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.


...And My Creative Life Drags On

I need a vacation. Well, there are a few other things that would also help make my life a bit more meaningful, but a vacation would be a good start. The above picture was a photo that I took on our hotel balcony when we visited Santa Monica a few years ago. That was just too long ago. I miss the Pacific Ocean so much.

It's been rather nice and quiet at work since most of the managers are either in China or traveling or on vacation. Everyone on my team is ready for a vacation, too, I think. It has been difficult to focus on yet another creative brainstorming...this time for lawn and garden novelty and toys and outdoor activity stuff. I myself don't have a house or yard...barely a balcony to be honest...and have rented various apartments for the last 20 years or so, so it can be rather challenging to come up with the "Next Big Thing" for garden decor.

So, I'm doing alot of research. Some online, some offline, and a few interviews to gather information about what consumers are looking for to make their gardens the envy of the neighbors. ha!

Surprisingly, some of my designs for novelty yard products are seriously selling well. I'm stunned actually. I have to admit, that for those particular products, I did take inspiration from my crazy, I mean my lovely sister and her husband...both of whom I always enjoy visiting. I'll have to make sure to give them a few samples cause I know they'll appreciate them. :)


I asked a girl friend of mine about the post I made on the ABOSG forum to get a discussion going on female role models in the animation industry...since the professor I mentioned, after reading my comment, thought that I'd been offended by his comment. I wasn't offended so much as I was irritated...and I needed to understand what it was about his statement that bothered me, and I wanted to let him know without interrupting the presentation. The discussion thread and subsequent comments did clear that up and got some others aware of my point.

Anyways, here's what she replied after I asked for her opinion about my discussion thread:

"Personally, I think what you said was great! It's too bad that others didn't really accept your comment as an opening to an interesting discussion/debate and instead took it personally.

I think Rita Street is a good example of the fact that women CAN be successful in this industry, but she's not doing the sort of job that the young people coming to the ABOSG meetings are seeking. As a woman who works in a predominately male industry, it's helpful to see women being successful in this industry. It is however very disheartening that most of them aren't artists working on the floor. That part of things is still very male-centric. Women are still repeatedly passed up for promotions, advancements, etc. Not to mention we're treated like we're doing something "cute" that we have any sort of talent at all in many cases.

Wait - I thought this was 2006?

Women still get paid a lower average salary than men do and working in such a male-dominated industry doesn't help that. It means we have to work harder, longer just to prove that we deserve what everyone else is already getting. It would have been very nice to have had someone to look up to when I was first learning how this industry works. I don't know, I see validity on both sides of the coin on this one. I do think that it would be nice to see some women speakers at some of these meetings. Specifically women who have been in the industry for a while."

And then there's the new private Girls Forum on that was created to help the Ladies of CA build a network and potentially provide a professional arena for women who are interested in developing or sharing their skills in concept art development...

They've renamed this new forum the "G-Spot".



EXTRA, the entertainment newsshow, tonight called the upcoming "Ant Bully" the "sleeper animated hit for this summer" - ""The Ant Bully" is animated with a capital "A" as in A-listers, with the voices of Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep and Nicolas Cage lending their voices to the family film."

Of course, ExtraTV is owned by Time/Warner, so take that comment with a grain of salt. So sad, though, that DNA Productions, Inc., the company that wrote the script based on the children's book by John Nickle, directed, designed and animated the movie...chose to lay-off just about everyone that worked on it. Yeah, and I bet that their next feature production(s) will have the high quality and talented artists and animators that I've heard about in the development of Ant Bully. NOT.

It's really sad, but true, that we just don't have the available studios here in Dallas like Los Angeles so that talent can rotate from one creative workplace to the next...and it's not that easy to get people from there willing to move to Texas for a year or two of production time. There's just not enough animation work being done here in Texas to make that a feasible decision to bring family and buy/sell their home.


