Indohyus: Quadrupedal Walk Cycle Study

Illustration courtesy Hans Thewissen/Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy
Illustration courtesy Hans Thewissen/Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy

A nation mainly focused on dealing with basic problems such as poverty, health and education, fields such as Paleontology, like Animation in India is still in its infancy and largely seen as superfluous. Additionally the largely humid climate in all but the north and west of country makes the region bad for fossil preservation. This means there have been few Paleontological discoveries in India.

Cover of Prof Hans Thewissen's 2014 Book, The Walking Whales
Cover of Prof Hans Thewissen’s 2014 Book, The Walking Whales

One of the few critical discoveries made in India is that of a small animal that lived about 50 million years ago and discovered by Ranga Rao in 1971 in Kashmir. The importance of this find wasn’t realized until 2007 when  an assistant of Prof. Thewissen at Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy mistakenly broke the ear of one of the fossilized heads. He was about to glue it back together when the professor stopped him, finding something extraordinary, the size of one of the animal’s organs in its ear was unlike any other land mammal known today. This was an adaptation only seen in one other group of animals, Cetaceans (Whales and Dolphins).

Illustration by Garen Ewing of Darwin walking an Indohyus
Illustration by Garen Ewing of Darwin walking an Indohyus

Charles Darwin himself had introduced the dilemma caused by Cetaceans, and had theorized in his seminal work Origin of Species that Whales and Dolphins had originated from a common land ancestor. The theory naturally had him laughed at and creationists have had a field day ever since, until in the last two decades a series of discoveries in Pakistan and India have been able to chart the entire evolution path, except for the land ancestor. The 2007 discovery finally filled in this 10 million year gap (theoretically).

We had been asked to study the locomotion of a four-legged land animal as part of our animation program. I wanted to look at Indohyus as it is a very unique animal not just in how it moves but possibly has an important role in history. I decided to try and contact Prof. Thewissen, although with little expectation of a response. To my pleasant surprise he responded with helpful advice on how Indohyus may have moved. He directed me to videos of the Mouse Deer or Chevrotain (found in West and Central Africa) as a strong direction to Indohyus’ movement. Now I’m hoping to study the Chevrotain’s movement and produce a walk cycle as true as can be of this extinct animal.

Thewissen, J.G.M., Cooper, L.N., George, J.C. et al. Evo Edu Outreach (2009) 2: 272. https://doi-org.arts.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s12052-009-0135-2
JEAN-RENAUD BOISSERIE, FABRICE LIHOREAU, MAEVA ORLIAC, REBECCA E. FISHER, ELEANOR M. WESTON, STÉPHANE DUCROCQ; Morphology and phylogenetic relationships of the earliest known hippopotamids (Cetartiodactyla, Hippopotamidae, Kenyapotaminae), Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, Volume 158, Issue 2, 1 February 2010, Pages 325–366, https://doi-org.arts.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/j.1096-3642.2009.00548.x
Brittany L. Coughlin, Frank E. Fish; Hippopotamus Underwater Locomotion: Reduced-Gravity Movements for a Massive Mammal, Journal of Mammalogy, Volume 90, Issue 3, 2 June 2009, Pages 675–679, https://doi-org.arts.idm.oclc.org/10.1644/08-MAMM-A-279R.1
Darwin, C. and Beer, G. (1998) The Origin of Species. Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Approaches to Life Drawing

The last few months during my program at Central Saint Martins I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few different set of classes on life drawing. The more loose but intensive classes by Vanessa Luther-Smith, the more structured experiments by Maryclare Foa and the freeform UAL Student Union classes. Each has offered a different approach to interpreting the human figure on to paper.

Now approaches to figure drawing are as numerous as there are people who draw regularly. And going back to renaissance period or older artists will be based largely on conjecture. So I’d like to mention arguably three of the most well known methods, each named for the artist who defined them: The Reilly Method, the Loomis Method and the Bridgeman Method. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Bridgman deconstructs the figure into masses of the body and how they join together.
  • Loomis deals with constructing the figure from simple shapes and proportions of the body.
  • Reilly gives a system for understanding the rhythm and flow of the body’s lines and curves or any organic object in general.

