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.


Contribute...Be Challenged...Learn

I seem to be great at giving advice to new or junior level artists about what they could do in order to grow in their field. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be listening to my own advice.

Last Saturday, in addition to hearing about what the job outlook is like for women wanting to get into the game development industry...I brought in some of my recent sketches and one of my print portfolios to the WIGI event to hopefully get some feedback from people who actually work with games. I spoke with art directors and human resources peeps and game designers from companies like Midway, Ensemble Studios, Microsoft, Paradigm and Sony Entertainment.

What I specifically heard from the art director at Ensemble Studios was that my work was totally great but that I had a definite marketing problem.

I should be posting my artwork on forums like D'oh!

I needed to send out my work. D'oh!

Tailor the submissions to the company I am sending my portfolio to. D'oh!

Like I said, it sounds like I haven't been listening to my own advice. However, I also have not been sending any submissions to companies in the game industry because I've been targeting the animation industry for my dream job. Unfortunately, at least so far, they don't appear to want me.

Boo hoo.

I just know it, I'll have to start my own studio...and I seriously know the headache that that's going to cause me. But, that might be the only way I'll ever get the experience I'm seeking. We'll simply have to see what happens in the next few years.

In the meantime, I'm doing weekly contributions to the forums and I'll be doing the same on CGTalk, one of my other favorite hangouts. My "A
t Home" projects for the next two months (in addition to the job search which is the number one priority now) include the following, some of which I've mentioned previously:

- Creating an Elephant (modeling/texturing/rigging/animation) tutorial for Maya that I got from Lost Pencil
- Updating the Portfolio (online and print...a new round of submissions goes out this week...weeee!!)
- completing Mermaid Morning and other Illustrations (in both concept and "final for print" forms)
- Wicked Kids maquettes (a sculpting skill I'd like to add)
- A children's graphic novel
- The Gnome (revising storyboards and layouts, new character designs and environment concepts)
- Children's Picture book submissions (I have three in various stages of development, I need to submit the drafts to the editors I know for review)

I think I'm going to be a little busy.


Concept Art methods

I got to see a really interesting demonstration by Mark Behm, full-time animator part-time concept artist, at the ABOSG meeting last Saturday morning. The image that I posted above is the final color concept that resulted from the sketch that he brought with him at the start of the demo.

Unfortunately my co-workers who were really interested in checking out the demo couldn't attend for one reason or another. So I scheduled a creative session at work next week to give my own demo of what I learned about the Mark Behm concept art development method.

Should be fun. :)


Chick Challenge on ConceptArt

Well, I turned in my art entry, although I wasn't quite finished with it. sigh. No matter - I wanted to show my support for the ladies of the ConceptArt forum...and have a bit of fun with an illustration project that I just don't often have the time to create. :)

And I did have fun! Soooooo tired today, though.

I've posted some of my WIPs here to show from thumbnail sketches to "finished" product. I'll be doing the last updates to it over the weekend and then post it. Maybe include a before and after kind of thing, heh.

The final image was composited and colored in Photoshop from various scans of the detailed pencil drawings that I did. The pencil work was done on a Hot Press Illustration board at approximately 12" x 18" in size which was scanned in at 300 dpi. I drew the elements with a 2H pencil mostly, with the occasional 4B here and there for a few patches of darkness.

Here are a few (not all) of the thumbnails sketches I did first to explore the story and imagery that I thought could be told by the lyrics of Delerium's "
Fallen Icons":

I considered these as primary elements - dark woods, snow, fire/lightening, golden arrow, fortress ruin. And I thought about these themes - self discovery, becoming the hunter, rage at the enemy, change, resurrection, once upon a time long ago, legends, fairy tales. So I came up with these kind of scenarios or Character stories - rising up from the grave, being turned into a vampire, the monster inside, changing into the monster, from the seed to a tree (Shannara style), etc. So, after considering the words, "In a dark woods paved with snow living all alone, I forgot long ago what I'm looking for...", I finally thought about taking an old fairy tale like Little Red Robin Hood and looking at it in a different way. Like maybe one of her descendents has just found out that she's about to become a werewolf (there's the self discovery!) because her many-times great-grandmother got bitten when she got lost in the woods (long, long ago). :) I blame the recent movie series "Ginger Snaps" that I watched and the Patricia Brigg's book, "Moon Called" that I've already read twice for additional inspiration.

