Today is Tuesday. We met once more outside the Tan’s place at 8:50 and walked to the studio. JA has a Wacom tablet which his dad bought for him. He hasn’t used it before, but we set it up on his laptop along with the open source animation software ‘pencil 2d’. He did just fine, but working on the computer is not his favourite so we returned to the land of paper and crayon. I just wanted to make sure he had the software installed and a handle on how to use it should he decide to give it a go when I’m not there.
We looked through JA’s sketch book and he picked a drawing he would like to animate. A penguin on a rocky beach. He looked at a video on his camera as reference and animated the penguin flap and look up. Once he was happy with the penguin animation he drew a rocky background and traced it on to each frame. He then coloured each picture and after that photographed them with the animation app. we worked without a break for about 3 and a half hours. Jeanne told me the next day that usually they’ll do about 2 hours with a half hour break in the middle so this is a pretty prolonged and intense period of concentration. JA got a headache and we called it a day and went for lunch. on the way he introduced me to the person who makes paint in the paint shop. They make incredible acrylics.
On Monday we met at 8:50 outside the Tan’s apartment and I walked with JA to his studio. His mentor Jeanne (who is also a tenant of the studios) met us there. I was going to start with a simple flick book made with reference cards and a foldover clip but on the advice of Jeanne I busted out the peg bar and a ream of paper I had pre punched. JA finds it easier to work on a larger scale. I did a quick, simple ball bounce. First day of animation school stuff. Having seen what I did, JA drew his own ball bounce. We recorded it it on His iPad using the animation app I’d installed the day before. Next a little colour was added with pencil crayons.
Bouyed by this success I demonstrated simple morphing in a flip book. Circle to square to triangle. Again, JA made his own version after seeing how I’d done it. Finally in this session
I drew a figure of 8 track on a piece of punched paper and demonstrated how it could be used as a guide to animate a coloured blob whizzing about. Once again, after a practical demonstration JA took to it like a duck to water and a colour changing scribble was soon zooming about the iPad’s screen. JA asked that I help him carry his stuff back home. On the way he introduced me to some of the people he knows on Granville island. He requested that we meet agin the same time tomorrow.
I arrived in Vancouver late on a Friday night in the pouring rain. JA’s parents had arranged for us all to meet on Saturday afternoon, just so JA would know who i am and we’d not be going in cold on Monday morning. Unfortunately JA had plans already. His parents drove me around the city and Stanley park and showed me the sights which was lovely. We spoke a little about the project and arranged to meet mid morning on Sunday, JA too this time.
I met up with the Tan’s outside their apartment and we walked down to Granville island where JA’s studio is located. It is a lovely room with a big window in a complex of artist’s studios. On the walls hang a dozen or so recent works and by the entrance is a large rack with heaps of painted canvases. JA tells me about the group of seven, a Canadian collective of landscape painters from 1920 – 1933, who he is currently studying. He also shows me his sketch books from his recent cruise around South America. Seals, Llamas and penguins abound! Over lunch we installed an animation app on his iPad
Last session with James today. I’ve procured an iPad for him. He is rather taken with the book ‘the animator’s survival kit’, which I’d given him on the first day we met. It has an iPad version with the examples animated, so with the iPad set up off we purchased it from the App Store. I also added the free version of the animation studio app Angela had put on her iPad and we had a look at that while the rather large animators survival kit app downloaded. James wasn’t particularly keen on it saying that drawing with his finger is too sloppy, but he picked up the app fairly well. I’ve suggested to his parents that it might be worth getting a cheap stylus for him to try drawing with on the iPad or perhaps just going straight for the apple pencil.
James did another 20 frame sequence on paper and we scanned it in and I got him to import the files in to imovie and make them an animation so I know he knows how to do it. most of the hobby stores and even walmart sell 10″ x 12″ light boxes for $40 – $50 so I mentioned that if drawing on paper remains popular the one of those might be a wise investment.
I’ve found a bit of open source software called pencil 2d. James is already familiar with working on a computer using a pen tablet. Thats how he does most of his drawing. The software seems quite simple and intuitive and I’d hoped it’d be a great way for James to work. Unfortunately his computer needs and OS update in order to run and it’s not my computer so I am unwilling to just do it. Confident though I am that everything would be fine. I think his dad was going to have a look at it tonight, so maybe it’ll be updated and I can give it another go tomorrow.
Luckily I had a plan B up my sleeve. I purchased a peg bar for each of the artists. a simple animation device on which one puts sheets of appropriately hole punched paper. This keeps the drawings on the paper lined up. I did a quick 10 frame bouncing ball loop and photographed it with an animation app on my phone. One of the advantages of working this way is that you can see through the layers of paper to previous drawings which grants greater control than something like a flip book. Much like the flip book; James got stuck in and did a 100 frame sequence. He was pretty focused on that so I went upstairs and had a cup of tea with his mum.
