My Work in Progress

A sketchblog where I post a few of my scribbles from a variety of works-in-progress, usually from my rather random personal creativity outside of the daily grind. I occasionally, but not always, post the final artwork.


What's Ado

Ah, lovely! I just got a new animation production book by Jean Ann Wright called Animation Writing and Development : From Script Development to Pitch. This would be a great book for classroom use. Gives some in-depth and insider information to animation development; not so much drawing but rather the writing and production and pre-development of an animation project. I particularly like the end of chapter exercises. A nice addition to my animation library.

I've been really focused on my various projects, so I've not been posting on my blog as frequently. What have I been working on...

Well, as usual there's always "The Job" which lately means in addition to my toy design work I'm developing a catalog of the company's artwork, from early concept sketches to final factory art, in order for us to be able to search through all submitted art by artist, category, year, used/not used, etc.. Plus, I'm creating a "New Artist" binder to give to interns and new hires as a resource which includes a FAQ and various production processes that can help them understand how their artwork would be applied and what information they need to develop a particular product. Something I would have loved to have when I first started working at my job, particularly since half the time I wasn't even sure what questions to ask. Everyone's really excited about that, too; and they've all been giving me suggestions about what to include in both projects. Fun!

As far as my personal projects go, I've been giving my website a complete over-haul; getting rid of old stuff and adding new work as well as a new design and layout for the whole site. The last version was more in line with what the Art Institute wanted me to have for graduation. Now, I'd like it to focus more on my interest in character design and animation development as I continue to apply at various studios for my first creative opportunity.

Then there are the things that go bump in the night...

Well, I first read about some random scary creature on another blogger's
site which amused me to no end. Even funnier when I ended up with a monster of my own on the apartment stairwell one evening. At first I thought it was dead (guess that's what possum's are supposed to do, ha!), but then it turned its head to check me out. I'm thinking the possum was after one of my neighbors' garbage bags as they like to set those out by their doors almost every evening. Just like the characters in the upcoming "Over the Hedge", the possum was checking the human leftovers for dinner. That critter was pretty big - those bars in the pictures are spaced about 4-5 inches apart, so just the body itself was practically two feet long.

I decided to take the other stairway down instead.

I've also been working on some caricature art I'm doing of family and friends to give as Christmas presents. Most everyone that saw my quick caricature of myself, really liked it and wondered if I'd do one of that seems like a good Christmas gift this year. :)

Speaking of's that time to assemble my Christmas cards. I figure I've created enough art over the past year (some used, some not) to have plenty of options to make a few cards to send out to friends and family. Yay! No parties this coming weekend, so I'll have a couple nights and part of the weekend to get every thing out by Monday, Dec 12 (or sooner).

Progress is slow on the animation short, but I think I've finally capture the look of the title character. Not the traditional garden gnome as created by Rien Poortvliet in his various Gnome illustrations, but something different. The other characters have been practically finalized, but I'd still like to create some model sheets and facial expressions in addition to the standard character turns. And I'm also still finishing up the storyboards, something I've been having alot of fun developing.

And, of course, there's my mysterious graphic novel... That's been really a joy. Can't wait to see how that turns out. :)

Then there's in 3D art, not lingerie. Although, that can certainly be a pleasure on some occasions. ha! I'm just not getting the development time that I really need in order to progress further. Not enough time in the day, but I really want to improve my knowledge of Lightwave and Maya modeling techniques and that can only happen with practice. Must find a way... And, no, that does not mean going back to school.

I'll figure it all out. Eventually.


Dallas Animation: a work in progress

Today I had the opportunity to see Brad Bird accept the new Tex Avery Animation Award.

An excellent speaker - if you ever have the opportunity to see him, please do! While Vince from ABOSG did ask what Brad Bird's next project was (and what he was working on currently), Bird refused to chat about that, although he did talk about his previous projects...Iron Giant, The Incredibles, his early work at Disney and his mentor, Milt Kahl. Fun stuff! And, yes, all very inspirational.

