Friday, December 10, 2010

... oh hey it's that thing I've been working on!

This is Part 1 of why I've been neglecting my friends and cat since October.

I designed the stop-motion characters, designed the car models, was director of animation and, most importantly, played the gorilla working out in the gym.

I have lots of pre-production and lots of animation that didn't make the cut that I'll be posting in the near future.

Part 2 of why I've been neglecting my friends and cat since October coming soon.*

... as soon as it's done.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy 100th Blog Post!!!™

'Finishing up a long day at work, but I wanted to get a chance to post this brand-new still for the new Oddisee "Ci'iy Life" music video... coming before 2011 hits.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chinchilla, Meet Shake Weight®

I haven't done a lot of stopmotion since college but the year 2010 has proven to be a return to form for me in that regard.  From storyboarding to designing characters, props and sets to animating it all once it's ready they've been keeping me very very busy at work.  I won't say too much about what it all entails until I have a finished product to show but until then I'll post what I can when I have time.

To get things started, here's a chinchilla exercising with a shake weight. 

More to come!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Personable Animals

I drew these up for another work-related pitch.  Still waiting to see whether or not we got the job...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rejected Concept Designs

I did these designs for a pitch package at work but we didn't get the job.  Ah well!  The client was a car-selling website and the idea was to tell the story of a buyer-seller relationship.  I designed the characters and backgrounds around the old UPA-style of animation since I had never really animated like that before and thought it'd be fun to do.  Maybe next time!

... and for those of you who aren't familiar with UPA (United Productions of America), here's one of their more famous cartoons "Gerald McBoing Boing" from 1951 that won them an Academy Award.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010


I apologize for no new posts recently, especially after I went on a ruthless spree of updates.  Lately I've been super busy filling in for Tara Reid's decrepit stomach.  New posts coming soon!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Translating to Illustrator

While I was sifting through a few hundred files trying to find a few templates I had lost in the Great Deletion of 2010, I came across some elements that I created for some concept boards last year for work.  While I use Illustrator on a daily basis, outside of some miscellaneous free-hand drawings I don't do a lot of pen tool-based illustration in my own style.  If you're not familiar with Illustrator, the pen tool is essentially a way to manipulate vector curves by hand, and usually looks a little something like this.

It's not nearly as intuitive as illustrating by hand but you do get a lot of control over each of your lines.  I think its uses are intended more for design and industrial elements, so when it comes to trying to make something look cartoony with the pen tool you usually get something a bit more stiff than loose.  Here's an example of some character work done with the help of Illustrator:

this show is quite good.

Personally I think a lot of this style is like the new animé in the sense that you see it EVERYWHERE and 80% of it looks the same.  With the advent and current widespread use of Flash, a vector-based animation program, this style isn't going away anytime soon -- plus it doesn't take a lot of illustration know-how to design some of the simpler characters.  Like I was saying earlier, I took a stab at it last year and here are three quick Illustrator illustrations:

I don't hate them but they look too clean to me.
Also if you're curious as to what the elements were made for, they were made for a pitch for this J.C. Penney/Van Heusen football promotion.  If you watch closely at the 5-second mark on the video embedded on the site, that was me making my national broadcast debut!  You may also notice that none of the elements I worked on made it into the final product (although I did end up animating the whole thing). 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Salesman Pete and The Amazing Stone from Outer Space

Salesman Pete from Salesman Pete on Vimeo.

If Saturday morning cartoons started looking like this I'd definitely start watching them again.  Props to the team that put this together... great work on everything (and I do mean everything)!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

... and then there's this.

click to enlarge
I drew these both separately & laid one on top of the other on my desk.  After seeing how they stacked up on each other, I thought I'd try combining them.  Just some random sketchin' but I think this could be something interesting to explore down the road...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Casualties of Animation: Where'd My Files Go?

Earlier this week I discovered that my personal work drive at the office had been mistakenly wiped by a freelancer.  Everything from the 88-Keys music video to the recent work I've done with Locksley to everything else that I've photoshopped/animated/recorded/etc in past two and a half years was gone in mere seconds .... or was it?

Kind of.

I ran disc recovery software and it recovered quite a bit of information, actually.  People told me I was lucky to get the data back... but I think that's only about half-true at most.  While I did recover about 234 gigabytes of data; what were once neatly organized files, folders and sub-folders are all now proprietarily named and mish-mashed together.

And there are 1.4 million of them.

Anyone want to be my intern for a few months to sort this all out?  Eh?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Caricature Time!

