Monday, February 28, 2011
Guillaume Côté snaps his heels together and plunges into Tendu, a rhythmic set of ballet exercises that I know nothing about. “You can’t muddle up the steps,” he says, feet sharply piercing the air.
I’m at the Walter Carsen Centre for the National Ballet of Canada watching one of the company’s principal dancers teach a class of young students. All have brought their Moms, who sit to the side hanging to each word in hopeful desperation. They want their daughters to be noticed by the company.
“Ladies, there’s not enough energy! Nobody is sweating, I don’t get it!” he says, partly laughing. The girls are so concerned with impressing him that their motions seem mechanical, and my drawings also suffer.
The girls wince through a set of leg lifts, ankles shaky and awkward. Their arms raise in unison and settle into a deep bow. But they’re not trying hard enough. “I’m 41, and I can go all the way down!” he playfully chides, tilting forward to touch his chest to his thigh, back leg extended to the ceiling. It’s effortless. “See? “You direct the thought and you move the limb.”
As with drawing, dance is about decisions. How do I place the body to deliver a powerful impact? Am I communicating a strong character to the audience? And most importantly, is what I am doing enjoyable to watch? Côté instructs one of the girls through a series of leaps. “She gathers the energy, then explodes! She constructs the sentence!” It’s all about strong posing, just like in animation.
I am struck by how many of his comments speak directly to me as an artist. Constantly searching for the unexpected crossing of disciplines, I find Guillaume’s coaching to mirror the writing of Disney great, Walt Stanchfield. Here it is, right in front of me, the principles of good gesture drawing brought to life through ballet. “We’re dancing (drawing) and it’s supposed to look like nothing!”
I’ll share a few more quotes from the class and invite you to find inspiration through dance – regardless of your field. There’s a lot of knowledge to be offered outside the animation community and you’ll find it relates directly to our work as cartoonists.
“Give me pretty faces, eh? It’s not a death sentence!”
“You’re not sweating! It’s a miracle!”
“There should be fire in your hips and quads. Everything is really awake!”
“In order to portray a character you have to be in control of your limbs and body.”
“I see a little bit of energy coming. More!”
“The outcome is not important. It’s the effort.”
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Campagnolo has been on my list of places-to-try for a few months now, and I made it over for dinner last Friday. After such an unusually warm day it seemed that the rest of Toronto had the same idea. The place was booked solid from 6pm onward. No prob for me because at busy spots such as this I find the best place to dine alone is the bar - it offers the best view, plus interesting people to chat with! In the case of Campagnolo, it's also a great vantage point for watching the busy open kitchen.
When I sat down I noticed Chef Craig Harding tossing something in a bowl that looked like... Tuna Tartare!? My fave! I knew I had to order it!
But not before I give my stale afternoon palate a punch-in-the-face with a plate of the richest, most lovely Prosciutto! Wine with that? Yes, please!
Things were pretty relaxed at the start, but when things picked up they REALLY picked up.
Pouring a beer.
This couple was adorable. They were really, really excited to be sitting right by the kitchen!
My super-friendly bartender pouring someone a glass of wine.
A little bit of mid-service anxiety, but nothing they can't handle!
Nice couple that I ended up talking to later. The cool thing about drawing is that it opens conversation with people who might not usually talk to strangers! And is there anything stranger than some lone girl sitting at a bar, stuffing her face as she draws you?
No matter what restaurant you're in, all cooks make variations of the same expression when they work. Intense!
Two older men seated at the rail as their wives dine at the bar.
Bartender was a little stressed as the orders kept flooding in, but everything worked out in the end! Friday is the night to drink excessively, after all.
Concentrating hard through the thick of it.
Then I moved over to another section of the bar. This gave me a different perspective from which to draw and continue eating. Oh ya, did I mention the Tuna Tartare? Yes, that was mighty delicious. As was the Spanish Squid dish, which I had never tried. It came with the cutest roll of risotto stained purple with squid ink!
As the night wore on the atmosphere turned bar-like with fashionable young things chatting and sipping cocktails. I was the one hiding in the corner devouring salted caramel pudding and Italian liquor on the rocks.
After 6 hours of staring at one, I realized how much I needed to buy myself a plaid shirt. I love them so.
Bartender and server have a laugh.
Pouring more drinks! Oh ya and check out the couple in the background. She kept making advances, but he was so enthralled with the open kitchen that her attempts went unanswered.
Filling out somebody's bill.
Night out with the ladies! They've got this really nice plushy couch when you first walk in for people to lounge on.
A new couple next to me trying a whole bunch of dishes.
Here's me being ridiculous playing with reflective surfaces. The shiny mass on the right is the beer-pourer-thingie.
Cleaning some glasses... hmm, is it time for bed?
A big table in the middle of the room enjoy a late dinner.
Aaaannnnddd by midnight and 6 hours of drawing, I figured it was my bedtime. Thanks all for the good times and fabulous meal! I'll have to come by again to taste the Wild Boar, Spareribs, Tripe and Meatballs on Polenta... mmmm!!! Next time!
Sunday, February 20, 2011
This past Friday was a high of TEN DEGREES! (That's 50 degrees for my American friends!) In February, no less! The whole city basically freaked out and folks were running around in shorts and tanks. I gleefully hopped on my flaming orange Brompton and biked around like a maniac! Then it was time to get down to business, so I stepped into Manic Coffee at College and Bathurst to get some serious drawing done!
Seated at the sunny front window I found myself baking like a sea bream dinner, so I quickly evacuated to shade a few spots over.
Okay, so about Manic. This is the shop that started the Coffee Revolution in Toronto. For a very long time, to us, the drink was synonymous with doughnuts, minor-league hockey and some dude named Tim. In 2007 founder Matthew Lee thought we deserved better. He created a shop that would set the foundation for many to follow, one that focuses on educating the public about the tastiness of coffee!
I'm no coffee hound myself, but I know a good cup when I taste one. And if I'm only going to drink a handful of coffees in a month, they certainly aren't going to come from Starbucks.
The crowd here is pretty friendly. Lots of people from nearby U of T working away on laptops or sorting through mounds of textbooks. This guy was in school for business and was talking with his friend about "math things", which completely went over my head.
This poor woman was there for hours pouring over stacks of research.
Russian fur hats have got to be one of the world's most adorable clothing items.
A woman fresh from Holt Renfrew orders up a drink.
Not only is her hat awesome, but you should have seen her pants! Bright purple leather!
He was talking very loudly about his band in an attempt to impress us all. Didn't really work.
Sitting on the rad, waiting for a friend.
This guy was talking to his friend about a work trip he was leaving for. Sounded pretty fun!
Another girl drawing in her sketchbook. A sight I don't see nearly enough of in this city!!