Friday, December 22, 2006

The animation industry and me discover humor

One day, I would invite the animation industry to my living room, and together we would sit and watch “Lady and the Tramp” (or any other Disney film from the era).

We would notice how we start laughing where no punch line has been delivered, and no joke was there to be found.

What then, we would ask ourselves in wonder, made us laugh?

Perhaps it was a fun personality, revealed through a well selected gesture, walk, or facial expression. Perhaps it was something we recognized from life - the sort of laughter you get from a shrewd caricature. Perhaps it was a detail so subtle, that we felt the film winked at us. Or perhaps it was just a moment so original and clever, that we laughed simply to express delight.

The animation industry and I would be fascinated to discover that we can laugh from deep within, not just with the mouth.

We would then put on some recent animation films. We would sit there, watching these gag-swollen films huffing and puffing and getting all red in the face in a desperate attempt to push us into a smirk. And it would make us sick.

The animation industry and I would agree that humor and gags are different things, and that we need to strive for a better balance of the two. The animation industry would then go home, get rid of the clowns, and search for insightful people instead; and a few years later, it would start making great animation films again.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Walk test

Here's a walk test for the main character (right click+save as). The first link is a panning camera render, the second is a fixed camera.

Once again, it's not 100% polished - there's a lot of fiddling around to be made, especially around the arms. I tried to suggest an innocent and somewhat anxious personality. Oh, and the thing in his hand is a lunch box. :)

This walk was surprisingly difficult for me to animate. I made four or five really bad attempts before this one, two of which were in 2D. I knew exactly what I was going for, but every time I tried, I ended up with a boring, stiff, strange walk.

The first positive step was realizing that all my failed tests look more or less the same. It meant I was stuck in a pattern that lead me to the same dead-end again and again. The task was therefore to break that pattern; and the way to do that is always to think and to research.

First, I discovered that I was thinking in the classic "four keys" formula (contact, squash, passing position, stretch), whereas this fast walk feels more like a "two keys" kind of thing (up-down up-down, one-two one-two).

Research was a bit tricky, because no real kid walks on six (frames per step). However, I realized that my inspiration for the timing came from thinking of him as an anxious small animal of some sort; so, oddly enough, I chose to use the hind legs of a trotting fox. The research gave me my second hint: the contact position was also the high point of the fox's pelvis, and the passing position was the low point. This was an option I didn't think about, because in a usual human walk the pelvis hits its up/down extremes in other positions.

These two clues were really all that was needed for me to break the pattern and start going in a new and better direction. I hope you like the result.

As always, constructive comments are more than welcome.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

First animation tests!

Here are my first two animation tests for the short (right click + save as on each picture).

Both test have been animated moving forward in space (the render camera simply pans with them). I said it before, and I'll say it again: you understand movement better when you don't try to cheat it into an in-place cycle.

Keep in mind that this is not furnished stuff, but a crude first attempt designed to research the contrast of timing and weight between these two 4-legged types. For what it is, I'm pretty pleased with the result. Constructive comments will be rewarded with a big smile.


I know the bear thing is confusing, especially if you're not used to watching stepped animation. Just keep it running for a few seconds, I think it will fall into place.

For those of you who can't stand the strangeness of smooth pan with stepped animation, here's an alternative render with static camera. Hope that's better :)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Quick & Dirty Storyboarding (2)

[continued from previous post]

As promised, here are some specific things I found useful in my quest for simplicity:

  1. I started out drawing on a 400x225 canvas size, but later decided to go even smaller. The boards I posted were drawn on a 200x112 canvas, which physically limited my ability to refine.
  2. My previous attempts had 2-3 frames per shot, as I would try to convey the progress within the scenes. Later I decided to try and keep to a single frame per shot, which really helped me stay with the big picture (for the final storyboard I will need more drawings, of course - but not for this initial stage).
  3. In an effort to keep the staging simple and clear, I started attaching a short line of text to each frame, describing the "statement" of the drawing (e.g. "takes out sandwich", "notices bird").
  4. Every time I felt a need to start fiddling with something that looked wrong, or I had an great idea I wanted to add - I attached a note instead . My rough board is full of stuff like "could be cut" and "camera closer + pan up". Once it's there, I can relax - I know I'll remember to change it in a later stage.
I hope these ideas would help others avoid some of my mistakes. If you have more ideas about how to avoid complicating stuff, don't hold back! :)


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Quick & Dirty Storyboarding

So here it is - the raw, crude, totally not-working-yet storyboard for my silly gag short film. If you don't understand what's in it, that's because it wasn't meant for anybody but me to understand. If you do understand, well, just don't tell anybody how silly it is :). The reason I'm posting it is to share some thoughts about the process.

