24 June 2010

plots and clotheslines

So here's a page from Will Eisner's " Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narritive" where he describes "the plotless story: The page expresses common criticisms of melodrama that's made purposefully shallow and simple to showcase fight scenes and explosions.
"In fact, a plot with too much 'density' can be an impediment...The art becomes the story, as in tapestries".

Professorial types and other high minded people with a literate bent HATE these things, at first glance, you'd think they might be right. As the attitude seems to dictate, real storytelling brings about moral implications, social impact and education, intellectual stimulation and everything else that makes for a boring after school special, and furthermore, there's positively no worth in a story that's just an excuse to show a lot of action or entertaining scenes.

But is this always true?

"Singin in the Rain" is on "Top Movie Lists" internationally. critics love it. People have been enjoying it for generations and there's no way in hell you'd be able to convince anyone that this is a "bad movie", but by the admission of the writers, the whole purpose of the story was to showcase Arthur Freed's song catalog.
The film is filled with spectacular musical numbers that do very little to advance the protagonist's pursuit of their collective super-objective. In fact, Gene Kelley is able to do super tap-dance numbers about anything, including staying up all night and learning enunciation.

Or we could take a look at the Nutcracker, possibly the most viewed and performed ballet on earth. Such a durable production must have deep artistic merit and a complex and multilayered story with all that literate goodness, right?
As I recall, the plot of the nutcracker is about a girl whose attacked by mice and saved by her toy who turns into a prince. The prince spends the next half of the play showing off his kingdom.

Hell, cinema history is filled with "simple story, elaborate execution" movies that are pretty much undisputed as to their quality.
Much like classic Hollywood cartoons, the plots of many undisputed classics are direct and simple, perhaps even with predictable conclusions, and acts as a clothesline to hang entertaining scenes, gags, fight scenes or musical numbers on.

I'm sure there's somthing that separates "the Wizard of Oz" from the likes of "Transformers" and "Avatar", but I'm fairly certain it isn't the sheer sophistication or complexity of the plots .

Some Sketchbook

Yesterday I completed an approximately150 page 8 1/2" x 11" sketchbook, so the laws of the internet require I post pages from it.
It's infuriating to see other "sketchbook excerpts" from the veterans and established pros, which look like ready-to frame full renderings rather than the general musings and brainfarts my pages tend to be , in short, these images are the ones that don't look like loose pen scribblings or overly smudged pencil thingies.
Sketches and studies aren't so much finished pictures (at least that's how it is in my case) as a medium for more fully understanding the subject, which might make blog posts about sketchbooks venues for more fully understanding my skill set and it's shortcomings. Do you see alot of com-positionally conscious studies or animals? I don't. So next sketchbook I'm hitting the damn zoo.
This was a study of my local mission to get a feel for Spanish architecture for a project I'm working on. As you can see by the state of the bench, I get bored easily.
Actually, I carry two sizes of sketchbook, the large 8 1/2"x11" and some manner of pocket sketchbook. The pocket sketchbook is handy in places like restaurants , during church or waiting in line when I'd just look stupid with a big ol' clunker in my lap.

This is Tiffany, she's a great model since she's always handy and usually stays so still. Sometimes I check for a pulse.
Here's the least scribbly thing in the book. Mostly it was me in a waiting room, bored as hell.

15 June 2010

Messin around

This guy was taken from a prompt from a Facebook album, so I make no claims to originating the character whatsoever, but that I firmly believe rock guys should wear stylish pants.

09 June 2010

Illustrations and Yawning Bears

Last Christmas, my Aunt approached me about doing illustrations for a storybook about her grand-kids. Naturally, she also served as author, editor and boss on the project.
Before I started, I had to discuss art style and design with her, and my impression from the was that she wanted simple, design-oriented pictures like Richard Scary or Dr Seuss, so my first roughs were cute and cartoony. (Incidentally, the yawning teddy bears were not my idea. She asked for yawning bears, so I dutifully drew yawning bears.)

Well, after viewing the cartoony roughs, she asked for more realistic drawings, as she seems to think that Cartoons are overly cute, saccharine and trite (as opposed to yawning teddy bears?).

I'm not going to hammer on illustrative realism here, particularly in picture books that treat us to works of Alexandra Day and Chris Van Allsburg. But what frustrated me about the project was having to shift gears in the middle of the intersection so to speak, and the same attitude one slams up against again and again: "Cartoons=Bad, Realism=Good."

I'll probably rant more about that later.

08 June 2010

Robert McKee and Hellboy

Today, I'm going to use terms from Robert McKee's book on Screewriting. In Story, McKee claims a fulfilling story should end in an absolute, irreversible change in the world of the story, whether that be a world-changing event or a permanent transformation of character.

He also writes at great length about "the Gap" between a character;s expectations and what happens. The guy or gal does something which promotes a different or stronger reaction than he or she expected.

These principles apply pretty good to the Mike Mignola short story here.

Seriously, this thing is two pages long. Count them if you don't believe me. Translated to cinematic time this story would run as long as a TV ad.

The saga begins when Hellboy learns it's time for breakfast and he wants noodles, I guess this is what them writer types call an "inciting incident". General Ricker has a differing agenda and insists on Pancakes. Which is an issue they argue over. Hey! Conflict! Writing teachers love talking about Conflict. Conflict that progresses! Look how both General Ricker and Hellboy change their tactics to get what they want!

Enter "The Gap" Hellboy likes pancakes! Hellboy took an action, eating pancakes, expecting to hate them, and thus cast them aside to get his initial objective: noodles. But that he likes pancakes takes the story in a different direction.

And we have our "permanent change" or "indelible reversal" or whatever way you want to say "story's done, no take-backs" Hellboy goes from hating to loving pancakes and will eat them whenever General Ricker serves them, irrevocable change on a interpersonal level. The demons of Hell lament that the beast of the apocalypse is lost to the world of men: change on an environmental level. It's implied that General Ricker has forever bought the kid's loyalty to humanity. This is the point where Hellboy's deepest convictions cement for the majority of his life: change on an internal level.

There's other cool writer-ly stuff going on here like the comedic dramatic irony the reader is treated to at the revelation or reveal of the city of Pandemonium which also states the high stakes at risk over whether or not this kid eats his pancakes.