Thursday, January 31, 2008

Imagina 2008

Last week I went along to the Imagina Computer Graphics Awards in Monte Carlo. Prince Albert kicked off the proceedings wisely escaping soon after to the bar before he had to endure sitting through the industry & architecture nominee films. A man dressed as a tea-pot compered the evening with a barrage of flat gags, unfunny in French or English.

The art department on 'A Monster In Paris' is crewed by graduates of Les Gobelins & Supinfocom schools. Their impressive short films not only secured them professional work but also win prizes at major animation/CG festivals. The guys were nominated not in the student category but in Best Animation. Carlos was part of the team that made 'Al Dente', competing against Olivier & François-Xavier with their film 'Oktapodi' which won!
The films are stunning but unfortunately aren't available online yet.

Framestore won Best Music Video for this fun spot:

My favourite nominee in that category however was this:

Stunning short 'Bolides' won Supinfocom, Arles the Best School prize.

It builds to a frenetic climax which seems almost like a parody of the trend for rapid chase sequences in French student films.

'Dji vou veu volti' from Belgium won Best Short. Extract here.

However, I was hoping to see a win for 'Dog Days', French animation genius Geoffroy De Crecy's latest freaky extravaganza:

Unsurprisingly 'Ratatouille' won Best Film & 'Pirates 3' Best Special FX.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Paris trip

Caught 'Sweeney Todd, le diabolique barbier de Fleet Street' while in Paris last weekend. It was a first weekend screening playing to a full-house on the Champs Elysées & it was a blast. The audience seemed to accept the 'non-professional' singing & were delighted & appalled by the buckets of blood thrown at the camera. It's an indulgent homage from Burton to the films of Mario Bava & Dario Argento & the audience lapped it up like a modern grand-guignol spectacle. The film seemlessly fuses all of Burton's influences & psychological pre-occupations into a very satisfying whole.
Special mention to Danté Ferreti's incredible producton design. He's been deservedly nominated for the Art Direction Oscar & his evocative, gothic sets are unquestionably the years best.

Next day Raja & I took a trip to Disneyland. We had our brains scrambled on the roller-coaster rides or 'russian mountains' as the French translates. Taking a breather we checked out the 'Art of Animation' section which has a great display of production art, notably development drawings & sculptures from The Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast.

Allemagne; Les années noires

To temper the jolliness of Disneyland next day I headed over to Musée Maillol to check out the exhibition of artwork made during & after the First World War from the perspective of German artists. Often I'm seduced into seeing exhibitions by eye-catching posters only to be let down by the rest of the collection. I was intrigued by the Otto Dix artwork used as the poster (above) & the exhibition did not disappoint. It's an extensive gathering of expressionist & Dadaist artists like Dix, George Grosz & Max Beckmann.

The line drawings of George Grosz were the stand-outs for me. Ronald Searle has cited Grosz as a major influence & the young Searle must have been inspired by Grosz's war drawings when he decided to make his visual record documenting the atrocities he witnessed as a POW in World War 2. The influence is particularly evident in Grosz caricatures & even the stitched linework carries into Searle's approach.

Many of the pictures were hard to stomach with images of rape, brutality, horrifically injured soldiers & crippled war veterans. But the exhibition made me realise the power of art to depict the human cost & utter futility of war.

Raja had discovered the best expo in town & took me along to the Hotel de Ville to see 'Paris en couleurs'. It's a collection of photos of Paris from 1907 to the present, all in colour! It was literally illuminating to see the era that 'A Monster in Paris' is set in bright colour when we've been looking at monochrome images for over a year!

The shots from the 50s -60s show how vivid the street signs & advertising hoardings of the time were. Look how many great graphic cartoon figures cover the walls.

Coincedentally, next day at the BNF, I discovered an old exhibition catalogue of an artist who was responsible for some of those stylish 60s posters. His name was Pierre Fix-Masseau.

I rounded off the trip with my habitual visit to the Musée Picasso in the Marais district. I always like to kill an hour or two in this splendid building studying the works.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

January 2008 SketchCrawl!

Last weekend was the 17th WorldWide SketchCrawl. The Nice chapter was formed by myself, Carlos & Sebastian from the art dept. on 'A Monster In Paris'. Carlos & I spent the day in picturesque village perché St.Paul de Vence while Seb headed out to medieval fortress town Entrevaux.

I kicked off with a study of the narrow streets that give St Paul such character.

The guitarist in the photo above showed up as I was drawing & I couldn't resist switching to another page to quickly capture him. Whenever kids came by with their parents he would put on a red clown nose & dazzle them with his kazoo skills!

Rodin's 'Thinker' contemplates the great view from the town walls, while Carlos draws on.

Here is Carlos sitting dangerously close to a fast game of pétanques.

Some gestures & poses of the old boys playing pétanques.

A local lady stopped as she saw me painting the water-colour above & asked me if I'd make one of the facade of her shop. She led me by the arm around the corner to show me her antiques shop & I was happy to accept the commission. I made a quick pencil rough for her approval then over the next couple nights worked up the painting below from photographs.

Our first SketchCrawl was a great day out in surroundings that beg to be drawn. All the drawings from the group can be viewed on the SketchCrawl forum.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Alfred Janniot

Not long after moving to Nice I discovered the huge war memorial over-looking the port, a mighty impressive edifice indeed.
A section of it has some really dynamic art-deco relief sculpture & I made this drawing above from it.

Then in October the Musée des Beaux Arts staged a tribute exhibition to sculptor Alfred Janniot. I learnt that he was responsible for the war memorial & another of Nice's prominent public sculptures the 'Fontain du Soleil'. In fact he was France's preminent sculptor during the 1930s.

There were dozens of examples of his work on show; sculptures, maquettes, preparatory sketches, an enormous carpet with art-deco style weavings. He did the facade for the Rockefeller centre, NYC & even designed decor for sea-liners.

It also dawned on me that I had encountered his work previously in Paris without realising. The frieze sculptures adorning the Palais de Tokyo were his.

These days they're encroached upon by graffiti art displays but it makes for an interesting juxtaposition n'est ce pas?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Storyboarding full time means I don't get the chance to design characters so often but challenges like the 'Gum Or Mints' blog kept me doodling in my spare time. Above is a montage of characters I created over the past year, some professional most just for fun. My resolution for 2008 is to do more-