Life, Art, and Monkeys
26Apr/16Off

Movin!

Well, given how infrequently I update this ol' personal blog, I think it's about time I moved things over to JKRiki.com 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 JKRiki.com!

Share
24Jun/15Off

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 Things beyond this point should be considered outdated at best, and may contain many errors or opinions I no longer hold.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 JKRiki.com for regular scheduled updates that provide better insights and information. Thanks!

JKRiki.com

Share
2Feb/15Off

Winter 2015 Q&A Answers

Last Friday I asked for any questions readers might have in order to answer them for today's blog update, so let's get right to it!

Jordo says:

Yay, Q&A! I guess I’ll keep it simple. How have you been? How’s life? How’s Q doing? I hope all is well. :)

I've been fine, thanks for asking! :)

I could probably go on for quite some time given the subject of "how life is" but I'll keep it simple as well. Life is good, I'm appreciating the time I have here and for whatever reason am currently extremely enthusiastic about rolling up my sleeves and getting some work done. Probably because it's been so long since I had an office to settle into for the long haul. Q is doing well (for those of you who don't know, Q is my wife) and since her appendix surgery last year it seems like she's been healthy and focused on work. I've been trying to get her to help with some non-work projects, but I feel bad about bugging her when she has so many deadlines at her actual job!

How about you? All well on your front in the cold frozen tundras of Ohio?

Side note: Since Jordo included his website in his login, I'm linking to it here should you like to stop by and see what's happening on his corner of the Internet.

Mike Hearn says:

Here’s a Q for you to A, my twitter debate partner: 2 3D mixed animation. It is VERY common place now. Every 2 show uses it for vehicle and the like. It has come a long way, but I still think it sticks out like a sore thumb. What do you think of it?

I think the combination of 2D and 3D animation is a great technological step for the medium. As you said, the issue is when they don't play nicely together. It's curious, because clearly it CAN work beautifully (Disney has used it fantastically over the years, and even in smaller budget projects like Futurama they manage to nail the blending of the two styles). One has to wonder, why doesn't everyone create this unity well? Why do some shows have it sticking out like a sore thumb, as you said?

I think partly it's because animators fail to understand much of the magic of 2D comes in the imperfection of the human hand. Computers are perfect (in the mathematical sense) so when they render something, it is exactly 100% spot on. Humans can't be perfect. (Which in my opinion can spark a wonderful, deeper discussion, but we'll leave that for another time! :) ) In order to properly blend 2D and 3D, the CGI done by a computer needs "roughed up" in a way. It needs to be imperfect so it blends with the rest of the lovely, hand-crafted imperfect animation around it. Many studios simply skip this step. As a result, you get the obvious 2D vs. obvious 3D without the appealing blend of both.

It's really important animators understand where 2D excels and where 3D reigns supreme. Both are great for certain applications, and rather lousy for others. When you use the strengths of each, and keep in mind the limitations so they can be blended well, that's when you can have a magical marriage of both styles.

Of course, in the old days before CG animators did the cars and complex ships or whatever by hand, and in my opinion they did a DANG good job of it. There's something to be said for the epic quality of CG water, for example, but give me the hand-drawn end sequences of Pinocchio any day.

Besides being my "twitter debate partner" (we have conversations that are much deeper than most people jam into 140 character bursts) Mike is also author and artist of webcomic Walter the Wicked, which you can see here.

Wegra says:

So what kind of animations will we see in 2015?

Are you asking in general, or specifically from me? :) I'll put the less egotistical answer first: 2015 is shaping up to be a very fine year for animation it seems. You have new films from Pixar and Dreamworks (more than one a piece), plus the Minions have their own feature and the CG Peanuts looks better than I would have expected. There will be plenty of other things from smaller (or at least, less known) studios as well. Hopefully the market doesn't get over saturated this year, because there are an awful lot of animated films on the horizon!

As for my own production, it really remains to be seen. I'm currently working on a short animated test that a fellow animator gave me as a challenge to show him my very best work. You see, I've never truly tried 100% at a finished animated clip, and we both thought it would be interesting to see where my skill level topped out. In the past I've been more concerned with either getting things finished (ie. Fred cartoons) or doing rough tests (like this one). This test will be a chance to put all my skill into play and see where I currently stand. I don't expect the drawing to be phenomenal (that's currently what's holding me back, mostly) but I am hopeful the movement will be pretty top notch. Guess we'll see! (The reason I've never tried 100% is because I have no use for a demo reel, which is where most animators will put things they make in order to show off their maximum competency. Since I have no use for a reel [given I own my own studio and am not looking for a job] I have never actually taken the time to polish something to "as good as I can possibly make it." This will be an experience!)

