Photoshop introduction

At the end of our Photoshop introduction today, we were set a quick task to raid Google images and create a collage of what we're doing this weekend to ensure we'd taken everything on board and were comfortable using the selection tools we'd been shown. I present the fruits of my labour...

On Saturday I'm going to Guildford for shopping and excitement! On Sunday, I'll be saving the world and probably phoning my mum. When I'm around, party time is all the time.

See below for notes from today if you're interested in that kind of thing!

Fourth walk cycle attempt (now with arms)

Bit gutted with how this one turned out — the arms almost-kind-of-work, but there's a weird kink in the front arm as he steps forward. I don't think I had his arms swinging far enough away from his body, leaving me with the same problem of not having enough space to fit the inbetweens in correctly so they're a bit jumpy.

I have to admit that I'm quite pleased with the legs though. I still need a lot more practice but I feel like I've learned quite a lot already!

Fourth walk cycle attempt

Yet another new version, correcting most of the proportion problems from the previous attempts. I paid a lot more attention to keeping the size of the legs consistent, and while it's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I think it's a vast improvement!

Next up, a whole new set of problems — the arms...

Third walk cycle attempt

I was much more careful with numbering the frames this time around, making sure I only circled the keyframes so that it was easier to backtrack if I made a mistake.

I fixed a lot of mistakes in the original keyframes which made the inbetweening process much easier. I realised that he didn't drop low enough on the 'down' position which was why I struggled with the inbetweens so much — there simply wasn't enough space between each keyframe to allow for any inbetweens!

There are still masses of problems with this. I should have paid more attention to proportions. The legs and feet, in particular, keep changing size. There are so many moving parts that it's difficult to keep track of how things are moving. Still no arms at this stage, once again I wanted to try and ensure the legs moved correctly before anything else.

Factual research: Arthur Rackham

Arthur Rackham, the 4th of 12 children, was born in London on 19 September 1867. From 1879 he attended the City of London school. Popular amongst his peers and teachers, Arthur was otherwise academically unremarkable — he demonstrated something of a talent for drawing and won a number of prizes from Herbett Dicksee, the school drawing master.

During 1884 Arthur spent 4 months in Australia where he became inspired by his surroundings, producing many watercolour paintings and sketches of the landscapes. Upon returning to England, he enrolled at the Lambeth School of Art as an evening student. He sought work during the day to help fund his education and in 1885 began a job clerking at the Westminster Fire Office.

Fig A: 'A Fact,' Scraps Magazine, 1884
During his time at the office, Rackham continued to produce many drawings and watercolours, one of which was publicly exhibited in 1888 at the Royal Academe. He frequently contributed drawings to local magazines and newspapers, the first of which was published in Scraps magazine in 1884 (Fig A). Though this (admittedly rather crude) drawing lacked anything of the charm for which Rackham's later illustrations would become renowned, he was already beginning to demonstrate a keen eye for line and form.

Fig B: 'How a Bank was Robbed,' Westminster Budget, 1893
Fig C: 'The Dolly Dialogues,' 1894
Through Rackham's regular contributions to local magazines, he was able leave the fire office in 1892 after securing a position as graphic journalist for the Westminster Budget. Rackham provided many illustrations for articles and ran a frequent column in which he would caricature public figures. The demand for photorealistic and 'straight line' technical drawings was high, given the nature of the position, but Rackham was granted opportunities to deviate and work in a far looser, more whimsical manner for which he would later become renowned.

Rackham received a large number of commercial commissions during the last decade of the century, with many drawings published in travel brochures, newspapers and even several books — including an illustrated edition of The Dolly Dialogues (a feature previously run in the Westminster Gazette) in 1894.

Aside from his distaste of the field in general (he found the paper's deadlines too constraining for the sort of meticulous detail his work often demanded), Rackham's eventual departure from journalism was forced by means of practical necessity. The role of the artist in journalism was threatened to become obsolete with the impending introduction of the camera.

