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Apr. 4th, 2010

cheshire cat

Patience is a Virtue

Don't you hate it when you're the only non-drinking adult at the party? When everyone and everything needs attention? Don't you wish to just pick up a drink and not care or stress or watch out for something, like everyone else is doing?

When one kid keeps running off to the street to ride his bike, a street where the neighbors are practicing their motorcycling? When the other kid has an unnatural appetite for crayons and foam and other inedible objects?

When you realize that nobody remembered to feed the cat?

When every little detail mounts up to something so intolerable that you're swearing under your breath like a bad angry rapper? A "quirky" remark here, a spill there, food burning, kids fighting, get you this, get you that, how is school, calm down? And why the hell are you in my room? Don't you know I don't like people in my room? Especially when I'm not there?

And, finally, when you're left with most of the cleaning?

You should know that I just freed my PC of a really nasty virus that kept my shaky nerves preoccupied for the past three days. Oh, and someone managed to turn off my computer during the party, as a result of which I lost all my progress on a recent graphic design assignment.

Patience is a virtue, my friends. Only repeating that mantra helped me get through the day and still end up laughing at myself before going to sleep.

Mar. 25th, 2010


How Many Commandments?..

What do I do until one-thirty in the morning every night? That's correct - I read myself full of animation books. Whatever I can get my hands on, whether it is a file or a hard copy, I read and absorb to the best of my ability. In every animation book that I've read so far (and most likely in every decent animation book), at one point there is mention of these 12 universal principles, these "ten commandments" of animation. They might be worded differently from source to source, but in essence the twelve stay the twelve. For those who are unfamiliar with them, here they are, as taken from Isaac Kerlow's The Art of 3D Computer Animation and Effects:
  1. Squash and stretch
  2. Anticipation
  3. Staging
  4. Straight ahead/Pose to Pose animation
  5. Follow through and overlapping action
  6. Slow in/slow out
  7. Arcs
  8. Secondary action
  9. Timing
  10. Exaggeration
  11. Solid drawing
  12. Appeal
Now, these were developed when animators were just beginning to explore the possibilities of the medium, and the list was originally intended for 2D use only (simply since back in the 30s and 40s people could not even dream up a computer). However, it is still valid today and should be applied to 3D animation, as well. That's the beauty of the 12 principles: they can and need to be incorporated everywhere. They are the foundation of good animation and the ingredients of the best recipe.

Nevertheless, it's been quite a while since the 1930s. Things changed. Things emerged, transformed, were discovered or invented. The various new techniques of 3D animation expanded the medium's potential like Big Bang. Some felt the need to add on to the twelve principles to include some considerations concerning the new technology. Kerlow elaborates on these six in his above-mentioned book:
  1. Limited animation
  2. Cinematography
  3. Facial animation
  4. Visual styling
  5. Motion blending
  6. User-controlled animation
Fred Moore, one of the original animators working for Walt Disney, made himself a little list of things to remember while working. According to Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in The Illusion of Life, Moore, an absolutely amazing and talented artist, tended to make the silliest mistakes by forgetting something, so he wrote it all down as a reminder. Hell, it's more than most of us do in similar situations:
  • Appeal in drawing
  • Staging
  • Most interesting way? (Would anyone other than your mother like to see it?)
  • Is it the most entertaining way?
  • Are you in character?
  • Are you advancing the character?
  • Is this the simplest statement of the main idea of the scene?
  • Is the story point clear?
  • Are the secondary actions working with the main action?
  • Is the presentation best for the medium?
  • Does it have 2-dimensional clarity?
  • Does it have 3-dimensional solidity?
  • Does it have 4-dimensional drawing? (Drag and follow-though)
  • Are you trying to do something that shouldn't be attempted?
I found these questions to be wonderful. If you ask them to yourself throughout your work, you're good. The best aspect of this list is that it's not just purely technical; instead, it is practical for any and every scene you're animating.