Some concept art by Henry Selick for the upcoming stop-motion feature film was posted on Neil Gaiman's blog for "
Coraline." Go here to check it out.


I updated my side navigation to include some of the books, DVDs and other linkable items that I'm currently reading, studying, or watching. I've noticed a couple of other blogs that have something similar which has allowed me to find some interesting sites and fun stuff, so I thought I'd do a bit of sharing, too.


A few weeks ago on the forum, I found a new thread with concept art for what looked rather like characters from
Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight. And I wasn't the only one to comment about the similarity. The artist had apologised in his opening paragraph about the quality of the concepts (which were pretty good), and had stated that these were his first ever dragon would we please be gentle. My comment was that the art was great, but if he was doing an homage to Anne McCaffrey's dragons, he needed to get rid of the horns on the dragon heads and make sure that he didn't use scales...that's part of what made Anne's dragons uniquely hers..and she's pointed that out rather frequently. I also added that "hadn't a Canadian company a few years ago also done some pre-viz work on a potential tv series about the Dragonriders of Pern...I remember so looking forward to that". Interestingly enough, the thread was deleted later that day.

And I just so happened to get this announcement this past week in one of those VFX emails that I get periodically:

Ryan Producers Ride Pern Into Theaters
"Anne McCaffrey's best-selling and long-running sci-fi/fantasy series THE DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN will fly into theaters via Canadian production company Copperheart Ent, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.Copperheart, which produced Chris Landreth’s 2005 Oscar-winning animated short RYAN, has optioned the 19-book series, which began with DRAGONFLIGHT in 1968..." There's a bit more info in the rest of the the title link to go to the source.

Edit: Ah ha! I knew there would be info about the earlier prospective tv series somewhere on the internet....

Crescent Blues: While we're talking about dragons and cameras, Crescent Blues has heard there's a new television series currently in production in Toronto called The Dragonriders of Pern. This is really exciting news for Pern fans. When and how did this come about?

Anne McCaffrey: Zyntopo with Alliance/Atlantis are doing a live-action, digitally enhanced, animatronic TV series, prime time and internationally aired, called The Dragonriders of Pern (R). Robinton will certainly be a player, but the series will start with a combination of Renegades of Pern, Dragonflight, and All The Weyrs of Pern. With some 2558 years to work in, there's plenty of material for adventures. But to the second question, when and how, it all revolves around a kitten and that's a long story. Suffice it to say that there's been pre-production work in Dublin and Toronto, for the past year and a half, and I'm quite satisfied with the work in its present stage., isn't that interesting.


My Alter Ego

A color concept of an 18th century maybe that's how I would have looked back in that time period. ;) I had posted the original sketch on my blog on an earlier occasion. This is after about 20 minutes of quick coloring in Photoshop tonight.

Here's my original sketch:


Maquette Sculpting panel

The ABOSG presentation was tweaked a wee bit - Riley had to cancel at just about the last minute, so a couple of other people that do a bit of maquette sculpting were kind enough to give a presentation, bring some of their work with them, and hold a Q&A afterwards - Anthony Coffey (I-Station) and Shawn Peters (ReelFX).

One of the guys was actually someone I'd worked with in the past at the toy company where I'm currently employed; however, he now works as a 2D animator. He brought along some of the maquettes that he used to have sitting at his desk...stuff that he'd done in his own time - not for work. The other guy, primarily a digital illustrator and matte artist, was a bit newer to the maquette sculpting process - he'd been learning this technique at work in the past year with the company's go-ahead, by creating actual maquettes as pre-vis tools for a couple of their 3D animation projects.

Their presentation was primarily focused on getting started in maquette sculpting, so they gave us handouts which included a list of basic tools, armatures, modeling clay, brief step-by-steps of the sculpting process, and suggested tutorials for us to check out. They also discussed some of their best practices, some of their mistakes, and some of their reasons for using the different types of clay or, on occasion, combinations of clay.

