Character Design Course Review

DArriegaOne thing all artists need is continuing education. It doesn’t matter if you have an established career and have been working for years. Artists (and leaders) must continue growing in their craft and in other ways that stretch them.

I recently completed a Schoolism character design course from Pixar’s Daniel Arriaga and loved it. Arriega has worked on such films as Monsters Inc, Monsters University, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3. He also worked on projects at Disney including Wreck-It-Ralph and (as art director) on Prep and Landing: Naughty vs. Nice.

The course covered topics like: shape language, silhouette, rhythm, design and composition, gesture and mood, exaggeration, character moments, and expressions and I really enjoyed his perspective on each of the topics.

Most lessons started with a famous artist highlight featuring the work of various illustrators, comic strip artists, character designers, or visual development artists who displayed mastery of the specific area Arriaga was going to cover in that particular lesson.

Next, he would show how that principle was applied in character design for feature film by showing specific behind the scenes examples from Pixar. I really enjoyed this aspect. Many of the examples he showed I had never seen (and I have just about every “Art of” Pixar book ever published).

Finally, Arriaga would demonstrate the principle and talk about the process. Watching an experienced master character designer draw characters while talking about his thinking process is invaluable.

I won’t give away much more than that (so as to not step on Schoolism’s proprietary toes) but I highly recommend this class to any serious character designer. This was an amazing class and is available as a “go at your own pace” course, or as a specific date range course (check dates/availability) where Arriaga actually critiques your work after each lesson. The second version is obviously limited and only offered a couple of times per year (and more expensive, but justifiably so).

I should also mention, that I am not affiliated with Schoolism in anyway. I don’t get any affiliate commission to recommend them. I simply took the course, really enjoyed it, and want to recommend it to any serious character designer. I’m definitely going to take more courses there myself.

Elements of Art: Shape


shape2Early in my animation career, I heard visual development artists and art directors mention shape language. Somewhat baffled and intrigued by this term, I started looking into it. I had learned about artistic voice, color scripts, and other strange right-brained terms, but was not familiar with shape language.

Shape language basically refers to how the shapes in a piece of art (character design, background, object, etc.) intentionally tell you something about the story, character, mood, or tone (or all of the above).

In previous posts, I listed the elements and principles of art, then unpacked the first element of art, line. This brings us to the second element of art. Shape. Understanding shape will help you in all aspects of the visual arts. A good understanding of shape will help you break large complex objects (even animals or the human form) into it’s simpler shape components.

Understanding shape will help take the intimidation factor out of drawing and will give you direction in what shape choices you make when creating a character, prop, background, or other type of artwork.

LINES BECOME SHAPES
Shapes are basically made up of closed contour lines. They are two dimensional and do not have depth (or Z-space for my CG friends).

POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE
Shapes can be positive or negative. Positive shapes show the contour or silhouette of an object. Negative space is the space around an object. We often think of positive space, but good artists are just as cognizant and intentional with negative space as they are with positive space.

TYPES OF SHAPES
Shapes can be geometric (triangle, square, circle, etc.) or they can be organic. Organic shapes are freeform. They have no rules and are random. Organic shapes reflect nature. Most objects including characters, props, and landscape elements can be broken down into organic and geometric shapes.

SHAPE LANGUAGE
Once a basic understanding and use of shapes is integrated into your work, you can begin to understand and define more complex uses of shape such as the concept of shape language I mentioned above.

One of the clearest and most well defined use of shape language I use to describe or talk about shape language can be found in the animated film The Rise of the Guardians by DreamWorks. Each of the 6 main characters has a clearly defined shape language which carries emotional, story, character trait, and inter relational weight.

RECOMMENDED BOOK
The book The Art of DreamWorks Rise of the Guardians by Ramin Zahed does a fantastic job of unpacking each character’s shape language, the reasoning behind it, and how it impacted the film. For a great primer on shape language, I highly recommend this book.

UP NEXT!
In the next post, we’ll look at the third element of art. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Official Book Launch: Calling All Artists

forpostSee details and purchase options here.
(or go directly to Amazon)

Well it’s finally here. Six months in the making (although I could argue decades) with many late nights and early mornings, encouragement from my wife, kids, and great friends, I’m proud to announce the official release of my first book: Calling All Artists. (See printed manuscript from last week at left.)

After compiling and editing 210+ pages (39,790+ words), setting the master manuscript up with all of the correct styles needed for e-readers, uploading to Amazon it’s finally ready for purchase.

It’s available for Kindles (and Kindle app on iPhone/iPad and other devices) at Amazon.com.


ENDORSEMENTS

I was extremely humbled by these generous endorsements from some very kind industry veterans. Some also have some amazing interviews in the book along with several other TV, Feature Film, Broadway, Music, and Video Production veterans!


An immensely practical guide for the creative in all of us. Todd Hampson’s work has blessed me and thousands of others – his writing about the nuts and bolts of being a working creative will bless many more. Highly recommended!

Phil Vischer — Creator of VeggieTales and What’s in the Bible?


When someone with Todd Hampson’s credentials and experience talks about creativity, I listen.  In fact, his new book, “Calling All Artists” was the kick in the pants I needed to move forward on my next project.  If you live a creative life (and all of us should), then I recommend the book.  You won’t regret it.

