Thursday, 29 October 2009

Birthday Weekend and Cinema Double-Whammy

Last weekend (23-25th) I traveled back home on the train for my birthday as well as my boyfriend's. It was a good journey with no changes on the train and it was quite cheap! It was lovely to see my family again and not have to cook!

I received some fab pressies as well, including the book of Simon's Cat from my younger sister, the new Kingdom Hearts game for the DS from my middle sister, several Disney DVDs and animated films, the Quentin Tarantino boxset from Alex, Resistance by Muse, Rebuilt by Humans by Newton Faulkner and Nation by Terry Pratchett from my parents. There was a duplicate of Kingdom Hearts DS, but I changed it the other day for Pokemon Diamond Version which I can't wait to play!

Monday morning however, the break came to an abrupt end as Alex and I had to get up at 5am to catch a train at 6:20am to get back to Newport for 9am so I could go to life drawing for 10am! It was a very barmy morning. >.<

When I got back to my flat, I entered the kitchen to discover posters from Fast Cars and Max Power all over the walls. In other words, half-naked girls and cars are now all over the walls. Hmm... I suspected in was the only guy in my flat that put them up, and I was right! >.<

My flatmates did make it up by coming into my room singing happy birthday with a chocolate muffin cake with a candle in it and a bar of Milka chocolate--yum! I also received a lovely gift from my animation friends, Jess, Bry, Vikki and Rob--an Eeyore bowl and a little Stitch toy! It was really nice of them. :)

I've also polished up my idea for our current 'Manifesto' project in which we must express a doing word using abstract imagery and sound without drawing ANYTHING figuratively. For example, one of my choices is playing the piano, meaning that I wouldn't be able to animate a piano, a person, the keys, pedals, or the hands. But I COULD have piano music going over it.

I didn't choose that option however, as I thought it too obvious. Instead, my keyword is to look through a keyhole. I will post some works in progress of it sometime this week. Basically I am expressing it through black pastel and trying to create an atmospheric piece that focuses on sound after a talk with Matthew. I'm going to be recording some sound for it today and tomorrow and begin animating as well!

But I digress. As my title implies I went to the cinema yesterday for two films back-to-back. "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "9". They were both very different and very interesting in their own way.

The models, costumes and set-design in "Fantastic Mr. Fox" were astounding. The screenshot above might give some idea of the level of detail that went into them. The animation, although very good, was quite stiff at times. This was probably affected somewhat by the more old school approach to the entire process. Very few digital effects (if any) seemed to have been used. Effects like smoke are done with grey cotton wool and the fire looked like little flickering cut-outs.

This clearly lent itself to the very quirky style of the film, so it all fit in together somewhere. The voice acting was great and the script had some really lovely moments and character interaction. I think it is by far one of the most interesting Roald Dahl adaptations, although they had to add a lot of 'filler' into the story as the original book was quite short.

On the other hand, "9" was perhaps the opposite. It was far darker than any Western animation in recent years (even surpassing Coraline) and is actually rated a 12a, which is a first as far as I know (excluding anime of course!).

I liked this for not aiming itself at children and trying to show that animation can be enjoyable for older audiences as well. Set in a post-apocalyptic environment where mankind have been wiped out by their own technological advancements, only a group of 'sock puppets' brought to life by a scientist remain on Earth.

The story wasn't especially unexpected, but the art direction was very unique and different with cute canvas puppets and creepy-looking skeletal robots. It was actually based on a short student film by Shane Ackner in 2005 which Tim Burton saw and approached to make a feature film out of it. The film is on Youtube below...

The original is fantastic for a student film, and the feature definitely pushes it further, yet keeping it short and sweet at only 79 minutes long. It also continues the message that many previous films have established before in that should technology pursue artificial life and intelligence? Probably a bad idea says "9"!

Anyway, another day gone and I still haven't begun animating! Though I did see an interesting documentary on Walt Disney which could be summarised with this amazing quote: "as a producer and a filmmaker, Walt was brilliant, on the other hand, he was a son of a b*tch.". There was some pretty shocking stuff surrounding his success! Ah well, it hasn't tainted my enjoyment of his films too much I hope! >.<

Spaghetti bolognese tonight, work, maybe a film, then bed! Til next time, ciao! :)
Love Gemma xxx

Life Drawing with Martin

Life drawing from another session on Monday 26th, I had just got back from visiting my family on the weekend of my birthday and was absolutely exhausted. Still, I just about managed to draw our first male nude model this year, Martin.

