Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en!!

Now, please go away while I'm having dinner...

Friday, October 29, 2010

James MacArthur

I was very sad to hear yesterday of the death of James MacArthur. He had appeared in Disney's Swiss Family Robinson, one of the loveliest of that studio's live-action films, but of course he will be best remembered as Detective Danny Williams on TV's long-running Hawaii Five-0. Coincidentally, I have been avidly watching the DVD boxed sets of that great series just recently over the last few months, and I truly believe it is one of the best of the crime dramas from that terrific era of television. The character of Danny Williams was always such a sturdy and reliable second-in-command to Detective Steve McGarrett, and James MacArthur played the role with such a quiet dignity that he imbued the character with real integrity.

It's hard for me to watch so many actors, singers, and various performers from my cherished entertainment of the past being lost each year. The 1960's and 1970's were a special time for me, and so many of my favourite performers were at the peak of their popularity in that era. In my opinion, television was at its absolute best back then - nothing today appeals to me, I'm afraid. Out of pure curiosity, I watched most of the pilot episode of that new updated Hawaii Five-0 series that just debuted a few weeks ago, and I thought it was typical contemporary crap. Yes, I know it's meant to appeal to the MTV generation as evidenced by its youthful cast with their casual attire and unshaven mugs, but it is hardly a worthy successor to the original series. I'm just starting into watching season two of the original Hawaii Five-0 and I long for when TV featured lavish colour, jazzy music scores, and admirable and appealing actors like Jack Lord and James MacArthur. We'll miss you, Danno...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Municipal Elections

Well, the various municipal elections took place here in Ontario yesterday. Mississauga re-elected Hazel McCallion once again by a landslide, making her one of the longest serving mayors (32 years!) in Canada now at age 89. I like and admire "Hurricane Hazel" very much, but I must confess that I voted for another candidate, Peter Orphanos, as I feel that Hazel has had a great run but should let somebody else take the reins. Still, Hazel won again with 76% of the vote, so Mississaugans obviously love her. The illustration pictured above shows a caricature of "Hurricane Hazel" alongside the mayors of Waterloo and London, Ontario, that I did for a magazine cover a couple years ago.

Things are somewhat less rosy in Toronto today (in my opinion) after voters elected Rob Ford as their new mayor. Having observed this guy in news reports during the campaign, I must admit that I think he's going to be trouble for the city. Rob's style is confrontational and very much "in-your-face", as is evidenced in the following two clips showing him in his former role as Toronto Councillor. Still, he'll be a political cartoonist's dream, so it isn't all bad!

Friday, October 22, 2010

More Character Types

Here are a bunch more sketches drawn from video, like the ones I showcased on my Oct. 4th entry. The ones pictured above are all of guests who have appeared on the Charlie Rose interview show seen on PBS. The show's website features numerous archived clips that are just great to sketch from, since the interviews allow you to study the subject in medium close-up, moving just enough that you can get a good feel for the design of the face and body, as well as their personality. I deliberately have drawn guests who I am not familiar with, as the point of the exercise is to take an honest approach to seeing the "design" of a face, in the size, shape and relative placement of the facial features on various head shapes, without getting hung up on whether or not a good likeness has been achieved. These sketches can then later be used as a starting point in developing "Character Types" for your cartoons and animation designs.

Here are direct links to all of the clips I used, so you can see how I interpreted the video reference:
Alison Gopnik
Klaus Schwab
Yang Lan
Jack Ma
Annie Cohen-Solal
Tung Chee-Hwa

The montage above is just of various people I have sketched recently from TV, so unfortunately I can't link to any clips for you. But I post them in the hope that it will encourage some of my readers to try this method of sketching people from video reference while taking a more caricatured approach. Specifically, I offer these up as examples to my Sheridan students as being representative of what I will be looking for in your ongoing assignment that I'll be assessing at the end of the fall semester.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dave Smith!

I just found out yesterday that today is the birthday of Dave Smith, the originator and longtime curator of the Disney Archives, who recently retired from that post after having been with Disney for 40 years. Before Dave came along, Disney did not have an archives to protect and record their studio history. But Dave, who had originally approached the company to compile a bibliography on Walt Disney, was pretty much able to write his own job ticket and proceeded to create The Disney Archives from the ground up, building it over the years into an integral part of The Disney Company.