Bridgman and Loomis transcribed their approaches into books Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing From Life and Figure drawing for all it’s worth respectively will help you understand the system. The Reilly Method is mostly passed on through his students, Angelo John Grado’s Mastering the Craft of Painting would be a good place to start. Trying to understand this method can be a lot more daunting at first, because it’s very removed from how you would naturally approach drawing, as one of his students Jeff Watts put it “The Reilly Method … is way more cryptic than people give him credit for, and people dumb it down a lot of time. It’s not just about abstraction … It’s about thinking abstractly.”

Here are (quite a few) of my life drawing sketches:

Bridgman, G. and Simon, H. (2001). Bridgman's complete guide to drawing from life. New York, N.Y. : Sterling. Originally published: 1952.
Loomis, A. (1943) Figure drawing for all it's worth. New York : Viking Press.
John Grado, A. (1985) Mastering the Craft of Painting. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications Inc.

Nina Sabnani: Linking Craft and Storytelling

It would be fair to say that Nina Sabnani is considered one of the stalwarts of animation in India. With a career spanning four decade, Nina has functioned as an animator, filmmaker, writer, artist, researcher and teacher.

She graduated in painting from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Vadodara. From 1980 to 1982 she studied Animation under I. S. Mathur,  R. L. Mistry and Claire Weeks (read more about him in my previous post) at the first such program at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. She then went on to teach at NID for two decades.

Animation Training Program 1980-82
Animation Training Program 1980-82 faculty and students. Left to Right: Narendra Patel, Mahendra Patel, Claire Weeks, Akhil Saxena, I.S. Mathur, S.C. Sharma, R.L. Mistry, Benita Desai, Chitra Sarathy and Nina Sabnani.
Nina Sabnani and Claire Weeks using the Oxberry animation camera at NID.
Nina Sabnani and Claire Weeks using the Oxberry animation camera at NID.

In her early films she experimented with 2D and stop-motion animation.

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A Summer Story (1987). Retelling of the old story of the thirsty crow based on K G Subramanyan’s illustrated book by the same name. (click to play)

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All About Nothing (1989-90). A speculative story on how the zero was invented in India. (click to play)

In 2005, Nina made a film about her father. It talks about two friends that are separated by the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 and how they help each other to safety. The characters and environment are built out of textiles and found material.

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Mukand and Riaz (2005). (click to play)

Talking about colonial rule in the sub-continent and the resulting division that caused the largest mass-migration in human history is still a very difficult thing to talk about for people of the countries that were created.

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Shashi Tharoor speaking at Oxford making the case for how Indians view colonial rule(click to play)

This is where Nina’s use of animation may have been the most apt medium to approach the subject. This allowed for some amount of distance from the subject matter also told a heart warming story of how people help each other in a crisis.

“I have grown up listening to my grandparents’ stories about ‘the other side’ of the border. But, as a child, this other side didn’t quite register as Pakistan, or not-India, but rather as some mythic land devoid of geographic borders, ethnicity and nationality.”

– Aanchal Malhotra (Remnants of a Separation, 2017)

In 2009, Nina used her knowledge of working with textiles to make Tanko Bole Chhe (The Stitches Speak). An animated documentary narrated through conversations by Kutch artisans on how they dealt with events in their history. The film traces their history using their appliqué work and embroideries. There has been a concerted effort to revive and adapt arts and crafts in India and Nina Sabnani’s film reflects that.

‘‘To write about Indian handicrafts is almost like writing about the country itself. So vast, complex and colourful, and yet with a simplicity and charm, di cult to attain under comparable conditions’’

– Upadhyay, M.N.
(Design Intervention & Craft Revival, 2014)

At this point I should also mention the distinction between Kathartic and Rasa Theories to storytelling. The Kathartic structure was defined by Aristotle in his work on ‘poetics’ and forms the basis for more most western storytelling we have today.