He hit the height of his fame at the turn of the new century — shortly following his marriage to fellow artist Edyth Starkie in 1903, 99 of his illustrations were published in Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm to great success. The final revised edition, published in 1909, contained an astonishing 40 coloured illustrations and 55 line drawings. By the time of his death in 1939, Rackham had illustrated more than 60 children's books, including Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Aesop's Fables, The Night Before Christmas, Cinderella and American classic Rip van Winkle. Rackham's final book, the Wind in the Willows, was published posthumously in 1940.


Gettings, F., 1975. Arthur Rackham. London: Macmillan.
Hudson, D., 1960. Arthur Rackham: His Life and Work. 2nd ed. London: William Heinemann Ltd.
Arthur Rackham. 2011. Arthur Rackham. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 25 September 2011].
Arthur Rackham Biography. 2011. Arthur Rackham Biography. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 25 September 2011].

Reflecting on research methods

I've noticed, especially these past couple of days, that my research work is becoming more and more of a struggle. I seem to be scouring books and websites for hours on end without really coming back with anything to show for it, and I think it's because I'm unfocused. I'm worrying too much about what I think I should be reading or writing down. Rather than working as I normally would I'm very aware of the fact that people will be looking at it and constantly asking myself if it's what they want to see, or if it's "right." It is, of course, hugely important to consider things like assessment criteria and presentation, but it's getting to the point where I'm too afraid to write anything down in case it's "wrong" — which is totally counterproductive!

I've decided to try and re-evaluate the way I carry out my research and development work by creating a basic research template for myself and highlighting key bits of information I should be looking for. It's easy to get lost in a sea of sources when you don't really know what it is you're supposed to be looking for — worrying which bits I should and shouldn't be looking at, wondering whether this is important or that's important — but by reminding myself of exactly what I need to pick out, I should be able to carry out research much more efficiently.

What I really need to know is —

who I'm looking at
what they did
why and how they did it

What key dates are there in the artist's history? What years were they active? What are their notable publications?  What exhibitions have they been in?

It all sounds tremendously obvious and probably just fundamental skills I should know already, but I often find myself feeling very overwhelmed by the amount of information available. A lot of it is often influenced by the author's own opinions so it can sometimes be difficult to pick out the important and factual information. A lot of things are simply made to sound important because they've moved the author in some way, meaning I tend to 'not get it' and worry that maybe I've missed something.

I'm not intending to imply that opinions should always be disregarded — they are of course extremely valuable — but in cases like this I think it's better to initially start off as cleanly as possible so that you can better evaluate an artist on your own terms.

Second walk cycle attempt (scrapped)

Made some really stupid mistakes on this one! I wasn't careful enough with numbering my frames. I circled each frame number and completely lost track of which ones were keyframes. Sounds like a minor thing but it meant that when I made a mistake on an inbetween, I couldn't remember which were keyframes and which were the ones I'd messed up.

This doesn't look good at all. It's very jerky and he slides back and forth where I didn't take enough care in checking the position of the feet. I also noticed that there wasn't enough height difference between poses to accommodate enough inbetweens, which I think may also be why I struggled so much. Next time I'll be more careful to check he's dropping low and rising high enough to give me enough space for extra frames.

Somehow, probably as a result of my sloppy numbering, I also managed to get the inbetweens in the wrong places — ending up with too many on one side and not enough on the other. Subsequently it got to the point where it would have been more hassle than it was worth to fix all the mistakes, so I decided to just scrap it and try again... Next time, I'll be more vigilant in my frame numbering antics!

First walk cycle attempt (keyframes)

First attempt at a walk cycle! There are no inbetweens or arms at this stage. I wanted to make sure that the legs didn't look squiffy — would have been terrible if I'd spent ages on it only to discover that his legs moved backwards or something.

Really not happy with the posing of the figure to be honest, daft as it may sound! The proportions are a bit iffy as well. I was a little too worried about deviating from the handout we were given — the figure was copied almost directly from the handout and I seem to be struggling with pinning down the inbetweens as a result. I think that copying somebody else's lines kind of makes it difficult to picture how the other movements should look.

Still, all things considered, it seems smooth enough.

