A Dreamer Walking

Light on Leaf

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 29, 2010

Sorry for the lack of written papers on this blog. I will try to finish my Joe Ranft blog in the next few days. This is actually a picture that you can obviously tell I did a lot of editing with. It really is cool how much you can do with editing now a days. I think what really appealed to me in this picture is the streams of light and the simplicity of the material. I made everything very soft, trying to have the colors stick out rather then the details.

Center Leaf

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 26, 2010

I actually went out the other day and took some really good shots of individual leaves. This is one of them. The question like usual was, how do I make this leaf the main focus? The simple thing to do was put it directly in the middle of the picture. The sun really hits this leaf perfectly, creating some interesting shadows. I also used photoshop to get rid of some color so the whole picture consists of more browns and yellows then blues and greens. I really like this leaf. It sort of is a good representation of how interesting and even beautiful something could be even though it is at the end of its life and only holding on by a thread.

Dieing Flower

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 24, 2010

Well it is that time of the year when nature starts to die on you. The good news is that Fall usually makes for some very interesting photography. I really tried working with color separation in this picture. I tried to bring down all the colors else then red and yellow. I felt the need to have some yellow and red around the flower in order to balance the picture. However the main piece is obvious, right away the eye is drawn to the dieing flower. At least that is what I think, would love to hear what others think?

(Click on Picture to see clearly)

The “Brave” Situation

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on October 22, 2010

Well I thought I might as well throw in my two cents about this whole thing that is going on at Pixar concerning the up and coming film Brave.

First, for those who don’t know. The first woman director for Pixar, Brenda Chapman, was scheduled to make her directorial debut with the film Brave. Brave is a original fairytale written by Brenda Chapman about Pixar’s first main female protagonist Merida, who is of royalty and has ambitions to become an archer against her mother and fathers will. It has been in production for several years now and was personally the movie I was most looking forward to seeing on the Pixar slate. A few days ago CartoonBrew posted a blog claiming that Brenda had been replaced at the helm by Mark Andrews (Co-Director of Pixar’s short One Man Band). This news has become HUGE and there are many people who are not happy about it. There is already 200+ comments on the CartoonBrew post and the majority seem to be quite disappointed, some to the point of being quite vulgar.

I can only imagine how hard it is to leave a story after several years of being its main authority. From what I know of Brenda, I like. She has been proclaimed by many to be an excellent story artist who is devoted to her art form. Brenda was part of the Disney story department that brought both Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King to life. She also was a co-Director for the Dreamworks film The Prince of Egypt. The reasoning for the change is yet unclear. All Disney has said so far is that the change was made for “creative reasons”. Many speculate that the movie just was not conventional enough.

There was one person particularly who I have come to very much respect, that has voiced his frustrations with the change. His name is Floyd Norman, he is a retired Disney/Pixar artist who worked with Walt Disney himself in the late 1950’s through the 1960’s (you can see the blog I did on him here). Floyd says on his blog , “[I call] this decision another bone-headed move that will send Walt’s wonderful company further down the rat hole”, when talking about the demotion of Brenda Chapman. As the closest insider I know and trust, I find this very concerning.

Pixar has long since proclaimed that they are a director driven studio. They claim to make movies that they want to see themselves. Pixar’s Creative chief, John Lasseter,  claims that “Story is king” at Pixar. Why then would they be getting rid of a critically acclaimed story artist? Floyd and a few others on CartoonBrew have claimed that they have watched the rough cut of the film and thought it was going in a marvelous direction. Yet the fact remains that Brenda is not in charge anymore.

The reason this brings up particular frustration with me is because I have ambitions of joining Pixar and sharing the stories that I have developed. I do not want to join a studio however that does not put the story first. I do not want to have my stories be taken away from be purly on the reasoning that they are “not conventional enough”. The question is, is this true? Has Pixar gotten rid of Brenda Chapman because they wanted to “play it safe”? I guess the bottom line is that I need to rely on what I know about Pixar so far.

I have done much study on the Pixar studio and those who work in it. I have found them to be full of vision. It was very comforting to hear Brad Bird, when he first came to make The Incredibles (2004), talk about Pixar’s dedication to protecting story. A good question now in 2010 would be does Pixar still put story first?

I personally do still think Pixar puts story first. At the moment I still think that Pixar’s heart is in the right place. And, at the moment I do not think Pixar deserves the criticism they have received from many of the people I have seen comment on the “Brave” situation. Pixar has made directorial changes before and they were on two movies that turned out to be two of the greatest films Pixar has ever created, Toy Story 2 and Ratatouille.  Pixar has shown time and again that they are artistically driven, creating some of the greatest films of this decade.