Besides, I still have a fondness for "The Company of Wolves" and I do like Angela Carter's other interesting stories...

Here are scenes from my dining table of the pencils in progress:

The project took about 20 hours to get to the above "finished" state. Breaking that down into blocks of development time, I'd say I spent about 6 hours on research and rough sketches; about 10 hours on the detailed underdrawing and 4-5 hours on coloring. Which is why I'm not finished. :)

I have about 4 more hours of pencil work to do on the missing characters and then about another 6-8 hours coloring that and doing the over-painting. I'm going to try and get that done over the weekend. By next Wednesday for sure.

Cause I've got too many other projects I want to work on!!!!

Bwa haha ha ha!!!


Busy Saturday!

Two events going on Saturday that will be keeping me busy!

First thing:
The ABOSG April 2006 meeting: presenting Mark Behm, a concept artist AND animator, speaking about digital painting and character development. "Lighting, value & color, visualizing form and process will be discussed and demonstrated. The medium will be digital although the approach applies to traditional methods as well."

I'm always curious to see another artist at work - you never know what interesting things you can learn about...and maybe incorporate into your own workflow. ;)

And then:
Women in Games International (WIGI) is hosting an event over at the SMU Guildhall about Advancing Your Career in Game Development: The Women's Perspective. I figure it's worthwhile to attend in order to speak directly with some of the women who actually have a career in game development, as well as get some feedback from recruiters and other game artists on my resume and art samples; particularly since I realize that toy production is simply not the career for me. Since I'm not getting anywhere at the moment with my job search in the animation industry (4+ years but who's counting...ah, me...darn it, sometimes it just gets depressing)...I think it would be a good next step for my creative career, especially since I don't have any intention of living in China in the near future. :)

Also on the positive side, working as a concept artist in the game industry I can hopefully get some real practice with 3D modeling and texturing, something I'm not able to do at all with my current job.

Sunday is going to be crazy: I need to finish my entry for the Chick Challenge.
Fun, fun, FUN!!!



Random Email

I got this random email the other day from someone named Ashley asking the following questions:

"Hello, my name is Ashley.

For my art class we have to research an art career and i choose visual develpoment artist. could u tell me a little bit about it? and tell me any school requirments? any talents needed for this? what kind of education do u need? do u have to go to college? for this project we must also come up with an project to show of. this will be my first time doing this got any advice or anything. i hope u dont mind me emailing u like this but this looks like an interesting art career. well i hope to hear from u soon. have a wonderful day. bye.

Love Always and Forever, Ashley."


Every once in a while I get a random email from someone who has either seen my website or seen one of my posts on some forum or wherever. I have to admit, I've sent out a few emails with questions myself. So if it seems legit, I will send an email back. :)

Here's what I sent in reply to this latest one:

Hi Ashley,

I'm not sure what grade your art class is in, elementary or high school, so if you need more information then I've provided here please let me know. :)

You asked if I could tell you a little bit about what a visual development artist does. Well, the title pretty much tells you exactly what it is - you visually develop products and ideas through your art.

In my current role as a visual development artist in the toy industry, I create concept art for a wide variety of toy and novelty products. Sometimes that means a quick pencil or marker sketch to help the product manager communicate their idea to a buyer. Sometimes that means a very detailed illustration with character turn-arounds with callouts of fabric materials, product dimensions, pantone colors, and a picture of the product inspiration if there was one. I have also worked as a children's book illustrator, a multimedia artist, a software interface designer, a portrait artist, a web designer, a graphic artist, a veterinary assistant, a gift-wrap specialist, and so on. I would love to work full-time as an artist in the animation industry one day, too. :) I have two degrees: one is a BFA in Communication Arts with a minor in Marketing, and the other is an Associates degree in Computer Animation and Design. All of those experiences and more have helped me in my on-going creative career as a visual development artist.

