Thursday, December 17, 2009

And then, there was animation...

It all started with a bouncing ball. It is simple animation exercise which teaches you about basic animation principles like 'squash and stretch'. Not too exciting, neither were other exercises like falling paper, waving line, rollercoaster, pendulum clock, until we did a profile walk.

A profile walk cycle is one of the more advanced beginner exercises, where things learned in the earlier exercises are tied together. I choose to animate a simple 'Chaplinesque' character in a nice and speedy walk, with a small prefix, just for fun.

The final exercise of this term was a flour sack exercise, which frees you from the burden of keeping a more or less anatomical character alive. Your character is a flour sack, where the four corners play the role of hands and feet, which is simple enough to draw, allowing you to go wild on acting. We were to animate a jump, but I find inspiration for some more walking and, finally, a real Fosbury Flop.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Driving my horses at once

For a year and a half we have been studying the basic concepts of life drawing, i.e gestures, contours, modelling and masses, emphasizing the underlying process, without much attention for the product. One of our directors tends to explain that 'the pregnancy is more important than the child', and although I'm not totally happy with the comparison, the message is clear.

It is only in our second year that we are learning how to use these tools, integrating these into a process that is ignited through gesture, channelling this energy into more and more concrete masses, polished with delicate outlines. We have got the chisels, hammers, sandpaper and a nice piece of wood: let's make something beautiful!

Although a fine and sharp chisel is essential for a skilful carving, it is no guarantee. Yes, I do have a basic understanding of gestures and masses and contours, but the use of these tools still puzzles me: all too often the creative impulse of the gesture gets lost in my attempts to get things Right, or the final result still consists of shapeless energy. This requires a lot more training.

My main achievement of last term is a small breakthrough in my gestures. All of a sudden, I noticed how I made a lot of observations in my head, without ever entrusting them to the paper, which meant they all too often were lost forever. Realizing this allowed me to be more intuitive, loosening up, which really shows in my work.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Background information

The end of the term is near, it is time to wrap up. One of my favourite classes was 'Background Painting', and it makes me a little melancholic that this is already the last painting course of my program. Maybe I'll grab the opportunity to learn more about painting at the Academy of Realist Art, but for an animator, drawing is much more important, so for now, I'm done.

Background painting consists mainly of painting someone else's layout according to someone else's colour key, so although it requires true craftsmanship, I did not find it really exciting. My favourite piece was based on my own layout, but I left it at school for the end-of-year show. So, all I can show here are some pieces that did not make it into the expo. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Royal Winter Fairy Tales

Max the Mutt paid an annual visit to the Royal Winter Fair. I discovered too late that the official name is Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, which spoiled part of the fun. It is an exhibition of live stock and everything associated, and, yes, that is sheep and horses and cows and, most exotic, a lama and, no, I don't think it was the dalai variety.

What made my day was the fact that freshly shaven sheep were protected against the cold by a funny one-size-fits-all hooded suit, with big holes for eyes, ears and nose. The hood made them look like the good old-fashioned executioner, which gave them an evil look and feel. These creepy creature really looked like sheep in wolfskin...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

9999999999 luftballons

It must have happened in Primary 1. We learnt to write from a book suspiciously titled 'First clear, then fast'. For each of the letters of the alphabet and each digit, we were first to trace them, then we had to complete a dashed version and, finally, we had to write them completely, neatly between four lines in our notebook, following the correct order of lines the mistress had shown us. I hated it.

I will never forget the day we learned to write the digit '9' and the mistress demonstrated a series of '9's, each starting inside the top curl, ending at the tail. In a flash of genius, I spotted the flaw in her performance, and immediately devised an optimization: I jotted down a fast series of curls, adding the tails in a second sweep. Needless to say, I was done before my classmates had even started, and I spent the rest of the class beaming with pride.

It did not take too long for the mistress to notice my exceptional skills, and she told me to come and stand in front of the classroom, as an example: "Look everybody at what Izak has done! He did not write 9's as everybody else, no, he has been drawing balloons!" And I promised myself to never ever develop a clear handwriting. Fifteen years later I went to University to study Computer Science.

And now I am a Second Year Art Student. Whereas the First Year at Max the Mutt is very much process oriented, teaching the tools of the trade, the Second Year is more and more product oriented, producing decent stuff. One of the things that will one day make me break my own fingers in agony, is a phenomenon called 'line quality': clean and smooth lines, that express the nature of whatever they represent. It is very much tied to motor skills, which is one of the things that develops only slowly once you have reached my age. This is not going to be an easy year.

On the other hand, I feel that my teachers will make me push harder, lifting my art to new levels, chasing me out of my comfort zone (that's where the pillows are). My Life Drawing teacher has more or less forbidden me to use the hatching style I came to admire, forcing me back to basics. And I am doing as I am told, curious as I am where this will lead me.

