Monday, 4 January 2016

Sketchbook #01 - Jordan Buckner

A new year is upon us and it's time to start a new sketchbook. So, in honour of this most holy occasion, I thought I'd show a glimpse at my old sketchbook which ran from about September 2014 - December 2015.



The video above gives an insight into what this sketchbook held. It was a pretty messy, convoluted bunch of rubbish. Compared to my old university / foundation year sketchbooks, this is the most relaxed, unhindered book I've done. Doodles of characters on trains and tube station platforms, or notes on animation ideas and meeting notes. It's largely a whole lot of nonsense, but in there somewhere, are some good ideas. 

I hope this at least shows what I think a sketchbook should be. This is in no way a demonstration of drawing. Sketchbooks serve different purposes, and this one, was largely for getting things down on paper. As my old art teacher used to say, "Get your brain on the page." One of it's most important functions is purely getting things going. This is where all of my awful ideas go to die. So that when I actually start working on a project, the bad stuff is out the way. I'm not a guy who sits down and draws perfect images of perfect people, I'll leave that for others. This was the place of ugly humans, in ugly situations. For me at least, it may one day serve as a reminder for what 2015 was.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year!

2016 is nearly upon us and so it's time for a blog post! I'm normally a miserable git at this time of year, but something in the air has changed my outlook and so I'm pumped up for the year ahead. It's a new year, so that means leaving any old shit at the door. Start fresh, work hard and be excited about making things. This is a time to be hopeful. New Years resolutions are for chumps, but the one resolution I think is actually worth following is simple...work harder.

I'll be starting the new year with a few really cool projects (3d scanning, animation, prints, collectives) and also with a new sketchbook. So, this week I'll try and post a video showing the main sketchbook I've been using over the last 12 - 15 months. It was a slow sketchbook that lingered around for far too long but I think it shows a change in my work.

On a completely narcissistic note; I've spent the last few years figuring things out, working out where I stand in this big abyss. Ultimately, that filled me with depression. Whilst it seemed everyone else was out travelling the world, seemingly happy, rich and successful, I largely felt stuck in a rut. And it's time to move past all of that rubbish. The nagging images of social media haunting me with the lives of others, is perhaps the one thing I'd like to get rid of in 2016. And now that I at least have a few things figured out, it's time to start making them happen. So, let's just call this a new beginning. Enjoy the New Year, but more importantly, look forward to actually making stuff.

Best,

Jordan

Friday, 18 December 2015

Inhaler - Film Poster

A few months ago I completed a poster design for Danny Sawaf's short film, Inhaler. It was a really awesome project, that went quickly and had a super open brief. So, it's about time I shared some of the work from that project. Here's a little bit of a breakdown. First the final poster.



As with any project, it all starts with thumbnails. Lots of character sketches, with some suggestion of darker themes. It needed to convey some comedy but also retain some of the disturbing, horror aspects. This stage is always most fun. Chucking around ideas and seeing what looks good. It's quick and cheap and rewarding. I could thumbnail forever.


Once and idea gets agreed upon with Danny, it's normally just a case of getting it made. That always sounds so simple when in fact, that stage can be a nightmare. It's often tricky to retain excitement and still make an image look finished. So, I normally start with traditional drawing and inking for the base of the image. Then cleanup and start working digitally. But all the time, I'm making sure I'm capturing what was good in the thumbnail.



And that was that. A fairly smooth project that turned out well. A small insight into some of my day to day work. I'll have more movie posters and illustration to show soon.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

I'm Still Here

It's been forever since I posted on my blog. Trust me, I feel the shame. This place has been dead for some time. It's like Richard III in that way. But I'm still alive and it's time to inject some energy back into these bloggy veins. So, forgive my narcissism, whilst I tell you what the hell have I been doing with my life.

As with everyone, there are ups and downs. Things go well sometimes, other times they go a bit shitty. But it's almost the end of 2015 and god damn am I ready for the 2016 roll over. Shit is going down in 2016! Well maybe it is. We'll see. But good things will hopefully occur. Good things, with good people.

