Creative Project: Cast of Characters

Here is the rough for my creative project so far:

creative project rough

In the center of the design is my new digital self-portrait, which you can see me make piece by piece by clicking this link here.

Around me are various characters that I have created over the years. Though these characters are from very old cartoons of mine and I wouldn’t show them off, I’m going to talk about them anyway because I think it might get some interest, and also I think it’s a valuable exercise to look into my past and learn about myself.

Cast of Characters

Morocco and Abitaka

morocco

Dated: Original 6 episodes, October 2003 – August 2004

Last appearance: “Creative Project”, May 2015

Current Status: Discontinued

An attempt at a “mature” cartoon set on an aquatic planet home to warrior tribes of fish, with a cast of characters inspired by the Simpsons, a story inspired on Blizzard games such as the Warcraft and Diablo series, and music taken from sound bytes from an old CD-ROM called Deep Voyage. It ran for 6 episodes, written by my brother and myself. Only Episodes 1 and 3, written by myself, were finished. More was planned for the show, such as a second series taking place in space, a feature-length movie, and a future timeline series. They were never made.

The series is a personal project that I do not recall fondly nowadays and it will not be released. So great was my shame of the show that from 2007-2008, I went to great lengths to hide the earliest versions of the first episodes, trying to remake them and destroy the old copies, changing Morocco’s name to Mackkaro, because Morocco is an actual place in Africa, and come on, giving your main character a name like that is just stupid.

However, I decided to redesign the characters specifically for the Creative Project, and I have been thinking of rebooting the series and doing a proper job at writing it, and these characters are still memorable to me, and I believe the show has potential.

Rocky and Angry Ed

r+ae r+ae new

Dated: Volumes 1-4, August 2003 – August 2009

Last appearance: Path of the Righteous, October 2012

Current Status: Discontinued

This was actually a cartoon meant to take place within the cartoon Morocco and Abitaka. Since that show was based on the Simpsons, R&AE was based on Itchy and Scratchy. It was a sketch cartoon about mindless ultra-violence that the protagonist, Rocky the Dinosaur, would deal unto the antagonist, Angry Ed the Dustbin. Oddly enough, Rocky was meant to be conveyed as a friendly and lovable character, but his only personality trait psychotic murderous tendencies would tend to suggest otherwise.

Despite its flimsy premise, R&AE saw a much greater success with its audience (my brother and myself), and got three 12-episode seasons, or volumes, with a fourth volume planned, but left unfinished. A huge and varied cast of characters was added to the show with varying levels of depth (ranging from one to TWO whole personality traits), while the titular Rocky and Angry Ed received a lot of character development and personality over the show’s running time. I recollect the series much more of a fondly than I do with Morocco and Abitaka, the show it was meant to originate from. After the initial four seasons, the show still proved quite a source of amusement long after episodes were being made, as episodes were remade in a highly satirical manner, redubbing the dialogue to be even more ridiculous.

Rocky and Angry Ed underwent a lot of remaking and visual redesigns, the latest being an update to Rocky’s design made in October 2012 (mostly just his feet – my brother and I argued SO much about what his feet actually resembled). Angry Ed’s design has remained mostly intact and he has been used as a generic villain in my other Powerpoint-related works.

Three days after Rocky’s redesign, an all new R&AE reboot episode Path of the Righteous was made in October 2012. No new episodes have been made since.

The StickKnights (StickKnights)

SKclassicstickknightspart2_prefight

Original Air Date: 2007-2010 (Original movie), Flash Remake – April 2014 – present

Latest Appearance: StickKnights Part 3: The Forest Fight – 18th September 2014

Current Status: On Hold

The first of a new generation, and the longest running in-development animated series that I actually want to finish and show off publicly. You can read about these guys in depth by clicking here!

Othal (GodHood)

othal pencil scaledOthal Mk II shadow

Date Aired: July 2011 – March 2013

Latest appearance: “Battle on Hallowed Ground”, April 2014

Current Status: On Hold

A huge and ambitious project by my brother and I to make the next best cartoon in the universe. (Whether we succeed or not is another matter entirely.) Currently on hold due to having of a ton of ideas and design concepts done for it, but we are unsure how to proceed with it and get the project started.

An animation of the first episode was done in DrawPlus, but it is missing voice acting and a soundtrack… and is a bit dated.

Currently this project is on the down low, and may undergo some changes from how it is now, so there’s not much to show.

“Scotty” the Cat

scotty cut out scotty irl

Back in England, he was a cat from the neighbourhood who seemed to adopt us as his second part-time owners. Living in Norfolk from 2007-2011 wasn’t the best experience we had, but having “Scotty” (that wasn’t his actual name, just the name we gave him) befriend us was quite an unforgettable experience.  Especially when I stopped him from eating a baby bird. To commemorate the times we had, I have immortalised “Scotty” in my art.

