Friday, April 30, 2010

Shapeshifter!


One of the first things you learn when starting out in character design is the importance of shape and the almighty silhouette. Are the elements that make up your character clean and legible? And more importantly, do they telegraph the personality that you are trying to evoke? Knowing that and actually mastering it are two very different things. I for one, still struggle with this skill, all too often allowing myself to get lost in the nuance of individual aspects of a design while missing the forest for the trees, so to speak. So when I see an artist accomplish it, and with such apparent ease, it gives me pause.
In this case, it makes me cry.
There are very few designers I know of who can distill a character's personality into such utterly "animatable" shapes as does Nicolas Marlet. By now, there are maybe three people reading this out there who have not seen Nicolas' work on the big screen. There are wisps of him in Prince of Egypt, and even more evidence of his touch in El Dorado, but it it wasn't until Over the Hedge that Dreamworks began to really understand the power of their secret weapon. In most animated films, there is more than one character designer at work on the same project and that is true of Over the Hedge. My pal, H.B. Lewis did very fine work in that film as well, so the end result couldn't be called entirely Nico's. That moment would finally arrive with Kung Fu Panda. I had secretly dismissed that film based on it's silly title (well, it seemed silly at the time) and the fact that it seemed to wallow in development hell for so many years. As it turns out, it is a masterpiece, especially in the visual sense and due in no small part to Nico's strong stylistic navigation. And now, on the heels of that coup, Nico has made his indelible mark again in How to Train Your Dragon.

KAPOW!

Below are some images I pilfered from the Character Design Blog, because frankly, it saved me a lot of work and also because it's a good excuse to make you aware of that site (after you've finished here, thank you).

And finally, I want to alert you to a beautiful little limited edition sketchbook that Nico has just published which is available here.
You will not be disappointed.


This drawing is from the sketchbook.

Kung Fu Panda



Over the Hedge

23 comments:

  1. Definitely one of the best art book investments anyone could make, and it's a limited run! Gorgeous! Nico has serious skills.

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  2. The images are so expressive. Really amazing.

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  3. thanks for sharing, Peter. I should have known that he worked on El Dorado and Prince of Egypt. Those designs were on point!

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  4. Dammit! Just when I'm getting the hang of blue and green pencils, you show me these! Now I gotta go out and get me the magic orange one!

    Thanks for shares.

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  6. i have the "art of kung fu " panda and the "how to train your dragon" ,, to what extent i went to procure these books:)
    but for the art ,it's all worth it , nico's work is faboulas:)
    so much education in there , thanks for posting the info of his sketchbook:)

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  7. I love my Nicolas Marlet sketchbook! It's amazing!

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  8. I immediately bought this book when I saw on the Character Design blog, and it is pure awesomeness!! ;)

    -Junko

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  9. Why, why don't I have the money? ;_;

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  10. I'm looking forward to reading it!!! The one I bought might be somewhere in the air between Alhambra,CA and Montreal!!!!
    Thanks for sharing Peter!! And happy to see you're back!!

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  11. Kung Fu Panda IS a masterpiece. Cant wait for the sequel. Great post. Hope all is well Peter!

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  12. Peter, I thought your speech at Pictoplasma was very enjoyable and inspiring - and even better: hanging out with us. Come back soon

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  13. Thanks for that Peter. It's always a treat to get turned on to a new artist.

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  14. I can't believe it took me this long to Find and Follow your blog - Can't wait to roll my sleeves up and catch up on all the entries so far ^_^

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  15. Fantastic book. Looks like they're all gone now. This is the second batch G.N. had though, so maybe they'll get more.

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  16. Nicolas Marlet's sketchbook is indeed a great sketchbook...but It's too bad the quality of the paper is so bad. He would deserve a better publisher. It is also too bad he didn't feel like being able to be part of the Sketchtravel's sketchbook because he thought he was not good enough :-)
    Anyway, It's super cool to read your Post Peter. It's a great hommage, especially since he has been written by such a character designer. I would love to read Nicolas Marlet talking about your work.

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  17. It is an awesome sketchbook by Nico, but I thought the book's size is quite small. Yes, I agree the paper quality could have been better, but it is a good start anyway for his first sketchbook.

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  18. I loveeee Nico's work ~ went to buy the sketchbook right away after I heard about it from my friend.

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  19. I also didn't expect much from Kung Fu Panda... But it rocked! Big ups for promoting Nico's work, he seems like an amazing character designer and illustrator. Thanks Peter!

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  20. Thanks for the heads up, Peter! I ordered my copy a few weeks ago, and it is beautiful--this, just as I was reacquainting myself with the beautiful richness of Prismacolors...perfect time to be inspired.

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