Monday, December 23, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Alice Through the Looking Glass

One of the larger projects I worked on a while back that I’ve not blogged about is based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871). These stories are rich with fantastic description and lend themselves to endless visual interpretations, which is evident in the countless versions by illustrators, well known and not.

The first phase of the project was comprised of several illustrations of scenes and characters from the books. A few initial sketches:

The final illustrations began with elements painted in watercolor with added colored pencil on scraps of hot press paper:

These elements were scanned and brought into Photoshop where they were further refined then composited with scanned in textures, handmade papers, and vintage graphic elements to create the final collages (more examples available on my website):

When I first embarked on this series of illustrations, I had assumed that they would be the end product. However, a few weeks later, I enrolled in a children’s book illustration class and the possibility of experimenting with animation was tossed around. As illustrators, no one in the class really had any serious previous experience, but most of us were ready to dive in and teach ourselves how to set our art in motion using After Effects. I decided to revisit the Alice series as my subject.

Roughly, I spent about five weeks going through tutorials on to learn the software. Meanwhile, I painted more components for some of the scenes I had in the back of my mind, and created an accompanying series of postcards:

Once several of these were done, I plunged into creating the “film.” Instead of planning the entire project and making a storyboard, as is standard practice, I began with a rough idea of a few short scenes or vignettes based loosely on the stories, and the project grew organically as I strung the scenes together. Rather than try to deal with dialogue and mouth-syncing in this initial effort, I made it a silent movie with title cards. The soundtrack is an early 1930s recording of Argentinian tango music I happened to stumble on.

Little did I know how addictive digital animation would be. I did know it was a lot of work and very time consuming, but I didn’t mind, and I was determined to learn as much as I could within a few weeks. Working on it a few hours daily, I spent about five weeks total to create an animation that is just under three and a half minutes in length (click image to view animation):

I guess it didn’t turn out too badly for a first crack at such a project (though, by now, I've seen my own film hundreds of times, so all I see are its flaws and limitations ;) ). However, with little to lose, I was encouraged to enter the piece into American Illustration’s first International Motion Art Awards competition. I was absolutely thrilled that it was selected. It also received a very nice write-up on Motion Arts Pro Daily—thank you, David Schonauer. Since then, “Alice” has also been screened at the Louisiana Film Festival, ASIFA-Atlanta’s Roll Yer Own Independent Film Festival, Dragon Con Independent Film Festival, and the Atlanta Shorts Fest. It has also been recently selected for screenings at ASIFA-Atlanta’s Best Shorts of 2013, Surreal Salon Six (a juried competition of pop-surrealist works) and will appear on the next season of PBA 30’s Atlanta Shorts program. I am truly amazed by all of this and immensely grateful for the support I've received—thank you!