Cartoon Ben and James

okukikuben 2014

jimmy old new jimmy

Original Creation Date: 2004

Latest appearance: “8000 subscriber milestone”, February 2015

Current Status: In use

Digitised avatars created for my brother and myself. As we grew up and my artistry skills improved, our avatars have undergone lots of changes over time to better match our actual real life appearances.

Square (The Adventures of Square)

squareclassicend2

Original Air Date: June 2005 – July 2007

Latest Appearance: The Adventures of Square, 2014

Current Status: In use

Square is one of my more simple concepts, now a fully-realised and highly acclaimed standalone game, for some reason. Read up on this purple fella by clicking here!

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Creative Project: My Exegesis

My creative project is a digital collage of myself and my past work, forming a varied and visually appealing picture that serves as a definitive piece that demonstrates my artistic talents and skill, and showcases my own mythology of original characters. I wanted to create a piece of art that represented myself creatively, as I thought it would be extremely valuable to myself and to function as an advertisement for my personal brand, showing people what I am capable of, and drawing their interest to the varied cast of characters shows within the piece.

The piece was created digitally, in Adobe Flash CS6, and drawn with a Wacom Intuos Pro tablet because I have had a significant amount of personal experience creating art of this kind. I have drawn with pencil and paper for years, taking a special interest in it from 2011 onwards, and purchased a graphics tablet in March 2014 to be able to draw digitally. This gives the advantage of accessibility and security to my art, along with the ability to copy the elements and reuse them at my leisure. Adobe Flash’s vector-based images allows the elements to be infinitely scalable, allowing for the design to be used for many different things, including t-shirt designs, computer wall papers, badges, banners and stickers.

The piece is also inspired from a number of sources that provided invaluable insight to me in my studies.

Csikszentmihalyi’s writing about the Ten Dimensions of Complexity (1996, p.55), which outline what personality traits creative people generally have has also inspired me as a creative individual and highlighted the importance of understanding my own personality traits. Other sources like Jung’s writing on active imagination and self-actualization (1997, n.p.), and more modern sources such as Lasseter’s Seven Creative Principles (Reis, 2009) talk about what environmental and personal factors can influence creative people to function at their best.

I do personally agree very much with this idea of understanding oneself, and seeking to reach one’s full potential as an individual by discovering and overcoming their flaws.

To better understand myself, I wanted to look into my past creative endeavors and memories and see what observations I could make. Looking at my past work now, it seems that a lot of my creations are inspired by things that I have seen or experienced, and in a way, my creations are each an aspect or a trait of mine, simplified into its own character, such as the StickKnights often being in conflict with each other, despite still banding together and having the same goals.

I wanted to represent the element of “pure creativity” in the piece but I was not sure how. I was intending for some sort of visual paint-like motif, representing creativity as a liquid that ran in a loop in the center of the piece, around my head and all of the characters. I wanted to do this because I thought it would be a great and fun use of my imagination to represent something abstract like creativity in a visual way. Furthermore, this is inspired by the writings of Csikszentmihalyi who writes about the state of Flow, when a creative individual enters a state of immersion, focus and concentration in their work. My idea was to represent creativity in a liquid, paint like state and have it ‘flow’ throughout the picture. Unfortunately I wasn’t sure how to implement this and I did not have the time to include it in the final piece.

I have drawn inspiration from people working in the field of art and animation, such as Josiah Brooks, whose numerous online guides and tutorials have proven to be an extremely valuable tool for developing as an artist and thinking about my career.

The characters included are all past creations of mine that I have been fond of for a long time. These characters have undergone numerous redesigns and rewritings (two of which I drew for the first time in 8 years just for this piece) which shows the degree to which I care about these characters. Nothing about these were made up on the spot just for this piece. Furthermore, I wanted to represent their personalities through their expression to show the dynamics of these characters, to provoke the viewer’s interest and make them want to know more.

In all I am satisfied with the piece in its current state, however, I did not allocate the right amount of time to experiment with the piece, meaning that I limited my time to add more interesting and different elements to piece to accompany the characters. As mentioned before, the paint motive, representing the ‘flow’ of creativity, was not included, and the background is a simple gradient. With more time it could have included more abstract elements to make the piece look more interesting.

The digital self portrait is the element that took me the longest to make, and I think that it is by far the element that I am happiest with. I think the mix of colors of the piece is reasonable, and no color stands out too much or clashes with the colors around it, which I think is very fortunate, considering the colorful cast of characters featured in this piece. For the piece I wanted to try to represent the characters as being in a 3D space, despite being in a 2D drawing. I did this by positioning them so that they overlapped, as if they are standing in a crowd rather than in a straight line. Characters that are closer are larger and more spaced out while the ones at the back are smaller and closer together, giving an imagined sense of perspective, which I think works well, and gives depth and space to the piece.