Alice & Martin Provensen

Found myself a bit of a dynamic duo whilst looking through one of the books I got from the library — Alice & Martin Provensen, a huband-wife team that illustrated children's books in the mid-'40s. Martin also designed Tony the tiger!

Image source

Image source

Image source
I love the contrast created between the detailed scenery and the colourful cutout characters. The bold and simplistic shapes against relatively detailed backdrops really brings the character into focus.

Initial project thoughts — Digital Animation

In response to some of the things Craig told me, I went straight to the library and got a load of books on fairytale/children's book illustrators. He mentioned that he favours Disney films and children's fairytales (notably Beauty & the Beast and Peter Pan) so I've started by looking mainly at classic illustrations from those particular stories.

Craig initially struck me as a very warm-hearted person with strong connections to his childhood, so I'd like to try to represent that by somehow combining the charm and appeal of Disney's popular renditions of fairytale characters with the sentimentality and intricacy of classic fairytale illustrations.

One of the things I love about these old illustrations is the attention to detail. The very soft watercolors and delicate lines would make excellent stop-motion puppets if I was able to faithfully replicate the style (perhaps using modified photographs?)

I've put together a very quick 'influence map' in my sketchbook of just a few images that caught my attention to give me a visual starting point (and something to refer back to in case I get stuck).

Digital Animation — partner notes

Just quickly adding the notes I took from my 'partner interview' (for want of a better term)

Craig Smitherman

21, Sittingbourne, currently living with brother in Guildford

Favourite place: Holland because of the scenery and night sky, stars
Most used phrases: "Hi," "You alright?" "How are you?"
Hobbies: Drawing, mostly people, listening to music.
Favourite music: Jazz, bluegrass, easy listening, country and folk. Melody Gardot, Dolly Parton, Alison Crowe

Has always wanted to visit Paris because of the architecture, sculpture and lifestyle. Would also like to go to Disneyland! Favourite time of day is night. Definitely more of an owl than a lark.

Interested in animation to tell stories. Has always drawn and written ideas, but never pieced them together. Previously attended UCA Canterbury

Interested mainly in 2D and stop motion animation — favourite film is Beauty & The Beast. Favourite animators are Glen Keane and Lotte Reiniger.

Favourite cartoons: Tom & Jerry, Loony Tunes, Spongebob

Favourite stories: The Night Before Christmas, Peter Pan. Loves children's stories and fairytales.

Favourite colour: Everything (mostly festive colours — red, gold, green).

Interested in Victorian era — dress style, decorative art. 

Who would play him in a film: Twin brother

Five words to describe himself: Funny, caring, polite, banter, creative

Would most like to see himself in a fairytale-type story

And now for something completely different

Secretly quite pleased with this one, as all the time I was working on it I was thinking "this isn't going to work, this isn't going to work... that cup looks terrible... this isn't going to work!"

It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination — the ball bouncing itself doesn't really look natural at all (more like it's jumping) and I should have added an extra couple of frames where the ball actually lands in the cup (at the moment, it kind of just vanishes and looks a bit odd). It might also have been cool to have the cup rattle or shake a tiny bit as the ball lands inside it.

I'd also like to do another version where the ball maybe misses the cup and knocks it over or something... if I find the time I might go back and do that.

Overall though, it's really really simple but I think it works pretty well. :]

Just for fun, here's the rough layout for it:

Lamp impact version 2, take 2

I don't think you can really see the difference too well, but here I've added another couple of frames to the ball as it bounces off the back of the lamp. It makes a very slight difference, but I think the fall of the lamp itself is still too choppy. I'd either need to add a few more frames (running the risk of making it too slow) or experiment with stretching the head of the lamp as it falls forward.

I think I may lay this idea to rest at this point. It's punished me enough as it is... and I'm sick of lamps

Lamp impact version 2

I decided to have one last stab at the lamp idea, this time approaching it (quite literally) from another angle.

My idea this time was to have the ball come from the side and strike the lamp from the back, bouncing off and knocking it forward. I thought this might be slightly easier to accomplish and also give me an opportunity to practice a rebound from the ball hitting a vertical object.

