Posts Tagged ‘ production

Princes in the Tower – animation for the Tower of London

(This was written ages ago before my shoulder went pop! Also! Sorry to be unprofessional for a brief moment, but… TL;DR version: if you even vaguely know me, you’ll know that when we got the email for this project, I literally shit all my bones and wondered if I had, in fact, died and gone to heaven.)

At the end of 2012, me, Paul and Emma were contacted by the Tower of London to make an animated short based around Edward V and Richard of York, aka. The Princes in the Tower. It was to be screened in the Bloody Tower, where they have the current display focusing around these two: possibly the Tower’s most notorious prisoners guests prisoners short-stay holiday makers prisoners young people, as part of a drive to increase the modernity of the Tower itself. We needed little introduction to this particular piece of history (*COUGHCOUGHCOUGH*) and met up with Tower staff to discuss the outcome and what they hoped to achieve, and what we could realistically produce. I’d like to take a second here and speak about how freakin’ awesome the Tower staff are. (They are super rad and we feel really lucky to have worked with them!)

For those who are not aware of the figures, here’s some info:

Edward V of England
Richard of York
Richard of Gloucester/Richard III of England
Edward IV of England
Elizabeth Woodville (I went briefly to Elizabeth Woodville Primary School in Leicester!)

Our initial idea involving life-sized, animated shadow-play had proved to be impossible due to the physical restrictions of the Bloody Tower, but we took with us the idea of using strong contrast for the final look of the piece. We also hoped that the use of stark red, black and white would avoid the piece looking very dated/aging too quickly, and also allow the animation to be as clear as possible over the texture of the interior of the Tower’s walls (textured like… well, a medieval wall), and the lighting situation (also medieval). We were not really able to use chunks of text or lots of dialogue as so many visitors to the Tower would not have English as their first language, so, it was up to us to try and make something engaging and informative and atmospheric just through pictures, focusing on the more modern aspect that the Tower is working through, making it creepy, keeping it ambiguous due to historical black holes, and so on, and so forth. It was a challenge, for sure, to make this all under 2 minutes. With that in mind, I wanted to try and aim for a sooooort of music video type thing, and took a lot of inspiration from anime openings/endings. We were also really happy that Ewan Parry was able to work with us on the Sound Design for the piece — we’ve worked with Ewan a few times before for various projects, and we’re good friends, and it’s always nice to work with friends!!!

So, obviously, Paul’s done a fair amount of animation before and is really good at it, whereas I have completely not done any and tried to learn as we went under his watchful eye! ^^; I wrote the story out and bashed out a few rough storyboards, and once everyone was happy with the idea, we moved onto making further rough storyboards, and basically just diving straight into developing the thing. Paul handled the 3D and the compositing, and helped out on the 2D. He used 3D StudioMax and AfterEffects, and I did the 2D in Photoshop.

Here’s the initial design Paul made early on as a basis for our style, when we were compiling our pitch for the Tower:

And here are some more designs I made when I started storyboarding:

It was quite refreshing to literally not have the scope to labour over any aspect of the drawings. I had to learn quickly that in order to achieve anything at all, you gotta just GO GO GO DO NOT STOP DO NOT COLLECT £200 KEEP GOING WHAT ARE YOU DOING DRAWING FINGERNAILS STOP THAT KEEP DRAWING. Despite that, the designs for the boys’ hair was too complex really, and the line-thickness issue continued being a bit of an issue, lol. Well, I learned!

Here’s some storyboards-to-final-frames examples:

Here’s the animatic:

One of the important things we built into the piece was the space and potential to expand a few scenes. The animation itself was quite experimental in terms of its actual use for the Tower, and we want to wait for visitor feedback before thinking of expanding it. I’m really hoping we can! I would love to expand on the bit where the boys are playing, maybe add detail to Richard of Gloucester’s short scene, add dialogue perhaps, add bits to the ending… just add detail to make it feel even more lively, really. We’re hoping it gets good feedback! If you’re around in London during the summer, you should totally pop along to the Tower and check it out! Thanks so much everyone who’s asked about how we’re going with this, and giving encouragement, especially when we weren’t able to say what it actually was we were working on. It meant a lot to us… I really hope anyone who gets the chance to see it, really likes it *^_^*

…and as that’s a bit of a tall order for some people, very kindly, HRP have let us show it on YouTube! Please watch it and enjoy it (and pretend it’s massive and in a medieval Tower)!

