Morning After

When has a terrorist been so damn adorable?

Hey there, did you miss me oh my invisible pals?  Yeah, I know…

So sorry I haven’t been around but July has been a busy month.  On a mundane level there have been dramatic tribulations at the day jobbe (isn’t that what day jobbes are for?) and the heat here in Sonoma County has been pretty intense.  Somedays it reminded me of why I left Sacramento…just a bit though.

Mostly though I have been working with Jesse Bloch over at Crissy Field Media on an animated segment for the KSAN documentary.  I have already done some work for the film but this time Jesse wanted a completed piece to cut in for the submission to the Mill Valley Film Festival.  He also had specific parameters that he wanted in terms of look and feel.  In the past the work I have done has been, well, like my nature ANAL RETENTIVE. Jesse wanted something looser, more like an animatic with jarring cuts and loose line work.

At time the latter bit was like chewing on aluminum foil.  I now realize that I am the Adrian Monk of garage animators.

At the same time I had certain things I wanted to play with. Ever since the election of…that THING…I have done a pretty good job of hiding from the work on CRUNCHYROLL, which is an anime site on the net.  With aid of an old pal from when I was working at NAMCO I have explored aspects of anime that I had never seen.  In the past it was all tech and mech and Miyazaki.  Now I started looking at the broader picture, everything from Rom Coms to Surreal fantasy.  In the latter I found something that has inspired me, Shows like MONOGATARI and FLCL made me look at animation in ways I have not looked at it in a very long time.  Animation not as product but as art.

In addition as I scanned the works of all the studios I also began to appreciate the visual language, elegant at times, decending into tropes at others.

Hell I hadn’t even known what a TROPE was in this sense, that is how out of touch I was.

In a world where “cultural appropriation” is often taken up as a battle hymn ,with internet villagers picking up virtual torches and pitchforks. I began to toy with the idea of adapting some of this language into my work.  As I did this work became play and I found myself doing long hours and not really caring. As my old pal, Ken Macklin, used to say I “went into the STATE”. To us “the State” was that place an artist goes to when the world around her/him closes in a grey mist and all that is left is you and what you are working on. It is a STATE where you create.

So I cannot post what I did just now, except over on PATREON (yes, that is a shameless plug), until after the Festival.  I will post some of the new stuff I will be doing going forward though as I have some ideas about what I want to do next.  I want to add a third dimension to a similar work while making the audience think it is still 2D.  This is something that has fascinated me for years but I got caught up in supplying clients rather than doing my own work.

Yeah, I’ve had enough of that…

The morning after

…harkening back to working on C128 games. Pixel size is to scale

I was amazed last night at how quickly the block got quiet.  In years past it was gunpowder fueled chaos until all hours, last night not so much.  In fact the whole day today has been very quiet leading me to believe people bought less boom stuff and used it all up when they were suppose to.

For me though there were firework of another kind as I discovered a veritable treasure trove of tools and tutorial on a site recommended to me by an illustrator pal. Just now I am too tired to go into it but I;ll touch on it more tomorrow.


A quiet 4th of July

Wel…not really.  Outside right now it sounds like an episode of FRONTLINE set in the Middle East, but quiet because for another year the “kids” (I use the term loosely) are absent from the house.  The street in front, once festooned with pyrotechnics is dark and quiet.  Just because I accept that things change doesn’t mean I have to like it.

What I DID like today though was my first day following up on that whole

“I like your stuff, especially the early MECH stuff!”

So starting after breakfast I started in going through my archives looking for unfinished steampunk mech that I liked and doing a bit of virtual kit bashing. Everything I did was comfortable mechanical, in more ways than one. It felt so comfortable to be thinking like an engineer again, it was delightfully mechanical to move down my pipeline and see the results starting to come together.  It was kind of exciting to see the texturing cometogether, something I had not been doing as I was working on the early pieces for SKY PIRATES.

Tomorrow I will finished this up (I got an extra day off, WOOT!) and will start working on some more serious steampunk mech.  I like this piece but it has too many wing and looks like it will work.  Steampunk is about faniful aircraft that hang in the air in the same way bricks don’t and bring to mind dreams of times that never were…


Happy Anniversary/Birthday

A year ago today I did something really stupid.  I was at the bottom of the pit and trapped up to my ankles in the muck at the bottom.  I won’t say what I did, I reserve that for my closest friends and family, but I will say that 365 days can be a lot more than a year.

It can be a lifetime, a new one.

Off to the shop this morning, back for some art tonight.

Mechanical horsehead in my bed…

Actually no it wasn’t, I mean business was slow but Sonoma County seems to have emptied out for the holiday like a tube minty-fresh crest but that doesn’t mean that please surprises cannot occur.

