Last week me and Martin attended BFX - the UK's largest visual effects, computer games & animation festival and luckily for us it's based right here in Bounremouth in the UK! 

We went along to both the BFX Core talks given by production, visual effects studios and experienced quite a few of the Masterclasses. Taught by well established artists, illustrators and even writers.


This post provides some insider information into Martin's three favourite Masterclasses. What skills and techniques they focused on teaching and what advice the speakers gave! 

The Masterclasses

Flipped Normals is an online market place for creatives where you can purchase, download or sell creative training and resources. The company was started in started in 2013 by Henning Sanden and Morten Jaeger. Their aim is to build a bridge between Creator and Students, opening learning resources up for all. 

flipped normals bfx

Henning Sanden: studied animation and has worked on movies such as Pacific Rim Uprising, Alien Covenant, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Morten Jaeger: Is interested in the blend between art and technology, he’s worked on movies such as Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Pacific Rim Uprising.

About the class:

Henning and Morten’s masterclass was a brilliant insight into how digital sculptors work and create imaginary creatures from scratch.

Here's a few important lessons we learnt from them:
  • Observation is key. You have to supplement things you have in your head with real-life observation and references, otherwise your art looks generic and not grounded in reality. It is a skilled that can be developed with practice.

  • Not using references leads to relying too much on what you think you know. It is like quoting someone remembering only the point they made, but not with the actual words they used.

  • Clean, strong shapes create appealing design. Zoom out often to make sure the general look works. Also keep checking your character’s silhouette.

  • Convey emotions and tell stories with your characters.

  • Build from inside out, starting with the skeleton, then muscles, then fat and finally the skin and hair.

  • Imagine skin as a separate layer that is tight/loose at certain details and keep in mind gravity.

  • Muscle insertion points and skeletal/bony landmarks (bones that are visible on the surface) are crucial for defining details.

  • Comparative anatomy is great way to learn differences between humans and animals.

  • Clichés are used often because they read well and quickly, which is important in film and games.

  • Avoid making characters emotionlessly staring in the distance. Make them more alive by twisting their head a bit and by adding expressions.

Scott Eaton: Is based in London and works as an anatomy instructor as well as an artists an designer. He uses various mediums including drawing, digital sculpture, photography, and generative AI to explore and represent the human form. Scott's designs have been featured in Wired Magazine, Vogue, Vanity Fair, the Times and the Telegraph.

bfx Scott Eaton

About the class:

He is extremely knowledgeable on the topic of anatomy. Quoting all the latin names of every muscle and bone by heart, but ahis understanding because very clear as he was able to simplify, breakdown and explain complex theories.

Scott’s masterclass was a full day of intense training on artistic anatomy.

It is a huge and complex subject but Scott managed to keep this class enjoyable and insightful throughout the whole day. We learnt so much even about things we already knew. 

He compared his training style to throwing a grenade into the audience and the shrapnels hitting us, the students.

This was a great analogy because I don’t actually think anyone managed to capture all the knowledge he presented to us. 

 scott drawing BFX

Sketches taken from Scotts website

sketches BFX by scott eaton
Here are a few important lessons we learnt from him:
  • Do bad drawings in your sketchbook. That is a place where it is safe to fail. Without failing several times you will never improve. Take chances, risks in order to get better at drawing. Your sketchbook should be a place where your ideas come to life that then you can later take into any media and refine.

  • The human body is made up of three main masses: skull, ribcage and pelvis. Getting these right is the first step of establishing a realistic looking body.

  • Tendons attach muscles to bones, while ligaments attach bones to bones.

  • Learning the muscle insertion points is crucial to make a body realistic. Muscles also interlock and overlap and they can be either relaxed, contracted or stretched.

  • Avoid adding tension to all muscles, instead have balance between active/passive muscles.

Loish: Is a Dutch freelance Illustraor and Animator currently located in Utrech who has worked for companies like Channel 4 and CBBC. She started teaching herself to draw digitally in 2003 and studied animation in Ghent (Belgium.) 

Over on her website Loish has a very insightful FAQ's page where she talks about developing her style, inspiration, influences, learning about anatomy and loads more! If you are at all inserted in Illustration we recommend you take a look! 

vfx festival loish

About the class:

We had the privilege of seeing Loish at work in her Masterclass session and learnt a lot about digital painting and choosing colours to convey emotions and to tell stories.

Here are a few important lessons we learnt from her:
  • Digital tools are best for exploration, trying out different colour variations.

  • Each artist have their unique combination of skills. You need to find your own strengths.

  • Think of client work as collaboration to avoid feeling upset when clients ask you for changes.

  • Be inspired, not drained: avoid inspiration overload and try to give yourself time to process what you see.

  • Use an intuitive workflow: work fast and efficiently and remove anything from your process that slows you down.

  • One step at a time: don’t overthink the end result at the beginning, but also don’t mess with the overall composition in the final stages.

  • It’s not about the amount of details, but where you are putting them that matters.

  • Visual appeal is crucial to help people relate to your characters.

  • Use imperfections and characteristic traits for more unique and memorable character art.

  • Avoid tangents: don’t make confusing lines, instead use confident overlaps.

  • Avoid over-blending your brush strokes as it leads to losing the painterly effect and texture.

We hope you guys found this post useful, attending creative MasterClasses and other seminars/talks is a great way to learn about creative practises and generally to get inspired!

If you want to find out more about what we got up to at MAX we another post about the talks we attended from some of the leading production and visual effects agencies (including Disney!)  

About the author 

Emily Melling

Emily Melling studied a degree in Visual Communication, after graduating she became a freelance graphic designer, specialising in Branding & Identity. She enjoys developing working relationships with clients and other creatives who are open to exploring new and innovative ideas.

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