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All artwork and text is copyrighted by Frederick Gardner, unless otherwise attributed to the respective copyright owner, it is illegal to publish or print any such artwork or text without written permission by the artist or copyright owners.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Contour Continuation

Early in school at CalArts, I learned to watch for tangents in my designs. My instructors, Bob Winquist and Mike Giamo, would train us to recognize these design errors and avoid them at all costs.
As I studied animation throughout the years, I noticed some artists would intentionally create tangents to make a design statement. The result is, in my opinion, visually striking. I started using this "Contour Continuation" technique as a background designer at Warner Bros Classics. Contour Continuation is the lining up of shapes to continue a contour (or directional element) across the composition. Sometimes this technique is extremely successful and beautiful, other times, it is subtle and almost invisible.

This background design was for a theatrical short, "Nina the Hyena", directed by Disney animator, Dave Kuhn. The look was graphic and stylized. The environment was the African savanna during severe drought. My challenge was to create something visually unique that did NOT resemble "The Lion King".

I have used "Contour Continuation" to create a flowing rhythm to the composition. As the camera pans through the scene, the landscape "flows" by the camera like water so lacking in the environment. The final effect resembles a heat wave. Pay particular attention to the dead tree branches hugging the contour of the hills behind them.

Production Design: Frederick Gardner

Transparency, Texture & Color Reversal

A few years ago, I was doing some experimentation in Visual Development with the amazing Disney Artist/Painter, Scott Fassett. Using my background in design from Warner Bros and Cartoon Network, I wanted to incorporate some tricks I had used (and had seen used by Art Directors on popular 2D productions) in a CG environment. Scott brought his fine art and Disney influences and, together, we developed a re-imagined classic cartoon look.

This painting highlights some subtle, yet complex details used by Picasso, Maurice Noble and Eyvind Earle.
Self colored lines and the sponge tool (in Photoshop) we liberally used to create a "hand painted" look. The sponge broadens the range of color and brings a richness to the digital canvas. You will notice the posters on the wall and telephone pole are transparent. The colors are influenced by overlapping each other and the surface they are on. The lettering on some of the posters reverses in shadow or when overlapped by another poster. This is subtle, but brings a sophistication to an otherwise mundane street scene. The wood grain on the telephone pole and the grout in the wall also reverse (light to dark) in the shadow. I really wanted to use a lot of modern art techniques in the final look of our visual tests.

Something else Scott and I really enjoyed exploring was the use of color panels. These "color panels" (used with great success in Disney's Sword in the Stone and 101 Dalmations) allow for subtle color shifts in the "half light" are of the subject matter I think it creates a real "luminous" quality you would otherwise miss using flat color or traditional mixed color. You can see examples of the "color panels" on the Bus Stop bench, the telephone pole and the wood fence on the left of the image.

Production Design: Frederick Gardner
Art Direction: Scott Fassett

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Prop Test - Part II

This is another part of the prop test I did for Cartoon Network a while back.

This part of the test required me to design an "Anime-style" tank and show it being destroyed by a "monster". I think the Israelis have one of the most advanced Main Battle Tanks in the world. Using the Israeli Merkava Tank as inspiration, I played with the proportions until I cam up with something I though looked plausible, modern and cool. Doing the destroyed version of the tank was a "blast"!

Prop Test

This is a Prop Test I did a while ago for a new show at Cartoon Network.

This part of the test required me to design a "Stealth Ship". Following the basic design in the storyboard, I used the basic shape as my starting point for the first few sketches. As you can see, it didn't take long for me to go in a number of different directions. None of the designs ended up being used, but I think this test shows my thought process and exploration of a design.

I decided to post designs that were successful as well as some, not so successful. Overall, I had fun doing the test, and I think it shows. I think?

The "Stealth Fighter #18" (the ship that looks like a Cicada Fly) was my favorite, because it is so different from what you would expect to see.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

1800's Carriage Designs

These are some carriage studies I did a few months ago for a project at Warner Bros. These particular carriages were not used. I really liked playing with the shapes of the "cabs". There are some very elegant lines in the vehicles from this period. I think if I pushed these designs further, I would really contrast the proportions of the wheels to the cabs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I was working on visual development for a "Gator Farm" in the film, Jack & Ben, and kinda fell in love with drawing alligators. My friends, Ovi Nedelcu and Chris Sasaki did some amazing alligators too. I was really great to see everyone's different take.

Graveyard Angels

A few years ago, I was working on designs for a graveyard (for the film, Jack & Ben) and thought it would be visually exciting for most of the gravestones to have wings of some kind - as the film was about two bird brothers. I was inspired my grave stones from cemeteries in the South. I really liked the idea of these angels as "guardians" of the cemetery.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Log Tugger

One of the many cool things about living in Oregon, is all the amazing history just laying in fields or on the side of the road. While driving on the highway, I saw this amazing old truck sitting in a field, covered in blackberry vines. After doing a bit of research, I found out this old truck was used in the logging industry as "tugger". My understanding is, it was used to pull felled trees from the woods into open fields where they could be loaded onto logging trucks.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

1965 Mercury Comet

I love the '65 Mercury Comet. It is the "ideal" family station wagon.

Scary Wallpaper

This is some "Scary Wallpaper" I designed for a CG demo reel. I wanted the wallpaper in this old house to be subtly uncomfortable. The painting of this looks amazing, you have to look really hard to see the skulls! This pattern might make cool pajamas.

Fisherman's House

These are a few takes on one of the villager's homes I did for a version of The Very Old Man with Enormous WIngs. The dwellings in this village are supposed to look rustic and timeless. I figure the poor people who live here are satisfied with the little they have and don't really aspire to much. I tried to show some of that in these sketches. These designs are intentionally loose, and serve as conceptual drawings to help the director visualize the short story he was working from.

Old Fishing Village

This is a design for a fishing village for an animated short (A Very Old Man with Enormous WIngs) I was working on in Portland. The time period for the short is supposed to be pretty vague. I was inspired by Cuban fishing villages of the 30s and 40s and border areas of Tijuana, Mexico.