Drawing the human figure from reference

I’ve come to frequently use pose reference in my professional and personal illustration work, and there are a range of repositories and services out there for artists to use. One of the more fun resources is SenshiStock on DeviantArt, a pose reference account with a range of models and an outlook to convey the energy, heroism and sheer fun of popular Magical Girl manga / anime Sailor Moon.

SenshiStock ran an event in June challenging artists to draw a pose from reference every week day. Taking part, I found my digital drawing speed increasing, and I got more practised with the processes I came to use for building my drawings up.

Here’s a finished drawing next to the base I used to guide the line artwork:

I start by finding a Line of Action, although with this pose there was a choice of whether to draw it down the standing leg, or the raised one. My techniques are a pick-n-mix of different teachers’ recommendations, some Loomis, some Prokopenko, some from animation, some from fashion illustration classes and elsewhere. I like having an array of tools to deploy, and it’s refreshing to utilise them on a project focused on my personal learning, as well as having fun exploring.

Plus! Plenty of practice drawing hands and feet!

Read this full article for gallery of drawings.

Continue reading Drawing the human figure from reference

What is Layered Animation?

The last weekend of January I had the incredible opportunity to take a masterclass by Pixar Animator Michal Makarewicz. The 18-hour programme of lectures, Q&A, and live demonstrations in Maya covered important topics for animators such as planning, acting and performance, animating dialogue, polish, and many others. However it was Mike’s explanation and many live demonstrations of the layered animation approach that I found most interesting. I hadn’t heard of it until the lead-up to the weekend, and although I had an inkling what this might be, the masterclass clarified Mike’s layered animation practice in detail.

Since the masterclass weekend I’ve been researching online for resources about the layered animation workflow, although there’s no substitute for participating in a learning opportunity like that in person. The live demos in particular left even seasoned animators floored by Mike’s ability to speedily get CG characters acting convincingly! Given attendees were requested not to record the sessions, here’s my notes for animators of what I learned about layered animation, using online references to explain things more visually and to point you to further resources.

TL;DR

Points covered in brief:

  • Layered animation is an approach, like straight ahead or pose-to-pose. It doesn’t necessarily use the animation layers feature of Maya etc.
  • The idea is to animate the main driver of a character’s motion in your shot, usually the Root, maybe the Head, for the whole shot. This is like a base layer. Then animate the next most important controller for the whole shot, then the next, building up the whole performance, layer by layer.
  • Mike treats each component on each controller, ie. a single spline in the Graph Editor, as a “layer”. Other animation teachers seem to treat something like a limb as a “layer”.
  • The expertise Mike showed in movement analysis and the concept of portraying the energy of the movement, rather than being guided by golden key poses, seemed to be pivotal in making layered animation, as Mike uses it, especially effective.
  • Mike’s demonstrated the concept of a “Master curve” by copying and pasting keys from one spline to another, then adjusting the pasted spline for its new component in the Graph Editor. A way of speeding up his animation workflow.
  • This article discusses drawbacks to the layered animation approach.

I hope the greater detail in the full article is helpful especially for anybody wishing to try out this approach to animation. Read on for some video examples, too!

Continue reading What is Layered Animation?

New content and layout at emeraldsong Tumblr

There are some amazing artists showing their sketchbooks online, on Instagram, Pinterest, DeviantArt and so on. For a number of years I’ve been using a Tumblr platform for this and have just overhauled the design to show more images and offer visitors more to explore! Most recently I’ve started doing some colour digital painting practice, and I’ll continue to add more experimental and whimsical content over there as it emerges.

Visit emeraldsong.tumblr.com for sketches, designs and doodles!

Animation arrives at emeraldsong.com!!

I’ve created an animation section for this website, bringing my moving image work alongside my comics and illustration galleries here. While I’ll use Tumblr, DeviantArt and Vimeo to post sketches, studies, breakdowns and other “making of” material, emeraldsong.com will collate finished work. (Buttons in the right sidebar link to emeraldsong’s presence on these platforms. Facebook and Twitter accounts, too!)