As a visual development artist or VDA, you would be responsible for helping to generate new ideas and concept drawings for the company you work for. You might also take those conceptual drawings into what could be called "final art" which would be very tight, clean b/w line art or color illustration (or series of illustrations or storyboards or character turn-arounds and so on) or 3D model of the idea and see it through actual production - whether that is for animation, game development, toy production, advertising, automobile production, book illustration, etc.. There are many industries that benefit from the assistance of a VDA.

School requirements for this job will vary. At the very least, some VDA jobs may require an associates degree and 2+ years of professional creative experience in a particular industry, or a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree (BFA). Other VDA jobs, depending on the industry, may require an Industrial Design degree (4 years) instead. From my own experience, I would say that any education that can help you learn draftmanship skills (drawing, sculpting, painting, CG art), that provides you with a variety of experiences, creative and otherwise, and keeps you interested in learning, inspired and self-motivated...and most definitely teaches good communication skills would be a good school to attend. As a visual development artist, you have to be able to communicate your vision to the people that hire you - so you need to be a good artist and a good communicator (writing and speaking) and have a ton of ideas at every moment. The more you know, the more original or new and improved ideas you can provide.

Talent? Talent might help get you started and keep you motivated to improve your drawing and other creative skills. But, you have to be willing to practice, practice, practice. Ask any artist and they will be practicing their craft every day. Carry a sketchbook around with you so that you can draw in it every day when you're on the bus going to school or instead of just sitting in front of the tv. You know what I mean. :)

To help you better focus your interest in becoming a visual development artist, I would say decide what industry you would like to work in, and then do some research about the kind of education and experiences that they would like to see in their creative employees. You can often find out by visiting those company websites and seeing the job opportunities they post and the requirements for those jobs.

I am not sure what you mean by your last question:"For this project we must also come up with an project to show of. this will be my first time doing this got any advice or anything." Do you mean, what kind of project would a visual development artist do?

I hope the information that I've provided is what you need for your report. Please let me know if you require any additional info. And - good luck with your project!



Elephant sketches and Chick Challenge

The first step in order to do the 3D model of an elephant (as per the tutorial): create sketches of orthographic reference views of the object - front, side and top. I've posted the front and side view sketches of the elephant that I did.

As per every 3D project I've done in the past, I sketched the three views of the character I want to model. I also did a rear view, just because. In this instance, however, since I am following a tutorial, I am keeping my sketches somewhat similar to the samples as provided by the tutorial so the elephant is fairly realistic. After this project is done it would be worthwhile to do a more fun, cartoon version that would still apply what I've learned from the tutorial but in my own style.

Chick Challenge is hosting a challenge in the Thunderdome arena for the girls of the forum. Sounded like fun so I'm joining in.

Challenge: FEMALE CONTESTANTS ONLY art battle
Medium: Your choice. Have fun!
2D Digital and traditional media are all acceptable.
NO photograpy (or photo manipulations) allowed.

****Subject: Visually Interpret a Song of Your Choice****
Contest ENDS / ENTRIES DUE BY: APRIL 24 2006 11:59pm PST

Of course, the prize is pretty decent, too:

But I'm doing this for fun and to have something recent besides the ever so cute Christmas stuff to put in my portfolio. The best part is that you also have to post WIP's so it will be a good way to show how I develop my projects. And I'll get to see how some others do their work as well. There's about 70 different girls signed up to participate, from students to professionals.


Happy 100th, Animation!

According to ASIFA, today is the 100th year for animation.

"The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is celebrating Animation's 100th Birthday on April 6th. From its humble beginnings with J. Stuart Blackton's film, "Humorous Phases of Funny Faces" first released on April 6th, 1906, animation has gone on to become one of the greatest American creative contributions to the arts, second only to Jazz."

