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!

Past Work #3: It’s Square!

When I was younger, I always loved cartoons and drawing. I would often draw and create characters straight from my imagination. I believed in these creations of mine and wanted them to have their own animated TV shows that I would create myself – in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Even before that, when I was very young, and quite new to computers, which I’ve been around all my life, my made a little drawing called “Square Goes Wrong!”, depicting a square with a face and stick limbs running about in a mad panic because he was painted the wrong colour and it was turning him evil or something.

Back in 2005, I created a “cartoon series” in PowerPoint devoted to Square. The formula was that Square would always overcome his circular rival Circy by transforming into a big block and squashing him.It was supposed to be a kids’ show, which is why it was so vapid and pointless.

squareclassic
Ugh. Yeah, I’ve got a few issues with this, alright.

Anything that happened on Square’s so-called adventures had any kind of meaning, conveyed morals or abided by any kind of sense. He wasn’t even perfectly square. But I’ll cut my past self some slack – it was only my imagination doing its thing, and I just simply wanted to personally experience the joy of creating something based on the cartoons I’d watched with my own material, regardless of its quality. If this hadn’t happened, Square wouldn’t be one of the most recent of successes, and still hold a special place in my heart today.

My brother shared with me a fascination for all things cartoony, and was an avid Doom modder and community member – he had experience with editing software and created cartoonish assets for DooM that he then fully coded into the game. Out of his massive repertoire of mods, one based on Square started, but was only very limited. The mod would go on to be fused with my brother’s other works and then undergo a massive aesthetic redesign to become The Adventures of Square that we know of today.

Check out the website!
Click to check out the official Square website!

I mostly left my brother to his own devices, as he made huge progress on this mod – it was clear that Square was going to be the next big thing in his repertoire, on a far larger scale than anything he’d done before – Square was going to become its own game. We tested it together, and my brother eventually asked me to provide Square’s in-game dialogue, saying one-liners after despatching his foes with his arsenal of paint-flinging guns. I threw myself into the role and after several long recorded sessions, I had revived the old character of Square and become him. From then on I felt more intimately connected to the project than ever before.

Furthermore, I was asked to draw cut-scene art for the game, as the project’s previous artist had left. So it was up to me to draw Square for the first time in nearly ten years:

square bimmy art

Just took me a while to get a design that I liked. Here are the graphics that made it into the game:

end1aend2end3

I didn’t stop there. Square proved to be so fun to draw that I made several of my own drawings, marking special occasions, such as The Adventures of Square being awarded the Cacoward by the Doom community.

squarecacoward

It still baffles me that such a simple concept with such… humble origins can become the newest, most exciting thing. It really goes to show the power of imagination and creativity. Square could well be my oldest creation, as that first little drawing dates back longer than I can remember, and I may never find it again. But with the Adventures of Square, he is now my latest triumph.

“Titlepic” art by Slax.

Square’s original concept and cutscene art by myself.

Past Work #2: The StickKnights

What started out as a small-scale class assignment in high-school, to do a “30 second animation with a story” became one of my most ambitious and longest-running animated projects ever.

SKclassic SKclassic_2

The original StickKnights movie was never finished, due to a number of factors – procrastination on my part, inadequacies of the animation program leading to frustration, multiple instances of data and backup loss, and other classwork taking priority. It was something I always wanted to get back to working on, but by that time I had moved on to Adobe Flash CS6 – and not regretted the decision in the least.

stickknightspart1_firstscene

Following a strong desire to make something of myself one January afternoon, I started on the massive task of completely remaking StickKnights for Flash – re-animating, rewriting, everything.

stickknightspart1_cave

My experience in Flash was very limited. I didn’t quite understand how the program worked, which led to sloppy animation and much frustration, trying to make the program do what I wanted it to do. Nonetheless, progress was made, and my understanding of the program grew more and more streamlined, after watching helpful guides and tutorials online.

stickknightspart1_monstar

I am eternally grateful to my brother for providing voice acting for some of the characters and the amazing soundtrack, made after the animation to match up with what was on the screen. I did not offer a lot of input in this stage, but whatever he sent me I instantly fell in love with.

StickKnightspreview

StickKnights Part I was finally released onto Youtube on 18th April, 2014. I deemed it a great success and it was a step closer to finishing StickKnights, a goal that I wanted to achieve since first starting it back in 2008. After 7 years, StickKnights had finally seen the light of day, with a built in voice cast and soundtrack – more than DrawPlus could ever hope to include.

stickknightspart2_prefight

After a few months, perhaps a longer break than was really necessary, I decided to continue StickKnights and work on the next part. This installment was much greater as it focused on the conflict going on in the world, both politically (inside the King’s court) and literally (the fight between the StickKnights and the monster).

stickknightspart2_advior

Animating my first ever fight scene was a long and hard process. I actually made all the different scenes separately, giving more of a break between each one, giving the second part less of the frantic pace of the first, and I think this was better to tell the second part’s story, and was a better way to direct my animations in general.

stickknightspart2_fight

To make it easier, I decided to draw a rough animatic version of the animation first. I was reluctant to do this, as it first seemed like doubling my workload needlessly. However this turned out to work to my great advantage. I could document all the little parts or takes that made up the scenes and put them in a list that I would then complete one by one, breaking up the workload which proved immensely helpful.

stickknights part 2 preview

It is because of this more organized and patient approach that I believe that StickKnights Part Two is so much greater than One. Part Two released on 25th August 2014.

Part Three was made at the request of my brother for a University project, working to a three week time-frame. This added time limit presented a new challenge for me. I was never good at working to deadlines. This would help me greater focus my efforts to produce results much earlier than before.