The featured image with this post is from Renewal, a short film that I, together with four other hardworking filmmakers, completed in the Spring. I’ve been very busy this year with many projects including Renewal, and I’m pleased to be showcasing them here at last!

Check out some short films in the animation section!

comics arrive at emeraldsong.com!!

It’s been a “back burner” project for the last year, but two-pager Malice/Aria, my anthology contribution of last summer, is now coloured and available to read online! Accompanying it, to round out the new section, is The Meditation on the Sacred Utterances, an intriguing monochrome work. Click here to read.

Comic by Elena Jessup and Emmeline Pui Ling Dobson
Comic by Elena Jessup and Emmeline Pui Ling Dobson

Short animated film “Skyleigh TRANSFORM!!”

[UPDATE: Skyleigh TRANSFORM!! REDUX is now up. This is a newer version with improved animation, effects, and other areas of polish. ~14/11/2016]

I’ve made a short film as a final project while studying and practising 3D animation at Bournemouth University over the last year.

Motivating me to make this film were the ideas of taking the “transformation sequence” as a template and creating a hero  that a young non-white female viewer might feel excited about as a positive representation of “someone like me” on screen. Acknowledging that this was a very personal project, my initial aim was to keep the animation length to about 15 seconds, to counteract the risk I was taking on in tackling all the stages of end-to-end production myself.

Preparations made during pre-production included analysing a number of “magical girl” anime for common themes, visual motifs, and camera and editing styles. Based on this research, and with the design of the hero being refined, I made the following animatic:

During production it became clear that the final film would be more than twice the length of the animatic, especially when motion captured animation turned out to last tens of seconds for just one shot! I made many difficult decisions, including that to simplify the character design, so the final film doesn’t feature the skirt and accessories that were intended to emphasise the arcs and rotations of hero Skyleigh during the sequence.

2016-09-skyleigh-1-design

 

Perhaps what I’m most pleased with in the production is how the care taken with the ZBrush sculpt paid off, with animated Skyleigh looking like a compelling, living and breathing character. It’s deceptively difficult to get a cartoon human looking appealing rather than creepy, and I made a lot of effort to study the best 3D examples, gather valued feedback from tutors and classmates, and iterate on the design and model.

I hope this is just the beginning of making more interesting 3D projects, and exploring further what can be accomplished with the powerful software tools I’ve put to use.

 

Swordplay sessions at Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015

I posted photos from Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015 on Monday, where I also mentioned the sheer variety of the sessions comprising the programme. There were many options I had to miss because they were scheduled against something even better, but as a guiding principle, I tried to prioritise attending workshops with direct application to my own practice and projects.

One strand of this is medieval combat.

2015-09-NineWorlds-2-duel-2_web

On Saturday I participated in a “Monsterclass” with Sebastien de Castell (author of Traitor’s Blade, the Greatcoats series), and on Sunday a much more open session with David A McIntee (author of numerous Doctor Who licensed novels). Both communicated an ocean of knowledge and experience as writers and historical martial arts practitioners, with de Castell’s session structured to help writers craft fight scenes that vividly convey their characters, and McIntee’s more led by audience Q&A, compelling personal stories, and energetic demonstration.

Here are a few key points I’ve learned that’ll feed into the fight scenes I develop going forwards.

Continue reading Swordplay sessions at Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015

Costumes and cosplayers from Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015

This time last month I had the good fortune to venture back up to London for Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015. I’m unsure how  I first heard of this event… possibly via word-of-mouth? Now in its 3rd year, I’ve been intrigued by its vastly pan-geeky melting-pot of content, commitment to minimising barriers to enjoyment for people due to age, gender, orientation, race and so on, and slick online presence. Continue reading Costumes and cosplayers from Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015

Published in “How to Draw Manga Made Easy”

