Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fairies, Fireflies, and Frogs

I was going to call this post 'Reflection Assignment' but this title seemed more fun.

I seriously struggled nailing down this composition. Oddly enough, though, as much as I disliked the design it's ended up being one of my favorite pieces so far. It's definitely the most illustrative thing I've done and, in my opinion, my best attempt at inking so far. (This is what happens when you push yourself to do different things.)

And as much of a hassle as it was, I'm strangely tempted to color it digitally.

In progress:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Anatomy 4

Final two charts for Anatomy. Feels odd to be done with it...

Feel like this last one has been my best.

Anatomy - feet

As opposed to last week, I was actually pretty happy with the work I did in Anatomy this week. It's always nice to have a good day like this - especially coming off of a day that wasn't so good.

And especially when my professor wrote 'Very nice' on one of my poses during the break.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An exciting new adventure, Part 4

Worked more on the rendering - really starting to come together. :)
The difference between the last two might not be noticeable; there's some detail added to Toothless' wing.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

An exciting new adventure, Part 3

Every time I start a new charcoal rendering I feel the same sense of panic; like I've totally forgotten even where to begin. But once I get started it comes back to me - just like riding a bike.

It's amazing how things come to life when you start to render them.

Keep the passion alive

What’s the worst thing about living in San Francisco? The air. It’s filthy. I feel like I’m suffocating.

Why do I stay here, then? I don’t know myself, but it might have something to do with the fact that the other night I was able to go to a talk given by Gayln Susman, who works for Pixar Studios. Near the end of the talk I asked her what her biggest piece of advice would be for a student who wanted to enter the animation industry, being myself a student who wants to enter the animation industry.

I expected a practical answer, something like ‘It’s all about networking,’ or, ‘You wanna be an animator? Then you also need to learn how to model and rig and do texturing and lighting,’ because that’s what they keep telling me in my Careers in Animation class.

She thought for a very long time. Finally she said ‘Keep the passion alive. It’s going to be hard work and you’re going to get a lot of no’s before you get a yes, but if you love it and you really, truly want it, keep the passion alive and you’ll get there.’

There are times when I feel like nothing I’m doing out here matters, that maybe I should just go home and start over with something else, anything else.

Then there are times, like these, when I feel like I’m right where I belong.

On that note, I’d like to share a note I came across on another artist’s blog, a message that I found particularly encouraging:

Friday, November 12, 2010


Latest assignment for my Perspective class. Think it's my best so far - I think the trouble with my last composition was I didn't have enough straight edges. That probably would've made things easier.

Again with the cats, though - I'm starting to notice a theme.

In-progress photos:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

'Kung Fu Panda 2' review

Kung Fu Panda 2 is an upcoming animated film and the sequel to the 2008 film, Kung Fu Panda.[1] It is set to be in 3-D and will be directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, with most of the original cast returning, along with some new characters.[1] The film is set to be released on May 27, 2011 and was originally going to be named Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom or Kung Fu Panda 2: Pandamonium.

It saddens me to think that the animation industry is turning more and more into a direct-to-DVD sequel machine. True, Disney has been doing it for years, but they’ve always been such a powerhouse it hardly seemed to matter. Now the other big name studios are jumping on the bandwagon. Pixar is foregoing original stories for sequels. Dreamworks is capitalizing on its better stories, not by pushing itself to make more original works, but by making sequels out of them. The economy being in its current state, it really isn’t all that surprising; movie makers especially are playing it safe, going with the franchises they trust to bring them the most money. It’s good business, even if it is a bit stifling to the creative side of the industry. Lately, though, I am less and less thrilled by upcoming animated titles.

So why am I even bringing up this madness? Because I received a glimmer of hope in the form of the recently-released teaser trailer for ‘Kung Fu Panda 2: the Kaboom of Doom.’ Now, when I first read that title, I rolled my eyes too. But in the interest of keeping up to speed with animation news, I went ahead and watched the teaser. And was pleasantly surprised. Here is the epitome of what a teaser trailer should do; it teases. It puts me in mind of the great minimalistic teasers we’ve seen in the past from Pixar – think of the subtle beauty of the one for ‘A Bug’s Life,’ the hilarious cleverness of the one for ‘Monsters, Inc.,’ and the wildly innovative one for ‘WALL-E.’ This teaser for KFP2 follows that simplistic tradition. We are given absolutely no insight to the plot whatsoever. All we get is the main character, in a rather generic background, cracking his knuckles and placidly humming the tune of ‘Kung Fu Fighting,’ a song that has become irrevocably tied to the franchise. This puts fans of the first film at ease – it’s familiar. We know the song, we know and love the character. The entire teaser rests on two gags that are both charmingly unexpected in their resolution (the staring contest actually made me ‘lol’) and promise the same kind of heart and humor that the first film delivered.