Here's is another piece of advice extracted from The Illusion of Life: a list of the components of Bill Tytla's best work. These qualities/characteristics apply mostly to character animation. It is quite a struggle oftentimes to get even one of these:
  • Inner feelings and emotion
  • Acting with clear and definite action
  • Character and personality
  • Thought process through expression changes
  • Ability to analyze
  • Clear staging
  • Good composition
  • Timing
  • Solidity in drawing
  • Power in drawing
  • Strength in movement
  • Imagination
Alright-y now, that's a lot. All of it. A lot. I do not expect myself to remember all of this, although I know I should. Oh, well, I'll end up memorizing most of it anyway. And writing down the rest to pin up on the wall by my calendar, right next to that quote by Chris Webster about becoming a true artist on one side, and next to one of my own, saying, "You're either absolutely brilliant or expendable - there's no 3rd choice" on the other.

Mar. 22nd, 2010

neon flower

I Ain't Hopeless No More, Really

Russian free verse, anyone?

Зачем мы спорим все и боремся за жизнь?
В чем смысл?
В любой момент на нас упадут бомбы
Или, может, застрелят к черту
А мы все дышим день за днем,
Не зная, когда умрем
Наверно, будем так дышать
Плакать и разрушать
Давай подойдем к обрыву и посмотрим на рассвет
В последний раз
Пытаясь запомнить такую красоту.

Вот-вот здесь все взорвется! И нас не будет
Что же делать?
Ведь под нашими ногами столько мин
И мы стоим на месте
И отчаянно ждем смерти
Оставляя это все
Для слез наших детей,
Так ничего не поменявю
Давай подышим ветром еще не срубленных лесов
В последний раз
Пытаясь наполниться такою красотой.

Похоже, мы теряем время, стараясь сделать
Что-то лучше
А впрочем, мы его теряем
На протяжении истории
И что ж теперь?
Нам возвращаться?
Или дальше пробираться,
Повротяя все ошибки,
Через знакомые шипы?
Давай найдем кусочек неба, где звезды еще целы
В последний раз
Пытаясь поделиться такою красотой.

Давай забудем все и посмеемся от души
В последний раз!
Пытаясь представить такую красоту.

Let's just say that not the best thoughts are brewing in my head right now. This is actually quite old, but it came to mind after today's long discussion of foreign policy issues. I felt it was relevant. Don't ask me to translate it - I couldn't do it if I wanted to.

Mar. 18th, 2010

cheshire cat

Laugh Out Loud...

Sometimes, late at night, I get hysterics. Not the scary, agonized, or psychopathic kind, although it certainly does seem so to some of the family members. No - these hysterics are rather comical. I get laughing fits for very insubstantial reasons, that's what happens. And then the realization that I'm giggling for no reason spurs even bigger fits. If you saw me at a time like that, you'd be convinced that I belong in a mental institution.

But let us leave that particular thought before it gets too real to handle, shall we?

So, if I've been going on 4-5 hours of sleep per night for several weeks in a row, then just about now I'd be getting my hysterics. That is just one outcome of sleep deprivation, as most of us know through some sort of experience. Actually, I recently found out that lack of sleep can induce the same effects that are produced by certain drugs. Fun. One of those is hallucinations. Dead serious - read about it yourself: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1690. The more I got into it, the more I began noticing the symptoms. I was looking out my window at the stars today and I could have sworn I saw a barely detectable band of light flash across the sky. Now, although I'm into some far-fetched stuff, I knew that it was my imagination. Still, when you look at the sky and you unmistakably see the stars dancing and swirling, you know you have to go to bed, now.

I need to sleep. This is really funny, actually. I find the circumstances I'm in worthy of a TV show. Every crisis of my life can be humorously mocked. You know, sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and laugh, because I suddenly think that I resemble an alien. Except that's not a hallucination.

Mar. 13th, 2010

neon flower

Please Contain Your Emotional Vomit

Art rant. Here we go.

The quality of both art and art education has been steadily degrading, especially in this country. In the "modern" age, people shifted towards the "modern" appeal of "modern," abstract art. The demand for decorative pieces certainly contributed to that, as the percent of the public that actually appreciates and buys traditional work diminishes. It's simple: people like the word "abstract" - it holds a certain alluring power over them, even if they do not necessarily understand what it means.

How does this nation teach young artists entering the field? It encourages them to be "creative." It values their precious, feeble feelings and urges to "express" them. As long as one is allowed to "create" and "self-express," his or her chicken scratches and paint splashes are considered "art". As a result, our little world is littered with worthless pieces, all surrounded by a stubborn, delusional sense of importance.