Since this is exactly what I needed to know, it was all good to hear. I have one sculpt currently in progress, the head of one of my polar bear characters, that I now know how to finalize with details.

I should have taken some pictures to show some of the excellent work that the guys brought with them, but unfortunately I didn't bring my camera. I'll have to next time. Actually, the next meeting will be the
Industry Giants event, and I've already bought a ticket for that, so I will definitely be taking pictures at that time!

Here are some of the recommended websites for sculpting inspiration and reference:

And may I also recommend these:

Maquette Sculpting tutorial by GoblinQueen:

Chiarelli Studios:

The Gnomon Workshop Sculpting DVDs by John Brown:

The Stop Motion Animation discussion boards:

Prior to the panel presentation, a comment from one of the instructors attending the meeting had me shaking my head and getting a bit irritated.
Rita Street will be the moderator for the discussion panel and Q&A that will conclude the IG 2006 event. This instructor from the Collin County Community College felt that Ms Street would be an excellent role model for the young females of ABOSG who are seriously interested in working in the animation industry.

I disagree completely. Did he say this comment simply because Ms Street is a woman working in the animation industry? Are we going back to the days of the
Disney Ink and Paint girls?

The women that attend the
A Bunch of Short Guys meetings are generally doing so, not only because they are interested in working in the animation industry, but also because they are learning and building skills as animation artists by studying and practicing character animation, modeling, storyboarding, digital and traditional illustration, and other various 2D and 3D disciplines. Why would they be even remotely interested in becoming an editor, producer, managing director or journalist of animation, particularly at this early creative stage in their art of animation careers? To put it bluntly, those roles tend to be rather non-creative in a potentially very creative environment.

If the
CCCC 2 year program in 3D Entertainment Animation/offered courses in the business of animation and was churning out writing degrees for roles in the animation industry, then I would agree that any student, not just females who happen to be interested in working in the animation industry, should see Ms. Street as a role model. She is very successful at what she does and is fairly well-known in the animation community.

Cartoon Brew:

"Rita Street is the managing director of
Radar Cartoons, a boutique consultancy firm focusing on the needs of international animation studios, helping develop and sell her client’s original content onto American networks. Rita is also the out-of-house entertainment producer for the Los Angeles-based design house Mighty Fine (creators of Ruby Gloom and French Kitty) and the co-producer of "The Nicktoons Film Festival" with Frederator Studios for the Nicktoons cable channel.

Before opening Radar, Rita worked as a publisher, editor and journalist focusing on the industry of animation. She has served as the publisher of ANIMATION MAGAZINE, the editor of FILM & VIDEO MAGAZINE and has also authored several books on graphic arts including COMPUTER ANIMATION: A WHOLE NEW WORLD (Rockport). For the Art Institute of Pittsburgh she serves as a program advisory committee member for Game Art & Design. She has also served on several prestigious juries, most notably Austria's Prix Ars Electronica competition for excellence in computer animation and visual effects.

Rita is the founder of the international non-profit organization,
Women In Animation and a board member of ASIFA-Hollywood."

I wish I would have spoken up at the time he made that comment. Eh, but I probably would not have been able to speak as directly to the point about why that comment bothered me. Instead I think that I will post these comments on the ABOSG forum, in the hopes that I can better present my argument...and maybe get a nice little discussion going. :)



One final comment:

A male student from my old school that liked to follow me around, sit next to me in every class we had together, send me email after email asking to be my "friend", wanted me to teach him better English, pestered me about giving him job advice and help him get a job...showed up at the ABOSG meeting. It's like old nightmares from elementary school...but in college!

When we were in school I treated him no better and no worse than any of my regular classmates. This man was not a friend of mine. Just a classmate. One little smile and a friendly hello to him just as I did to any other student I knew while I was in school, and the idiot WOULD NOT LEAVE ME ALONE! I did ask him to stop sending me emails and I told him that I could not help him with his career. I finally just blocked all emails from him. Once I graduated, there was no further in-person contact with him either.

