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Apr 29, 2012

World Building Workshop with Christian Schellewald + Patrick Hanenberger

[Posted with permission]

April 28th, 2012 12pm-6:30pm @Red Engine Studios Downtown

|     World Building     |

Christian teaches at Art Center College of Design(?). He went to art school in Germany--which was free (well, students had to pay $100, but they got a free bus pass out of it--"a good deal").

Patrick Hanenberger studied at Art Center for Transportation Design; interned at Pixar, met Christian while at school, and got into DreamWorks.


How their project evolved: take everything you've ever experienced… whatever interests you… always keep notebooks and notepads on you… always gather the specific things that interest you… connect tides and things.

Christian always liked looking at technical stuff like images… the first time he used a Wacom he made a series of illustrations… of engines and technical things.

Always liked a specific feeling of architecture and vegetation… always sketched away. When he met Patrick, one of the things that triggered the whole project… met his parents, and they told him about Australia's German population… how a rush started to buy back project in Germany; no one wanted to be left in Australia… which led to the idea of Kolonie.

A world where people wanted to get away, but were left behind… abandoned machinery… sketching without knowing what it was really about at first. Told Patrick about it and they teamed up.

Foreign planet; parallel universe? Very free flow; had beers and did drawings… encompasses stuff that they like; what they like to see, where they visit; an exercise of pure pleasure.

There was no plan in the beginning; it was just two friends drawing together. Make a team, a group… and ideas that you can develop years into the future. Don't neglect anything--anything can lead to something great!

Moebius--started drawing tank trucks in this world; led them to discuss--"what is this world? What is happening here?" All the stuff had a purpose… oil fields… and then the machinery took on a purpose.


Slow painting: Started looking at how the world looks. They had all the ingredients now; put something together with it--a book.

Be inventive: gather ingredients: stuff that you like. They liked old things, so this world became kind of retro; they didn't look at Star Wars though. Looked at a lot of different areas though.

The final bit was to put it all in a book. Creating BASIC RULES for this world--a fundamental part of world-building. At a certain point can't be free-form anymore; you get to the details and things become specific, but they all have to follow the basic rules. Brought it all together.

Project happened on weekends, very slowly; always doodling; always fun and enjoyable. "Slow painting" is the opposite of "speed painting"--Patrick doesn't believe in that term. He doesn't believe in rushing; "it's not fast food, that's not how we do it at work". Painting over stuff, trying things… coming up with a shape language of carvings and murals that an ancient civilization would have. Part of the story is rediscovering… iconography. Make images that are rock solid--that is the point of slow painting.

They know why there are carvings in the rock; why the characters look like they do; why there are trees and foliage in specific places…. Know the details of your world.

Don't just keep inventing cool shapes; bring everything together. Don't feel lost in a wild shape language; always know that you are creating an image of your world; each time you draw something it's opening the window to that world a little more.

Generate more artwork and content based on an early idea; don't stop at one place; don't jam through hundreds of images either, but take a breather, take one image that's special for some reason, and tweak it… really focus and try to harness and finesse what's there; don't jam through content.

They'll see a lot of quantity in portfolios, but not much quality. Don't just draw an interesting looking world; be able to tell the story of the world, the kinds of characters living there… how they came to be there. Really know your story when you are world building.


Working in a team: group efforts always encouraged in Germany. You get someone to challenge your vision at any point; someone who will kick you when you slow down and vice versa; the extremes keep you focused. There is never such a thing as a design that is ubiquitous, and then you're done; your personal growth is through butting up against someone and challenging yourself.

Everyone who likes certain things is in danger of doing them over and over again. Be grumpy with yourself and draw things even if you don't like drawing them. It's for your own benefit. Try something else; something new, that you've never done before.


Concept discussion: Come up with a very solid concept. Could be one sentence, one word, one paragraph; you don't have to reinvent the way stories are told or how the human mind works. Don't have too much information; have one sentence that describes what your project is really about. "It's a battle between good and evil." "It's a downfall of a society." "It's a struggle for resources." "It's a forgotten empire." Something simple that you can expand upon. "An industrialized planet that has passed its prime, so people have left"--which is Kolonie.

