First steps to a walk cycle

Not Just A Flash In The Pan!

Adobe’s Flash has been a little contriversial of late, having sparked the ructions between Adobe and Apple as to whether web content created with it would be usable on the latters products. When Adobe lost the battle it was kind of assumed that Flash was probably dead in the water but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Now with HTML5 making interactive web content a different ball game Flash’s future is in question again.

I can’t comment on whether the Apple debacle or the introduction of HTML5 will once and for all dispatch Flash as a tool for interactive web creation because I don’t know and, if I’m frank, don’t really care! My interest in Flash has nothing to do with interactive web content and everything to do with animation.

The Right Tool… Not A ‘Right Tool’

So why am I rabitting on about Flash then?

I have recently been commissioned to produce a piece of 2D

animation for a client – all the details of which will be kept on the QT until the project is done and dusted. I am not doing this endeavour alone, instead roping in some old friends to help me cope with the projects large volume of work and inevtiable crazy fast turn around. Together we decided that the best tool to use for this was Adobe Flash. Well, when I say “best” it was the appropriate tool for the job, however “best” would imply a certain familiarity and fore knowledge of the product which isn’t exactly the case. So to make sure I didn’t look a right tool I’ve been cracking on trying to wrap my head around the new features.

Don’t get me wrong, I have done training in Flash – I have a little certificate and everything – except it was a long time ago, before I had any real notion about studying animation or David Cameron had any notion he’d end up as Prime Minister or anyone had used an iPad! I spent two days learning Flash CS4 and then two subisquent days trying to work out how to adapt those lessons for CS3 which is all I had installed!

Now I have CS5…

One of the features of CS5 that I’m not so familiar with is the, cringely names, ‘boning tool’, which creates an armature that can be used for animating any jointed thing… from people, to cats, to cranes (both bird and machine!).

First Steps

So here’s my first attempt at creating something that uses the boning tool in Flash CS5…

I emphasise it really was my very first attempt and I know I have lots more work to do but it was, in more ways then one, my first steps with Flash!!

'Swamp' by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Illustration Friday – Swamp

I guess I should accept it, characters are what I do or perhaps I will do other things… I just shouldn’t go cold turkey on the character design!

As I mentioned at the end of my last IF post I wanted to try to do something that was less focused on character design and this weeks topic, ‘swamp’ seemed just perfect. So I started thinking about it and doing some doodles and suddenly there they were, looking up at me from my sketch pad, three gooey characters that had literally grown up out of the swamp! Not only did they stare up at me with the distinct expression of “this is our swamp and we’re not leaving” but they came complete with an entire short story for me to pen about them!

Well, after a little initial outrage at having my best efforts at creating a landscape scene hijacked by sentient gloop, I decided that I should just roll with it. So I have, with a fully Photoshopped illustration and a scribbled outline for a short story which, once I’ve eventually finished it, I will see about posting up as a podcast! 

And here they are, the Swampies…

'Swamp' by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

'Swamp' by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

"Shades" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Illustration Friday – Shades

I must confess, I would have been happier if this weeks Illustration Friday topic had been ‘shade’ rather then ‘shades’. That little ‘s’ changed, in my mind at least, a nice broad topic to a choice of blinds, sun glasses or paint squatches, all of which I found about as inspiring as quadratic equations or filling out a tax return. To be fair, there are weeks when I’d have been happy to embrace the challenge, think outside the box and break new ground but, with a midweek deadline and a dying computer causing me both literal and metaphorical headaches, its not been that sort of week!

However, I have been reading 2 truly awesome books “The Perfect Bait” by Bobby Chui, whose online tutorials I’ve also been following, and “Masters Collection 1: Digital Painting” by those talented chappies at Focal Press.  So, inspired by the former and interested in testing the techniques shown by the latter, I freestyled an illustration in Photoshop – no plan, no sketches! I’m not displeased with the results but have to say it was way out of my comfort zone… especially as I had to use a mouse rather then a graphics tablet!

Introducing… Shades

Timid and shy, Shades lives in the dark and shadowy places in the world. Despite his huge orange eyes he sees only shades of grey.

"Shades" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

“Shades” by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

In terms of inspiration I think he has a look similar to a lemur or, more specifically, an aye-aye and, as usual, I think there is a kitten-like quality to him too. I feel I should also mention here that I was obviously heavily influenced by the illustration work of Imaginism team as well as the character of Gollum from Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation of ‘Lord Of The Rings’.

Oh… and I know that my Illustration Friday offerings of late have been sort of charcter-design-tastic so I will try in the next few weeks to do something a little different…. depending on the topic of course!

"Day Dreamer" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

What do you dream of doing?

“What’s your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.” ‘Pretty Woman’ (1990)

I popped on some music yesterday, whilst trying to write, and ended up getting all nostalgic. I started to think about the dreams I had for my career and my life back when I was a teen and how different they are from what I want now… and yet, with the wisdom of hindsight, how flaming obvious it was that what I’m doing now was always ‘there’, like the shy girl at the prom, waiting to be noticed.

