Looking back at this blog, for me, is kind of like watching one of those time lapse videos of a flower growing up. What happens in weeks can look like it only took seconds. The first post here was made on July 22nd 2009, a year and a half ago, but you can flip through the entries and take in the artwork as if it was created simultaneously over the course of a couple days. Since that first post in 2009 I've been spending a good portion of my spare time visually conceptualizing this film. At times I get a little sad at how slow this is moving, as if I'm growing older and losing some of my power. Or watching days ripe with potential slipping by. Working full time, saving for a house, planning a marriage, maintaining my relationships, and being a redemptive, missional person uses a good deal of my resources - very little is left for creative pursuits. It is disconcerting - if you don't exercise your talents, they start to get uncoordinated and flabby. I'm starting to feel that way. I long for the day that the logistics of my life allow for this to get more of my energy.
This is at the forefront of my thoughts as I realize that it has taken a year and a half for me to finally have some polished artwork on one of the most important characters in Burp's Christmas, Walter Burp.
Walter's design poses a couple of challenges. The first is most apparent: the wheelchair. It is always easier for me to draw organic things (people, trees, mountains, lakes, animals, etc.) than it is to draw man made structures. There is math in structures, and with that comes calculation and planning. Working in perspective slows me down. It's something, with more time, I'd practice over and over. For now I have to make do with my limited abilities.
In After Effects animation (go to this post on World Building to understand more about A.E. animation), perspective is always tricky because you can't move the camera with the same tilts and angles that you can with any other form of animation. You kind of pick one eye level for the characters and stick with it. Then you use other cinema tricks (and the fact that it is a cartoon and people will suspend their realism for you) to make the audience feel comfortable. We will have a couple tricky perspectives, but those will be the exception, not the rule. This works well with people but is slightly trickier with man made rectangular things, such as wheelchairs, because there will always be scenes when the angles of the wheelchair won't align with the angular logic of the room. I think we can still fudge it, but part of doing so will require an appropriate and widely applicable 'generic' perspective on the wheelchair to begin with.
The second challenge is that Walter is selectively mute and therefor must convey his emotions through his facial expressions and body language alone. I imagine our animation of him will be very subtle, so I went with a pretty clean, clear design for him. His eyes are big and unfettered with eyelids. It looks as if he is always staring, always pondering, always perceiving the world. This is true to his character in the script.
There aren't many maroon wheelchairs out there, but I wanted this thing to be kind of quirky - as if they got it from a thrift store, or a friend of the families. It's old and clunky and reflects the families economic disposition. They can't afford a better one. I wanted it to be too big for him. If you look at some of the above images, you'll notice that his shoulders are hunched. I never want him to be comfortable in this thing, it's a constant burden. Unwieldily and cumbersome, he's not strong enough yet to make it work for him. This drives his frustration and volitive temperament. It's very difficult for Walter to feel peaceful, or in control, so it becomes all the more glorious when we hit those grace notes with him.
So there he is, Walter Burp. Sooner or later I'll do a drawing of him in profile, but it seemed unnecessary for now. We need to get our Investor's Portfolio out, and there is much work to be done.