Ken and Buck, grinning like foolsIn my case my old chum, Ken Macklin, stopped past the shot on a sleepy morning to say hi and chat between customers. Ken and I have been out of touch for sometime until he dropped past this selfsame shop a couple of months ago so it wasn’t earth shattering to see his smiling puss but it was pleasent nonetheless.

Ken and I were “kids” (in our twenties) together in the early stages of our art careers. As part of a herd of incredibly talented artists (them, not me) we traveled up and down the West Coast doing Science Fiction convention and Comic Convention art shows.  We would get one room and pack it full of sleeping bags, hang our stuff up in the con art shows then cluster in an ever so bohemian fashion discussing what was new coming out of Japan (we had direct ties then that no one else had and Anime/Manga had yet to take hold in this country yet), whether JC Lyndeker could beat Dean Cornwell at Texas hold ’em (he totally could) and drinking what ever beer landed in front of us.

Now Ken is Grey and I shave my head so I am not but you know what, when we talk we might as well be at “WTFCON 42” in some unknown burg.  It was great. At this meeting I had my daily sketchbook so I drug it our for Ken to peruse, reviving an old ritual that most artists will recognize.  As he leafed through it’s pages he stopped one particular drawing, one I have noticed other stopping on.

Concept art for Millard Fillmore Master of Steam.
Simple thumbnail concept of “This Horse” head from Millard Fillmore

It’s not a bad drawing but I think of it in stand artist terminology-“…more of the same old shit”. Ken smiled and made said he had always found more in my mech illustrations then in my organic stuff.  Not the first time I have heard that, by any stretch of the imagination, but it cast a bright light on decisions I had made in the past. See here is where I made another (stupid) conscious decision at the height of my career.  For years I had done mechanical art for games and illutrations and I found it boring, the old “Stanley Kubrick Been-There-Done-that” argument.  Ken’s kind comments just  threw more light on something I have been thinking.

If I want to get my career going again shouldn’t I be doing stuff I do well, effortlessly rather then trying to branch out in new directions where I am not so strong?

The answer seems kind of obvious, don’t it?

To Do list for July 1

Today it is time to turn away from the studio, and my real life, and venture off into hippie land to sell art supplies.  When Jackie Stewart was leaving to go race in a Gran Prix he used to tell his kids that he was:

“…off to earn pennies.”

I have always thought this was a good description of what it is to have a “Day Jobbe”.  I spent so many years working in my career field that it has been a bit of a stretch to get back into the habit of going somewhere to do something you don’t really care about for people who you hardly know so you can pay for food and stuff.  It is the way of thing though and away I go.

If I have any energy when I get home I will do some zBrush as R8 shows a lot of promise.

So I guess that is what you can hold me to this morning…

zPlot thickens

A lot more of my day has been eaten up with zBrush R8, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.  There are some changes to the program that I can truly see as being game changers for how I work.  This sort of thing does not happen often so when it does it is cause for some level of excitement.

Can you tell? This is me being excited. Yay.

Goochy, goochy goo

So this is the first test of the animated edge lines, achieved using noise layers on the inner and outer edge of the line.  The animation is too subtle here as I di not follow “Turner’s Law of Animation”:

Think of what you want to do and double it, in animation everything is bigger than life!

Additionally the shader is a simple gooch tone NPR shader which I experimenting with because the project I am currently working on centers around the 1960s and 1970s…gooch be psychedelic DUDE!

To Do list for June 30

Well I have a lot on my plate today, all very cool stuff!  so I best make a list, yes?

  1. zBrush R8 – While I am typing this the latest version of zBrush4 is downloading which promises a lot of new functionality.  I have owned zBrush since zBrush2 but it is only in the last two years have I spent any real time with it.  Now it is partially integrated into my pipeline and I am working to make it a more active part.  At major animation studios they use MAQUETTES of the toon characters to do storyboarding and concept design, and that is where I figures it will fit in for me.
  2. MODO NPR – In the end I always want my work to look hand drawn to some extent, even when it is generated.  In my modeling/animating tool, MODO, I use a set of tools called the NPR Kit.  No, it doesn’t play ALL THINGS CONSIDERED while I bash out a spaceship, rather NPR stand for Non Photo Realistic.  The first time I saw this sort of thing done was in the eighties in the Filmation version of FLASH GORDON and from that point I was hooked.  This is another case where I have had the tools for awhile but have not given myself leave to play with them and see what they can really do. Today I want to try out a shader I have never touched and fiddle with animating outline shape and animation.
  3. KSAN – I am about 1/4 of the way through the animatics on the SLA piece for the documentary but my partner, Jesse Bloch, is off to Austria with his family for two weeks so I have time.  Still the sooner I get the animatic done the sooner I can get to work on the final animation, which will be 2 minutes long.  Items 1&2 have a lot to do with this in their own way so although it may seem scattered there is a binding thread through all this.

So everything is downloaded, time to get to work.  I’ll post results later.