Thursday, August 27, 2009

THIS BLOG NOT AFFILIATED WITH CINDYWEARSMANYHATS


    A couple of days ago I was informed that this blog had been hijacked.  Yikes.  
Upon investigation I found that my poor little blog had indeed been abducted.  There it sat,  embedded in Cindywearsmanyhats' unfamiliar black blog, blinking and naked without even a post around it.  WTF?
So, if you too found yourself on her blog while looking for this one and wondered WTF, please be assured that I have no affiliation with Cindy Story, Cindywearsmanyhats or Cindylou2. 
    Cindy was a fan of this blog and for some reason, decided to embed it in hers, causing all traffic to go to her blog, not mine. She has subsequently apologized and assured me that her action was not malicious, she "just wanted to help" me.
Anyway, Cindy has now removed herself as a follower and deleted my blog from hers but, unfortunately, all searches for my blog still go to the deleted blog at http://cartoonsanimation.blogspot.com.
It will take a while for this new blog to show up in searches, so please make a note of the new URLS:

http://animatedwriting.blogspot.com/
and
http://animatedanovel.blogspot.com
    My young blog, lost and un-findable, is now recovering but a bit lonely, with few visitors or followers, so I hope you’ll click on the comments and follow buttons again.  After all, this is an exciting blog, things happen here!   You could get kidnapped and embedded, among other things.  
    In the meantime,  regular posting will resume shortly.
Thanks to those of you who alerted me to this situation.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

WRITING or ART?

Ever since I learned to read the STOP signs in my neighborhood at age four, I’ve been writing. When I was twelve, my mother mocked my diary swoons over a class-mate, so I gave up writing; too incriminating. 

But after two weeks I took it up again to enter a national writing contest. I won first prize but, since I also won a lot of prizes for art, I was encouraged to follow that path. I studied art and have earned my living in various aspects of it, while continuing to write in my spare time. I’m the only writer I know whose day job is art but who is, in fact, a published author, having written the lyrics to a fairly well-known American song, which was published and recorded in Paris and for which I actually receive royalties.
    
From my professional experiences with art and photography, I'm glad I never had to earn a living writing, because you can grow to hate your tools when they're expressing other people's ideas, not your own. But, at this point, I still love language and my Mac and and look forward to the book deals and publishing deadlines that may make me hate them.
   
While working in animation, I've often come home in a lather to write about corporate idiocy, artistic spite, the challenge of the art and thrill of seeing it on the screen. I was encouraged to put my rants into a book about the wonderful art of animation and the horrible business of it. So, I wrestled the intricacies and complexities of studio life into a novel: "ANIMATED" and finished the book just in time for the global financial crisis and the transformation of the publishing industry.
   
Even though publishers may be preoccupied by e-books, cloud publishing, advances and royalty adjustments, they still need content. And a funny book by a first time author on a sexy, beloved subject that will fit as easily on to a Kindle as a soft, papery page, might be just what readers want to cheer themselves up in these hard times. What could be better than a novel about pie-fights and deadlines in an animation studio, to put a smile on everybody’s face, including mine?
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

THE POWER OF BEAUTY

In animation all our heroes and heroines are beautiful and all our villains ugly.
    Obviously in real life this is not the case. Beautiful people don't have all the virtues and ugly people don't have all the vices. But look how we behave around beautiful people and how we treat homely people.
    We may say everyone is beautiful in their own way and  speak of "inner" beauty but we all know that in our secret badass soul, we're suckers for beauty. Something in us make us want beauties to be "beautiful inside and out" and to attribute to the ugly all the nasty stuff.
    Do we ever depict integrity with a hunchback or evil with big blue eyes? Rarely, if ever.
    In life, we are who we are beneath the skin but how much is our behavior, even our character, influenced by the way others treat us? Could it be that some ugly people develop vices because they're often treated with suspicion and distrust? And, in the same way, are beautiful people virtuous because we usually assume they are and fall all over ourselves to admire and please them? 
    Apparently we covet beauty because it’s an indication of health, so we want to mate with it. But what about the beauty of objects? The arts? Nothing to do with mating, why do we value it so much?
    Many think valuing beauty is superficial and stupid. Artists in particular, are preoccupied with beauty, beauty is our business, we strive to represent it in all its forms. Are artists superficial and stupid?
Beauty and the Beast - illustration by Anne Anderson
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

