Category Archive: News

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.

Summary

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.

 

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”

“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.

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]

 

ConceptArt.org forums

ConceptArt.org forums present a great learning opportunity, one which I’ve started to participate in more. Here are some vehicles I designed as a response to a “Daily Sketch Group” challenge:

Three futuristic vehicles
The challenge was to design three vehicles using a black and white colour scheme

Listing my influences was fun, tho’ they were almost all games and anime from the 90s! :O Another interesting experimental part of how I tackled this was to use Manga Studio for the first time. As I’ve been practising my artwork more I’ve come to realise how at-home I feel using line to render stuff. Manga Studio made it feel pretty natural to be using line digitally.

#AltDevBlogADay articles I’ve written

[#AltDevBlogADay has been down for a while. I wrote four articles; half of them were picked-up here by Gamasutra.com ~3/10/2014]

In order to help me learn from others in the community and also to put a bit of deadline fear into me, I started posting on #AltDevBlogADay at the start of this month. I have two articles up there, and was pleased to find the first one re-published on Gamasutra.com – a site I’ve probably visited for the last decade! The best thing to come out of this has been the chance to share my ideas with people and get some (phew!) positive responses. This is a diagram I’ve been signing in the air to students to try to explain how there are different kinds of game design work in the games industry:

Creativity space charting different areas of design work
Creativity space charting different areas of design work