When I first started to try and gain some animation experience at school in the late eighties, there was no place here in Dallas where I could either learn the skills or find a mentor. Now, there are game art and development curriculums, technical schools focused on teaching Maya or 3D Studio Max or whatever is the most popular 3D program of the moment, and even BFA's offered in computer animation. These days the DFW area has various studios that do commercial animation, post-production, game development, game cinematics and feature animation. Some are focused in one area, others are doing whatever it takes to stay in business. It's all good. And it's really exciting to finally see growth and exciting prospects for the animation industry in Dallas, Texas.


It's that time of year

Well, actually it could be Christmas on any day at work. As a product designer for seasonal and novelty products (let's just call them toys for short, heh) some days I work on Christmas toys and decor, sometimes it's Halloween and animatronics that go, "Boo!" and reach out at you. Then there's Party and Easter and...well, it goes on and on. The variety of categories and types of products I have had the opportunity to work on keep my job rather interesting and challenging. Oh, and just because it's seasonal doesn't mean we haven't found a way to hit all those other "un-seasonal" or "un-holiday" labelled days - we simply call that the "Every Day" season. ha!

So, here are a few old projects that show a bit of my thought process...from when I get the brief or art request document and start doodling rough sketches, to a final concept.

This one is part of a series of banners I created for Christmas decor using my Photoshop paintings:

Here are some rough sketches that I did of some ideas I had for a couple of table-top animated plush scenes with Pooh and friends (Licensed art being a sub-category for every season...yup, I do alot of Disney product art requests):

And here's a color version of a table-top animated plush with callouts that never made it to sample production even. Basically, what that means is - for all that there's an art request made, it doesn't mean that the concept actually gets through all of the checks and balances and art reviews and products reviews to becoming a sample series made that we can put in our showrooms and sell to our buyers.

Here is another set of little animated plush bunnies I designed for Easter that never got made into samples or got approved for factory production. I had so much fun picking out materials that were soft to the touch to help make them sweet and huggable. Oh, well.

And then, for contrast, there's always something for Halloween that pops up:


Making the Dragon Mask

As promised, here are the progress photos that I took whilst creating the paper mache' dragon mask. I promised a friend that I'd start a new project with her and her daughter. Should be alot of fun! :)

Here chick, chick, chick...

Alrighty, I just came back from seeing the new Disney animated feature, Chicken Little.

Hmm...what to say. I liked it. Did I love it? Nope.

The audience really seemed to enjoy it, especially the little kids and all the grandparents that seemed to be around for this particular afternoon showing. I would say that there were more laughs over the bits of comedy in this one than there were for Madagascar, if I had to use a comparison to a recent animated feature. I haven't seen the special 3D version of Chicken Little, but I'd like to try that in the next couple of weeks, once the NASCAR event is finished with so I won't be sitting in traffic for a couple of hours (the theater that's playing the 3D viewing version is over in that direction). After reading a variety of negative commentary about the movie (like this article from a year ago), I'm curious if some of it is in part or because of the changes that are going on with the management of Walt Disney and the Pixar distribution deal.


Here's what I LIKED:
- the friendship and camaraderie between the main characters, Chicken Little, Ugly Duckling, Runt of the Litter, and Fish Out of Water
- Kirby, the little alien fuzzy kid (soft hair, cute, big eyes...3, in fact...what's not to like? Great toy potential! ha. However, the
samples I've seen sucked - I know they could've done a much better job)
- the customized houses that matched the families that lived there (chicken coop for Chicken Little and his Dad for example)
- the energetic twitching (puff, puff, puff) that most of the cars seemed to have as they were driving along
- Fish Out of Water (so simple, so right!)

- Buck Cluck's eyebrows (fascinated me...I couldn't stop watching them when he was on screen)
- the panic "attack" by the aliens because of a missing child (but nobody died...or DID they...)
- the flash cards. heh
- it wasn't a musical. YAY!!!

