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.



We have employee reviews going on next week at my job. Curious to see how that goes.

Interesting thing is, they had stopped doing employee reviews a while back according to the remaining artists and designers that have been there for several years. Basically, the thought was that the company had an "open door" policy. Which is not a bad thing at all. Except that there must be something going on if you lose over half your art department within a year, all of them talking with HR at their exit interviews about the same creative road block.

Or so I've heard.

Home Schooling
My own homework review...well, it is about two months since I started my "at home" creative schedule, so it's probably a good time to step aside and see what's working.

And what's not.

As far as the 2D stuff, sketching and all that, I would give myself a "B". I've been doing quite a bit of sketchbook work and will be sending samples of that out along with some other work end of this week for some job prospects. And I got some insights from a friend that will help me target myself a bit better instead of settling for production assistant. Although, I seriously figured that was a good way to show that while I might have plenty of experience in other industries, I didn't see myself as an expert in any way in the animation industry so it was a good role to apply for. And, ideally I'd learn as much as possible about how the various departments work together.

Or not.

While that mindset got me my current entry-level job as junior toy designer, evidently I should be aiming a bit higher for my next first job in the animation industry. Hopefully, this will be the next big step in my creative career as a visual development artist. Well, we'll see how the job application process goes this year. Didn't get me anywhere last year for production assistant. :(

Back to the review. My 3D work. Very sad. I give myself a "D" for good intentions. But, for all that I'm doing research and studying and what not, I haven't been doing the labwork. Very bad. Thinking about it isn't the same as actually doing the work and getting the practice. I can rehearse it all I want to, but that doesn't give me any practical experience.

So. What do I need to do....

I'm revising my next two month block of homework. Evidently my original schedule was impractical for 3D work. I'll need to rethink how to better get myself back in that again. I'm thinking that rather than work on my own specific 3D projects, maybe to get the refresher I need, I should schedule in some specific course work. Or that is to say, some specific tutorials. Hmm. I have lots of those, so it will be easier to schedule that once I've made the choice. No procrastination allowed.

I'll post my new schedule tomorrow. Should be an exciting 8 weeks!

I posted a couple of the sketches I did at today's sketchgroup meeting. Not that there was anyone remotely like these characters at the group that inspired me to create scenes like these. heh.



I don't know, but sometimes you're working on something and it just doesn't feel right. Maybe it's the product or the lame idea... Ok, my idea wasn't lame, it just wasn't quite working right. It wasn't inspiring me to build more. I was excited about the original idea...but not how I was executing this version.

While I've never had writer's block since I'm not a writer, heh; I have had times where I hate to admit - my art is boring.

Usually I'll just tell myself I'm feeling a bit of burnout and take a break. Go get some coffee, talk to the other artists for a fresh perspective or for something completely different...when you're working with a staff of artists, all kinds of topics can be discussed in a variety of ways. LOL.

The worst case of boring art I can recall was back when I was finishing high school, working at the local amusement park doing portrait art...up to 20+ a raise funds for my college education. Joy. I was hating my artwork. I was a portrait factory. Yes, the continuous practice, the drawing from life, all that helped me develop an eye for capturing portraits and developing a creative talent I didn't really believe in. Eh, it was a "hobby". You couldn't make a living being an artist, right? Ok, ok, that's an old issue. Dropped.

Anyways, back to my boring art....

When it's concept art I'm developing at work, it's easy to get a fresh perspective from the other artists. Get their feedback. Critiques are awesome. If they hate it, they'll tell you straight to your face. And really, you don't care. Cause it's not your personal art. It's the company's. Everything you do, the company owns it. That's why you're a staff artist. You own NOTHING that you create for them. However, when it's your personal project...created outside of the office, in your own studio, on your own's sometimes difficult to be ready or willing to show anybody else what you're working on. Granted, you don't necessarily want, "OH MY GOD, IT'S GENIUS!".