Those who claim Pixar is about playing it safe, seem to forget how Pixar became famous. Computer generated animation was a whole new field of unknowns when Pixar’s first full length feature Toy Story was being created. Nobody knew whether or not Toy Story would be a success and it was a movie that went against the typical animation story style of it’s time. The more recent Pixar movie Up had their two protagonists be a eight year old boy and a seventy plus year old man. Many people claimed that Up would not get a strong teen audience and would fail at the box office. However, this did not stop Pixar from creating the film and it did not stop Up from being a giant success. A movie about Rats or a film where the main protagonist was a garbage robot, probably didn’t sound like very safe storytelling either. However, that still did no2t stop Pixar.

We will have to see about Brave. As confused and even frustrated as I am at the moment about Brenda Chapman being demoted, I still have trust in Pixar. I still have ambitions at working at the Pixar studio and still think that John Lasseter and Ed Catmull (Presidents of Pixar animation) put story above everything else. We will see what happens with the movie Brave. I am hoping that Brenda’s voice is not extinguished and she stays to do great things for Pixar animation. I also hope that Pixar continues to be a artistically driven studio. Pixar should know by now the power of putting the film first. It is not fame or money that makes great movies, it is dedication to story.

Joe Ranft: Part 2: A Dedicated Artist

Posted in Animation, Film and Filmaker Studies by Jacob on October 19, 2010

In part 1 of my Joe Ranft series I talked about Joe Ranft’s struggles, both in his personal life and as an artist; one of Joe’s greatest struggles being his hardships at drawing. This is not to say Joe was bad at drawing. No, he actually became a very good storyboard artist. He was able to communicate an idea in the simplest way possible. Many artists claimed Joe’s drawings were deceivingly simple; he created the impression that anyone could do it. However this was not the case. Joe was good because of his constant devotion as an artist. He made up for his inability to draw complex figures through his ability to express a clear image. Like most good storyboard artists Joe was able to simplify a drawing, only leaving the bare minimum needed to get the point across to the audience. Joe’s greatest strength was what most of his drawings represented so clearly. Joe was known for putting heart into his art, a talent that is rare even among the best of artists.

During his first years at CalArts Joe tried to make up for his weaknesses in draftsmanship by attempting to copy other students styles. T. Hee (a professor and mentor to Joe) kept pushing Joe to express himself through his drawings. T. Hee encouraged Joe along with the rest of his students to figure out their own unique ways of expressing themselves and their ideas. Joe began to run with T. Hee’s philosophy and created some very unique pieces of work as an animation student. He created a short called Good Humor, where a blob of ice cream comes to life and tries to persuade a human not to eat him. Joe tried very hard to think outside the box. He often hung out with the experimental animation students trying to use them and their unique ways of thinking to push him to think of story ideas so he could push the medium of animation and storytelling to whole new level.

Joe began to find inspiration, both in the art profession and in the world he lived in. The professors at CalArts claimed the greatest tool any artist could have is their own unique experiences in life. The professors tried to push their students to experience life outside their art form. Joe was encouraged by T. Hee to take different routes to work every day and to never get caught up in a formula either inside his personal life or animation. Joe also found inspiration from the storyboard artist Bill Peet. Peet was one of Disney’s greatest storyboard artist, working for Disney from the late 1930’s through the 1960’s. He had a magnificent energy in his drawings. They expressed the action perfectly and inspired great pieces of animation. Joe knew what kind of storyboard artist he wanted to be after seeing some of Bill’s storyboard work for the movie Song of the South ( 1946). Joe could see how the drawings created the world of the movie and were full of character personality. Animators often said about both Joe and Peet’s work that the illustrations lead themselves to animation. The staging and action were so clearly expressed the drawings made the animators job simpler in a way.

Unlike Bill Peet, who was known to be a solo storyboard artist, Joe was huge on teamwork. Joe loved bouncing ideas off others and strengthening story through the combined efforts of artists working together to chisel away the unneeded parts of a story until they created a perfect piece of art. The friendships Joe created in CalArts, with artists such as John Lasseter, Tim Burton, John Musker, and Ron Clemens benefited Joe tremendously later in his career. Joe helped storyboard films such as The Great Mouse Detective and The Little Mermaid, for John and Ron. He helped create and storyboard the masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas with Tim Burton. And Joe created a powerful friendship with John Lasseter and was asked by John to be head of story on his directorial debut Toy Story, for the up and coming animation studio Pixar. Because of the huge success of Toy Story and his great relationship with John Lasseter Joe never left Pixar. He became head of story for Pixar’s next movie A Bug’s Life and was a major contributor to every film Pixar created from that point until his death in 2005.