- the scene where Chicken Little is sitting outside the principal's office listening to his father and the principal discuss his behavior (I loved the lighting and layout for this particular scene. The silhouettes of the two adults also really held my attention. Nice.)
- the overall design and layout of some of the scenes. nicely done. I especially liked how they did close-ups of some of the characters (something I'll have to look and mention the specifics when I see it again, in 3D-vision)
- the errors of technology. heh

Here's what I DIDN'T LIKE:
- it's another father/son buddy story
(please...something more original. what's wrong with having a mom? that's alive? or both parents even? things could still go wrong, you know! and why do practically all the "girl" stories have to be fairy tales about princesses who find "True Luv"? ARGH! ok, I won't go there)
- parent doesn't believe child (ever. until parent's nose is rubbed in evidence and he sees aliens)
- child doesn't listen to adults (coach, father) because child knows better (whatever - there are other more positive ways to show how a child's curiousity or experience can give them a different opinion of how their goals can be reached)
- the pop references (one or two is ok and kinda funny, but when it's three or more it gets tedious and turns into a Dreamworks story prop. yes, those movies made some money...but that doesn't make them classics or even a good story. I love a good story.)

- the romance between Chicken Little and Ugly Duckling (that was just totally lame and didn't suit either the age of the characters or the target audience)
- the pacing (as I'm learning more about story development in my ongoing studies, I'm gaining a better appreciation of a good story and story pacing...and how much it can all go bleh when it's just not well-written)
- Chicken Little's eyes (weird, I know, but the lack of a pupil disturbed me, especially since his father's eyes and all the other characters had the obvious iris and pupil; and they even seemed occasionally cloudy although that may have been because of the glasses)
- all that texture stretching during movement and the plastic clothes; as "real" as they seemed to go with the overall design, that stretching seemed out of place (Pixar's
Toy Story does a much better job in the texture and rigging department and that was created a while ago...and besides those were toys)
- The floating walk/slide that Chicken Little had in a couple of shots (tsk, tsk, that's a basic character animation skill)

Eh, that's enough with the negativity. After all, I did actually like the movie... I'll remember the others when I buy the DVD and watch it again. ;)

I'm really curious to find out what were some of the other story lines the director and producer, Mark Dindal and Randy Fullmer (the ones that previously crafted "the Emperor's New Groove") threw away before settling on this particular version. I wonder if any of those ideas would have crafted a stronger story than what was finally shown in theaters this weekend.


More old work

Here is some artwork, 2D illustration and 3D modeling, that I've done in the past. Some of which (the 3D bits especially) I worked on when I went back to school about 3 years ago to take classes in 3D modeling and animation.

I used to do alot of pastel portraits at my very first creative job (1980-84...soooo long ago, heh), working summers at Six Flags Over Texas amusement park as a caricature/portrait artist. Did that all during high school, in fact. Great opportunity to get practice with life drawing that's for sure! Some days I'd do 17 full portraits in a day. Rain or shine. 110 the shade. Hey, that's Texas for you. ha. Anyways, I still have a certain fondness for working with pastels although I don't do much of that these days...most of my stuff is strictly digital.


Old alien sketches

Some sketches I did about a year ago which was part of discussion about aliens and their pets.


Happy Halloween!

My Halloween greeting card sent to friends and family today, based on one of my many Halloween projects at work:

And....drumroll, please!

Yay, I finished my paper mache dragon mask in time for Halloween! I'll post some progress pictures later...from the aluminum foil, crumpled up magazine pages and masking tape to the grand finale. :)


Getting in Disguise

I've been working on a new little project at home in the evenings the last couple of weeks or so: a paper mache' dragon mask for my Halloween costume. Here's my concept sketch I've been referencing:

I was trying to figure out the best way to actually create it without making it so heavy that I couldn't wear it for more than 5 minutes when I thought about using paper mache'. I haven't worked with paper mache' since I was in 2nd grade in 1972. LOL! I had to do some research to figure out the best way to make the paste and what other papers I could use that could be easily painted.

Does the current dragon look like my reference? Not exactly. But I'm having fun and I'm curious to see how it turns out. I've been taking pictures of the progress, from the initial simple wire form to the foil and scrunched up paper sculpture to the laying on of paper mache'. And what a mess that has been!! Glue and water all over the place. But still fun. :) I'll post the pictures next week once it's been painted and everything.

Oh, yes - I'm using peacock feathers on the back bit to mimic the dragon hairs in my sketch. Fun!


It's Alive!!

Lovely find today: a new Character Designer Blog!

