Animating Quads

A couple years back I was Animating on Free Birds, and during that time I was the Quad Lead. I did some quad work on Cats & Dogs 2 and Twilight at Tippett Studio, so was excited to bring to the table what I learned from my friends over there. Along with that experience, there was a ton of research and discovery that went into figuring out how these four legged animals move, and I loved every minute of it!





Flying Trot 



Animating Quad TIPS!

(There is a lot of great broad information out there on animating quads, so I don't want to re-say what's already been said - and so well! So here are some random tips I have come across while animating quads.) 

- Reference Reference Reference! Find it, study it, use it! Making this stuff up might be faster, but its also the fast way street to unbelievable animation.
- If you use a cycle, bake it down, make the feet legit so they aren't sliding around - EVEN if there is grass covering them. YES sliding feet are felt even if you can't see them contacting the ground.

- Dirty up the cycle so you get variation in the movements, so it doesn't FEEL like a cycle. This pass is a lot of fun, because its what makes the animal start to feel believable! Think about what the animal is doing and how its surroundings will affect its movement.

- Simplify the anatomy and understand what is happening beneath all that fur! As a study, I suggest take some of your reference and draw the simplified skeleton over the animal in each frame. Once you hit play it should be more clear as to what is making the animal move and how.

- Scapula's! I feel like this is the secret ingredient for some really impressive quad animation. This is also what will give the animal weight. So it is a necessary component to their movement, but often missed. Cat's scapula's push up the most, dogs some, horses don't break the silhouette, but you still want to animate them since you will feel them sliding beneath the surface.

- Break the hips up from the chest so you don't get "sausage body".

 - Floppy ears will obviously have more overlap than pointy, but make sure on the pointy ears you aren't giving them too much overlap. There is cartilage going through them and wont feel believable if they are too floppy. Ears are another way to show thought process and personality! They can almost be like the brows, anticipating movements and showing internal thoughts.

- When you can't easily see the far eye, generally you want to point the nose towards where the animal is looking.

- The timing of the feet in the air versus on the ground. Roughly about 1/3. Most beginning animator key it 50/50. - Ryan Hood

Some of those awesome resources I was talking about...

- Animating Animals Pinterest
- Eadweard Muybridge Studies
- How to Draw Animals by Jack Ham
- The Art of Animal Drawing by Ken Hulgren
- Will Groebe Master Class: Animating Animals
- Animating Animals with FORCE with Michael Mattesi
-Real life!

And if you have tips of your own, please do share! I love this stuff!


Do you know where your Direwolf is?


Schoolism: Stephen Silvers Character Design - Complete!

I just finished Stephen Silvers Character Design class through Schoolism! I learned a great amount from each of Stephen's lectures and especially from his draw-overs. It's amazing how he could make my design so much better with just a few alterations! I feel like my biggest improvements are my confidence in my line, drawing through the forms - making sure everything fits together, and pushing the shapes. I haven't gotten my final critique yet, so I'll find out soon what Stephen feels my biggest improvements are and what I should work on moving forward!

Lesson 1 we drew a character based on a description we were provided with. And Lesson 9 was the same assignment, but applying everything we learned throughout the class. Here is the comparison:

There are certain elements from the original I do still like, since it's more film type details, but I am really happy with the final character! He is definitely more solid and interesting... feels like he is actually leaning on the counter, has more character, pushed shapes - yeah! Much better!  I didn't spend as much time on his paint job as I wanted to, but I did the best I could with the time I had. I'll give more time to the next one!

If you want to see the other Lessons leading up to the 9th, continue on!

Lesson 2: Thinking, Looking, Doing.

This week was all about design fundamentals and the importance of silhouettes. The thing that really stuck was even with doing silhouettes, its still important to get the gesture and form down. Once I treated even my little silhouettes as more of a gesture, my shapes began to unflatten.

The long assignment of the class is designing a Jekyll and Hyde character. I decided to do a pig scientist that would turn into warthog. Here are the silhouettes I did exploring different design possibilities.

Lesson 3: Construction/Caricature

This week covered the importance of construction, what it means to avoid the ladder and tap into the realm of caricature. He gave great examples of design issues and how to avoid them. This was extremely helpful! So many things to think about and keep in mind that all make for a stronger design!

One part of the assignment was figuring out the construction of a bunch of heads and also tracing over faces to see their proportions and what makes them look the way they do.

Another part of the assignment this week was to do a drawing of this dude with an awesome stash and bowler hat.

Then I had to put the picture and drawing away and do characters based on his essence.

Also did a bunch of other caricatures...

And finally continued on with our Jekyll and Hyde assignment by adding more character, clothing and personality. I first did some pig and warthog studies to get familiar with the animals.