Beyond that I would love to say I'll have a new FtM cartoon this year, but I just don't know. I also may be working with Ferdinand on an animated short, but given that we want it to be full hand-drawn 2D of a high level, there's really no way to tell if that will be ready in 2015 or take longer. Hand drawn animation of top quality takes a LONG TIME. Much longer than you'd ever expect... Probably why so few people do it these days.

Plus I'd like to give another shot at the 11 Second Club one of these months. If I can manage to squeeze it in! Most of my time early on this year will be working on the book I'm finishing to publish and also really learning Toon Boom Animate Pro well. It's slow going, this animation thing I've chosen to dedicate my life to! :)

CJVanNice says:

Alright, I have a couple of questions for ya,

1. While Fred is on hiatus for a while, I’m interested what your process was for making the cartoons was. Did you have a vague game plan of what the next few episodes were going to be, or did you make them roughly as you came up with them.

2. Have you had a chance to watch the Netflix series VeggieTales in the House? While it’s clearly aimed for a young audience, the 3D animation is, in my opinion anyway, kinda impressive, using lots of squash and stretch and being usually quite fluid. I figured you might want to take a look if you haven’t already.

3. What was your favorite animated film you saw in 2014?

1. That's a terrific question! Most of the time I had a pretty steady plan for the general direction, and then added things as I went. For example, I know the general story of the next few episodes (whenever they end up being made) but if something else springs to mind I'll make a detour and do that instead.

Overall, my process was to come up with a joke of some kind and then build an episode around it. Sometimes I would have a storyline instead, and have to jam jokes into it and try to make it as humorous as possible while still sticking with the plot I wanted to put in. Almost all FtM cartoons started as a script of just text, and progressed from there.

Later on in the years I would do storyboards before jumping into the animation itself. This was a great change for me, because if you're going to do animation it REALLY pays to do storyboards first. Highly, highly recommended.

I also know how the series "ends." But alas, I doubt we'll ever see that episode because there are so many stories I'd like to tell with the characters first. :)

2. I have not! I don't have Netflix, so that's probably why, but should I have access to it this year I will add that to my list of things to check out. Thanks for the recommendation!

I do have several Silly Songs with Larry on my go-to playlist of random songs. "Endangered Love" just came on last week as I was cruising down the highway in the car. Speaking of which, I really need to add His Cheeseburger to my phone...

3. I'd probably have to go with The Lego Movie. Thoroughly enjoyed that from start to finish! Unless we're talking about ANY movie I watched, in which case possibly Lilo and Stitch for the 7th time. 😉

Actually I'm curious what other folks' answer to that question would be. So if you have a moment, let me know what YOUR favorite animated film was of 2014. It would be great for me to hear what and why as an animator, so while I work on my own animations I can keep these things in mind. No point in me making animations no one would want to watch, right?

Thanks so much!

I really appreciate everyone who wrote in questions so I wasn't just showing up Monday with nothing to answer, ha ha. I hope it has been informative and/or entertaining. I'd like to do this again, so perhaps in a few months when the snow melts I can do the "Spring 2015 Q&A" huh? We'll see!

In the meantime, it's back to the regular blog post updates tomorrow, which as a reminder go live at 12:01AM. (And as always, if anyone has questions or comments BETWEEN the Q&A posts, never hesitate to leave them in the comments, I read them all and check to see if there are new ones about 17 times a day. 😛 )

PS. In case you didn't know, it's Groundhog Day today so let's go eat a groundhog.

 

Share
14Jan/15Off

A New Lesson Appears!

Yesterday I had myself a good old fashion epiphany.

The tricky thing about epiphanies is you have to be careful they aren't actually terrible ideas in disguise, so it pays to mull them over for a little while before you fully jump on board. Part of my mulling process is writing it out here, and possibly getting some feedback from you, if you have any thoughts on the subject.

The potentially life-altering discovered wisdom:

Mediocre Progress > Unrealized Genius

Originally this idea was "Mediocre Entertainment > Unrealized Genius" because I came up with it while considering all the art stuff I'd LIKE to do, but feel that I'm lacking the skill to pull off properly. Yet some projects I've pushed forward on in spite of my lack of skill. One such notable example: FredtheMonkey.com.