While there seems to be plenty of animators posting insights about becoming a character animator, showing some bits of their animation shots, and talking about their professional experiences (not a bad thing, believe me), there hasn't been much from the many visual development artists who help create and design the characters those animators bring to life. So, I was very excited to find this site and look forward to reading more interviews from these professional artists.


From the Character Design Blogsite:

* You will be able to read in depth and very detailed instructions on how the designer works.
* What medium they use and some tips on how to use that medium.
* You will find out what they have worked on and what they are working on now.
* You will see step by step drawings all the way to the finished design.
* Read what the artist was thinking while designing the characters.
* See unpublished art and portfolio pieces.
* Get links to the artists own website or blog.
* View up and coming (non-professional) character designers work.

Hmm. Not so sure I really want to see "non-professional" character designers' work. Can already get plenty of that on forums like
CGTalk and as well as a few other discussion and art forums. Will just have to see how that goes.

Still excited, though!


Something Borrowed

I was inspired today by the artwork of Gris Grimly to do a quick self-portrait similar to his style of Goth character design. Lots of fun!


Something New

Here's a quote that I really like -
"I much prefer to work with people who have big enthusiasm, even if they don't have big experience" - Sylvain Chomet, director of the feature animation The Triplets of Belleville.

If only....

New Intern
Yup - we have a new intern who starts work with the toy design department on Monday. Strangely, our creative manager did not forward us any information about the intern until yesterday. Turns out that the intern was emailing the information under a different name or something like that and so my boss was deleting the email...thought it was spam. ha! Curious to see how the new intern does. I totally enjoyed working with the two girls from NYC this summer. This one though, isn't in a toy design program at all, but evidently went to the same school our creative manager did. Guess I'll find out more on Monday. :)

New Showroom
Meanwhile, the showroom buyer/vendor shows have been going on as usual. So far, so good. We all also had the opportunity (finally) to get a walk-through of the showroom with a couple of the product line managers so that we had a better understanding of what they're presenting to the vendors as well as a bit of what the buyers are thinking as they see our new products for 2006. Seems like the costume show we've been putting on every time has really been well received (although all of us performers are rather less than enthusiastic of the little skits we do and the costumes we have to wear). It is really cool to see the samples of projects that I've worked on in the various sets we have in the showroom. Also funny to recall what the original concept was...and the added tweaks or revisions that our creative manager felt necessary to "enhance" the final sample. Have to admit, I frequently don't agree with his decisions as far as that goes, but hey, that's why he's the manager. Those aren't my decisions to make. And I'm really happy for that.

My current toy design projects include a variety of pieces - from animatronic characters to detailed illustration or graphic design for high resolution printing, and then the usual concepts for license and department store specialties (plush or table decor...or something else). As usual, I'm still behind on my production art log, but I'm slowly catching up once again. Hopefully next week will be static (and little or no revisions or "emergencies") so that I can churn out my current concepts and finally start on some new ones. To help get an idea of our daily production quota...while we may work on up to five different rough concepts or drafts per day (more or less), by the end of the day we want to have produced a minimum of two final concepts (concept sketch approved by our creative manager and the product manager, clean line art and turn-arounds created, and gone to color, and provided on forms for factory production (with callouts/comments as needed) and presentation.

It keeps us busy.

Here's a sample of one of my earlier projects on a production form. It includes color callouts and preferred materials as well as comments on animation (it's a simple type of animatronic):

New Movie
I saw the new movie, Corpse Bride by Tim Burton, yesterday evening. I really enjoyed it! In fact, although most reviewers say otherwise, I liked it better than Nightmare Before Christmas. Guess I'm just weird. I had the opportunity to see some of the new toys that McFarlane is creating based on the movie when I was at the San Diego Comic Con back in July. Nice stuff! I'll be using a wee bit of my paycheck for some of the characters next month. They tend to have that interesting manneristic style with a Burtonesque twist. I like it. There's a really good interview given by the Head of the Puppet Department for the movie, Graham G. Maiden, about how they did some of the puppet making for the stop-motion animation.