So, the main reason for the quietness of late; lots of teaching. It's been great but I've been way too unproductive with my own stuff and my online presense plummits off a cliff the minute that happens. I'm working at getting better at that, so when things get busy with projects and teaching, my sketchbook doesn't become a ghost town.

Mostly, I've been teaching with the lovely folks at UCA Rochester, but I've also been giving workshops down at University of Portsmouth for the BA Animation course and will be over at University of Brighton in January to talk to the Moving Image students. It's still a super weird thing for me. I feel old and young at the same time, both novice and professional. But it's good fun and I learn a lot purely in the act of teaching itself. I realise what shit is important because I keep repeating them to students. Check your goddam tonal value! 

All of a sudden it went from September to December and I'm back in the world of my own freelance work, which is great. I'm making my own stuff again / working for others and with others. So, more of that very soon. Hopefully some print work as well as a super cool cg animation that may happen at some point next year. Lots of pies in different ovens. Or fingers in pies? Something about pies. One is pregnancy, the other is work. I mean the work one.

This post I guess, is me saying that I'm back. Out of a rather stressful, negative time and hopefully onto more exciting things. All sorts of things. Most exciting of all, is that those things are no longer singular. I'm not really a CG artist any more, in title. I still do CG work for clients, but I also do illustration, conceptual design, animation and more. Plus teaching. That's actually what I'm happiest about most. I feel like I'm making it out of the odd post graduation blur, when you feel lost and adrift at the mercy of the world. And now I'm more certain now of what I do and what I want to do. Hence, the excitement about moving forward. It's all about the future these days. Fuck the past.

That's it from me. I've got some super cool but secretive paintings that I'm working on which I can show soon, plus some other various bits and bobs that I'll put up this week. It's lovely to be back. Hopefully I'll stay around these parts for a bit and will be posting more regularly. Just like a fully functioning adult.

Best,

Jordan


p.s. I just completed another year of self employment tax return. Which definitely means I'm a proper functioning adult now right?

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Osborne 2015

Another warm up painting...George Osborne with a hint of Don Draper. Budget day 2015. I didn't fucking vote for them.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Warm Up Doodles

Here be some successful warm up sketches from last week that I took into Photoshop for some painting addition. I forgot how much easier things become with a solid base sketch.

David Lynch / Paul Thomas Anderson

Friday, 19 June 2015

"2001: A Space Odyssey" Print by Jordan Buckner

I am hugely excited to announce the release of my first ever movie poster print. L.A based pop culture gallery, Hero Complex Gallery, are releasing my poster for Kubrick’s greatest, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Available in 3 variants, this giclee print is limited to 100 per edition and is sized at approx 12” x 24”. Check out the details below for more info.








- Fine Art Giclee Print
- 3 Editions Available
- Limited to 100 per Edition
- Approx 12“ x 24”
- Available for $35 (approx £22 for any British folk)
A huge thanks to the lovely people at Hero Complex Gallery for helping produce this.


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Character Doodles



Okaaaaaaaay, so, it's time to update the old blog. So, here are some conceptual doodles for a project I've got going on the backburner. This type of stuff is always fun, so more of these soon I hope. More interesting doodads soon!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Character Doodlin'


Here a few late night doodles to keep the blog churning away.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Talking Shop - Monkey Dust

Recently, I've been wondering where my passion for animation came from. And in truth, I've been stumped. It was never Pixar or Disney, I knew that much. They never really had the profound life changing effect on me that they do so many others. I knew it wasn't Chuck Jones cartoons either. Yea, the rabbit was funny, but it never made me want to forge a career.The more I thought about the issue, the more I worried. It started to develop into a pathetic existential crisis. Maybe animation wasn't for me? Maybe I wouldn't be able to work in the industry anymore because I can't reference the first time animation hit me like a bolt of lightening? Maybe I'd be outed and I'd be force to leave. I wouldn't be allowed anywhere near Soho, and they'd take my degree back. They'd all bloody know I was a sham. I'd have to become something else, an accountant, or an estate-agent or something. These were dark times. I couldn't rely on quoting Kubrick as an inspiration any longer, it was becoming embarrassing. I needed some bloody animation to reference but I couldn't think of anything. I was a goner...