These days we’re constantly barraged with messages that what we want is to be rich and famous and if we get these things all our problems go away and, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, many believe it. But finding and nurturing a dream – whether it is of a career, family, lifestyle – is, I think, important and finding the right dream for us and the path that will lead us to happiness and fulfilment is something we should do carefully.

Of course it’s not always obvious, even when we get older and allegedly wiser, what we would be happiest doing… let me give you an example.

Dream a little dream for me…

Three friends in their mid-teens do what they always do on a weekend. They visit each-others houses. Like most teenage girls, these visits involve sweets, caffeine, films, make-up and much talk about boys and music. Unlike many teenagers though, the make-up is usually theatrical in nature, the films are being made on a battered old Hi-8 camera and music is often being composed on an electrical keyboard. But let us get back to the point.

This particular weekend they have an idea for a film, but it involves something they can’t possibly muster…  a cast! So one of the group, who desperately wants to be an actress/film director, suggests animating it. This one of the trio has spent a lot of time messing about making animations with the little camera and dreams of getting her own video camera one day with better functions for making stop-motion. Despite this it has never occurred to her that she wants to be anything but the next Steven Spielberg.

The next friend says that she will pen the script for this weekends film, she has written several scripts (mainly horror movies) for these ventures before. This girl passionately wants to be a make-up artist when she gets older, hopefully in the film industry, but she does spend a lot of time making up stories rather than faces.

The last of the trio, who unlike the other two does not want to work in the creative industries but instead sees her future as an academic, sets to work creating some music and sound effects to go with the film. She has studied piano nearly all her life, penned a musical in her spare time and often spends time composing at home but sees herself eventually becoming a university professor.

Now how many of this trio do you think works in the profession they claimed so fiercely that they wanted to work in? None! Unsurprisingly, the ‘make-up artist’ is a successful novelist, the ‘academic’ works in the music industry and the ‘actress’ works in animation. Bet you didn’t see that coming! You did? They didn’t!

A dream is a wish your heart makes…

Of course, these girls dreams did not develop in a vacuum. They were the result of what they had learnt, not just about the professions but also about the world and themselves, and were probably more closely associated with getting away from what they were then developing an art form and profession.

Perhaps what I’m trying to say here –if I’m trying to say anything – is that you shouldn’t listen to external influences when it comes to your dreams or even always trust your ego. Instead, I would suggest, finding out what makes you feel good. If you feel fulfilled when you draw or paint then do more of it and see where it leads. If helping someone gives you a buzz then keep on and find a path in that. It doesn’t have to be a dream job, it could be a hobby or lifestyle as long as when you reach your dream you find contentment there.

No matter your age, gender, race or circumstances, you can still find a dream that makes you happy.

Illustration Friday - Yeild - A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Illustration Friday – Yield

I found this weeks IF topic, yield, a really tough one. Everyone I mentioned it to seemed to instantly think crop yield and suggested pictures of corn, wheat or maize, but I just didn’t feel inspired by grain crops! I did have a bunch of ideas that I didn’t really have the time to do justice to (so I’ve put aside for later) and one sci-fi idea that I actually finished working on before I binned because I didn’t like it.

 But then, whilst trying to find a blank page in the sketch book, I found a doodle I did ages ago and thus Sparky the dragon was born.

Here he is guarding his treasure, it is the yield from plundering dwarf mines and rich elvish cities… or so he claims. Personally, I think he looks a little to cute to do a whole lot of plundering but perhaps, with dragons, it’s the cute ones you have to look out for!

"Rich Pickings" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

"Rich Pickings" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

It did take quite a while to change dragon doodle in to fully Photoshopped illustration and I confess, as I was trying to do this in my spare time, that I did rush a little towards the end. Still, though he’s not perfect, I’m pretty pleased the result.

"Mr. Animator - life cycle of a project" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Does Freelancing Equal Freedom?

For some freelancing is the chosen alternative to permanent or agency work, for others it’s the way to start on the ladder whilst they find a permanent employer and for yet others it is the only route in their chosen profession. Many who have the choice as to whether to go it alone or work under the umbrella of an employer say they choose the former because it gives them a greater freedom. But for those naïve souls just bumbling in to the creative world, what does that ‘freedom’ actually entail?

The Customer Is Always Right

I think the first thing to point out is that freelancing does not give you carte blanche to be lazy, self-involved, isolationist or antisocial. In fact you must be the antipathy of those things – diligent, organised, hard-working, personable, professional, communicative and friendly.

Freelancing gives you a greater choice in which projects you work on, as long as you choose enough of them to put food on the table, but that doesn’t mean you can whimsically indulge your creativity and do things how you want. Oh no, you have a client to think about and by their very nature they will have a budget, a time frame, a brief and most likely a plethora of ideas. You may still need your mad skills to deliver on the projects but each project is about the client and not about you exploring your art and yourself. This does mean, however, that you can choose work that drives your career and your portfolio in a specific direction, again, as long as you can make that pay of course.

So Does Freelancing Give You Any More Freedom?