Drawings done, we scanned them using Image Capture on his mac then imported the stills in to iMovie where they became an animation. I’m very impressed with how readily he took to the technique.
Today I met James. He has a small office in the basement of the house. We talked for a while about his hopes and goals as a film maker. He’s really ambitious! Already I think he might find the disparity between what he imagines and what he currently has the skills to produce to be frustrating. We started small with a flip book. Using reference cards and a foldover clip just like at the Lynx centre in Weston. First I did a very simple and quick one of a circle expanding. I showed it to James and he ‘got it’ and immediately set to work on one of his own. He didn’t seem overly happy with the results, but for a first go it was really pretty good, and I told him as much!
I met Angela at her tiny flat in San Antonio. There are art materials everywhere and the walls are adorned with artwork. We talked for a while about the project and allayed her fears that we expect a finished animation made to a soundtrack that we’ll provide, reiterating that we’ll be taking everything that the artists produce and then cutting that in to the visual element of the piece. We talked a lot the first day I was there about her art and herself. I asked some research questions and I’ve since emailed them to her as a potential jumping off point to maybe inspire some artwork and animation for the project.
I bought some reference cards and foldover clips to make some flip books with, and also a peg bar and some punched paper – animators stock-in-trade – to try doing some simple animation. She has a glass drafting table which, with the addition of a lamp underneath will be perfect for traditional animation. Currently though it is stacked edge to edge with art materials and other possessions. She has said she would like to try using paint on the glass surface to do some animation. To that end I procured a tripod for her that can cantilever out so she will be able to set up a camera/ipad over the table with a birds eye view.
There was rather a lack of flat space to do any work, but Angela has an iPad pro with apple pencil that she uses for a lot of digital art. We installed an app called ‘animation studio’ for doing drawn animation and she took to it quite readily. she’s quite familiar with drawing on the ipad so it isn’t much of a leap. We also put a stop motion app on there so she can use the ipad (or a digital still camera) to do some stop motion. I did a quick demonstrator just with the ipad off the edge of a table and moving things on the floor. It was a bit of a challenge to do much animation there as at the time she didn’t have any space to work in. She is very enthusiastic and excited about the project and I look forward to seeing what she makes! I’ve told her to get in touch if she’s any questions or wants any feedback, but I’ll be in touch in a couple of weeks when I’m back in the UK and see how she’s getting on.
CTS Trainer Dom Pitt is in San Antonio, Texas working with Artist Angela Weddle, one of the awesome creatives we’ve been connected to via Debra Muzikar at the Art of Autism
More to follow…
The final workshop has come and gone. I’ve really enjoyed these six and would rather like to return to Lynx to do more.
For this last session in this series we attempted something a bit more grandiose. A culmination of that which had been learned in the previous weeks. A group project. The subject, suggested by Lena at NAS was meeting new people/being the new person. As a group we discussed what that is like and based on that came up with a simple scenario. A person approaches a group of people, says hello, gets invited to go bowling and subsequently goes bowling.
Once we had our scenario worked out we wrote a list of the things we would need and divvied up their production among the group. Since we have left all of the things made by the group in previous weeks with the Lynx Centre we already had a ready made cast, but the main character was made from new.
The initial plan was to show how our character is feeling with a series of close ups of their face. Time however was not on our side. It is rather difficult and time consuming to portray complex, subtle emotions even for an experienced animator so instead we opted to use the slightly cheaty medium of the ‘thought bubble’ to more easily communicate the characters thoughts and feelings. We did get to use the close up trick to show the perhaps less nuanced sad face to happy face later on in the film though.
Eleven thirty rolled around and the group went off to film club, their animation only half finished. Not an achievement to be sniffed at though. Much of the first session was spent writing the story and making models and thought bubbles. Group 2 came to the rescue and finished the film off, completing the introduction sequence and adding the bowling and close up shots.
I have been really impressed by how much these groups have achieved across these relatively short sessions. The Lynx iPads have istopmotion of them and we have left them with all of the models that have been made over the six weeks so I really hope at least a couple have picked up the taste and carry on making things.
After the success of the first lip-syncing workshop I thought I’d try and push it a bit further with a spot of character interaction. I got the guys to co-operate in producing a character interaction, some kind of short conversation. The sessions ended up being relatively brief. Like this one.
Buoyed by a new supply of fresh plasticine there was model-making mayhem. I’m a particular fan of the orange and deep purple characters. In that piece they also used coloured backgrounds and giant plasticine facial features to make ultra close up versions of the character’s faces. It worked fantastically.
There was also a rather nifty conversation between a cat and a snail. I think this group have really got their collective head around the basics of lip sync. With a bit of practise they could get rather good at it.