And then, after a night at the pub back in my home town, it hit me. Walking through the dying highstreet, past drunken children and aggressive kebab wielding maniacs, I had a flash back...this was the moment, the big reveal. The big life changing event that I would quote forever more!...well kind of...I couldn't actually remember what the hell the inspirational animation was called. I just knew that those dark alleyways of my hometown were perfectly captured in an old animation I used to watch. I remembered watching dark, grimey, green stories play out in the dead of night on the BBC. I remember the feeling of watching that animation. I was too young to be seeing this stuff and I should have turned it off. But I was a rebel at heart, and I watched week after week on the small TV I had in my room. The memory had hit me, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember the name. Finally, my Desert Island Discs recollection story had hit me and I was too stupid to know the name of the fucking tv show. Now I'd never win an Oscar. 

So, I did what anyone would do. I opened Google and with as much intelligence as I could muster, I typed "bbc 2 animation series from the 2000's."...and there it was...the answer I had been searching for. The solution to my woes. My restoration of faith.



"Monkey Dust"...Instantly I remembered. The golden light of an angel hit the Wikipedia link on the screen and I was transported back to when things were easier. I was Indiana Jones, and this was my big golden egg thing. I was Neo, and god blimey I was about to take the green pill. No blue pill. Or was it the red pill. Who cares, I was about to be fulfilled. For the next two hours I sat watching clips on Youtube. I ordered the DVD and I felt like I belonged on earth once more. I could finally fit into society safe in the knowledge that I too had a bullshit story to share about the day I decided to be an animator. I could finally attend dinner parties and be an adult.

Monkey Dust was mine. It was the TV series that made me want to make animation. I didn't know it at the time, but now I realise how important it was to me. At the time of release, I would have been 13 years old. At that age, most people seemed to be down the park smoking crack or taking vodka shots directly through an eyeball. But I was never really that person. I spent most of my time in my room, drawing and watching hugely inappropriate tv shows and films. 

It's difficult to describe exactly what Monkey Dust was like. It was at times, dark, disturbing and melancholy; whilst often being side-splittingly funny, offensive and depraved. It was a string of adjectives, all oxymorons to one another. But more importantly, it was a snapshot of a time and a place...it was Britain in all its glory and horror. Complete with depressed sex addicts, psuedo-intellectuals and yuppies.  Rather than a patriotic, nationalistic love for a place that never existed, this mocked the realities of life in Britain and demonstrated that at the core of all broken societies, existed people with problems. Both good and bad.



Among them, my favourite, Clive Pringle. A middle aged man, who walks home each night to his flat in the city. On his arrival, his wife questions his whereabouts, to which he always responds with a bizarre string of excuses, all of which are plots to fictional stories; including 2001: A Space Odyssey, The A-Team, Humpty Dumpy and Hotel California. His wife points out the obvious lie, forcing Clive to reveal his true whereabouts, most often being sexually degrading tales, followed by his catchphrase, "...and that, darling, is what really happened." 

There was Ivan Dobsky, The Meat-Safe Murderer - A man held in prison who is frequently exonerated, bounces around the outside world on a space-hopper called Mr Hoppy, only to find life on the outside a little harder to live in. Each week he would be released, only to once again commit horrendous crimes on his smiling space-hopper.



Then there was the divorced dad and his son Timmy. A dad so depressed from the tales of his old family that he commits suicide on each episode, whilst his son sits helplessly in the other room, giving his true feelings on his step-dad, Roger.

And of course, the famous Paedofinder General, a character who leads a witch-hunt for potential sex offenders across the UK. Strikingly current at the time, he listed many reasons for his trials. In one instance, he targets the cast of a production of Fiddler on the Roof, citing, "By the powers invested in me by a text vote on Sky News, I find you guilty!"