As a 'Farewell to Hatching' I visited The Keyhole Sessions Girls.Grease.Rope event during Toronto's Nuit Blanche. Two chicks on a motor cycle lured the crowds that came in to watch and draw six adorable models posing in a girl's Fight Club scene. I joined from 22:00 till 0:30 to jot down some quick group poses.

On top of this, I paid a visit to Dr. Sketchy's for a night of burlesque life drawing.

And for now, back to work!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pigeons in retrospect

The pigeons have grown up and left the nest. Time to look back...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Who is afraid of black and white?

The first painting exercise for school, almost one year ago, involved doing a collage of a painting by Vermeer, 'The Astronomer' in my case. The exercise taught us to see the world around us as an abstract black and white painting, as meaningless shapes in various shades of gray.

Keeping the original, or actually a xerox of the original, upside down, I spent a few days identifying the various shapes, finding a matching value in my set of pre-painted sheets of paper, cutting out the shape with a razor-sharp scalpel and glueing it into position. And this was only the beginning...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


This week's Dr Sketchy's featured Wrong Note Rusty, a young man doing outrageous things with his trombone, an umbrella and a cute little seal. In the final contest, Rusty choose my submission as his favorite, so I was proclaimed winner, and received an otherwise scandalous book with male pin-ups. One day, wealth and fame will be mine...

Saturday, August 8, 2009


One of the students in our residence passed away unexpectedly. I did not know him very well, he was not a Max the Mutt student, but I will always remember him as a kind young man.

A beautiful bird, flying up to New Horizons.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A pleasant surprise

Today I got back the last painting I did in the first term: an egg painted in cool and warm, that is blueish and orangish, grays. Although I had known about warm highlights and cool shadows, I only came to fully understand the principle in the course of Representational Painting. In this exercise I applied it more or less intuitively, without giving it much thought, which resulted in a pleasant looseness I had never appreciated until today. The rest of the term was more of a rational struggle with the notion of temperature change, and I can only hope one day you will see this painterly quality back in my work...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's a shame! (heheheh)

In a local bookstore I had found a flyer of The Keyhole Sessions, dubbed 'The raciest life-drawing class you’ll ever experience.' I could not let this go by unchecked, so yesterday I paid them a visit. Racy indeed.

Due to the fact that its location is not a public place, they have some more options to make things... ahem... well... interesting. This week we had a model of somewhat dominant character, and after the break she was joined by a girl, stylishly wrapped up in Japanese kinbaku bondage.

At the other side of the frontline, I found the usual crowd of artists, armed with the usual sketchpads, pencils, crayons and even one tablet pc. I discerned some fellow students and Dr. Sketchy regulars. All in all, a well-spent evening.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Brush your teeth three times a day!

I am afraid of the dentist. At least I thought so, until a psychologist told me it is not so much the person I'm afraid of, more so the actual treatment. My dentist from Gouda at least did one thing right: he introduced me to Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

On the ceiling, right above The Chair, he had tacked a reproduction of a painting which had kept me mesmerized, if it had not been for the drilling. At home, I could not wait to look it up on the internet, and I did so after the pain had gone. The painting was 'A Coign of Vantage' by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, a Dutch artist who never got much recognition in his home country, and only gathered fame after he had left for Victorian England. I loved this man! Or rather, it was more his work that I loved, especially the scenes from Classical Antiquity, with marble and grotesque and robes and women and everything.

For the course 'Color and Water-based media', I had to choose an existing piece of artwork to reproduce in a monochromatic color scheme. So, I took my chance and did 'A Coign of Vantage', with the result shown here. It still reminds me of my dentist.

When I visited my dentist last summer he had replaced 'A Coign of Vantage' by some lame sunset with beach and palms. It was my last visit. I guess I'll have to find another dentist.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Plaster cast study

I had always wanted to do a plaster cast study, but it was not until a few weeks ago that I found a suitable cast (for those interested, it is an eye from Michelangelo's David). The study of plaster casts is a traditional exercise in art education, which forces one to observe and replicate the values of light and shadow.

Had I been younger, I probably would have chosen to go to a traditional atelier to spend years on studying the nuts and bolts of representational art. However, I severely doubt whether I will ever be able to sell these traditional skills, so therefore I decided to go for Animation, as a field of applied art. But whenever I have the chance I will continue to do something traditional.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A second chance

You remember the pigeons? Well, I thought the mother of the two was hiding in a flower box at the other side of the balcony, but it appeared this was a second pigeon, with its own set of eggs. Today, they hatched out, and the little babies are quite adorable!

Monday, June 29, 2009

A tribute

Tonight, Dr Sketchy paid a tribute to Michael Jackson. I must say I'm by no means a fan of the man, although I recognize his role in the history of pop music, so I was a little reluctant to join. Fortunately, our model Katherine brought us an interpretation of the phenomenon gorgeous enough to count me among her fans. Here are two 5 minute quickies and two 10 minute poses.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Just her mother

I had hoped to cover the whole development from snug eggs to cute little chicks to nice young birds etc., but during my vacation in The Netherlands in the last two weeks, the eggs hatched out.