I know that some people are such master draftsmen and storyboard artists, that they can draw and tell a story at the same time. Not being a master anything, I need a chance to explore my storytelling ideas without having to actually draw.

I therefore decided to go through the whole story and just note (not draw!) visual ideas as they come, trying not to edit myself too much. I knew the result was going to be far from working - but at least it would be something to work with. The result is in front of you. I think it worked - I feel that I now have a solid piece of raw material that I can start molding into shape.

In the next post, I'll mention a few "tricks" that helped me stay out of too much detail. I'll also say a few words about the excellent storyboarding software I used, called springboard. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Smug superhero

Strange, you say? Yes indeed. Feel free to post suggestions for who this superhero is and what he can do.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Environment concept sketches

As promised, here are some attempts of exploring environment ideas for my short. The first one was supposed to be a quick exploration sketch, but got out of hand and ended up taking a couple of hours. I still like the result though... The other 3 were done very quickly. Hope you like.

All in Photoshop.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Infinite Options Paralysis

Part of the difficulty with making your own short film (or any major creative project, for that matter), is that anything is possible. Think about it: ANYTHING.

So, I hear you ask - isn't that the fun part? Well sort of, but here's the problem: imagine one day someone comes to you and says, you know what - for the next 5 years, you can do anything you want. No limits at all, not even physical limits. Wanna go and live on the sun for 2 months? Go ahead. It's possible.

What do you do?

You see the difficulty? There are just too many great options. No matter what you come up with, there's something even MORE wonderful that you're missing out on. For me, this can be a paralyzing thought.

One of the symptoms of this "infinite options paralysis" is going in one direction for a while, then changing your mind, taking a different route, then changing your mind again, and so on - until you get completely confused about where the hell you're going and why. I've seen it happen to others, and I've done it myself. In fact, I'm doing it right now... I'm trying to figure out if I should stay with my latest idea, or go back to the original silly animation gag idea (the one with the purple alien), which is far easier for me to make. So far I'm leaning towards the gag - perhaps using it as as an experiment before going on to the more serious project.

Hmmm....this was supposed to be about environment concept art, but ended up with too many words. I'll post the sketches next time. Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Recommended blog: Temple of the Seven Golden Camels

Just after I published my "symbolism in staging" post, I got to read an excellent post by storyboard artist Mark Kennedy, about character introductions. I think some of what he writes there is strongly related to the subject of symbolism, particularly the part about Disney's Cruella de Vil.

Anyway, this is an excellent opportunity to recommend this remarkable blog. Mark is very active, writing his own ideas as well as uploading tons of reference and instructional material from master draftsmen. He presents interesting topics in story development, design, composition, and more. If you're at all interested in any aspect of storyboarding, this is a blog for you:

Temple of the Seven Golden Camels

Find other recommendations under the label "hot links" (or click here). All recommended posts appear on the side bar to your right. Check them out!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Good news guys! I've gone through my blog and labeled all my posts. You can see the full list of labels (sorted by frequency) on the side banner on your right. Click a label, and you get all the posts under that label. Isn't that cool? :)

A thumbnail suggestion for the my short film's main characters. The dog is probably going to be change a lot though.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Symbolism in staging - 1

For several months now, I’ve been spending a lot of my time at work storyboarding. Fortunately, my boss is an excellent storyboard artist, and I got to learn a lot from his comments on my work.

One of the interesting things he introduced me to, was the use of visual symbolism. What does that mean? Well, it means using composition to visually hint the audience about the characters and their relationships.

Yeah yeah, we know

Yes, we’re all familiar with the classic tricks of the trade: a small character in a huge background conveys the character feeling alone and insignificant, an up shot angle makes the character feel powerful and intimidating, and so on.

However, using tricks is different than understanding the profound ideas they represent. Visual symbolism is a strong communication tool that can be used in almost every shot, not just in special predefined cases.

Consider the following situation: two characters confront a third character - say, two students ask their professor to postpone a test. The sketch bellow shows two ways of staging the conversation:

Get in shape

First, let’s look at the silhouette.