Phil Cooke — filmmaker, media consultant, and author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do


Having been an adjunct professor in the cinema and media departments of two major universities, I know firsthand the positive impact this book will have on students.  Whether graduating from college or deciding what to do with your life, this book answers hard questions,  provides insightful information, and gives you life changing tips on how to make better choices and start a creative career in the 21st century.

Kathleen Cooke — kathleencooke.com, Co-Founder Cooke Pictures, cookepictures.com


Todd Hampson’s “Calling All Artists” e-book is a GREAT tool for anyone just getting into animation or even those that have been in it a while and want to reinvent themselves and/or reignite their passions.  As artists, we are not very good at looking internally or into the future, so planning our careers is a mysterious journey.  Todd really gets you to organize your thoughts and aline them with your talents!  That is THE path to success for any artist!  Additionally, his optimistic viewpoint toward the industry, and his excitement about it, is a breath of fresh air we all need to hear!

Tom Bancroft — former Disney Supervising Animator, Director, Studio Owner, Character Designer, Author


Todd Hampson listens and delivers! I have personally had the privilege of working with Todd and his company Timbuktoons developing an animated series for kids. He and his wonderful team were able to grant my every wish, and then some. The information he shares in this book will absolutely help artists on their creative journey.

Cassie Byram — actress, singer, song-writer, and Executive Creative Producer, Oodles World Inc.


Needless to say, I’m really excited about this book, most of all because I think it is going to help thousands of artists discover their creative calling and how to thrive in a creative career. I’m planning a few promotional events to help get the word out about the book but I couldn’t wait to share the news. Please tell your friends and share this link (http://ow.ly/zG06i) on social media to help get the word out!

 

 

Are You Part of the S5 Audience? A Must Read for Any Creative!

s5graphicMy goal as a Creative Career Coach is to help creatives find their calling and plan their education and careers based on their core marketable strengths, while living a fulfilling life and making the world a better place. S5 Represents the 5 key seasons a person in the creative industry needs to intersect with a mentor or Creative Career Coach.

High school and college career counselors are a great resource, but they have to be more concerned with a students credits, applications, grades, and requirements than they do helping creative students find their calling and core marketable strengths. Some colleges have great job placement and internship partner programs, but many do not. Once in a specific career, there are very few resources around to help people transition into the creative field from other fields, or to help struggling creatives find their way again.

Here’s a description of each of the S5 categories. Pinpoint which one you belong to and leave a comment below to let me know what resources you need to thrive as an artist!

1. SENIORS (High School)
Choosing a creative career track begins with the college or post-highschool training a senior picks. My goal is to get great resources into the hands of high-school seniors, school career counselors, and high-school art teachers.

2. SOPHOMORES (College)
College Sophomores have a critical window of opportunity to declare a major, switch majors, or even switch schools. Many sophomores realize they are in the wrong track, but are afraid to pivot because they have 2 years invested. Nothing could be worse than going 2 more years down the wrong creative track when they sense a change is really needed. I want to get advice, information, and resources into the hands, heads, and hearts of college sophomores to empower them to make sure they are being educated according to their core strengths, passions, and calling.

3. STARTING OUT
I know first hand that college training, though crucial to gaining employment, is only half of the education they need. Beginning a creative career and working “hands on” in the industry is the other half of the educational equation. I want to help prepare creatives for real world work, track down internships, help them develop relational skills and work habits to set them apart from the crowd, and find ways to get a foot in the door of their dream job! This is also a critical time to decide if graduate school is a good option.

4. STARTING OVER
After 13 years in a graphic design and illustration career, I found myself discontent and, through a process, wound up quitting my job to start an animation company. I’ve seen many people take the courageous step to transition into a creative field that better fits their passions and core strengths, or even transition from an unrelated career to one in the creative arts.

For example, one of our TimbuktoonCloud Team Members flew helicopters for the military for 12 years, then decided to pursue her dream of working in the animation industry! Another great friend and long time Timbuktoons Team Member actually went to Seminary and planned on working in a church, until he felt called BACK into the creative arts where he has thrived for over 12 years doing tons of meaningful work for churches, great companies, and great non-profits. Starting over can be scary and overwhelming and I want to help creatives who are making, or thinking of making, that transition.

5. STRUGGLING
Creatives are usually multi-talented. Creatives usually jump from one creative passion to another. Creatives often doubt their capability and have a hard time seeing their best creative strengths. Almost every creative I know gets to a point of frustration and confusion sometime in their career. They get stuck and need some help. I want to help this group of creatives get clear on their calling and core marketable strengths, and I want to help them develop a concrete game plan to help them thrive again.

I’ll have some great resources for my S5 audience in the near future, so if you know anyone who fits one of these categories, PLEASE encourage them to check out the blog and sign up for my e-news. If you are like me, you wish you had a creative mentor or coach intersect your life at one of these critical seasons of life.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for our e-news to get new posts delivered right to your inbox.

Let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below. If you leave a comment, do me a favor and list your creative arts field, and whether you are a student or a professional.