The visuals seem to have improved; to me, at least, the fur looks better, and the animation promises to be just as smooth, if not more so, than in the first film. One thing I did notice, though – the sets all seem to be in 3D this time. A little-known fact about the first film is that none of the backgrounds were modeled; all were matte paintings. Obviously matte paintings don’t afford the same freedom with the camera as a three-dimensional set would, but I thought the backgrounds in the first film were quite beautiful – and I for one didn’t even notice they weren’t 3D until it was pointed out to me. This probably makes little difference to the story in the long run, and if they did make the change I’m sure they had a reason for it – the fact that the first film just barely missed stereoscopic 3D could have something to do with it. Who knows, maybe this means fight scenes that are even more dynamic.

Furthermore, this teaser lacks all the false theatricality of the teaser for ‘Cars 2’ (wow… I never thought I would make a comparison between Pixar and Dreamworks where the latter came off looking better…) and it is this simplicity, in fact, that puts me most at ease about the film. I was just discussing movie trailers with a friend of mine, and she happened to bring up the fact that the less a movie seems to give away in its trailer, the better the movie typically is. This isn’t always the case, of course; but I have to agree that it feels true. Directors who have a strong story on their hands seem to be able to afford to give away less in the trailers. The KFP2 teaser offers no real insight into the film. And it doesn’t need to. It serves its purpose in reassuring the fans that their beloved Panda will be just as gung-ho and good-hearted as always.

Does this automatically guarantee that ‘Kung Fu Panda 2: the Kaboom of Doom’ will be a hit? Of course not. But it’s the first animated trailer I’ve seen in a while now that has actually gotten me excited. ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is still one of my favorite Dreamworks films. For me, it marked a turning point in their 3D animation, and I remain hopefully optimistic that the sequel will live up to the first one. I’m so optimistic, in fact, that I might just see this one before it comes out on DVD.

EDIT: Just got the chance to see this trailer in theaters, in front of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.' What I didn't notice on my small computer screen is that you can actually see a reflection of what looks like a movie theater audience in Po's eyes. Look closely at the YouTube video and you'll be able to see it. It's that attention to detail that really gets me excited, and makes for a more immersive experience.

(Odd as it may be, I'm really enjoying reviewing things that haven't come out yet.)

An exciting new adventure, Part 2

The second step; it's barely noticeable but I cleaned up the lineart and went over it with charcoal pencil. This helps it 'stay in place' while I'm filling in the forms. I just started the shading - wow, that really makes it come alive - and I hope to have some pictures of that up soon!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

2-point Vertical

This is second only to isometric for me. I struggled with it so badly; it didn't help that I'd chosen a particularly difficult subject matter.

Not my best, I'm afraid, but not bad.

Only one in-progress this time.

Turning heads

Exercise for Character Animation this week was a slow head turn and a fast head turn.
I really wanted to use this exercise to explore character in the movement.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Today in Anatomy we learned about arms. In the above sketch I really focused on just the arms; this guy had great hands with some amazing character that I really wanted to try to capture.

I actually really enjoyed today's 40-minute pose. It had such character to it - she almost looks like she could be waiting at a bar. And this is the first time I've felt like I really captured the legs correctly. I just wish I had been able to finish rendering.

An exciting new adventure!

I have my first commission - how exciting is that! My RA saw the picture I made of me and Toothless and wants me to make one for his girlfriend. I'll be posting the progress on this blog.

Here's the grid I start with.

Basic blocking-in of the shapes. Next step is to clean up the lineart and then I'll move on to shading. :)

Arm drop

Basic study for my Character Animation class, using the famous 'Norman' model. Things are getting interesting, folks. :)

Even though it has problems, I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween treats

Went to a party the other night and made some festive snacks for it.

I got the idea from my mom, who made these years ago for my elementary school. The hardest part was finding clear plastic gloves. I ended up having to ask the guy who works in the cafeteria; he gave me the gloves, but I think he thought I was a little weird. XD

'Epic Mickey' review

"Disney Epic Mickey is an upcoming Mickey Mouse video game designed by Warren Spector, with 2D cinemas by Powerhouse Animation Studios, Inc. and developed by Junction Point Studios for the Wii console, using Emergent Game Technologies' Gamebryo Engine. Epic Mickey is part of an effort by The Walt Disney Company to re-brand the Mickey Mouse character by moving away from his current pleasant, cheerful image and reintroducing the more devious side of his personality."
I have mixed feelings about Disney’s latest foray into the world of video games. When I first saw the logo (above), I thought it was absolutely ridiculous, and the intro for the game totally turned me off. It felt gratuitously dark – even though the appearance of Yen Sid scored major nostalgic win points – and just seemed like an attempt by Disney to ‘update’ Mickey for a new generation of edgy, postmodern kids. I totally see the marketing logic there, but I’m a bit of a traditionalist who believes my old-school animated characters should be left alone.