Greek amphitheater
The Greek amphitheater defines Aristotle’s storytelling structure with the stage on one side and the audience watching in a semi circular pattern.

‘‘Katharsis is the process by which, through emotional identifcation with the tragic sufferer, the spectator rises above himself and becomes an integral part of universal law and divine plan. The resulting emotional excitations resolve themselves into a pleasurable calm and become part of the new order of things.’’

(Bro. Sebastian Vilangiyil, Ph.D., 1983)

The Rasa theory comes from India and was defined by Bharata Muni somewhere between 2 Cen. BCE to 2 Cen. CE in the Nātyashāstra. This structure proposes creating a system of moods and is still early in being adapted to the format of film. You can see elements of this structure in Nina’s work.

The Natak or traditional Indian play structure has the stage in the center with the audience sitting in all directions. This means the utilization of space on the stage is far more three dimensional.
The Natak or traditional Indian play structure has the stage in the center with the audience sitting in all directions. This means the utilization of space on the stage is far more three dimensional and the structure far less dramatic.

‘‘The rasa theory, in brief, states that for a viewing experience to be complete and satisfying, a play must evoke in the viewer a variety of rasas or avors or sentiments (from the following 8: erotic, comic, pathetic, furious, heroic, terrifying, odious, marvelous). Of these 8, a play may have one ‘dominant’ sentiment, with several others present in smaller, varying quantities.’’

(Slug the Lines, 2014)

Nina’s doctoral research at the IDC focused on Rajasthan’s Kaavad tradition. The Kaavad is a storytelling box that is read out and interpreted by the Kaavadiya in multiple different ways. Nina compiled the numerous stories she collected into various publications, she also produced two films that are a mixture of live action and animation. These are able to capture the relationship between the storyteller and the audiences in a unique way.

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This year she received the Rajat Kamal National Film Award for her film ‘Hum Chitra Banate Hai’ to add to he long list of accolades.

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Sabnani, N. About. [online] Nina Sabnani: The story is in the telling. Available at: http://ninasabnani.com/about/ [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
Oppenheim, M. (2017). ‘Winston Churchill is no better than Adolf Hitler,’ says Indian politician Dr Shashi Tharoor. [online] Independent News. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/world-history/winston-churchill-adolf-hitler-no-better-shashi-tharoor-indian-politician-post- colonialist-author-a7641681.html [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
Biswas, S. (2010). How Churchill ‘starved’ India. [online] BBC. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2010/10/how_ churchill_starved_india.html [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
Aanchal M. (2017). Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory. New Delhi, India: HarperCollins.
Kapur H. and Mittar S. (2014) Design Intervention & Craft Revival. International Journal of Scienti c and Research Publications, [online] Volume 4(10), p. 1. Available at: http://www.ijsrp.org/research-paper-1014/ijsrp-p34119.pdf [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
Vilangiyil S. (1983) Katharsis and Rasa. ABAC Journal, [online] Volume 3(4), p. 44-51. Available at: http://www.aulibrary.au.edu/multim1/ABAC_Pub/ ABAC-Journal/v3-n1-4.pdf [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
The Rasa Approach to Structure. (2014). [Blog] Slug the Lines. Available at: http://slugthelines.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/the-rasa-approach-to-structure. html [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
50 Years Of The National Institute Of Design: 1961-2011. (2013). Ahmedabad, India: National Institute Of Design. Experimental Animation [online] Available at: http://www.dsource.in/course/experimental-animation [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
50 Years Of The National Institute Of Design: 1961-2011. (2013). Ahmedabad, India: National Institute Of Design.
 Survey of India. (1865). Map of India Illustrative of the Pendulum Operations. [online]. Available at: http://surveyo ndia.gov.in [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
Vandivert W. (1943). Calcutta And Bengal Famine - Hosted by Google. [online]. Life Archive. Available at: http://images.google.com/hosted/ life/435927b5cc97da6f.html, http://images.google.com/hosted/life/5025aa15d74d0397.html, http://images.google.com/hosted/life/7d7b55e03cb234ed. html [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
Bourke-White M. (1947). Mass Migration, India - Hosted by Google. [online]. Life Archive. Available at: http://images.google.com/hosted/ life/417e9c7229a8da51.html, http://images.google.com/hosted/life/96e9b9f62d083334.html, http://images.google.com/hosted/life/fdb4fcbe50b7a7fa. html [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
Pepler J. (2016). Gods & Demons – Heritage Arts and Crafts of West Bengal. [online]. House of Gharats. Available at: http://www.houseofgharats.com/ portfolio/gods-demons-heritage-arts-and-crafts-of-west-bengal/ [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
Kalaripayattu Presented by Ranjan Mularatt. (2002). Kalaripayattu. [online]. Available at: http://www.kalaripayattu.org [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
Dastkar Ranthambhore. (2012). Our Skills. [online]. Available at: http://www.dastkarranthambhore.org/ourskills.asp [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].
Flowers A. (2013). I see the promised land. Ontario, Canada: Groundwood.
Shyam B. (2014). The London Jungle Book. Chennai, India: Tara Books.