New Project
And for the rest of my ongoing personal something new going on there that I'm pretty excited about. I've been asked to help out with an animation pitch of a new 3D tv series for a major animation studio (sadly not DNA). I'll help out with the continued visual development of the project as well as some of the modeling. And definitely whatever else I can do to assist. On the plus side, I'll gain some valuable experience and get the chance to be mentored by some creative professionals who have or are currently working in the animation industry in one capacity or another and I don't have to relocate (for the moment). On the negative, I'm not getting paid for any of the work I do. D'oh!

As relates to my portfolio submissions...nothing new. :(


Something Different

This sketch is more in line with the fantasy style of some of my older work. Sometimes it's good to go back and revisit those kinds of things. I've also been working a bit more on my storyboards and the characters for the animation short. While progress has been slower than I'd like, I'm happy to say I'm still moving forward and not quitting.

More stuff coming soon! Along with the occasional random post, here and there, just for something different. :)


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

My immediate family wasn't directly effected by Hurricane Katrina, however I do have friends and co-workers whose families have been. So much sadness....

Since I live here in North Texas, I have various opportunities to volunteer to help out the evacuees from New Orleans. The Texas branches of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators are also looking for ways to provide long-term help for families affected by this disaster. I received the following information today and I'd like to share it with you all in case you can help, too.



Message from Stephen Mooser, SCBWI President on the SCBWI website:

SCBWI Members Affected by Hurricane Katrina
If you are an SCBWI Member in need of help because of Hurricane Katrina, whether it be transportation, food, shelter, or other services, please call the SCBWI Hurricane Hotline at 1-877-547-2294 and let us know:
* what services you need.
* the best way to reach you (phone, email, etc.).
Our staff will return your call as soon as possible with resources or a local contact for immediate help.

SCBWI Members in the Surrounding Areas
If you are an SCBWI Member in Texas, Mississippi, Florida, Missouri,
Georgia, or another nearby state, and would like to offer transportation, food, shelter, or other services, please email with your contact information and what help you can offer.

SCBWI Members in Other Areas
The SCBWI will be establishing a fund to provide help to schools and libraries in the Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi areas. Watch this space for more information. Right now, we are more concerned with saving lives and encourage you in the meantime to donate to emergency relief efforts:

* Network for Good
offers a comprehensive list of nonprofits accepting donations

* American Red Cross
donation site hosted by Yahoo!

* Louisiana Library Association Disaster Relief
monetary donations to schools & libraries

* State Library of Louisiana Hurricane Assistance Links
links to help children, shelters, and more

From the North Texas SCBWI:
I want to encourage each of you to reach into your hearts and find a way to be involved in helping those involved, whether through the many national organizations, local ones, churches, community groups and so on.

Many of the SCBWI's are wanting to get books to the children who will be sitting in these temporary homes for weeks as their families try to put their lives together. The Haynes suggested a possible book drive at our conference to get to these kids, though I think that anything you can do more immediately would be greatly helpful.

If you have any ideas on how we can get donated books to the various areas or want to contact someone as to how this might be done, please contact me and we'll see what we can get going. With our region so large and the evacuees being in Dallas, Arlington, and Fort Worth and more, there are definitely more than one place that we can help with donations of our own books and used books we might have or purchase.

Kathryn Lay


Those Interesting Arctic Animals...

My friend Sara Jane posted a comment on IM when she was away at lunch one day....and it got my Polar Bears all riled up. Fear the Ninja Penguin Army? Ha! That's all the challenge we needed, heh; and we both started coming up with some other fun away messages during our lunch breaks. Here's a couple of my quick sketches based on that bit of fun.

And, of course, the story continues.... :)


Don't Toy With Me

Doing alot of thinking again. Of this and that.

But I also took some time today to do a bit of reading. I love spending hours reading a good story. I'd rather read a good book than go watch a movie. I miss having the time to disappear in some new world that only exists in my imagination. Better than dreaming sometimes. My family sometimes said it was like I was addicted and books were my drug because I'd spend hours reading book after book. Yeah, sometimes it was hard to stop.

But it put such lively and interesting characters in my head.

Didn't go to sketchgroup today. I don't think I've gone in the past month, sad to say. I'm trying to cut back on any extra driving until I get my car checked out. The usual maintenance thing that somehow always ends up costing me around $600+. Argh. So, no driving. Much. Save here, save there. Besides, it gives me more time to sketch and do other CG work. This weekend I brought home some work to do, too...they want me to come up with the next face for one of our animatronic characters. Evidently, my portrait skills are coming in handy, heh.

