My First Art Show

I’ve got a confession to make – I’ve never entered my work in an art show before. It’s not that the opportunity wasn’t there – I’ve been invited to at least 20 of them in the past 4 years. Rather, it was because I had an all-too-common mindset that artists have – a fear of ridicule, and a sense of inadequacy compared to all my “Real Artist” friends. Oh, and the feeling that fine art shows are a bit pretentious.

Recently, I decided to go back to community college. I couldn’t resist the draw of state-paid figure drawing classes. It’s interesting going back to school when you’ve been working (somewhat) in the field for a few years. The students are much more relaxed and unabashed about the quality of their work, and there is a much broader range of skill levels than I’m used to. Now I’m no Glen Keane, but I’m not the complete noob I was the first time around. It still baffles me, though, when the teachers get so excited about works that I’d consider to be a mediocre study. Georgia, my figure drawing teacher and possibly the sweetest woman in the universe, talked me into submitting one of these studies for the upcoming student art show. She asked me how much I wanted to sell my main piece for – I was thinking $20. It’s a quick sketch, and anatomy study, and it was done in cheap crayola colored pencil on plain sketchbook paper. It took less than an hour. “Oh no!” she said. “I was thinking more like $150!” I settled on $75.

I’m not *completely* embarassed by this one, but I do feel like a lot of my sketches have better poses, more action and direction, and just… better everything. But oh well, it’s my first art show, and I’m just going to show up, schmooze with some people, and get used to showing off my work.

Naked Model_Smaller

Posted in The Animation Industry

Video Game Design – Harvesters!

The Harvesters are the bad guys. Really, they’re just lanky humans in masks, but I’d be pretty freaked out if a group of them was running towards me in the middle of the night.

This is actually the very first 3D model I’ve ever made on my own (not including a couple of gumby-esque tube characters from my first run through school. Ugh). HUGE learning experience, considering that I’ve only ever done 2D flash characters before. My buddy Fred Sais took a look over it for me, gave me a few areas to increase the geometry, and then gave me the go-ahead to call it finished. I’ve still got a little more work to do on him – his butt deforms grotesquely when I try to actually animate him. Bring on the rigging tutorials! And thanks again, Fred!


Posted in The Animation Industry

Video Game Design – Bean

Bean is the main character for an RPG that I’m casually designing. He’s a bit naive, he’s out to save the love of his life from her kidnappers, and he wears a leaf over his man-parts. All in all, it took about 12 hours to model him. I’m going to make him a custom facial rig somewhere down the road, but at the moment all he’s got is a basic body rig that my 3D design teacher helped me get for free through Mixamo. (A great program if you’re a student and your teacher helps you get it for free. Otherwise, not worth the money for such a basic rig). The motion you’re seeing is just mocap – I’ll be giving him some real animation later, after all his friends have been modeled.





Posted in The Animation Industry

On a quest for markers that won’t melt my brain…

I try to avoid drawing with pens and pencils as much as possible. I get way too involved in the little details, and waste a ton of time when I should be focusing on the bigger picture. My favorite medium has always been brush and ink, since it allows for very fast, bold lines while still giving the artist a lot of control. I do most of my work outside of the house, though, and India Ink tends to explode when left in the bottom of a bag in your car.

After reading on Chris Sanders’ blog that he prefers to draw with a China Marker, forcing himself to keep things simple, I gave it a try. I’m not a big fan so far. The linework feels a little weak, and I feel don’t feel like I have the same level of control with smaller drawings (and by “smaller,” I mean anything less than 8.5×11). Perhaps I would get better if I stuck with it for longer, but it’s just not rubbing me the right way.

I’ve done about 20 pages of rough layout with a Copic Marker I had lying around. LOVE the line quality, love the loseness I get out of it… Hate the smell. Sweet Jesus, my brain is not liking these marker fumes. I’m also finding that, while my India Ink never bled through the paper too much, this Copic Marker bleeds through several pages at once. Booo…

Faber Castell makes an India Ink pen that smells much better, but I feel it’s a bit lacking in the line quality area. Everything looks very even and straight. What I really want is a brush-pen shaped like the Copics, but with the India Ink I like.

I wonder if it’s possible to inject my copic marker with India Ink? This may be an experiment worth trying. I’ll keep you guys posted on my results.

Posted in The Animation Industry

Drawing on Trash

So I’m sitting there working on a rough layout for my comic book, and my buddy Fred walks up to me and says, “Yuki, sweetheart, we gotta get you a real sketchbook.”

Now, Fred takes a lot of pride in his work. Fred had a great career in comic book art years before he and I met in school, and in all of the projects we’ve worked on together, he’s always taken the role of director-teacher-mentor-drill-sergeant. Only the highest quality is acceptable to Mr. Fred. Every doodle gets the loving attention one might give to a beautiful woman.

I, on the other hand, scribble like a madwoman when I’m trying to get ideas down on paper. For every 100 drawings, 95 end up in the trash. While I’ve been told by a few people that my drawings have a lot of life and feeling, I’ve never been told by a single person that my drawings are clean or polished.

