So I was going to just doodle thread this, but I'm working hard to put together my portfolio for CTN-X this year (animation industry expo) and I really want some good crits.
My crits last year from recruiters was that they'd like to see more process (less finished illustrations, more rough ideas and such) as well as images that tell a story.
So I'm taking this story I've been working on and turning it into a little personal project
Here is the story for those who are interested:
Iluq is a 14 year old Inuit girl who lives with her grandmother and little brother in Northern Canada, the area now known as Nunavut. (Specifically Perry Bay) For the past few years, nearby families have given them their seal scraps and leftovers. They've been able to survive off of a combination of this and some fishing that Iluq is able to do. However this winter is predicted to be harsher than the last, and the other families can't spare anything. Iluq is now forced to go hunt in order for her family to survive the winter. This is very unusual in Inuit culture as women and children don't hunt. She is very determined though, and sets out to both prove everyone wrong about her, and to provide for her family. She encounters a seal, and goes through a series of mishaps trying to catch him. Various animal spirits come to her to offer her guidance, but she ignores them. She wants to prove that she can do this and that she doesn't need any help. The mishaps continue, until she pushes too far and falls in to the freezing water. She pulls herself out, barely alive and has to take shelter to recover. The spirits who she's been ignoring take pity on her and assist her. With their help, she is able to recover and continue the hunt. She uses all of the advice given to her by the spirits to finally catch the seal. She then performs a ritual taboo to release it's spirit. In Inuit culture, if you honour the spirit of your prey, it will enter all further seals that you hunt, enabling you to catch it more easily than the first time. The seal promises her that her family will never go hungry. She uses the spirits guidance to return home safely to her family with food for the winter.
The story is an analogy of my career so far. I started out not wanting to take other's advice, and it wasn't until I did that I started to improve. I still hit ego snags every now and again, but feel I have them mostly under control.
So here's the stuff I've done so far (some of it was posted in doodles, I'm reposting here:
Early design work:
Rough turn around of final design:
Cleaned up front view of turn around:
Grandmother and Brother rough sketch:
Bear Spirit sketches:
Environment sketches and studies:
lots of stuff haha. Thoughts?
from the design stuff I'm going to do a color script basically, showing key moments in the story. Still gotta work out how I'm going to approach that one.
In particular I dig dat bear spirit a whole bunch.
The bear is great, I'm excited to see the other animals.
.... but I agree with Iruka- the nose just seems to kinda sit on her face and not move as much as it could with the expressions. Granted, the mouth and the eyes do a LOVELY job of conveying those, but knowing how good you are I think you could take it to the next level.
You nailed the environment, and I love the Bear Spirit. Have you done other animal spirits as well? ^_^
I'll mess around with the expressions some more! Get mor expressive with her nose
Sier: there will be a caribou, arctic fox, seal and maybe raven spirit
On the expressions stuff the others have mentioned, I dunno if I'd say 'oh they're not expressive enough', because in the context of the story, the expressions given may or may not be totally appropriate. I'm kind of with the John K school of thought that (particularly if you're doing all the work yourself), divorcing the character's acting from the context of the story is at best not very productive, and at worst something that can prevent you from doing good acting.
There's a part in "An Actor Prepares" (a famous old book on method acting) where the young acting student prepares his performance by walking around his apartment making dramatic faces in his mirror, really hamming up his performance, straining his face to make the boldest expressions- and as a result, he gives a hammy, unbelievable performance- the character and story is sacrificed for the sake of really trying to make sure the audience know that, "HEY I'M FUCKING ACTING UP HERE!".
This is what most expression sheets like these remind me of- divorced from context, these sort of expressions are just like making faces in a mirror- they may be entertaining by themselves, but don't really make that much difference when you go to do the actual work, because nobody is 'generically happy' or 'generically sad'- there's probably ten thousand ways to look happy, and probably only one that will make sense in the context of the story for the one panel where you need her to look happy. And if you default to a generic happy expression, it won't read nearly as well (which is unfortunately how most outsourced animation winds up, because outsource houses are much better at following directions like "use expression #37 from model sheet B", than being given the freedom to put some real thought about acting into it.)
Later on in that book, they get on to some techiniques of good acting, and one of the big things is that people in real life rarely just stand around and deliver lines at each other- they'll make coffee while talking, they'll walk around, they'll light a fireplace, they'll look around for the bathroom, any number of things like that. This is like something one of the Pixar character designers will do (forgot their name, unfortunately...I think I got this from the The Incredibles DVD making of feature), where instead of starting off by drawing the characters in a void, they'll make up a little story on the fly, and illustrate it (in full body poses) with the mind not of coming up with a 'design' so much as figuring out who the character is- how they react to things, how they respond to things, and in so doing they get a sense of just what that character would look like based on, well, their character (I hope that sentence comes off as insightful and not just confusing).
Something like that would be more useful in the long run than a sheet of faces (even though this character has already been designed), because it lets you start getting into the mind of the character- she looks happy because of X, sad because of Y. She's struggling to reel a fish in, what does that look like? How does she react? Does the fish's pull yank the reel out of her hands? Does she pull until the reel snaps? Does she get dragged by the fish until she gets thrown into the water? The point here wouldn't be to get amazing illustrations out of this work, but to get to the point where you know your character well enough that they kind of write/draw themselves, something which a lot of writers talk about after having written past a certain point. (Quentin Tarantino movies have a lot of scenes in restaurants for this reason, because sitting two characters across from each other and just writing about what they'd talk about is a simple way to reach that point with a character...I think most other writers cut that stuff out once they get to that point, though.) Plus, you get a much better sense of the overall tone of the comic- is it way over the top Looney Toons in expressiveness, is it more subdued and quiet, etc. Or to give a more direct example, I'd say that the grandmother/brother sketch tells me more about those two characters than all the other drawings of the Iluq combined, because their actions are being expressed in context, and you can get a real sense of who those people are.