First, here's the homework that I did for the session. The first, 20-30 gesture drawings of people (at a train station) and a 4-6 hour self-portrait. The self-portrait in fact took about 4 hours using pencil on A3 paper with some photographic reference and a mirror.

My life drawing tutor, Elfyn, liked my self-portrait and wants me to do some contour tracings of it using pencil and biro for the next session in three weeks. I think the outcome wasn't too bad!

Here are the drawings in session, we did fewer pictures but spent far longer on each one.

 The drawing above is another "blind" self-portrait as a warm-up (using right hand to draw, left hand to feel my face as a guide and not looking at the page). We spent about 20 minutes on these. I think it's an improvement from my first one... Sort of... (pencil and biro)

A contour drawing, 30 minutes, pencil.

This was a large one on two sheets of A3, stitched clumsily together in Photoshop. Pencil, one hour. After finishing the bottom half, my tutor told me to draw the ceiling on the page above too.

Overall, a good session! :)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Life Drawing at Cardiff

Yesterday my group were scheduled to meet at the Cardiff train station at 10am for life drawing with Matthew. This was a bit of a mission as it meant getting up at 6:50am, showering, getting ready, catching the 8:15am bus to Newport, stopping off at Zara's in Opal, and heading to Newport's train station at around 9am to catch a 9:30am train to Cardiff. AND, when we got there, Zara and I couldn't use our student railcards because you can only use them after 10am!!!

But fortunately, Zara, Claire and I did get to Cardiff on time and met with Matthew and only 3 out of 12 other students for life drawing. As we walked over to where our drawing would take place (Bute Park), several students were ringing Matthew saying they were lost etc, and we found three more classmates at the entrance to the park. In the end, there were about 9 of us, but it wasn't a very good turn-out.

Although it was quite a trek to the park, it was absolutely HUGE. It must have taken us 30-40 minutes to walk from one end to the other, and even then we didn't go to the very end of the park! It was a really lovely location however, the autumn leaves were falling off the trees and there were loads of wildlife in the river. There was some sunshine and it wasn't too cold either.


So in the end it was definitely worth all the trouble to get there on time and the drawing experience was very rewarding! (Especially since we got to draw and feed the horseys!) =)

Next week I have to do a 4-6 hour self-portrait and a whole bunch of small gesture drawings like the sketches above. It's quite a lot of work considering everything else we have to do, which brings me to our next animation project.

Today our lecture with James involved splitting into pairs and showing/discussing each other's images that we collected over the past week. I was up all last night doing a power point for my pictures, so it was a relief that I got to show and talk about them to Rob. It was a pretty in-depth talk!

After this we were each given a different set of keywords for our next animation, which is not allowed to be figurative and has to show something in more of an abstract sense. We were given these cards to choose from which in turn had several words or phrases on them, most of them 'doing' words.

My card contained the following...
  • Looking through a keyhole
  • Wringing out a cloth
  • Playing the piano
Obviously, the piano one would be the easiest of the three to express without actually drawing the action, particularly as you can use piano music to help. I'm feeling quite drawn to the keyhole option though, simply because I think I could be quite creative with it. I have until next week to come up with and start my idea (the actual deadline for this being in two weeks from now) so we'll see how it goes!

Apart from that, today has been rather grim and it hasn't stopped pouring it down. Now I'm going to be off for dinner and a movie!
Ta ta for now!
Love Gemma xxx

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Cardiff Extravaganza

Yesterday myself and the animation girlies (Jess, Bryony and Vikki) all went into Cardiff for some Disney shopping! (We are somewhat obsessed!)
This was sparked from the need to check out the new merchandise for Up.

Originally, my boyfriend and friends, Dale and Paul were supposed to join us, but they went later to go to the cinema to see The Invention of Lying.