Road map--geographical points; one of the first things they did. Which company industrialized the planet: How did they get started: Where are the factories? (More in the center because that is where it all started.) Transportation roads; undiscovered territories. A logo that is everywhere. Your map; atlas; can also tell you the climate of your area.

They decided on a country they've both been to, and established the scale of their countries; know how long it'll take to get from one point to another via walking or driving. Keep the world manageable and contained, so it all takes place in one area. That means the people are the same, the technology is the same; and everything is connected.

They never thought about… how long a day is on their world; if there are ice caps….

They knew they needed a bay area for their Kapitol city (central hub); a northern territory that is mainly unexplored (like Canada); and some tropical islands in the south (based on Indonesia)


Designing for narrative: Took all the elements they had designed, and set up their era; took the technology they knew was possible in a parallel universe (for space travel technology with '40s era technology (?)). Write a few paragraphs explaining the core points of your world.

Come up with a concept first, very basic, though that is the hardest part; once you have that though, everything else will come easier. Why does this world exist, and what does it do?

Definition of narrative in this sense: why does something exist, and what is its backstory? Your design should make sense for the world that you create. It's all about connecting the dots; making everything cohesive.

You can create a complex world as a history book… without knowing any specific characters.


Shape vs. Story: Shape-giving should be: form follows function; not be there just to be cool. Design elements should be there and be clear; should have a reason for existing. Think of what you're trying to say, rather than what will look cool. Don't over think the form; let it be driven by what the object is supposed to do. Designs understated and have a purpose. You don't have to be an engineer, but for example just looking at a car, you know how to get in, where to sit; how to steer it; where to put in the fuel; etc., etc..


Research: 60's and 70's technology; limit yourself in where your world could go. Actually gives you a lot to explore; a lot can be done in 20 years. Constantly cross-check your research.

You can make it as outrageous as you like; take Egyptian technology and put it in the future; take African tribal masks and put them on robots… Pick an era of technology to help you with your stories and your rules; helps everything feel consistent.

East Germany/ Socialism: Shape language; the constant of design; political setup and influence. Government quarter; some places designed on the fly for political reasons…

Exotic Places: Combine East Germany with exotic places--find the most extreme opposite of that; central Africa or Malaysia; palm trees! Lush green plants. Designing a world that you like to play with; have a lot of things that you don't deal with in your daily life.

Traveling: A huge inspiration for their work; stress the importance of exploring the world; travel can be cheap; explore what's out there; get out of America, see how the world operates around you. Travel is the biggest source of inspiration for Patrick, more so than watching movies… being confronted with things every day that you don't know; the best thing is to go without a plan. Go without a plan; look at what clouds look like; how colors are affected in different areas; what the sun looks like, and rocks….

You can't learn these kinds of experiences in school; be lost and overwhelmed; how would it feel to land on this planet as an alien? The inspiration will last an entire life.

You don't have to go to Japan or Africa or any super-exotic locations; you can find very inspiring places in California… Florida… Montana… anywhere here. The decor of cities; the more you can put of your own experiences into your art, the more unique it will be. Spice your artwork up with things you know, not what "everyone else" knows. The atmosphere of being a foreigner in a foreign place… figuring out how things work; feel the vibe of a location… to make your own world believable. Fill your head with new things, what you don't know yet; otherwise you will only draw the same thing over and over again. Authenticity comes from this. Each location has a specific feel… you need to know how it feels though; you can't know from just seeing a photo. Feel the air, how different it is… you can apply these things to your art.

Traveling: Sometimes photos can inspire illustrations, and that's fine too; a good way to fuel your inspiration.

Electronic Music: Exchanging music between partners fueled creativity. 60's and 70's music… their albums can coincidentally inspire you or match your world's decor….

