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.


Got Legs?

I was reading a book the other day that had some six-legged Snowcats. I wonder if the author was trying to do a kind of homage to the Princess of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I also remembered a somewhat similar book cover by Michael Whelan that had a multi-legged lion-like creature along with the usual scantily dressed Martian female. Anyways, I didn't like the Snowcat that was on this particular book cover, "Rebel Ice" wasn't as well done as the humans. So I decided to do my own concepts. Surprise!

I figure part of why I didn't like the artist's cat was that the body appeared to be too short to allow much freedom of movement of the extra pair of legs. Also, while the artist did use a snow leopard as a reference for the cat which fit the climate (mostly) that they were in, for the type of action required for the animals in the story (they carried riders and equipment on occasion), there did not appear to be enough size or strength to enable the cats in the illustration to do what they needed to do. Not that there ever was an explanation for why the critter needed six legs in the first never used them for carrying stuff or grasping. I know, I'm fussing. But these questions did inspire me to do my own studies. :)

For my cat sketch, I decided to bulk up the shoulders for added stamina and strength; lengthen the torso to allow for larger lung capacity and space for extra vertebrae on the spine for a second set of shoulder bones and legs, while still leaving room for intestines and other viscera. Fun!

Later, while wandering around on the web, I happened to discover a rather interesting blog - "The Blackwing Diaries" by a story artist named Jenny Lerew. My thanks to the
Seward Street blog for finding it and passing it on to the rest of us. :)

And for the final leg of my evening chat, my dear brother-n-law, Jim. He was injured in a driving accident last weekend when an oncoming driver veered into his lane and slammed into him and his truck. Lots of ouch to all. Surgery is definitely required, and recovery will take some time. I wish him the best! Hang in there, dude!

In the meantime, after the surgery I do look forward to having him as my new stationary subject for character studies while he's on the road to recovery. ;)



Happy Chinese New Year!

The factories we work with in China are closed for the next week in order to celebrate the Chinese New Year. At work on Friday, we had a nice company lunch brought in from a local Korean restaurant which serves more authentic Chinese food (not the usual fried rice) to honor our Chinese co-workers. This year will be the Year of the Dog. According to the Chinese Zodiac, I was born in the Year of the Snake.

Not that I ever feel reptilian (ha), but Zodiacs are always fun to think about. The above picture is of me when I was only 5 weeks old. I was looking through some old photos today for a photo of a baby reference and I knew that I had a couple of me around somewheres. There's an art student that I occasionally mentor who is doing an illustration of a baby and I wanted a reference or two to help explain why there were some problems with the baby's pose.

This weekend has been an exercise in Halloween thinking and a bit of artwork. We have a meeting on Monday to discuss the Halloween 2007 styleguide with the Product Line manager, so I've been working on my bit of the guide as well as squeezing in some of my own stuff and wrapping up some Easter and Valentine artwork. For some reason, it doesn't feel like I had a weekend. I had to miss the ABOSG meeting on Saturday which was something I look forward to each month. It's a chance to hear a little bit about what's going on in the Dallas Animation Community. I'll have to go to the next one for sure.

All that thinking about Halloween reminded me of one of my favorite illustrators, Robin Jacques. He illustrated many of my favorite fairy tales and scary stories for kids. He also created artwork for a few adventure stories. His line work is very distinctive and something I've always recognized and appreciated.

Speaking of reptiles, after reading a new book this weekend in the Dragon Delasangre series, I did a quick sketch during the hour it took to feed my two snakes today, Ghost (rat snake) and Copper (corn snake). They're both about 16 years old, and have lived quite a bit longer than I figured. I guess I'm doing something right. At least, unlike the dragons, my snakes don't rip and tear up their prey...although they do choke the mice and swallow them whole. I'm glad they only eat once a month or so.


Why the Animation Industry...

A friend emailed me the other day, "Your work is too good not to end up on screen for some studio..." Believe me, I know it's not because he saw the cat animation I did when I was in school. Ha!

It's sweet to hear when someone appreciates my art, but seeing my stuff on screen is actually not why I want to work in the animation industry (it would be a bonus though, heh). It's really because of all the creative jobs I've either researched, done professionally or spoken with other artists about...well, it happens to be the industry that satisfies all of my creative goals:

- I am/may be involved in developing the story (storyboards, layout, character development, etc.)
- I would be able to work on projects that are kid friendly, and not solely for adults
- I get to work with a team or teams of artists

- I am not required to travel periodically to China
- I do not need to dress up in costume for sales shows
- I can use my artistic skills to illustrate characters, environments and props
- I get paid for doing creative work I enjoy

As a freelance illustrator, while I *might* write and illustrate the story, I do not have the opportunity to work with other artists which is something I really enjoy and have appreciated with almost every team I've worked with in the past. I get lonely working at home by myself. I like working with other artists, bouncing around ideas and discussing techniques and learning from each other.

As a toy designer, I do not have the opportunity to work on products or projects where I can develop stories or my own characters from stories I've written or have the time to get to understand the licensed characters I'm designing into products - production time is far too rapid for that. In some instances, the concept I developed that morning is already turned into a sample by the next day in China to sell to a client. And over half the time the end product looks like a step-child of my original concept. Bleh. Plus, the only way to advance within this industry, or so I've been told, is to become a product manager and/or travel frequently to China and work in the factories over there. Neither of which is an attractive creative career path to me.

