Gurney: Which came first?

January 29, 2010

James Gurney yesterday discussed an exhibition of author/illustrators like himself. From his blog post here:

People often ask each of us auteurs: “Which came first, the story or the pictures?” In my case, the two arrived together, like fraternal twins born squabbling and conspiring. Throughout the creative process of developing Dinotopia, a sketch begets a name, an outline begets a storyboard, and a painting begets a piece of dialog. It’s not as if story is finished first, as some suppose, and then I put on another hat and do the pictures. The two activities enrich each other all along the way.

That’s why I think all authors should be encouraged to draw, and all artists should be encouraged to write. Howard Pyle, in his famous summer classes in the Brandywine valley, insisted that his art students spend part of their time writing. I would almost rather look at Rudyard Kipling’s drawings from Just So Stories, or J.R.R. Tolkien’s portrayals of Middle Earth, than see the work of others who tried to climb inside their heads.

The two modes of expression are different only in their outward form, not in their source. They both derive from the same deep creative center. Hopefully they touch the reader at the same place. A picture book, whether it has words or not, is an attempt to conjure a half-remembered dream. Those dreams arise from a place in us too deep for either pictures or words.

The images in this exhibition, and the books from which they’re taken, escort us to the rocky shoreline of our imagination, where waves roll in from far storms and sunny kingdoms.


CE-5: Logo process sheet

January 27, 2010

One-hour exercise in brainstorming logos on the concept “the environment”. Half an hour on paper, ten minutes learning to scan, and twenty minutes or so wrestling with the pen tool in tracing what I think is the strongest one, the Zebra Leaf. But I need some serious Illustrator practice for my brain and my hand to agree on where the pen line is going to end up.


CE4: Battle of the pen tool

January 25, 2010

Working on the assignment given here, tracing a variety of shapes with the notoriously counterintuitive Pen Tool in Illustrator. It doesn’t draw lines as such; it draws math: you set point A and point B as “anchors” and bend the line between them by pulling on little gravity wells called “handles”. Each anchor has two handles, one for the line segment trailing it, one for the segment ahead. So each line segment is influenced by two handles, one at each endpoint.

The pen tool in its native habitat

(how to take a screenshot on a Mac: Cmd + Shift + 3 for whole screen, +4 to mouse-drag a selection)

First two “easy” pictures, one done in class, one that evening. The battery was mostly done by clicking anchors very close together instead of curving the lines… not an efficient method.

Battery outline

Pipe outline

(How to color the line that the pen makes: go to the Color palette and make sure the solid square is slashed out, [ / ], and the hollow square that looks like a picture frame is colored.)
(How to fill in a pen trace: go to the Color palette and change the solid square from [ / ] to a color.)

Next began the all-out battle to make those lines bend the way I wanted them to bend. Figuring out which of the two handles on each anchor did what, by trial and error, experimentation, and begging advice, took about eight hours and several separate sessions. Thanks to Avery in the anime club, and to the pen tutorials on Veerle’s design blog here.

The first boat image has had the underlying picture layer removed. The second boat image shows how much edge was left around the imperfect pen tracing.

Boat outline

Boat outline with edge showing

The second of the Moderate level images, the boat anchor, took less than an hour. This image has NOT had the underlying picture removed, yet it shows almost no leftover edges at all. Finally I’m getting the hang of this.

Anchor outline

(How to cut out the windows and holes in a pen-traced image: ….still working on that part as of Feb 8 )

(Video tutorial on using Pathfinder to cut out shapes: here )


For your viewing

January 23, 2010

The Motomichi music video reminded me of how the video for Death Cab for Cutie’s “Grapevine Fires” rocked my world. In 2009 it won the Best Music Video award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. This post on boingboing includes band member Nick Harmer discussing how the video came to be.

Grapevine Fires on BB

During our last album, entitled Plans, I got frustrated with the amount of sometimes suffocating input that bands and labels felt they needed to give to filmmakers making videos, so along with my friend, director Aaron Stewart-Ahn, we came up with a concept to have 11 different filmmakers direct a video for each song on our album.

Evolution and Ecology class last week started with a review of the prominent 17th and 18th-century naturalists and others who contributed to the theory of natural selection. Ernst Haeckel was an artist as well as a pioneer of evolution, and ASIFA has put up digitized scans of his artwork and a PDF of his book
Art Forms in Nature
from 1904.

Haeckel’s Natural Forms


How to Survive an Art Class

January 22, 2010

So here I am currently shadowing Digital Design, hoping some unfortunate soul or three will drop so that I can formally embark on the hard work and camaraderie on the horizon.  Already the project-based syllabus differs from the massive regurgitation of subject matter that characterizes anatomy class, combined with a whole new level of promise and intimidation:  “You’ll be dreaming in Photoshop before we’re done with you.”  But the prospect of being judged on my actual working creative ability, instead of my ability to accurately fill in circles on a Scantron, is strangely intriguing.  People can and do become successful doctors, lawyers, or engineers mainly on the strength of their knowledge, and to some extent their problem-solving ability.   To most people, creativity is seen as something unfathomable but necessary in trace amounts, like limes to British sailors, or like sunlight.  Taking that Gift and honing it into a reliable, fully realized skill, seems more akin to training professional athletes than just professionals.  Yet the best professionals, of all kinds, are those that love their work and make an art of it.

“Make an 8-page flyer (animation/graphic novel/movie poster/trading card set).  It can be about anything, but make it good.”

“Come up with 10 ideas.  Narrow it down to 3.  If one jumps out at you, work on that one.”

“All your progress will be displayed and commented on, from first ideas through every stage to final execution.”

“You’ll take criticism and you’ll give it.  It’s the only way you’ll get better.”   (That sentiment, at least, both science and art share.)

Favorite artists, off the top of my head:

James Gurney of Dinotopia fame. He fills his blog with artistic lessons, commentary and analysis.

Patricia Piccinini who sculpts half-human, lovable monsters that tend to show up on WTF?! sites all over the internet.

Pavel Riha, whose dinosaur paintings appear all over the Wikipedia Commons.
Therizinosaurus embryo image

Amazing Flash artwork shown in class tonight, by Motomichi Nakamura: (view with Quicktime)
We share our mothers’ health

Edited to add Youtube link: We share our mothers’ health

Song for the night:
IAMX – Nightlife (via Youtube)