Friday, December 30, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I went to the Creative Talent Network Animation Expo or CTNx the other day and it was a really fun, inspiring event focused on animation and everything that goes with it. It definitely made me feel like a slop artist because of how good a lot of the art on display was, but I expected that and handled the feeling of inferiority better than I thought I would.

One thing I did notice was a feeling of the slight inbreeding going on in the character designs and styles which was disturbing, especially CG characters. But for the most part there was a lot of good stuff to see and study.

Some topics I'd like to see discussed at next year's Expo:  
  • Why is tuition so damn high at Calarts?
  • Discrepencies between US animation and Japanese animation in terms of themes and maturity of the topics explored
  • A panel dedicated to talking about animation from a single decade in animation history
  • Animation history in general
  • Television: Last bastion for traditional animation?
  • The decline and rise of the theatrical short
  • CG: Just another tool or a change in mindset?
  • Outsourcing and its effects on the US animation industry
One thing that surprised me was the presence of professional (clothed) models posing in the lobby with art horses propped around them for anybody to sit down and sketch. Here are a couple I did that turned out ok:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Four Finger Blues

Here's a fake poster I did for my cousin based on a script he's writing:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A new song I made

Sometimes I just get the urge to create music:

Some process

I always intended to do an ink outline but I later decided that it looked better when it was just watercolor and pencil.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sketchbook Diddlies

I took some mud and smeared it around on the page before drawing the face on top.

Not sure what's happening here.

I tried doing my characters in a Peanuts style

Friday, October 21, 2011

My comic failed me

So the comic strip I submitted to my local newspaper's contest didn't win. I wasn't even one of the top 11 finalists. This guy won the contest. I'm not going to bag on his art or anything, but it feels more like a comic book than a comic strip, although I haven't seen the strip he entered which may be in a totally different style.
His winning strip is called "Mission: San Diego", which sounds horribly on the nose. See, the contest said priority would be given to strips that had a local setting. I wanted the local setting in my strip to be a bit more subtle. "Mission: San Diego" doesn't exactly sound subtle. But again, I haven't seen it yet.

Anyways, since I didn't win, here are the strips I submitted:

Update: Here's the article the paper published last week about the winner with a sample of his comic: Click

Now that I've seen his comic, I don't think it's as bad as what I linked to above. It's definitely better drawn than mine, although I was trying to strike a precarious balance between being effective and not spending too much time for just $25 per comic.
Not included in the online article but in the print edition was a sample of the top 11 finalists. The last strip of mine I posted is better than a few of the finalist strips printed. It should have been included. Damn you, Union Tribune!

Monday, October 17, 2011

My first political cartoon

   The other pot is supposed to be China but I didn't want to be too explicit.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dennō Coil

I've just finished watching a 2007 anime series called Dennō Coil and it was fantastic. The series revolves around a group of kids living in a city that is the center of a groundbreaking new technology that lets the wearer of a special kind of glasses see the reality around them but with a digital layer on top. It's like The Matrix, but in our reality. The kids form their own kind of hacking subculture around these glasses and the digital reality that is created by them. 

Is this not appealing?!
I'd first heard about it when it came out years ago but hadn't gotten around to seeing it until now. 
Unlike Death Note (which came out around the same time) which had a really ugly, unappealing style where the men look too effeminate and clothes are too baggy, Dennō Coil's style is very appealing; the character designs are cute and pleasing to look at. And since the designs are simpler, the animation is more fluid, cartoony, and better acted, whereas Death Note's animation was positively sclerotic (although both suffered from a bit of the 'radio drama with still pictures' budgetary issue, but Death Note took it to an extreme).

A very well animated shot.
One thing that anyone who's starting to get into anime TV series will quickly note is how many of them present a depth of character and the serious thoughts and situations characters get into and think about. True friendship, loss, betrayal, maturity, reputation, success, failure, and of course other mature events like murder, swearing, and bad-assery. 

The integration of CG with traditional animation was very well executed.
You almost never see dynamic shots like this in US animated series.
There are plenty of well-animated little snippets like this sprinkled throughout the show.
Dennō Coil  is more Miyazaki than Death Note though, and as a result has more of a heart. Things got a little dusty in the last episode.