 This year I've been selected to do portraits of all the employees of Lifelong Friendship Society for our annual holiday card that gets sent out in late November.  While I generally enjoy drawing faces and giving them a twisted sensibility, I've never delved too deeply into the world of caricature art.  It's not that I didn't like it, but I think it had more to do with having to deal with the person you made the drawing for afterwards.  It's like having a kind-of-fun one night stand but then having to go out to breakfast the next morning.  Too much awkwardness for my young tastes.
When I was at Columbia College in Chicago I worked with an ex-professional caricature artist, and watching that dude crank out drawings was ridiculous.  The way he captured which features to exaggerate while still making the person look somewhat human always impressed me.  I even had him do the face of Warrick Carter in all those cartoons I got fired for back in the day.
So here I am today, getting some warm-ups started for the holiday card...

still needs some work...

The original handsome.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oddisee "Ci'iy Life" Screenshots

I mentioned awhile back (and I mean AWHILE back) that I was working on a music video for one of my favorite producers in hip-hop, Oddisee.  Well, I'm still working on it during my free-time and luckily winter's coming back 'round -- so it'll be perfect for the season!

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I have about 2/3 done... expect the final product "soon"!

Scream Hoppin' 2010

I did this animation exercise a few months back but figured I'd color it up and throw it on the blog.

... but enough with all that.  Lots of new work coming soon!!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lost and Foundish: Livestrong

Here's another illustration from my college days.  I think the reason I left this off my website was because I had already posted another grotesquely-obese person riding something on wheels... maybe I didn't want to typecast myself.

click to enlarge

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lost and Foundish: WTF Edition

Back in my college days I did a lot of drawing while I worked as a teaching assistant at Columbia College's Science Institute.  It eventually led to some rather unfortunate consequences... but I'll save that story for another blog.

In the meantime, here's one such drawing that I did while in T.A. purgatory that didn't make it to my (old) main site:

click to enlarge

More to come!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mrs. Garrison, Markified™

While watching South Park the other night I decided to draw up my interpretation of one of its characters, Mr. Mrs. Garrison...

The original Mrs. Garrison

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I'm sorry I'm dwelling on this, but...

Today while rendering a project I decided to venture onto one of my favorite sites for entertainment news, The Onion's A.V. Club.  On it was posted an interview with Legend of the Guardian's director Zack Snyder, the very same of 300 & last year's The Watchmen.  I was curious to see if what he had to say about his new film would change my preemptive (and possibly irrationally negative) opinion of the movie which OPENS THIS FRIDAY YOU GUYS OMG.  Needless to say that as an animator, I wasn't swayed.  Let's start with some excerpts from the interview, shall we?

AV Club: You actually choreographed the fights with actors wearing owl suits, fighting each other. How’d that work?
Zack Snyder: Yeah. When we got to the fight scenes, one of the things was like—these owls are supposedly an ancient culture, and they have a martial tradition that we can’t just make up. It’s gonna look goofy if they’re just clawing at each other. .... We got my old stunt team from 300 and made them put these cardboard wings on and basically fight each other.
One thing about the art of animation is that you get to do whatever your mind can dream up, after all.  Unfortunately, the mind can be a tricky place and have a few too many ideas sometimes, so why not just dress a dude up and have owls fight like people?  You know what, I've actually seen this before in another animated film which may OR MAY NOT have been a terrible animated feature (skip to about 0:50):
...  Back to Zack!
ZS:  ... The animators then don’t have to pretend. It’s a real thing they have to work with. I think that comes through in the film. 
Later on in the interview, when talking about mixing owl physiology with that of a humans (yup)...
ZS: The thing about owls is that they do sort of have this facial disc, which is unlike any other bird. They kind of have a face, more than like a dog or a giraffe. They have this weird, alien face that you can actually make expressive. We really pushed without breaking. I didn’t want it to be a cartoon. I was like, “I don’t want to make a cartoon. That I can’t do.” 
Children do hate cartoons, after all.  This is one talking owl movie that's not for kids, see?  One thing that I think people don't understand about animation in this sense is that it NEEDS to be exaggerated.  The physics and the way things move shouldn't act as they do in reality, because then things appear stiff and dull.  Here's an example:  I recently watched Anastasia with my girlfriend, and while I didn't mind the movie itself I didn't really care for the main protagonists, Anastasia and Dmitri.  It wasn't because of their characters or lines, it was just that once the weird-looking villain or the comic-relief-bat Bartok appeared on-screen, the protagonists seemed rigid and inflexible by comparison.  Unfortunately I couldn't find any clips readily available on Youtube due to copyright blah blah blah, but I did find these stills online:

"My mouth can only move so much due to the limitations of my movement and desiiiign"

Did you scream when you saw that bat with the dislocated jawbone?!  Pretty scary huh?  
ZS:  So the faux-realistic look was a look I was comfortable with, because this environment feels real. These owls feel real to me. “Now I can make an adventure that feels compelling. The danger is real.”
Ok so just to make sure I understand this correctly, Zack Snyder wanted the danger to be real.  He wanted to evoke some suspense in his audience and give them something "that feels compelling."  I don't want to call a guy wrong, but let's point out a few inconsistencies with that statement above.
    1.  You do remember you were making a movie about talking owls, right? 
    2.  Unfortunately the danger is not real as you have just made a series of images that are projected on a screen with accompanying audio.  Even then, the only time that danger ever seemed real enough for audiences was in 1895.  According to the story, people leapt out of their seats to avoid being hit by the train.  No joke.

