GIFs and Animating Illustration.

GIF -an acronym for ‘Graphic Interchange Format’ born in the 1980s and describing a file which supports both moving and static images.   They usually comprise of a simple, very short animation and are on a constant loop (great to embedding into emails or websites!).

 
Ballet Dancer GIF animation Laura Hope Illustration
 

So GIFs, I’ve been wanting to share my process and thoughts on these for a while and haven’t really known how to but now I have my blog I thought this would be the perfect place to do it.  My fascination with moving images has always been there, I grew up watching all the original Disney films that were created using traditional frame animation after all. I think it’s really what started my love affair with drawing so I suppose it’s only natural that I find myself getting into it now.

A few months ago it dawned on me that, although I hadn’t studied animation at University level, I could learn how to do it myself.  Sounds silly, I know, but animation had always been this illusive, complicated, tech-y thing that only nerdy people who sat in front of computers for hours could master.  I had never really thought about creating GIFs or subtly animating my illustrations, in my head it was always ‘huge feature length Pixar film’ or nothing…

Makeup Illustration GIF Sketch
Makeup Illustration GIF Sketch
Makeup Illustration GIF Sketch

So I started researching like mad, looking at the types of animation and how to go about actually making them.  Turns out there are lots of different ways, which I won’t go into depth about because I’m by no means an expert, but essentially you can either make animations using specific software to move parts of the character you have created, which is what they use for a lot of 3D animation films today, or you can use ‘frames’.  This is what Disney were using way back in the beginning and it isn’t used much anymore because it is extremely time consuming. Each ‘frame’ or tiny movement must be drawn/captured separately and then these still images are then shown in quick succession to give the illusion of movement.  I love animations made in this way because they have a certain quality about them, they aren’t smooth or perfect but they feel alive…

Slicing onions illustrated gif
Gif process Laura Hope Illustration

After researching it was down to business…  And my process has evolved to something like this:

-          I decide on a simple movement or moment to animate.

-          I find a video (usually on Youtube) of this movement.

-          I study it, play it and pause it, sketching from different paused moments.

-          Once I have a few sketches done I then draw them up properly before scanning them and editing them digitally, in the same way I would if I was creating a single illustration.

-          Then, using Photoshop, I layer up the images and using the ‘Transparency’ setting I check that all the illustrations line up. (Animators used to do this manually using a lightbox)…

-          Finally, I use the ‘Animation’ window to put the images/frames together and play around with the amount of time between each frame.  Usually it’s around 0.2 seconds because you need it to be slow enough to see each frame but fast enough to trick your eye into thinking it’s moving.

Frames animation Photoshop

As you can probably tell, creating GIFs is rather a long process and they usually take me a good 2 – 3 days solid work to create a few seconds of movement but it’s such a rewarding result! Sometimes it doesn’t go quite as smoothly as above, in the case of the lady applying lipstick once I put them all together they didn’t quite work so I had to spend a lot of time layering, erasing and merging parts of the image until it resembled what I wanted. I also decided that she needed to blink because it looked odd having her eyes stay open for such a long time so I had to edit in a blink digitally as I hadn’t drawn that originally…

I’m hoping to keep improving and plan to make them gradually more and more complicated.  The first one was the slicing onions, then the lady applying lipstick and finally this ballet dancer with full body movement.  Eventually, I would like to create some full animated scenes with backgrounds or maybe even a little story that lasts a few minutes rather than a few seconds, I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve…  Someone who I really admire, and who’s Berghaus advert you may have seen on the TV recently, is Em Cooper.  She animates slightly differently because she paints directly onto glass panels with oil paints and films that, but the way she expresses movement is just how I try to and uses art in her animations. There is something so special about bringing drawings/paintings/illustration to life. Don’t get me wrong, the 3D animation we have nowadays is much more impressive and ‘believable’ but there should always be a special place in everyone’s heart for traditional animation…

Ballet gif sketches
Ballet gif sketches
Ballet dancer illustration Laura Hope

#LifeDrawingLive (the anatomy class) with the Royal Academy of Arts

Earlier this week I finally had the time to catch up on the RAA’s most recent Life Drawing Live class.  It’s the first time I’ve ever tried one of their live classes and I will definitely do it again, as well as going back through the archives and tuning in to some of their older ones…