Here’s where I need to mention we made a lot of artistic liberties, but we felt we had strong reasons for the majority of these! We are very aware that Richard of York didn’t join Edward until like a month(?) later, after he’d gone to the Tower, but chose to skip over this bit due to a worry of confusing and over-lengthening the plot, and we wanted to focus specifically on the two boys, so that to us, at the time, meant introducing them in the same scene. We skipped over Earl Rivers and Grey’s executions for the same reasons. Apologies for these points. To be frank, there’s such little information about the boys’ stay in the Tower, and it’s often hard to discern what was contemporary source material and what was propaganda.

As a closing note, we had a total blast making this. The Princes in the Tower is one of my personal favourite history subjects/mysteries, and to get to do this was… well, what I wrote in the first paragraph, haha. I think when people get involved in historical fiction it’s easy to get really close to the figures, even if it’s just a tiny thing like making a single illustration, or doing a quick sketch… it brings them to life again suddenly, and brings them through the ages briefly, to exist along with everyone again. I do feel pretty close to these kids by now; it seems like every other year I get to work with them! ^_^ It does make me really sad that we’ll likely never know what happened to the two boys. The speculation about what occurred is fun and all, but at the same time, these were two young children who went missing, almost certainly for political reasons, and that’s really uncomfortable to think about. I do not believe the bones in the Westminster Urn belong to them. I wish we knew more. Every time I draw them or get into a project with them, I worry that I might be cheapening some aspect of their lives and role in history… I hope I’m not.

Lady Jessica/Dune – process

Click through for some process shots! I went through a lot of composition tweaking and colour tests, but those are probably pretty boring to look at ^^;

And click through for a close-up of her freckles! Making that Freckle Brush for Jim of The Lost Boy was like, a really time-saving idea! :D

Events & the tiniest preview!

Hi! Just as a quick update, I’ll be attending NICE along with mah bud Emma Vieceli! We will both have books for purchase and will most likely be sketching, too. It’s looking to be a really nice (sorry, sorry) event, so do come along and give a new show some support, and say hello to us!

Secondly, I got time to spend on something I’m really excited about! I’ve (literally) just finished a 4-pager for The Phoenix, which was written and devised by Neill Cameron. Neill is totally one of my favourite UK creators, and I was so pumped to get to work on something by him. I had *so* much fun making this comic, I can’t even begin to say! I really hope you guys will pick it up — you can get single issues of The Phoenix for just £2.99, delivered straight to your door (just to clear that up, because people always ask). I put up a little tiny snippet (like, really tiny — that section is about two inches high IRL) of it on my grainy Instagram the other day: http://web.stagram.com/n/autojoy I’m not sure which issue it will go out in yet, but I’ll let you know. I’ll be doing the cover, too!

Take care! ^_^/

Bye-bye Jim and Bob.

The (blank) cover I did for Issue 31 of The Phoenix, and a photo of the finished, printed issue! I liked how Laurence (the designer) made the title look as if it was gently uplit. Not long to go now, for The Lost Boy! It finishes very soon! O_O; I finished making it last friday. So… I’m off to work on more projects! I’ll update here when I have solid projecty-based news.

Golden Fables

Here are the images I made for the Golden Fables performance, which was part of the cultural Olympiad for Lincolnshire. They ended up being used as backdrops in a performance which included poetry, choir music and short acted scenes. It was performed at the SO Festival, and at Latitude. Only some of them ended up being used, and I can’t remember right now which they were ^^; But here’s all ten, anyway.

The brief was quite non-specific, but was to try and involve a response, via a series of images, to the concept of “Rural England,” and how traditional values have either benefitted or excluded citizens. I used the black dog, its identity varying through each image, as a base-point for representing these ideas. Some of them are a bit unusual ^^; If you have any questions as to why I did what, do ask! I’m pretty good at explaining them now, haha.

Coverboy

Issue 5 of The Phoenix had a cover of The Lost Boy :) Here are the cover[s] without the text on:

This was the initial cover with Jim, Bob and a jungly background…

In the end it was decided it didn’t work, so a new background was made…

…which is the cover you see on the comic :) The sand looks a bit flat, but you don’t see it in the final thing anyhow, so ^^;

Been a bit quiet recently! It’s got a bit busy and has gained the feeling of spinning plates.

More sketches for The Lost Boy

Following on from yesterday, here’s some more explorative sketches! Our *airquotes* “hero”:

…who looks like he’s chanelling Joffrey Baratheon Lannister Baratheon Lannister in that bottom one, there. And:

(I don’t know what happened to his tooth. Probably someone socked him).

And some super rough environment stuff… not sure how interesting these are but they were kinda helpful to me so… anyway here they are:

I realised with horror that I have, yet again, another comic in which the vast majority of the backgrounds are bloody foliage. Thank god Freakangels was so urban… or I think I would have killed something by now.

Please check out The Phoenix, and I really do recommend subscribing! Special Issue Zero that’s just gone out got some lovely and favourable reviews from children and parents, and I can promise you that Issue One and each issue after that will be FUCKING AWESOME.