I also saw some of my Halloween bust samples in our showroom that had just come over from the China factory. Not bad! They followed my concepts really well. And I happen to know that some of our buyers really got enthusiastic about those and a few of my other projects. Sweet!

Just a bit of dancing around with my pencil tonight. No plans, just fun with the lines. I can see that I'm forgetting my realistic human anatomy...need to do some life drawing again. And get a reminder about what and where the various muscles are. Getting out of practice again. D'oh!


Original Character Design?

From Cartoon Brew, I was pointed to a new (for me) artist's blog the other day, Stephen Silver, who is now a lead character designer for Sony Feature Animation. I don't know if it's because I've been checking out so many other character and visual development artists to see what they are creating, what they have in their portfolios or sketchbooks, or whatever...but it seems like they all are really starting to look alike. Every one of the successful employed character designers in the animation industry is sketching with almost the same pencil - it either looks like what I'm seeing on Silver's site and Mark Behm or Peter de Seve, or the original Mary Blair and now Ricky Nierva, Ronnie del Carmon and other stylized or "retro" designers.

Where's the originality?

Is it because they're all influencing each other that much, or maybe have the same teachers or mentors? Or is that simply the required look or design trend that is getting them work at the various studios in the animation industry? Is this the artwork that the studios see as most successful for their markets? Or...are these artists the only ones posting or publishing their artwork and I'm missing out on seeing other interesting and original character designs, concept art and other visual development art for successful feature animation?

Maybe if I compare that type of animation design artists to the artists that I currently work with.... If you print out our concepts and spread them out on one of the conference room tables - even the producers can frequently recognize which artist has done which concept because of the line quality and concept style. While we can mimic each others work when revision work is necessary, we do each have our own individual styles.

Maybe I'm just generalizing too much.... Could be that it's all that licensed artwork from Disney, Pixar, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, etc., etc., that I've been working with for multitudes of product design concepts at my job in the past addition to doing my own original art...that has me all befuddled. For a bit of contrast to the standard character design clones I've seen, there's always the frantic artwork created by artists for various animated
Nickelodeon projects and Adult Swim; and the vector influenced designs in animations such as Kim Possible and The Fairly Oddparents. But that's 2D animation. The studios I'm interested in produce 3D feature animation. Maybe that's the explanation. That trend, those two artistic styles are the only way they can create the designs for the masses.

I'm not even looking at Anime.

I actually have been feeling the same way about concept artists in the game development industry for the last few years, too. While the game art style is in no way the same as the animation industry artists, it does seem that the majority of game artists who post their work online or that I've had the opportunity to see are creating the same design trend of monsters, "heroes", and environments. Except for
Oddworld. :) Maybe if you consider how new the game art community is and then the look and feel of most of the successful games. They all want to be the next Feng Zhu, or Doug Chiang...or maybe be the lead artist working on the next Doom or Quake or Star Wars universe. heh. Go to any CG artist forum where there is a good mix of professional and student participation and maybe you'll see and understand what I mean. It's all rather similar.

One of the reasons I've noticed this trend for both industries is because I've studied the children's book illustration market for years. I love children's picture books and have favorites in my own library from certain illustrators like
Arthur Rackham, Leo and Diane Dillon, Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), Jan Brett, Maurice Sendak, Mercer Meyer, Mary GrandPre and a few others. As an illustrator for children's books myself, I've had to recognize what is selling and what isn't, and how I can either develop a project in that successful style: "same but different" (this is a frequent art director request), or present my work as something unique that isn't following a trend already out there - the better to catch the eye of an art director that isn't familiar with my artwork.

It's all in the marketing....

So, when I do run across an artist who's artwork is different from what everyone else seems to be doing, stands out even when it's the same subject, has a consistent style of their own, and appeals to me in some esoteric way...I make a note of their name, bookmark their website if they have one, and download their work to study and appreciate. It's very much an outgrowth to the habit I had when I was a little tot...slowly flipping through my favorite picture books or illustrated fairy tales from the library, or checking out the children's encyclopedia set we had at home, or especially spending hours studying the watercolour prints of the
Audubon's Birds of America.

