Thursday, August 31, 2017

Interview with Bobby Chiu

Bobby Chiu, concept artist and founder of the online art education site Schoolism, spoke with me this week by phone (since my internet link is too weak for Skype).  (Link to YouTube video)

Some of the topics we covered:

• How did I learn art before the internet?
• The importance of working from memory
• How to paint moving subjects
• How many hours per day should a young artist draw?
• Do you think about brushstrokes when you're painting?
• What's the most valuable kind of critique?
• How Ray Harryhausen inspired me.
• Is computer technology good for artists?
• What are the benefits of gouache?
• What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?


Jim Hartlage said...

I really enjoyed the interview. I was wondering/hoping if you, Bobby, or some other Gurney Journey readers could provide some thoughts on finding a balance between watching/listening/study from all of this amazing content now available to all of us AND tuning it out and working on your own stuff. Personally, I like to watch a video or two with my morning coffee to learn something new or perhaps inspire me for the day before I start working, but I will admit there are times when I become distracted and pulled in a variety of directions with all of the amazing artists out there. Am I alone in this?

James Gurney said...

Jim, As you suggest, you can't become a good artist by binge-watching videos alone. I would suggest watching just one of them with a notebook handy and jotting down the ideas that inspire you most in words and sketches. Then go out there and challenge yourself to try them out. Set small and achievable goals, such as painting a fire hydrant in black and white gouache. Then let the video suggest new challenges to try out for yourself. If you feel pulled in a variety of directions, just stay with one artist for a while and try some of their ideas. You may disregard them later, but you'll gain something if you try them.

A Colonel of Truth said...

Trail-breaking, whether through deep snow or finding your (own) way as a painter, is tough work. The best teachers held students find their own way. Perseverance the only means. Great interview!

Daroo said...

Great interview -- I enjoyed hearing the excitement in your voice at adding blur to stop motion. I was a big fan of Phil Tippet's "go-motion" techniques that he used on Dragonslayer and the Taun-Taun scenes in Empire. Wherein he uses computer controlled servos to move the model during the frame exposure to achieve motion blur (similar to how a CNC machine works). "go-motion" is often forgotten because it was only used for about 15 years before being subsumed by CG.

Speaking of binge watching: Here's a Jurassic park previz animatic that is pretty refined for an animatic -- it actually has some motion blur. At about 5:15 the t-rex chases the Malcolm maquette and is attached to a go motion like mover and at 5:30 there is definitely blur as he lunges to eat the lawyer.

I still am impressed by this Dragonslayer scene at 4:34 where the dragon prowls out of the smog filled cave tunnel.
Finally this Doc explains go-motion at about 18:00:

James Gurney said...

Hi, Daroo,
Thanks for noticing that. I was thinking of Tippett's Go Motion technique, which was really impressive, as is his recent "Mad God" work. And thanks for those links and time stamps. You've taught stop motion at the high school level, right?

Unknown said...

Great interview. It made me wonder though, what does your average day look like? or week if that's simpler. How much time do you dedicate to the blog vs other stuff? What do you do for entertainment (do you watch any shows at all?).

Daroo said...

No, I've only taught traditional, hand drawn animation at the college level and professionally but I did work on some claymation commercials (both replacement and straight ahead) and back in school I did a little Dynamation test on film using a single frame projector to project a live action background plate onto a translucent rear screen. Then animated a latex stop motion model in front of the rear screen and rephotographed it one frame at time, while advancing the rear projection frame by frame. A holdout matte, painted on glass, allowed me to do a split screen and "sandwich" the model between the foreground and background of the live action background plate. It really gave me an appreciation Of Harryhausen's genius and sheer endurance. Also it was my first introduction to the important concept of color temperature and how crucial it is for the verisimilitude of an image.

Should've shot it in black and white...

James Gurney said...

Alan, The blog usually takes me an hour in the morning when Jeanette is making the oatmeal. I split my work time in the day between painting outdoors, editing video, writing, painting in the studio, doing yard work, or making stuff in the workshop. I take a mile long walk every morning. I watch most of the science fiction, fantasy, and animation films, but I don't see them in theaters; I wait until they come in DVD form because I love to stop-frame them and analyze the action. I watch those movies in the middle of the night when the rest of the house is sleeping. In the evenings I read newspapers, magazines, and library books. I don't watch TV or cable or video games. I guess I'm out of the habit or never got into the habit. TV, when I see it in hotels, fascinates me for the first 10 minutes but then I get antsy because I'm not good at being entertained.

Daroo, thanks for explaining the process of Dynamation. I love the little trailer: "Anything that the mind can conceive can be realized on the screen." I guess the camera has to be locked off and the illumination has to be just right for shots like you're describing, right? Do you have your films up on YouTube? I have a copy of Harryhausen's book "A Century of Model Animation," and the book on matte painting called "The Invisible Art." The ingenuity of the analog age is really interesting.

Daroo said...

Well put --I'm a big fan of the "ingenuity" of pre digital special effects as much as the results. I love Harryhausen's animation for both its melodramatic acting and the tactile quality of stop motion which worked together to create a very specific tone to the reality. You could see the fingerprints in the results (sometimes literally).

I don't have my test up on you tube -- the memory of it as a learning experience is far better than the finished result. If I had it digitized it could possibly be posted within that context, but the shot is under 10 seconds so is too short for you tube. Yes the exposure has to be just right and you are exposing both for the rear projection screen (with a background plate shot outside in day light) and the stop motion model (inside, lit by tungsten bulbs). You have to keep the model’s light from falling onto the rear screen and diffusing that image but you need them relatively close so they are both in focus. Everything has to be locked down, but then additionally there is a phenomenon called “gate weave” which is the movement of the film as it travels past the aperture via sprockets. Both the camera and the rear projector can be prone to gate weave problems. The animation camera I had access to was really solid and consistent but the live action camera ( either a Bell and Howell Filmo 70 or an Arriflex 16SR) had some gate weave, but the real problem was the projector. Because the background plate is rephotographed at different times the split screen ends up sawing back and forth against itself. My background plate was already contrasty and when I rephotographed it the shadows became really opaque and severe. You could always tell one of Harryhausen's creatures was going to enter from offscreen because the shot would be way more contrasty than the previous non fx shot.

I have his "film fantasy scrapbook" and have been meaning to get the matte painting book. I got this “book” as a little kid and kept studying it and diagramming out the process until I figured out how it was done:
I haven't read these yet but they look pretty informative and have links to youtube.

Luca said...

I haven't watched the video yet, but anyway "I'm not good at being entertained" (in your reply to Alan) is one of the most hilarious and witty phrases i've ever read. You should print T-shirts with that on, ah ah!

I loved Jim Hartlage's question and your reply, it's something i often think about too: "what will be better for me, a new sketch or a new tutorial?" I think a bit of theory and a bit of practice every day is the best mix, if one can. But, besides this, when i find an artist i love i think that it's some style i'd like to develop too. But then i'm afraid to become just an imitator...finding the right balance between inspiration and originality is hard... :\