At this point, I had acquired a Graphics Tablet which greatly sped up the drawing process. I did the same roughing technique I did for Part Two, along with listing all of the different takes. The workload would prove to be even greater for Part Three than for Part Two, despite it not running for as long and not even being the full scene.

stickknightspart3_vermin

I completely remade the background for the forest by painting a massive forest backdrop and resizing and repositioning it for each new take. Under the time constraints, I think it was a good move, saving me a lot of time on backdrops by having only one, as the scene only took place within the forest.

stickknightspart3_itgetsreal

Many times I thought I was done with it, when I found that some of the footage had not been finished, or a noticeable glitch was still in the cut. This was maddening to me as I was so close to completion, but I was so paranoid of glitches that I had no idea when I could call the project done. Finally I finished it. It was an exhausting job, but I believe my effort was well worth it.

stickknightspart3_revival

The scene was completed on 29th May, 2014, and uploaded to YouTube later after much deliberation, because it was not the official, finished StickKnights Part Three, and the project has remained untouched since that day. Now that I have revisited it, I wonder if I will take the time to finish the movie. And if I will, when? Is it time to move on? Or is it time to do this movie justice and finish it once and for all? Will StickKnights ever see a sequel? Time will tell.

Till then, you can watch StickKnights along with my other animated projects here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABH4FiZWDLQ&list=PLPkP-wMt7nrD8gWECFp60RY0rtZml1L2l

(Videos contain mild violence and vulgar language. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Final Project Planning #1: The Self Portrait

Let’s talk about my face.

As my final project is a large digital mural of sorts detailing my past creations from the earliest days to the present moment, I thought it would be fitting to digitise my face to serve as the centrepiece of it, with all the other characters spaced out around it.

Luckily I have done many self-portraits in the past, when I’ve had the inspiration to try photo-realism in my art, though normally it has lent itself more to more of a simplistic, cartoonish style.

First attempt: 30th September, 2012, sketched with pencil and scanned

You Look Like a Face

When I look at this, I can cast my mind back to an earlier time, when I didn’t really know what I was doing. I believe the mentality I adopted at the time, when trying to construct a piece that wasn’t in my usual familiar style, would be to simply copy the source photo onto the page, line for line, without a methodology to serve as a to building a foundation first to guarantee accuracy. Trying to hit a bullseye while blindfolded, I suppose.

Now I may have gotten the overall shape vaguely correct, but the lack of attention to detail and how the human face is proportioned does detract from the form and composition of the piece.

So let’s be really unfair towards my past self and fast forward a few years to a piece that is objectively much better.

Second attempt: 22nd March, 2015, sketched with pencil and paper

Self Portrait 03-15

Now you should notice that the overall form of this piece is more on point. That is, I have bothered to look into the theory of anatomy for the face, of which I only had a vague idea of before. Having the paper in portrait rather than landscape was also a wiser decision.

proportions_of_a_head_1proportions_of_a_head_2

(Arty Factory, 2015, n.p.)

I drew from observation – looking at my face in a mirror for reference. I implemented a many-layered technique to my drawing, laying down a rough foundation of the larger shapes first (the overall shape of the head), using a light pencil, allowing for mistakes and simply redrawing the shape when the proportions look a little bit off. While having to draw a piece in multiple stages can seem like extra work and is a bit of a turn-off, I have found that it is entirely worth doing, as it ensures that the piece is of greater quality and more accurate to my vision.

It has still been a while since I tried something like this, so it’s not the most polished attempt I’ve done. Some of the facial features are not perfectly aligned – the eyes, nose and lips are a bit lopsided and disrupt the symmetry of the piece. The hair was rushed and resembles more of a scribble than something with form and texture. Nevertheless, it’s progress. It’s simply a matter of trying again and again until I can better memorise and visualise the details and translate that physically onto the page.

The piece is lacking in shading (my beard is hardly even visible), as I mostly wanted to capture the basic form as best as I could. Shading, or tone, is something I should look into next, to create more depth to the shape of the piece and advance my skills even further.

Now that I have a better grasp on form and proportion, it’s time to move on from a traditional medium to a digital format and a different style that I intend to use for the final project.

But first, I wish to say that I wholly owe the style of this next piece to Josiah Brooks who very helpfully provided a tutorial for cartoonish portraits in Adobe Flash:

jazza1jazza2jazza3jazza4

(Brooks, 2014, n.p.)

  1. Basic, rough sketch of the face
  2. Inking, or Clean-up
  3. Adding shading in a slightly darker, more saturated skin tone (Use colour dropper to use colours directly from the reference photo)
  4. Flood fill in other colours– voila!

Keep that in mind – now, here’s my take on that method for my own portrait:

Third attempt: 11th October, 2014 – drawn in Adobe Flash CS6 with Wacom tablet

ben face cartoonised

This is the piece that I am most proud of, of all three versions, despite this not being the most recent.

Note the similar shading that I adopted for the piece – I am very happy with it as it gives the face some real definition without looking like nonsensical blobs. I tried to match the specifications of the video as best as I could. All in all I am very happy with the result.

Perhaps then, I could use this as a base for a more up-to-date version, since the piece is months old, and has a few flaws to be corrected (lack of symmetry in the beard, grrr). I feel that taking this piece and updating it with my current level of skill and knowledge will mean that I am demonstrating my current level of skill, while not just lazily pasting this image unedited into my final project.

This portrait was referenced from a photograph – not traced line for line, but I tried to keep very accurate to the source in the rough sketching stage. With that said, any major reworking at this point seems non-essential, but the piece does need an update. This will be the centrepiece of the final project, the thing that will stand out the most and catch the viewer’s attention. The idea is that they say “WOW!” and not “What’s wrong with his beard?!”.

Stay tuned for when I talk about the other elements that will go into the final piece – adding the of characters from the past, reworking them and featuring them in the piece!

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