Beginnings of Animation in India

India, like most of the older parts of the world, has a long standing history of storytelling traditions. While most western story structure is based on Aristotle’s seminal work ‘Poetics’, The key Indian storytelling structure is proposed in the ‘Natya Sastra’. Bharata Muni’s (possibly fictional person) texts originate sometime between the 2nd Cen. BCE to 2nd Cen. CE. Bharata proposes creating moods or Rasas, focusing on one of the 8 discussed, throughout a story.

Elephanta Caves Nataraja
Image of 6th Cen. CE Nataraja from the Elephanta Caves

Fast forward to the late 19th Century and we have the likes of Mahadev Gopal and Mahadev Patvardhan experimenting with and screening their work using the Magic Lantern. In 1896 the Lumiere Brothers introduced the film camera to India. The 1915 stop-motion experiment by Dadasaheb Phalke using match sticks called Aagkadyanchi Mouj or The Game of Match Sticks officially marks the beginning of Animation in country. This continued with various other attempts at shorts into the 30s and 40s, most of these films have sadly been lost to time.

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Animation history in India as explained by the Films Division of India (click to play)

After independence the Films Division of India was set up and in 1956 Clair Weeks, a Disney Animator who had worked on films such as Snow White, Bambi and Peter Pan, was invited back to India where he was born. In his eighteen month long visit he helped setup the country’s first formal animation studio and trained various animators who together produced a short called The Banyan Deer, a film based on an old Buddhist Jataka Tale. The model sheets from Bambi that Weeks had brought along were used to create the characters.

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A short silent film about Clair Weeks’ 1956 visit to India (click to play)

The Banyan Deer Storyboard
The Banyan Deer Storyboard 1
The Banyan Deer Storyboard 2
The Banyan Deer Storyboard 2
The Banyan Deer Storyboard 3
The Banyan Deer Storyboard 3
The Banyan Deer Storyboard 4
The Banyan Deer Storyboard 4
The Banyan Deer Storyboard 5
The Banyan Deer Storyboard 5
The Banyan Deer News Articles
The Banyan Deer News Articles
The Banyan Deer News Articles
The Banyan Deer News Articles
The Banyan Deer News Articles
The Banyan Deer News Articles

For me it has been humbling to find a rich animation history in the country of my birth to draw from.

Sen, J. (1999). India's Growing Might. [online] Animation World Network. Available at: https://www.awn.com/animationworld/indias-growing-might [Accessed 20 Oct. 2017].
Tetali, P. and Agarwal S. The Story of Indian Animation. [online] D’source. Available at: http://www.dsource.in/course/story-indian-animation/background [Accessed 20 Oct. 2017].

At the farm

Rough sketch of a sheep scratching it's neck
Rough sketch of a sheep scratching it’s neck

On as warm a day as London autumn could give us, Steve Roberts our senior lecturer invited us to Mudchute Farm for a day of sketching the animals. After getting lost about five times on the way I was able to meet up with everyone.