It’s nice because I often get a bit BLEH after christmas and don’t generally enjoy my birthday, so The Phoenix is a great way to lift those early year blues, should you happen to get them as well! :)

This may well be my last post before Christmas and possibly of 2011 altogether, so… Merry Xmas to all those who celebrate it, and all those who won’t, have a safe couple of weeks! x

Sketches for The Lost Boy

Here’s a few sketches I made when I was testing out the characters for my Phoenix strip, The Lost Boy!

This was the first thing I drew:

The story changed quite a lot after that, so some of those things in that image won’t make any sense/make an appearence ^^; The main character looks rather stoic there, as well. I was going through a period of being nuts about vertically-striped socks, and socks paired with boots, so… I blame that obsession for how he looks. Actually his costume didn’t change at all… (except the string around his arm switched to his left arm). His little creature-thing/mascot was based more on a rabbit back then, too.

Then I made this one:

Very little changed between then and the final design for the main character. His hair just got longer, really. Oh! And he got freckles. The furry creature changed again though:

…which is more or less his final design!

I started exploring the characters a bit more after that (as you do), so I’ll post those up tomorrow…

Finished + Chocolate

Well… that’s it! It’s done! (More or less!) I need to settle on a blurb for the back cover, and edit a couple of pages, but really they’re very minor tweaks. I finished on Friday 11th February, at 2am in the morning after an epic final battle that lasted 18 hours, in which time I ate maybe three bowls of cereal and did not go to the toilet. Paul, bless him deeply, stayed up with me until the end. By the time the last page rolled around, we played Chariots of Fire on Spotify, repeatedly, until I saved my files in PS for the last time. Then I had a vimto and gin (Ginto? Anyway, we had no tonic) and a further bowl of cereal, I cried a bit, and then went to sleep. And didn’t really move for the next 24 hours XD

Because I pulled many ridiculous days over the past few weeks, and like, I’ve not even been getting dressed, and just sitting still for hours upon hours on end, I’ve actually given myself chilblains XD Protip: wear socks and make sure you move around when completing your comics, folks.

So anyway, here’s the final cover (minus blurb):

And I thought I’d share the title plates as well for each story:

So how do I feel about it? “Fucking relieved” comes to mind. The Cherry Tree is something I’ve been working on and off with since university, which was a good few years back now… like, 2004 or so? The Piper Man is the most recent, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere before, but even that’s been sitting around, a half-finished script, some character desgns, etc., for about three or four years. Completing Matryoshka feels like I’ve exorcised something. That story has been through the wringer.

The entire book means a lot to me. I mean, really. Finishing it was extremely emotional, and if you’ve been in contact with me in the last few months or so, I’m likely to have been a bit moody… sorry about that ^^; With finishing those final pages, I feel like I have achieved one of my life’s goals, and I feel very, very lucky to have been able to do so in my twenties.

I also feel like I’ve stuck it to a few people, you know. People who have said I could never make comics for a living, that I should really think about getting a “real” job; people who have laughed in my face when I’ve told them what my passions are and what I do… and, most especially, when I was sick for several years and the doctors told me and my family I should “just give up” the idea of being an artist, as it would never likely happen because I could never lead a normal life and it would be best for me to forget about it all. So fuck you, doc! Not only did I get better, I’m doing what I always told you I would do, and what I told everyone I would do. I didn’t give in. So there!

So now! I need to do those final checks, and get this baby off to the printers. I’m as yet unsure how long it will be before I get my product, but I’m guessing it’ll be around 2 – 5 weeks from now. Fuck knows where I’m going to put 300 of these things. In the office, I guess! You guys gotta help me out by buying them all!! XD

Fish + Chocolate aside, things have actually been going quite well recently. I hope to be able to chime into this blog again soon with some nice news ^_^b And of course, details and purchasing info for the book~!

Lastly – huge, huge, HUGE, HUUUUUGE thanks to everyone who has shown me kindness and support (and given me confidence to continue instead of just collapsing into a self-loathing ball) thoughout this project. If I could try and explain how much it meant to me… but I think I’m too inadequate a writer to attempt an explanation… just thank you, thank you…

F+C cover preview

A screenshot of the cover for Fish + Chocolate. I’ve been doing all sorts of nice things recently like getting back in contact with the printer (my old estimate of completion date was October 2010, remember that? HAHAHAHAH *fail*) and doing the cover and inside stuff, and laying things out, and so on and so on. I’m getting pumped because I can see the end of this…! It will just be crazy to finish it all. I’ve been working on it for so long, considering how short the actual book is…

Almost, almost, almost there……….