So anyway, we checked out the Forbidden Planet shop in Cardiff which was INCREDIBLE. It was full of any Marvel, DC comic, figurine and manga you could think of and had a good range of posters, T-shirts and books. Just browsing the two floors of goodness could take days! Unfortunately, it was hideously over-priced! Most of the items there could be bought for half as much online, so we didn't buy anything. :(

Next stop, lunch! Jess had recommended this Japanese-style restaurant called Wagamama, and it was stunning. It was in this beautiful glass library and was so clean and stylish. There were rows of tables and you get chopsticks! Most of the food was the usual ramen soup, noodles and rice dishes, but the portions are really generous and it was absolutely scrummy!

We took pictures of our 'victory poses' as the food was so much it was quite a task to eat it all! It was a really awesome meal until I managed to pour a whole glass of water onto my tights because we were taking pictures through glasses at one point. Sod's law that I should pick up the glass with water in it!

So after a really nice and not too expensive meal, it was off to find the Disney store! It was a little tricky to find as we hadn't explored the area before but we got there eventually and took pictures outside (we must have looked like really crazy tourists). It was AWESOME! It was about the same size as the one back home in Chester but seemed to have even more goodies!

I bought an adorable Stitch pin, (apparently Disney pins are a big collecting craze, especially in America!) a Lady magnet and a fluffy Eeyore plushie (because I love him and haven't had a cuddly toy of him before!). There were some Up toys there too, but the range wasn't great and the cuddly toys didn't seem very well made (the Kevin toys got the colouring all wrong!). There were some lovely magnets and I wanted one of Doug but sadly they were marked and dirty. :( You could get an Up pin there, but you needed to present a Vue ticket to prove that you've seen Up at the cinema and we saw it at Cineworld--NOOOOO!!!!

So in the end, we dropped in at The Works on the way back and I bought a great hardback A3 sketchpad with 80 pages for life drawing and it was only £4.99! I also found the most adorable Up storybook with full colour illustrations and a lovely squishy hardback cover. It was supposed to be £9.99, but I bought it here for £2.99! Bargain!!! <3

After an awesome girly day out, we got back at about 7:30pm after a train and taxi back, absolutely exhausted. I got back to my flat to discover one of my flatmates was having friends over and that it would be "noisy". A couple of hours later, music is blaring out and people keep accidentally stumbling into my room thinking it was the bathroom (until I locked the door).

I went out for a snack after they left to go drinking in Newport and the kitchen was trashed. It wasn't just beer bottles and cans and tops everywhere, but food on the floor, spilled drinks on the table and playing cards and sweet wrappers all over the place. Yuck!!!

So I stayed at my boyfriend, Alex's for the night 'cause I didn't want to wake up to that in the morning! Fortunately they have tidied up a bit today and I have been told by Rachael that they will clean up properly later *fingerscrossed*!

Anywho, I have some work to do for next week and we have curry night to prepare for today, although it will only be Alex, Dale, Paul and I as everyone else went back to Wrexham for the weekend! Next Friday I'll be heading home with Alex for our birthdays, which I'm really looking forward to! :)
Love Gemma xxx

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Life Drawing

Yesterday I managed to get into the Library to scan in my life drawings from my past two sessions, so here they are! Please click on the images to read more about them as I wrote text on them to explain what some of them are about. :)

Session One: Outdoor observational drawing in Newport 5-10-09



 I received good feedback for these from my lecturer, Matthew, and look forward to the next session! It was interesting because the older and fatter people were far more interesting to draw than anyone else. This sparked some humorous comments among my classmates! :P

Session Two: Indoor life drawing at Barnabus House, Newport






My second session of life drawing was a little frustrating as we had to keep changing between using our left and right hands to draw. Also, the time we were given for each pose was a little random. Some drawings are as little as two minutes while others were more like ten. I often found that I wanted to stop working on a drawing as I work quite quickly and I was concerned that I would "kill it".

Our other life drawing tutor, Elfyn, is a little more intense than Matthew and he was constantly telling us to keep our eyes on the model and off of the paper which was incredibly difficult at times. Nevertheless, it was an interesting class and I felt there was some improvement in my work and Matthew said so as well so I must have been doing something right!