Well, ok, anyone would want that. heh.

But, realistically, those kind of critiques aren't worth it. Which is why I seldom post artwork on discussion forums anymore. Generally you get the kind of comments that are like "beautiful!" or "5 stars!" or whatever when you really are seeking a fresh eye and hopefully some feedback that makes you see where you can improve. Sometimes it's even a technique or point that you'd never even have considered trying that would give your illustration or model a different style that you might really like. That's why I love working with other artists in the jobs I do. When you have a great team, it's because you've left your egos at home and you are always trying to learn from each other, show new or different methods, and always grow as artists.

The bad part is, it makes it hard to leave.

But, back to my boring art...I've been wrestling with the way I was originally introducing my main character in my graphic novel. I mean, it worked, sorta, but it really wasn't attention grabbing. I didn't feel that the first few panels would pull the reader in and want them to turn the page. That first page can be so hard.... I thought about showing it to a couple of friends of mine, but I'm just not ready for that. Yet. So, I worked on a couple of other things and also made time to re-read bits of some of my old favorite books that are targeted to "tweens" - the audience I'm hoping will be interested in reading my own stories.

And I did some thinking and doodling. Little mini-projects like experimenting with matte painting in Photoshop. And besides, I like to doodle. Ok, let me be the first to admit...I really like to procrastinate. A thing I'm too frequently fond of doing...especially on my own personal projects. But, I wasn't doing that. I had a problem that I needed to mull over. And I finally found my character again. She's just as fiesty, fun and imaginative as I was hoping. Finally seemed to jump out at me and take over like I thought she could. Can't wait to introduce her to everyone.

I will. One day. Soon.


Tell Me What You Want!

We've been working on various Disney licensed products for three different major retailers this past week. Yet again, another set of projects that has to take top priority over everything else on the art log...this time because of the retailer review deadlines.

Originally we toy designers were actually looking forward to this set of projects because of earlier meetings with some of the Disney production staff about working with their new lines of seasonal designs. Basically, while we'd be provided with various styleguides to use for these particular retailers, we were supposed to be able to develop our own designs and concepts as long as it fit within the individual styleguide requirements (color, character treatments, icon elements, fonts, etc.) and was approved by our Product Manager and the Disney Product Approval staff. So, no "cut and paste", but original concepts using their licensed characters.

Notice that I stated above, "Supposed to be".

I have this feeling that because our art staff is rather small, we have rather alot of products we need to concept for (close to 100) and our new production deadlines have for whatever reason been shortened (they're all due next week and we just started working on these Monday), our creative manager/art director has interpreted the use of styleguides to be "cut and paste directly from the styleguide to create all concepts". I don't know what exactly is going on, but I do know that myself and the two senior artists and the Licensed Product Manager have been confused by this new direction. Particularly because this is totally opposite what development information our artists got from the meetings they had attended. In the past, if we've presented "cut and pasted" artwork directly from the styleguide, we usually get negative commentary from the Disney approval staff about why haven't we been original with their characters as long as it fits within the styleguide they've given us. And the artwork is generally not approved. Unless the deadline is extremely tight...but then again we've even gotten change requests after sample production.

On the other hand, previous projects I've worked on with other companies that use licensed could go either way. Generally, I think it depends on the approval managers and the strength of the concept artwork that is developed. When the artwork that's presented is consistently high quality and interesting and is "on model", than the Disney staff is more than willing to see what new and original concepts we artists can come up with.

So, the team was getting more confused since our creative manager's direction was "cut and paste", while the original direction we'd gotten from Disney was "be original" within the styleguide guidelines. In fact, it even has typed on the final page of the styleguides (I checked, heh) that artwork within the styleguide are examples and not to be used directly. Very confusing. Right? Imagine our extreme surprise then when our CR tells us that he just got off the phone with Disney and we need to "cut and paste directly from the styleguides and that's what they want." Period.

