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Friday, May 22, 2009

Words and Pictures

Here's a little bit of colour from the neighbourhood
to amuse the readers since I've been a little lax in updating the blog recently. This is due to the combined duties at the college (TLA, or Teaching and Learning Academy, is required for probational faculty for two years. This is the second session and so far, so good.)
I've been working hard on writing the book, which I want to have largely finished by the end of summer. In retrospect it does seem a bit daft to be writing a new book, but I wanted to get the animation methods I learned from my teachers and my own experiences (both in industry and in teaching) down on paper while I still had the time and ability to do so. It's hard to see the forest for the trees when you are writing a textbook so professional critiques are required by the publisher. PREPARE TO BOARD! benefited from Mark Mayerson's input. The new one has Yvette Kaplan's critiques, which have hugely improved ANIMATED PERFORMANCE. (Thanks, Yvette!) I'm a little apprehensive about some of the illustrations since the copyright holders must be contacted. AVA is doing that this time around. Most of the illustrations are mine but there will be some input from Sheridan students and also from my former RIT students including Brittney Lee, whose storyboard were prominently featured in PREPARE TO BOARD! and Ignacio Barrios, who is currently rigging and animating characters at Blue Sky. Ignacio kindly allowed me to use his CGI character developed for his RIT MFA film under my supervision, and so ANIMATED PERFORMANCE will have some examples of CGI animation based on hand drawn thumbnails. I think that this may make it unique, but Ignacio is a busy man so I'm not leaning on him too hard for illustrations.
Several other artists including Nina Haley and Simon Ward-Horner have also given me permission to use their sketches. As a matter of fact, I'm currently working on Chapter Four, where Nina's will be used (Animal Acts, or animating mammalian, avian, and reptilian characters). Simon's work will appear in that chapter and the one on human/animal combinations.
Chapter Three went like greased lightning mainly because of a marvelous interview with Art Babbitt that I got in 1979 when I was still a student at Cal Arts. I was in Hollywood getting some color film developed and my friend Enrique May dared me to go up to Dick Williams' studio. I called them, and (this being a long time before the age of security checks and lockdowns) they readily agreed to let me visit. After viewing my reel, Dick pointed out that Art Babbitt was in the room and that both he and Mr. B. liked my work. My immediate reaction was to invite Art to Cal Arts as a lecturer, but the political situation at the time made this impossible. So he and Dick agreed to let me do an interview at the Williams studio a week later, which I did. And I thank my younger self for asking the right questions. Babbitt was a marvelous teacher. Nothing in the interview duplicates anything in Richard Williams' book and I think that chapter 3 is going to be hard to top.
I've had a lot of fun drawing the illustrations. Most of them are thumbnails, which I think are underutilized in some animation books. Thumbnails are necessary to clarify your thought processes and get your acting strategies straight so that you don't later have to redo hundreds of drawings when animating a scene. But I also have a fair share of illustrations that are still pictures conveying a type of character. There are even a few caricatures. I love drawing caricatures and once wanted to be a theatrical cartoonist. A book is a bully pulpit for putting your fond fancies in print, as long as your editor agrees that the illustrations are appropriate. So I have drawn two caricatures so far and will probably do more before this is over. Editor Georgia Kennedy is a pleasure to work with and the rather odd delivery system--I write in Ontario, send it to Yvette in L.A. via email for proofing and suggestions, she sends it back to me, I rewrite, then send it to Georgia with the illustrations to the FTP server in Brighton, England--is a very Twenty First Century way of working. Yvette and Georgia have never met. I have never met Georgia. Yet we are able to work together on this project through the miracle of fast Internet connections. Curiously enough I've learned that Canadian copyright law is quite different than American copyright law...I wonder whose law applies when I'm publishing a book in Europe that will have editions in other parts of the world?


Janet Benn said...

Hi Nancy -
Glad to hear you're doing the book, and that Yvette is helping you. I did some illustration and technical writing for a book that was edited in the UK,and never met the editor or the art director. The editor called me once and I did not recognize her name! Anyway, we are in touch and I will be posting those illustrations on my profile soon. I'll be doing a new reel this summer, and starting a blog myself.

Nancy said...

Hi Janet,

I'd love to see your illustrations and I want to read your blog!

Thanks for writing!