' Tara Donovan - Animator

Directing a short animated sequence for "Mummers"

May 25, 2014
For the past several months I've been working away on a special project for documentary director and producer Michael Morrow. I had the pleasure of working for Michael on the Beast Legends series of animated shorts back in 2010. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to create a short animated piece for his independent short film - a horror comedy called "Mummers", currently making the festival rounds. Michael directed Mummers while on location in Newfoundland filming Cold Water Cowboys for the Discovery Channel.

Mummering takes place on Christmas Eve in traditional outports of Newfoundland, Canada. It is similar to Hallowe'en in that it involves disguises, home visits and harmless pranks. Having spent my highschool years in Newfoundland I was very familiar with the concept and it seems every bit as creepy now as it did then.

In Michael's film, some harmless jokesters set off mummering but the evening takes a macabre turn....

My job is to create a 1-minute flashback sequence for Mummers. I had pretty much carte blanche to create the look of the piece. Along with heaps of reference photos from Michael's East Coast travels I took a lot of inspiration from one of my favorite Newfoundland artists, printmaker David Blackwood. I chose hand-drawn Flash animation and CG sets. I was eager to try some 2D animation again after many years in Maya.

I was very happy to be working once again with the talented Andrea Malus who did look development, modeling, texturing, lighting and compositing. She and I were both surprised how much we enjoyed taking a step away from our usual upbeat cartoon work to dig into something rather dark.

The film is very nearly done so I will post more information and video soon. For now here are a few stills.

Puffy Pink Pole Hugger

May 9, 2014

I sketched a lady like this on the subway a while back and I just got around to painting it. Thank goodness we're finally seeing an end to winter along with whatever kind of hat that is supposed to be. :)

Toons on Tap: Goddess of Love

February 25, 2014

This was a Valentine's Day-themed event starring Ms Serenity Hart as a glamorous romantic complete with flowers and gigantic feather fan. 

Always a great evening at Toons on Tap!

CG Demo Reel

January 10, 2014

This is 3D animation I did for studios in Toronto, Canada. I did all the character animation, while asset creation, rendering etc was done by others.

The clips are:
  • Telus Panda and Otter commercials for Topix Computer Graphics
  • Yup Yups TV show for Industrial Brothers
  • Erky Perky, Rollbots TV shows and HNA feature test for Elliott Animation

Q&A panel for "Persistence of Vision" screenings at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema January 10th-16th

I am very happy to have a chance to see Kevin Schreck's amazing documentary "Persistence of Vision" again, this time at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. When the film screened at TAAFI last summer I wrote a blurb about my experience working for Richard Williams:

I'll be on the panel for the 1st 3 screenings along with Toronto animation guru and storyteller extraordinaire Greg Duffel who worked on the Thief and the Cobbler about 10 years before me.
Tickets for Toronto screenings, January 10-13, 15, &16: bit.ly/PoVTO

Here's a great clip from the doc focusing on the extravagant war machine sequence that I laboured on quite a bit. Richard Williams was totally against using computers so we did all of the many crowd shots of armoured elephant armies, etc, with the use of the photocopier, scissors, tape, and exacto knives, one of which slipped and landed deep into my friend's hand, adding a little more drama to a very intense part of the production. The war sequence was a kind of exploding, incendiary Rube Goldberg contraption of the invading One-Eyed army, along with the Thief who walks haplessly oblivious through it all. 

When you watch it, imagine us, the many minions, cutting, pasting, and drawing all the little exploding bits and pieces on huge sheets of paper in that old studio in Camden Town. It was unforgettable. 

Cinnamon bun-head

Dec 17, 2013

I saw a scene like this on the subway :)
What is this conspiracy of giant buns?

This gave me a chance to do a quick sketch to try out some of these great tools from Sean Bryant.  You can get them here: Shaun's Brush Set 001. They are truly amazing.

"Bird Bath" digital hand-drawn animation test in ToonBoom Studio

November 29, 2013

What a lucky month! I was so happy to win a copy of ToonBoom Studio animation software at the TAAFI Christmas Party. I really appreciate the folks at ToonBoom Animation donating this great prize. I'm currently testing software for a digital hand-drawn pipeline and this is seems like a great little package.  I couldn't wait sit down and test it out. The interface was easy to learn and the flipping and drawing was super intuitive. I didn't really get into all the bells and whistles but for a quick and simple hand-drawn test I was more than happy with the result.

My "Bird Bath" test is based on a summer memory of the sparrows that visit our bird bath. We have to keep refilling it because they throw the water everywhere!

Ooh, and I also won this poster! I love Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 1 & 2 - that's going right up in my office.