Many of Joe’s storyboards had a tendency of being so strong they stayed the same all the way through a films production. For Toy Story, a movie that went through several revisions, Joe boarded a sequence where a bunch of green toy army men go out to spy on a birthday party going on downstairs. This sequence is magical and was hardly changed through out the entire production. The army men sequence also established the whole idea to what everyone wanted the film to be about – where toys come to life and think their job is to observe human life without ever being caught moving.

Joe had a mind of a student through out his life. He was constantly working on his drawing and communication skills. Joe pushed himself to become a better storyboard artist in every way possible. He believed a storyboard artist needed to have a whole slew of abilities to do their job well. They needed to be good draftsmen. They needed to know how to use and move a camera and how to compose a shot. They needed to know the basics to animations, meaning the ability to do squash and stretch, how to stage action, an understanding of timing, etc. Joe was a student of the performance and he took several classes on acting. Joe wanted to create feeling in his drawings. He wanted to provoke emotions that made the audience feel affection for his characters and the animator want to animate his drawings. Joe talked about being most at home when he was trying figure out a character. This seemed to be the reason why he was a storyboard artist; to figure out these characters who are not real in reality but real in the artist’s and audiences’ minds.

I have learned a lot from Joe Ranft’s devotion toward his art form. His example brought out the best from those around him. Joe was a very humble man, he just wanted to create the best film possible. He had a servant’s heart. He helped many first time directors, including Pete Doctor (Director of Monsters Inc. and UP) and Andrew Stanton (Director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E), become the great artists they are today. It was not a vast amount of talent that made Joe a great artist it was his passion. A passion that only got stronger through struggle and hardships. And it was this passion for the great medium of animation he was able to spread to those around him.

(To Be Concluded…)

Abstract Tree and Cloud

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 17, 2010

Sorry about the absense of posts. I needed to turn my computer in to get cleaned for viruses. It is back now however and I will try to start posting every other day again.

Joe Ranft:Part 1: A Man with Many Struggles

Posted in Animation, Film and Filmaker Studies by Jacob on October 11, 2010

Joe Ranft was a Pixar storyboard artist who struggled at drawing. He didn’t look like anything special. In high School Joe kept his head down and struggled to pass his classes. He was tall, over weight for his age, and quite shy. Through most of his life Joe was swimming against the tide and he never got along with authority. In fact, he was kicked out of his conservative Catholic school because he would do things like throw cat’s on the roof, never stay quite in class, and spit at the nuns who were trying to control him.

I find it amazing Joe ever became an artist at such a prestigious studio like Pixar, let alone known by one of the studios founders, John Lasseter, as being “the heart and soul of Pixar“. Most of his colegues claim Joe represented the foundations of what the studio stands for. Joe was more then a story board artist to the Pixar family; he was considered a mentor, a guide, and a prime example of what the studio embraced when it came to art and story. Before I go into the success Joe had as an artist – and more importantly as a friend and mentor – I want to look at some of the struggles in Joe’s life and what I have learned from those struggles.

After getting thrown out of his conservative Catholic school Joe struggled in public school. Today Joe may have been diagnosed with ADD (attention deficit disorder). However back when Joe was a kid they did not have categories for kids like Joe other to say they were “trouble makers” and should be “disciplined”. In sixth grade Joe entered a piece of art in a calendar contest and won. After this Joe made up his mind he wanted to become an artist. Joe applied to CalArt’s and got into their animation program.

CalArt’s was a school devoted to all aspects of art. The collage was founded by Walt Disney and many old Disney artist came out of retirement to help teach the students in the techniques of painting, drawing, story boarding, and animating. Joe Ranft became close friends with many of his professors. One particular professor, T. Hee, was of great influence to Joe..T. Hee was an old Disney story man and director. He taught caricature and storyboarding. T. Hee always pushed Joe to do things in his own unique way. When ever Joe was trying to copy another student’s art T. Hee would stop him and tell this insecure student he was interested in what Joe had to say as an individual. T. Hee was one of the first to give Joe a voice as an artist.