I think it sort of works, though I think it's lacking in impact and it's a bit too quick to be fully comprehendable. Once again I need to look at adding more frames and finding a way to just extend the scene a little bit longer so that it has time to register and sink in.

Finalised-ish ball bash

Further tests to see how shooting singles as opposed to doubles would effect the animation.

It's still not really what I was going for but I wanted to test it a bit more before deciding whether to scrap it completely. I think part of the problem — aside from being pretty poorly animated in general — is the lack of visual clarity. If I were to get the ball bouncing on the lamp's head in there, it might help to provide some context that could bring it together a bit more.

I decided to just use a coin to represent the ball as this would allow me to roughly plot out the ball's movement and speed without sacrificing too much time drawing each frame.
As always, a second version shot in singles:

In this instance, I think the faster version works a little better. Adding the ball seems to help tremendously but there are still a lot of problems with it. It's still very choppy — I certainly need some more frames on the lamp and would definitely need to spend more time on the ball. I'd need to keep an eye on the path of the ball and keep it falling and rising back up in a straight line, as well as watching the point of impact as it hits the lamp. Another stupid mistake — the coin changes sides where I wasn't paying enough attention to which face was up.

I think if I were to spend a little more time on it I would liked to have had the coin spin as it drops and flicks off the head of the lamp before it jumps back up. I'm not entirely sure where to go at this point — I may continue to work the idea from another angle or start working on something else. I'm thinking it might be best to just leave this one as it is.
I had a shot at simplifying the lamp's design by replacing all the springs and metal joints with a standard flexible neck. I thought this might make it a bit easier to animate him being knocked down by the ball as it has a much more straightforward range of motion than all of Luxo's moving joints.

I shot each frame quickly just to check that the animation was smooth and correct. I'm really not pleased with it at all, it seems too jumpy and it's not at all the effect I was going for. I'm trying to get his head to sort of snap downwards as the ball strikes him at quite a high velocity. I'm not sure how much of it just looks "wrong" because there's nothing else going on in the scene — I think it might look a bit better sped up and with the ball actually in place.

I might try playing around with the frame rate and adding a couple more inbetweens here and there to see if I can improve it at all.

Ron showed us this fantastic little Pixar short on Monday. I felt a bit sorry for the ball though, so as I was playing around with my angry bouncing balls I thought it could be quite funny to try and have it jumping up and down on Luxo's head.

Drawing Luxo proved to be a nightmare, though, and animating him convincingly proved to be even worse. I tried to have him kind of jolt downwards when the ball would strike his head, but it was just a bit too complicated for me at this early stage. Luxo has so many moving parts to think about it would have been too much of a hassle to try and work out, especially for such a silly idea.

I don't really want to give up at this stage so I'll have a go at simplifying his design a little bit. I want to get rid of all those moving parts and maybe just have one long flexible neck or something.

Aggressive ball — 4th attempt.

Variation on the previous attempt, using roughly the same timing and spacing but with a freehand ball. I also applied a little more squash and stretch to the ball as I did quite like the 'gummy' feel of earlier attempts.

Once again, I also did a slower version, but I think it loses a lot of its personality:

Aggressive ball — 3rd attempt

Further experimentation with the 'aggressive' ball idea. This time I reverted back to using Photoshop's marquee tool to create the shapes so that I could focus purely on the speed and spacing.

Initially, I thought it was too fast so I lowered the frame rate very slightly to slow it down a little:

I think the slower one is much smoother, but I think the faster version has the kind of aggression I was going for.

Aggressive ball — 2nd attempt

Still not too much different but it actually looks like it's jumping now. Speed remains much the same, though I think that maybe reducing how much the ball squashes when it lands might help to solidify the impact. Angry things aren't floppy!

Aggressive ball — 1st attempt

Despite all promise of beer and cake, I wasn't allowed to stay in the animation studios all night, so I decided to do a bit of digital experimentation in preparation for getting something finalised finished tomorrow.

I wanted to try expressing mood through motion (that sounds very pretentious, I'm sorry) and am attempting to get a ball that bounces in an angry, aggressive manner.