  • Sounds from the Ground: High Rising
  • Global Communication
  • Antena: "Camino del Sol"
  • boards of canada: music has the right to children

You can find their soundtrack on their website.

Travel Sketches: It's not about taking home great pieces. It's about learning… struggle in seeing things… don't put that pressure on yourself, especially while you are traveling; sometimes you will hit on something you really like.

Drawing while you travel instead of taking photographs… you get  special connection to your experience. Capture the moment in your brain; you'll hardware it forever that way; take notes; put everything in, doesn't have to be just sketches; song lyrics that you like….



1) Identify era of technology
2) Find a place of inspiration
3) Describe a basic concept
4) Mix in a second place of inspiration (focus on atmosphere)
5) Draw a map or a logo
6) Come up with 3 species


Found photographs (like at a flea market; amateur photography): Take bad composition, bad photographs, bad lighting… to find authenticity. "Someone was actually there and saw that…" As if somebody with a camera from that technology goes around and takes pictures. "Your world feels like someone actually went through your world and took photos." Finding old photos is almost like time traveling. Google can never give you that.

Retro feel: a longing for imperfection. Take away the perfect, staged photograph….

Flea markets: Gives you ideas for graphic design; shapes; colors. When your world isn't based on a specific era, you can look at anything, and take a part of it, and use it. Still find ideas for.. materials, textures, graphics, shapes, colors… a flea market is great for that; everything is there; you can photograph everything to give you ideas. Abundance of surprises.

Los Angeles: LA has vast exotic landscapes to offer… just look outside your door, there's always fantastic things to find everywhere. Go to LAX at sunrise; go to the LA river; go to Catalina Island

Constantly look at the things that surround you.

Source material: Finding stuff you can find and "steal"; take inspiration from stuff that is very close or very far from the actual object. Research is looking at what other people have done to design that object.

Model: the advantage of having physical models. You can direct and guide them; this is something a search engine can never give you; you can get hundreds of photos and models… give you endless inspiration; do a photo shoot. Take the authentic, the real, and give it a spin… then it will be grounded in some reality. Also if you own your own photo you can do anything with it. If you take a photo from online and copy it in certain ways, it would be considered stealing.


Process: Start from doodles you can do within minutes; take that idea, find source material for research [Travel Town]; take photos and find arrangements that are so interesting you can't make it up; put it in Photoshop and play around with it; then merge your sketch with it….

Vegetation: Take photos of plants and change the scale in your drawings; just by changing the scale of a root, you can get an enormous tree, for example.

*Places mentioned: Traveltown (Griffith Park); Rose Bowl (Fleamarket); Huntington Library


Graphic Design: Flags, banners, logos, advertising… a regular world inspired by what you know…. "You have to study graphic design, because that is the basis of all design and graphics in the world; what is the most essential way to communicate an idea, a symbol?" What do certain shapes mean? Graphic design is universal. Collect stuff that you think looks good….

Typography: A collection of logos and colors from the 60's and 70's; "What's my era; what's my inspiration?" Collecting a specific part of your era will also drive your graphic look in more and more specific directions.

Logos: Come up with fake companies!! Connect the dots with your world and what your fictitious companies would do there. The grand scale of connecting things--designing logos is a much smaller scale of that; mix and match; visual noise of a big place.

Logos applied: The amount of storytelling you can create just by applying logos (from big companies to small ones) on, say, racing cars, is great. Like taxis in New York or San Francisco.


  • Design around human need
  • Hardware design
  • Shading Basics

  • Props tell a story
  • Mood variations of same subject


  • Composition & Lighting (Ambush, Abandoned, Glory)


Designing a vehicle (DEMO): Use a figure or doll for scale. Move it around within your canvas.

[Doll] Template-Designs: No. TD 1735B

Think about cone of vision. There needs to be enough room to look out the window. Believability in entertainment design. Design inside out--remember, form follows function! With a transport… needs windows… and a place to sit… block in basic shapes… styling comes LAST.


