Life, Art, and Monkeys


Well, given how infrequently I update this ol' personal blog, I think it's about time I moved things over to permanently. It's updated every Monday, after all! Plus I'm going to be upgrading it in the next few months to include links to other spots I hang out online, such as my new digs at Instagram. If you're looking for me in the meantime, check over here!

Zipping over to!


Past Archives Begin Here

Caution sign
Please note: Posts here older than June 24th, 2015 should be considered officially archived. I am not removing them, but in the ten years that I have been writing on this blog I have changed a great deal. Things beyond this point should be considered outdated at best, and may contain many errors or opinions I no longer hold. These things tend to happen as you grow and live life. Or at least, they hopefully happen as you try to become a better person as you age! I just want readers to be aware of that, so that if you decide to go poking through history you will know that it doesn't necessarily reflect my current or future views. :)


If you'd like current thoughts and posts, please visit for regular scheduled updates that provide better insights and information. Thanks!


New House Get

Well I officially have a new house, and all the work that comes along with such a thing (especially when said house falls concretely into the "fixer upper" category of houses). I also spent the last week and a half sick with the flu, which is never any fun. I tried to actually spend my time in bed getting rest so it would go away faster, but I'm not sure how much that helped. Oh well! I appear to be on the mend now.

Over at Animator Island we're doing another Giveaway, so if you're interested in this book:

I highly recommend you follow this link and answer the giveaway question! A winner might be you.


24 Hours of Animation

Today (well, yesterday spilling over into today) I am doing a 24 Hour animation contest with my friend and fellow animator Ferdinand from Animator Island. If you've been around a while, you may know I did this once before. Except that time I was all by myself working in Flash, and didn't schedule sleep so it didn't go terribly well. THIS time with a bit more experience (both in terms of "how much sleep I need to function" and "art") things are so far going well. It is 12 hours in and we've got the concept, story, character designs, complete storyboards, and several shots well on their way. It's actually been a bit on the useful side that Ferdinand is in Germany, because the 5 hour time difference allowed him to work with me until 3AM (his time) at which point I took over and he slept until 3AM MY time, and then I slept. And I just woke up and he wasn't answering so I wrote this blog post- but as I was typing this sentence he replied, so I have to go!

More later!


Winning Books

I don't believe I mentioned but there's a contest running right now over at Animator Island:

It's in honor of the one year anniversary of the site. It's been a fun year writing about animation stuff, and I've met some cool folks in the process. Of course, celebrating the anniversary reminds me that Fred's anniversary came and went without any fanfare. The new website is still not finished and I haven't learned enough Toon Boom yet to do new cartoons in the program. (Plus I haven't used Flash in so long I'm not sure I'd even be able to motion tween something in there at this point!) Alas, while Fred will definitely go on in the future it will simply have to wait for now. I'm completely absorbed in the first Studio Riki short leaving little time for much of anything else, let alone all the work FtM takes. I'll certainly keep you posted here on the blog, though.


Giveaway for Animators (or Pixar Fans)

Animator Island is holding a giveaway of the book The Pixar Touch and a CD of Pixar's Greatest hits, and all you have to do is comment on the article to enter. So if you feel like checking that out, you can do so.

I want to thank everyone for leaving thoughts on last Friday's post here. It was great stuff to read and inspired me. I really appreciate it!

Tonight I'll be attending an advanced screening of Brave and then writing a review for a popular animation site online. It feels a bit like my days freelancing for IGN in a way. Except that they were a giant heartless company who really didn't care if I did an article or not, and the site I'm working with now is very down to earth and awesome. I'll post a link to the review when it goes live, which will hopefully be by the end of the week. It's nice to be doing some freelance writing again, I've missed it.

Today I'm going to hide in my air-conditioned office as I hear the temperature is set to climb up into the mid 90s. Guess it's a good day to get some animating done!


Warming Up

Here are the earliest concepts for my next 11 Second Club entry. I'm learning a TON by doing these, and I can't wait to translate all that education into more elaborate "real" stuff like FtM and animated shorts. For now the learning process continues!

Click Image for Larger View

I'm focusing on character simplicity this time around in the hopes that I can spend my energy and effort on the posing and emotion. The audio clip for this month is FULL of great feeling, so I can't wait to try and capture that!


Chicken Storyboards on a Good Friday

Happy Good Friday, everybody! For those who don't know, today is when Christians commemorate the death of Jesus Christ before Easter Sunday's Resurrection. One of these years I'm really going to go find out why it's called "Good" Friday. Seems like it should be Good Sunday, and "Sad, Pretty Lousy Friday." (Though I suppose without the dark there can be no light and all.)
Today I thought I'd share the rough storyboard-esque drawings I did for the next 11 Second Club competition. You can get a nice feel (hopefully) of how the chicken character will move when she's delivering her lines. As I was making it I decided to add in some quick "on beat" motions to grab the eggs in the basket. My original plan was to have her bend over and just take the whole basket. I think this has more charm, and it will be a bigger challenge to do well, so I'm excited!

