Saturday, November 10, 2012

Our Abilities and Insecurities

“It matters not what my abilities may be then, provided that I possess you, Lord. Do what you will with this insignificant creature. Whether it be that I should work, or become inspired, or be the recipient of your impressions, it is all the same. Everything is yours, everything is from you and for you … Mine is to be satisfied with your work and not to demand the choice of action or condition, but to leave everything to your good pleasure.”

Jean-Pierre deCaussade, The Joy of Full Surrender

   This is one of my favorite quotes, because it speaks about the way that I want to live as an artist. As an artist, it's really easy to become drained and discouraged if my heart isn't in the right place. There have been many times where I have considered my artistic efforts to be unsuccessful because all I can focus on is how much I feel like I'm failing. The funny thing is, many times my worries don't have any basis in reality. But unless I focus on something other than my failures, the reality of my work will never be noticed by me.
   Here's one way that we can focus on something other than our failures: focus on what a blessing it is to have the artistic abilities that we do. To think, even though there are millions of people in the world, God has given each artist unique abilities. There's a key word in that: unique. It's not going to help us if we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. Each of those people who we compare ourselves to is at a different stage in their artistic development. Considering that, it's pretty foolish to compare ourselves to others.
   Whatever our abilities are, they mean nothing if we do not use them to glorify the one who gave them to us. Focusing on making my work perfect, or being as good as those as those around me, is no way to use my abilities. The only thing it's "good" for is to distract me from what a blessing all the abilities that God has given me are.
   Looking at the quote from The Joy of Full Surrender, I think that Jean-Pierre deCaussade understood the importance of putting God before insecurities. When we possess God, when He is first in our lives, we have something greater than praise from the people around us. Whether or not we are praised for our abilities, we know that we are honoring God with them. That gives us more strength than confidence in our abilites ever could.
   What can we do to make sure that we are not bogged down by our "lack of" abilities, or our insecurities? Allowing ourselves to take some time each day to spend time in the Word and in prayer really allows our minds and hearts to get in to the right place. 

One of the other things that I've been doing is printing out my favorite verses and placing them in places where I'm definitely going to see them. One of the best places I have decided to place a verse was on my pencil case.

 I hope that others find this quote as encouraging as I do. I end with a verse that I came across this morning:

"It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans."- Psalm 118:8

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph: A Review


     Wreck-It Ralph is the 52nd feature of Walt Disney Animation. I was very skeptical when I saw the first trailer, but after I saw this movie I was happy to see that my first impressions were wrong. Wreck-It Ralph is a great film, with compelling characters, beautiful settings, and a great story.
     Wreck-It Ralph is the story of Ralph, the villain of an arcade game called Fix It Felix, Jr. For thirty years, it's been Ralph's job to try to wreck the apartment house of Niceville, only to be defeated each and every time by Fix It Felix. At the end of each game, Felix gets a medal, and Ralph gets thrown off the apartment house into the mud.
      Ralph, tired of being the bad guy, game jumps into a new arcade game called Hero's Duty, in hopes of bringing a medal back to his game, and (he hopes) gain the approval of the inhabitants of Niceville. Even though he actually does get his medal, the story is only beginning. Ralph falls into an escape pod, and eventually ends up in Sugar Rush, a kart-racing game where he meets Vanellope, a game glitch and an outcast, just like him. Now, in order to get his medal back from Valleope, he must help her compete in the kingdom's race. 
       Wreck-It Ralph is a step in the right direction for Disney. One of the things that really surprised me about this movie was how the trailer didn't give away anything about what the plot was really about. I felt like the story was a lot more complex than I expected it to be. I've heard that others have said this movie had the "typical Disney ending", but I'm not entirely sure that's true. For most of the movie, I felt like I could predict what was going to happen during the climax, I thought I knew who the villain was. But during the climax, there was a major plot twist that none of us saw coming (although looking back there were a couple of hints to that twist earlier in the story). I was pleasantly surprised by it, and left the theater very satisfied, both by the plot and the villain's reveal.
      Lately, I have been dissatisfied by a trend that seems to put an emphasis on the actors starring in an animated film, as if they, not the story, should be the reason that audiences should see that film. After seeing the trailer emphasize the voice talent, I was skeptical. But I was very pleased with Wreck-It Ralph's voice casting. Unlike most other animated films, the actors all recorded their dialogue together, giving them ample opportunity for improvisation, something that made Wreck-It Ralph unique.
      Finally, the art direction and animation of this movie was absolutely beautiful, some of the best I've seen from Disney in a long time. I could get lost in looking at the amount of detail each setting provides (even more so if I was able to catch all of the video game homages that others could). My favorite environment would have to be Sugar Rush; the colors were beautiful, and the way that the artists used candy in every way they possibly could. 
      Overall, I am very glad that I decided to go see Wreck-It Ralph. It seems like Disney is putting more and more effort into making a good story with unforgettable characters. I look forward to what they produce in the future.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another Set of Art

I thought I'd start with the piece that I'm most proud of from this semester. It started out as a piece of illustration board covered in charcoal and ended with hours upon hours of erasing to get the picture that you see.
This wasn't created this semester, but last summer I was able to learn the basics of Maya and, with help, created my first 3D character: Whatsits.
 This was the last project of the semester. Based on the nursery rhyme "Jack Be Nimble", this illustration was created with pen and ink.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pencil Mileage

"You just need more mileage"

I confess, for a time last semester I came to resent that phrase.

