Last weekend I attended Schoolism Live Berlin and (spoiler? :P) it was awesome!
I had attended two Schoolism Live workshops before and the quality of both speakers and attendees these events attract is amazing. Time for a little re-cap!
Christophe Lautrette kicked off day one. He shared the process involved in developing a project and the part stylistic choices and style guides play in the process. He has worked on films like The Croods and Kung Fu Panda, so he shared a ton of background information about the development processes of these films.
I thought it was very interesting to see the thought that goes into developing every single bit of a scene and how that will impact the audience and how they experience the story. Shape language, colour, lighting, composition, perspective, line of action, screen division, all is part and parcel of Christophe’s toolbox to bring a story to life.
I specifically loved Christophe’s lecture because it gave me tons of ideas to flesh out a personal project I’m working on. Making sure the over-all style is appealing and consistent and considering what stylistic elements will best support the emotional arch of the story will make the end result a lot stronger. Also, his detailed, colorful works are a real treat for the eyes 😀
Seeing Wes Burt at work was really cool! You can see he loves the nuances of human faces and is a master at capturing human emotions with subtle little tweaks to, for example, a mouth or eye.
At first he discussed some of the character design challenges he faces (from designing an ‘elderly robot’ to the subtleties of costumes). He shared a lot of tips for designing characters that not only look great, but also serve their purpose in the story.
I really liked his tip for artists with a creative block: he adviced to write down a sentence with 4-5 characteristics and simply start sketching. This was also the basis for his demo: he let the audience pick a couple of characteristics and he designed a character incorporating all of them. The audience did not go easy on him, the characteristics he got were: shy, doctor, crippled, young, female and space opera 😉 He thought for a moment and then just started sketching – the result looked great.
It is a well-known fact in the art community that, well, making art can be hard. You are constantly surrounded by tons of amazing artists and pretty much every artist (aspiring or pro) has suffered from some form of impostor syndrome.
I had heard about this (and experienced this) before, but when Karla shared her story about her own doubts and how she nearly quit making art altogether, I found it very touching. I am not sure why – maybe it was the way she told her story, maybe it was the fact that I was surrounded by so many talented folks in a workshop and feeling I have so much to learn, but listening to Karla made me feel, I don’t know – hopeful? Either way, I was glad she shared her story.
She said: “I stopped seeing my art as an extension of myself and started to see it as a puzzle.” A puzzle can always be solved, much like when there is something lacking in a painting. The solution may not be instantly clear, but patience and dedicated work will get you there.
Most of Karla’s lecture and demo was about how she uses faces, poses, clothing, presentation, light and colour to tell a story. She shared her process and then let us help her decide what kind of character she would paint for the demo – soon she was bringing an elf ranger hunting parrots (“PARROTS!?”) to life 😉
The next day started with Jeff Turley’s great lecture + demo about style. He explained how style is very personal (“Your stuff has to look like YOUR stuff.”) and how “drawing is not what one sees, but what one makes others see.”
One of Jeff’s great tips was to keep things (like colour) simple at first and complicate once you’ve created a solid foundation. If flat colours and simple graphic design work, any embellishments will be “icing on the cake”.
Next up Jeff shared some background information about his project Ghost – he showed some of the process of his character designs for this project and how he experimented with style a lot in the first stages of development. He treated us to a wonderful demo of an eerie scene with a girl floating on a lake.
I was already a bit familiar with Sam Nielson’s teachings on light and surface thanks to the Schoolism subscriptions, but the topic is very multi-faceted and quite difficult to grasp. Being able to see and hear Sam explain things at the workshop was very nice. I really like his style of teaching and some things were more clear to me the second time around – though I can imagine that this is a topic that may well take years to master!
But, as Sam said at the beginning: “Humility is not saying ‘I can’t do that, I suck’, but ‘I can’t do that yet, but if I work hard, I will be able to.”
Seeing Sam’s list of common mistakes students/artists make when dealing with things like lambert and ambient occlusion was quite enlightening (harhar) as well – the differences were often subtle, but telling. Seeing the effects different types of light (side light, front light, rim light, underlight, top lighting and Rembrandt lighting) have on a human face was very cool, too.
I will not go into detail here – if you want to delve into this topic, I really recommend Sam’s class for some in-depth knowledge on the topic 🙂
He ended his lecture with a demo, explaining his choices for lighting and process as he went. Generally this was the rule of thumb: “Whatever sells your story the best, that is the solution.”
I took Nathan’s class on Environment Design a while ago and his teaching and detailed feedback made quite the impression. Being able to say hi to Nathan and introduce myself face to face was very nice and he was very friendly and encouraging. He signed some of his booklets that I bought, too! </fangirling>
But enough about that, the workshop! Nathan’s part was about pictorial composition and was sprinkled with rich examples of amazing artists (including his own work) and the theory fitted in nicely with his teachings about color & light and environment design. ‘Unity with variety’ is a recurring theme in Nathan’s teachings and in this case he showed us how this idea can be used to guide a viewer’s eye across a painting.
Variety can be in big versus small, hard versus soft, dark versus light, etcetera. Unity can be achieved by, for example, grouping elements or following a certain rhythm. Nathan adviced to find unifying elements and add variety strategically.
At the end of the lecture Nathan was available for questions – it got a bit crowded around his table, but he also brought some of his sketchbooks so I got to check out all of those! Really cool to see his sketches (from ‘simple’ thumbnails to elaborate portraits) in real life.
I also met some very nice and talented artists (even from my own home country!) at Schoolism Live Berlin, some of whom I met before and got to hang out with again. I even got an entire portfolio review from Klaus Scherwinski at the THU meetup, which was amazingly helpful 🙂
I’ll add some websites you might want to check out, of the instructors, their projects and some of the awesome co-attendees I met up with 😉
- Christophe Lautrette
- Wes Burt
- Karla Ortiz
- Jeff Turley
- Jeff’s Illustratus Project
- Sam Nielson
- Sam Nielson’s brushes
- Nathan Fowkes
- Klaus Scherwinski
- Luisa Preissler
- Stefanie Odendahl
- Djamila Knopf
- Monika Dzikowicz
- Magdalena Chojnowska
- Kelsey Bass
- Isabella Koelman
- Magdalena Proszowska
- Noa Katzir
- Shiuan Chan
- Anatol Schulz
(If I forgot anyone that is certainly not intentional, so feel free to drop me a line so I can add you! :))