ANIMATING

Animating with a pencil is a crazy joy. First of all, you can really draw. You can let rip with a free, loose, sketchy line, you can elongate and shorten and distort and generally exaggerate to your heart’s content.  Think Tex Avery, Chuck Jones.  
The directors will rein you in later if it’s too much and if you're the director, well, go bananas.
You feel like God when you give life to a character, make it walk and talk and stretch squash and jump and dance.  Like God and a parent.

    To be a good animator, you need to watch a lot of baseball, fencing, golf, ice skating, tennis, ballroom dancing and ballet so you know how a real human being squashes and stretches in motion.  Watching athletes and dancers in slow-motion is also essential.  It’s almost like special effects: runners’ feet crushed with speed, dancers’ legs fantastically elongated, boxers’ faces horribly bent around a punch, tennis players’ entire bodies stretched mightily upwards, with their little feet, freed from gravity, curled inward toward each other, pigeon-toed. Who would guess that the human body could change shape so much when it moved?

    The secret to life-like animation, is stretching and squashing.  First, draw the character all long and thin and vertical in one drawing, then all short and fat and squat in the next.  Way more stretched and squashed than you think possible. Then rough in the drawings in between, making sure that the *timing is nice and crisp and snappy.   And voilà, a bouncy, squishy, life-like movement.         
    While you’re lost in creating all this, you’re thinking thoughts like this:  Must make this line really, really l-o-o-ong, oops shit––erase, erase–– really, really long.  There.  
Or: Should I put a joint break in here?  
Or: What’s her subtext in this scene? 
Or: Keep it light, just kiss the paper with the pencil.  
Or: Stretch and squash is gravity, physics.  

    All this and endless people-watching and sketching are the artistic arsenal of the animator.  You should beware of animators, when you think they’re just staring blankly into space, they’re really storing up your every tic and gesture and one day you might recognise yourself on the screen.  Voice-over actors are always amazed and a bit perturbed when they see one of their gestures or facial features incorporated into a character.  Heh, heh.

    *The illustration is a TIMING CHART which makes animation crisp and snappy with slow-in-and-out (a cushioned start and end to the action) in this example.
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

MY LAST MEAL

A dozen marennes, some oursins and a chilled bottle of Pouilly fumé to start, followed much later by a foie gras with figues (or pommes vapeur and little green grapes) and a bottle of Château Cheval Blanc 2000 , then a small crème brulé à la lavande or a very chocolately mousse au chocolat.   A couple of hand-made chocolates from Chez Mulot and a swirl of Delamain cognac would end my last meal.
Of course,  I'd rather have this meal once a week for eternity but, since last meals are usually associated with the death penalty, this would be a worthy meal to die for.  I always feel so sorry for those poor buggers who ask for a cheeseburger.
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Oysters On The Half Shell on Foodista

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

CREATING

I love to see the face of an artist creating. Whether it’s painting, animating or writing, the expression is the same. Some would say it’s concentration and it is, but it's more than that. Accountants concentrate, but they don’t look like artists do, with all due respect. Artists creating have the look of someone in another world, their body is present, but their mind is elsewhere, on the page, in the stone, the paint, looking at something we can’t see until we get the finished creation. See the eyes of Rembrandt van Rijn and Michelangelo above and Vincent van Gogh below? Artist eyes. Eyes that say I-see-you instead of Do-you-see-me? Like sleep walkers, if you interrupt an artist who’s working, tap them on the shoulder, they jump, shocked back into this world.
 
And when I say "artist", I include: musicians, writers, sculptors, dancers etc., although I resent that they can call themselves "artists" but artists can't call themselves dancers, musicians or writers. 