Figure out scale by seeing how much space a person would need when standing/walking around inside the transport. Figure out what "one story" is. Bunk beds--lay the figure down to see how it would fit. You can draw in bunk beds to scale now.

Adding a second story? Use scale again. Transport in a hot/sunny area? Add a canopy on top.

Add legs to the transport so that animals can't climb in. Need an engine, not too close to the living quarters; and a cargo hold. A way to get in and out. Smaller windows and doors make the structure stronger. Weapons. Plumbing. Kitchen. Storage.

*You need to know what's inside in order to design what's outside!

Take the sketch layer, lower the opacity, put another layer on top, use the line tool to draw straight lines (for the mechanical feel); use the pencil tool for anything organic. Use Photoshop to move the limbs to see if they articulate for later animation purposes!

*If you want to do something outrageous--always pair it with something everyone knows.

Create another layer on top of the finished line drawing; set it to Multiply, fill in the outline with a dark, solid color. Lay in basic colors; dodge and burn to get basic shading colors…. Scratch that. Lay in black and white first, lay in color later--where is the sun direction coming from? Put another layer on top of this; la in a color, put the layer to Color; will retain the lighting and shading underneath.

*Christian and Patrick only have a few brushes in Photoshop.

Layers in Photoshop: Rough, Line art, Shade (set to multiply), Color (set to color)--with the color layer, you can change the hue any time you want if you need to change all the colors.

Cast shadows next. Set this layer to multiply. Call it Shadows.

Last layer is Texture (set to Soft Light).

  • LINE

Perspective passes: extrude your side view… duplicate layer and lower opacity on it for something to guide you.


Christian's Demo: Start with a frame. Drawing with a sharpie. Cut the frame (not good composition); drawing a second walker behind the first at different angles to show how they would move, and what kind of terrain they're going through.

Christian Schellewald drawing with Sharpies
  • COMPOSITION - "Snapshot" Feel
  • Show terrain through shadows on ground.
  • Compose for the frame
  • Do several compositions in thumbnails to see which one is strongest

Show how the walker works in a difficult terrain

Another drawing… looking down on the abandoned vehicle makes it "feel" miserable… not making a hero shot. Give some environment. Use some light and shadow. The light describes the overall shape and design. 

Another drawing. Put it dead center; fill the frame with the facade of the thing. This is a hero shot… but the walker is destroyed here. Rust, broken window, fallen deflector shield; vegetation, ivy, creeping up; missing leg. Asymmetry.

  • Looking down is weak/destroyed
  • Looking up is heroic/strong

Another drawing. Real hero shot. Very traditional, straight forward glamour shot. Centered, up shot. Dynamic line from vegetation behind. Check the direction of the line to see if it is better than other options.

The constant thought process of why you are drawing things the way you are; brainstorming drives composition.

Keep a book of compositions that you see from movies or comics! Just really simple--don't take more than 5 seconds on each sketch!

Compose with FRAMING + LIGHTING!

*When you travel, create a repertoire, a shorthand… of "camera angles". This will help you when you draw from imagination. Travel sketching is all about recording and communicating.

Snapshot aesthetic!

Bad composition is not BAD composition; it's just not dead center and perfect. If you're telling a story, then there is no such thing as bad composition.



  • Day job vs. Personal project.

Job still feels restricted. Illustrations are tighter. With personal projects, pick something that you really like. In a job, yes you are applying your taste and skills, but you're still selling your artistry to a big movie studio, and you're supposed to follow orders.

  • Collaborating with other departments

When you design something, make sure all departments will be able to work with it. Create something that is accessible for other artists.

In order to get your design successfully through the pipeline, you really have to do your homework.

  • Various projects all the time
  • Gun for hire/mercenary
  • Flexibility
  • Niche vs. Broad

Need to be able to take your look and adapt it to a movie.

Don't do just your own style; be able to do a lot of things in the art department; be able to generate your own compositions, drawings, sketches, traditional or digital; it's a plus if you're able to draw characters as well; be able to compose these into full-blown, shaded, colored images; be able to put (color?) sheets together.

