The Anniversary is one of the first big projects I worked on at Brain Zoo. It was a serious drama about a man trapped in a cycle of mourning for his diseased wife, but in the end, finds a kindred spirit in the form of a grieving widow. While I started with very cartoony faces, it became apparent quickly that this drama wasn't going to have gags or anything super exaggerated and another style would need to be developed. My director told me not to think of this project as an animated short, but only a film that used cgi. There were going to be a lot of subtle emotions and he didn't want to romanticize the sadness or overplay it.
To develop the Old Man, I knew we needed someone who looked like they'd seen every hardship, so a lot of wrinkles. There also need to be some kind of heaviness or weight to the face, the emotional weight pulling his expression down. A lot of dipping curves and bags of skin.
My first round of sketches as the story was being fleshed out.
Mo (my director) suggested that one way we could create a new look that had both exaggerated elements, but also highly realistic elements was to take real photos of older people and liquify their faces to create new characters. At the time, I was loathe to do this (eye roll at former self), since I felt it would really hamper my creativity, but I never would have gotten such unique results without it. Check it out.