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Disappearing Ink

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

As a naturally fickle person, this past week I eschewed ink-stained fingers and instead explored the current state of portable digital drawing. On Wednesday I attended a life drawing session with an iPad and my Adonit Jot Touch. This isn’t the same pen that I was showing off last year, but an updated version that promised greater pressure sensitivity and a lower-power Bluetooth 4.0 connection.

Much like the previous incarnation, I liked the pen in theory, but I found it a bit clunky for loose sketching, since I seemed to have to apply more pressure than I ever would to a pencil or a stick of charcoal, or even an ink pen. But a recent update of my favorite drawing app, Procreate, seems to have resolved that. I can now sketch with a very light touch.

It made for a very fun figure drawing session; I got to experiment with all sorts of virtual media, keep my hands clean, and even see video playback of my drawing. Very cool.

Proving I have a gadget problem, this week I also happened to purchase a used Samsung Galaxy Note II. No, I haven’t abandoned Apple; in fact, I purposely haunted eBay for a deal on this “phone,” since I knew I only intended to use it as a pocket sketchpad and not an iPhone replacement.

Oh sure, there was the chance I’d end up loving it for more than just the pen, but my opinion of the Android operating system remains the same as when I tried out the larger Galaxy Note tablet. Unintuitive and clunky are the operative words.

There’s also kind of a surprising dearth of decent drawing programs, even compared to the iPhone, which is almost impossible to draw on. After trying out several Android apps, I found the only decent one to be Sketchbook Mobile.


It’s still too early for me to tell how much I’ll like using the Note II, but I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t replace my usual pocket sketchbook.

Gradient Maps and You

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

To shed some light on how I colorize old photos, I made a quick video to explain how I handle skin tones. Unfortunately, it won’t be of much use to someone who’s never opened Photoshop, but it should be useful for any regular Photoshop users who need to be pointed in the right direction. For all I know there are better methods, but this is my current go-to.

As for the colors besides skin tones, it’s usually just a matter of guesswork and experimenting with blending modes.

Saturday Night Smackdown

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

Well golly, this is still in a sloppy state, in so many ways, but I really need to move on to my next bit of practice (or maybe the 11-second contest if the April sound file appeals to me). I think I was fairly happy with the movement early on, but for me the hard part was keeping Mary looking consistent from frame to frame. I didn’t design her for animation, and if I really wanted to use her, I should have drawn a model sheet in advance, and really nailed down how she’s supposed to look from different angles.

Here’s an example of a model sheet, of that fish-lady from the Little Mermaid:


Obviously, as I get better at drawing, and better at planning, I’ll be better at animating relatively complicated characters like Mary Rae, but whatever I do next will definitely be more along the lines of Elmer Fudd, as I mentioned before.


Bubb Rubb’s Revenge

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

I made a little test animation tonight. It’s a guy pulling a chain and shouting “whoo whoo!” It’s not supposed to make sense. I just wanted to see what it would be like to do the initial animation on paper, then the inbetweens on the computer.

I love my Cintiq tablet, but when I was doing the 11 Second contest, I noticed that the small screen and bulky stylus didn’t lend themselves to loose gesture drawing–you know, the kind you put your whole arm into. Of course, the computer is invaluable for cleaning up artwork, and saving drawing time on static elements.

As I suspected, I kind of like this process; I think I animated a little faster, in spite of the awkwardness of pulling pieces of paper on and off a peg bar, over a light table.

Being the Apple geek I am, my method for digitizing the pencil drawings was an iPhone app called iMotion HD, with my iPhone stationed on a Tripod. iMotion has a companion iPad app that allows you to trigger the shutter without touching the phone. Then I was able to sit down at my computer, pull all the frames directly to my hard drive via wifi, and get back to work.


Nothing beats using cutting edge technology to do old-fashioned work!


Whiz Grownup

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

Hey look! Spurred on by my apparent love of prize-free online competitions, and possible creeping dementia, I drew several hundred pictures to create the fleeting illusion of motion.

