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Schoolism Live San Francisco 2015 – Day 2

After an amazingly full day one at the Schoolism Live in San Francisco, day two began with me running behind. The BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit, doesn’t run on its normal schedule on Sundays so I was late arriving at the conference. Instead of being 10 rows from the front I ended up being three rows from the back. Besides being in the back of the auditorium it looked to be a great day at the conference with some great presenters. The agenda for the day went as follows;

Day 2
DRAWING CHARACTERS with Wesley Burt
CHARACTER ILLUSTRATION with Karla Ortiz
TBA with Iain McCaig

Wesley Burt (9:00am – 12:00am)

Day two began with Wesley Burt and for this workshop he focused on Drawing Characters. He began his talk about drawing characters by walking us through some of the projects he had work on and the characters he had designed for feature films. He showed us some of his character designs for Cobra Commander for the new G.I. Joe movie. He also helped design some of the new Transformers in the fourth installment of the movie franchise as well as many other images (Thor, Batman Arkham origins, and The Sims 4). His demo also walked us through his illustrative process. It was amazing to watch him draw characters. He did it so effortlessly it seem to flow so freely out of his hand. He did several rough sketches and finally settled on a anthropomorphic cat creature.

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He spent probably about half of his three hours getting the under drawing just right. He talked about using basic shapes to design his characters like circles, squares and triangles. Once he had his under drawing to a place that he liked, he quickly began coloring it by using the hue and saturation adjustment to swiftly color his drawing. While he was drawing, he also shared some of his process while working with clients. Normally the first round he sends the client is 4 to 6 rough sketches of the character followed by a round of revisions and his third round is normally a colored image. He continued to talk all the while finishing up his drawing. Check out the images below to see how it turned out.

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Image snagged from Wesley’s Tumblr

Karla Ortiz (1:00pm – 4:00pm)

After lunch was Karla Ortiz, concept artist for Marvel Film Studios and clients like Wizards of the Coast, Ace Books, and Tor Books. Her presentation on character illustration began with a PSA. She has a problem with cussing so “if you have a problem with that get the F*#! out”. I didn’t, so I stayed. Once she got into her presentation she had a lot of “Things to keep in mind” like when creating a character illustration remember; the Face, Posing, clothing, presentation and light and location. She had many slides with “Things to keep in mind”. One of my favorite things that she said was “Art is a puzzle”. Most people don’t think of it this way, but I do and it made me smile.  Other good tips included; when a person is viewing your artwork they will normally focus on the face and then the hands. So be sure to get those right.

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For her live demonstration she began with a mad libs that went something like “the blank huntress of the blank tribe is out hunting for food for her pet blank“. These blanks were filled in with Morgana, Mushroom and Bear cub respectively. She, unlike the other presenters, already had her under drawing completed so that we could see her coloring process and how she renders her image. She also used a lot of reference images but unlike the other artists she uses models for her illustrations. In this case she had a friend model the position she had in mind for this drawing and took several photographs of her standing in this pose. While she was rendering, she talked about the brushes that she uses in Photoshop. She uses a standard round brush, a round brush with texture and a square brush. While she was drawing she also played with the brush angle and roundness quite a bit.

Another thing that she talked about was artist injuries. Apparently she had been working herself too hard and hurt her wrist. The injury she suffered was a Repetitive strain injury (RSI). As she was drawing she had several warnings pop up on her screen telling her to stop and take a break. She gave us the names of this software – for Mac it’s call RSI Guard. Although she told us the name of the Windows equivalent, I don’t have it written down in my notes.

Iain McCaig (4:30pm – 6:30pm)

The final presenter of the day and conference was none other than Iain McCaig. He had quite possibly the best name for his presentation out of everybody with – TBA. I’m not sure why he named his presentation this but I’m pretty sure it’s because he wanted to keep it top secret. His workshop was probably the most lively and interactive of the bunch. Iain began by talking about his career and all the projects he’s worked on. The most interesting of all of these was his recollections of the Star Wars prequel movies. He talked about how he came up with the design for Darth Maul. George Lucas had challenged him with coming up with a new character like Darth Vader but not Darth Vader. Mr McCaig began designing new versions of the Sith Lord. He showed these ideas to George Lucas and none them stuck (Image below on the left). So he went back to the drawing board and thought about the most evil thing he could think of, a clown. He put a picture of a clown up on the screen. Everyone laughed. But then he explained how he took the face paint from a clown and instead of making it white he made a black and took the red cheeks and place them all around the face. The final design of Darth Maul is the image on the right.

