New Animation: “Are You A Good Person?”

I’m proud to announce the completion of a new animated short film that I produced and co-animated for the ministry of Living Waters. They are perhaps best known as the producers of The Way of the Master, a Christian reality series hosted by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron:

The cartoon is loosely based on a Gospel tract I illustrated for Living Waters back in 2006, and both are adapted from Ray Comfort’s best-selling book Hell’s Best Kept Secret. I was also inspired by many of the UPA and Disney educational cartoons from the 1950’s. The goal was to communicate a very serious and important message in a fun and entertaining way yet without watering down the content. It was a tough line to walk but I think we pulled it off.

I wrote, designed, produced, and edited the cartoon. The character of Mr. Nice Guy was animated by two very talented and hard-working animators: Michael Foster from Salty Graphics and Chance Dodd via Little Wolf Pictures. They also animated a couple of misc. shots. The rest of the artwork and animation was done by me. Mr. Nice Guy was voiced by Kirk Cameron and the Narrator was voiced by radio pastor David Jeremiah.

This was a giant project that took many months to complete. We ran into a few hurdles and setbacks along the way but the team at Living Waters couldn’t have been more gracious and helpful. They were absolutely a dream client to work with!

Of all the hundreds of projects I’ve worked on to date, this one was the most personal for me and also one of which I am most proud. But then, I’m so closely attached to it that its very hard for me to look at it objectively anymore. Besides, it doesn’t really matter what i think, it’s what the viewer thinks that’s important. So I value your input. I’d be very grateful if you could watch the cartoon (it takes 5 minutes plus a one minute promo at the end). Then, if you are so inclined please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Toy Story 3: Woody Figurine

One of my regular clients is a toy company called DecoPac. Among other things they design many of the fancy birthday cakes you see in grocery store bakeries. They also create various toys and novelties to put on top of the cakes, often tying in with licensed characters and brands.

Last year they commissioned me to develop some concepts for a “Toy Story” cake to correspond with the upcoming push to promote Toy Story 3. I was asked to come up with some cake designs highlighting Woody and Buzz, and also to brainstorm a few ideas for small “Woody” toys or mini-figurines that could be placed on top of the cake for extra appeal. I don’t yet have permission from the client to show you the various concept sketches I developed for the cake itself. I can show you some of the rough ideas I came up with for the Woody toy:

Woody and Toy Story are copyright © Disney.

Woody and Toy Story are copyright © Disney.

Here’s how the final three-inch figurine turned out:

Woody and Toy Story are copyright © Disney.

And here’s a cake design DecoPac ultimately developed for the bakeries to use:

A few days ago I was in my local Wal-Mart and saw this exact toy decorating one of the cakes in the bakery display cooler. Of course I had to buy it. My little girls had an extra-special treat for desert that night:

Preschool Puzzles for Patch Products

A few months ago I was hired by Patch Products to illustrate two educational puzzles for preschoolers. One was a farm theme, the other a zoo theme. Each puzzle needed to incorporate several shapes into the artwork (indicated with thick black outlines).

The original concept was to have the border of the puzzle take a shape that would match the theme. For instance, the art director thought it would be good to have the farm puzzle be shaped like a barn. I really liked the idea but we couldn’t come up with a good shape that would work for the zoo puzzle. So instead we wound up just using the same abstract border shape for both.

The puzzles are being shipped from the printer and should be available for purchase online soon. With the client’s permission, here’s the artwork I submitted:

[EDIT: I apologize that the images are a little pixelated. I uploaded high-quality images like always. They even look clean and crisp in my WordPress preview window so I’m puzzled as to why they look so ragged on my blog page. If anyone has any suggestions please leave a comment. Thanks!]

Why I Haven’t Bought An iPad…Yet.

I’m a big fan of Apple products and, like many digital artists, I see a lot of potential in the iPad. It’s sleek, fun, stylish, practical, and best of all you can draw and paint with it. Quite a few digital artists have already posted work online that was created with the iPad and some of it is amazing. So what’s not to love?

Unfortunately, there are a few things:

Low Image Resolution. The iPad’s screen makes images look amazing but the resolution is currently capped at 768×1024. For me as an illustrator that’s a concern. To create a quality image for print you need at least 300dpi. That means that on an iPad you won’t be able to create a truly professional print-ready image that is much bigger than a baseball card.

Sure, you can create some terrific low-res sketches and then bump them up on your desktop computer. But for me as a professional illustrator it means the iPad can really only be a fancy sketchbook, not a true art-making machine. I certainly wouldn’t be able to create much client work with it.

Lack of Pressure Sensitivity. When you draw on a Wacom tablet or a Cintiq the pen responds to the pressure of your hand. Push down hard and you get a thicker, darker line. Sketch lightly and your lines will stay thin and light. It makes for a very natural way of drawing but unfortunately the iPad currently lacks this feature. When you draw a line on the iPad it stays the same thickness no matter how hard you press. For some artists that might be fine but for my particular drawing style that would be frustrating and problematic.

Lack of a Good Stylus. The beauty of the iPhone and iPad is that all the power is concentrated in the tip of your finger. For most apps that’s terrific but when it comes to sketching I find it awkward. I’ve done some finger sketching on my iPhone and my hand always feels clumsy. Also, my finger tip is too blunt making it hard to be very precise when putting down a line.

There are a couple of companies that make styluses for the iPad but so far the ones I’ve seen are too wide and blunt. It’s like drawing with lipstick. I want something that tapers to a point so I can see exactly where I’m putting down my line.

Also, when I draw I tend to rest my hand on the page. I imagine that the side of my palm pressing all over the screen like that would wreck havoc on an iPad. I suppose I could wear a fingerless glove but that feels to me like more trouble than its worth.

The folks at Ten One Design have written some impressive-looking software to get around some of these issues. Unfortunately the software uses something called private frameworks which is against Apple’s policy. That means you won’t be seeing this in the App store any time soon:

It’s a 1st Gen Apple Product. There’s no question that Apple makes amazing products. When they’ve introduced new products in the past (iPod, iPhone, etc.) the 2nd generation model has usually been vastly superior to the original version. To a point that just makes sense. Technology is always advancing and improvements are to be expected. But with Apple I always have the nagging feeling that they are purposefully “dumbing down” their 1st gen models so that when the 2nd generation model is released it will look so much more amazing that all the early adopters will immediately want to replace their now-clunky hardware. More money in Apple’s pocket.

Of course if the product is amazing enough then even the 1st gen version is worth the cost. I bought a 1st gen iPhone only a week after they went on sale and it was worth every penny. But for me the current iPad isn’t quite in the same league. In this economy I’m choosing to hold onto my cash a little longer until I can get a better value with the next version of iPad. I’m also hoping the next model will address at least some of the issues I’ve raised here. If it doesn’t, I may wait even longer.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not knocking the iPad. Far from it! In a lot of ways its an amazing device and I’d certainly love to have one. But for me the current model isn’t quite awesome enough to justify the cost, especially when I’m sure the next model will be that much better. For now my iPhone does the job just fine.

What Do You Think? Since I don’t own an iPad (though I do own an iPhone) much of what I’ve written in this post is gleaned from other articles I’ve read online. If you have a different opinion, or if I’m flat out wrong on anything, please leave a comment and let me know. Likewise, if you’ve had success drawing on the iPad and want to extol its virtues by all means go right ahead. I’d welcome your input.