Seems like such a short time for such an interesting art form.

Toy Design: the Technical Artist

While my own current role as a toy designer/product designer requires more of the creative skills of a traditional artist (drawing, inking, painting) along with the usual Photoshop, etc.; some companies would rather have a more technical CG artist to assist in the product development pipeline.

For example, I saw this posting and description the other day for a toy designer / 3D modeler:

"...has worked with top studios and designers from consumer based product to high-end collectables - to limited edition “high-art” based licensing with Internationally renowned artists.

We currently are seeking talented and experienced (Maya) modelers with a strong aptitude for 3D modeling tools and capturing character details from style guides for toy production/rapid prototyping.

Ideal candidate will have a working knowledge of outputting to a rapid prototyping machine (converting from obj. to stl.), however, studio is willing to train the right candidate. Modelers must have an eye for detail and be able to work off of 2D specs, designs/turns and capture the product and style (of design) flawlessly and ‘on-model‘. Most projects are character and or prop based (stylized cartoon to ultra-realistic props, action figures and or vehicles), some environmental design from time to time. Strong technical and IT background a plus. Must be self-motivated, responsible, and driven, to work with our fast paced environment. Must have a genuine enthusiasm and passion for toy design.

Must Have:
  • 2 years professional industry experience in toy design and or (industry level) character based modeling (Maya)
  • Must have experience in working from specs, turn-arounds or style guides and be able to translate from 2D into 3D.
  • Some knowledge of outputting to a rapid prototyping machine.
  • 2 years traditional art background with experience in design, drafting and hands on figurative sculpting."

So. Even if you don't have all of the traditional art skill from years of practical experience, university education, or even raw talent, you can still get a fairly creative role in the toy industry. :)


My Cat Likes to Floss

My cat, Marco Polo, likes to floss his teeth.

I'm not sure how or even why it all got started. I mean, it's not like he can hold the floss between his paws...well, not exactly. He's managed to train me how to do that for him. He is, after all, a charming poser kind of cat. He's all black and happens to understand how beautiful he can look when he's framed by the doorway, laying down on a red blanket, or sitting 'just so' on the window sill. Maybe that's why he likes to keep his teeth shiny and white. Maybe it was originally the sound of the floss being pulled out of the container that attracted him. Maybe it's because he likes to play with string when I let him have the chance. Only when supervised, of course. I'm sure he'd be happy to swallow it down,
given the chance, and then impact his intestines or twist them in some horrible fashion that would require surgery at the very least. That's just one of those crazy things cats do.

This is the same cat, after all, that electrocuted himself a few years ago by chewing on my desk lamp power cord. Got the shock of his life, literally. He never chewed on wires and electric cords again, thank goodness.

Interestingly, he's very particular about which brand of floss he likes. It has to be Crest Glide floss in mint flavor. Believe me, I tried cheaper brands once I realized how demanding he is about flossing regularly every night. But, no, it had to be Glide.

He's much better and persistent about flossing than I am. Every night as soon as he realizes that I'm about to brush my teeth (and hopefully floss I said, he's better than I am), he sits patiently at my feet and waits. Waits till I open the right side drawer. Waits till I pull out the floss container. And if I immediately don't offer him some floss, he will ask for it. The demanding type of meow that lets me know he wants something. Now.

I pull out the floss, wrap it around my fingers, bend down and present it to him. He immediately starts to purr and starts chewing up and down the line. It is the most hilarious thing I've ever seen this silly cat do. He's extremely focused and will have the most bizarre expression on his face with his eyes bulging and tongue rasping along the floss strand. He will even move his head side to side to reach the front and the far back teeth. When he's almost finished, I'll release one side of the floss so he can grab that end with his mouth and like a string of spaghetti in reverse, I'll pull at the floss so it goes through his front teeth. He likes to do that a couple of times before I say, "Enough".

I wonder how long this will last...