For one thing, many of our products are unable to go directly by the artwork that's presented in the styleguide because of factory production requirements. He knows that. We'll simply end up getting all the artwork returned with negative comments and change requests...but I guess we'll have met the deadlines!

All I know is, the art team is rather unhappy with our creative manager. Again. His communication skills and art direction "needs improvement". Plus, we've been demoted once more to the level of junior production artists. As one of the guys said, "I didn't know I couldn't draw until I started working for this company." ha.

Thanksgiving in July
Lunch today was most excellent. We all got stuffed. heh. Everyone loved my pumpkin pie/cheesecake combo and I got a few requests for the recipe. Sweet! It all went so well we're planning on doing a monthly lunch theme. Totally cool. I like cooking. :)


Got My Shot

So, I'm back from the 2005 San Diego International Comic Convention. Wow. What a fabulously cool event!! My first visit, and I'm already looking forward to next year. For a variety of reasons.


Didn't get to do everything I'd hoped for, but I did a heck of alot. For example, I got to see a "private" screening of the upcoming movie, Serenity, by
Joss Whedon...even got to meet him and get his autograph. heehee!! Why not! :D I'm not a "browncoat", in fact I haven't even seen a single episode of the Firefly series, but I have to say I really enjoyed the movie and I'm looking forward to seeing it again come September. The trailer I've seen for it didn't do it justice. And now I seriously plan to watch the DVD's of the series to see how it all got started.

Meanwhile, I'm still organizing my notes and playing with my new toys, but I'll be posting more pictures and some of the notes I took in the next few days (or at least sometime this weekend). I'm surprised at how easy it was to access some of the artists and writers I was interested in meeting at the comic-con, but that was a total benefit! Unfortunately, I didn't get the autograph from Bruce Campbell for Theron (it was the only thing he really wanted)...but, standing in line for 2 hours or more just to get his signature is NOT my thing. Too much cool stuff going on that I would've missed.

I did manage to talk to Scholastic about my graphic novel and they're interested, so that's extremely cool. Now I just need to finish the line art and coloring for the 2 chapters along with my outlines for the remaining chapters and then we'll see how it goes. Kinda scary, but it's one of those things that I've been wanting to get done for awhile.

I did bring some art samples with me but after seeing the long lines of newbies waiting to get a review, I figured it would be a better idea to do an individual planned submission instead for a studio role as visual development artist. Personalized to the studio and professionally creative. :) No...I'm definitely not giving up on that dream!! pies are calling me. We're doing a Thanksgiving in July for lunch tomorrow with the art and sound departments. I decided to bake a couple of pumpkin pies, one with cheesecake and pralines, too. Yummy!

Oh, and my pink hair is fading. More like the coppery reddish tone I think I originally wanted. Hmm....maybe I'll add some more pink this weekend. ;)



Today I attended the Industry Giants presentation hosted by A Bunch of Short Guys and various other sponsors. It was really cool to hear industry professionals that work with animation of all kinds...from the director of a feature 3D animated film, to a couple of professional animators, to an F/X artist, to an animation reporter and producer...talking about their jobs and their careers, how they got started, and why they love it.

Here's my subtext: I'm totally jealous. But, hey, it's only been just over 10 years since I finally realized what I would really love to do with my career...and I've been trying ever since to gain those skills to get my first creative job in the animation industry. Yes, my first demo reel sucked. Surprise. At the last ABOSG meeting, one of the guys from some local studio even soon as they see that it's from AID, they trash the tape. That's nice. That's real. Seems that everyone feels that way about their first demo tape, tho...even if it really did suck or maybe was the best thing ever. Not mine, ha. I'm sure I can find a few more ways yet to reinvent myself and find something good about whatever fucking job I have...I've had so many: telemarketer, McDonald's staff, cleaning lady/janitor, kennel help, credit collector, admin assistant...I could go on and on...and no, I don't put any of those on my resume. Ever.