Well, get this: I left the meeting for a short bathroom break. He followed me and waited! I leave the restroom area to go back and there he was. He just stood there watching me, smiling. There was no one else in the bathroom that he could've been waiting for. I decided to leave the meeting entirely and didn't go back. I don't need that kind of annoyance.

What a creep.


It's a Small World

The above sketch is only one of the many interesting characters, I mean people, that I saw at the Taste of Addison festival last Saturday. She was really quite nicely coordinated with her little yappy terrier. Believe me, there were times I wish I had brought my camera...just to be able to show later, "See! She/he actually exists!" There was a guy that looked exactly like Santa Claus, too.


I keep forgetting how small and inter-connected the creative community can be.

There was the time I was coming up out of the subway in Union Square one morning back when I was working in NYC heading for my office across the I went up the stairs, one of my former co-workers who had joined with a different company based in Boston while I was in NYC, happened to be coming downstairs. We both just then looked up at the same time and saw each other. Fun!

Yesterday I found out that the sister of one of the tech department heads at my current job was at the WIGI event I was at a couple of weeks ago. She was one of the speakers who gave a presentation about her experiences as a woman in the game development industry. She had originally studied architecture at A&M (the first University I went to) but now happens to be a level designer for Ensemble Studios.

Today I got an email from a toy and boardgame company in Seattle that had picked up my resume from one of the various creative job boards that I frequent. They were curious to find out if I was available for a full-time position with their company. Interestingly enough, a couple of the principles with this company used to work at the toy company where I'm currently employed. Like I said, small world! If I was looking to develop my career further in the toy industry, then they would be someone I'd be interested in talking to further. However, I'm not interested in pursuing additional full-time experience in the toy industry - my goal is to find work in the animation industry. Possibly...maybe... in the PC/console game development industry. So, I basically replied, "Thanks! But I'm not available at this time."

Well, it happened once again. Turns out that Mr. Riley whose presentation on maquettes I'll be seeing this weekend, also did some work for one of my current co-workers when my co-worker was working with George Lucas and Skywalker Ranch for some new Star Wars promotional pieces; the client was Pepsi I think. Anyways, they did several life-size versions of characters like
Watto, Yoda, Darth Maul and a few others and hired Riley for some product development. Riley seriously impressed my co-worker with the speed and accuracy of his sculpting of the Watto character.

And that Watto character happens to sit now in the cubicle behind me. And the poor thing wears a raccoon hat. There's a Yoda, too, up further over on the right. And a few other toys and props. Well, alot more, to be honest. We each have all sorts of toys and gizmos at our desks and taking up space in our cubes.

It's one of the perks of being a toy know, the need for reference material. ;)



My mom is in Europe for the summer, something she does every year; so there's no special Mother's Day event today to do. However, I do have a "Care Package" heading out her way in the next few days so that will be a nice little surprise; and I chatted briefly with her this afternoon. Next summer I might be spending a week or two with her - that will be fun. It's been a few years since I've had the time to do that and I'd like to visit before she eventually sells the apartment, although that might not be for a few years yet. Hopefully, my work schedule, wherever it is, will cooperate. Besides, it's time to get in some updates for my photo albums. That's me in the pix above, from a few years ago. No pink in the hair at all and it was still quite long although I usually had it pulled back or braided. I'd just broken up with my sometimes occasional boyfriend (SOB for short) so I think my mom figured a trip would be a nice distraction. The beer with breakfast, lunch and dinner helped, too.

Yesterday, I had a great time visiting with my friend Toni and her little niece and nephew. She flew them in to spend a long weekend with her. They've grown so much! We spent the day at the
Taste of Addison festival with the kids and a few additional assorted friends, and had a great time eating, checking out all the interesting people wandering around, listening to the live music, and riding lots of carnival rides. It was a blast. At least, I wasn't the only one about to barf after the many spinning, twisting rides I went on with the kids...the nephew was about to spew on the last ride, but managed to keep it down although he turned rather green and shut his eyes. Toni was smart and let me have all of that fun with them while she watched and took pictures.