Soldier on His Phone

Nov 21, 2013

Soldiers sure carry a lot of gear. And cammo. I doodled this young guy on the streetcar and painted it in PS when I got home. It's really, really small! Only about 2"x3". I only had a .1 pen on me. More subway sketches on the way! 

Sketching at the Royal Agricultural Fair

Nov 18, 2013

 It's November and that means Royal Fair time! I look forward to this event every year to spend time drawing animals up close that we don't often see in the big city. This time I shared my pirogi-fueled drawing adventure with 2 great artists - my old friend, Philip Street, and my new friend, Lynn Dana Wilton.  We even bumped into the talented Rachel Kahn doing some of her fabulous watercolors. As always, the Royal was a fun place to draw and a great learning experience. Looking forward to next November.

Toons on Tap: "The Wolfman" -- I won a book!

October 23, 2013

This was an amazing Hallowe'en-themed session with two great models - a fortune teller and of course the Wolfman. The poses told the sad story of the Wolfman and the makeup and costumes gave us lots of opportunity to practice expressions and drapery.... ugh, drapery! :)

All 3 of my pencils died, taking my sharpener down with them, leaving me with nothing but my old nemesis: the evil brush pen....I have been dabbling in brush pen for years only to have produced but 1 decent piece of art. I didn't do too badly this time but my hats go off to people who've mastered this difficult medium.
click to enlarge

At the end a big surprise! In a room of such talented artists one of my drawings was chosen to win the evening's prize! Wow!

The prize was this fantastic hardcover book "Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos".  I got to talk to special effects makeup artist Mark Boyer about Gogos - apparently he is the Norman Rockwell of monster movie art. If you're as big a fan of old school monster movies as I am you would really appreciate this book.

Thanks, Toons on Tap!

Collector card for Rocket5's Phantom PI game

October 22, 2013
"Make Famke Dance" card for Rocket5's Phantom PI game
I was invited to design a collector card for Rocket5's upcoming new game, Phantom PI . There are 27 artists participating in this project - can't wait to see all the cards when they're done. Phantom PI is coming soon!

Fall Afternoon, Ward's Island Beach, Toronto

September 29, 2013

A chilly but lovely Fall afternoon on Ward's Island Beach, a favorite refuge not far from the crowded city. This was a tangle of trees I had already sketched earlier in the year. Phil says my sketch is a lie because I painted it after the fact, haha.. and there was no where near this level of yellow in the leaves yet. But soon... I'll bet by next week the colours will be much more Fallish. 

Toons on Tap: "Game of Thrones"

September 15, 2013

Another enjoyable evening was had at Toronto's costumed life drawing event "Toons on Tap". The theme was "Game of Thrones" -- I must be the only animator who's never watched the show except for a few clips, so I wasn't entirely clear if the guy was a hero or a villain, haha.. The models were great and they put together an awesome themed soundtrack. They even set up a huge fan to make capes billow out which looked fantastic. It's amazing what a few props and the right setting will do for a life drawing class. Theses are a few of my 5's and 10's. The 'horse' poses were hard because there was no horse, of course, haha..If you're into drawing and you're in Toronto I highly recommend coming out to one of these events.

Paint boxes a-plenty

September 10, 2013

I don't use watercolours much since I started digital painting but it's often the quickest, easiest way to create color artwork outdoors. I remember getting a Winsor & Newton enameled paint set as a teenager. 
Winsor & Newton set - not mine but the same model
It was a really sturdy set that I took to England and Germany in my 20's. It's a bit heavy, though, so I made myself a little cheapo set out of a kid's paint set that I could just pop in my pocket for an afternoon at High Park or the Tiergarten. I still use this set to this day for weekend getaways. I keep filling up the tray with tube paints. I have a couple of sawed-off paintbrushes and some pencil extenders, a scrap of cloth. Over the years I acquired another little plastic case into which it all fits and use as a water container. I usually carry drinking water in a bottle everywhere I go so I don't include a tiny bottle in my kit like some do.
My old faithful traveling set from the '90's.

The holder allows a half-sized paint brush to be more comfortable
 for painting. The tape makes the brush thick enough for the holder.
Much to my happy surprise my son became interested in field sketching with me. We usually just shared a paint set but then he asked me to make him one for himself. So I did, using a mint tin and a hollowed-out paint set from the dollar store. Then his friend asked me to make one for him too. In no time I had made a few of these little sets.
Tiny watercolor sets for quick field sketching. 

Cotman's space-age Field Plus set
Around that time my son seemed to outgrow his set so we ended up giving him a very cool Cotman Field Plus set which I'm very jealous of and borrow quite often. Its best feature is the tons of mixing room on the various pull-out pallettes.