You think you're being innovative? Original? Different? DIFFERENT?

How ignorant is that. Sure, go ahead, believe in your individualism and talent. Hold on to your dear reasons for calling yourself special. Keep thinking that your thoughtless paint splashes make you better than the rest.

Over the centuries, art has been developing as a science. It has a foundation, a basis that any serious artist-in-training must master. The principles of color, the pillars of drawing, the human anatomy, perspective, composition, technique - they are barely taught because what really matters to us is that damned creativity. Well, without the solid foundation your "art" is shallow. It is merely emotional vomit that gets hurled onto the canvas. It holds no value or interest. At all.

Art is a science. Why has the past century not produced any spectacular masterpiece reminiscent of Michelangelo's David, da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Greece's Parthenon, Dali's Last Supper, or J.-L. David's Death of Socrates? We lost the path of progress. All those works and hundreds of others that are regarded as humanity's best artistic achievements are build on the carefully deduced principles and rules of art. After thorough analysis, they have been found to use the golden ratio - the key to nature's perfection. And the golden ratio is all numbers.

Therefore, art is based on math. Perfection in art can be accomplished only by a scientific, thoughtful approach.

For most people, art is a means of relaxation, and I have no problem with that. However, when one pretentiously claims to be an artist while relaxing, he or she cannot be taken seriously. After three hours of painting or drawing or sculpting, you should be mentally exhausted. You should be drained and incapable of pushing yourself any further for the day, all because the work requires you to never cease thinking.

Thinking... What a strange concept, right? It's kinda important, really. People should try harder.

Enough negativity for one night. I really did not mean to dis the world, nor to insult anyone. I just wish for improvements. Doesn't everyone?
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Mar. 10th, 2010

cheshire cat

Getting My Spring On

Such a pretty day, wasn't it?

Sunny, warm. Felt like spring. Frankly, I somehow felt "spring" at the end of January, but now it seemed to have finally settled in. Anyway, the smell of spring got my blood pumping faster and I decided to start my running season early. Surprisingly, it was not as bad as I expected: I made my starters' 3 miles in half and hour without stopping once. It was quite nice. Fresh air, warm sun. Spring.

Upon returning home I decided that I haven't tortured myself enough. So, I went to the basement to meet my old friend the punching bag. I haven't given any love to the punching bag since September. So I gave it some love. Wearing snow gloves to protect the thin tissue of skin on my knuckles, for lack of real boxing gloves. The coach, my cat, was there supporting me the entire time, giving me his "proud cat/coach" looks. Alright, kitty, I'll play "jump and catch the unstoppable rubber ball" with you... as soon as I beat the crap out of this bag-o-bones.

The shower was nice... No, the shower was cold..

Anyway, I had to work on this project. I actually really enjoyed it. Not surprising - I enjoy anything that involves art. You see, a few months ago, during a visit to MMA, I found this work that looked like a painting. It was either Fragonard or David, I forget which. So I look at this beautiful portrait and marvel at the invisible brush strokes characteristic of the time period. I read the description and realize that the "painting" was done is pastels. Right then, I promised myself to do something like that. One day.

"One day" came! For the past week I've been working on this portrait, and today I took it home. Here's my experience:
  1. It hurts my elbows and knees to crawl around on the hardwood floor when I try to draw on the too-large-to-fit-on-my-desk piece of paper.
  2. It makes me dizzy when I blow on the pastel powder too much.
  3. Dark pastel does not wash off my hands.
  4. I inhaled more pastel dust than I should have.
  5. Cats tend to like getting their paws into dirty stuff (black pastel powder) and then spread it throughout the house.
Seriously though, all kidding aside, I love pastels. They're tender and forgiving. It has to be the best medium for those of us who tend to overwork their pieces, because you can just keep adding layer after layer and still have it look fresh. In fact, the more layers, the smoother the work appears. Pastels give such a wonderful range of colors - and think about all the stylistic possibilities! Like any medium, however, pastels require mastering.. And I am not quite there yet.