I took a few notes during the IG presentations, whenever there was enough light or some point that was mentioned seemed of particular value. While quite a bit of the presentation today covered techniques that character animators use to bring life to their animations, I felt that it could also be applied to illustration or even layout for story art. So, while I'm not a 3D animator or character animator/performance artist, those points mentioned were definitely worth considering for developing my next illustrations and layouts. Maybe a different language but the end result or goal is the same. Sorta. Feels that way to me anyways.

Awesome stuff we got to see from Disney Animation: Destino by Salvador Dali, and Lorenzo by Ron Barbagallo. Loved the Dali surrealistic art of the one, and totally laughed at that cat character and his crazy tail in the other. Both showed excellent animation, but even better were the different ways of combining traditional and CG animation. I'm really curious about the proprietary software that David Bossert mentioned, called "SABLE". Evidently the artists can paint on their "computer canvas", but somehow the brush strokes are also recognized and presented as 3D. Not like 3D Paint. Something else. You just have to see Lorenzo and then you'll see what I'm talking about. There's a mention of the process in the Lorenzo link I included.

And no, I'm not going to post all my notes online here. Maybe elsewhere. I'm just too tired right now and I have sinus headache. Bleh. But when I do, I'll post a link on my blog.

On a side note, it's kinda funny how in the past five years or so, I've gotten to really know the names of various artists and animators in the industry and what the studios they work at are doing or not doing. I like that. I guess I'm an animation fan-grrl. heh.

My next "shot-in-the-arm" for creativity is the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con. Can't wait! It's a wonderful chance to talk to other artists about what they do and how they do it. Hopefully, I can get a few pointers on how to improve my own work. Even if I don't it will just be so cool to simply be there.


Color This

By the time I was in high school, I was legally blind.

Without glasses, all I saw was a mass of color. No shapes. No pattern. I could wear glasses to read and so on, but I was so near-sighted that the thickness of the lenses in the frame against my face pushed my glasses to the tip of my nose.

I don't have a big nose. I hated my glasses.

Anyways, thinking back about the artwork that I did around that time, when I was working as a portrait artist (and infrequent caricature artist) at Six Flags...capturing in pastel the happy faces of the amusement park of the comments I remember that my boss and creative manager said is how my pictures always looked so great from a distance when the colors somehow all came together to form the final finished portrait...yet how they were almost a mass of almost random color when seen up close. No, my work was definitely not of the quality of Impressionist artists. But, when I took Art History years later at University and studied that period, I found their studies of color and attempts to capture on canvas what they saw in a particular moment...color and light and subject and mood...and the different ways of creating that work of art...expressed some of what I was trying to do based on my "talent" and my experience with how I saw the world without my glasses.

It was an interesting time...becoming an artist. But, I chose to study veterinary medicine when I first went to University.

After I'd been at Texas A&M for a year or so, I happened to read an article in the Sunday newspaper about a new experimental eye surgery, called myopic keratotomy, that a team of surgeons was performing in Houston. The medical procedure had been stumbled on years ago when a person in the Soviet Union had been in an accident and glass had gotten in their eyes. The eyes weren't punctured, and all the glass was successfully removed. Amazingly, when the eyes finally healed, the patient had gained improved vision. This technique just happens to be one of the early versions of what has become lasik eye surgery today. Anyways, these doctors were part of a larger specialized medical team that were flying small teams of eye doctors to remote areas in South America, Africa and a few other places in the world where this eye surgery technique was bringing clearer vision to patients that were legally blind and had great need or were in desperate poverty.

Can't really say that I met any of those conditions, not since I was going to college, albeit on a full scholarship, and studying biomedical science for veterinary medicine, although I was practically blind as a bat. I did clip out the article though, and sent it to my mom as I thought it meant there might be a possiblity in the future that this type of surgery would be something I could get. Considering that my last prescription for glasses had cost close to $1000...and that was with insurance...and that I needed new glasses every can understand why I was very interested.

