Saturday, 22 November 2008

Background Designers

I really want to concentrate on getting the animation right with this next piece, so the character designs are relatively simple. I want to make sure the character moves the way I imagine he would, so by keeping it simple it will be good practise for later on when I use more detailed characters. That is the main reason why the backgrounds in this piece are so very, very important. They are going to convey everything I want the audience to think and feel, without them ever knowing it. The character himself must be accessible in simple ways: cute and appealing, then dark and troubled. But the backgrounds need not be so simple. They must be detailed and eye catching to contrast the simple character - otherwise the whole piece will look very very dull indeed.

So with that in mind, I have been researching background designers. Now, there are the famous ones that we all know about and have read about a hundred million times, but I like to focus on the current ones. The people working now, in the industry a lot of the time whose work you may even see daily and never even give them credit for. Background Artist's have a lot of hard work to do, but also I am rapidly discovering it is a lot of fun :) I should imagine the three people I am about to write about in this blog have a heck of a lot of fun doing their jobs :)

Lou Romano
I have written about Lou in one of my previous projects, but he has done a lot of new work since then and I want to keep up to date with this talented individual. I have said before: I love his work. I think he has a terrific style, with a great eye and a fantastic ability to bring backgrounds to life without them ever been in your face or invasive. His color choice is exceptional and his line style is, well...just bloody lovely, really. Check out his blog here.

Here is some of his work:



One this I really like about Romano is the way he plans his work. Its instant and makes sense.

This drawing is a reference for a part of the final image shown in this set. One of my favourite pieces by him.

Simple. To the point. You know where you are.


These are plans for paintings that would be run past the big cheese before going to final paint. They are brilliant even before he goes to town on them. You can see some of them below.


Remember that fantastic eye I talked about. He really knows how to create a scene.

This is haunting in its own special way :)

I think I will be taking a lot of notes from this piece. It is by far my favourite. The colours used behind the dark trees bring it to life. Everything looks sharp and dangerous and because you can't see any of the features it creates a tense mystery beset with limitless dangers to the two helpless children. There pose tells everything. Who the eldest one is, that they are both terrified but one of them is being brave for the other. The light path in the background is even breathing hope onto the two children and it also subtly shows there hopeful destination: safety.

Pete Oswald
I only found this talented man today. He recently worked as a character designer for Madagascar 2 and his work seems fantastic: you can view it on his blog here. Although his character design is right up my street with its great children's' book approach that I adore so much, it wasn't that work that caught my eye, it was his background work. It is mostly urban but it is exceptional. I love it. He gets every angle spot on and every piece carries an atmosphere that you immediately get a sense of. Check it out:

This style really reminded me of my favourite Droopy cartoon by Tex Avery: Dixieland Droopy. The lines over the colour and the sexy overall style really hailed back to that for me.



This background says one thing to me: America. Specifically, Miami very early morning. That probably isn't where it is, most definitely even - but that's what it says to me. I love it. The use of colour is wonderful and the way the path slightly bends from building to building. Its like you're walking down the damn street!


Definitley New York

It reeks of Suburbia. Which is a good thing!

I love the use of the wood grain as the sunlight. Brilliant idea.

Something he repeats here to good effect.


Make this image large in a new tab or window and just look at its awesome beauty. Its called Up or Down. This is exactly what I am looking to create with my backgrounds. It carries a simple but horrifying message. You are lost. And no matter which way you go, you're not getting out alive. The depression on the characters face at this realisation is perfect. I want the audience to feel fear for the boy in my animation at the thought he might not make it to the end of the piece alive.

Paul Lasaine
Some of you may know this man's work. A lot of you should: photoshop geeks take notice especially! Paul Lasaine has worked on many, many good films. You may have seen his work in books, but did you know he has a fantastic blog with loads of great photoshop and design tips
right here?
Paul's work is literally out of this world. He creates scenes and backgrounds that you just know are 'right' and that you just 'get'. You see them and you're like, "Yep, awesome." Perhaps this is the level people have to attain to get there work publicly accepted and that is why we are so eager to accept it. Perhaps its because he worked on films that everybody on Earth saw: the LOTR trilogy. And after that everybody just understands and accepts that, its just the way things are supposed to be. It doesn't have the same cutesy approach or the same likability of Romano's work - but they are working on entirely different levels, so its just a matter of taste rather than a comparison of skill. Anyway: this is work. Its brilliant.

Recognise this fella?

Wow...



This is the original painting.

This is shortly after it was photoshopped :D O yeeeaah!



But do his talents end there? Nope. He worked on Surf's Up! And just look at the two pieces above :O

He has the ability to do this. I always wanted that ability. If I was a superhero, this would be my power.

He also worked on Prince of Egypt (One of the my favourite films), Flushed Away (Another great film), A Shark's Tale (Will Smith is a favourite in our house :D) and El Dorado (Backgrounds are jaw dropping in that film). I am actually beginning to wonder if I liked all these films so much due to him working on them rather than them been awesome films. Rather, perhaps it just had something to do with it....

And just to top it off and put to sleep any doubters - the guy knocked this up on the Nintendo DS.

I will be documenting more background designers - at least two a week and taking influence and advice from there work. I really want to get the backgrounds right for this piece and also I am having a lot of fun spending time with Photoshop and getting a little deeper into its workings. I far from understand it but so far the results I am getting are promising to say the least.

To the left at the top there is a section called 'Links'. This links you directly to anybody I have found a researched across the Internet during the course of this project. All of the people in this blog can be found there, along with a whole host of others.

Next Artist: Background Artist/Animator extraordinare Adam Phillips!

[To the artists included in this blog: If you read this blog and you really, really don't want me to show your work, I am of course more than happy to take it down. But please take into account why I put your work up: out of the awe and love and because of the inspiration it gives me and remember that I am a student of your work and mean no harm or detrement whatsoever. I have linked all your work back to your own personal blogs, in both my 'Links' section and in this post - if anything I want more people to see your work an recognise your talent as I do]

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