As if the day was not awesome enough, I got to watch the X Files while working. "Colony" has to be one of the better episodes of the second season, by the way. You see, X Files connects with my inner nerd, and I DO believe almost every theory and thought proposed by the show. I watch it to get myself thinking about things bigger than life. Besides, Mulder is one sexy hunk, so what the hell.

("Whatever tape you found in that VCR, it isn't mine...")

Mar. 7th, 2010


Rational People Gone Reckless

You haven't tasted life until you've tried real snowboarding.

Snowboarding IS life. It is a wonderful mixture of adrenaline, adventure, risk, and spontaneity taken in just the right dose. It makes everything look bigger, brighter. After you've gotten the technique, you become more aggressive. You pick the harder trails and you push with your legs as if you're assaulting the mountain. You're challenging speed itself, proving that you can handle it better than it wishes it could crush you, every second on the verge of losing your balance and plummeting to your death. OK, that's an exaggeration. But it is unarguably true that you could get very, very hurt at any moment.

It's all about control. Either your have it, or the slope does. It's also about the guts - you don't give a damn about what will happen and venture to unknown territory, all for the sake of personal progress. Lastly, and especially for dreamers like me, it's about the beauty. Up there, for a second, you catch a glimpse of the view around you. In that moment between steep hills, the world is open to you for miles around. You fill yourself with as much beauty as you can before plunging down and refocusing. You see a thousand lights in the night, the indicators of civilization somewhere out there.

But not up here. No civilization, no lights. Up here, I am alone and I love it. I was never good at team sports. I found myself clumsy and useless. Snowboarding was different because it is an individual's sport. An extreme sport. You know, I think when I first tried snowboarding, I tapped into a hidden propensity for extreme sports. Now, the idea of motocross sounds strangely appealing. I would definitely try (and, possibly, fall in love with) mountain biking. I always knew that at one point in my life I want to try sky diving. Would it not be amazing to hang glide? To taste the wind, to maneuver in the air? Hang gliders could reach speeds greater than 90 miles per hour. Of course, extensive training is required for it, but to me it all seems worth the excitement.

Now, here's something I've just recently discovered. If you live far from snow and far from mountains, you could still "snowboard." In a bikini. Heck yeah. It's called sandboarding, and frankly, it looks just like its cold-weather equivalent. There are a few differences in the board design, but the principles are all the same - except you're carving sand dunes and deserts instead of snow. Being a less-than-enthusiastic fan of water, I'd much rather sandboard on the beach than surf. There's actually a Sandboarding World Championship event held each year in Hirschau, Germany, so the sport is more serious than you think.

Me? Extreme sports? Aren't I supposed to be a quiet wimp, a bookworm, a nerd-like smarty pants? Shouldn't I be afraid, or at least rational?

No, no, no, no, and no. Snowboarding lets me live. At one point or another, I will try everything on my list so I could live. Who cares about the risks; after all, I got nine lives.

Mar. 2nd, 2010


Most Significant Observation of the Day

Oh, how embarrassing.

Annually, during the long winter months my hands dry up to look like scaly, wrinkly tentacles. Little seems to help. Lotion only turns the tentacles a sickly red. Olive oil, the good old grandmother cure, works for only about an hour. Then, when the skin dries up even more, the scales crack and ooze crimson blood on the knuckles and creases.

Do I scare you? Do I look like a monster reaching out to grab you with my bloody, shriveled limbs, about to devour your brains in my lair?

At least, that's what it looks like to me.

Maybe, if I drew and practiced more, the dryness would act as an excuse, as evidence of hard work and determination. In that case, it could add to the persona, to the bizarre flair of my alien-like character. Currently, however, such reasoning cannot justify me. I find myself more susceptible to sloth than desired. That's a deadly sin, you know. I realize exactly what I need to do, and yet, at the end of the day, the outcome never seems to reach the preliminary goal. Tomorrow I shall try again. Draw more. Paint more. Art does not have limits (although, at this point, it is way too early to discuss my limits).

In his book, Animation: The Mechanics of Motion, Chris Webster wrote, "To become a true artist is the work of a lifetime - be in no hurry, grow." I wrote that on a torn piece of paper and taped it to my wall, right next to my calendar. I read it to myself every morning as I apply a tablespoon-sized dollop of lotion and prepare to face civilization.