She and my aunt somehow managed to get me involved in the new eye surgery program down in Houston so that I could have the surgery. Took them almost two years from when I sent the article. But I had the surgery, my insurance paid for most of it, and for a brief time I could see almost 20/20.

It was horrible and wonderful. The surgery I had they call "barbaric" compared to today's processes for lasik. I don't think I could ever do it again even so. I can still see the ridges from the stitches I had in my eyes some twenty years ago.

Color at Work
Yesterday we reviewed the new style guides from Disney for our 2007 licensed products. Some were new, some were "classic". Each of them related as well to various design boards that the Disney retail team had developed to show us their recommended design themes and color trends for that particular set of style guides.

Since we also work with seasonal products in our toy lines, we have to keep in mind the color trends that the consumer market will be looking for. How do we do that? Well, one of the ways we can do that is by attending conferences or exhibits for fashion, clothing or interior design, as well as toy fairs...we can also learn from the style guides that we receive from various licensors like Disney for example. Their creative teams will also be keeping account of what the latest and potential up and coming trends are so that their collectors and new buyers will want to buy their licenses.

It's hard to see the future.

Color Me...Pink
It's called Hot Rod Red on the bottle.

I've been experimenting lately with color on my hair. Why not? I play with color and palettes all day in the concepts I create for our toys. It was an easy switch to play with the color of my hair. Being blonde for most of my life has been something I like. My sister is brunette. I appreciate the contrast. ha. So I felt like adding a bit of interesting contrast to my hair. I started out with getting low lights...adding a dark blonde tone to the back part of my hair.

It looked OK. I wanted more.

I started adding red. First it was just a touch. Then it wasn't enough. I tried a new temporary color called Copper Pulse. Oooh. I liked that, too. But it didn't last. Faded and got washed out after just over a week. I wanted more!

I decided to try a "demi permanent" option. It would eventually fade and wash out over a month or so. Depending on how light the original hair color is when the new color is applied. I did some research because this would last longer and since I wanted a more intense red, almost flame-like color, I wanted to be sure to pick the right product. I thought I found it with Hot Rod Red. Doesn't that sound just...mmmmm, yummy. LOL.

Well, all I can say is...the color is definitely intense. Bright even. We'll see what it looks like tomorrow after I wash it all for the first time. While the contrast to my blondeness is certainly there...and the candy cane striping that happens when I twist up my hair and pin it up is rather interesting.

But, PINK?!?

I'm thinking of trying Blue Mayhem next.



At work, I have various projects in different stages of development which is the usual way the toy product development team has to work.

Basically it's a revolving process of getting an art request, coming up with different concepts (usually rough sketches), submitting that to our creative manager, doing some tweaking as needed after getting his feedback, then submitting it to the product line manager for approval.

While you're waiting to hear back from the specific product manager, generally one of 6, (depending on the urgency or availability of the PM, you may go directly to their office for feedback, send an email and hear back that afternoon, or send an email to China 'cause they're at one of the factories and get a reply the next day); you get to work on the other art requests that you're juggling in various stages of development - just started, got first set of comments and approval to go to final art, got first set of comments with a ton of changes, got 2nd set of comments and additional revisions, etc., etc..

And don't forget, there's frequently other requests from sales and/or marketing with vendor feedback on samples that were produced and changes that they would like to have in order for them to actually buy the product for their retail stores; or sometimes we'll get ideas from consumers or vendors about what they'd like to have us create for them specially. So we have exclusives for that kind of thing.

And hey, as product designers or toy designers, we even come up with some original ideas of our own which occasionally end up as actual products. :)

One of the reasons I get certain product requests instead of the other artists on my team is due in part to the illustration work I've done in the past. Which is why I found it rather fascinating to recently check out the online portfolio by Kinuko Y. Craft, featuring illustrations for children's books and fairy tales. My traditional technique has some similarities to her production process; although I've had to modify mine somewhat because I finish the art digitally for most of my clients these days.

