Category: Tutorials

Trying to get somewhere while you feel like you’re nowhere.

Sometimes I feel like I’m getting nowhere with my art. Actually I feel this way pretty often, even when I’m working hard at it.

I think I feel this way for a couple of reasons. One being that I constantly see other people’s good work being recognized, and I guess it looks like they do it easily if you’re on the outside looking in. Even though I really know they put in the super hard work to get there, I can’t help but think “why haven’t I done something as good as that yet?” or “i should have made twice as many works as I have by now”.

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I also know that IF and when I do start getting more recognition or attention for things I do, it’ll still feel the same way. It’s just an illusion… one of the many headfucks that comes with taking your creativity seriously. It’s like everyone is looking at everyone else and saying “fuck, these dudes really have their shit together”.

In saying that, I have slowly learnt a few lessons on how to produce better work, and more of it.

Two Different Types of Work and How You Should Prioritise Them

When people tell me I work hard, I really know that I could be working twice as hard and still enjoying it. Sure, I’m starting to put in the hours. I try to work at least 8 hours a day or more on my art If I can, with one day off a week. But am I utilizing these hours to the full extent? Fuck no!

One big realisation I’ve come to recently is that when it comes to your art, there are broadly TWO types of work you must do. The first is your primary work which consists of creating NEW projects, artworks and pushing your artwork forward. The second is the auxiliary work, or the support work. This includes stuff like writing emails to people, networking, documenting your work, or even writing posts on your personal blog like I’m doing now.

I used to not see the distinction between the two different types of work and treat their priority equally, so they’d all end up in a jumble on my daily ‘to do’ list. But now I realize to make great work you have to actually spend all the time you were spending on everything and use it on your PRIMARY work. Then you’ve got to put in extra hours for the auxiliary stuff because that needs to get done too.

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here is a basic table of the distinction

So this means that when I do 8 hours of work in a day, I do 8 hours on my most important primary tasks. Then once I’ve finished that in a day, I can go to the secondary stuff and complete that too before I finish. It seems really simple but somehow it’s something I’ve never realized :s

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Here’s an example of my ‘to do’ list for today. The primary tasks are grouped up top and the auxiliary down the bottom. I also find it helps to number the priority of each primary task so you do all the important ones first and don’t leave them til last.

Figure Out Your Sleep/Work Pattern that Suits You

Everyone is different and everyone works better at different time of the day. I used to stay up heaps late under the excuse of ‘getting work done’ but I’d just end up watching movies or hanging with friends. Back when i was a teenager, working late seemed to really work for me and I’d get lots done in the shed in the early hours of the morning. But now I find that living in a sharehouse in the inner city there are too many distractions late at night so the chances of not finishing my work became greater.

I’ve recently figured out that if I get up at 9am and start work at 10am I get much more done and am less distracted by things going on around me, therefore much more likely to get work done. Now I tend to finish work at around 6-8pm and can keep going if I’m having a good time, or just finish for the day and watch a movie or spend some time being social.

Now this pattern is not for everyone. For instance I know M Dot Strange stays up working all night and sleeps during the day and that guy is a machine!

Once you figure out a good routine that works for you you will be able to be more disciplined and get sooo much more work done + become a badass like snake plissken!

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-Hamish .S

Using Narration in Animation

Narration is an interesting storytelling tool as it’s probably the closest aspect of moving image to literature. I’ve always been a bit averse to narration especially when it’s used heavily or too much. I’ve been known to yell at television sets and movie screens “show don’t tell motherfucker”.

Even though it’s not really my thing, there are certain instances when narration can be really effective. I’ve observed that when it’s used NOT in conjunction with diegetic dialogue it can work particularly well. But when it’s used in conjunction with characters speaking on screen it just comes off lazy.

One such instance of effective narration I can think of would be the intro at the beginning of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring which was quite remarkable and still sends shivers down my spine when I watch it.

Another example would be the Dishonored: Tales of Dunwall animations. Besides the annoying child’s voice narrating(would’ve been better with Cate Blanchett) it’s extremely well done and an example of an good story(or part of one) and great storytelling technique.

I recently came across this student animation, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Tom Beg. Adapted from parts of Oscar Wilde’s novel of the same name, the entire short is comprised of visuals that take cues from the constant narration without actually depicting what’s happening in the story. Although not something I would personally pursue, It’s a technique that might interest some of you out there with budding stories. It’s an interesting way of visual storytelling and could be developed further.

– Hamish .S

Writing a Comic for the First Time – Pt. 1

I’m a big fan of certain comic and manga artists, like Charles Burns and Junji Ito but I never thought I would end up making one.

File0018I’ve decided to write a comic because It’s a great story telling medium, It has quicker output than animation which allows me to produce more stories + get better at telling stories over time; and it’s still a visual way to tell them.