Unfortunately, when Joe went to Disney it seemed the studio tried to do everything in their power to muffle Joe’s voice. Joe was considered a very talented storyboard artist when he came out of CalArts, however he was put onto very mediocre projects. The CalArts students wanted to create new and unique films at Disney, the management however wanted to play it safe. This meant more of the same. After being completely denied when showing management several months of work he had done for The Great Mouse Detective and being put on the sequel to The Rescuers (a movie Joe felt was geared toward money rather then the people) Joe began to feel burnt out. He ended up leaving Disney to find a more potent means of expressing himself.

Joe had a dark side he expressed most vividly as an adult in his art work. Many of Joe’s personal pieces of art are filled with characters and descriptions I personally find unpleasant and belittling. He produced drawings of scary monsters and people with forks and knifes stuck in their heads (or sometimes through their heads). Joe used rusty red blood looking colors and smeared them on all of the character’s faces and clothes to make them look even more gruesome. He made drawings of figures with their heads cut off, distorted faces showing just as much skull as flesh, and drawings of monsters eating little innocent kids. Although with many of these drawings people could see humor I feel they revealed a great amount of insecurity in Joe and a sadness in his life he had a hard time expressing even to his closest friends.

I wasn’t surprised when I found out Joe was said to have suffered from depression through most of his life. His depression might even have thickened due to his dedication to his art form. When Joe came back to animation and began working for Pixar, he wanted to be the best leader he could possibly be for those to whom were under him. However, this meant many long hours at work. He was unwilling to leave his colleagues behind; he was the first to show up in the morning and last to leave. When Joe was head of story for Toy Story and A Bugs Life he got very little sleep and his family hardly saw him.

Thankfully Joe eventually received treatment for his depression and began to take time off to spend with his family. He stepped down from the head of story role for a while and became a mentor to his fellow artists (something I will be talking about in my next few blogs).

While on a spiritual retreat, Joe got in a freak car accident and died. He was only 45. The death was no doubt devastating to both his immediate family and his Pixar family. The good news is Joe’s struggles had a silver lining. His struggles did not consume him. Rather, he pushed through and was overcoming them all the way up to his death.

The reason why I concentrate on Joe’s struggles in this blog is because it is something we all go through as artist and as human beings. Joe somehow managed to push through the hardships and experience life. He did not only experience life, he also gave it. Joe was a man with many struggles, but he did not struggle in vain. He was able to use those struggles to create in himself an artist and a mentor who will never be forgotten in the medium of animation.

(To Be Continued…)

Tree to Sky

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 9, 2010

I found the contrast between the tree and sky to be interesting in this picture.  I think the picture balances pretty well.

Log: Series

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 7, 2010

This is another series of pictures I took of the same object, trying to find unique yet linked ways to express theobject. As you can see in all of these I played with texture quite a bit.

It is interesting how the eye is drawn to color.  The log is no trashcan that easily stands out from it’s surroundings. I wanted to create a slightly richer color with the log so it stood out from it’s surroundings.

The texture I used seemed to unify everything in the picture. I have the log in focus in this picture but I think everything about it is interesting. I find the silhouette of the weeds interesting and I find it interesting how the grain in the fence is very similar to the grain in the log. You can see the color of the log is complimented in the surrounding colors..

This is the top of the log. Several interesting things were sitting on top of it. I wanted the eye to be directed to one thing in particular. I drew out the color of the leave just a little bit and sharpened it slightly. I think it is often important to have a main focus in a picture so the eye doesn’t just wonder uncontrollably around the picture. There needs to be something that grounds your picture a reason to why you took it. For this picture it was the leaf.

Garbage and Surroundings: Series

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 5, 2010

I wanted to try to take a picture of the same object from different angles and see if I can make all of them interesting in their own unique ways while still keeping a unity in them so it was obvious to the viewer that they were part of the same series. This is my first attempt. The interesting contrast between the garbage can and the surroundings is what drew me to take the pictures.

This first picture shows my complete interest in the location. I like the contrast between the fence and garbage can, both in color and shade. The shadow also was fascinating to me, I think it helped balance the picture.

The Color and basic shape is what I tried to concentrate on in the picture. The blur makes the picture easier to take in. It is a great example of how taking away can sometimes bring more depth to a subject then adding detail.

In this picture I hope you see my attempt to make it completely balanced. I wanted half of it to be the garbage and half to be the surroundings. We are also able to get up close and sort of see the texture in the garbage can. Without the other two pictures you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that it is a garbage can. However, because of the other pictures this one becomes more interesting.

I will have another series up in a few days. I hope you enjoyed the pictures and would love to hear what you think.