I originally got to know about Ms. Craft and her art because of a poster she created for the Dallas Opera, Madame Butterfly of which I bought a print. She has also illustrated most of the recent covers for a long time favorite fantasy author of mine, Patricia McKillip. Craft's style is definitely very recognizable. I especially enjoyed reading the part about her art technique development time, "...Sometimes a two page painting can take up to a month". Ha! I am lucky when I get a week. So, these days the quality of the final product is not up to my usual standards. Disappointing. But, I'm still expected to maintain the high quality finished look. Faster, faster!!!

Ah, well. I'm doing my best to educate my clients and their expectations. And for the moment, I do the stuff I sincerely enjoy at my home studio for my own projects.

For now.

Unsung Heroes

Last week's Illustration Friday topic was "Heroes". I came up with a couple of ideas which I didn't get around to posting before Friday.... It was my first time to doodle something for this group, and for some reason I thought that you were supposed to post it on Friday as opposed to getting a new topic that day. Oh, well. Next time maybe I can do an official picture in time.

Anyways, here's the two ideas I had. The first was a sketch based on a personal experience of mine when I was a kid. The second idea I got after watching a tv news report this past week about a garbage man coming to the rescue of a woman held hostage and tortured by three robbers in her own house. An unexpected hero.

I guess a lot of people think of firemen, or policemen or others that maybe serve in the military when they think of the real heroes that aren't the comic book superheroes. I like to consider the unexpected or unsung heroes that surround us everyday. Whether because their efforts provide an example for us to follow, or because in some way they inspire us to be more than who we are because of something they've done. Mentors, teachers, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers. An older brother or sister. An historical figure.

Heroes of the Past
While I'm not an active supporter of the U.S. military (I have my reasons) even though my father and uncle enlisted (Air Force and Army), and I was offered a full scholarship to attend West Point (huh, whatever), and I currently have two almost-nephews that are in the military (one in the Marines, the other Navy)...I do like to take a moment to reflect on both the military and civilian effort it took to create the United States, to finally become an independent nation. Something I actually don't do much at all on Veteran's Day. Shame on me, I suppose. So this 4th of July weekend, I think about the historical facts that I've been taught in various public schools, as well as the books that I've read (both fiction and non-fiction)...

How many were the little moments that we will never know where people were for even a brief time a hero in someone's eyes during the fight for Independence?

While I don't know any 230+ year old that lived during that time (or at least not that I'd admit ha), I do know people that survived other, more recent battles and have listened closely to their's the civilian perspective that I can relate to, not the military. Not a fight for independence, but the need and the will to survive something you have little or no control over.

There are stories my mother told me about events that occurred in her village when she was growing up in Germany during the end of WWII. For example, the Allied soldiers that were hidden in the old village barns to escape the Nazi army. The Black Market network that helped provide food for so many hungry families in the village, during both the Nazi and the Allied army occupations. The foolish, but brave things my aunts did to help the family (my mom has 8 older sisters) . My grandfather's racing pigeons that were a bit more than that. My grandmother's occasional trickery.

One story that all my cousins know (remember, there were 8 sisters...and they all had kids) was about the time a cow was butchered to provide meat for all the families (it really was a small village) and the soldiers found out about it and came to take all the meat for themselves. One of the neighbor boys saw them coming to the farm and ran quickly to warn the villagers that they were coming to collect their share.

Everyone was in a panic.

My grandmother pretended to be deathly ill and jumped into bed, but first took the various packages of cow meat and hid it under the covers with her.

Evidently her "illness" and the wailing my mom and her sisters did, as well as the comments from the helpful neighbors who were at the house visiting the "poor, sick woman" disturbed the soldiers enough that they hastily left the house, believing that there was no butchered cow but some kind of serious, contagious disease.