As a game artist, I would most likely be involved in developing characters and environments that I have little or no interest in, particularly if I stayed in Texas where most game companies develop first-person shooters, and other kill- or be-killed games. My preference is developing projects for kids, not war games; additionally, as a game artist I would be expected to develop concept art and model and rigg and texture and animate. Game companies, at least at the moment and those that I am most familiar with, still prefer generalists rather than specialists. There would be little opportunity to focus on only 2D visual development or that and 3D modeling and texturing. Although, if given the opportunity to work on games for kids, I'd certainly consider it; but I would likely have to accept a much more junior level role because of my lack of experience with 3D development on a day-to-day basis. And, while I like to play Doom now and then (and EQ2) I definitely don't have a "passion for games" - a frequently noted requirement on game artist job descriptions.

My artistic passion is for animation, illustration and story development, not games. The animation industry itself has long fascinated me and has definitely inspired my artwork. If traditional animation was still a strong part of the animation industry today in the U.S., that's likely where I'd be focusing more of my career interest. Hmm... Maybe one day, we'll have a kind of Studio Ghibli here, too. Now, there's another interesting related goal to strive for... :)

My most satisfying creative job was working as a multimedia artist on a contract with Houghton-Mifflin where I did a bit of storyboarding, character design, layouts, interface design, inking, coloring and 2D animation. I worked with some awesome creative people and we loved the work we did and were proud of the products we created.

And that's part of what I look forward to when I finally start my career in the animation industry.


Texas Burn Ban

I had to call the police tonight.

Not something I was planning on for my Saturday night, not at all. Seems almost like a stupid, silly mistake, but the potential results could have been devastating. That's why there's codes and law upon law and additional precautions even added - we have had such a bad drought in our area that even using barbeque grills in your backyard in at least one county is illegal at the moment.

Some idiot neighbor of mine at my apartment complex was grilling with a charcoal BBQ grill on his balcony.

I told you, it seems like a silly mistake. But it's at least a $2000 fine. Could be even more right now because of the burn bans that are in effect over most of Texas. What makes it worse, though, is the
city law here has been in effect for over 10 years and is a similar law throughout most Texas cities - absolutely no grilling on your apartment balcony; and any grills must be at least 10 feet away from any building structures. That's the law.

Now, the apartment complex does have to have tenants sign in their lease agreement that they have been informed of this regulation. And I remember signing it when I renewed my lease this past November because this same neighbor had been grilling on his balcony several times over the summer. I didn't say anything to him then, but I did tell the apartment office when I was there picking up some mail that one of my neighbors was occasionally grilling on his balcony. At that time I was informed that it was illegal and that there should be a sign posted on our balcony stating so. And that was something I'd seen at all of my previous apartment residences. I'd hoped that the apartment office would send out flyers complex-wide reminding all tenants about this law and if they didn't have a sticker, to let the office know so one could be posted. Simple, right?

There's no sign posted on my balcony. Still. I told them that at the office again today, when I was there to pick up my mail (my new dvd burner, yay!). I also asked them what I should do the next time I saw somebody grilling on their balcony or patio. Needless to say, this person wasn't the only idiot I'd seen grilling lately. They told me not to confront the tenant, but to call the police.

So tonight, when I saw my neighbor grilling, the flames leaping up out of the grill, and smelled the burning, I did. I called the police.

I felt bad. That's alot of money to have to pay for a stupid mistake. But you know what? This is the same idiot that during Christmas week when I was taking out my garbage one evening, I saw him grilling on his balcony...the smoke rising up into the apartment above him (he's on the second floor). So, I asked him, "Is that a grill?" He said, "Yes." And told me that he was grilling something for the company lunch at work the next day. I said, "Did you know that it's against the law to grill on your balcony? That it could be a $2000 fine?" He said, "No way!" Didn't know it at all. Had not had any trouble in the months that he'd been doing so. I told him to talk to the apartment office if he had any questions about it. And left him at it.

I told the police that it wasn't an emergency (I didn't call 911, but rather the listed number in the phone book), but that one of my neighbors was grilling on his balcony and that since there were so many burn bans in effect, I needed to know who to talk to about it and what I needed to do. They connected me with the fire department. And they came over.

They were glad that I called.

Maybe if I hadn't had the apartment complex burn down one street over because some idiot set off fireworks...maybe if a couple of years ago, I wouldn't have woken up to smoke in my bedroom because of the fire at another tenant's apartment unit only 10 feet away from my own home - caused by his neglected grill that set his own balcony on fire...maybe then I wouldn't have been so anxious and determined about calling to report this violation. I don't know.

Another house burned down today. It was caused by their neighbor grilling in his own backyard. The grass and then the fence caught fire. And a family lost their home.


Into the West...

Looks like I'm off to California in a few weeks for a few days to chat with some of the Disney creative staff.

Actually, it's part of my current job and has nothing to do with what I'm working toward in my career. Darn it. But it should be interesting and an opportunity to find out some of the upcoming styleguides and design trends that the Disney Product and Licensing group is developing. I might be going to Germany as well to see the
Christmas Trade Show. I'm thinking the next couple of weeks will have me seriously busy. And traveling. But not vacation. sigh.

And I have a cold. Poor me. "Arme kranke kleine Katze," my mom used to say when I was sick and miserable. It means, "Poor sick little cat." Meow.

Eh, I'm never happy these days. Time for a change.

Like I haven't said that before. D'oh!


Happy New Year!

First sketch of the new year, yay!

This illustration is the start of several digital paintings that I'll be creating this year using Photoshop and Painter. One of my New Year's resolutions, ha. It's a nice change of pace from my toy and other product designs. Plus, I need to work on my Painter skills...we're getting the software at work and I somehow managed to get volunteered to teach my creative team how to use it. D'oh!

I'll post some more progress as I continue working on the detailed underdrawing. Have some fixes that I already know I have to do (horrible arms!!!), and I don't know what I'm going to do for the background. Whatever I feel like, I guess.

And no, I'm not sharing what my other resolutions are... ;)