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.


Harryhausen: You're the Coolest

So cool to see and hear from an artist whose work I've long admired and whose movies are a blast! I still get all silly when I watch some of my favorites, especially "Mysterious Island", "Clash of the Titans" and "Jason and the Argonauts".

Thanks to A Bunch of Short Guys (Dallas Animation Group) and
Janimation and the other sponsors for putting this together.

Yup, I got the book, The Art of Ray Harryhausen; AND got it autographed. Had a fun discussion with a singer from the Dallas Opera while I was in helped make the wait to meet Mr. Harryhausen go by faster. It made me think that I need to get me a ticket or two for a show again and listen to some fine music. Not that I'm a major opera fan, but I did notice in the brochure I got the other day from the Ft Worth Symphony Orchestra that they're putting on a Warner Brother's Cartoon Music set called "
Bugs Bunny on Broadway". Now THAT sounds like a whole lotta fun. :) And what a great introduction to Bass Hall - I'm sorry to say that I still haven't been to a musical performance there yet.

But back to Harryhausen...

I was so impatient to go through the book as soon as I picked it up that I missed when they started letting people in. D'oh! Turns out that the guy that ended up sitting next to me is running a small 2D animation studio where one of my former co-workers is now animating. Based on what Anthony had said before about the place, it reminds me alot of the multimedia group where I first started learning some animation and layout after university. Lots of long hours, some really fun stuff, and so much to learn from some seriously experienced artists. Sounds great! I'm glad to hear that he's doing well.

Now for real, back to Harryhausen....

We got to see the short film of a new production he was involved with called "The Pit and the Pendulum", which is based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe. It was really cool! Made me want to rethink the offer I had earlier today to work on a stop motion project. It would totally be on our own time. I need to talk to the guy again tomorrow and see if we can't get something going. Why not? It would be fun.


Spring 3D Tutorial

It's Spring! Time to start new things....or at the very least clean out the closet. :)

After the not so steady progress I had with the 3D book tutorials to keep up my modeling skills, I determined that since I wasn't going back to school (again) that a strong video tutorial might be a better idea and a better fit for my wacky non-work creative schedule. While I won't have the direct teacher contact and can't turn to the student(s) sitting next to me to ask about what I missed...I will be able to watch someone build the project, and follow those steps rather than reading about it. Plus I can still post my progress on one of my favorite modeling forums for added feedback. The DVD's that I currently have aren't necessarily project specific, but do give good walk-thru's of the various 3D programs. What I really wanted was a video that took me thru modeling, rigging, texture/UV, and finally basic animation with one project.

I'm gonna build me an
elephant in Maya. :)

Check back soon - I'm on a schedule, so I'll be posting my progress regularly. Or at least, more so than I did with the book tutorials, heh.

My first task: research! Always fun. I need to find some good elephant images so I can sketch my poses for the modeling portion. Also, it probably won't hurt to get some good skin references while I'm hunting down elephants for the later texturing part of the project. I've already found some excellent references of elephants in motion from the
BBC Motion Gallery for the basic animation portion of the tutorial set. It's my favorite online video library. I also (surprise!) already had a book on African Elephants in my library that I probably got from Half-Price Books at some time. I have a good reference library. ;)

Other Random Projects
One of my co-workers has offered to show me how to design the pattern and sew a plush toy based on one of my critter designs. I'm hoping I'll be able to pull in an hour or two at the office after I've signed out so that I can use some of our sewing room equipment. One of the reasons I want to do this is because I happen to like plush toys. :) I've also always wanted to make a few, for myself, similar to the
Steiff type of collectible plush toy made of mohair. There's also a Russian artist who does some hand-made ones as well. They are sooo cute! Maybe one day I'll have my own limited edition line made right here in the U.S.A...not in China or Germany.

I've been learning the flute. To make sure I keep up my practice for that, I'm scheduling some music time during each week for flute as well as some relaxing time at my keyboard. I'm totally a hobbyist with my music and have no intention of being anything more than that. I'm just glad that I took all those piano lessons when I was a tot so that I can enjoy playing as an adult.

Sculpting a Maquette. I'm doing a couple of sculpts based on the line of Halloween dolls that I designed at my job. While I'm sure the final samples that the factory produces will be quite interesting (I hope) and will be a fun mix of vinyl/PVC and plush...and even include animation (the robotic, motion-sensor kind) and sound; I like the designs well enough that I'd like to create maquettes of a couple of them. One of my co-workers has also promised to show me how to make a cast of my final sculpts.

Oil painting. I've got the canvas and the paints just waiting for me to find some time. This year seems a good year for that. The painting I've been planning for awhile is based on a photo that I took at the Ft. Worth Zoo some years ago in the bird exhibit. My thought is to try and recreate some of the style that I have with watercolour but in oils. It will be a fun project. :)

Me Day. Today was my birthday so I celebrated by having a "Me Day". It was nice and relaxing. Yes, I did actually start cleaning out my closet. I think it's going to take all week. Doh! My co-workers knew I was taking the day off today, so last Friday they took me out for a lovely lunch at
Cozymel's (tableside guacamole, YUM!) and we all shared a birthday cake later that afternoon. Although I was out, some of my friends (you know who you are) sent me a lovely flower bouquet that made me smile all afternoon. Work is just a few miles away, so after "Night Watch" was finished (I treated myself to a matinee), I swung by the office and brought the flowers home to enjoy for the rest of the week.


