Love is a battlefield…

…at least my love of art alwayshas bee one.  A bttlefield between an engineer’s dogged pursuit of perfection and an animator’s love of the elegance a simple single line. Both can tell a story and both are parts of me but if you ever wanted to pick two more disparate disciplines you count not go wrong with these.

This has bubbled to the fore as a result of my continued inability to “Give my art away” with the Steampunk project.  It is taking all of my work and returning absolutely BUBKIS.

So this week I have decided that if the direction I have been going ain’t working I am going to take a left turn and take this puppy off the rails…

Frustrating Geometry

When I first started doing art seriously in “3D” you had to feel around space with your head and once you dropped in the points, edges and polys they were THERE.  Editing geometry was hard enough, getting to actually DO what YOU WANT IT TO was, well that was something for the future when we would make phone calls on 3D watches and fly to work in airborne CAMAROS.

Well we are still waiting for the flying cars but 3D art has come a LOOOOONG way since, well, when I was talking about.  Now rather then working with LEGO bricks you can dip your fingers into virtual clay and make that ashtray you wanted to make in pre-school (but your little vienna sausage fingers wouldn’t let you) Yes siree boys and goils, it’s clay with an UNDO KEY.

The trouble is that to do that you have to uses a lot of polys to get the exact shape ya want and I mean a lot! We are talking A LOT in same way Kitten Natividad was BIG! Thsi causes problems though if you, say, want to do anything useful with the object you built other than dropping it on a turntable, editing it in iMovie and posting it to your website. What you gotta do is RETOPOLOGIZE, meaning “once you made it you gotta make it AGAIN, only smaller”.

So right now I am doing that on some models for SKY PIRATES and buddy, let me tell you…it is about as much fun as yanking your eyes out with a melon baller!

Sherman, set the Wayback machine…

An Early commission, Gouache and Acrylics on Illustration board. The chipmunk was always my favorite bit

The last few days I have been posting a lot of old work I did at the beginning of my career on INSTAGRAM and it’s been a lot of fun. For years some of this stuff had ridden around in my portfolio case until one day, when the shape of my work and commercial art itself, had changed completely I removed it, replacing it with a lot of game art and 3D modeling and stuff like that.  At the time it was invigorating. Sadly it was also necessary in the face of the changing art scene and the tastes of younger art directors. Once I was told that I was passed over for a job because my style was “too Eighties”, something these days I think would be a complement.

When you start out as an artist the work you do and the work you show is, in a word, pure.  Untainted by market forces (and the whims of art directors and clients), the work on the board reflects only you, what you love and how you relate to your audience. As you start working in the field you lose sight of that purity, all you see are the flaws with the slightest imperfection inflating in your eyes to the size of Mount Rushmore.

The third area you get to, the place I am now, is reflecting on your more productive years and recalling the joy of the time when your art was your first love and mode you special. Before deadlines, before egos, before critiques there was that time when you whole heartedly set aside the world and lost time in the images on your drawing table.

As I look at the stuff from my start I get flashbacks to those times, like opening a window in the dead of winter and having early spring run in to fill your studio.

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…


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.