I saw Up again today, it's still so emotional! It was just as beautiful the second time round. :)

Tomorrow morning is our weekly lecture with Caroline and then the rest of the week is free for my own work! Hurrah! I think I will be doing a collaboration of some sort with Jess tomorrow evening, we are very eager to do some drawing together!

Until next time, bubye!
Love Gemma xxx

Monday, 12 October 2009

Up, Up, Up! [Edited]

I finally saw it! Pixar's latest animated classic, "Up"! I really can't understand why it took so long to get a UK release over here, but in some ways the wait was worth it. Quite simply, this film is beautiful. I could not believe it. Ten minutes in and I was crying my eyes out with my two friends from animation, Jess and Vikki.

A lot of it is using simple montage and very little dialogue to piece together the protagonist's (Carl Fredricksen) life with his wife, Ellie. But the imagery used is so powerful and the events so tear-jerking that you become emotionally attached in less than ten minutes. By the end of it, I was reduced to a blubbering mess, and the film had barely started.

The rest of the film of course contained laugh out loud comedy, gorgeous animation, a gripping story and all of the charm that we have come to expect from Pixar. I dare not describe the story as I would probably get so caught up I would spoil most of this amazing feature. So I will exclude the synopsis and just say that this is a must-see!

I was so touched by this film, I have never seen anything at a cinema that has made me both laugh and cry in one sitting. It was equally as enjoyable as "WALL-E" last year! And I'm definitely going to see it again next Wednesday. Memories from "Up" have been replaying in my mind since I came out of the cinema, it is full of nostalgia and sentimental value, regardless of whether you are young or old (young children in the cinema were even getting upset) or if you have a significant other or not. If you haven't seen this film, I insist you buy yourself a ticket as soon as physically possible.

Other than this there is nothing to report here! I had a fajita night with about seven other people just now and had a really good time cooking and talking. I think we are going to make a weekly thing of it, which will be really nice.

Tomorrow is another session of life drawing. I'll be inside drawing the nude model this time! Looking forward to it (but not in a wrong way of course!) when will us artists be understood???


My friend Zara has just uploaded her Metamorphosis animation to Youtube, please check it out as she is a wonderful artist and animator!

Love Gemma xxx

Friday, 9 October 2009

Final Animation

After a week of toiling over page after page and doing nothing to help reduce tree consumption, myself and my group have finished our

Here is my final animation running at 11 seconds long!

I have also found one of my fellow classmates on Youtube, here is Jess' animation as well!

I'm really excited for tonight as well, I have my animation friendies over for some digital drawing and then we're going to Rob's for another pizza and Xbox 360 gaming session, gonna be awesome!

I went out for a lovely meal last night with my boyfriend, Alex and his Dad, it was really nice and it was great to have a proper dinner for once!

Also, I believe I have forgotten to mention that Alex has been upgraded here at Uni. Originally he applied for the Film & Video course but his interview didn't go well and he was offered foundation instead. Of course, at college he made an amazing film (which you can watch below) and achieved the best grade at National Diploma level! So, he recently got speaking to the Uni about the problem, met the leader of the Film course, showed the leader his final film and he was so impressed he got a place! I am very happy and proud for him!!! :)

Here is his fabulous film! (Starring the amazing Ally Goodman and Eduardo Evers-Swindell!)

Here's to another great week! :D
Missing everyone back home and really looking forward to my visit!
Love Gemma xxx

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Metamorphosis Animation Test

Hello all, my animation project is going really well so far, I've done 68 keyframes and a load of in-betweens yesterday and today. I used our line tester, Ernest last night to see how my keyframes were looking and it came out pretty well I think. You can check it out on below.

Note that because it's only a line test, it will look a bit jumpy. I did another version today with some extra frames and it's looking much better. I will upload the finished version at the end of the week!

This morning I had a really good lecture with James Manning about "How do we know it's good?" in reference to animation. He had some really interesting points to make about what animation is, its' purpose and what it can do for us etc. We also watched some awesome short animated films and an excerpt from FFVII: Advent Children (Yay!) as examples of 2D, computer animation and the gap between expressing the individual and satisfying the corporate industry.

The animated clips that we watched are embedded below...