That being said, they’ve all but sold me on the concept; a world of forgotten characters, with special focus on Oswald. For those who don’t know the story, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was actually Walt Disney’s first character. He created a series of shorts with Oswald, then went to his distributors to ask for more money to make more toons. Not only did they terminate his contract, they stole the rights to Oswald and sent Walt packing. It does seem cruel, yes, but think of it this way; if Walt hadn’t lost the rights to Oswald, he wouldn’t have had any reason to make Mickey. Can you imagine how different the face of animation would be? I wouldn’t be writing a review for a game called ‘Epic Mickey,’ for one thing.

At its most basic level, the premise of the game is entirely appealing. Mickey is drawn (haha) into an alternate universe behind his mirror, where he discovers Yen Sid creating a world for forgotten characters, a kind of mirror (haha), if you will, to the Disney Land and Disney World parks of the real world. He intends them to be a safe-haven for these characters that time has forgotten. (Oswald, the Mad Scientist, the Phantom Blot...) Yen Sid steps away from his table and in true Apprentice form, Mickey starts messing with the paints. He creates the Phantom Blot and spills thinner all over Yen Sid’s creation, effectively destroying it. Mickey escapes back into his own world and enjoys a meteoric rise to fame and a comfortable life – until the Phantom Blot returns and sucks Mickey back through the mirror and into the now-ravaged world of forgotten toons. Before he can be dragged down, though, Mickey manages to grab Yen Sid’s magic paintbrush, which the Blot seems to be afraid of. Now – you guessed it – Mickey must use this magic brush to save Toon Land.

As more footage appears for the game I’m starting to get more and more on board. I’m even starting to warm up to the darker aspects of the story, now that I’m getting a feel for how they’ll be used. What really did it for me, though, was the release of a 2D cut scene – 2D! Imagine that! – where Mickey is shown downtown toon land (Mean Street; a reference to Disney World’s ‘Main Street) by a character named Gus, and where, in a shot that actually gave me chills, Mickey comes across the famous statue of himself holding Walt Disney’s hand… except that it isn’t Mickey holding Walt’s hand, it’s Oswald. A look at what could have been? Keep this up, Disney, and you’ll have a game with a story worth remembering.

This isn’t to say I’m totally sold on everything coming out of the game so far. For instance, some concept art was released showing a Donald cyborg. The fact that he’s a cyborg doesn’t really bother me in and of itself, but the stickler in me says that if this really is a world for ‘forgotten’ characters, then well-knowns like Donald and Goofy really don’t belong. Of course, I don’t know how these characters will be used. I have heard that they were actually created by Oswald to be counterparts to the real Donald and Goofy, which could work in the story.

Perhaps my biggest problem with the game is the fact that players will have the option to play Mickey evil. Yes, players can actually choose to align Mickey with the Phantom Blot and make even more of a mess out of the ravaged toon land. To add insult to injury, there has been an unsettling piece of concept art floating around the interwebs that depicts how Mickey’s design changes* when he is played evil. He actually becomes this sort of rat-skeleton creature. Not cool, Disney, not cool. I realize that Mickey is a bit of a goody-two-shoes, but I have to admit, I kinda love that about him. He really is a symbol for everything classic Disney animation is all about, and this ‘new’ approach to the character just feeds back into my initial complaint that ‘Epic Mickey’ is gratuitously edgy.

But again, I don’t know how that will play out either. In my Intro to Gaming class we discussed game psychology, and how the reward system is an essential part of any game. Players expect rewards for completing tasks successfully; a power-up, a useful item, a key to unlock the next level, and so on. Maybe there is no way to ‘beat’ the game with an evil Mickey, or perhaps the reward system wanes/disappears after a while. I’d love to see an uprising against evil!Mickey led by Oswald and the Donald cyborg.

All-in-all, I’m split. I’m excited about the new material that keeps pouring out onto YouTube. It looks like some great gameplay, and the concept – and inclusion of Oswald – is really working well. I’ll reserve judgment until the game is released and my friends with Wiis can tell me what it’s like.

* When I went back to look for this image, I couldn't find it anywhere. I did learn, however, that this concept of Mickey's design changing has been scrapped post focus-group tests. Apparently I wasn't the only one who had a problem with it.

(I like reviewing things and thought I'd give it a shot on this blog. If you liked it, feel free to tell me. If you didn't like, please feel free to tell me.)

2-point Shaded

My 2-point Perspective homework, shaded. I'm actually not as happy with it as the previous one, which is disappointing. But hey, it happens.

Personally, I think it looks better without lines.