The votes are in and my previous entry was scored 103/390. Man, so close to that top 100. I really must admit, I expected I could crack the top 100 with how much work I put in, and I thought it turned out rather well. Not good enough, though, to the masses. Hopefully that pushes me forward to better works and doesn't get lodged in my head as "You tried so hard and still failed! You suck." One needs to feel they suck a little bit, but you don't want to be overwhelmed by it.

Of course, I need to remember that I'm not playing by the same rules as everyone else. I'm not taking any easier roads to higher scoring. The following can be done to drastically increase your score:

- Fully render the piece, including lighting and shadows
- Have simple, beautiful art done in decent limited-style animation but really without much actual animation (this drives me slightly crazy)
- Make your piece a hilarious gag that is more entertaining than well animated

I'm not complaining, I'm just saying those things are a way to score higher. Instead I'm ignoring the trends and trying to improve my animation to be incredible without going those routes. The greatest of all the winners in previous months, in my opinion, are the ones without those things but still managed to win. Stuff like this. So freaking good...

At any rate, more fuel for the inner fire to do better! And now I'm off to celebrate Easter with family and try to avoid ignoring everyone to work on animation instead. :)

Happy Easter everyone! Xristos Voskrese!


The 2012 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts

As promised from Friday, I've got a fresh review of the Oscar shorts hot off the presses! Where the "presses" are the internet, I guess.

Click here to read the reviews of all the animated shorts nominated for the Academy Awards.

Here's just one, to get you intrigued:

“Sunday” is one of the films available to watch online, so I had actually already seen it beforehand. I must say, watching it on a giant screen was a completely different experience, and MUCH better. I almost wished I had seen it for the first time on the big screen instead! I also noticed that the timing, which I found slow the first play through, was much improved when I was seeing it again and in a traditional theater setting. The animation was extremely stylized, as was the art, and everything fit together well.

The story was “slice of life” with a bit of imagination/fantasy thrown in. It was a film that, if you’ve experienced the classic “Sunday” being described (church, visit to grandparent’s house, large family gathering yammering on about things you don’t care about as a kid, finding some way to amuse yourself), you find very compelling. My wife did not have that same childhood experience, and as a result she didn’t find it nearly as fascinating as I did.

Overall I’d say this was an excellent short and absolutely deserving of an Oscar nod. While I don’t know if it can win against its competition, I enjoyed it.

So there you are, one of the nine shorts reviewed in the article here. If you want to read the rest of my thoughts on the others, they're just a click away! And if you'd like to discuss any of the shorts, I'm happy to hear other people's thoughts. You can either comment below or over where the actual article is (probably the better choice in this instance).


The Roller Coaster of Animation

Yesterday I spent all day working at my 11 Second Club Entry for November. It was certainly an experience. I went through all the highs and lows and mediocre-middle-grounds of this crazy thing called animation.

At one point (as I mentioned on Twitter) I was extremely disappointed in how it was turning out and really considered quitting. I think that's something I go through with most of my animations at one point or another. Especially the hand-drawn ones. The process takes SO LONG that at some time it's easy to get frustrated when it isn't turning out exactly as it looks in your head. I deal with this chunk of the process by telling anyone who will listen to me that I give up and it's too hard and I hate myself for being so bad at drawing. Normally those people (normally my wife) assure me I don't suck as much as I think I do and everything will be okay.

Yesterday was especially interesting because Q let me give up. She said as long as I had learned something from it that I didn't have to continue, and I HAD learned many things from it already. But I didn't actually want to give up (as is usually the case) so this time it was me personally who leaned over the gaping pit of despair and hoisted myself out. After all, someone had to. 😛

It turns out a few frames later I had a great ending to the piece and loved the entire thing as a result. Yet I wouldn't have gotten there without pressing on and refusing to give up.

Of course, fast forward to a few hours later and I lost some of the magic in the ending by adding too many frames and I was feeling decidedly average. Especially after watching this pencil test of pure animated genius. (I think the lesson is don't watch stuff like that WHILE you're animating. Depressing...)

At the end of the day I had a near-completed piece that I wasn't happy with, but wasn't miserable about. I think I have reasonable expectations for how it will do this month in the 11 Second Competition. I'll be disappointed if it doesn't come in slightly under 100, but not completely shocked if I end up between 100-200th place. It will be my own fault for spending so very, very long on the first part's movements and not nearly enough time with the rest. I have to stop DOING that...

Today marks a new month and a new clip to animate, but as usual I won't start planning my efforts for a few days at least. I need the audio to roll around in my head for a while before I commit to paper. Or maybe this month I'll throw the whole system out the window and see what happens if I jump right in without thinking? I'm not sure yet; I guess time will tell.

Tomorrow I'll put the "finished" animation of this 11 Second Entry here on the blog, so until then...