You are put onto movies because you are good at something; but you shouldn't be bad at everything else. Or you can be exceptionally good at one thing to be able to survive.

A lot of content needs to be created.

  • Culture
  • Lifestyle
  • Commitment

Dreamworks doesn't allow assholes to work there! Hah. Your behavior often wins over your skills. Important to be pleasant to work with. If you're not a nice guy, guess what--there's a hundred nice guys waiting to get in!

People who have a reputation of being hard to work with, have a hard time finding work.

Since studios are based on contracts, they have a commitment… and need to make sure that you're easy to work with.

Studios are open to you switching around between departments if you are able to do it.

Thumbnails/ loose/rough sketches to share ideas with artists--more finished work to show to producers.

  • Professional attitude
  • Following direction
  • Team effort, no room for egos

You're only there because you're executing someone else's idea. Can be fun if your boss has really good ideas.

Overall portfolio note: if you show variations on a theme; if you can show that you take direction well, then this is a good thing for you. Art department nurtures their artists; when directors say something is not working, the art department covers for themselves, but ask for the changes among their artists; if they can't do it, that's really bad for them.

  • It's a small industry
  • Good work speaks for itself
  • Don't degrade others

There is a lot of room for friendly discussion, but there IS a point of no return. Then you just have to do it.

NEVER degrade other people. Don't talk back to other people. You never know how far other people will rise!

Animation people are nice! lol

Don't be too protective about your work; if you're good, you'll be fine anyway, and have no reason to be protective. It's a very nice, free, open environment in animation.

  • Problem solving vs. blue sky
  • Creating the elements of a coherent world
  • The way things work
  • Amateur: engineer, graphic designer, botanist, archeologist, product designer, architect, fashion designer, advertising creative (you should be able to create all these things)

Everything has to be made up from nothing.

Create a library of images for yourself to know how to deal with… suburbia, Mexico, ancient Spain, etc., etc..


Book Signing:

Patrick Hanenberger on left and Christian Schellewald on right


After I got back home from the workshop I felt inspired to try drawing the way Christian Schellewald did, using a regular old Sharpie. Almost all of these compositions and figures were copied from memory from what Christian demoed on Saturday. I'm definitely going to continue practicing this style of drawing... it's very liberating.

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Apr 27, 2012

SCOUTS Music Video

Check out my friends' first music video, 'Skeleton'! It's really well done :D

I drew a little fanart of them right after I watched it this morning. Yes, this is really how people react to their performance--I've had the pleasure of seeing it in person. :)

Jerrod Bettis, Morgan Freed, and Stephen Soss of SCOUTS!
 (╯°□°)╯︵ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

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Apr 25, 2012

Sketching for Environment - Collage

Our last day of class was last Saturday, and I was SO SAD to see it end. I will miss all of my classmates, but at least I've found most of them on Facebook so that we can keep in touch.

Anyway, we were all told to print out 11x17" pages with all of the "100 sketches" that we'd done over the term. This isn't everything (it's missing the Bradbury Building and a few other things), but... yeah. Putting it all together was an eye-opener. I like seeing all of the environments I've drawn since week one. I like knowing I'm no longer afraid of drawing buildings, too! :)

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Girl sketch

Fanart, but I won't say from what. Because I can.

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Apr 16, 2012

LA Zoo Sketches

Went to the Los Angeles Zoo last Sunday with a handful of classmates from our Sketching for Environment class: Aileen and her two younger sisters, Julien, Mike E., Mike L., and Jimmy. Every time I go to the zoo I always have such a good time drawing, even though this time we went specifically to draw animal environments, and not so much the animals themselves. I really should get a membership pass, I go so often.

We all thought it might be great to go to the San Diego Zoo within the next month or two for Jimmy's sake (he and a couple others have never been to the SD Zoo!), since he's going back to Canada at the end of July and won't be coming back for a while.

I'll miss my classmates from CDA this term. :(

Anyway, the sketches...

