For the past three years I have tried to in cooperate drawing successfully into my workflow when approaching a scene. It is not up until recently that I have started to feel in control of both the animation and the drawing aspect of the scene and make them go hand in hand as I believe they should for a scene to breathe organically.
Either the drawings turn stiff in the attempt to maintain the character model, the animation gets compromised, because it is adjusted to fit the drawings or it simply takes too long to draw the frames to keep a healthy continuity going for the animation. These have been the problems I have run into during my self-study and now feel I am starting to shake off. What have helped me in this process is what I would like to share in this post.
What I first off had to realize was that the animation and overall feel of the scene and character has to be priority number one. Everything else should be in the scene to support this. To be able to support an overall feel of a scene I have to know what that feeling is and break it down as simple as possible.
For example the scene I did called 'the old couple' had one keyword to the entire scene; joy. Every drawing in this animation should depict this feeling. This approach brought something into my animation that I had not been able to bring earlier. I can best describe it as my intention and emotion for the scene getting integrated in the 'masses' (the characters) I animate. The reason I say masses is because without the transfer of emotion and intend they are exactly that, masses. They only become characters in my eyes when they appear to have a will of their own. I think I brought some will to the characters in this scene by not trying to control it entirely, but letting it play out with the the clear emotion of joy in mind while creating it. Too much control over a scene will in my experience hinder the characters in it becoming actual characters. Let them surprise you and take the scene to another level, where you bring them life and they in return turn to life as unique creations rather than an empty shell, a thought of what they should be.
I used a different approach on how to implement the drawing aspect for this scene which I think worked really well for me. I told myself repeatedly that no drawing was tied down before the part of the animation it supports is working as I intended it. Even a storytelling drawing is only two frames in your scene! I benefited a lot from this way of thinking about it.
Distortion is necessary to make a scene work. It took a lot of personal struggle to begin to grasp this and how to implement it naturally into my work. I find that it has to be controlled through drawing. I tended to get scared of 'ruining' the design of a given character in my animation and it turned out as a string of illustrations lacking believability and move too mechanically. A thing that helped me start to push this issue aside was to think of where to implement changes of shape into my scenes. To see a breakdown or extreme as a chance to bring in a unique shape for the mass animated works well for me. Do not think of the breakdown or extreme as a the middle shape between the keys you might be animating to. These are great opportunities to push your characters model around and be imaginative about it. I try to have fun instead of feeling restrained basically, which is harder than it sounds. With this approach I find that a lot of the drawings in the animation get to be unique while they still serve their role as frames in a scene. I find that animation and drawing go well together this way since the drawings now bring interest to the animation and compliment the it better. There will be more interesting movement through the change of shape and less straight-forward in-betweening which in the end will bring a more interesting look to your scenes.
It is important not to let a single drawing stall you and ruin the continuity in your work. I find that if I am having trouble with drawing a frame in my animation it is because I am unsure what is happening in the animation. I then either re-evaluate what I planned for the animation, get really rough with it and try to hit something that animates with the surrounding frames or simply leave it to come back to. For me it is really important not to get stuck since I forget my priorities and get lost in the drawing aspect of the scene, which will in the end ruin the scene.
Drawing in animation for me is about adding finesse and characteristics to the scene and I want to add it from the beginning. This is hard, but I am truly pleased that I do not settle for anything less.
Here's a link to the scene I mention with the old couple : http://frederik-villumsen.blogspot.com/2009/03/one-week-of-1st-pass-animation.html
and a link to the thumbnailed golden poses for the scene: http://frederikvillumsen.blogspot.com/2009/04/animation-sketches.html
Not all scenes are about great emotions and life and death though, and I think it is important to be able to take these grand thoughts down to a level where they can function in smaller and less grand scenes.
I recently did a short cycle scene for Cartoon Saloon, where I think the drawing is a good example on how I like it to be for animation. The character is riding on the back of a wild goat. There is not a clear emotional state of the character or at least it is not in focus, but every drawing is drawn with the action in mind and as first priority giving me a clear idea of where to push each drawing instead if letting it be its own.
(All pictures and animations in this post is copyright property of Cartoon Saloon)
Mike Nguyen has written a post I found very interesting. It is about distortion in animation and here is the link:
Thank you for reading, I hope it has been of interest! You are very welcome to share your thoughts on the matter or simply comment on the post. I am always interested in input and hearing from like-minded people with a passion for animation.