(Note: That said, if someone who has more experience in animation production than me (ie: anybody that has any actual animation production experience, and hasn't just read about it a lot) has told you to do expression sheets in this format, for God's sake ignore me. )
Yay such good advice!
Of course, that's probably just the result having watched too many cartoons where the children all act like well-reasoned adults, and the adults all act like stupid children...I'd guess 7-year olds that acted like 7-year olds would not make for very compelling and nuanced protagonists. :P
although really I think that's more because they're the only depictions of inuit I can really remember being illustrated.
Here's a girl at 7-ish years:
And here's an older girl, around 14:
I did some sketches of an older version of Iluq and I'm totally loving them. Will post later. Also more spirit animals!
Yes yes! The spirit bear is fantastic!
yeah physiology is really variable at that age (speaking as someone who got pretty convex pretty early)
Kochi: I'm relieved she's looking believable. I've been doing lots of research. I should scan my research sketches some are neat.
I love seeing process shots, from early stage to more finished stages. It's very inspiring!
I was thinking the exact same thing
Do you think that the previous crits were referring to more "gesture"-like drawings of characters? More thumbnails?
Love your work, as usual.
Okay so here's sketches of Iluq at various ages, some of them look younger, I'm thinking I might make her more like... between 10 and 12? So I definitely want to age her a bit... but not too much? I dunno, I'll take your guys' advice on that.
I thought it'd be fun to post the prelim work I've been doing cause there's lots of it. Here's a few of the prelim sketches for the bear spirit:
Fox Spirit Rough prelim:
Final Fox Spirit:
Scans of the notes and little doodles I've been doing for research
First Mood Painting: Iluq meets the bear spirit. I wanted him to be sort of graphic compared to her to kind of lend to the fact that he's from a different world than she is:
as always, I love your thoughts and crits, this project is going to be the main part of my portfolio for CTN-X this year, so I'd like it to be as good as it possibly can be
the explanation is in the spoiler at the very top
I can't decide what the final outcome will be with this
a big part of me wants to take on a comic
a big, nagging... terrible part of me
Aren't you working for Kazu Kibuishi? How are you going to not make a comic under those circumstances?
Besides. you gotta keep up your end of inspiring everyone else to get off their ass and actually do cool personal projects (and by 'everyone else', I of course mean 'me').
he's like some sort of machine
just whipping out pages like 10 at a time
right now it's for my vis dev portfolio for animation
eventually when i'm done with my places project, it'll take over as my big project that i'm slowly picking away at haha
I just fell in love. This is all amazing.
Barely a criticism really, just an observation. Awesome stuff. Carry on.
suggestions= The light source could be the spirit animal, so you would push up its value and push back the girl's value. Then give her a rim lighting effect.
I am amazed by this.
I don't know why, but I keep thinking about your starbucks story about when you ran into that dude that thought this is easy.
Thanks Prox for the light crit, I'll play around with it a bit
Here's a couple sketches for the next mood painting, when she meets the fox spirit
I want this to feel overall a bit more playful
I don't know whether or not to do a close up of them or a bit further away
And can I just say that I love your work and watching all the storyboards and details and things has been really fun and inspiring.
I like the zoomed in version more. I feel like it matches the composition (not composition, maybe, but ... feeling) of the bear spirit painting more closely.
Also the second sketch made me think of the book Coppermine. There's a scene where the characters are trapped above the tree line (traveling through the Northwest Territories) and have to stop in the middle of a storm to put up a shelter--it's really descriptive of the storm and how suffocating it is, and that might not be exactly what you're going for with the sketch, but it totally worked for me, I guess is what I'm trying to say.
The environments are great looking, and so is the grandmother/brother sketch. The nose on the final fox spirit feels like it's a bit pointy to me, like the lower jaw is a bit too small/short in that particular view, but it doesn't seem that way on the mood painting sketch so it could very well just be me.
This is beautiful looking. I've been working on something arctic-themed for a while (but not Inuit-themed) and it's the coolest thing in the world to see your take on some of this stuff.
Her nose in the mood painting is REALLY big. I know you want it large, but it's almost taking over her face.
as someone who has a huge nose, it happens, particularly while young
But taking her expression into account I'd say go for the zoomed out version.
Bear spirit: gonna try adding in more of the designs I had in the initial sketch. I think that'll add some balance and interest on the left hand side. Right now my focal point is very strong and needs something to balance it. Adding more lighting just emphasizes it even more so I'll add some details on the left and then see how more lighting looks.
Fox: going with zoomed out so I can work in a bit of the environment. My caribou spirit encounter is going to be very zoomed out so I think it'll be nice to have the up close of the bear, the medium shot of the fox and the zoomed out view of the caribou.
It also lends to their personalities and the moods I'm trying to create. The bear spirit has this sense of mystery and surprise, the fox more playful and impish...kinda humorous and the caribou spirit is actually a whole herd of caribou, not just one. It appears to her on the tundra during a blizzard so it's basically this giant warm mass of air in a cold, extremely harsh environment.
Hopefully showing these three shots and establishing three different moods in the same environment will win me some points