This and That: Thanksgiving Edition

Freelance work has slowed down this week due to the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. With Wednesday and Friday being travel days it becomes essentially a five-day weekend for a lot of my clients. Deadlines get pushed back accordingly. I’ve been using the lull in my schedule to tackle a mountain of paperwork and emails that have piled up while I was working frantically to meet deadlines. The bad news is I’ve been so busy tunneling through papers that I’ve barely drawn anything in the last week. The good news is I can see the surface of my desk again.

Some misc. notes of interest:

I now take Visa. Time for an experiment: I’m in the process of setting up a system that will allow my clients to pay by credit card. It will cost me a bit in bank fees but it will make me look more professional and hopefully it means some clients will pay me faster. More importantly, it will make my life easier for my clients as many of them will be happy to use their corporate cards so they can get to their rewards faster (frequent flier miles, etc.)—or so I’m told. It will also help make things easier when receiving payments from clients in other countries (it’s rare but I do get work overseas). We’ll see how it all goes.

Check out this art blog – Albert Pardo is a terrific cartoonist and Flash animator. I just stumbled upon his blog and I love his stuff. Give it a looksee: http://bigalrock.blogspot.com

Time Life Photo Archives – Time Life, in conjuntion with Google, has posted a gigantic library of old photos from their archives. Some go all the way back to the late 19th century. Many have never before been published. Great info for history buffs or for artists looking for period characters and costumes to sketch.

kubertbooks

New Joe Kubert Books – This looks pretty cool. Joe Kubert, the famed comic book artist and instructor, has a book coming out in January called How To Draw From Life (Amazon.com link). Should be pretty amazing. Kubert buffs might also be interested in the new biography Man of Rock: A Biography of Joe Kubert by Bill Schelly (Amazon.com link).

Happy Thanksgiving! Here in America we have a holiday where we pause to give thanks to God for all of our many blessings. Among other things I’m grateful for a terrific job, a loving family, and an incredible wife. Most importantly I’m thankful that Jesus gave himself to die innocently on the cross for my many, many sins so that I could be forgiven.

May your life be truly blessed, and may you find many things to be thankful for!

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Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!

rooster-roughconcepts2

Recently I was hired by Snert Studios to design a wacky rooster character for a Flash-based children’s website they are developing. The site is still under construction but the client has given me permission to post my work on the project.

I wanted to push the designs in a more stylized direction than normal so I started playing around with various shapes and proportions to see how far I could push things and still retain the essence of a rooster. Above are the various sketches I submitted to the client.

The client really liked both D and E. Rather than choose it was decided that instead of the website having one rooster character it would have two. Sort of a comedy team. Birds of a feather you might say.

Here’s the final designs, inked and colored in Illustrator:

roostersstanding-v2Once the site is live I’ll be sure to post a link.

Kyle Baker’s “How To Draw Stupid”

howtodrawstupid

I recently ordered a copy of Kyle Baker’s new book How To Draw Stupid and Other Essentials of Cartooning (Amazon.com link). For those of you who aren’t familiar with Baker’s work, he’s a prolific cartoonist with a background in comic books and animation. His work has appeared in numerous publications including BusinessWeek, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, MAD Magazine, and Rolling Stone. He’s written and/or illustrated at least seven graphic novels and self-published three book collections of his cartoons (Kyle Baker Cartoonist Volumes 1 & 2, and Undercover Genie). For samples of his work check out Baker’s website, kylebaker.com.

How To Draw Stupid is not your average how-to book on cartooning. Baker assumes you already knows how to draw. Instead of teaching a non-cartoonist how to become a cartoonist, his goal is to teach the cartoonist how to be a great cartoonist. He fills the pages with insights and examples that flesh out his personal approach to cartooning. Given Baker’s long and prolific career he has a great deal of valuable information to share. He offers pearls of artistic wisdom on such topics as character design, using reference material, expressive poses, acting, and communicating clearly, just to name a few.

The chapters are short, to-the-point, and richly illustrated with clear examples from Baker’s past work. The text is a bit skimpy in spots but not lacking in content. Baker has a style of writing that is low on fluff and gets straight to the point. Like many of his cartoons, Baker says a lot with a little. The entire 112-page book can be read in less than an afternoon, but there’s so much great information that you’ll want to pull it off your shelf to read again and again.