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Apr 15, 2012

Ian Abando Notes


Mirror design to help see construction flaws
Lay in your ground plane; go over basic rough anatomy, make sure everything's connecting where it should
Fix whatever needs to be fixed in the anatomy
Go over the drawing again to start setting up the painting.
Keep changing the design as you go along if you think up new ideas!

Read the script several times. Don't start drawing until you have the scene in your mind.
Figure out how many shots you need
Figure out what the establishing shots are
Do thumbnails--should be just for yourself; should be super quick

Storyboarding is not really about drawing--it's about getting the feeling

Action scene--know what your scene needs--don't get caught up with thumbnailing your in-between shots early. Be economical with your boarding early on.

Drawing gridlines--draw them for you, but they help the audience to understand the space. Know where your camera is, and know where all your planes are.

Lay down your gridlines really quickly--even if there is nothing there. Perspective goes hand in hand with the mood of the scene. Think: how does this shot make people feel?

Sad or defeated scene--make the character feel as sad as possible. The scene/environment should feel heavy on him.

Happy shots--triumphant--up angle shot.

Don't do flat perspective all the time. It gets really boring then!

Always lay your grids down first.

Character expressions: don't take any part of the face for granted… the eyes, eyebrows, nose, etc.. Don't just draw a bunch of expressions; break each one down a little bit. Draw typical, sad, surprised, quizzical eyebrows (only)… and then next to that row, play with different ways to draw the eyeball… and then the different mouth shapes.

Know your characters' extreme squash and stretch in their expressions!

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Apr 14, 2012

Nathan Fowkes Workshop Notes

April 14th, 2012

Nathan Fowkes Workshop - ENVIRONMENT DESIGN
@Concept Design Academy

korilin89 - Twitter (up to date tweets from today's workshop xD)

Artists mentioned today:

◦ Susan Lyon (wonderful portrait painter)
◦ Steven Martinierre (sp?)
◦ Dominique Louis
◦ Paul Lasaine


The core thing is connecting with your audience.

Tools and techniques are important, but… but they evolve with time and experience. Focus on the core underlying principles.

The core principles:

  • DESIGN (Composition, shape, style)

Creating environments that have a sense of light, atmosphere, design, color, and space… that captivates the audience.

What makes environment concept design strong.

Ex: Kung Fu Panda. Character lineup. You know who the bad guys and the good guys are instantly… as well as who is the main character, and who is the main villain. That is good design. No written words--no voiceover; you just instantly understand who the characters are, and what their relationships are to each other. You even know somewhat what the story is. Connects within seconds. Environment design is the same. You have to treat environments as though they're characters.

"Environment and location is character."

How do you tell the story without voiceover narration--just showing it, and having the audience get it at the gut emotional level?

    [Composition]     [Lighting]
[Written Outline]     [Exploration/Character Design/Color Script, Location/Prop Design, Color and Lighting Keys]
    Matte painting

*Distill down the appropriate look of the show)

Be afraid; let that fear drive you to work as hard as you can; and if you do that, don't worry too much. If you have the skills, and you're willing to get out and just do it, your contribution to a great project will happen someday.

You've read the script, now you need to find a visual style for the movie. You have to develop thick skin eventually… but none of us are born with this.

This is animation--you can do anything. You don't have to work with standard tropes. People have to care about the main character--"Can a ninja carry a family feature film for an hour and a half? Maybe for ten minutes--but not for an hour and a half."

Really push your skill level. Ultimately, our goal is to make ourselves invaluable to the production. Eventually you'll be the one calling the shots. Build yourself up to the point where you're invaluable to the studios.

Doors will open for you if you can create images that connect with audiences; that people love and are engaged by.

Stories are like rollercoaster rides… goes up and down and up and down.

Color scripts help guide your emotions--with color and design--that are appropriate for each beat and mood in the script. Has to be cohesive and tell the story.

Color script--rough and to the point--one way to do it

Locations: you've roughed out what they'll look like; then you do formal breakdowns so that everyone (modelers, surfacers) can work on them. Shape and feel. Natural world inspiration.