When I started the site and cartoons more than a decade ago, I did NOT have the skill to pull off the cartoons I wanted to create. Still, I pressed on, and because of that we have gems like "What the biscuit?" and "Is it oatmeal raisin? Because I'm allergic to oatmeal. And raisins. And cookies." and "I'm a platypus." (Granted they are horribly animated, but they EXIST.)

The truth is, I have lists upon lists of what I consider tremendous ideas, all collecting dust because I don't believe in my abilities. Eh... let's rephrase that. Because I KNOW my abilities, and they are not at some magical level that convinces me I can do the ideas justice.

Continuing with examples, a great nod in the OTHER direction is the Studio Riki short.

I decided to press on with this project a few years ago, and worked with the highly skilled Bianca Ansems to produce a great start to the animation. Then... I became afraid. This was my studio's first short! There would never be another "first short." It had to be perfect. I didn't have the skill to match the concept art you see above! I needed to go back to school, relearn everything, become a better draftsman. THEN maybe I could make the short... but only then.

And here we are, years later, and all I have to showcase is a lovely piece of painted concept art. And I am saddened by this.

Most ironic of all, I've been encouraging one of my best friends to pursue creating a first music album. (To be fair, he's an amazing musician, unlike my art skills.) How easy it is to say "Don't worry if it's not perfect, it will still be great!" when it isn't your own project.

So, which is better? The thing that exists, but is honestly pretty lousy (or even decidedly average)? Or the dream of what might be, that doesn't actually exist and possibly never will? Even now it's hard for me to let go of the idea of "But it COULD be great, if I just wait a little longer" when it comes to the short above...

Tell me. What do you think?

(If you'd like to see what you responded with, here it is!)

Share
23Jul/13Off

11 Second Club Time?

I have about 72 things to work on, and the 11 Second Club isn't really one of them right now. That said, I need to get back into the swing of animating AND work on practicing the main characters for the Studio Riki short that's soon to be fired up again, so I decided to kill two (three?) birds with one stone and tackle the 11 Second audio for this month using two of Bianca's well-designed characters as the stars.


Obviously this is just the rough shape of them, not the final characters. 😛

Share
27Mar/13Off

What exactly is going on with FredtheMonkey.com?

I woke up this morning to an email from Jonathan. The subject was "What exactly is going on with FTM?" Here it is:

I recall a very long time ago (I can't even guess when) you stated you were on a hiatus to learn this new program to make FTM with. But I haven't seen much updating about how that is going, is FTM dead or do you plan on picking it back up at a later date?


I'm glad he asked, because I've done a rather poor job of explaining it. Not completely ignored it, but I could have done a much better job. So let's do a better job now.

For starters I want to make note that in the past I did a TERRIBLE job at keeping people posted on what's happening behind the scenes. During Seasons 4-6 (I think) in 2006-2008ish I would disappear for months at a time and not say a word about what was happening. It was because I was afraid of upsetting people, and the longer it went on the more afraid I became because things were only compounded by every day that went by un-updated.

Then a few years ago I was privileged to taste the other side of something like that: Homestarrunner.com stopped updating with no word to fans.

It was awful. Every week you wondered if they'd ever come back, but you just didn't know. And after a few weeks of that (which has stretched to years) I vowed never to do that again to Fred fans. It was too painful on the fan side, and I hadn't realized that until then.

I've updated the blog with what I've been up to in order to keep people up to date on what's been happening. However I realize now that not everyone reads the blog daily, so that means you have to post any of the biggest news front and center on the website itself (and Twitter, and Facebook, and where ever else people might stop by!) so that's what I'm doing today. Let's talk about what exactly is going on with FredtheMonkey.com.

What WAS going on with FtM

Jonathan, you're right. A while back (summer of last year, if memory serves me correctly) I discussed the hiatus in order to learn Toon Boom Animate for future Fred cartoons. My plan was to spend a few months learning Toon Boom, rigging the new character models, and then relaunching the website on October 1st 2012. That did not happen (obviously). Here is why: Rigging took a lot longer than expected. Learning Toon Boom was much harder than expected. I began my first Studio Riki short in earnest, and it took up 100% of my working time. Then things continued to be delayed as I started an apprenticeship to begin to truly understand and master drawing. Please understand those are reasons, not excuses. If I worked harder, I could have done it all. I did not work harder, and so here we are. That is on me, and I take responsibility for that. On top of those things, I had an experience last year that changed my reality from top to bottom. When you go through something like that, things are different afterward. Things don't quite line up with how the world worked before, and going back to how things were seems very difficult. So every day is a new experience for me, and has really made long term plans a strange thing to consider in some ways.