I don't prescribe complete influence of my life to this little know animation, but I do attribute it with being one of the first works to demonstrate that people all have problems. That realisation of our own failures and the failures around us, encourages empathy, rather than prejudice. And that rather than a constant obsession with a perfect world, are we not better understanding the realities of our situation in the horrors that we often ignore. Monkey Dust not only taught me to appreciate this style of storytelling, but also informed me that animation could be dark, adult and effecting.

Cartoonist Chris Ware once stated "Happiness is overrated." A quote that most people will retreat from, but in truth, a quote that so perfectly describes life and art. To constantly obsess about ones happiness is to ignore the realities of our surroundings. Monkey Dust manages to explore this void. It remains on the small list of animations that specifically engage with the darkness of our culture. Sometimes being deeply disturbing and harrowing, but often hilarious and comforting. Whatever point I'm trying to make about this shows effect, it's probably best to just say, go watch Monkey Dust.

Notes:
If you are interested in more inane articles of this sought, why not check out Talking Shop, a bunch of blog posts about animation and whatnot. And for students from UCA, Monkey Dust - Season 1, is available on DVD from Rochester Campus Library.

Here's a Doodle!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Computer Animation or: How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love Pandora's Box

It's been some time since I updated my blog with any detailed content, so here's something to help break that silence. Over the past year or so, my freelance work has changed a fair bit and I'm starting to work on things more attuned to my style. I've also been working on non-CG projects, which have been helpful to get my head out of the game and reassess the best ways to work as an independent artist.

With all of this in mind, I'd like to start talking more about the things I'm learning and the things I care about within my work life. So, to start, I'm going to discuss a recent project and how thoughtful art direction / methodology is making my life way more manageable. In addition to how this is enabling me to find a new way of working in the computer animation field.

In January of this year, I completed some work for an independent film which has significantly helped me rethink methodology and art direction. Until now, I just kind of made CG assets to look the way I expected them. I tried to art direct to an extent, but I guess you could say I was still finding my feet. So, for a long time, I never really felt like the work I made was expressive of me. It's been a weakness for a long time, but I think it's changing. 

The big shakeup during this project was time. The project deadline was really short. Like really, really short, with only a few weeks to complete a full sequence. This meant it would be impossible to make the film using my traditional pipeline. There wasn't time to render, or make smooth, animated characters. There wasn't time to UV and texture paint assets. There was only time to be as efficient as possible. Economy was key.

The director expressed a real liking for some of my paintings, so instantly there was an aesthetic to my drawing that needed to be captured within CG. This was great news, because I suddenly realised my drawings are expressive of me, whilst my CG work so far, tends to feel distant to my intent. So, I sat down and tried to figure out how it may be possible. The first thing I did was look at other artists who seem to be in control of there work. So, I reread David OReilly's paper Basic Animation Aesthetics for guidance.

The importance of animation aesthetics is such a subtle yet vitally important one. It might seem superficial to discuss these things, especially because cinema is so much more to do with content and story than a pure aesthetic experience, but nonetheless the visual nature of animation calls for debate on the subject. There is a continuous raft of animation, both commercial and independent, which looks the same, and I donʼt believe it has to be so. The more we think about the subject the more playful and interesting computer animation becomes, the medium feels to me like a recently opened Pandora's box which is still being examined, understood and tamed.
David OReilly

Preproduction Character Sketches

OReilly's outlook, that the software is a Pandora's box waiting to be explored, is hugely relieving. I used to be a man who clung to rules. I worked the way I was told and followed the rules at every turn; and I was never happy. But this has never been the case with drawing or painting, those mediums always felt expressive and exploratory. The complexities of CG require rules, but for a long time, I'd been a slave to those rules. So, with this project, I decided to just see where things went (I know I've said this before). I started with a quick character sketch based on the director's description and preferences to help define a solid art direction. Instantly, the director was on-board, so it was time to open Pandora's box and start making things. This usually is where the problems start...
One of the main problems with 3d animation is that it takes so long to learn and then to use, from constructing a world to rendering it. There are many knock on effects of this, mainly it prevents people from attempting to use it and employ it artistically, the process is very discouraging for the individual to go ahead and make their film. Simple changes can take hours to do, and very often the process is so rigid it doesn't allow any changes at all.
David OReilly