Communicating Vision: Developing Trend Boards

I'm rather surprised that I didn't learn how to use or develop trend boards until I was already a senior web designer. That was about 6 years after graduating from University. Granted, I did focus on Illustration rather than Advertising Art so maybe I simply didn't have that class, but even so... What with the variety of products I've worked on as a professional artist, not to mention the fact that I attended a four year university program to gain my BFA in Communication Arts, I should have run across them before.

Trend Boards are SO useful!

While the Fashion Industry uses boards all the time to help determine the next season's designs, they aren't the only industry to benefit from working with trend boards. There are a variety of reasons that trend boards would benefit any product, whether software or automotive design or publications like magazines or film development or toys - it's a great way to communicate your product's design vision in a visual way that most people can immediately understand.

Trend Boards for Toy Development

Concept boards are used in the early stages of product development to coordinate the efforts of everyone on the design team. Having a visual indicator of the design direction helps in the decision process by narrowing down the different directions from various ideas proposed by the team. This also provides a consistent vision from the design team to the product managers and buyers. From what I've read about the fashion industry, boards are used in selling apparel internally to the manufacturer’s sales force and externally to retail buyers; much in the way they can be used to present concepts and themes of products to the sellers and buyers in the toy development industry - or so it has been with my experience as a toy designer.

We've used single trend boards to show references of inspiration; and other boards to show colors, fabric, fonts, along with the particular style of art specific to the trend. Other times with other projects, we've used one board for presenting color, one for the trend theme (which included fabrics, materials, animation, fonts, characters, story), and another to show the concepts developed within the trend theme.

Trend Boards for Web and Software Design
One of the ways we developed trend boards for web and software application design for clients was to have them select product designs and layouts that they preferred because they liked the colors, they liked the layout, they liked the use of white space, they like the fonts...they felt it could convey their brand, or fit the image that they wanted their product to present. A quick way to do this would be to have them pick out web sites and send us the links. However, back in the early days when there simply weren't that many websites (or there were few sites that didn't have every color and font the browser provided plus a GIF animated flashing logo...horrid!); we would provide a big batch of magazines from all kinds of industries and interests in one of our conference rooms (or the client's specified workroom), tear out sheets, and have a half-day or all day exploration of what key elements they wanted as part of their product design aesthetic. It was always a fun day. :)

Trend Boards for Animation?
During the Disney work session, the Disney creative directors and their design staff provided trend boards for the licensed products that we'll be working with in the next year. But that was for consumer product development. I don't know how or if trend boards are used in developing animation. I have no actual experience with animation development (outside of my brief internship); and have not read any information about it at all in any of the "Art of..." animation books and others that I've picked up over the years. Maybe I just haven't run across any mention of it yet, or they go by a different terminology in animation development.

Here are some examples of design trend boards that I found on the internet that have some similarities to boards that I've created or worked with in the past:

Trend Boards sample 1

Trend Boards sample 2

Trend Boards sample 3


Ho, Ho,

Yup, it's Christmas time. Again. Just plop a Santa hat on it and you're done. ;)

Our product development schedule runs at least a year in advance, and that has to include enough time for concept development, sample development and various stages of approvals from product managers to licensers (in some instances like Disney for example) to vendor buyers (like Wal-mart). So, what I'm working on now you might see in stores late 2007 or 2008.

Last year, I listened to Christmas music to try and get in the Holly, Jolly spirit of Christmas. Just couldn't do it this year. Instead, I'm trying to do something new and different (and listening to whatever is on my iPod...NOT Christmas music). Something that, after almost two years (my, how time flies), I feel more comfortable about doing since I have a much broader understanding of what we have produced, what products of ours will be in stores this season and next; and, what our competitors have been doing. Plus, because of the popularity of some of my designs with the buyers and our product managers, I can push out something completely different and call it my own. :)

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, of my concepts survives the final cut and sell. Guess I'll find out Christmas 2007...

In Other News...
I got an email from the AI Alumni association a couple weeks ago asking for my assistance in their Mentoring Program. I politely replied with an email that basically stated, "I'm nowhere near to the new career path that I planned to have (a creative role in the animation industry) after graduating from the Dallas Art Institute. I would have nothing positive to say to any AI student as a mentor at this time."

The job that I currently have as a toy designer utilizes NONE of the new skills (admittedly, quite junior level) in 3D production and design that I learned in order to gain my associates degree at AID in 2004 (my second degree). Instead, my current job which is junior level since I had no prior experience in the toy design industry, relies on skills that I already had developed from the years of practical experience working as an artist after receiving my BFA from UNT in 1992.

I don't think my education at AID was a complete waste because I love to learn and I did gain a better understanding of 3D production. I also appreciate the time and effort it took for me to both work (sometimes part-time and sometimes full-time as an internet consultant and designer) and be a full-time student again for what I considered "continued education" in order to change my career. So. I don't feel that I can mentor any student as an AID alumni until my job reflects and builds on the skills and career path that was my whole reason for attending AID.

Makes total sense, right?

Anyhoo, I just got back an email from one of the alumni coordinators in response to my comments about my lack of qualifications to be a Mentor for their students. Basically, how they hate to hear of my disappointment with the progress, or lack thereof, in my career since graduating from the school. And what they can do to assist me.

Assist me?

Hmmm...I'm thinking there's really nothing they can do today, particularly if they couldn't help me before when I was fresh out of their program. I found more job leads on my own than from what I got from the job search program, the AI staff had no industry contacts that they could directly refer me to; and honestly job leads is really only what I would or could expect from them at this point.

EDIT: The online mentor/mentee for all of the current AI students and alumni could be a good thing...if more alumni participate. In any case, I went ahead and signed up that I was looking for a mentor - "a successful 3D modeler working in the animation industry, not game development, who could provide guidance and advice." :)