A friend once bought me a beautiful leather-bound sketchbook. Heavy paper, built-in bookmark, magnetized cover. It was absolutely beautiful. That was in 2008, and I’ve filled up all of four pages. That sketchbook is still sitting mostly empty on my book shelf. Whenever I try to draw in it, I become almost paralyzed with anxiety about ruining it. I’m worried about creating a “nice” drawing that is beautiful enough to deserve space in this gorgeous sketchbook, and then all my drawings come out stiff and lifeless.

Inversely, I’ve found that my best drawings tend to happen when I don’t care about the material they’re on. They happen on scraps of cardboard and wood, and gum wrappers that I fish out of my purse. I’ve done some very creative things with old receipts. Some of my most unique drawings this year have been in the margins of client files that I did at my crappy day job. The reason I do all of my comic book layout in a ¢99 lined composition book is so that I can feel comfortable scribbling over bad panels, tearing out entire pages, and creating a generally ugly picture that allows me to focus less on the quality of lines and color, and more on the composition and story. It allows me to be more creative and less rigid, and if I have to throw a drawing away, so what? It was on trash in the first place.




Posted in The Animation Industry

Playing with my kneaded eraser

There’s something so satisfying about squishing and stretching and deforming a kneaded eraser.

I’m supposed to be storyboarding.


What a slacker.



Posted in The Animation Industry

Just Do It

I have a tendency to spend waaaayyyy too much time researching before starting a project. No joke, easily 60% of my time is spent on research, with the rest divided between all other aspects of production. It’s a terrible habit I’m trying to kick, so today I told myself I may not do ANYTHING else until I’d sat down and done at least 10 storyboard thumbnails for the short I’ve been meaning to work on for ages. Lo and behold, I’m on thumbnail #66, and I have so much momentum.

There’s really something to be said for just sitting down, kicking it into high gear, and not worrying about researching all the little details. Huzzah!

I might post the ugly thumbnails later, but for now I’m going to try to keep my momentum going into actual full-sized storyboards, and follow that with an animatic.

If all goes well, I’ll be able to have a 5-minute animatic posted by the end of December!

Posted in The Animation Industry

Photoshop on my mobile device falls short of expectations

I do most of my work on a giant, unwieldy rock of a computer that stays firmly rooted to my desk at home. Being a frequent convention-goer and a starbucks regular, I’ve been downsizing my away-from-home computer every couple of years or so, from a 9-lb laptop (with a broken battery), to a 4-lb iPad (which does NOT run any useful art programs), and finally, to my itty-bitty Samsung Galaxy Tab. I’m not normally one to drop a week’s salary on a new toy

So you can see why I got so EXCITED when I walked into Best Buy one day and found this tiny, slim, itty-bitty tablet that was supposedly compatible with a newly developed mobile version of Photoshop. I picked it up for $399, which didn’t seem bad at all given my expectations for it. Photoshop Touch was an additional $20. The stylus is tiny and might give you hand-cramps if you’re used to a full-sized wacom tablet.


  1. Tiny size = massive convenience. It fits in my purse. I can hold it in one hand and draw with the other. Weighing in at 1.3 lbs, this is the lightest device I’ve ever used for drawing (after paper and pencil)
  2. Completely self-contained. Since getting this tablet, I rarely need my big laptop bag with the external mouse and hard drive and power cord, and I feel much freer for it.
  3. Photoshop on the go rocks! It’s really easy for me to photograph, crop, rotate, color correct, and upload my art to Facebook in about three minutes from Starbucks.
  4. 10+ hours of battery life. This is a lifesaver when you want to show off your (substandard) demo reel at a long convention where you can’t charge your stuff.


  1. Photoshop Touch has a lot of limitations. Maximum image size is 1600×1600. You have a maximum of 16 layers. Most people I know will do just fine within these restrictions, but I’ve found myself a bit frustrated with them.
  2. Stylus reactivity – not so good. I’m not sure if it’s the design of the stylus or tablet itself, or if the tablet doesn’t have the processing power to keep up with Photoshop Touch’s memory usage. It’s also possible that the mobile version of photoshop just sucks from a performance standpoint. Whatever the cause, I’m finding it hard to control line quality or do any small detail work (even zoomed in). After a failed attempt at storyboarding on my tablet, I’m definitely frustrated with it. I’m tempted to get a $2 USB converter and see if I can hook up my tiny wacom tablet to it, although it would kind of defeat the purpose of buying the more expensive one with the stylus built in. I saw a rumor online saying that the tablet would work with older wacom pens. Turns out that was just a rumor, because this 6 year old wacom pen in my hand isn’t working on it.
  3. Stylus + touch-sensitivity = you can’t touch the tablet! This means if you normally draw with the heel of your hand resting on the paper/wacom/cintiq, then this will cause the tablet to recognize your hand as a second pen input, and the lower corner of your drawing will be speckled with ugly little scribbles. I’ve looked long and hard, and it doesn’t seem possible to disable touch input when the pen is in use. Laaaame.

All in all, I’m glad I bought it, although I’ve used it more for reference for my real-paper art rather than to draw. Whether or not it ever lives up to it’s original purpose depends on whether the Wacom will work on it – I don’t have high hopes for that.