These problems are hugely stressful and discouraging as an independent animator. The time waiting for renders to tick by takes its toll and it is rare for Maya to feel like a creative medium. So, the time constraint of this project actually led me to a new way of working which is incredibly exciting. Rather than rendering using conventional techniques, I used hardware rendering, which captures the scene directly as it appears on my computer. You move the character or lights and they react instantly. What you see on screen is what you get. Obviously, you sacrifice a lot of visual fidelity but the payoff is refreshing, flexibility. The addition restraints actually lead you to be more creative. It seems like a really obvious workflow now, but no one had ever mentioned it to me as a viable way of film making.

This new approach of instant feedback film making was incredible (although I feel dumb for discovering it so late.) The one caveat however, is aesthetic understanding. A few years ago, I would have struggled to make a scene look good in hardware rendering. It's a bit like watching Blue Peter as a kid. The presenter would make something out of egg boxes and paper-mache and it looked great, but when you gave it a go, it looked like shit. Therefore, you need a certain level of visual understanding in order to make things work.


So, I got to work making some really simple characters and objects. Because the aesthetics were cruder, I had a lot more room for imperfection. I didn't have to spend 20 hours refining the vertices or adjusting edges. Once I had a few assets in software, I started testing out how to implement my art direction. Rather than using UV layouts and textures, I used vertex colouring to paint each face of a model. Again, it's a simple approach but instantly worked. These early tests were inspired by the amazing Eran Hall. Bold, simple colouring to make characters feel almost 2d.

This approach then transitions across to the production of the environment. The environment of the film was an abstracted void space, so it was open to interpretation. Hardware rendering made this super easy. I could model things, vertex paint them, light them etc and instantly see the results. It forced me to try out new techniques, bodging ideas together to make the visuals I wanted. For example, rather than using a glow (as seen on the table) I just vertex painted some geometry with transparency. A lot of the projects I work on involve hyper-real CG, which means spending crazy amounts of time test rendering. This time, things came together pretty quickly. It all felt so much more natural and uncluttered.

And then it was time to rig...I stuck to my rule of economy. I kept the rig simple, partly because of time, but also because I didn't want the headache associated with slow, complex controls. The low poly nature of the character allowed for really nice deformations as well as simple animation using blendshapes. I had animated on 2's for a previous project and wanted to use the same technique. It felt natural to the aesthetic quality of film and also is becoming a personal preference. 

I can't show the film online, and unfortunately, some unforeseen circumstances affected the project and the deadline became even shorter, so the final film was more a complex previs than a fully animated sequence. However, as an exercise, this was huge. The restraints and pressures that came along with this project forced me to analyse my work in the best way possible. I'm guilty of just making things because I think it might please someone or because I assume that's how things are made, so this allowed me to almost step outside of my own head and reassess my whole body of work.

Wireframe Character and Rig
Lately, I've been working on a lot of non-CG projects which have led me to think about my future work. I've still not made my own personal film since graduation (and I'm not necessarily in a rush to do so) but when I do, this will be the route I explore. David OReilly's idea of software as a Pandora's box reawakens excitement for the medium. In addition, the realisation that my drawings are most expressive of me gives me a new route to explore. Lots of this stuff all sounds so obvious, and that's precisely why I wanted to discuss it here. Most of my life has been spent just doing what was expected. Perhaps this came from education or just my own mindset. It is only now that I start to question it all. Perhaps it is the reintroduction of traditional artwork that brings back this sense of exploration. But whatever it is, I'm on board and I'm keen to see where it all goes.