Rough sketches of llamas
Rough sketches of llamas

I started with attempting to draw the llamas, but it became evident quite quickly that the animals weren’t going to cooperate. The llamas sat huddled at the far end of the pen, not great for understanding their posture or movement.

Rough sketches of pigs and a llama
Rough sketches of pigs and a llama

Ambling around I found some curious sheep, hungry for a meal. It was interesting to see how they stretched over and squeezed through bar to get to handouts from the park’s visitors. Also how they laid down, front legs first, seemed incredibly awkward.

Rough sketches of sheep
Rough sketches of sheep
Rough sketches of sheep
Rough sketches of sheep

 

Rough sketches of sheep and a squirrel
Rough sketches of sheep and a squirrel
Rough sketches of sheep
Rough sketches of sheep

The chickens scurried about too quickly for me to be able to capture them.

Rough sketches of chickens
Rough sketches of chickens

The donkeys weren’t doing anything interesting either. Their movements though reminded me of Muybridge’s 19th century experiments with animal locomotion, although his subjects were primarily horses (Eadweard Muybridge and Lewis S. Brown, 1957).

Rough sketch of a donkey and a chicken
Rough sketch of a donkey and a chicken
Rough sketch of a donkey
Rough sketch of a donkey

I also found some goats bucking, which was a beautiful movement, but difficult to capture.

Rough sketches of goats
Rough sketches of goats

The drawing was punctuated by conversations about the animation industry. It  was a good day of practice but it was evident that I am a long way away from being able to understand and translate animal movement into drawings.

  • Muybridge, E. and Brown, L. (1957). Animals in motion. New York: Dover Publications.

Into the wild!

The facade of the Natural History Museum
The facade of the Natural History Museum

I have recently arrived in the wild lands of London and decided to begin getting acquainted with the city by being a tourist and seeing some museums (typical, fresh of the boat stuff). The Natural History Museum as always is first on the agenda.

Rough sketch of a raptor fossil
Rough sketch of a raptor fossil

To this I decided to invite my classmates to be, wholly expecting maybe one or two people to join. To my pleasant surprise about 10 people responded. Of which 5 people turned up in the end.

Rough sketch of a Velociraptor fossil
Rough sketch of a Velociraptor fossil, it almost looks like a bird’s neck
Neave Parker's Reconstruction of a Hypsilophodon from the 1960s
Neave Parker’s Amazing Reconstruction of a Hypsilophodon from the 1960s

The exhibits were meticulously planned and composed allowing clear view of many prehistoric and present day animals. With the dinosaur exhibits it was clear that great care has gone into thinking about posture and movement by scientists over the years, we have come a long way from the 1854 reconstructions at Crystal Palace Park (Darren Naish, 2016) or Neave Parker’s beautiful but now considered factually inaccurate works from the 1960s (Natural History Museum, 2017).

Rough sketch of a sauropod's neck
Looking at the complicated shapes of this sauropod’s vertebrae

Another exhibit of great interest to the group was the aquatic mammals hall. One person remarked “What is that?!” when looking at the whale skeletons that hung from the ceiling. It would definitely, in my opinion, be difficult for someone to discern what they were looking at if they had never seen a cetacean skeleton before. I suppose this is where rumors of see monsters begin.

Rough sketch of a whale skeleton
Cetacean skeletons are so bizarre and other worldly
Rough sketch of dolphin and whale models
I loved how this display was set up, these dolphin and whale models seemed to almost be swimming over our heads.
Rough sketches of small mammals
The posture, curves and textures of the back of these mammals was worth staring at

When looking at an elephant skull I was reminded of a National Geographic Article that talks about the possibility that Greeks and Romans invented the Cyclops Myth when looking at Elephant bones, and I can understand why (Hillary Mayell, 2003).

Rough sketch of elephant skull
Rough sketch of elephant skull

All in all it was a great day of drawing the exhibits, getting to know animal anatomy and meeting my classmates.