In retrospect, I think my expectations were somewhat colored by the modern Eastern industry, and what I found in our flower box were not exactly sweet soft and yellow balls of plush in a bed of flowers and chocolate eggs.

Boy, they are downright ugly. And they smell. Their mother is hiding at the other side of the balcony, which is quite understandable. My guess so far is that some evil person has replaced the eggs by ostrich eggs, which promises some nice scenes in the next few weeks. I'll keep you informed.

Friday, May 29, 2009


With your long and tender hands you lifted it, careful not to break it. With your loving eyes you took your time to see how beautifully it was made, admiring all of its details.

I don't even know how long I had been watching the woman who had picked a flower from the trash can on the street.  Yesterday I had ignored her when she asked me for some small change, and I had recognized the bewildered look of someone who had escaped CAMH on Queen Street West. Today she caught my attention, and I saw the eyes and hands of an artist.

They say that one man's trash is another man's treasure. Let me add that one man's idiot is another man's artist and that one man's day is another man's tomorrow.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dr Sketchy

They are idiots, but I came to believe they are mostly harmless. Dr Sketchy organizes life drawing sessions, and to ensure a pleasant ambiance, the sessions take place in a local pub. To compensate for the fact that nude posing is not legally allowed there, they invite extraordinary models 'from burlesque entertainers to the transgendered to the just plain fabulous!' I had to look up 'burlesque' in my dictionary, still don't get it, but let's summarize it as 'interesting'.

Tonight our model was Dew Lily from Boylesque, posing as Easter Bunny with eggs, rider with crop, and toy boy in corsetry. What I learned from the experience is that it is much easier for me to sketch in pen, while before I went back to school I felt so much more comfortable with pencil. I really love pencilwork, so I really need to spend more time sketching in pencil.

Here are some of the longer 10-15 minute poses.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


One of my neighbours drew my attention to a pigeon having a nest in the flower box on our balcony. There seem to be two eggs, and I hope to get a chance to shoot a picture of these while mommy is shopping...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Your majesty

As I told you last year, I will not be able to attend your birthday party at April 30. I hope you appreciate my portrait, instead of me singing our national anthem with orange ribbons in my hair...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Year 1 Show

It is over. I gathered some loose ends, helped painting the school and setting up the Year 1 Show and that was it. My first year at Max the Mutt is over. What a year...

Setting up the Year 1 show was a great opportunity to review all student work submitted: there was a lot more work than could be shown at the exposition. The school had a video made, which will be shown at the school's website, I believe that all work will be photographed, and yours truly shot an impression of the opening. For those of you lucky enough to live in the GTA, the show will be open during this week, for opening hours please see the school's website

In the meantime, I will show you some of my personal favorites.

Representational Painting teaches to paint what you see, through a time-consuming process of meticulous scanning and comparing values and colors. Though I had painted before, I had never learned it the proper way, and I really loved this class. Above are shown the main still life and homework paintings from the first semester (black and white) and the second semester (color).

Principles of Drawing teaches the basics of the basics, that is, the systematical construction of a drawing through the careful measuring of distances and angles, using construction lines and plumb lines. Shown are a self portrait, a drapery study and a copy of Dürer's 'Study of the Robes of Christ'.


Beginning life drawing teaches the foundation of life drawing from Kimon Nicolaides' 'The Natural Way to Draw', through exercises that challenge you to perceive the model through all available senses. Above I have shown modeling exercises in Conté and ink, and a compilation of gestures.

Design and composition teaches how to seduce, entertain, charm, guide and teach an audience through the smart use of visual design elements like grids, cantilevers, triangles, curvilinear and color, both through analyzing existing designs in a journal and through applying these principles in new designs. Shown is a color design for a CD cover.

Perspective and Structural Drawing teaches the basics of one-point, two-point, three-point and four-point perspective. This was my least favorite class, probably through a clash with the mathematician inside me and the artistic approach taught here. Above is shown a city scape in three-point perspective.

Color and Water-based Media introduced us to color theory, through Itten's seven color contrasts, and the use of gouache, water color and acrylics. I did not learn a lot new concepts here, just got another opportunity to play with color, which is always welcome. Here I show an exploration in the contrasts of value, complement, hue and simultaneous. 

Also, we had lessons in History of Animation, and Acting and Improvisation. Both were a pleasant experience, but they did not yield anything that I can show here.

This past semester, I received a High Pass for History of Animation, Principles of Drawing, Perspective and Structural Drawing and Representational Painting, and I even got a Pass with Honors for Life Drawing and Color and Water-based Media. It was a good year.