Working by day, studying by night - the first four weeks of 2013 is just plain tough. I find myself doubting my decisions and getting sidetracked by a lot of things throughout this period. Luckily, one of the things that remained constant is my force animation class(drawingforce.com). This is a 10-week online class that I'm attending, it started last Jan. 21.
The class is pretty good so far, it allowed me to polish my basic animation skills as well as to have rhythm and force in my drawings. But most important is the fact that it gave my curriculum a direction. For most artists, the hard part is not learning new things but sticking to it once you decided to learn it. The internet can be a blessing and a curse at the same time in this situation. If you're self studying, you're most probably going to search the internet for good resource material. Being able to do this is just amazing, but a danger also lies within being able to have any information at your whim. You will get sidetracked, you'll see holes in your game that you've never realized before and if you're like me, you'll want to fill those gaps too. The more I did my research, the more my to-study list grew longer. This started to create an anxiety in me that says "Oh my god, I'm never gonna reach all of my goals at this rate. I need to do more." So I started doing more, and more, and more, until I was just a confused guy jumping from one area of study to the next but never having the time or focus to really understand things in depth.
This is where the force animation class saved me. Last week I was studying so much things that I neglected doing my homework for class until the day of deadline. Naturally, I panicked and immediately worked on the assignment. I did finish it in time but it was a horrible experience. I was so tensed that I didn't enjoy working on it, nor did the quality of the work came out to what I wanted. That bad experience forced me to step back and look at the situation in a different perspective. My aim for this class was to learn new things and apply it in my work, but because I was so busy studying other stuff, I lost focus and didn't really learn anything from this week's class. Worse is that in the assignment I made, I only applied things that I already know, not the things I have picked up from the class.
To think that I paid for this class and come out with the same skill level as before was a huge wake up call for me. I needed to set aside other lessons for now, and put all of my focus in the animation class. That's the moment I had an idea to make this whole learning thing into a curriculum. That way I would be able to put all of my focus in the current lesson, and not worry about the things that I still have to learn since they have their own schedule now.
"Most things worth having take time to obtain" - I've come across this quote yesterday and it struck a chord in me. I was so anxious to reach my goals that I was pressuring myself to learn everything NOW. I wanted it now. This quote put my mind in the proper perspective, that things take time to learn and mastering them takes even more time. My unrealistic expectations fell off. So now I'm taking my time, setting one foot in front of the other and if you're interested in seeing my baby steps, I posted them below in the form of my class homeworks.
Week 1: Drawing circles and force lines with "controlled looseness". I was pretty much drawing circles the whole week. A technique I used is to just "air draw" the circle with a stiff wrist and once I've gotten the motion down, I lower my pen in the paper and imagine my hand motion as something like "drilling through the paper". I even imagine the sound of a drill making contact with the metal. Another big thing I learned here is the importance of drawing in steps. I'll explain my method in a future blog post but for now, please enjoy these circles and rhythms.
Week 2: Bouncing ball - different weights and the use of leading edge. Things are starting to get more challenging in this week. Mr. Mattesi (my animation professor) put a lot of emphasis on planning the animation - drawing the arcs first then planning the contact, squash and recoil poses on the ball. He says that animation is really hierarchical, meaning you start on the planning the big things first and getting them down right before jumping into animation or adding any fancy details. This has made a big impact on me since I'm really a fan of putting things into steps in an orderly way.
The ball plans:
The first plan is for the rubbery squashy-stretchy ball and the second one is for the ping pong ball. There's a third one, a bowling ball but I forgot to make a copy of it's plans lol. Mr. Mattesi said that what I did differently and what he liked is that I moved the ball in an x-axis. Meaning that I allowed the ball to really move towards screen right instead of it just following a perfect arc that moved more on the vertical plane. I haven't actually really thought about it, what I did think of though is how the ball's bounce decrease gradually in different types of materials.
In the rubber ball for example, I just halved the bounce in relation to the previous one. So the ball is constantly reducing 50% of it's bounce.
In the ping pong ball you can see the reduction of bounce is slightly lesser since ping pongs are bouncy stuff and their shell is pretty rigid too. Mr. Mattesi's comments on this one are hilarious, he noticed that I used the same circle cause I was running out of time before the deadline(haha) and that it looks sliding once it starts to settle, to which I totally agree.
Finally, making the bowling ball bounce is a whole nuther..erm..ball game. As you can see in the video below, the ball's first bounce is really high and has quite some hang time, but it dramatically decreases in the 2 bounces after that. You can also see that I added some dimensionality to it, cause I was studying Preston Blair's book the same time I did this. Those crosses really helped in establishing reference points in a rounded object like the bowling ball, which in turn made it easier for me to add those ellipses in their proper places. Once again, a simple fix solves a seemingly complicated problem!
Week 3: Using force paths to understand speed, playing with scale, adding follow-through and settling. Things I kept in mind this exercise is that straight paths are fast, and curves are slow. It's like the driving analogy Mr. Mattesi instructs in his Force videos: if you're driving a car, you'll drive faster in a straightaway than in a curve cause you'll be fighting momentum still trying to make you go straight as you're making that curve. For this exercise we have to use a ball-shape and a fabric/handkerchief/soft material to denote follow-through. Of course I wanted to think of something with more character than that, the most coolest I idea I had though is the Beholder from Dungeons and Dragons:
I didn't use it though since it's eyestalks move at their own volition so settling would be very subjective, they wouldn't flap around like fabrics and wouldn't show proper follow through which is the whole point to the lesson. I didn't want to give my professor headaches so I went for the Matrix sentinel instead:
Due to this change though, I've paid the high price of animating those friggin' tentacles. I didn't mind though as I know this will just help me expand my comfort zone and be a better artist. And I'll stop talking now and just show you the plans and the result:
I'm pretty much satisfied with it, or maybe that's just me justifying to myself not to animate a sentinel again, ever. At any rate, time sure is flying fast and we are in the 4th week of the animation class. Like I said earlier, this class gave me much more than the lessons learned, it gave my studies some form of structure and it's nice to have some new lessons to look forward come Tuesdays. These are really exciting times for me.
Finally, this may sound like I'm working for the site but nope, am not - If you're interested in learning more about Force, you can visit http://drawingforce.com/
I like to think of force as the "secret sauce" in making your drawings/animations look a hundred times better, atleast for me it did so I just wanted to share this info to you. It would've been nice if I had this class earlier in my career, and I'm only 25!