Overall, while I am satisfied with the final result, I would not call this the definitive piece that it was meant to be, and I am not as proud of this piece as I was hoping I would be. I believe that the piece was rushed. I think that spending more time in advance thinking about the project, doing concept art of the characters, and doing a few drafts of the piece before starting on the final version would have allowed me to have developed the piece to a much higher standard. Other than time constraints, the piece did not prove very challenging, and I feel like I could have done more if I had allowed myself more time and looked at more external sources for inspiration.

References

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). The Flow of Creativity. Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention (pp. 107-126). New York: HarperCollins.

Jung, C. (1997). Jung on active imagination. (pp. 1-17, 28-33). (Ed. Joan Chodorow). London: Routledge.

Reis, D. (2009). John Lasseter’s Seven Creative Principle’s. Animation Magazine

Creative Project #1: The Face Update

ben face cartoonised

This is my digital self-portrait from October last year. While I was happy with the style, I think that for my creative project, and due to the extra experience I have gained in artistry, a reworking of the face is in order. Rather than try to modify the original, I will instead completely remake it from scratch, using the proper proportions of the human face as a model and putting a lot of time into roughing it – building the framework so the final result will resemble my idea as closely as possible. So here we go!

IMG_0247

We should work from an up to date source. Here’s a selfie, taken on the 11th of May. No tracing this time – that’s cheap. It’s more than within my ability to get the proportions down correctly without simply tracing the shape directly from the image. We are working with Flash which is extremely flexible and useful for minor tweaks that we will no doubt be doing all throughout the creation process. I drew this with the picture on my iPad right next to the computer screen, not in the Flash file itself.

1.1 face head diagram

We start at the very basics – a tall oval with a cross through it to denote the basic shape of the head and the direction it is facing (straight ahead). It looks nothing like me, but we’ll soon change that. This is the foundations, and we will gradually shape it as we add the details.

2.2 face head shape hair rough

Obviously my head is shaped differently than this oval. Let’s sketch out a basic shape that resembles the picture, and while I’m at it, also sketch out the hair as well. That will probably be the most complex part of this piece, so let’s have a go at it early on and try to be as “on-model” as we can so that we can be more accurate with the hair shape later on.

3.2 face head and face in proportionproportions_of_a_head_2(Arty Factory, 2015)

I am paying close attention to the proportions of the face, using both the model above and the photograph to make sure everything is in order. Working to a model is great, especially when you can internalise it, but I am not at that stage yet, so keeping reference material close to hand is very useful.

4.2 face facial features sans beard

So here are the eyes, nose and mouth. I am not concerned with drawing the lips, and will instead focus on a well-shaped mouth (which usually takes more than a few attempts). My cartoon style is more focused on simplicity than realism, so we just need to strike the balance between these things or the results will be uncanny – when the aesthetics look creepy and wrong. There’s a time and a place for that style, but it’s definitely not here.

Note that I am using lighter and darker shades of grey to distinguish the shapes on each layer without using loud, obnoxious colours. Appreciate the subtlety of the working process. Don’t self-induce eye strain.

5.5 face all layers

I thought of redrawing the hair a second time, just for more accuracy and an easier time in the final “clean-up”.  It’s important that it looks right, and not overly simple or messy.

6.face rough complete

And there is our “rough”! Why have I suddenly got the Merry Melodies theme playing in my head? That must be a good sign! Now, this is far from done. In fact, we’re actually going to use NONE of this for the final version! All this is just a foundation to “paint” a clean and pretty finished version on top. So let’s save what we’ve done and fade it into the background so it’s still visible, but won’t get in the way of the “painting” process.

This rough consists of 21 layers in all.

7.7 face clean outlines

We begin the “clean-up” by redoing the linework with clean, black lines. Here’s what the completed “clean-up” linework looks on its own. One must take extra special care at this point, in order to retain the shape of the rough that we’ve spent all this time drawing. If I was feeling confident enough, I would use only one layer for the “clean-up”, but colouring and adjustments are more difficult to do in the long run if all the different parts are fused together, so let’s stick with what we did for the rough and use one layer per shape. We can change what we had in the rough for the “clean-up”, for example, I tweaked the head shape for more symmetry, resized the beard and repositioned the facial hair and eyes slightly, and redrew the hair to be spikier than in the rough.

8.8 face flat colour

Now for the fun part – colouring! Here’s a flat colour variation of my piece! Looks great, but the face needs a little more definition. Hold on, I need to do some quick research on facial lighting…

9.face final colour edit complete

And here is our final version! Now the face has a lot more definition. I also tweaked the skin tone and hair colour to look a little brighter and more “natural”. So now, we have the centrepiece for our creative project!

split-lighting-pattern1 (Hildebrandt, n.d.)