What IS going on with FtM

Now there is a slightly different plan. And I use the word "plan" loosely because every day that I live I see more the foolishness of laying out complex plans. Life is too unpredictable. That isn't an excuse, that's merely what I've discovered. And it's something that sets me more and more free every day. Perhaps I will write an entry about that later, for now let's get back to FtM.

The short answer is: FtM will continue.

The long answer is: FtM will continue in some form which I currently have little idea what will be or when will happen. I am still currently working on my own personal art skills to try to improve. I'm not content with where I am now (or have been for the past 30 years). I've been coasting. I don't want to coast anymore. Life is too short and big and powerful and interesting to coast. I'm also still working on the Studio Riki short, so that is a big project. Plus there's that "life" thing that happens outside of just work, and it's deeper and more involved than ever. I will not say this is what will happen, but this is what I'd LIKE:

I would like to learn Toon Boom along side my drawing instruction and Riki short. After I am comfortable enough to function with it, I would like to build a backlog of cartoons and updates for FtM so that I can set them to automatically release on a reasonable, regular schedule. I have been at this for almost 10 years, so I know fully well that if I do not do things this way then updates will be missed. No matter how fired up I am at any given moment, there will be times when I'm not as fired up and that will cause delays. I do not work well "running behind" so to speak. So I would like to do updates in advance and have technology give them to you on a set schedule. That way no one is wondering when there isn't something new after I said there would be.

What is the likely hood of this happening? As things sit right now, great. Because I am in a fired up state and really want to accomplish it. Read the above paragraph, though, and you'll know as well as I do that saying that is rather meaningless. So I'm sorry, the only real true answer I can give is "I don't know." It is possible that will happen, or possible that something else might happen instead. The one certain thing is that there WILL be a continuation of FtM in some form at some point (so long as some unexpected tragedy doesn't occur, such as me being hit by a bus. However we can never plan for those sorts of things).

I hope that clears it up some, and I apologize again for not explaining it all better in a way that everyone can find the answer to that question. Hopefully now that there is a link on the front page of FtM people will know what's currently happening with things!

If anyone has any questions or comments about this whole thing (positive, negative, whatever) please don't hesitate to leave a comment below or send me an email. I realize that folks who have been along on this journey with me for many years have had to put up with some tough moments as I've learned-by-doing and grown as a person, and I thank you for your patience and hope that the cartoons and stuff I do is worth the stress. If not I totally understand if you want to seek greener (more frequently updated!) pastures, and I hope you'll stop by again sometime and see what's going on and say hello.

All the very best,
-J.K.

 

EDIT: Also a bunch of comments are being flagged as spam for some reason, so if you don't see yours pop up immediately give it some time because I'll check in the spam folder and unflag any that are real comments. :)

Share
4Feb/13Off

Drawing Feet Tutorial

Over at Animator Island today is a great "Feet in Animation" tutorial (parts 1 and 2) in a handy dandy PDF format so you can print it out and have a copy for your desk. Or you can just read it on the site, of course, as usual. So if you're interested, check it out!

In other news, this will be my final week of apprenticing before getting back to the Studio Riki animated short full time. I actually plan to continue learning from Dane in the future, but just not full time as I have in the past four weeks. I have to say, it was AMAZING. I feel like I've grown artistically leaps and bounds under his tutelage, and I can't thank him enough. I'm looking forward to getting even better as I work on the awesome short coming up!

Share
10Jan/13Off

Christmas Time Again!

So yes, it is January now, but I love Christmas so we'll just celebrate it all year round, how about that? Today the recent Edmund and Darrell Christmas Special finally hits FtM so if you've not seen it yet, go check it out! Love those cookies.

Since the site has now been updated for the first time in... let's see... forever, I thought I'd take a moment to fill you in on what's been going on. If you missed the news, I've been working on my studio's first animated short. It's a fully 2D frame by frame number with amazing art and animation, which means it takes a TON of time to do. As a result, Fred and the crew have had to take a long vacation while I attend to other things. I plan to go back and do more FtM stuff in the future, but when that will be I can't say. I promise to keep you posted, though.

I will also be starting a new apprenticeship next Tuesday, and I'm tremendously excited about that! It's going to be a lot of drawing from what I understand, so I'll probably be knee deep in sketchbooks for the next month or so (and doing little else).

