Layouts, Backgrounds and Digital Painting

Yeah I put 3 things there in the title, but for the purpose of my film they are all the same thing! I am what I like to call “background lazy”. Maybe that is just being lazy? Who’s to judge? Stop judging me! -but what it means is that I’m a step skipper…dun, dun, dun DUNNNNN! Yeah that’s right. I love skipping steps and TOTALLY CHEATIN’ THE SYSTEM! I can hear it now “BUT TARA? You always say follow the process”. OK sometimes I lie, and sometimes I bend rules, but mostly I break them. The Animation process is a super cool system, BUT since I am working alone, I am able to do some things in my head. <–This even as I type it, is a cop-out. I know. If I did follow the process, imagine how much better my BG’s (backgrounds) would be. Yeah YEah YEAH. I’ve said it all before, I just don’t care. My BG’s will be of the quality they are with the time I am giving to them because they are there to support the animation.

Now, after I’ve stopped punching myself, let’s get into BG’s. They are these mini masterpieces that will be on screen for a matter of seconds. Let me say that again. SECONDS. If they are good backgrounds, no one will actually notice them, because they will be watching the animation. Soooooooo having said that, I’m spending WAAAAAAAYYYYY too much time on these backgrounds!

I guess I should start at the beginning. Inspiration! In my desperation to plough ahead, I started backgrounds without much of a clear plan. I started gathering some color schemes which became larger and larger, and started right in on painting scenes in photoshop. As I worked away on this semi-photorealistic woodland scene, on day 3, I was like “what the hell am I doing? I have 50+ BG’s to do!” Sure this was great, but I will be here the rest of my life! So I trashed it and went back to the process. Since I trashed it, you will have to take my word that it was an amazing digital painting! hahaha

I spent the next 2 days READING! I went back to my original process of using the Secret of Kells and the work of Maurice Noble as a starting point for my design. I read The Noble Approach cover to cover and made many notes. What I discovered was really a much needed refresher, I had taught Layout and Design for College Animation and it was also a great ego boost to know that what I had taught was inline with Maurice Noble’s teachings! So now all I had to do was implement what I had reviewed! Easy peasy! Basically the name of the game is the KISS method-Keep It Simple Stupid!

I started again with color, keeping it simple this time using triads and colors that would create the mood, setting, compliment the characters and make them stand out. Now again, I am lazy, so why should I waste my time thinking about colors. I checked out this site called Color Lovers and there are a ton of color schemes to pick from!  Here’s some I picked out, you can never have too much color! I’m color CRAZY!!!

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 3.04.35 PM
Forest Colors
Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 3.05.05 PM
Romantic Colors
Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 3.05.20 PM
Winter Colors

In line with limiting my color palette, I also wanted to limit my brushes and chose 3 photoshop brushes to use. One for line work, one for paint and one for spots! (The funnest part!) This really helped me to economize my time and efforts.

I have more tales of backgrounds, as I have been working on them for the past 2 months! So this blog is catching up, but there is more to do. So I better get back to it! I will be meeting with my mentor Terry Gadsden this week and get the ball rolling for audio and I can finally answer this question:

In case this is the 1st production blog post you read, the main character of my story is a fox…


Exactly! Adjust your sails and you’ll always be happy, if you are in a sailboat. And either way, you are in a freaking sailboat? What are you complaining about? Unless it is some sort of Life of Pi situation? Then you have every right to complain, though I think the moral of that story was not to complain? Eat the tiger? I might have fallen asleep for parts of it. IT WAS OVER 2 HOURS LONG!!! Also, I never understood “When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemonade”. Did Life also give you sugar and water, some ice and a pitcher? That was nice of Life. I always thought it was implied that you should sell the lemonade to make money to get over the shitty lemons you got. So really life just gave you an awesome stater business! Though I like lemons, and would probably eat them straight up with a bit of salt, or, OR I would find a baby and give it the lemons! That is hilarious! If you’ve never given a baby a lemon, you need to! They make crazy faces, BUT STILL KEEP EATING IT!!! Go get your Life lemons, then find the nearest baby and get to laughing. Hey Life, wicked move with the sailboats and lemon businesses/snack/baby entertainment! Keep it coming!

Follow my production blog for more production stuff about my animated short and my steady decline into the abyss of creativity.



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