We’ve been asking for a long time to have a mobile device that will run Adobe programs. It’s nice to see we’re moving in the right direction, although we’re clearly not there yet. I’m looking forward to the next couple of years, when I’ll hopefully be able to get a more responsive tablet that will not only run Photoshop, but maybe even Flash. Maybe even Maya, if I really stretch my imagination. :)


Posted in The Animation Industry

Nobody is Good at Everything

I am a good animator. Not a great animator, but I’m on my way (hopefully!)

Like most great-animators-to-be, I have a head full of exhilarating stories and personal projects that have yet to be produced. In the last year, I’ve written a story for a comic book that has yet see any real visual development, I’ve researched how to publish my own mobile games, and I’ve thumbnail-boarded a short film that I want to animate. Now, when there are students who can produce an animated project in a single semester, why why WHY am I still lagging behind with pre-production 13 months later? Am I just the laziest schmuck in the world?

The truth is, I suffer from Overly Critical Artist Syndrome. I tend to ignore what I’m good at and focus instead on what I can’t do. Last year, I had several Disney artists tell me that they loved my animation and they had no suggestions to make it better. Yet, rather than doing some more great animation, I spent most of this past year agonizing over the things I’m not good at – namely, digital painting and character design.

If you know the production pipeline, you know that you can’t start animating without finished character designs and at least some rough background art. Thus, my excuse for not animating anything yet. However,  I got so mentally hung up on the poor character designs that I didn’t even move forward with things like storyboards and a color script, which are both well within my skill set to do. Production screeched to a year-plus halt while I spent well over THREE HUNDRED HOURS this year watching tutorials and demos from artists who are more experienced than me, and researching and dissecting the vague “science” of character appeal. Figure in the amount of time I spent making crappy designs (and then burning them), I probably wasted enough time that I could have finished a good chunk of the production.

Then, I found something on the JohnKStuff blog that really made sense to me. John says, “Not every artist or cartoonist has natural appeal. Since there are so few of these artists who can make almost anything look good, animation developed the concept of having specialists in appeal that we call character designers.” In other words, character designers are valuable because not everyone can do what they do.

I got a bit of a surprise at this year’s expo, after I’d gone around looking at other artists’ work. I asked a few of particularly good digital painters how they went about their trade, and mentioned passively that I wished I could paint the way they painted. Several of them responded back with, “I wish I could animate like you do!” It made me realize that, while everyone has one or two things they really excel at, successful artists don’t hold themselves accountable for every step of production. I’ve never seen a great environment artist beat themselves up for a lack of character design skills, or a stop-motion animator put themselves down because they can’t do fluid effects in Maya. And to my knowledge, Steven Spielberg never doubted his potential as a great film director just because his drawings… don’t quite hit the mark.

Steven Spielberg’s original Poltergeist storyboard……And the finished boards re-done by another artist.

This year, my big goal is going to be to move forward with everything I CAN DO, and learn to let go of what I can’t. If I really want to do what’s best for the project, it’s better for me to focus on animation, and bribe one of my talented friends to flesh out the characters.



Posted in The Animation Industry

March Competition – Concept Design!

Ooooh, that’s right! We’re squeezing TWO competitions into March!

For the storyboarding competition, click HERE.

We got such an overwhelming response from people interested in concept design and digital painting that we decided to go ahead and shell out a bit of extra cash and do a second competition that’s all about concept art!

For this competition, we’re setting the bar pretty high. There’s a LOT of talent amongst you, and I can’t wait to see what amazing things you bring to life! Pull out all the stops!


Now I understand that setting hard criteria for concept art is a little tougher than for other areas of production. Every painting will have the artist’s unique characteristics, but here are some things to shoot for:

1) Color and value! Your entry does not have to be super bright and saturated, but it SHOULD display a refined use of color. You also want to make sure you have a great range of values. Rather than focusing on realism, focus on using light and dark shapes to make a great composition! If you’re doing a black-and-white piece, you can still win it with if the values are well-done.

2) Lighting! Whether it’s bright and sunny, or dark and mysterious, make sure your lighting is skillfully executed. Again, emotional intensity counts for much more than realism!

3) Texture! Add some visual interest in the form of leaves, feathers, billowing cloth or hair… Texture is a challenge to many artists. If you’re used to working in flat shapes, let’s try something new!

4) Concept! This is probably the hardest one to teach. As artists, creation is our uniting passion. However, creating a unique concept is often harder than it seems. I challenge you to create something so unique that no other artist in the competition ends up with a similar piece!

And this month’s theme?

Fat people!

Your piece can be as dramatic or comedic, as stylized or realistic, and as simple or complex as you want it to be, but it has to some how tie into this main theme. You can work in any visual medium you choose – traditional or digital, 2D or 3D.


Now, I have a great friend named Heather Leigh-Barrons who is currently doing compositing on the soon-to-be-released movie, Epic. So impressed am I with the incredible visuals in this movie that the prize for this month’s competition is a brand new copy of the gorgeous art book, The Art of Epic!

You have until March 31st!

Happy concepting!


Posted in The Animation Industry