Notice that in picture B, there are two distinct shapes: “students shape” and “professor shape”. This visually communicates to the viewer that in this particular situation, the students are grouped together against the professor. Picture A says “Mike, Jane, professor”; picture B says “students, professor”.

Divide and conquer

Next, let’s have a look at the way the characters divide the screen space:

In picture A the screen is divided to thirds. The characters seem to “share” the screen, which makes the conversation feel more friendly. We want to suggest confrontation, so in staging B, the two “groups” are placed on either side of an imaginary middle line. This visually communicates “they’re on one side, he’s on the other side” – in other words, confrontation.

You might feel that the screen space issue and silhouette issue make the same point. Have a look at this sketch then:

Here, the students are still silhouetted together, but now the characters don’t cut the screen in half. While we still have two “groups”, I don’t think this feels as confrontational as the original.

Made you look!

Picture A is confusing to the audience: who’s the main character? Where should we focus our attention? Notice how picture B creates an area of interest around the students’ faces. Being in the front, the guy on the left becomes the obvious star of this particularly shot. Try to look at any other area of the shot, and your eyes get almost forced into looking at him.

Last but not least: in staging A there is no sense of hierarchy. To show the hierarchical relationships between the characters, I’ve made the professor in staging B bigger (closer to the camera).

All this doesn’t mean that picture A is “bad staging” and must never to be used. For example, if we had a situation where three friends who got lost are trying to figure out where to go next - this shot could be perfect! It suggests exactly friendship, individual opinions, and confusion. Staging B, as we’ve seen, communicates confrontation and hierarchy. The two sketches tell us two very different stories, with nothing but pure staging – no poses, text, or facial expressions!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Girl character

Thumbnail concept for one of the characters in my short.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A journey begins...

This here is the rather silly beginning of a short film I'm currently working on. It started out, as animation shorts sometimes do, with a need to beef up my portfolio. So I cooked up an idea involving a lots of different creatures: kids, grown ups, birds, 4 legged animals, huge purple aliens - it had everything! The story itself was nothing fancy, just a silly gag - but it provided a fair excuse for lots of fun animation. So, as long as I wasn't trying to sell it as the story of the century, I figured it'll do the work.

Anyway, soon after drawing the character study above, the idea kind of took off and evolved into a real story. The new story has only a few characters and, unfortunatelly, no purple aliens. On the other hand, it does have meaning and honesty and drama. Can't win 'em all, I guess...

As a lesson from past experiences, I've decided this is not going to be a "project" - it's going to be a hobby. So I'm kind of playing around with it. I don't know if and when it will be finished, and I don't care. We'll just see what happens.

This blog is probably going to become a bit of a project blog - probably more than half the posts are going to be short-related. Hope you guys enjoy the ride; I certainly do.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Phone doodle

I was doing some portfolio work on photoshop, when my mom skyped me. We had quite a long conversation, and when we disconnected... I suddenly realized I've been working the wacom the whole time! :)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Hello all you imaginary readers of this blog - I'm back! I didn't have internet at home for 6 weeks - can you imagine? I sure couldn't...But it was actually good for me. I think I got a bit too hooked on the net these last two years.

So, here's a little sketch to get things re-started. Cheers everybody!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Strange animal

Can't remember what was the name of that creature. It was a good animal for quick sketching: every minute or so it would move a little bit, then hold quite still untill the next move. A pro life drawing model!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Still alive...

If anybody asks himself if I've deserted the blog, then the answer is NO. The past few weeks had been anything but routine, and the coming few weeks are going to be pretty strange as well. I don't get to draw very much (not for fun anyway). I get to do plenty of other interesting stuff though, so hopefully they in turn will inspire the drawing department.
Here is a little morning doodle, just to keep things alive. More to come....

Saturday, August 12, 2006

My site is finally updated!

After about 3 years of almost no updates on my internet site, feeling a stab of embarrassment every time someone says "hey, I looked at your site", I finally foung the time and energy to re-design it and update the material. I'm probably going to tone down some of the colors (having been threatened with various degrees of torture if I don't), but basically I'm pretty pleased with the result. I hope you like it!

P.S. I made a very cute and funny drawing for this post, but you're going to have to take my word for it because Photoshop crashed on me EXACTLY when it was ready to be saved. I kid you not.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Quicksketch: Den Gamle By

If you like the charm of old-fashioned stuff and happen to visit denmark, be sure to go to Den Gamle By (The old town) in the city of Aarhus. It's an open air museum built like an old maket town from the 1800's or so. If you're really into such things, like I am, I also recommand the excelent museum book they sell in the souvenir shop. It's loaded with excelent pictures and interesting text, not just about the museum but also describing what life used to be like in these small market towns.

