So work on the Children’s society project goes on, I’m deep into the animating now and am finally getting the hang of the charcoal process, although I definitely still have a long way to go. Things I have learned about charcoal animation:
Patience patience patience patience. Sometimes you have to do a shot four times, sometimes it doesn’t look any better on the fourth, do it again.
Using tracing paper and a lightbox as guides is extremely useful when animating straightforward, sometimes it is impossible without.
Walking sequences are a nightmare, why I have three in my film I’ll never know.
Soft charcoal, soft paper and soft putty rubber, all work a lot better than the harder alternatives.
Try to make the background boil consistently as you animate, otherwise it looks a bit weird.
It doesnt matter if the character doesn’t stay consistently the same size and volume but it does matter that he doesn’t look stiff, so remember to keep the lines fluid and not be too lazy to do an extra frame if that is whats needed.
Sometimes fill works better than lines, especially for transformations, metamorphoses.
A lot is forgiven when the animation is beautiful
Nothing else is noticed when it’s not
Give characters time to stop and think between movements
Here’s a not very good quality video of one of my favourite shots so far…
The Camden Arts Centre is currently hosting an exhibition by Sadie Benning, one of the founding members of the riot girl band Le Tigre. Alongside the exhibition they not only ran a three part queer theory evening course but also offered a bursary to go, so I jumped at the chance.
The course was run by the amazing artist, author and educator Linda Stupart, who I have admired from afar for sometime, so I was excited to go meet them in person. Linda started off by giving us a slide show about a huge variety of queer artists whose work involved collage. We talked about how collage itself was a queer medium because of the way it takes images out of their original context and often places them where they are not expected. With collage it is easy and accessible to create new bodies, new worlds and new realities. Some artists whose work Linda showed us:
We talked about how queerness is realising the strangeness of the everyday. For example zebras in a zoo stand out, but in the wild they vanish into their natural habitat. Queers also are very visible on the street, but in the gay club they disappear. Whose camouflage then is the street, the everyday world we live in?
Then Linda gave us each a piece of queer theory to read, some essays, some articles, some short stories and some poems and asked us to make a collaged zine that responded to the piece.
The jump from animatic to animation was quite scary. I had a moment where I realised I couldn’t actually draw well enough to make any of the things I’d imagined actually look real! I felt pretty paralysed for a day or so, but then I realised (with a helpful shove from Steve) that it was too late to go back and I might as well get on with it.
First we filmed some LAVS (Live Action Video shoots) where I and some of my classmates acted out all the shots in my film. It was really useful to think about where characters are coming from, what their moods are and how this influences their movement. It wasn’t always easy to direct people to do these things however, I guess that’s why in professional animation outfits they use actors. Still I got some useful footage.
Then I (again with Steve’s help) set up my camera on a stand and linked it to a computer with dragon frame installed. I had a Lightbox directly underneath the camera and I taped each piece of paper to the lightbox and marked out the viewable area in charcoal. Here’s my set up:
I am using soft thin willow charcoal, a putty rubber and watercolour paper, which I’ve cut down to the right size. It’s pretty low tech. First I drew the background and then the character on top, so that as the character moved the background would get rubbed out behind it and have to be redrawn – this gives the whole thing a kind of wavy effect that I really like.
Here is my first shot. I definitely won’t use it in the final film, as I think I will need to practice this sequence a couple more times, but for posterity:
My characters are basically two versions of the same person, one at 13 and one at 19. They are both wearing the same outfit: red hoodie, blue jeans (in the children’s society colour palette) but the younger character’s clothes are much too big for him, and hang off him, whereas the older version fits his clothes perfectly.
I tried drawing some sketches of my character last night, I think I’ve still got a long way to go, but it was probably a good exercise to get the hang of how people move in baggy clothes. I’ve kind of got too used to
drawing people naked now!