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I really enjoyed this story because it set up everything he wanted to get across in his presentation. Take something that’s already established and turn it on its head. He gave several more instances where he had applied this in his own career. He was asked to redesign fairies for Peter Pan but didn’t want to use the insect like fairies that had already been established. So he used lionfish as an inspiration for his fairies in this version of the story. Which leads us into the interactive portion of his presentation. We were tasked with redesigning an established franchise. He gave us several options to choose from, the room voted on which one they wanted and the rest of the workshop was spent fleshing out this new idea. The old franchise we were tasked to redesign was Beauty and the Beast. The first thing we needed to do to reimagine this property was to change the genre it was in. The room voted again and we settled on a horror movie set at a high school. We would shout out ideas and he would quickly sketch them on an overhead projector. The final story went something like this; Beauty, a boy who was the lead singer in the high school band, goes passed a haunted house and hears beautiful singing. The boy goes in and the beast, a girl ghost, is sitting there singing. The young boy falls in love with the girl’s singing but she won’t let him leave unless she takes him to the prom. That’s all I can remember. It was quite funny. Iain McCaig didn’t grow up in the United States, so the crowd had to explain to him what prom was and most of the concept of high school. His talk went over it’s time by about 40 minutes but I don’t think anybody wanted to tell the guy who created Darth Maul to stop. His presentation ended in a rush with him selecting two people from the audience that best represented beauty and the beast and he quickly drew them.

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Main takeaways from this conference. Every single one of the presenters made it very clear that the foundation of your drawing is the most important thing and where you should spend the majority of your time. With out a good foundation you can paint like crazy, but you’ll still end up with a flawed illustration. Another thing I noticed is that every single one of the presenters did their paintings in Photoshop. Not that this is that’s strange it’s just I expected there to be a little bit of variety in the software used.

Overall this was a very good conference. Very inspiring and a lot of good information. I tried to share most of the memorable tips but there was definitely a lot more information given. I will definitely be attending next year.

Since I’m a Schoolism Alumni I can get you a small discount. If you’re interested follow the link here to get the discount code.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Schoolism Live San Francisco 2015 – Day 1

Today, July 18th, I was able to head to downtown San Francisco to go to a live Schoolism event. This workshop featuring some pretty amazing artists. I got a two day pass for this conference so I was able to learn from some icons of the entertainment industry. The weekend agenda went as follows;

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Day 1
STORY ILLUSTRATION with Helen Mingjue Chen
COLOR AND LIGHTING FOR ILLUSTRATION with Ryan Lang
PICTORIAL COMPOSITION with Nathan Fowkes

Day 2
DRAWING CHARACTERS with Wesley Burt
CHARACTER ILLUSTRATION with Karla Ortiz
TBA with Iain McCaig

The first day began at 9 o’clock and I walked in about 20 minutes early. I got checked in and picked up my swag bag which had a water bottle in it and a few other Schoolism items. The event was already starting to fill up, so I found a spot about 10 rows back and got ready for the first workshop – Story Illustration with Helen Mingjue Chen. Helen began her 3 hour lecture by walking us through her career so far. From her start at Disney, working on movies like Wreck-It Ralph, PaperMan and Big Hero 6, and into her current position, as an Art director at Paramount. From there, she walked us through a short presentation on what she thinks about when telling a story through illustration. It was a good talk with a lot of good information. My big take away from this workshop was that you need to think of your illustrations for movies as quick reads. The moment you’re depicting will only be seen for a few seconds so the viewer needs to get the information you’re trying to tell in a very quick amount of time. The example she used was if someone had just passed away and you wanted to show the loneliness that the person is feeling you would put them in a room by themselves with all the loved ones old possessions surrounding them. A spot light from the door would highlight the character casting everything else in shadow.

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Then she moved on to the live portion of her workshop where she did a live drawing of an environment scene that she came up with right on the spot. It was an image of two cities. One was upside down in the sky and the other was below. The city on the bottom was fairly normal but the upside down city in the sky had lots of Gothic cathedrals and felt much more old timeie. I thought for her just coming up with the image right off the top of her head it turned out well, but she didn’t seem to be particularly pleased with it. However, she did do a really cool trick when creating the lower city. When she created her perspective grid, the vanishing point was right in the middle of the image, and then she said she likes to “cheat”. Opening a new document she began drawing simple shapes that depict the city as if you were seeing it from the top down. These were just rough square shapes but when she put them back into her illustration she adjusted them to fit her perspective grid. It just gave her a starting point for her to quickly rough out the city. For me I’ve always had a hard time creating large cityscapes and this seems like a great way to get the illustration started quickly. I mentioned this to another attendee and they looked at me like “You don’t know that” so maybe I’m just a noob but, I thought it was a helpful tip.

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She began working on the top city looking up plenty of reference for different Gothic cathedrals. When that was done she quickly ruffed out a character for the foreground and began adding lighting.

Next up was an hour long break for lunch and after that we returned to hear Ryan Lang talk about Color and Lighting for Illustration. This talk was similar to the first, but Ryan began his talk with a short YouTube clip that he said describes his illustration process. Here’s the video.