I was lucky enough to meet Dave back in 1980, several years before I started my own Disney career in Disney's Canadian merchandising division. My friend, Russell Schroeder, whom I'd known for a number of years from when he worked as a character artist at Walt Disney World, had put me in touch with Dave when I had planned my first trip to L.A. so I could see the Disney studio. Dave was a gracious host, showing me and my buddy, Chris, around not only the Archives, but taking us on a tour of the studio backlot and the Animation Building, which was then still the REAL Animation Building before it got booted off the main lot. It was also on this first visit that I presented as a thank you gift to Dave, the painted caricature that you see at the top of this post. From what I gather, Dave has had it up on his office wall ever since then, so I am very honoured by that. I was also rather flattered that the image of just Dave with the Donald Duck doll was used to accompany a regular column called Ask Dave in the long-running Disney Magazine.

I'd visited a number of times with Dave over the years, but my favourite memory was when I went out to see him on a subsequent trip and he told me he'd phoned Ollie Johnston, whom I'd first met on my initial visit to the studio and had corresponded with since, to let him know I was in town. Well, Ollie said he'd be happy to drop by to see me, so I got a wonderful surprise when Ollie showed up and Dave was gracious enough to let us have his office for awhile so we could visit and chat for about a half hour or so. I always thought that was so kind of Dave to do that, and that visit remains my most cherished Disney memory.

Once I started working at Walt Disney World's Marketing Art department in 1990, I got to see Dave several more times in his visits out to Florida and my visits to L.A. Unfortunately, I haven't been out there in the 16 years that have passed since I left Disney, but I sure would enjoy seeing ol' Dave again. So, Happy Birthday, Dave - and I hope you're enjoying your well deserved retirement after serving Disney, its fans, and all who utilized the Disney Archives over those many years since you first established it!

Here's a great interview where Dave explains how the Archives first came about:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Krystal and Belle

Here's some caricatures I drew of a couple of nice girls, sisters Krystal and Belle, who were attending Visual Arts Brampton last week. Every Tuesday evening from 7:00 to 9:30 we have an open Life Drawing session. No requirement to sign up for anything, just pay as you go, any week you want to join us. For those in the Brampton area, just click on the above link to see more info. I hope to see you there!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Toronto Votes!

All right, Toronto, municipal election day is coming up in just a couple more weeks on Monday, October 25th, so it's time to make that big decision. Will you choose Captain Smitherman to chart your course into Toronto's future, or are you content to let "Hoss" Ford herd you all back to the wild 'n' wooly past? Not that I'm trying to influence your decision, of course... :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sketching Character Reference

I put this post together to tie in with what I'll be starting to cover in my Character Design classes at Sheridan College this week. The topic is "Character Types", and these are a few samples I just sketched yesterday to illustrate what I'll be stressing in this subject. I'm a firm believer that an animated or illustrated character should aspire to be distinct as an individual - the visual design suggesting a certain personality through the physical face and body type. The character designer on an animated film should serve the same role as a casting director on a live-action production. Just as a casting director tries to cast an actor or actress who has a believable "look" for a particular role, so should the character designer be trying to create a character that visually suggests the personality to be portrayed in the film.

There is a tendency for the novice to simply design a character off the top of his head, without considering what physical aspects and personality traits seem to work well in combination together to communicate a clear visual statement to the audience. My view is that, before an artist can have any knowledgeable output, one must first have some informed input. Therefore, I strongly recommend sketching people in the world around you, either from life or, as is my preference, from studying various character types on video in order to build up a library from which to draw upon when designing a specific character. I prefer the latter way of working, as video provides a way of studying the subject in a completely controlled manner, allowing one to study the subject at one's leisure. It helps to see the subject in motion, which makes it easier to see the physical "design" of the face and body type in order to then exaggerate and abstract it. Additionally, seeing the subject in motion and displaying physical nuances through body language, expressions, vocal mannerisms, etc. makes the resulting sketches far more successful in capturing personality and inner life than one would likely achieve by working from a still photo image.

Anyway, here are some samples sketched from YouTube that hopefully will illustrate what I'm saying more clearly. It should be noted, however, that the goal of the sketches is not to come up with a perfect likeness of the subject, but rather to make an honest attempt at seeing a unique design in the face and body type and using that as a springboard for abstraction and caricature:

Here are the links to the YouTube videos I sketched these from:
Character #1 Character #2
Character #3 Character #4

Here are the links to these videos:
Character #1 Character #2
Character #3 Character #4

Ironically, the "tough guy" character I've sketched from the YouTube clip is an imagined personality suggested by the physical type, as the fellow in the video really comes across as a very friendly and gentle sort. But in animation and cartooning, perception can carry more weight than being literal to the subject. Remember, you're trying to put forward a visual impression that your audience will understand at a quick glance. When required, more subtlety can be developed though story and animated characterization as your film progresses.