90% of what you work on in a movie will be thrown out!

James Cameron's Avatar: Tools and techniques are critically important… but they all have to be driven by principles. Tools change and always will. "When I first started in visual effects, I was doing things like scratching effects into film stock, etc.. we were doing visual effects analogue. Every single tool that I learned, is today 100% obsolete… except for one: the pencil. By pencil, I mean the ability to communicate. I need artists who can sit down, sketch a concept down, and put it right up for everyone to see. We don't have time to do a bunch of 3D stuff up front. We have to make pictures--bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. The tools and technology will continue to change at a faster and faster rate, but they will go obsolete just as fast…."

Every project now has one 3D concept modeler--to quickly turn things from 2D to 3D. Quick concept modelers are valuable.

Someone has to model everything--eve the way branches look on trees in a movie….

Usually a set designer attached to the project as well. Everything has to be formally organized. Works out elevations; buildings, architecture, and so forth. Another piece of the puzzle.

*Be nice to everyone--because you just never know where that person will end up… they might be your boss someday!

Make the extra effort to be part of the team--the good guy. Don't be a gossiper, or talk behind people's backs… it always ends up burning bridges if you do that.

Artists use models and paint over them for their illustrations… collaborative effort.

Layout is basically the cinematography department… they're not the ones who draw and paint.

Color and lighting keys: can be really loose and effects-oriented… or they might be fairly tight… depending on the needs of the production.

Artists guide the CG Lighters: they make lights in the digital world mimic how light works in the real world.

No notes about animation or (particle) effects… lol



What color can do for your audience visually… as opposed to value only.

Hue, Saturation, Value, Temperature

Color isn't easy because there are so many possibilities. How many variations are there? 2.3 million! :O

How to get color manageable? Think of the simple properties of it. All of those 2.3 nuances of color--everything you will ever see in your entire life--is only made up of 3 things: Hue, Saturation, and Value. Temperature--emotional consideration--is the "fourth principle". The first three are scientifically measurable.

Temperature is critically important technically… you can actually ignore hue and saturation, and think only in terms (for the basics at least) of value and temperature. If you get the value right… what you do will look solid. Temperature is an important product of hue and saturation… so if you get it right, hue and saturation will be in the ballpark.

The Domestication of Color: to be able to mold it, it has to do these three things:


Interaction between light and surface.

You have to make your world believable enough for your audience to step into.

What do warm and cool light do on different surfaces and colors?

Control color to create harmony… especially for story moments, and particular environments.

Color keys--what everyone in the show looks like… so that the final frame of the movie matches up what you did in the color keys. Choosing 10 or 12 boards (from storyboards) as key scenes for color keys.

*Don't give people a reason to doubt you. Don't apologize for yourself all the time--quit saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry"--project at least a modest level of confidence!


James Reynolds' Traildust book. "One of the best color and atmosphere book in a naturalistic setting." Nathan Fowkes made thumbnails of every one of the paintings in this book--to study it and understand it better. Color, light, and design. This was tremendously helpful. Then he copied movies as well… anything he could get his hands on. Then he worked from his imagination… working with color and light in different ways. He felt like he had jumped up a notch in understanding color.

Consistent in personal determination to practice. No matter how tired you are--or what is going on--do at least ONE STUDY every single day for the rest of your life. Keep the ideas fresh… keep the wheels turning. He's been doing a sketch every single day for 17 years (except for his honeymoon lol).

If you take color in only one direction… it's okay. If you up contrast and saturation too much, we recoil in horror. You have to balance what the eye wants. Color harmony. (Unity with Variety.)

variety of colors can be pretty… but they might not necessarily have any relationship to each other. Our brains are always looking to find connections between things. Or you can unify colors… but that becomes boring.

So combine the two and have the balance. The human eye accepts it! Unifying element.

Pick out colors from a screenshot and place them on a color wheel… you'll see that good paintings will have its colors organized on the color wheel… not just random colors all over the wheel.