Similar to the first presentation, Ryan walked us through his career taking a look at movies he’s worked on like Disney’s PaperMan, Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph. Then he began walking us through a short presentation about his thought process for creating an illustration. This presentation had several very solid tips. He didn’t want to go as far as calling these rules but more like guidelines that you should keep in mind. In his talk, he said that most illustrations he creates are done in five values of gray or less. The guideline he gave was; 0% black, 30% black, 60% of black, 80% black, and 100% black. Another good tip he gave was if you look at the Photoshop color picker the left side of it is all gray. The top starts at a pure white and the bottom left half is 100% black. Anyone can see this just by looking at it but what he talked about that I hadn’t heard was about the other three sides. The bottom half is 100% black but the top half runs from white being in the upper left-hand corner then moving to a 50% value in the upper right corner. Of course you can change the color of this but I didn’t realize that the top right-hand corner was essentially 50% of a value. Then moving down from the upper right corner down to the lower right the value turns to 100% black. I never thought of the top right hand corner as a percentage of grays because the color changes depending on what shade you want.

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Once his presentation ended he began showing us several images that he was going to use as reference for his live drawing demonstration. These images were of destroyed buildings which he was going to use as reference for a giant Mech standing on top of them.

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He began his image by finding the lightest light of his drawing and the darkest dark and began roughing in the rest of his shades of color. Ryan did his value studies in color which I hadn’t seen before. Most people I’ve seen do their value studies working only in grays and adding the color later but Ryan worked differently. Doing his value studies in color. He worked on the rough value study for the better half of two hours and then finally began refining the image for the last 60 minutes. The image turned out really well. Ryan seem to be a pretty funny genuine guy. He turned his robot into a turtle mech which got a pretty big laugh from the crowd.

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Snagged from Ryan Lang’s Instagram

The day began wrapping up with a half hour break and then the final presenter of the day was Nathan Fowkes. My mind was struggling to find room to hold any more information but Nathan had every intention of filling every last braincell I had. Which wasn’t a good thing, because I don’t know if any of you have ever heard Nathan Fowkes talk before, but this guy has a lot of knowledge to share. Which lead to a lecture that had a lot of information in a short amount of time. His lecture was about pictorial composition. He began this workshop more like an art history class and talked his way through old masters and how he applies what he learned from them to his own work doing visual development for movies. The majority of his talk was about unity with variety; big vs small, hard vs soft, dark vs light, active versus passive and saturated versus desaturated. Next he talked about how everything you see is made up of hue, saturation and value. The end of the presentation finished up with Nathan showing several videos about how you can take one illustration and change the mood of it just by changing the lighting. For instance he created a castle illustration and changed it to feel six different ways. The first was a very iconic lighting scheme with the light shining through the spires of the castle. Then he took the image in a different direction moving to something that was much more moody like a zombie film.

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He then reworked the image to have a storm blowing in. To accentuate this he added a lightning strike hitting one of the castle’s towers. Finally, he finished up with a bright sunny “my little pony” version of the castle. I wish I could remember more about this presentation but my mind was on overload at this point. Sadly my notes didn’t really help. My brain and my hand weren’t communicating anymore, so they were just illegible scribbles.

Day one wrapped up with a group photo and a whole lot of really crammed brains.

Since I’m a Schoolism Alumni I can get you a small discount. If you’re interested follow the link here to get the discount code.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Schoolism interview with Disney and DreamWorks Visual Development Artist couple, Mike Yamada and Victoria Ying

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Two of my favorite artists, married couple, Mike Yamada & Victoria Ying recently did an interview with Bobby Chiu from schoolism. They discuss how it is as a married couple working in the same industry at competing companies. Victoria at Disney and Mike at DreamWorks where they are visual development artists. They’ve contributed to movies such as How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph & Paperman. They also work together illustrating their own projects through their company, Extracurricular Activities. They discuss their recent kick starter program and how they ended up getting funded. Towards the end they talk about their process and what kind of artists each of them is and how they continue to work at there craft to keep growing.

Watch the Full Disney Animated Short Paperman

Before the Academy Awards on February 24th be sure to check out this, oscar-nominated, animated short by Disney animation Studios. This short was directed by first-time Director John Kahrs and played before Wreck-It Ralph. When I first saw this short I was really impressed and all I wanted to do was watch it again. So I went home and try to find it on the Internet. Sadly, all I could find was a hand recorded bad version of it. Now before the Academy Awards Disney has released the full short for your viewing pleasure. Read the full Disney YouTube channel description after the break.

Introducing a groundbreaking technique that seamlessly merges computer-generated and hand-drawn animation techniques, first-time director John Kahrs takes the art of animation in a bold new direction with the Oscar®-nominated short, “Paperman.” Using a minimalist black-and-white style, the short follows the story of a lonely young man in mid-century New York City, whose destiny takes an unexpected turn after a chance meeting with a beautiful woman on his morning commute. Convinced the girl of his dreams is gone forever, he gets a second chance when he spots her in a skyscraper window across the avenue from his office. With only his heart, imagination and a stack of papers to get her attention, his efforts are no match for what the fates have in store for him. Created by a small, innovative team working at Walt Disney Animation Studios, “Paperman” pushes the animation medium in an exciting new direction.