We are using a photography technique called “split lighting” that I tried my best to imitate for the piece.

jazza4(Brooks, 2014, retrieved from YouTube)

The facial shading also draws inspiration from Brooks’ “cartoon face” lighting style.

Next up, the cast of characters who will accompany my face in this digital mural!

References

Arty Factory (2015). Proportions of the Head and Face. Retrieved from: http://www.artyfactory.com/portraits/pencil-portraits/proportions-of-a-head.html

Brooks, J. (2014). How to Draw a Cartoon Face. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QBrgKIy35M

Hildebrandt, D. (n.d.). 6 Portrait Lighting Patterns Every Photographer Should Know. Retrieved from: http://digital-photography-school.com/6-portrait-lighting-patterns-every-photographer-should-know

Three Project Ideas and Proposal

For my creative project, I decided that it needed to be something ambitious, on a scale above what my talents are normally accustomed to, requiring a thorough and consistent amount of effort put into it over a long period of time. It would also need a highly organised and structured plan, to divide the workload into manageable chunks, marked with flexible deadlines, so that even if I do not work at a consistent pace, I can still expect to meet my targets. This would help to challenge my skill and commitment at its current level, while being organised enough to seem manageable and hold my attention and awareness, so that I am able to work over multiple sessions, over a specified period of time.

Having set these conditions, I was now ready to come up with ideas that would apply to my prior knowledge and skills, so that the work itself does not prove too difficult or unfamiliar to me. Considering my interests in art, and future aspirations in Animation, I came up with the following ideas:

  • An animated short of at least two minutes in length, to be made in Adobe Flash by myself, and possibly help from collaborators if I have taken any others on board with the project
  • A series of digital pictures in Flash depicting the main characters from my original fantasy series “Godhood”, six of them in all
  • A collage of all my previous creations and works from the 2000s onwards, detailing the history of my creative works and how my ideas and characters have evolved, made as vector art in Adobe Flash

I picked these because they are the mediums I feel most comfortable and most passionate about. Each project requires a different amount of work to put into it, with the first being a full blown Flash animated sequence, while the others are still images. The animated sequence would take the most time and effort than the other two options by far. I consider my experience with Animation to be currently insufficient to take on such a project, and I must first practice more, to better get used to it, and to build a suitable foundation on which I can regularly turn out work.

For the digital pictures of the GodHood cast, I was hoping to use the full extent of my knowledge with shading, and combine my knowledge of human proportions with my old, cartoonish-style, and develop something unique for the project that I may continue to use for it. However, setting myself multiple pictures to do may prove daunting, or even exhausting if I do not pace myself and look for inspiration to hold my interest and persist with completing all of them.

My choice will be the collage piece.

An example of such a collage is this one from the 1981 London Film Festival, painted by Richard Williams, Director of Animation for ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’, and author of ‘The Animator’s Survival Kit’:

Here, multiple film stars make up the shape of Charlie Chaplin. My collage does not need to make up a particular shape, but I was planning to have my characters arranged in some sort of order, perhaps chronologically, and my end result should form one huge scene out of much smaller pictures.

For another example, take this collage of Disney characters created by one hobbyist artist, Jen Riley:

Disney characters collage by jen riley

While the scale of work is commendable, there is not enough emphasis on the big picture, and the picture looks very busy and cluttered, which can prove confusing to the viewer. As for the smaller details, the colours are quite flat, and a lot of the same shades are used for multiple characters, so there is not much to distinguish between them. What would improve the composition of this piece would be if the characters were more defined, such as being more spaced out, or using more interesting shades of colour and shading to emphasise each one, and having the characters be different sizes rather than having groups of characters together that are of similar size. The details of piece is overall lacking in contrast, while not distinguishing its key features that the viewer should focus most on. Still, it proves to be a good and inspiring source for me to base my own ideas on, and possibly improve where this piece falls short.

My collage may not prove to be of such as scale as Riley’s, and the piece can still be highly stylized, allowing for a lot of creative experimentation rather than consistent labouring, making it more intrinsically motivating to work on.

Another advantage is that I don’t have to create something brand new, that may be undeveloped or slightly out of my level of skill, and instead I can call upon my past body of work to be the subject. I have used Flash for a few years, and have good experience with using it for vector art. The process will not be too difficult or unfamiliar for me to undertake. Similarly, the characters I will use may have outdated, overly simplistic designs, that I could just as easily rework, to better suit my advances in artistry.

Ultimately, I hope for it to be a very personally enjoyable and enlightening exercise. It should be fun to represent all the characters I have created over the years, from different times in my life, placing them side-by-side, possibly interacting with one another in the picture. I hope that such an exercise will rekindle my inspiration for creativity, and motivate me to continue to create, and fully embrace my passion for creation.