Coming from an animation background I’ve never written a comic before so I thought I’d detail my home-made process to encourage anyone else out there who wants to create and make interesting and diverse comics/graphic novels/manga. This process works for me but everyone is different so don’t be surprised if your process ends up different.

1. Detailing Ideas and Basic Concepts

My memory is completely shithouse so when I’m thinking of ideas and concepts for stories I’ve got to write them down right away, otherwise they slip into the fog that is my swiss cheese brain.

So to begin with I just write down ideas and visual ideas that I think of, into my journal(to keep it all together). I also write down questions I need to ask myself like “what is the protagonists motivation in this point?” or “what am I trying to say with this comic” or “why is this character even a human?”. Asking myself these questions by writing them down helps me to answer them by forcing me to think, and if I can’t answer them they’re on the paper so i can come back and work them out later.

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2. Sequence of Events

The sequence of events is the scaffold where the narrative starts to come together.
On a blank page I write paragraphs that describe what is happening and basic dialogue. I then separate the story beats and breaks with arrows. The SOE is kind of like a story mind-map.

So an example of would be..

       ‘Protagonist wakes up in sewer with no legs. Pushes character b off of her(startled) and talks to him. Character b explains his intentions and background(limited). Protagonist has flashback to falling into sewer.

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  Protagonist finds driftwood and shoves them into her leg holes, creating prosthetic shins. Crawls out sewer grate into bare concrete trench. City can be seen in distance.

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etc.’

I find the sequence of events to be particularly useful in establishing early problems and holes within your story which is indispensable.

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3. Script

The script is where you start fleshing out your dialogue and the concepts that the characters and their interactions will construct. I’ve found that using the same script format as screenplay scripts works best for me. So under your character names the text will be dialogue, then other lines will be descriptions of actions and what is going on in the scene. You can find a script format tutorials everywhere including here.

Writing and formatting your script in a word processor is a pain in the ass so I’ve found that using a screenwriting program like ‘Final Draft‘ to be much better. After a few hours of use the program becomes second nature and makes writing out a script easy and quick.

I tend to write several drafts of the script over several weeks. I’m new to writing for character so I find convincing and ‘natural’ dialogue particularly challenging. After I write my first draft and wait a few days, I’ll go back and view the work with fresh eyes. I often find much of what i had written previously to be… pretty shit, but that’s ok because you can use previous dialogue and work on it to make it better, more complex and more natural.

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4. First Visual Draft

The first visual draft is comprised of a series of small boxes representing pages, and stick figures in the boxes representing characters with primitive surroundings. The idea is that you can quickly sketch out what you visual want each panel to look like and not worry about the quality of your drawings.

This is only meant to be seen by you so don’t be ashamed by the quality of your drawing. As long as you can understand what is depicted then your drawing is good enough. It’s about getting the vision out of your head and onto paper to be worked on later.

I recommend numbering your ‘pages’ as it can get a bit confusing after a while.

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5. Second Visual Draft

If I was working by myself I would skip this step and go on to step 6. to save time, but my friend Oscar C is illustrating the final work so I’ve created a second visual draft to convey my ideas to him.

The second visual draft should be a representation of the final work. The comic zine I’m working on will be an A5 sized booklet so all pages in this draft are that size. I draw on both sides of each page so when I bind them it will look like the finished book, and you can flick through and see any weaknesses it might have.

The pages and drawing will take longer than the first draft because you the drawing need to make sense to someone else. In this stage you will also likely change pages and panels because you will realize other things work better. This is good, don’t be afraid to change from your first draft.

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When all the pages are complete you can bind them with a bull clip to keep it all together. You now have the entire comic in draft form!

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The next 3 parts(final panels, editing + digitization, self publishing) will be in the part 2 of this tutorial.

I just bought a book called ‘Making Comics’ by Scott McCloud. I can’t recommend it because I haven’t read it yet, but it stood out from all the other ‘how to make comics’ books I could find. Instead of teaching you how to imitate the style of other comics etc., it concentrates on how to construct a good story, effective panel layout, what to show and what not to show in those panels and stuff like that, which is exactly what I need. It also seems that master storyteller Neil Gaiman recommends it so it’s definitely worth a look. I’m hoping it will improve my comic writing abilities.

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– Hamish S.

Forever Alone Filmmaking Podcast with David Firth

A new Forever Alone Filmmaking Podcast is out with M dot Strange and Screamerclauz, featuring an hour interview with David Firth. You can listen to it through itunes here. Or download the wavs here. These podcasts are stacked full of information for people getting into solo or independent animation and filmmaking… and they’re really good to listen to while doing monotonous animation work.

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David Firth is a legend in underground animation. He’s a prolific filmmaker producing over a hundred short animations and video artworks. He’s the creator of the Salad Fingers, Spoilsbury Toastboy and Burnt Face Man animations. I remember watching Firth’s work as a kid and it freaking me the fuck out.