It's good to keep in touch with your friends. I try to hang on to the best ones. Which is one of the reasons I'm off in September to NYC to visit with one of my old friends and his family. I've known him for over ten years now. Crazy!

Next Saturday at the ABOSG meeting,
Joe Riley will be presenting "Maquette Sculpting". Evidently, he was (maybe still is?) working as a maquette sculptor at DNA Productions. Considering the rather massive layoffs that have been going on at DNA, I'm curious to find out if they're keeping him on or if he was simply there as a contractor and now that contract is over. In any case, I'm really interested in polishing my sculpting and maquette skills (it comes in very handy to have a maquette when creating character turn-arounds and odd angles of a specific character...even for 2D I have at times created some very rough maquettes to help me) so I'll be there with a few questions and taking lots o' notes.

Speaking of creating turn-arounds, I'm doing a very rough 3D set of one of my latest product concepts for work. It has a rather odd requirement for forced perspective because of the scene as well as its environment and the different views that we want to have available for the purchaser. Unfortunately, the company I work for, while interested in the capabilities of 3D modeling, refuses to budget or spend the money needed to get even one user license for a decent 3D package. First they say, "Yes, that's a great idea! Do some research and let's get that going here!" then they nod their heads when we get vendors in to demo....then they do nothing. The usual policy seems to be, ignore it and it goes away.

I'm sure, if you know me well, you can already see me rolling my eyes. Bah. So I'm working on this at my home studio, on my own time.

Well, I have to admit, considering that they won't even spend $50 to get us a second scanner for the company (every department comes over to borrow our scanner at some time or another so we have to go hunt it down at times when they forget to bring it back), I shouldn't be so surprised that they balk at buying a 3D application package.

So this afternoon, I bought a scanner for myself for use at work. It will be labeled with my name on it, I will take it home with me (although I already have two high-end scanners at home that I use), and it will be chained to me while I'm at work. Just kidding...sort of; but I'm going to keep a tally of how frequently my co-workers stop by and ask to borrow it and then I'll present that to my creative manager and the marketing director who is in charge of my department. I'm curious to see what happens.

Of course, that may simply be a moot point, if (when!!!) I get another job offer at last. Things are getting interesting yet again. As I've stated previously, my goal is to have a new creative job before August, to finally get closer to my creative career goal...and so that I miss out on the next daily costume show and parades to the buyers, as well as the next trip to China. There is NO WAY I'm going to move to China for six months. While I have, once again, gotten a couple of offers from people I know who would like me to help them out with a start-up game company as well as yet another animation studio, neither one of those situations is of interest to me. While both of those are certainly challenging with some future potential, they will also take time to turn a profit and establish a production pipeline, and I seriously doubt that they will bring in the kind of experienced artists that they will least initially. I realize that I have quite a bit to learn myself which is one of the reasons I'd like to work for an established studio. In any case, I wished them both well.

Dog Soldiers the other day. I'm still on a werewolf kick, I guess. A funny, almost scary movie with some rather hilarous cursing by the British soldiers. While the special FX could have been improved, even without using CG, it wasn't that much of a distraction from the story which was pretty decent. I still want to write my own werewolf story...that, too, is on my list. Surprise! Like Maurice Sendak said,"...write about what delights you."

For a bit of contrast, I also watched Kissing Jessica Stein. I love her apartment...wooden floors throughout, space for an easel and various paintings-in-progress, and all those lovely books and shelves to put them in! My kind of place. Fun story that hits a bit too close to home as far as the dating scene goes, even if I'm not 28 again. Anymore? ha!