A while ago I was whining here about the pompousness, strictness and lack of entertainment in museums in general. I was therefore very pleased to read the following lines in my "Den Gamle By" book: "museum visits should be enjoyable. The museum's staff are aware that it is the visitor's spare time and that too much instructing and patronising may easily spoil their day". Hear hear, guys!

This here is a very very quick composition study, trying to capture some of the charm of the place. Don't know if I succeeded. Maybe I'll develop it further at some point.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Snowman and bird

Some morning "free-ride" sketches. I find interesting things tend come out when I don't really try to "design" anything specific, just doodle away and see where the pencil wants to go. For me, the best time for it is early morning, before my head is buzzing with the troubles and urgencies of the day. It also makes me feel I've done something nice for me, so no matter how the day turns out, it can't possibly be a total loss. And that's quite a lot, actually.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Another co-worker caricature

Once again not very recognizable, but I think it's kinda funny anyway.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Recommanded blog: John Nevarez

There are some great draftsmen whose work is understandable to me. What I mean is, that when I look at their sketches, I can see how they did it - I can follow the way they use the various draftsmenship principles, and admire their excellence in putting it all together.

Then there are those whose work is a mystery to me. It's good, it's wonderful, but I can't figure out how they did it. I can't even figure out WHY it's so great. All I know is that I look at it and I love it. John Nevarez's work is a good example for that sort of stuff. Have a look:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My first "color key" ever!

This color sketch is the result of a nice sunny bicycle trip through the Amager woods. I was fascinated with the contrast between the sunny, dry, empty bicycle paths and the shadowy, moist atmosphere under the trees, swarming with bugs and birds and what-not . I looked at it for a long time, and the next morning I tried to capture my visual impression. I know it's very simple and very crude, but it's my very first success in capturing feeling with color, and I like it :).

Monday, June 05, 2006

KL caricature

During life-drawing sessions at work, it became something of a habit of mine to ease my brain for a while by attempting a caricature of one of my collegues. I'm not a very good caricaturist, so usually it's not really recognizable - but these "breather" drawings do tend to come out quite interesting and expresive, anyway.

This here is my friend and boss, KL. The big one is the first study (notice the concentrated life drawing expression...) which is always rather realistic and stiff. Then come the fun part! The lower left drawing is the one I like best. I don't think KL liked it much though...wonder why.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The form dog and the shape dog

Here is another copy of a Disney frame (Lady and the Tramp, of course). I think you'll agree that the lean dog on the left is much better than the bulldog in terms of solid draftsmanship. Fortunately I saved the drawing in it's most raw stage, after just a few line strokes had been made, and here it is:

This early stage shows a very interesting thing. While the bulldog here is basically a vague, undefined shape, the lean dog is already defined with forms. Obviously, I had approached the drawing with a pretty clear understanding of the lean dog's construction, and almost no understanding of the bulldog's.
[By the way, as a result of this lack of understanding, drawing the lean dog was easy and fun, while drawing the bulldog was frustrating and painstaking and felt like 'work'.]

Here you can see the work process I went through. You can see how much more trouble I had with the bulldog.

Well, you live you learn (and then you live on and learn the same thing over and over again, until hopefully, some day, you get tired of making the same mistake all the time and start doing it RIGHT).


Animation thumbnails

I spent a whole day doing some staggeringly boring and lifeless posing for this scene (in 3D). Luckily I came to my senses, realized what I was doing, deleted the file, and spent about half an hour sketching some thumbnails (sample above). Within another few hours, the scene became not only a hell of a lot better, but also more fun to work on. Repeat after me: I will think before I animate!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Recommanded blog: The Firehouse Stomp

I found this one a few days ago. A very talented animator named Nick Sung from Toronto, Canada, is making an independent short in the spirit of old Disney designs and animation style. The blog includes some really great artwork, but to me its real value lies in that it shows the creative process - not just the final results. There are thumbnails, raw storyboards, doodles, inspirationsal art, color experiments, the whole deal. Very inspiring. Check it out!