I’ve moved house lately so, although it was published on 15th May, it was earlier this month that I collected my artist’s copy of How to Draw Manga Made Easy. Last December I had the opportunity to submit some content toward this volume: pieces of artwork and sequential descriptions and images to explain tho process of making each of them. A fantastic list of artists who have decades of professional experience feature in the line-up among the pages here! Continue reading Published in “How to Draw Manga Made Easy”

Four events from May thru’ August 2014

Phew! That’s quite a lot! I’ve been busy volunteering at these events. All of these were good times. Opportunity to meet smart, friendly, and creative people, lots to learn, and the additional good feels of helping out and participating beyond the often dizzying array of interactive sessions available. My most visible contribution to the above was being on three WorldCon panels: Manga Evolutions on Friday, Vox Populi: The new voice of comic book criticism? on Sunday, and How digital art techniques have changed comics on Monday (which was my first ever experience being panel Moderator).

Yet… I wonder if the value of a traditional conference format is harshly overshadowed in an age of free internet streaming video (or audio) of debates, lectures and interviews? Continue reading Four events from May thru’ August 2014

London Drink + Draw comics artists’ meet-up

A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed an afternoon of meeting new and familiar faces and engaging with some (optional) drawing challenges in a friendly central London pub. I’d heard of the event via Twitter, eventually sourcing the chatter down to the @Art_Blitz Twitter account, through whom I registered (as there were limited spaces!)

I found it refreshing to draw in the fun, social atmosphere, and it reminded me of the benefits and unwinding that forgetting your worries and simply doodling can do for an artist.

Art as play. Creative oxygen.

The Witchblade image has been coloured just today, using Manga Studio 5. I used a mix of the default tools, and some additional brushes by FRENDEN. Pleased to get nice results with tools I’m just getting acquainted with! Besides colours on that image, I’ve used a new Gillott 170 dip pen nib, the familiar stainless Japanese G-pen, and aquarelle pencils for colours on the ginger-haired boy.

Many thanks to Dean and Dave for organising the event. :)

On your marks, get set, DRAW!!

On Thursday night I went to an event called #QuickDraw hosted by pre-launch arts organisation House of Illustration and established, free anthology comic Off Life. The latter have a good write-up of the event here, along with some choice drawings.

The format invited artists to respond to quirky, whimsical, or serious themes such as “My Daily Nemesis” or “A Message to the Government” with images created in 15 minute sprints. Combining imagery, skilful and popular guests, and hashtagging ensured a prominent social media footprint that I’m sure a lot of non-profits looking to market on a budget would envy.

Being in the thick of redesigning this very website, I didn’t stay until the end, but the above are my responses to the “What I Think About When I’m Drawing” and “My Daily Nemesis” prompts. (I banged my head into an Artist’s Block on the “Love in the 22nd Century” challenge, but sadly it didn’t contain a 1-Up.)

I also, happily, encountered a few friends, mentors, and inspirations:

In no particular order

“Ye Olde Axe” Published!

An anthology of London-based comics creators’ stories

For much of this year I’ve collaborated on organising events and workshops with the WIP Comics meetup group with some other plucky volunteers. September marked the achievement of a real milestone: Publishing our group’s anthology, Ye Olde Axe. I had felt that participating in the organisation of workshops and feedback sessions through March to August was plenty, yet while I declined to have a direct hand in the process that it’s taken for printed books to materialise, I’m really proud of the group’s accomplishments and applaud intrepid editor Matthew Duncan for steering it through.

The unusual unifying factor across the diverse contributions is a building in Shoreditch, the anthlogy’s namesake Axe. I get a little creep of a horror vibe from many of the stories, though genres span comedy, parody, action, fantasy, gag strips, slice-of-life and more. There are some real gems inside, my favourite is best described as Cthulhu meets Monty Python!

I hear that some copies are wending their way over to Gosh! Comics on Berwick Street, so please have a look if you get a chance!

Cover artwork by the talented Tim Hassan.