I guess I should clarify what mileage is (for those of you who don't know). When I talk about mileage, I'm not talking about car mileage; I'm talking about pencil mileage. It's a pretty simple concept when you think about it; the more you draw the better your skills get.

But for me that concept hasn't been as simple as I thought it would be. I would get to a point in the day where I wanted to draw, but then there would always be something stopping me. I was too afraid of making a mistake, even if it was in my private sketchbook. I was also afraid of what people would think about my work, even if I knew they'd never see it.

That insecurity extended beyond my private sketching and into my schoolwork. It was almost like I didn't want to do any sketching because I figured that I'd never really improve as much as I wanted to, or as much as I thought I was.

It wasn't until the end of last semester that I really came to terms with the importance of mileage. I have heard some people say that we all have 200,000 bad drawings in us. The important thing is having the discipline and courage to get passed those 200,000 bad drawings.

I know that there are other people who are facing the same problems that I still struggle with. It's almost like we suffer for our art, because there seems to be a constant internal struggle going on. Always wondering if what we're doing is correct or if people will like our work; it's not a fun way to spend time.

But the thing I had to realize is that you have to move on, not dwell on your insecurities. Honestly, there are only two possibilities from sketching more.
       1) You get better.
       2) You stay the same.
Your drawing can't get worse if you keep at it; you can't fall off the first floor.

So now I see that as difficult as it can be to conquer the blank page. If you really want to produce better art, then yes, you need more mileage.

More Artwork

Here's some more of my work. This time, it's stuff from last semester:

It was this project that made me consider going in to layout. It was incredibly difficult to get all of the perspective correct, but it was also really fun at the same time. The environment is set in a 1950s city and I pride myself on the fact that everything in this picture is period correct, down to the little hats that I added in one of the windows.

 My strongest painting last semester.
 My first illustration assignment. We had to design something based on the word "home".
 Second illustration assignment. This one was based off "danger"
 This was the first time that I really worked with graphite. We had to combine two things that wouldn't be combined together in nature. I chose my dog and my laptop.
And finally, this is the illustration that I am most proud of. It is based off of the word "miniscule". This started out as a traditional painting, but then at the last minute (really twenty-four hours before it was due) I decided to turn it into a digital painting.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Artist-A Review

"I won't talk! I won't say a word!"

The Artist, recently the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, is the first silent film to be released in about 80 years. The first time I saw clips of this movie, I knew it was something that I wanted to see. It has a lot of my favorite things in it: old Hollywood, 1920s clothes, and a compelling story. I went to the movie not knowing what to expect (I have never seen a feature length silent film) and left it completely moved.

The Artist tells the story of George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin), a silent film star, and his very rocky transition from silent films to "talkies". Along the way, he comes to be friends, and then lovers (it is a romance after all) with Peppy Miller (played by the adorable Berenice Bejo) an up an coming "America's Sweetheart" type of actress who has no problems with the transition to talkies. In the story, George's life is thrown into turmoil when his studio head (John Goodman) drops him because silent films are no longer the thing that people want to see. And George will have no part in sound films, which he (like so many actors of his day) considers a fad. After attempting to make one last silent film, which happens to open the same day as one of Peppy's films AND the 1929 Stock Market Crash, George is bankrupt and slowly drinking himself to death. It's only when Peppy, along with his faithful valet Clifton (James Cromwell), help him to let go of his pride that he is able to turn his life around.

Part of the reason that the story moved me so much was the performances by the actors. Jean Dujardin recieved a well deserved Oscar for Best Actor for his role. The fact that George is so stubborn might have made him a very unlikeable character, but with Dujardin's interpretation of the character, we see his stubbornness is really only a mask that hides his fear of being unwanted by his public.

Berenice Bejo is absolutely adorable as Peppy, she and Dujardin have amazing chemistry. The performances of the entire cast are amplified because of the absence of song. They have to be very genuine in their actions because their actions are the only things that tell the story.

One of the most unexpected surprises of this movie is the interesting way they used sound. Back in the days of silent film, sound effects were only achieved through music and for the most part this is done (composed by Ludovic Bource). However, there is a dream sequence where George is facing his fears of about talkies. He puts down a brandy glass and is surprised to hear the sound of it hitting the table; he hears his dog bark; dancers laugh at him; a feather drops--and George can't utter one sound. One of the most impressive sections of this movie.

This film gives the audience a peek at one of the most difficult transitions in Hollywood's history. It also leaves the audience with an interesting question--how much do we torment ourselves just because we can't let go of our pride?