Monday, May 9, 2011

Animated people - Ryan Woodward

Last week I had the chance to attend "Animayo 2011", the local animation festival put together by acclaimed director and film maker Damián Perea. As most festivals, is a great chance to meet new faces, and chit chat about the wonderful art of animation and film making, and share views with enthusiastic and professional folks alike.

What I never expected was how big this event could become. Not only for the benefit of our community here in the Canary Islands, but on a personal level too. I had the great honor to meet an outstanding artist...

Yep, this is it, Ryan Woodward! I assure you this is not photoshopped, even though it came out a bit shaky...if you´re bothered by that, you got to understand that you´re just getting a sense of the intensity of that moment, nothing else :)

Ryan Woodward has become an extraordinary inspiration for many artists out there, including myself. Photographers, designers, traditional and digital artists, animators...a huge variety of individuals enjoyed his workshops during the festival. His range of work is quite diverse, from illustration to effects animation, concept and figure drawing, comic books, advertising...Right now he works as a storyboard and animatic artist for films, and also teaches Animation in the department of Visual Arts, at BYU Brigham Young University in Utah (USA).

Unlike just a "behind the scenes" or a "making of" type of event, Ryan really did leave something behind for the audiences to learn from. He showed us the essence of his work, he talked about why he made certain was not just a technical showcase of his portfolio: he really did talk about the creativity behind his work and his feelings towards it. He even dared to share very personal stories that made him who he was in life, both as an artist and a family man. Having met him in person and having seen his work many times by now, I think that he truly embraces the artistic path as a way of living and is not afraid of the challenges that such journey will bring, but also actually enjoys very much the learning experience and the work he passionately puts into getting better and better every day. And I believe it even more so after getting his prompt response on his Vimeo comments box, and briefly talking to him in person about his experiences with Michel Gagné, and hearing him making clear that he is no more than just another lover of art and animation, and that he still has a lot to learn. A very humble person, very inspiring and very down to earth too.

Some examples of Ryan´s work that reminded me a lot of Michel Gagné:

[**Missing some notes from the first workshop....will write these when I compile them together and write it in a logical form when I re-edit this post**]

We had a deeper insight on Ryan´s professional work: he took us through his workflows for illustration and quick concepts (photo reference – pencil and ink – digitizing and color in Photoshop) and showed us some of what I´ve found to be the most impressive film animatics and storyboards I´ve ever seen in my life (at least till now). He talked about the balance during production: sometimes you have to just not worry about story (unfortunately) and dive into executing something that satisfies clients demands (ie. Advertising agencies) and looks aesthetically pleasing.

For storyboarding and film making was quite different though: a more considerate process, but heavily dependent on teamwork and of course the director. Interestingly enough, Ryan has a very strong, marked style of work that we can identify, but he has worked in both Animation and Live Action, so he has been forced to adapt his style to whatever medium needed. He mentioned how for animation you might need more poses and key frames to draw, but things would be a bit more rough and sketchy, to get the sense of movement….whereas in Live Action you wouldn´t need such accurate definition of where things go in terms of motion, since its naturally easier for actors to define it themselves when they act. Also, on Live Action, directors apparently tend to like very pretty looking boards, with strong compositions and a good grasp of the mood and feel… but not always. Sam Raimi was the person he told us about as an example of this being true. Apparently the boards for Spiderman 3 were of such detail that the Production designer got angry about it, since it also touched upon his own job of making things look in a certain way... Spike Jonze seemed to prefer a bit more of an ambiguous look to his shots in Where the Wild Things Are, perhaps busy and not with such nice compositions ... to get a more intimate feels with the main character, as if we were looking through his eyes. However, the core of storyboarding is essentially the same in any form of film making: thinking about the area in which everything is taking place, sometimes throw the camera out a bit to establish positions and character relationships, or bring it closer to convey more emotion through the character´s face, or play with angles to add a more dynamic feel, or flatter for a more “comedic” effect, etc…

His animatics were mindblowing. The audience were literally hooked at the amazing work he had put on the animatics for some of the Hollywood films he worked on. Very readable, and executed with a lot of details...reminded me a lot of the storyreels from "The Incredibles", where timing, keyframes, scene mood...even things like camera focal length and depth of field were defined. Music and sound effects, scratch voices...he admitted that doing animatics is like making "little films" and you really learn a lot from doing them. I asked him how does he figure the timings out of each element (scene, shot, actions, sounds and music sync, etc...) and he just simply replied that is a matter of "figuring it out" with experience and your brain. Really fascinating, and worth attending his talks just to see his animatics!!

On his last workshop he talked about a very interesting side of formation as an artist in the industry: personal projects. Ryan said that all creative people have a desire to show the world their artistic expression. He had a quite simple yet clear and concise concept to follow: "Inspiration never comes if you wait for it, is just moments in life which inspire you to do something and give birth to motivation (...) ... each and every one of us has a creative beast inside...that beast is what makes us want to make stuff of our own, our own personal little projects. If we don´t feed that beast, the beast will eat us!" Such mentality took him to amazing journeys in life, and to meet people he would have never thought of. And despite all the financial hurdles he might have faced in order to accomplish such endeavors, he got by and made the best out of it by branching out and opening new doors in the industry.

For instance, he talked about his short film "The turtle and the shark" based on a legend from the island of Samoa, in Polynesia (Oceania)... Very personal in nature, this film took inspiration from Ryan´s own interest and experiences with the culture and life in Samoa , and he dared to conceive the whole visual style to resemble traditional Samoan paintings and craft. And while he admitted his personal striving did not succeed much, he revealed that it did help him to get exposure and get to be known by "The Polynesian Cultural Center" (Laie, Hawaii), which commissioned Ryan to do multiple animations in the same style. You can watch these in his website here.

Ryan´s work is aesthetically unique, very graphic and visual, but also very rhythmic and musical. He talked about how much he loves dance, movement and kinetic forces in his drawings. His personal project "Thought of You" became a booming phenomenon over the internet in the past 8 or 9 months or so...he himself declared to the audience how he believed his piece was the reason he was called to Animayo this year. It is also what allowed me to know about him, and what brought me today to write about it. “Thought of You” has definitely had an amazing impact on my understanding of animation as art, and on the fact that, really, it is realistic to say that “there is no limits” to our imagination…and is beautiful, rewarding, and satisfying, to keep doing this for a living and to keep striving for the best, no matter where we are…
I thanked Ryan personally, but I´d like to thank him again, for all what he has shown with just his presence and his love for animation and art. I´d love to attend his class at the States someday and never stop learning from him.




wow thanks for the post Ravi! :)

Angelo Sta. Catalina said...

wow man.. thats amazing to have met him.. very cool post..

RVG said...

Hey guys! Yeah it was post doesn´t do much justice though. His work is top notch and his teaching too. Check out the Conte Animated Book on his site, full of art goodness :)

RVG said...

Cheers guys, you should check his new book coming out!