Russell Stutler's enviable
 hand-crafted paint set.
I've seen tons of ideas on the internet about making these sets - some great ideas out there that I might try in the future. This guy Russell Stutler makes his own beautifully-crafted wooden watercolor sets that I would LOVE to know how to make.  Watercolors are so fantastic for quick outdoor sketches. I think the best sets are the ones so small and light you don't hesitate to bring with you everywhere.

Guest Speaking at "Persistence of Vision" Screening

July 28, 2013

I was honoured to be on the panel following Kevin Schreck's amazing documentary, "Persistence of Vision" about the demise of Richard Williams' "The Thief and the Cobbler". It was great to hear Kevin's behind-the-scenes commentary and take questions from the audience. Will Richard Williams ever see Kevin's film....we may never know! But if he did I'm sure he would be pleased with Kevin's respectful treatment of his epic biography. He managed not to leave out any of the messy making-of business that brought the project to disaster while at the same time reflecting positively on undeniably positive impact Richard Williams has had on a generation of animators through his books and lectures, but also his incredibly high standards.

We were all in stitches with Greg Duffel's entertaining anecdotes about starting his career under Dick's infamously tough mentorship - stories that continued for many enjoyable hours at the pub across the street. Greg is a master of impressions, as was Dick himself.

Kevin's documentary continues to wow audiences at festivals around the world.

Souvenir from the Thief and the Cobbler: Birthday Card signed by Dick Williams

July 26, 2013
Just a couple of days out from the Toronto screening of "Persistence of Vision" -- I've been so looking forward to seeing it since it was first announced! I got a serious case of nostalgia watching the trailer: hearing my former coworkers' comments, seeing the old studio and watching some of the very scenes I worked on so many years ago. It got me inspired to go through some of the dusty old archives in the basement. I found a few gems down there -- a stack of cartoons we used to pass around hidden inside our layout folders and giant exposure-sheet cards signed by the whole studio, including Dick Williams himself!
This is the back cover of a huge birthday card filled with cartoons from the crew.
Dick Williams even drew his famous thief character with my name in it! 

2D Demo Reel

July 23rd, 2013
I just got asked for my '2D Reel' for the first time in a few years. I switched to computer animation around 2004, so all the classical (hand-drawn) animation I have was done over 10 years ago. I aim to fix that! This summer I'm working on a 2D/3D integration piece using Maya and TVPaint.

These clips are from the feature film "Asterix in America" for HahnFilm in Berlin, Germany and the Gary Larsen shorts "Tales from the Far Side" for the brilliant Marv Newland at International Rocketship in Vancouver, Canada. I drew all the keyframe character animation. 


Guest Speaking at "Persistence of Vision" screening at the Toronto Animated Arts Festival Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 23, 2013

When I was in 2nd year Classical Animation at Sheridan a few of us were asked to go to London, England to work on what was to be the final year of Richard Williams' masterpiece "The Thief and the Cobbler". If you don't know the history of this film, there's an amazing documentary by Kevin Schreck called "Persistence of Vision" that explains why some call the Thief, "the greatest animated film never made".

I've been invited to be on the panel following the Toronto screening of Persistence of Vision at the Toronto Animation Arts Festival this weekend along with the esteemed animation heavyweight, Greg Duffell.

The Thief was my first job in animation. I got the chance to assist a lot amazing animators like Dave Byers-Brown, Tim Watts, Alex Williams, Michael Schlingman, Philip Pepper and Steve Evangelatos.  It was an incredible experience and a very unique career start. People came from all over the world to work on the Thief. We gathered each morning at 9:30 for rushes and watched in awe as the big screen filled with Dick's incredible vision of something unique that had never been attempted before.
I worked on the war machine sequence for quite a while
using mechanical pencils, a magnifying glass,
exact-o knives and tape!
I did  a lot of work on these guys too - strange designs
and psychedelic flat perspective...

.. and crowds. Lots and lots of crowds. This frame is 60 cm wide.
Here's the trailer for the documentary:

All Dahl'd Up Art Show at the Gladstone Hotel

June 17, 2013
What a great show at the Gladstone! I was so honoured to be asked to put a piece in the art show put together by my producer Tammy Semen. So much wonderful art! The theme was Roald Dahl who happens to have written my favorite children's book ever, "James and the Giant Peach". I picked my favorite scene which is when the gang arrives in NYC just before they land atop the Empire State Building. I thought it would be simple but, well 6 characters and a down-shot of a city turned out to be a fine challenge. Lots of fun! :)