Life drawing is such a vital practice for any illustrator and over the years I’ve noticed how much of a positive impact it has on my skill level as well as my creativity.  At University, I kept up with regular life drawing classes and even when I went into full-time employment I used to travel to Oxford for weekend classes but since I’ve started freelancing, my life drawing has stopped.  I think it’s partly down to the lack of life drawing classes in my local area but also because I’m often away at weekends for events meaning I can’t attend the ones in Oxford anymore.  So it was a real treat when I stumbled across #LifeDrawingLive and was able to attend a class from my studio!  Amazing!  It was an hour and a half long and looked at different ways of drawing, from focusing on quick poses to muscle/joint sketches right through to equine anatomy and drawing a Welsh Mountain Pony called Romeo…

Here are some of my favourites… Sorry for the picture quality, I’m afraid I did these on nice big bits of A3 paper but unfortunately it meant they wouldn’t fit in my scanner…

Pony Illustration Sketch Laura Hope
Life Drawing Sketch Laura Hope
Life Drawing Sketch Laura Hope
Life Drawing Sketch Laura Hope
Life Drawing Sketch Laura Hope

Hello... How do I start an Illustration Blog?

So, I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a while… I’m sure a lot of people start their blogs this way, so sorry it’s not very original but it’s true.  I’m usually quite good at ‘just getting on with things’ but in the case of this blog it’s been a different story…

I’m a huge fan of all the ‘self help/positive mindset/go get ‘em, girl’ stuff that’s circulating around the internet at the moment and I’ve always been the first to say ‘What have you got to lose?’ but something about writing a blog just seemed utterly terrifying. Now, I’m sure that sounds ridiculous coming from someone who quit their full-time job a year ago to become ‘an illustrator’, but I guess it’s because I ‘know’ illustration.  I studied it at University for 3 years and I’ve always been told I was ‘good at drawing’ but blogging, I don’t know the first thing about blogging!  I’m not one of those Instagram influencer types who can take wonderfully edgy photos and the last time I wrote anything longer than a text message was my dissertation, and no one want’s to read that on a blog!  Also, what do you even write about on an Illustration Blog??

Being the novice blogger that I am, I did what I always do in sticky situations, I googled.  I googled what to write, and nothing came up… So I googled other bloggers and illustrators that I knew of, desperately searching for something that would inspire me to create an earth-shattering blog…  But then I realised, what I liked about other bloggers was just seeing a glimpse of daily their life or just being able to connect with them in some small way over their frustrations and insecurites.  What if my blog wasn’t earth-shattering?  What if it was just… me?

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a big fan of social media and I don’t enjoy ‘putting myself out there’, however everything I read, watch and listen to tells me that it is my interest to expose myself.  Oh but how little I want to expose myself!  As a creative, I just want to shut myself in a box, create something and then leave it on a park bench anonymously somewhere for someone to find.  Sadly, being like that gets you nowhere.  We live in a world that is so connected yet so disconnected.  Social media breeds ‘fake’, people are constantly putting out these sort of Stepford Wives versions of themselves and not showing any of the reality or the mess.  I’m forever guilty of it, I stress so much about my Instagram posts and getting the perfect shot and only putting out a totally polished, finished illustration.  I think part of the pressure comes with the fact that Instagram boxes your creativity into a small square, a caption and some hashtags.  Oh, and is it just me or do GIFs always end up looking blurry and awful on there? 

It’s funny, I’ve been worrying so much about what to write about that I’ve neglected to realise what I great possibility a blog is.  It’s something that can be whatever I want it to be.  It’s something that doesn’t have to follow trends or look polished.  It’s somewhere where I can share progress shot of my work or rough sketches and ideas.  It’s somewhere where I can be totally creative without worrying about what time of day is best to post or which photo will look best on my feed.  And it’s somewhere where those few people who want to see a little bit further into my life as an illustrator can find me.

Laura x

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