Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Steno Book Sketches

I decided to start posting some of the drawings that I do on a weekly basis. As with all art students, I recognize the importance of drawing every single day- outside of schoolwork and work work- just to make sure that all of your senses and skills remain intact. Of course, the problem is finding the time and energy for it. Unlike some precocious illustrators who I know, I don't sit down and do beautiful drawings every day. Rather, I mainly find the time to draw during the day when I'm waiting for or riding the subway (or, as we Bostonians call it, the "T"). So don't expect any wonderfully rendered illustrations; these are usually done quickly, with a shaky hand while the bus or subway jostles me to and fro.

You may notice that almost all of these sketches are done in a cheap and crappy steno book. There is a method behind my madness: for years, I would buy all of these nice sketchbooks with hardbound covers and thick, lush pages... and then never draw in them. I guess there's just this annoying tendency of mine to make them too "precious," and to not want to ruin them with my crap-ass drawings. So I threw aside the Moleskins and other nice sketchbooks that I owned, and went to Staples and bought a huge pack of these crap steno books. Now, I feel completely uninhibited in filling the pages with whatever stupid idea comes into my mind. So, sorry- there's going to be a lot of yellow colored posts coming here in the future.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Film Festivals

Film festivals are a pain in the ass to enter, as well as very expensive. Still, it's always a nice piece of news when you find out that you got into one. (And in my case, always unexpected.) My animation, "Lost Friend," will be playing at the Woods Hole Festival this week. It also recently got accepted into the Independents' Film Festival. Not too bad for a short film made with charcoal pencils and a memo pad. The only problem with "Lost Friend" is that recently, people have started to ask me if I "copied" the robot design from Wall-E. Le sigh. The answer, of course, is No! I made that film ~2 years before I had seen Wall-E. I don't take it too personally; after all, Pixar has been accused of ripping off their robot design from a certain other robot...

I just entered my DP into a bunch of festivals in the last week or so, so I'm hoping that that film will get me even further.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Animation for "What Is a Negro?"

Hey, Susan- why don't you stop yammering about stupid crap every week and actually post some animation that you've been working on?

Here's the rough of some of the work that I've done for the Herskovits film. What is a Negro, indeed.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ottawa Int'l Animation Festival

I'm sorry, but were you aware that MASSART ANIMATION KICKS SOME BOO-TAY?! It was announced this week that our school's showreel has been one of the four reels selected for the School Showreel Competition in OIAF. A mere glance at how prestigious the other schools are, and the short duration of time that our program has even existed, makes this accomplishment even more amazing.

For those of you who aren't familiar with OIAF, let's just say that it's a big deal in the animation world. It's the only international animation film festival in North America. Last year was the first year that a MassArt submission was even accepted by OIAF. This year, my amazing friend, Kara, had her DP accepted, and now, our schoolreel is in the festival. This has been a big week for our scrappy little animation department! MassArt is the only publicly funded art school in the country, and sometimes, it shows. You should see our dept at school- things have improved quite a bit lately, but there's definitely an air of "let's just make do with what we have." Stuff is just duct taped and slapped together everywhere. It's crazy that we're in competition with the big boys, now!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Super Racist Animation

Did I mention that I've been asked to do these really racist animation sequences for the Herskovits documentary? It felt pretty weird having to troll the internet for racist stereotypes that I could use in my animatic. It reminded me of when I was working on my DP: I had to hit a couple of KKK sites (to see how they put the white robe on their horses), and I had to look for super racist portrayals of Chinese people. I guess things could be worse- I could be working at a T.G.I.Fridays.

BTW, that closeup of the black face was inspired by a racist toothpaste I used to see while living in Taiwan as a child. It was called "Darkie" toothpaste, and it featured an image of a smiling black man with a top hat. I believe that the makers of the toothpaste has since changed its name to "Darlie" toothpaste, but it still contains the racist image on it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I finally watched "Persepolis" on DVD last week. I thought that it was ok- I liked the graphic novels better, to be honest. What I thought was interesting was how in the DVD extras, they go to great pains to demonstrate how everything in the film was hand-drawn. As in, on paper. What? Why?! As I was watching the movie, I felt that they must have used a program like Flash to do the animation; the lines were so perfect, and the animation was super smooth. But no- they had tons of people doing pencil tests, tracing, erasing, inking, etc.

Ok, nobody is a bigger fan of the traditional style of animation than ME. I was raised on Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons, and my own animation program at MassArt is very focused on hand-drawn, traditional techniques. (Flash is considered a dirty word in the dept, and I never used it in my animations until Fall of my senior year.) However, Alex and Lindsay showed me how using a computer program like Flash is simply using a tool to help enhance your art and creativity. I love animation's fluid ability to help me tell the story that I want told... but it's so labor-intensive that it would take me forever to even get 30 seconds into the story if I drew everything out on paper. My DP contained 9798 frames, and even though I had a computer program "help" me, I still had to hand-draw every single one of those frames. Anyway, my point is simply that if the final, hand-drawn-on-paper animation is going to look like it's done on Flash, anyway, then why be a masochist and do it the old fashioned way? It reminds me a little bit of that Sony Bravia ad. I mean, here's a stop-motion animation that is mind-blowingly awesome (yes, that was all done with modeling clay, for realsies!), but... well, if they used CGI, would it really have looked that much different?

Don't misinterpret what I'm saying, though... some things remain sacred. If they ever did a CGI Wallace and Gromit, I'll vomit blood.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I ♥ Herskovits

Perhaps you've been wondering what I've been up to since graduating in May. Surprised that I haven't already packed up my stuff and moved out to California already? Well, first things first. People, I'm EXHAUSTED. Not just from working non-stop on my DP from Sept. - May this past school year (although that was enough to send me into nervous breakdown territory). But I've been working full-time at the pharmacy and going to school full-time (except for the last 2 semesters) during the 4 years of my MassArt experience. I am too tired right now to immediately start the job hunt/career launch at full throttle. This summer, I just want to hang out with Michael, drink some Sam Adam's Summer Ale, work at the pharmacy and save money, and catch up on my books and movies.

That's why it was a nice surprise that a freelance job fell into my lap last month. One of my teachers sent our class' DP DVD to a local film studio, Vital Pictures. They liked our work and hired Laura, Brian, and me to help make the animation sequences for their documentary, "Herskovits: A Jew At the Heart of Blackness." Laura and I are very excited at the opportunity. The type of animation that they want from us is more artsy than commercial, and they are very open to our creative input and opinions. Everybody at the studio is very nice and collaborative, so I am enjoying the job greatly. Here's a trailer for the film:

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Laura and I went to go see "Wall-E" yesterday. I'm always excited for a new Pixar movie, but I was particularly looking forward to seeing this one. I'm a semi-fan of sci-fi, and a big fan of robots. I was hoping that the film would be extremely kick-ass, since I was somewhat let down by "Cars." Needless to say, I was not disappointed. In fact, "Wall-E" is not just my favorite Pixar movie at the moment, it may be one of my favorite movies of all time. I'm sure there are people who will say that it's not the laugh-a-minute riot that "Finding Nemo" is, or that it has an overly simplistic storyline compared to, say, "The Incredibles." However, for an aspiring character animator like myself, I couldn't get over how amazingly well done the animation is. That the animators could breathe that much life into a tiny, animated robot is mind-boggling. You quickly forget that you're even watching a cartoon, and you start to just watch the film with the acceptance that Wall-E is real.

(As an added bonus for me, the end credits featured a new song by Peter Gabriel, one of my favorite musicians. He hasn't had a new song come out in awhile, so I was pretty excited.)