Lesson 4: The Features

Stephen had many great tips on how to break down the features to make them simple to draw from all angles and also how to push them in a way that still makes the characters believable. This weeks assignment was all about studying.

 Lesson 5: Clean-Up

This week Stephen demoed several different ways to clean up a drawing while focusing on scale and proportion. The idea of continuing to draw over your drawings again, then again... then again and as many times as you can to further explore and push was a huge thing I learned this week. It's so easy to get locked down on an idea which often leads to stiff boring drawings.

From this point we had to choose only Jekyll or Hyde to continue on with. I choose Dr. Jekyll, but I hope to finish off Hyde now that the class is over so I have the complete set.

Lesson 6: Turnarounds

I learned a lot of tricks to keep a character consistent while turning it around. Still tough though...

Lesson 7: Expressions and Attitudes

Stephen drew a range of expressions while focusing on rhythm, balance and flow. He also did a color demo that was extremely helpful. It's amazing how fast he can go from line art to a finished piece!

And here is the final part of the Jekyll assignment!

 Lesson 8: Memory sketching and how to approach keeping and drawing in a sketchbook daily.

I realized this week that this is what I have to work on the most. I have a really hard time drawing something if I don't have it in front of me while I am drawing it. I realize the more I do this the easier it will become. *pencil to forehead* Draw Draw Draw!

All in all this was an amazing class that I have obviously grown in and had a lot of fun in! I would highly recommend this class to anyone who is looking to improve their character design skills from an amazing teacher that is also a working professional! Thanks Stephen Silver for an amazing class and getting me drawing again!


Updated Demo Reel

I had a lot of fun reworking my reel this weekend with new shots from Free Birds -- thanks for viewing!

Jess Morris Demo Reel 2013 from Jess Morris on Vimeo.

Schoolism: Stephen Silvers Character Design - Lesson 1

Last week I started an online Character Design class taught by Stephen Silver -- designer of cartoons such as Kim Possible and Clerks. He is a super nice guy and talented artists and I am very excited to be learning from him!

The first lesson is for him to see where I am at and how I draw. He gave us this description and here is what I got!

NAME: Walter Chipwitther
WHO: wealthy entrepreneur
AGE: in his 60's
WHERE: London, 2011
PERSONALITY: jolly, full of laughter, enthusiastic man happy to be alive and well.
CLOTHING: Wears a bow tie, smoking jacket and monocle
LOOK: Heavy set, around 5'6


Free Birds!

About a year and a half ago Louie and I picked up and moved to Dallas to work on Free Birds at Reel FX. Though everyone was excited for us, quite a few thought we were crazy... and trust me, I wasn't sure we weren't. Well, I can tell you with certainty it was a good decision! We miss Cali and our friends/family there more than they'll ever know, but moving to Dallas brought us so much more than we ever imagined! It was such a unique experience working first hand with director, Jimmy Hayward, and producer, Scott Mosier! We learned tons from their experience's and talent (both super awesome and down to earth guys too!)! Opportunities presented themselves that never have before, challenging us in a way that gave us no choice but to grow and get better. Louie and I are surrounded by so many talented artists that inspire us everyday and we feel lucky we can call many of them friends. And today... finally... after all of our hard work and dedication... Free Birds hits the big screen!

This is Reel FX's first feature, most of the artists first feature and many artists first film EVER! Pretty special!

We hope you and your kids enjoy this silly holiday movie!

(This is a still from one of my shots! I'll post up my reel soon so you can see what other shots I did on this film!)



I haven't used physical mediums in a very. long. time. So this was a lot of fun and reminded me how much I love to paint! Started with water color, with some gouache touch ups. About 4x3 in.



Frog Sketches


Penguin Sketch

FINALLY got around to sketching again, work took up all my time for a while... penguins are a fun way to get back into it! Drawaholics.


Happy Holidays 2012!


Gesture Drawing Class, Week 6: Story

The final week of this drawing class we focused on story. This was a really fun exercise since it brings together everything we have been practicing week to week and giving it story.

The first round we were given five poses and based on the mood or idea of the pose, we had to come up with a story idea. I was surprised at how difficult it was for me to come up with ideas. Made me realize I have to practice this exercise a lot more...

 We then had to do the same thing, but find our own poses:

 I also did some draw over fixes of my bear drawings from last week:

Gesture Drawing Class, Week 6: Extrapolation

This week, we had to take the poses from our model and extrapolate the idea, in to an animal. This forces you to try and convey a similar feeling with completely different anatomical limitations. It was extremely challenging, but also gave me an exercise I plan on continuing on doing!