Yes. Much of the time, as a freelancer, you have the flexibility to choose when and where you work, both in terms of the contracts you take and the hours and environment you work in. Many freelancers work from home or their own studio (depending what they do) and freelancing can be a super option for those with other commitments to work around.

However, as ever, this can be a double-edged sword as great power comes great responsibility and you could end up working long in to the night to make sure a project is delivered on time. As any home worker knows, scheduling and discipline are your friends as a freelancer. Not having a separate work environment means that there is no clear-cut off point and work will happily chew up your entire life if you let it. Sometimes, especially when you are starting out and don’t know your own limitations you may take on too much and if so you will need to man up to the task even if it means running on empty in terms of social life, family commitments and sleep for a while to do it. Additionally for the freelancer, like those who self-publish or are in any way self-employed, those responsibilities also come in the form of promoting yourself, dealing with complaints and queries and filling out your tax return.

I’m certainly not trying to put anyone off freelance work – I freelance – and it does offer the awesome freedom of being able to pick and choose what you do. You are not constrained by the same obligations and chains of command as those who are employed on a permanent basis which means, as long as you can drum up enough to pay your overheads, you can seek out the jobs you want and create an interesting and diverse portfolio and working life. As with so many things, if you get it wrong the freelance world will become your prison and a tireless task master, but if you get it right then it will show up as a world of dream jobs and interesting, fulfilling and challenging opportunities!

'Under Canvas' by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Illustration Friday – Intention

Not so much intention… as ‘in tent’!

Okay, I know it’s a terrible joke but I didn’t have time to do the illustration I wanted to do, as it would have taken too long with the other work I have at the moment, and the piece I started took a different direction to the one I was intending.

This piece was actually a piece of speculative concept work I did for a client earlier in the year.

'Under Canvas' by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

‘Under Canvas’ by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

It turned out that this wasn’t the look they wanted for the piece so it got pushed to the side. This then, though not what it was intended for, is its moment of glory, though obviously pretty tentative as far as this weeks IF is concerned. I’ll try to do better next week!!

It was a pen and ink illustration coloured in Photoshop.

"Independent" by A.R Vincent, copyright 2012

Creative Freedom

From online shops to web comics, film makers, writers and artists are moving away from conventional routes and finding their own to get their work to the public and make their passion pay.

The well-trodden path…

You are told at school that whatever you want to be in life you must follow a prescribed route. These paths usually involve continued education and eventual employment by a larger corporate entity. For most walking these well-trodden paths is the way to reach their goals, however for many more they have realised it’s not the only way.

Rise of the machines!

In many ways the rise of the internet and increasing access to better technology – from broadband to software – has freed things up. Once if you wanted to write fiction you would need to find an agent, then a publisher or there would be no way of producing enough copies of your work to distribute. Now the birth of epub systems with retail giants like Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes and Noble means you have a choice, and a simple online process can have your self-published book listed with the literary elite in an online store at little or no cost.

Similarly Youtube has made it possible to produce and screen your own short films or animations, while iTunes gives you the chance to sell them. Sites like podomatic.com let you upload audio content – be it audio ‘zines, fiction or how-to guide – while Magcloud.com gives you the chance to produce a high quality printed magazine. Not forgetting, of course, etsy.com or, the granddaddy of them all, Ebay.com which will let you sell your creations online or retailers such as Zazzle.com that will let you stick your art on t-shirts, bags and iPod cases!

Independence day…

It used to be thought that self-publishing or independent production was the last resort and the refuge for those who not be accepted through mainstream routes and were, in some way, substandard. However, though the move away from the mainstream options has come under attack from various critics, producing independent work has created some notable successes, including ‘Simon’s Cat’ creator, animator Simon Tofield, self-published YA author of ‘Tiger’s Curse’, Colleen Houck, and film maker Gareth Edwards, whose low budget film ‘Monsters’ ended up securing a cinema release and much critical acclaim.

Like more traditional options, being self employed is still a double edged sword for the Creative. Obviously, the independent route does not give the creator carte blanche to turn out a sub-standard product, what it does offer is substantial creative freedom and  a way to produce and distribute product without being constrained by an organisations views on fashions, future trend planning or global mass market appeal.

The concept of going it alone is not the easy option though, not least because you don’t have the professional and financial support, advice and backing of a studio, publishing house or agency. It is a huge responsibility and means you are not only the artist but also the publicist, accountant and company secretary. Taking this path puts you very much in charge of your own destiny and whether you blast in to the stratosphere of success or make an equally spectacular balls up of the proceedings you do it on your own time and your own dime!

Choices, choices…

In the end this explosion of creativity should be as exciting for consumers as it should for artists as it takes away the control of the big corporate studios, galleries and publishing houses. Original and edgy work, that may be too niche, nerdy or edgy to appeal to big concerns, is finally making it to audiences.  A brief search online can produce a diverse cornucopia of podcasts, art, crafts, eBooks, web comics, fashion and film to fit every appetite. I have, with only the most basic search, discovered some amazing podcasts, web comics and online boutiques that, in some cases, are every bit as polished as the “professionals” and far more interesting.

All I can say is long may it continue!!