Monday, October 24, 2011

The Making of "The Buffalo Demon"

I've put many hours into the artwork, design, and animation for this piece, and an amazing group of people has also contributed their voices, time, and talent to it. I hope you'll enjoy it!

Art resources

After writing and mercilessly editing my script, I took a field trip to the San Francisco Asian Art Museum to work on the visual look of the piece.

Designing the look of Mahisa was fairly simple (you need an evil-looking buffalo? I can do that) but designing a character to represent Durga took more thought. I settled on a character based on sculptures of Durga and other goddesses that date from 900 to 1000 C.E. These sculptures have small waists, large hips, and extensive jewelry, and are clothed in a clinging garment around the hips. The Durga you’ll see in my piece has a body shape, clothing, and jewelry similar to these older Durgas, but she also has the long hair, large eyes, and frequently sweet expressions you’ll see in most popular, contemporary representations.

I studied a series of Rajput paintings (18th century Indian paintings from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan) to formulate the style for my own paintings, borrowing their flattened perspective, large expanses of light, flat colors as backgrounds, and eschewal of shadows in favor of outlines to define forms. Interestingly, when I combined these conventions with my personal drawing style, the resulting images actually reminded me of Warner Bros. cartoons as much as Indian paintings! Not the expected result, but I went with it.

I also drew on a visit I made several years ago to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where I spent an hour with a series of illustrations from the Ramayana. What interested me most about these was that they showed the same character several times in the same picture to illuminate different points in the narrative. I decided to use this same fluid approach to time in my images of the battle scenes in my piece.

The sound of awesome

One of the best parts of creating this piece was working with some super-talented friends.

Dia expertly recorded an amazing voice acting session for us, and everyone contributed a unique touch to the character voices. Lori was a fierce, powerful Durga, Jared gave a gorgeous, stentorian performance as Mahisa. Adrienne, Jenny, Dia, and Jared were hilarious and versatile as the various other demons, and Adrienne also made a brave and mighty lion.

Karla outdid herself creating music with GarageBand; her extensive searches for just the right instruments and samples, and her inspired combinations have paid off in an elegant soundtrack that seamlessly creates the right mood for each scene. Karla also tirelessly edited the voice recording sessions, compiling voice and music files ready to tweak and place in each scene.

I listened to the sound for this piece many, many times while animating the images, and I marveled each time at everyone’s brilliant sound work.

Painting, painting, and more painting

I spent a month creating 29 separate gouache paintings on paper, including separate background paintings, which I put together into the images for this piece. The battle scenes in particular are compiled from series of images that I planned and sketched together, then executed in pieces, scanned, and assembled in Photoshop. This piecemeal approach made it easy to create and store the paintings; if, for example, I had painted the battle between Durga and Mahisa on one continuous sheet, I would have needed a piece of paper that was six and half feet long.

Flashes of inspiration – and irritation

What can I say about Adobe Flash? This Web animation software has allowed me to create some Web artwork that I’m very proud of… on the other hand, it has sometimes taken me to the edge of sanity! This time was no exception. Happily, I survived the week of combining the sound and images and animating the transitions, and the artwork is ready to open tomorrow, Tuesday, October 25th.

Click here for more about the story of the buffalo demon.

Watch It!

If you haven’t seen Gothtober, the world’s only Halloween countdown Web art calendar, yet, do take a look at some of the other pieces on it… as always, it’s a grab-bag of Web art pieces that range from funny and cute, to gross and scary, to amusingly odd, and are sometimes all three at once.

By the way, as you can probably tell, I did not create The Buffalo Demon with a child audience in mind, so please watch it yourself before deciding whether to share it with a kid.

You will find my piece at the following link; on the Gothtober page, click on the square that says “25.”

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