himself) and hundreds of stories in the most popular magazines of his day. Vivid images of pirates, knights, soldiers and lovers flowed from his boundless imagination.

Pyle's students struggled for some way to prolong their master's presence. One student, Ethel Leach, painted Pyle's studio exactly as he left it, with his last painting unfinished on his easel.



Another student, Frank Schoonover, took that final painting and attempted to put some finishing touches on it.



Other students went on to imitate Pyle's techniques or use the same paints. But his magic was gone, and nothing they did could prolong it. Pyle had tried his best to pass along his artistic secrets to his students, but no one really knew where his gift came from. No one could say whether it resided in hi…

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 31

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Watch the design skills of the legendary Alex Toth in action.



Here, Toth had to squeeze a complex, vertical scene (an unscrupulous dealer in antiquities negotiating with a smuggler) into a tiny, horizontal space. He had to juggle an excess of dialogue. He needed to convey details about the nature of the character (so a drawing of small figures in a room would not do).

Many people think the artificial constraints of the comics medium-- size limits, word balloons, panel borders-- deprive artists of the freedom necessary for a legitimate art form.

But in any art medium, freedom (in the words of Sartre) is merely "what you do with what's been done to you."

I love Toth's imaginative solution to his challenges. Rather than whining about all that text, or using his constraints as an excuse for a weak drawing, look how Toth seizes on those constraints and incorporates them in a beautiful design, especially the aggressive way he loops the connections between those word balloons a…
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How to Train Your Dragon: concept piece for the shoreline of Dragon Island.
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STEINBERG'S CLOUDS

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The great Saul Steinberg never learned to paint clouds.

Compare Steinberg to English landscape painter John Constable, who became famous for painting clouds using techniques he developed through careful research. Constable's approach was based on his philosophy, "you only see something truly when you understand it."

Perhaps Steinberg smiled in doubt at Constable's notion that we can ever "truly" understand clouds. An artist with boundless curiosity, Steinberg worked in a state of perpetual inquiry and never found a formula for clouds that satisfied him for long:


All images © The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY









Most artists refine their techniques over their careers, eventually settling on an approach that satisfies them. For example, Rubens gradually developed his distinctive treatment of human flesh until he settled on his mature style. Winslow Homer slowly mastered his famous approach to painting water. Georgia O'Keefe improved …