    3. Okay that last one was a bit of a low blow Zack, I'm sorry.  I know you were going for "emotions" and had no intention of actually putting the audience in real harm's way.  In fact, I've felt my heart rate escalate and felt nervous while watching animation before.  Hell, I was straight up scared by this when I was a kid: 

Night on Bald Mountain, Fantasia (1940)
    The images above say a lot of great things about that segment from Fantasia: you've got great mood, posing, I mean it just looks like some messed up spooky stuff when you look at it.  Is there anything to detract from them because they're not photo-realistic?  Does this bother anyone?  Don't you just kind of assume the reality of the imagery being shown and understand what fits and what doesn't in that setting?
    4.  Back in my high school days I followed the online production diary (if you can call it that by 2000 internet standards) for a film that was to be released in the summer of 2001.  My excitement for it eclipsed anything else that had ever come before to theaters, I drooled over every still and video clip that was released for it.  I checked their website daily even though they updated it once every two months.  I saw it on opening weekend.  This is the film in question:
    At that time, nothing had ever been made like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.  Everything seemed so real from the pores on the skin to the clothes to the environments to... well, that was the problem.  The people themselves never seemed real.  They gazed at their digital co-stars with dead eyes, and with all of the motion-capture done, these dolls of people moved eerily like us but weren't us.  It was off-putting.  I walked out of the theater confused and disappointed (the story was also just... terrible but I'm not going to get into that here).  It was a major flop for Squaresoft studios who had produced it and caused them to go bankrupt in the following years.  Eventually they merged with another company to form today's Square-Enix.  I'm not saying Zack Snyder's movie will fail for the same reasons as Final Fantasy, but his lack of imagination and confidence in animation as a whole isn't going to make the owls of Ga'hoole any easier to watch.   
    5.  Seriously man it's a whole 90 minutes of fucking talking owls.  Remember when you dressed adult men up like owls and made them fight?
I guess what it all boils down to is that Zack Snyder doesn't think like an animator and that I should stop complaining... and I totally would by now if he wasn't directing a high-budget animated feature.  Personally, I think he shares the same mindset as most filmmakers in that animation is a different & lesser art than live-action film, and I don't judge him for that since that's a pretty popular notion.  You can catch hints of it in his interview, like in the excerpt below where he's discussing the visual effects:
ZS: For instance, say Soren [the film’s owl protagonist] flies into the hollow. I’d say, “If this was a real movie, I’d put the camera low and I’d dolly with him as he comes back.” So that’s the language I used to tell them how to do it, and it worked out really well. There was a point when they created this little bible—the rules, things I liked and didn’t like. Because there’s a lot of trendy things—you never know what the animators will try to whack into the movie.
If only it was a real movie.  Maybe next time, Zack... maybe next time.

Read the whole interview here!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From the Sketchbook P.5

I've been doing my best to work on a more free-flowing style as I talked about in a previous post... 

... and then there's this guy, who I've been working on refining for a possible upcoming project which I'll announce at a later date if it goes through:

Mmmm that sadness in the eyes can only mean one thing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Congratulations to Chris & Jessica!

Last month I had the pleasure of making a short two-minute animation for my high school friend's wedding.  They got married at the Heights Theater in Minneapolis and to fit the movie theater motif they had their friends create short films that were projected at the beginning of the ceremony.  I completed mine in just under a weeks' time, working right up til the day before the wedding while staying with my friend in St. Paul.  It's pretty random so you don't need to know too much else going in.  Hopefully one of these days I can polish up a few odds n' ends so I can put some chunks of it on my reel.  Check it out!

... there was also dancing.

Friday, September 10, 2010


... let's all go watch a movie about fucking owls.

pictured above: owls.

Finally -- a movie that really corners the market for those who love owls and the color treatment of Lord of the Rings.  Let's all congratulate the team on making everything look awkwardly-realistic.  Kids fucking LOVE feather textures, people.  I remember when I was growing up watching Looney Tunes on Saturday mornings thinking to myself, "Y'know what?  I don't really believe Bugs Bunny could exist in our own physical reality.  THIS IS ALL FAKE!"  I really had to struggle with that disconnect in life until I was about 14-years-old.  Thank you, Space Jam.*
I apologize for the randomness of this rant but I just don't understand how this movie made it into theaters.  I should mention that I'm completely uneducated on the whole subject of Legend of the Guardians.  I'm assuming it came from children's literature since I can't imagine someone pitching this to a studio as an original idea ("Guys! Owls you guys!"), but at the same time who really cares?  If you had the power of sophisticated CGI to create any imagery you could possibly imagine, what would compell you to make it this?