Share
1Jan/13Off

Reflection and Looking Forward

Well 2012 has drawn to a close (according to some calendars anyway) which means it's a good time to sit down and look at yesterday and tomorrow. Last year I posted a few of my goal, so I figured why not check out how that went?

-Fill 1 Sketchbook per month with Life Drawing Practice.
Result: I made it halfway through #8 "August" by December 31st. That's a marked improvement from 2011 (same goal, result = only four sketchbooks filled) but still not quite one per month. I'm hopeful that increase continues, though, and maybe 2013 will see me finally achieve this one, eh?

-Introduce Claire and Melvin to FtM.
Hooray, one I did!

-Kickstarter a certain unnamed project.
Well that sure didn't happen. It was a book, and I didn't finish writing it.

-1 Hour of New Animation at FtM.com.
L. O. L.

-Release 1st Studio short (and website for Studio)
Got decently close with this one, except that we ended up delaying the cartoon so we could do it justice. Instead of the projected timeline of six weeks to completion, it took about six weeks just to design characters and nail down story. So still a LONG way to go, but I'm very hopeful that 2013 will see the first Studio Riki animated short!

Beyond those there were some on my list that were accomplished and a few others that were not. It's good to have a solid list in my sketchbook/journal to review once the year ends. And now on to 2013!

Some 2013 Goals

For starters I learned a ton of things in 2012 that dramatically changed my perspective on life and reality. Flipped things totally upside down (but in a good way). As a result, it was much harder to write my to-do list for 2013. I felt less like planning out every step and more open to seeing what life was going to bring me. I couldn't have predicted some of the huge things that took place in 2012, so why should I believe I can map out 2013 and beyond? I can't, some of it is going to be up to God and my willingness to follow where ever I'm called to go. Whatever the case, I'm sure I'm going to keep learning a ton just by being open to the idea of growing and looking at life more deeply, so I'm excited about it.

-Third Time's the Charm: Actually fill 12 sketchbooks with drawing practice over the next 12 months. I still want to get this accomplished, and here's a new year to give it another shot!

-Complete and Release Studio Riki's first 2D animated short. It's coming along further every day, so I think this one will happen. Just a matter of "when."

-Take on apprenticeship with maximum effort. I'm excited to talk about an apprenticeship I'll be going through with a very, very talented 2D animator and illustrator. Over the next few months I am going to focus a large portion of my time towards this apprenticeship and all the work that comes with it. He's going to train me to improve my artistic skill, and I truly can't wait to get started! I'll probably post a lot of the work I do for that here on the blog, so some pretty pictures to look forward to.

-Sell house. For many years I've been trying to finish our house to sell, so we can find a new house that we'll stay in for a longer period of time than the last one. The last (current) one was only supposed to be temporary, but that was five years ago, so it's really time to move on. I still have a lot of DIY stuff to do before that happens, though, so I want to finish it early in 2013. Time to redouble my efforts!

So there are a few things I'm going to attempt for this new year, baring any more huge life changes that will make me crumple up this list and toss it into the trash bin. I have to be prepared for that eventuality though, because none of us know what tomorrow will bring. I'll use this less as a strict guide for 2013 and more as the starting point to stepping off onto a new path through life. The path ahead has plenty of places to turn, stop, and discover, so I'm no longer focused on the destination as much as enjoying the journey (and learning and growing every day).

Hope everyone has a happy new year, and let me know what your plans (or lack of plans) are for 2013! I'd love to hear them.

 

Share
10Dec/12Off

DO BETTER!

If you missed it on Twitter, there are some images of what the final Studio Riki short will likely look like.

The difficulty, it turns out, is that image seems so awesome to me that today I looked at the rough animation shots I had done and they seemed unworthy by comparison. If they had been on paper I would have crumpled them up and chucked them across the room (thank goodness they weren't on paper!). And unfortunately I fell into a bit of a funk and Bianca had to deal with me moaning all day about how I sucked at animating/drawing/everything. I was rather angry with myself that what was on screen was not matching what was in my head. It was too stiff and lifeless and poppy. Finally the DRAWING aspect was pretty decent, but now all the principals went out the window. Finally (following my own advice, actually, about de-stressing) I drew this image of inner-me:


Most ironic thing about it all? The image above actually helped me see I HAD improved (it's way better than what I might have done months ago) and along with some help from my terrific director I managed to get back to my normal cheery self by the end of the day. Even got some things accomplished, which is really great because a while back this sort of slump probably would have lasted a few days. Moving on and up!

Share