I hope one day that someone enjoys viewing my published artwork that way, too. :)


Continuing Education

At my home studio, I've been working on keeping up my skills in 3D (yes, not giving up on that!) and working on updating my portfolio so I'll have some lovely new things to show when I finally get a call for interviews as a visual development artist for the animation industry. In addition to the Modeling book I posted the other day, I'm also studying the Alias Wavefront/Maya Press book Introducing Maya 5 - 3D for Beginners.

I've gone through most of the book before, but as little time as I've spent with 3D in general in the past year and Maya in particular, I don't mind revisiting the lessons again. I need the practice. Plus, since I have the other books in the series, it makes total sense to start with the first book which has an excellent introduction to Maya 5. I realize that Maya 8 will shortly be released. Well, until I'm actually using a 3D package at my job, there's no real reason to upgrade. I live on a tight "recent grad/starving artist" budget.

For work, I'm researching learning dvds and reference books for the new Painter software we're getting in the next few weeks. Our art department is in the process of being switched over to PC's instead of Mac computers. Not that I have anything against Macs; heck, I got a Mac when I bought my first computer in '93. But, the lack of technical support from the IT department at my job has made working with Macs a headache at times. I'll be glad when we've finally made the switch. Plus, we'll get a few new toys to play with...I mean, we'll get a few new accessories in addition to the new machines to enable us to more rapidly produce quality artwork for the company.


Which means each of the concept artists will finally have a scanner of their own at their desks. And we'll be able to archive files to CD (we'll each have an internal burner) or DVD (we'll have an external burner for our group, too). Yay! And another one of those lovely additions is the latest version of Painter. I'm very excited to finally get some quality time with that software at my job. Plus, I get to help train the other artists on how to use it. Ah, I can hear the crack of my whip now...ha!

One of the reasons I love working as a CG artist is because I have to keep learning and practicing my variety of creative skills in order to be successful at my job. In whatever industry I'm working in. Keeps me on my toes.

Yes, I prefer to specialize in one aspect of my job - I'm a visual development artist. I have to be able to take the ideas that I or someone else on my team has requested, and come up with something, some concept or concepts that can express those ideas. Sometimes that's toys or novelty items (oh, my...the "novelty items" I'm working on this week...not for kids!); sometimes that's presentation boards or storyboards or character designs or graphic novels (soon, Precious....soon). And I will use whatever tool that can best help me provide the concept, the visual idea for my client to actually have someone else (factory, production artists, etc.) actually produce the product...whether it's by my using a Mac or PC, or 2D or 3D, or whatever other tool that I can use to be my canvas. Plus, as a visual development artist, the various professional experiences I've had have helped provide me with different perspectives than someone who has focused on...hmmm...ACCOUNTING for example. :)

Well, a pep talk now and then is helpful. From me, to me. I will find some way of presenting myself and my work the right way at the right I can be where I want to grow.

I told my mom that I'm relocating to California.



Right now it's very much hurry up and wait, for too many things.

Creatively speaking, I feel frustrated sometimes because I can't or don't know how to do the techniques I want to do in a 3D program. When I was in school, it usually was a procedure that had been covered rather quickly in class. Or, since we had a students in our classes that had a wide-range of experiences with 3D (some were total newbies while others had been working with it on their own at home for some time prior to attending school) it was sometimes assumed by my instructors that we already knew how to do something. So, if you didn't ask the question, you missed out.

Unfortunately, half the time you didn't know what questions to ask.

Part of this frustration is because I feel so comfortable with my other creative skills - drawing, painting and illustrating, and my digital work with Photoshop and Illustrator and other similar programs I've been working with for years. Funny though, I was just thinking today, how much my drawing skills are improving again. How much better I've gotten (once again) with being able to take the vision in my head and putting it on paper. Or just starting out with some kind of nibble of an idea and developing it as I go, whether for work or my own personal projects, and liking the results I get. How much more I like my home studio Wacom tablet since I have to use one every day at work.

It's all a matter of practice and familiarity. Practice, practice, practice. And the patience to see it through.

