Sunday, October 10, 2010

We Love Westerns

Long time no see! I just thought that I should post some of what I've been up to, since I've been working very hard, and I'm extremely proud of the work.

I'm taking Senior Portfolio this semester, and in it, as well as working on the business side of things, we have to work on 4 projects for our portfolio. My professor is allowing me to work on one big project instead, however - an animated short.

I'm doing it based on a Western started by my good friend Erin Conley, and written by myself, her, and a few friends. The animation's straying just a little from canon, however for simplicity's sake. It's about girl meets man, thievery, and the difference between seeing things in black and white vs. being morally grey. But you'll see all of that later in the story!

It's been a challenge to just narrow it down to "It's a Western about a girl who's a thief" for me, but a good one - because with a short, simplicity is key.

So now, onto the art!

I started with doing research on silent films, and because I want to play with both the visual style of them and photography from the time period (1890), as well as the themes, cinematography etc. - and warping that somehow. I did some sketches trying to figure out how to work, and I decided this animation's going to be hand-drawn on paper, not computer, and shaded in pencil - purely for the grit and amount of control it offers. I might play around with tracing paper, as it produces a nice effect.

This second one was the same image traced multiple times, the last being a digital composite.

Then I went on to the actual character designs. We're dealing with Ruth Quinn, my character - 23 years old, 5' tall, thin little ragamuffin, as well as Erin's character, Virgil Grey - 35 years old, 6' tall, lanky, gruff, and world-weary. It's been a challenge to get the both of them right - especially working with Virgil, a character that didn't spring from my own head.

First I tried to rough out basic, blocky shapes for silhouettes, trying to distinguish the two.

Then, I did all of my research on clothes from the time, from Westerns, etc, and dressed the two accordingly. Ruth has elements of young boy's clothing, as well as that of workers - and all of it's old and ratty. Virgil's dressed a little more refined-ly, since he hails from the East, but his clothes are old and dusty from travel as well. I then decided on values for the clothes that would work out and pop if it were in black and white.

I also did it in color for the heck of it, and if I use color tints in the animation. Virgil's color pallete is dark muted browns, whereas Ruth's are orange-tans and blues, also very muted. Sun faded and like the land around her. I'm not sure if Virgil should be darker/less saturated actually.

In an attempt to wrangle in the visual style on this before I did the final designs, I compiled together research and inspiration. I ended up with so many photos for reference, as well as a wall full of stuff. It certainly keeps me focused, besides being handy.
My roommate thinks I'm a little crazy.

I'm looking at everything from silent film and old photos, to spaghetti Westerns like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, to more modern Westerns such as The Assassination of Jesse James and There Will Be Blood. It'll be interesting to see how all of that translates into an animation.

I then tried jumping right into the final designs, but I wound up with far too many headaches and a very, very stiff drawing of Ruth by the end of it. A couple of photo references, however, made me see the error of my ways, and a few hours later...

...she finally looks how she should! I think her breasts, hair, and that profile face need a little work, but more or less, this is right. I shot my own refs for the pose, but thankfully I found a model on with a body type like I needed for her (Melodie.) It's a great resource full of sets and sets of photos, so check it out!
I have many references of different people for her face in order to get her looking like Ruth, but of note is the artist Patti Smith, who I found through Robert Mapplethorpe's photography. How much Ruth resembles her is almost a little creepy.

Then, there was the problem of Virgil, and getting as good references for him. I thank my lucky stars, however, I found Tony Ward. Erin found him as a good body-type reference in some very creative Blue Bell/Wrangler ads earlier this year, and so I looked him up, and luckily there are many, many photos of the man, having been a model for 20+ years. AND, he's 6 foot tall. So I used him, a little Posemaniacs for help with the legs (also another wonderful source), several references for the face and hair, and of course Erin's own drawings. I sincerely hope he looks correct!
I also realized I was making the height difference between the two of them MUCH less than it should be, so I did my math and made sure they were the proper heights.

So here they are! More or less physically accurate. I'm very, very proud of them, and this has been a fantastic exercise for me. It's really helped me get a handle on how they should look, move feel - they have life to them now. I normally use some reference, but not as painstakingly as this, and more for faces than for poses or bodies. I get impatient and move onto the clothes, and end up using shorthand. So to have Ruth look like an real woman, and Virgil like a real man, both with muscles, fat, bones, flesh and blood... it's super exciting to see!

But anyway, enough giddy rambling. :)

I leave you all with the silhouettes of these drawings. I have to finish Virgil's turn-around sheet yet, and then toss clothes on the both of them, but I've got to start thinking of how they're going to be stylized- how much, how far, and how so. Their shapes are pretty distinctive as it is, and similar to the blocky shapes I outlined in the beginning, so now it's just a matter of streamlining them a little for animation. I want to work with shapes and shadows in this, so perhaps lighting them will be the best course of action, to see what happens.

Anyway, this is what I've been up to! I'll post more as I go along, storyboards, finished designs and all. I'm so excited to be working on this, and it's been a great process, trying to accomplish this in a more professional way. This is a big production, but the work is all worth it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    first of all I really love your work!
    I myself am a student Multimedia Design in Belgium and I was wondering if could make vector images out of your male and female model? It would just be a simple silhouet I'm planning on using in an infographic if that's ok with you. I really like the stance of the characters and thats how I reached this page through a google image search