There are a few chapters where I wished Baker would have delved a bit deeper. There are times when he made a great point but left me wanting more specifics. But those were the exception, not the rule. Overall I was very happy with the book. I found myself underlining quite a few well-said statements, and by the time I finished reading I was anxious to to grab my sketchbook and start applying what I had just read. Even though I’ve been earning a living as an artist for eleven years I still learned a few things.

I’m happy to recommend Kyle Baker’s How To Draw Stupid. It’s a book that every serious cartoonist will find helpful and inspiring. Order a copy today.

Final “3-2-1 Penguins!” Post

Deadlines met, I can now resume blogging.

This past weekend NBC aired the final episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! for this season. Incidentally, it was also the last episode I had the privilege of working on. We originally did two seasons back-to-back and my role in the project was completed almost a year ago. I haven’t heard anything since about creating new episodes, and the buzz is that the show will not be renewed. Even though Penguins! is one of the highest rated shows on NBC’s Saturday morning lineup, the fact is that most kids aren’t tuning in to the Peacock Network on Saturday mornings. Most are running into the living room in their pajamas, cereal in hand, and flipping to the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network. Bummer.

For this episode I designed a character that was to be the leader of a race of cow people. Here’s the final design:

cowcommanderclrv2

cowcommanderexpresionsv31In this episode the main characters are hit with a shrink ray and become very tiny. One of the gags involved the dim-witted Kevin getting caught in a mouse trap. The tone of the gag was such that Kevin didn’t feel any pain, he just looked a bit dumbfounded. There was some discussion about how it should look and where on his body the trap should be, so I worked up some rough concept sketches. Eventually it was decided that only the top of his head should get caught in the trap. This was primarily for practical reasons. In hand-drawn animation it would be a matter of simply re-drawing the character with his body pinched in the middle. In 3D computer animation, to distort a character’s body takes a lot more work. In some cases it may involve tediously re-rigging the entire character from scratch. TV production is incredibly fast-paced, so by resting the trap on his head we avoided that extra work:

kevin-mousetrap

I had a blast working on two seasons of 3-2-1 Penguins! and I feel honored to have had the experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with, and I’m a better artist for the experience.

Some Fun Time Wasters

Things are about to get pretty busy here deadline-wise over the next few days. I’m probably going to be working through the weekend. Bummer. In lieu of a regular blog post, here’s a few quick links that I thought were fun:

Non-Digital PhotoshopSomething for all you Photoshop users who prefer to do things old-school.

Tons of free cartoonsAccording to the Drawn! blog, United Features’ website now offers their various comic strips for free. You can even choose your favorites and read the comics directly via RSS. They don’t just send you a link to the comic, they send you the actual strip. Cool! Not sure if this will do much to help save the comic strip from the impending doom of newspapers, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Jelly Telly is now live! – Phil Vischer, creator of VeggieTales, has officially launched his newest venture, JellyTelly.com. It’s sort of like Sunday School meets Sesame Street. Humorous educational vignettes featuring a mixture of puppets, live action, and animation. There’s also some fun online games for the kiddo’s. You can test it out free for a month, after that you pay a small subscription fee to view daily episodes.

There ya go. Enjoy the time wasters. Me, I gotta get back to work.

Jelly Worms!

Last weekend NBC aired another new episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! Here’s some of the character design work I did for that episode.

For this episode my job was to design some jelly worm characters: a pair of prison guards, and a gigantic jelly worm creature that would swallow the bad guy’s spaceship.

I spent more time than usual on the color because jelly worms are slightly transparent. At first we thought we could show that easily by just dialing down the opacity of the worms a little. Unfortunately it turned out to be not so easy.

First, if you look at a jelly worm from the side you’ll notice that the closer you get to the center the less transparent it gets. This is due to the worm being thickest at the center and therefore letting less light through. However, a 3D animated character is not really solid but hollow, making it hard to imitate this lighting effect.

Second, in my research (yes, I researched jelly worms and got paid for it) I learned that the candy worms are rolled in oil to give them a shiny texture. This added another wrinkle to the way light behaves when it hits the jelly surface.

Finally, we had to be careful with any transparency around the face and mouth so that the teeth wouldn’t show through when the mouth was closed or that the eyes wouldn’t show through when the eyelids were shut.

I did my best to wrangle all these elements in my color concept paintings. Eventually it was decided that because of the rapid Penguins schedule we didn’t have time to try and solve all these problems. It was best to just make the jelly worms solid like all the other characters. Oh well. It was still a fun project to work on and in the end the worms still looked yummy!