Short story, “The Meditation on the Sacred Utterances” in anthology, “Wu Wei”

From Andy Oliver of Broken Frontier:

You can be reading Elena Jessup and Emmeline Pui Ling Dobson’s beautifully illustrated meditative 4-pager one moment only to find yourself engrossed in the wonderfully self-indulgent ludicrousness of John Riordan’s potato-themed recasting of Buddha in ‘Meditato’s Guide to Spuddhism’ just a few pages later.

~Wu Wei: A Spiritual Comics Anthology (8/8/2013)

Two poster illustrations from May

Back in April and May I was working on these illustrations for posters for very different functions. One was another Surrey Christians in Science event, for which I chose the image of the hand of God from Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel dissolving into strands of DNA. The other was the map for the venue of Game Camp 5, a regular gaming UNconference based in London! For this my inspiration was the board of HeroQuest and schlocky dungeon paraphernalia like my own “Watcher in the Deep” on security!

While I was doing the “Hand of God” image I was thinking about illustration and the communication angle to it. All artists are communicators, but illustration has a certain expectation that it should have conveying a message at its core. I like projects that get me mining my knowledge for inspiration as well as using my eyes and imagination.

The Creation or Evolution – Do We Have To Choose? image uses the following stock images: Texture 003 by pacifist on flickr, Inkwater 5 and Inkwater 14 by AzureFalls on DeviantArt.

Note: The Keyworth Dungeon Map is 1.31MB so that the detail can be seen.

[Poster illustration from GameCamp 5 removed because the GameCamp 6 map, which you can see in the Gallery, is much nicer. ~24/4/2014]

MinamiCon 18 conbook cover artwork

This is a pair of illustrations, including the conbook cover, which I did for MinamiCon 18 in March 2012. Like with the illustration I did for Hallowe’en, I found that planning out the composition with the text and the imagery together early-on in the process helped lead to a better composition. It’s fun treating text as a visual element and having the flexibility of doing it by hand. I also collected reference photos of sportspeople as preparation for these and the basketball-playing faerie is particularly true to the reference image I used!

These pieces were sketched traditionally then scanned and inked in Manga Studio and coloured in Photoshop. Unusually, I used ZenBrush on my iPhone to create the calligraphic elements and Tweeted the images (Twitter handle @emeraldsong of course!) Then saved screenshots of those images to integrate into the artwork!

If you look at their hairstyles you could make the number “18” from them!

Starsword Princess artwork

Some character artwork I’ve had on-the-go for over a year now! I got a bit overly-focused on complicated-to-render fabrics in her bow and top, but am pleased with the results. It’s a pleasure working on colouring inks that provide a solid foundation as with her smile and flowing tresses. I think this was inked in Photoshop tho’ and I’ve since found Manga Studio a lot nicer a tool for inking. During the process of colouring I learned how to use the Pen tool, which is a lot more efficient for blocking out areas for highlighting or shading than the method I used before.

I hope to reveal a lot more of this character over the course of 2012…

Background uses images from www.timsmith7.com and http://gothicbohemianstock.deviantart.com/

 

My Influences Map

I’ve seen a lot of my friends’ Influence Maps before from a couple of years ago closer to the start of this meme. The source is here. It’s the start of 2012 and dare I say I’d like to do something daily to level-up my art skills? Doing this exercise was recommended by a user-authored course on ConceptArt.org where I’ve uploaded some figure drawing exercises recently, but the posts they’re in are waiting to be moderated.

My Influence Map is a column wider than standard. It was an exercise justifying who didn’t make the cut, even with the extra space. The names credited in some cases are the artists on the production I regard as most influential on me. In some cases no names are specified as I’m not able to winnow out the precise contributor responsible for the specific kind of awesome I chose to include something for. I’ve tried to give some indication of the aspect of a choice that qualified it for inclusion – storytelling, illustration, mechanical design etc!

Happy New Year everybody!

[EDIT: Respect also to Alexander O. Smith, translator of Vagrant Story for evocative period language appropriate to the setting, bringing out the flavour of the game’s world. -120103]

 

emeraldsong is the creative practice of Emmeline Pui Ling Dobson