I was aiming for something that kind of draws itself back in preparation before throwing itself downwards with all its weight, but it hasn't really turned out that way. It kind of just looks like it's stuck to the ceiling, falls off and floats back up again. I'm not entirely sure how to go about fixing it — if I remove too many frames I fear it may be too choppy. It's currently running at the highest frame rate possible (for Photoshop anyway), so whether it would be different in Dragon, I don't know.

I'm going to have another shot at it and see if I can speed up the drop at all.

Ball bouncing, take 4

Fourth attempt at a ball bounce, reverting back to a larger ball and again trying to really keep the arcs under control. I tried to emphasize the bounce by using two 'squash' frames instead of just one. I think this one's a bit too fast so I shot it again in 2s, which I think looks a bit better but unfortunately it really emphasizes all the mistakes and inconsistencies!

It's really wobbly right at the end — it was supposed to be a series of smaller bounces as it rolls away but it came out looking more like I just couldn't keep it straight. I think I'd just need to have it bounce a tiny bit higher.

I think I'm beginning to get the hang of a basic bounce so my next target is to have a go at playing with physics, mass and weight a bit more.

Ball bouncing, take 3

Spent the morning working on a few more tests, the first using a smaller ball than before. I managed to get my mitts on a lightbox for the whole thing, meaning it was much easier to keep control of the size of the ball and its movement through the arcs. I think the angle of the bounces look more natural as a result.

Weighted object — 2nd attempts

After my previous attempt at expressing weight didn't come out too well, I started thinking about how I could give a better impression of mass and weight in an object. Even after adjusting the spacing so that the object appeared to fall very heavily, it just didn't have the feeling of a solid impact as it hit the ground and I got to wondering how I might be able to fix that.

What happens when a heavy object hits the ground? Loud noise and... vibration! It seems really obvious now that I think about it. It's still really hastily done but I think the little vibration at the end helps to bring it together. I should have held the first few frames (before the coin drops) just a bit longer, though — just to extend it a bit more.

More balls

After recuperating from my headache I had a little play around in Photoshop to try and get the hang of arcs and things:

It's fairly basic, but I think it came out a bit nicer than my previous attempt! I probably should have squashed the ball at the very end just a tiny bit as it finishes bouncing. I think it's a bit too fast as well?

It's kind of the same basic process as animating on paper, but using Photoshop did allow me to cut a lot of corners and save a considerable amount of time. Generally, I tend to avoid taking too many shortcuts and re-using objects as it can often make things feel a bit stiff, but here the arcs were my main focus.

Weighted object — 1st attempt

First and very quick attempt at expressing the weight of an object.

I don't think I considered the timing of this one carefully enough. There's no depth or feeling of mass. I need to increase the spacing in each frame as the ball drops. As it is, it's too uniform and doesn't really carry any weight.

I can't really use squash and stretch in this instance as I don't want the ball to appear floppy and soft, so I need to figure out how to really emphasise the drop and impact with the ground.

Ball bouncing and other assorted excitement

Was awesome to get back to working again after such a long break. Left with one hell of a headache though — those lightboxes get into your skull a bit.

It's funny how complicated something like a ball bounce actually is. My ball kept shrinking (must see a doctor about that) as the path of the arcs got smaller — ended up just drawing around a coin to keep things consistent.

The angle of the first arc seems a bit unnatural to me — I think it probably should have started dropping a bit sooner. The arc on the second bounce looks a bit too high as well, and I didn't keep an eye on the ground level so the ball lands too far down at the end. Overall though, I think it's passable as a first attempt.

Might try a smaller ball next time and see if it makes things any easier in terms of keeping the size under control.

Sketchbook: 17/09/2011 & 18/09/2011

Relatively unproductive weekend, didn't get very much drawing or anything done at all! Had the best night's sleep I've had in about 2 weeks though, it was nice to just go home and have one last taste of normality before things get going.

We took my sister's puppy to the park and let her off the lead for the first time and she went absolutely mental, darting and diving all over the place. For some reason, though, I totally forgot to take my sketchbook. So unfortunately, instead of exciting dog pictures, you get my fireplace and a chewed up bird puppet.