The new website is just about finished (finally), so I can soon take that off my list of Things I Must Get FINISHED, and just do maintenance and minor updates. I've been updating that sucker for the past year now. Since I'm keeping this blog somewhat anonymous as it offers me the chance to talk to myself (in addition to the people that live in my head) and Work Things Out as well as post art and get the occasional comment from friends and strangers, I will not be posting a direct link to the new website. Those who know me, know where it is.

What else am I doing... Ah, I ordered a batch of illustration boards (my favs are the
Hi-Line Hot Press), so that I can do the final art for the first chapter of my graphic novel. For the submission and editorial review, I'll also include the pencils of the first and second chapters, sketches of the characters, as well as the treatment and outline for the rest of the chapters...of book one. It's a nice little trilogy. I'm really excited about this project and I'm looking forward to seeing that published...soon, I hope.

This week, I've got myself scheduled in Big Red Letters, no less, to do some Maya practice (the above 3D set I'm modeling in Max). I'll be posting random images at intervals to show my progress. Interestingly enough, I saw on CGTalk the other day a new
VFS grad's modeling reel where he had modeled a young napping elephant on a branch. I'm curious if it was modeled in the position that it's in, or if he rigged it and then positioned it. I wonder if he also used ZBrush...probably. Most schools have that available for students focusing on 3D modeling. It looks pretty nice.

Hopefully, mine will be better. ;)


WB back in town

Hard to believe but it's been a whole year since WB was here in Dallas talking about Scooby Doo and the various Looney Tunes characters with us in the Showroom. What's really great is that they brought Fred along. While we're all talking about what's the next big thing for these characters as toys or other novelty items, Fred is jumping in with new product ideas and a quick sketch of the character or characters that would be just perfect.

Totally awesome, dude!

To help us get in character when we're creating stories for the product designs, Fred suggested we start having regular Looney Tunes cartoon watching during work hours. Golly, no one had any problem agreeing with that idea. ;)

We also got to see a promo bit on the upcoming Saturday morning cartoon series called "
Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! It has a new look (see above image I found after a quick google) and a rather different story line from the old mystery van sleuths...that adopts elements from alot of other successful kids shows and stories.

Guess it will be fresh to the little kids that watch it in any case.



It's fun to go back through some of my really old sketchbooks. Sometimes I'll see an old drawing and think up a new project; other times I'll laugh because it's simply a silly girlie kind of sketch. I was going through some high school sketch books tonight, in particular one set that was from 1980. That's what I call my "year of transition." I was still sketching from photos and whatever was in my imagination at the time. But, at the end of that year I started working at Six Flags and was drawing from life almost every day. It seriously made a different in my drawing skills. Here are a few of my old drawings from my sketchbooks when I was 14 - 15 years old.

Pencils and crayola crayons:

My Star Wars fan art from the Empire Strikes Back. I was drawing these with pencils and crayola crayons from the photos included with the record album of the John William's Soundtrack. This was still before my Six Flags job and actually was really why they offered me the job (my fantasy art didn't impress them one bit).

Here you can really see a before and after, especially if you look at the first picture at the very top (not the Star Wars stuff), and then these two below. Both of these were drawn from my imagination, but the 2nd shows a much better understanding of the facial features.

Sketches with ball point pen.

Charcoal sketches.

A pastel drawing on black paper. It's a scan of a photo I took of the picture which is why it looks a little scratchy.

Yup, all of these pictures were from art I did when I was in High School. I really wish that after I had graduated from high school, I would have gone to Art School. :(


Another quick sketch

I know, I said I would practice sketching hands...and I will. But, in the meantime I thought I'd do another portrait for this evening's sketch. This one is based on an 18th century painting, but with my own added revisions, particularly in the features. :)

Quick Evening Sketch

I can soooo see that I desperately need to do some practice sketching of hands again. This was a quick 30 minute sketch from a photo....of my sister. Ok, I do admit to a bit of tweeking. I'm sure she won't mind. ;)