Find accents and variety… to pop out a color scheme that is too "boring".

*Become better by virtue of EXPERIENCE!

MOOD… warm colors are happy; cool colors are sad.

Green can go positively or negatively…. Colors that don't exist in nature… will immediately alert you to the artificiality of it.

Subtle color nuances and combinations…. Elicit specific moods from specific colors.

Yellow… rich, sunlit… or grimy and dirty… sandy, dusty, bleak… or moldy, even. Decrepit moisture. Macabre moods.

Lack of color… sucking the light out of life. Stark; pack a punch.

High key whites give you a feeling of sterility… of no life. Bringing a bit of color back into that also brings back the feeling of hope.


How to keep yourself motivated--work on one thing, and then when you're sick of that work on something else! Then come back fresh to the next thing. Or just quit and stare out the window….

Atmospheric conditions and different times of the day can create a dramatically different sense of mood

Spend a lot of time practicing! Study NATURAL atmospheric light and color… if you can understand that, what you do in dark rooms in front of computer screens will be so much the better.

The mood and environment of the world the characters live in… tell the story by color, light, atmosphere, and design.

[MOBY DICK: Art Direction Theory

Above water: Stark, chaotic, violent, noisy, dangerous; painterly, monochrome, desaturated, contrasty, textural
Below water: Lush, safe, magical, spiritual, fantastic, poetic; soft, smooth, colorful, dynamic]

In Monsters vs. Aliens, the sky is a character in itself. "The sky is a threat."

With space… make the audience feel the tension… the visual drama

Design of space--important consideration!!

Flat space can feel intimate. With more action or drama, open up the space to show a great expanse… to show that a good deal could  happen.

Understand what people respond to at a gut level

A sense of gravity is powerful to the unconscious mind… you need to get up, stand tall, and do what your body needs to do. Have an inherent sense of gravity--which means that… (look at lines in sketchbook)

A simple statement will more often get you the distance you want to go. Don't over-design; it blunts the point you're trying to make.

Tipping the horizon line will create unease and tension; "things are going downhill" "this conversation might break out into a fight"

Lighting as a Design element

Putting your eye exactly where it needs to be. Don't create contrast for no particular reason; the eye gets drawn to it and you don't understand why.

Visual information sacrificed--cheat the light--so that you get the read and the storytelling.

Grouping values--the darks get darker, the lights get lighter… get rid of distractions; make your environment soft, atmospheric, and cohesive.

The scene should be about telling the story--not about showing every detail in the environment.

Faces--facial expressions--are incredibly important… even more important than environment in eliciting emotion. Don't forget this. It's always more about the characters than about the environment. (Key clue!) The characters can show what they're feeling about the environment.


Simple light, shadow, and reflections… build up from that simple statement. Get that feeling of light and atmosphere, quickly and subtly. Work out the masses of color and value; what is the simple statement? Build it up… make sure it's working… and then work in the detail.

Quick sketches in Photoshop… quick suggestion of an environment. Having the ability to quickly rough out an idea so that you can put it out there and get reactions.

Start with super soft brushes to lay things in and figure out where things should be?

Take notes and do as you're asked at work!

Mass in the values… then the architecture with the values… you can make the most complicated scene manageable just by having things work together. Light sources… warm and cool. Strengthen it. Paint in the foliage and the lights. Play with spotlighting to bring the focus back where you want it; split the difference if it's too much.

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Apr 8, 2012

Sketching for Environment Week 9 Field Trip Photos

Forest Lawn Memorial Park

All sketches and paintings featured here belong to the Sk4Env teacher, Ed Li! :)

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Apr 1, 2012

Figure Invention for Animation Week 9 - COMPOSITION & STORYTELLING

In the second hour of class everyone sat in front of the white board and threw out ideas for a sci-fi story. Here are the words and phrases everyone came up with:

The last hour of class everyone went back to their tables. Each table became a group that came up with their own story idea. Here's my table's work:

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