Actually, I’ll spare you the usual self-effacing stuff. I impressed myself over the past couple of weeks by finally finding the patience to accomplish something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. I learned a lot, and started to grasp some concepts that seemed amorphous on the printed pages of my animation how-to books. I have a long way to go, but I’ve crossed an important threshold: I now realize that animating, mad as it is, is not superhuman task. It’s just something that will require a huge amount of practice and patience.

You can check out the contest here; as of this writing it hasn’t started yet, but maybe it will have by the time you click. And luckily, this contest doesn’t stretch for 10 weeks; I believe the voting is over in less than a week.

Edit: I’m amazed that out of 347 frames, the Posterous video player’s holding frame is the exact same drawing I posted yesterday!

She’s Alive!

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

And now she just needs someone to talk to. You’d think I’d have started on character #2 by now, but hey, I was having fun getting the Poehler stand-in just about right. Every time something felt a little stiff, I referred to my trusty Animator’s Survival Kit and found ways to make her more dynamic. Not saying I got everything right, but I’m really happy with the way it evolved.

4 days left, so I’ll start the exasperated husband just in the nick of time. Luckily he won’t also be moving like a hummingbird on crack. He’s onscreen for three more seconds than she is, so it’ll be interesting to see how the time spent animating compares.

Wrangling Scribbles

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

Slooow-goin’ over here. I didn’t really want to post the animation at such a nascent stage, but I didn’t have anything else to post tonight. So gather `round, kids, and witness how the sausage is made.

This month the contest is using a clip from Parks and Recreation, featuring the obnoxious Amy Poehler. I decided to make my animation about an 1890s couple having a quiet Sunday at home, until the wife gets all Poehler-y.

The first two seconds of her character are close to finished; you’ll see how the remainder of the animation is a choppy roadmap of “extreme” frames, waiting to be fleshed out.

You’ll also see, in red, my very rough sketches of the husband, who although silent, is actually onscreen longer than the wife. He spends most of the clip trying to retrieve his newspaper and hat after the wife obliviously knocks them to the floor.

I’m not sure if the husband will be easier or harder to animate. Probably easier, since his movements will be much more deliberate and he’ll just have a couple of slow-burn facial expressions.

Anyway, hope seeing this sloppy mess today will make the finished product seem freakin’ amazing next week.

Learning From the Best

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

Okay, disclaimer: This is another blink and you’ll miss it animation, and I didn’t even animate it myself! But I wanted to study a Bob Clampett cartoon frame by frame, and applied 15 frames of his animation to my own character.

When I was a kid I would have killed to be able to study animation frame by frame. I think Clampett cartoons are the closest to what I’m trying to achieve, and the flexibility and distortion of his characters would be impossible to do with today’s standard cutout-style animation. As you can see here, when a character in a Clampett cartoon moves, he doesn’t just float from point A to point B; in fact, within the 15 frames (about two thirds of a second), the only drawing elements I could trace over (since they don’t move or deform) were Sam’s toes.


Stupid Cartoonist Tricks

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

Another one of my scribble exercises, as well as an excuse to try out some time-lapse video recording on my iPhone. It’s hard to tell here, but my third and fourth scribbles were done with my foot and mouth, respectively!

Hmm, now that I think of it, I wish I had reversed the order.

Music by Headcrab

Spendy Software, Day 1

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

Another day, another underwhelming animation of waterfowl with an inexplicably expanding cranium. (Animation is HARD!) But it was my first attempt at producing something in Toon Boom Animate. I pulled the trigger on buying it after watching an extensive tutorial online that pretty much demystified the whole program for me.  I had tried the “Personal Learning Edition,” a free version that doesn’t allow you to export your work, but I wasn’t sold on it until yesterday. As much as I liked my homemade Photoshop templates, this program was designed from the ground up for efficient animation.

Anyway, this one is based on an example on page 170 of “The Animator’s Survival Kit.”