What sometimes transports us, is the medium itself, the toothy texture of the paper under our pencil, the feel of the pencil, its angles and the smell of soft graphite flowing smoothly on to the paper leaving a slight indentation. Or watching the brush wetly pull the color on to the paper just the way you want it, just where you want it. Or the glistening thickness of oil paint plumped up with linseed oil that looks so delicious you want to lick it. Or finding the exact word that conveys a mood, a whole phrase that jumps out under your fingers, full of rhythm and life. But mostly, it's the idea, the concept, the vision that carries us away.

From my own experience, I know the finished piece is not always what I had in mind when I started. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s not as good, mostly it’s different. So, whenever I see a painting or a sculpture or read a book, I wonder how different it is from the artist’s original idea and wish I could also see the original idea. But no matter the medium or the intent, the end result is the same for all creators: showing the world how to see things from your perspective.


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ART, PAINTING, DRAWING, WRITING, SCULPTING

Sunday, August 9, 2009

SNOBBERY vs. APPRECIATION

I’ve noticed that many people think appreciating excellence has something to do with snobbery. While the meaning of APPRECIATION is clear, the meaning of SNOBBERY seems to be a little more vague. My favorite definition of a snob is one who foolishly follows fashion and looks down on those who don’t. The OED gives several definitions of a snob and I’m mashing two together because I think it’s what most people mean when they say snob: One who admires and seeks to imitate or associate with those of superior rank or wealth and who despises those who are considered inferior in rank, attainment or taste. 
   
A thing can be appreciated for its quality, the value we attach to it, the amount of pleasure it gives us. Nothing to do with despising other things, everything to do with appreciating excellent things. Perhaps it’s admiring one thing more than another that leads people to talk of snobbery. And when a lot of people appreciate the same thing, it wins prizes, becomes famous and fashionable and its price goes up. That's usually where snobbery comes in.  
    We’re accused of being snobs for liking well-made books, clothes, shoes, art, music, food, wine, you name it, if it’s excellent and we like it, we’re snobs. Or worse yet, élitists. Appreciating something excellent is a matter of pleasure and passion. Feeling passionate about something is never snobbery or élitist. It’s only when you sneer at other people’s idea of excellence that you become a snob. I resent the snobbery label incorrectly applied to appreciation. It diminishes admiration and wonder. Snobbery is foolish imitation and not worth much. 
    Appreciation of all forms of excellence should be respected and celebrated without apology or labels 
of snobbery
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Monday, August 3, 2009

THE LONG HELLO

During my crepuscular walk this morning, I turned a corner and came face to face with a dramatic orange mackerel sky. Far-flung clouds like fish scales made my thought turn Chandleresque for some reason:
The mean streets of Hollywood glowed orange, like movie lighting.
The downtown sky was like a GONE WITH THE WIND back drop, but not quite. Nothing is.

Then the street lights snapped off and the mean streets became ordinary streets again and the sky calmed down to a dull grayish yellow. Just another day, despite the glamorous dawn and now I have to get Humphrey Bogart’s voice out of my head.  I wonder what a query letter would sound like in Chandlerese:       

Dear Ms. Agent, 
    ANIMATED is a novel about hard-boiled artists pretending not to be afraid that their studio is about to go digital and put them all out of work. Hard little artists in hard little cubicles drawing hard little drawings that soon wouldn’t mean a thing. Hired by a drunk to help finish the film, she was almost as beautiful as a Rolls-Royce, but not quite. Nothing is. “You got two weeks, sister,” said the drunk. But she wanted more. And she always got what she wanted. The drunk had other ideas. So did her co-workers. She didn’t care what they thought. She cared what the long-legged blond with the Ferrari angles and the navy-blue eyes thought.
   I did my time in the animation Big House, I know its dark alleys and dirt. And UCLA gave me 3 tough courses on creative writing that made me want to hit the bottle. Hard. Now I need answers to my queries. Lots of answers.
 

                            Heh heh, that was fun, now back to work.
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