... an owl wearing a helmet, everybody.

It's a movie about owls doing things that more interesting animals or creatures could be doing... like dragons or dinosaurs or hell, what they did back in my day.  I think I'm a better man for being ignorant towards this movie.  I mean, c'mon... the owls of ga'hoole?  So on top of spending $15 to watch a movie about owls, the movie poster alludes to the fact that I'll also have to put up with an hour-and-a-half's worth of some owl language that somebody made up peppered with owl-puns.

You know what I think of when I think of owls?  This.

At least in five years' time all the CGI will look like crap.

(because chances are it always does)

* for the record I was also too cynical in my youth to ever watch Space Jam in its entirety.  Le sigh.

On the Business of Stiffness

Even though I was brought up in the school of hand-drawn traditional animation, my drawing style has always been rather consistently stiff and rigid.  Everything's sitting in place and/or have very straight structural angles.  If you look at some of the old drawings on my website, you'll see 'em all over the place:




It especially comes out when directly compared to superior illustrators, like with my good friend Tim Haldeen.  During our downtime at a music video shoot, we kept ourselves entertained by doodling all over the rear of the set.

Mark on the left.  Tim on the right.

I still like what I drew, but Tim's perspective and line work suggest much more depth and structure than what I had to offer.  Sure, I threw some shading and a roll or two on the neck but if these drawings suddenly came to life, I have a much clearer mental image of Tim's character turning to look at me as opposed to mine.  We did this back at the beginning of the summer and it really got me thinking about the way I draw for the first time in years.  It's so easy to just keep coasting on what you know and I think I've gotten a bit lazy with improving my style.  It has barely changed since college and it needs a good kick in the ass.  I'm not saying that I'm going to overhaul it completely, but it'd be very beneficial to both my drawing and my animation to add more and more principles.
Yesterday during a staff meeting I got into some more advanced posing with a doodle which led to the more fleshed-out doodle below it.

loosely based on Jesse Laz

They're still super incomplete but I think they're a step in the right direction.  If I know what's good for me you should be seeing more of this in my future blog posts.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

From the Sketchbook P.4

Here are a few images I sketched up while on break last week...

This could double as a self-portrait for me when I've been working too much.  I think I might take this design and flesh it out a bit more later on down the road.

This is actually a bit older & unfinished (even by my standards!) but when some friends were looking through my sketchbook they seemed to enjoy it.  They said it looked like a weird cross-section of a dude's face.  It's something I may explore later as well...

On my flight to the Twin Cities there was a woman who didn't sit down for 90% of the trip.  She kept doing leg exercises and pacing up and down the aisle and it was pretty awkward.  She reminded me of an older strung-out hippy with an eating disorder and I can only assume that she owned three cats minimum.  When the pilot would come on over the loudspeaker she'd stop and strike the pose above.

Here I tried to illustrate a friend's facial expression... I think it's a little too stiff though, I gotta work on that!

I thought I'd revisit the naked-man-animal theme I got into towards the tail-end of college.  I think a hamster is a good way to go but I don't think he's exaggerated enough.  I'll do additional drawings down the road and maybe get something colored soon.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From the Sketchbook P.3

For those of you who've known me for a few years, you probably know that I've never really had much interest in drawing attractive women.  My philosophy always was that there's enough sexy freakishly-boobed women lining the aisles of every comic book shop and videogame stores already, so why should I try to add my two cents to an over-saturated market?
Well I still really haven't changed my thinking in that regard, but I do realize the benefit of drawing attractive women: it's out of my comfort zone and studying the structure and curves of their faces and bodies can only make me a better artist, right?  I took out a few catalogues and magazines we had laying around the office and did a few quick sketches.  They're not anatomically correct by any means; I intentionally distorted their proportions but I don't think it was enough to be a 'proper' caricature... they're somewhere eerily in the middle.  'Not sure if I like 'em or not but check 'em out!  I'm sure there will be more to come down the road...

This was the first drawing I did with some exaggerated proportions.

Less exaggerated here but I kept the eyes and mouth biggish.  'Probably the better looking one out of the bunch.

This one looks awkwardly like a friend of mine but I think it'd creep her out if I showed her.

The first lesson I learned about drawing attractive women is to NOT make the nose & mouth look like I did above.  The cheek action probably doesn't help either.