So, this week, I'm getting back in gear at last with my 3D projects. Project number 1 is to model and texture a Wyvern. After looking through my modeling books, I figured I'd do something I've always wanted to do: model a dinosaur. Just like everyone else. heh. Well, not exactly. A wyvern is more like a dragon, but not really. Anyways, I've been remembering this one scene from the old
Jonny Quest episode about a creature, Turu, that turned out to be some sort of Pteranodon. Made me think about how I could do something like that, but different. I decided to use a tutorial for modeling a Pterodactyl that's in one of my books that is non-software specific. Makes it easier to understand the overall 3D technique rather than having to rely on a specific 3D program.

For this project and the next, I'm planning on working with Max software. I have Max 5 already installed, but before I finished school I bought the Max 6 upgrade so I may go ahead and get that one on my machine. It was supposed to have an improved render capability as well as some other additional features. I need to be sure though before I install it that all the plug-ins I have will still work. If not, then I'll hold off. I like the plug-ins. :)

Here's the book I'll be working from. I'll post my sketches and turnarounds of the wyvern that I plan to model in the next couple of days. Similar enough to the dinosaur tutorial so I can follow that along, but more the kind of stuff that I like to do and won't mind having in my portfolio.

My 2nd 3D project is more of a botany or environment project. I'll be using a tutorial on space plants to help me model and texture a living tree-house that I sketched in my last quarter of school (Spring 2004) before I graduated. When I first started this sketch, I chose to pull an element from one of my favorite projects from the artist, Don Barnett...the little bit of house as seen in the upper right of my sketch. I've been a long time admirer of his artwork. He's created stuff for games and cd packaging among other commercial and personal projects. I came across his website when I first starting getting into web development and Flash years ago. As you can see in my sketch, his little house doesn't quite fit the rest of the scene now, but that's actually good. Cause that means I can delete it and finish the concept with my own bit of a...birdhouse. Yeah, that's what it is. A GUARD bird house. heh.

I still really like the palette he used....hmm.


Show and Tell

At work, we've been doing a major update of our Showrooms (Dallas, Hong Kong, and New York) for the new product offerings we have for this year. Which basically means teaming with the marketing department and our showroom designers to create art boards with product designs and concepts, sets for product placement, and whatever else they think will help "Show and Sell" our products to the vendors and other specialty buyers.

I was able to finally get a glimpse of the Dallas Showroom today when one of the product managers let me in to see some of my totally cool product samples...based on designs by yours truly. Very nice to see. Different then the usual Halloween stuff, but in a most excellent way. I'm already planning on buying a few. :D And if they sell well, like most everyone that has seen these samples thinks they will, then yippee!! I get to design a full line of products similar to these that will make a hauntingly happy halloween family of design. But happy in a creepy way. heh.

Halloween product designs are the most fun...mostly.

I'm still somewhat confused about what gets sold when, though. And when is it all finally at the retail level available for consumers. Depending on the season, and license and could be this year or 2007. Once I figure it all out, I'll post my mathematical formula. heh.

And then, for the vendor shows...I get to be a model and wear a couple of costumes. Joy. Yes, I'm dreading it in a nightmarishly hilarious fashion. Somehow, I can tell that these pictures will haunt me in a slap happy way one fine day in the future....

Meanwhile at the Home Studio....
I'm slowly getting adjusted to my new schedule. Which means working some later hours on my home computer, but that is the only way I'm going to improve. Practice! So, for one of my homework projects, I'm finalizing an illustration project to help me learn the latest Painter and Photoshop techniques. I'm planning on COMPLETING (yes, that is key...have too many projects that are always "Works in Progress") a digital illustration each month. This is in addition to my other 2D and 3D projects, but is manageable. Specially since I'm cutting back on my social budget until I get my new job. Gives me more time to update the old portfolios, finish up those projects and take that next step to be a visual development artist in the animation industry.

Here's the current state of my WIP "The Storybook Dragon". I've also included a detail image of the dragon's head and the Reader. As the days go by, I'll post some more progress shots of this and my other projects.

Strangely enough, my inspiration for the dragon is actually one of my rat snakes, Ghost. When I'm sitting here at the computer, especially in the warm afternoons, he likes to get himself in a comfortable spot in his tank and watch me.

Silly snake.