Another unsuccessful attempt. I've not quite taught myself to consider buildings and objects in terms of their most basic shapes, which I think is why I struggle so much. I just kind of start drawing without really thinking it through or planning it at all, leading to all sorts of scale and perspective problems.

As above, same issue. The angles on the door are all skewed but I at least attempted to look at it in bits, rather than the whole object all at once.

This page is really really empty so I might go back and add to it. Started drawing my cat's ears then he got the hump and ran off.

Drawing fast-moving cars whilst in a car, on a motorway, is very difficult. It's easy to get frustrated — there's barely enough time to even put pencil to paper before the car you're trying to draw is gone. I think I'm worrying too much about the detail at this point, so I need to focus on the shape of the thing.  I'm finding it quite laborious to keep working in pencil so next time I attempt some buildings and whatnot, I'll give it a shot using ink.

Really wish I'd done more this weekend. Must admit this blog certainly puts things into perspective in terms of your output, although it's quite disheartening to look back and realise that you've been nowhere near as productive as you thought you were.

Sketchbook: 16/09/2011

Things are settling down a little now. Heading home for a quick visit this weekend before everything kicks off next week. Had a bit of a break before setting off, so wandered down to Farnham castle, saw some more of the town and got in a bit of drawing time with the chaps :]

Some shoddy figures here, but I kind of like the one in the middle!

Still having difficulty with buidings and things. Need to really be more careful with things like scale and perspective.

This one was just doomed from the start. Started at a weird angle and just went downhill from there. I wanted to rip it out of my sketchbook but I'm forcing myself to keep it. I'm not sure if there's any value to posting it here, but I'm going to call it an exercise in learning that everything I do is crap bad drawings happen!

There's a beautiful view of Farnham from the top of the fields behind the campus, and unfortunately I completely failed at capturing any of it. I think a different medium might help; with a pencil there's too much temptation to overwork things and be too precious over every single drawing. I tend to find working in ink and things keeps things a bit looser so I might give that a try.

Sketchbook: 15/09/2011

Met with our very lovely theory tutor today. Really excited to get started on the course now — I'm strting to get all itchy and wanting to do stuff... though I'm sure I'll rapidly change my mind when the big sticks come out.

Did a bit of drawing this afternoon with a couple of classmates. Tried an interesting little experiment and walked in a random direction with a timer set for 5 minutes. When the timer went off, we just sat down and drew whatever was around us. Unfortunately for me, this was a most inspiring view of a big brick wall. So I just drew some people instead. Oh, and a bush.

The aforementioned big boring wall, and the uninspired half-finished drawing that it spawned. It's mostly my fault, I'm a bit biased towards anything that wasn't living at one stage or another. I think the main reason I find things like buildings so difficult is because there are so many perfect lines and edges. It feels a bit like there's less room for error?

I've made myself sound like a bit of an idiot. Off I go!

Sketchbook: 14/09/2011

Day 2! HOORAY!!

Have some more drawings, big white void.

Think I might be beginning to get a feel for this again. Just a few sketches before an induction. Still a long way to go, but they're a bit looser and a little more lively than before.

Sketchbook: 13/09/2011

Starting something is always the hardest part. The first line of an essay, the first blog post and especially the first drawing in a sketchbook, as evidenced below.

It's been a very long time since I've kept anything even vaguely resembling a blog or diary, so you'll have to forgive me if I sound a bit stiff. It feels very alien, talking to a big white void like this. To try and kick this thing off, here are the first few terrible pages from my sketchbook!

I'm certainly not the best at drawing in any case but these drawings are a lot stiffer than usual — it's been such a long time since I've actually been drawing properly that it's a little difficult to get back into the swing of things.

Only the leftmost figure was drawn from life, the other was scrawled from the cover of the student planner we got given today. For shame Alex!

I'm hopeless at drawing inanimate objects, but it's something I'm really going to need to get to grips with.

Didn't do too much drawing today, unfortunately. The fact that I'm still only half-unpacked and living mostly out of cardboard boxes may have had something to do with it. Still, baby steps, eh?