So again, I keep thinking, "Why doesn't America get an animated series like this?" A show with a complex yet satisfying high concept, well developed characters one cares about, beautiful artwork, effective animation, and mature themes and events.

That's not the sun.

Avatar: The Last Airbender was close, and Hey Arnold came very close, although it wasn't a single continuous story. Something with the heart and adventure of Miyazaki, the coolness of Dennō Coil, and the maturity of most of these anime series that told a single story well would be successful, both ratings-wise and critically. 

An illegal, a virus from "obsolete space".
I love comedy shows like Adventure Time, Regular Show, Superjail!, Flapjack, and The Amazing World of Gumball, but having a meal made up exclusively of these shows is all milkshake and no hamburger. The success of The Last Airbender reveals the huge market for a more mature, long-form animated series. The question is: who is going to make the next one and, more importantly, who's going to approve its creation?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rhythm of Youth

Gouache on watercolor paper 5.5x8"
These are the main characters of a comic strip I submitted to my local newspaper. They had a competition to have a new Sunday comic published from a local artist. $25 per comic is medieval, but I'm not in it for the money. It's just a fun side project. Even if I'm not chosen I'll keep making these comics because I like these characters.

This is also the first time I've ever used gouache. I like it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Lion King

*Spoilers ahead*
 I went out and saw the recent re release of The Lion King in glorious 2D (the first time since I was very small and it was on VHS) and I wanted to impart a few thoughts:

The first opening shots are probably the best in the movie, in particular the shot of the gazelle jumping through the mist onto a puddle of water. It's an immediate reminder of the beauty traditional animation can present. It quickly brought the audience of kids to attention and sucked them in.

The first half hour of the movie was the best part. That's when it felt most adventurous and took itself seriously. But after Simba left his pride and met up with Timon and Pumba, the movie became a little more self-aware (breaking the fourth wall), a little more cheesy, and a bit more light-hearted, much to its detriment. I didn't feel like it had the same amount of weight that the first act had, mostly because of Timon and Pumba. I'm not saying Simba should have had some deep existential crisis for all of the second act, but they could have toned down the kiddiness of it. There was a real sense that the dialogue was beginning to pander to a younger audience and was dumbed down. A lot of the jokes weren't as funny as I remembered them.

A few songs sounded pretty dated (I was cringing when the love song for Nala and Simba came on). But the more musical, choir stuff was still effective. I had a problem with some of the voice acting though. Simba had nice voice actor for when he was a cub, but when he becomes an adult, his voice sounds like a typical, generic Disney lead. There was no individuality to it and it's immediately forgettable, unlike his father's awesome baritone. I also didn't like Timon's voice. It was so grating and out of place.

Not this
I still think killing Mufasa was a ballsy move and added much needed weight to the film. Andreas Deja, who did a lot of the animation for Scar, did a really good job as well. Some of the animation for Nala was pretty good too, like the scene where her mom is giving her a bath.

Good, solid animation.
One of my favorite shots

I just wish the film was more Miyazaki than Hollywood. I don't think it needed the musical numbers or the one-liners or a second act with two annoying side-kicks making fart jokes. When the opening title comes on screen, it implies an epic adventure. Toning it down in the second act really undermined what I felt it was originally going for and, in turn, undermined the intensity of the third act (having Timon and Pumba help Simba fight off hyenas definitely didn't help). 

What is this doing in the epic final action piece?

But that said, it's still a joy to watch traditional animation on the screen. I still feel like there's more of a sense of honesty in the eyes when they're drawn than with CG. Hopefully with the complete domination of the box office this re release has had, Disney will take a cue and put on track more hand-drawn features. With today's technology, they should be easier and cheaper to make then ever. The audience doesn't care if it's drawn or CG as long as it's appealing and has a good story (more so appealing. Audiences can shell out for some pretty badly told stories. But if it's ugly? Well, just look at Mars Needs Moms). With the cheaper price, Disney should be OK letting directors have more personal visions and take greater risks. Not every animated film has to be the biggest thing ever. Can't we have some smaller stories and settings? Where's the US version of Kiki's Delivery Service or Totoro?

Ugly as hell. No one went to see this movie.

Anyways, so yeah, The Lion King is a bit overrated, but if its box office is any indicator, traditional feature animation isn't completely dead to US audiences (whew!).