The Firehouse Stomp

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Wierd ostridgeness

Another Danish class doodle, painted very quickly in Photoshop.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Daily Disney copy: Melody Time

A few months ago, in a moment of animation-geek weakness, I bought myself the 2006 Disney Day to Day Calendar. It has daily prints from Disney animation films throughout the years, each with a few words about the film. Needless to say, I never actually used the thing :)

A few days ago I decided to try sketching a daily copy of the daily frame. I seems like a good way of exploring different drawing styles and characters, as well as principles of composition and layout. This one is a free copy of a frame from Melody Time (1948). I didn't really try to make an exact copy, or even be on model; instead, I tried to capture the essence of the frame's appeal and composition.

C&C is more than welcome!

Blacks and whites on gray

A little experiment using blacks and whites on gray background (done in Photoshop). As usual, changing the tools/materials kicks me out of my usual drawing habits and makes drawing more exciting. This may not be my greatest drawing ever, but it was real fun to make.

I used the photoshop noise filter to get the non-smooth gray BG. I think it makes the surface look more "alive". The best option, of course, would have been to scan an empty paper and darken it to gray...but I got lazy.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

You're being silly, deer

One of my Danish class absent-minded doodling papers. I'm not sure my Danish is getting any better, but I'm having a lot of fun with the pencil!
I like the silliness of the deer. The coloring was made in Photoshop. The way the white goes into the picture is inspired by the work of Gabriel Pennacchioli ( - I sure hope he didn't patent it ...
Of course it doesn't look as great as when he does it, but what the hey, you gotta make do with what you got = :0)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Photoshop brush fun

Just a bit of toying around with a big fat photoshop brush, letting the brain just come up with something. Interesting how deeply the tool I use influences my drawing style.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Green Monster of AAARRRGGHHHH

Just a silly creature from one of my early morning sketching sessions. I think the coloring got a bit too green, which I decided to solve by giving it a title that would make it look like an artistic choice :)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Louisiana Museum

Yesterday, as an Easter treat, I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a little north to Copenhagen. Now, I'm not a big fan of museums, especially when it comes to modern art; but I decided to be open minded this time. I wanted to enjoy what's interesting to me, and disregard the rest.

On the whole, I enjoyed the experience, maybe even got a little inspired. Regrettably, I was also reminded of all the things I dislike about museums in general: the pompousness, the almost complete lack of humor and , the strict rules (in this museum, for example, walking around with your bag on your back is not allowed. You have to carry it at your side), the quiet and echoing of footsteps in large chambers that communicate holiness. In short, museums are unpleasant places, and it's a shame, because I think art is the heart and soul of culture. Who wants his soul to reside in such a place?

But, as I was saying before I went into a rant... I actually did enjoy the ride. The sketch above is of an interestingly proportioned sculpture by Alberto Giacometti. The line drawing was made at the museum (very quick and dirty, it isn't - and was never intended to be - an exact representation of what the sculpture looks like. It's more like my personal impression of it). The colored thing is a strange photoshop experiment based on the line sketch. The picture is something I found on the net - the artist working on what seems to be the very same piece.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

From my future photo album

So we're well into April, and yesterday it snowed again. I'm afraid summer had been canceled due to bad weather.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Some life drawing sketches

Some life drawing sketches

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Self treason

Sometimes, one can be one's own worst enemy...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

My first strip ever!

...and hopefully the first of many. I've been wanting to try it for quite some time, making some strange attempts and starting over...So maybe it's more accurate to say that it's my first strip to ever make it out of my hard-disk :)

Some of the final inspiration came from a great comics blog I found yesterday, called Murphy Online. Simple, but smart and funny - just the way I wanted mine to be. I hope Mr. Don Carson keeps it up!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Inspired by a Ronnie del Carmen post, here's my little animated Flipbook! silliness (click the pic to watch). Timing is not 100% great, but unfortunately Flipbook doesn't allow corrections. The thing in the end is a train :)
It's interesting that, in a way, the strongest feature in Flipbook! lies in it's weakness: the almost complete inability to edit myself made me less fussy about details and minor mistakes and kept me focused on the creative side of the process, rather than the self criticism. It also required me to have a pretty solid plan in my head before I started drawing, which is a good thing to get used to.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bit of comics thingy from everyday life in the studio. I don't know how funny it is without knowing the specific people and the situation, but what the hey, I like the drawing and it keeps the blog alive :) Basically, the level designer is fighting with the animtor over who gets to work on the main file (represented by the box).

By the way: I usually only reply to comments when I have something interesting to add, but I sure read them all. So tell me what you think, guys! Your thoughts are important to me, and knowing people out there are looking at my stuff pushed me to draw more and better.