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

Other than that, I have a nasty cold right now and have been a little off food. It's also been really wet, really grey, really cold and generally just horrid today.

Hopefully tomorrow will get better!
Love Gemma xxx

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Triplets and a Bride

Hello all, after another lie in, I thought I would update the Internet with the rest of my week so far. Last Tuesday I watched Belleville Rendez-Vous or Les Triplettes de Belleville for the first time, which is a French animated film by Sylvain Chomet. It was an incredible film, full of surreal characters and settings and a gripping story. It was very touching and a joy to watch, even just for the animation and background paintings which combine to make literally every frame a work of art.

It follows the story of a young boy who lives with his grandmother and trains as a cyclist to enter the Tour de France, but he his kidnapped during the race by the mafia and his grandmother and dog set out across oceans and cities to rescue him. Although a little dark in atmosphere at times, it also has a great sense of humour and an amazing musical score. There is even a scene where the characters make a song out of a newspaper, a fridge shelf, a vacuum cleaner and a bicycle wheel. Now that's inventive.

Although often devoid of dialogue (there is next to none) this allows the characters to truly express themselves with their motion and body language and even their character design (vulnerable characters are small and the mafia are large and square). Full of imagination and creativity, I highly recommend it to anyone!

My second set of films for this post are two volumes that I have somehow managed to not see until now. This is of course Kill Bill Volumes I and II by Quentin Tarantino which I watched back-to-back last night. They have left me speechless.

Although full of very bloody violence I could not help but love these films. From the very first shot you are drawn directly into the story. The quirky combination of stop start action and highly contrasting music created the most bizarre atmosphere that you could only admire. The performances given by every actor was incredible and swung dramatically from serious moments to comedic deaths and jokes in moments.

Quentin Tarantino gives you carefully crafted expectations of what will happen next before completely twisting it around and leaving you emotionally and morally confused, a feeling I have little experienced in cinema. Only in looking back at the entirety of the two films can you piece together where you were fooled.

And of course, what masterpiece can go without a good ending? Kill Bill Volume II does it with ease, leading you on an emotional roller coaster even more intense than the first. I cannot say anything more without spoiling the end, so I will leave it up to you to watch this beautiful film if you haven't already. In one night this went from unknown to easily one of my favourite films/one of the best films I've ever seen.

There is also a gorgeous animated sequence by Production I.G. but bear in mind that this and the two films are rated 18 for a reason, although I think the second one could have got away with a 15 if it wasn't for the mental exhaustion you get from what the characters go through.

But enough of films (even if they are amazing). Yesterday I finally decided what I am going to animate for my next project which is due in next Friday (9th). I had some storyboards for a previous idea, but I wasn't connecting to it, so I went back to the drawing board and redrew a new idea with the help of some great advice from family and my lecturer.

I decided to go along a musical theme to represent my love of musical sound and playing bass along with the graceful playfulness of a mermaid (I'm sure I'm obsessed with them).You can see the original sketches and storyboards for it below, along with an example of how many keyframes I have drawn (and how badly I need a proper camera) so far (46 out of 125 and counting).

The rest of my afternoon will be spent finishing my keyframes and tomorrow I will test the timing on Ernest (our linetester) to see if it's too long or short for 10 seconds! I feel that this animation is far more personal than the random abstract images I had before (it will not be uploaded!) and I look forward to finishing it and showing everyone when I have a copy on film.

Last Thursday was an awesome poster sale at Uni, and I had to go and buy myself some new posters for my room, 'cause one: it was looking too bare and two: the posters were so cool! I took a picture of them (from left to right, Radiohead, art by Daniel Conway and The Nightmare Before Christmas).

And finally, Rob, Zara, Alex, Jess, Bryony and a couple of others from animation and I are setting up a Movie Society here at Newport. We'll be watching diverse and obscure films and animation every Tuesday night to broaden the horizons for the Animation, Film and Computer Games Design courses. I'm really looking forward to it! I made the poster for it yesterday.

(Please click on the image to full view it, there's a lot of detail in the header that I slaved over! See how many movies you can spot! :P)

Anyway, that's me done for now, I have to sort out my washing and finish my animation! Until next time, TTFN!

Love Gemma xxx