Thursday, December 22, 2011

Puppet Man and YIR

Just a quick photoshop sketch of a caricature I drew of fellow JibJabber and puppet man Mike Chiechi. You can check out his handiwork on his blog, as well as throughout last year's JibJab year in review short, "So Long to Ya, 2010!".

Speaking of the New Year, we recently wrapped up production on the 2011 YIR short, "2011, Buh Bye", which debuted on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno earlier this week. I even make my first cameo in a JibJab short in this one! I leant my handsome mug to the scene that covers the exotic animal stampede in Zanesville, Ohio in October.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

JibJab Summer Internship 2011

Man, I had been so good about posting something at least once a week for a couple months (I think) and then BAM, nothin' for longer than I care to admit. At least I have a good excuse! I was contacted by Evan Spiridellis, co-founder of JibJab Media in Venice, California for the summer to be an animation intern. I have been a fan of their work for several years now and I feel fortunate to have been given this opportunity to work for them! I really like their sense of humor and the way they combine Flash and After Effects platforms with awesome illustration to make great ecards and short films. Check out their "Originals", "Everyday Fun", and their "eCards" online at They maintain a very cool blog that reveals all kinds of juicy behind-the-scenes stuff too, so be sure to check it out as well.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I've been wanting to do an animation of a skateboarder for a little while now and decided to go for it. Skateboarding is one of those sports that I've always loved to watch and admired those who are good at it, but never got the hang of it myself.

First, I did some classic YouTube reference video searching and began to thumbnail out ideas from what I found. I wanted to make the character jump something big, since the anticipation and potential for squash and stretch is so great. Here's a page of my doodles.

My first step in the computer was to block out the environment and the timing in spacing. I've found that using basic polygon primitives is a useful way to accomplish this since its so straightforward and it allows for easy experimentation and revisions. If I can start to "feel" the animation with a gray ball and two gray boxes, I know I'm heading in the right direction!

Once I get the basic polygon animation to a place where I like it, I will insert the rig into the scene and literally position and key the character in the same place and at the same frame in the time line that my polygon previs ball indicates. After that, its all about tweaking the spine, the limbs, squashing and stretching. Undoubtedly things will change as the shot is fleshed out, but for the most part the broad strokes are already going to work. This is also a stage where I usually have to reconfigure my camera a little bit, too.

Once the animation is looking good, I'll revisit the background and start to model and shade some basic props to give more context.

Last but not least, I'll send it off to the render farm. I would have rendered this locally off of my own computer, but with a shot with this much broad, fast movement, It's a good idea to have motion blur on (and motion blur takes a loooong time to render). I am far from the best digital lighting artist in the world, so ambient occlusion is my best friend! The entire length of time for this brief shot was about 5-6 days from idea to completion.

Thanks again!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Arab Swordsman

A few warm up sketches I decided to splash with some color on the cintiq :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Citroen 2CV

This model was turned in about 2 weeks ago, but I had not remembered to post it until today. I'm not as satisfied with this one as I was with the Karmann Ghia, but then again, we had 5 weeks to do our first model and about a week and a half to do this one. I guess its unreasonable to expect an improvement in quality when the variable that has been changed is time. The basic shape is there (I really like the way the fenders turned out), but there is room for improvement with the shaders. Maybe I'll get back to this one in the future...

Another Sketch

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Daily Sketch

Its funny 'cause its true :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Walk n' Lean

I just did two variations on a basic walk cycle for fun this weekend. They're both on your standard 24 frame cycle, but with markedly different spines. It's amazing how much of a difference that posture makes. I rendered it with mental ray ambient occlusion and finished it in After Effects to get that vignette and texture look.

Thanks again for visiting :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dirt Jumper

Some of my best doodles come from quick sketches on random pieces of paper. An image will arrive in my head and my sketchbook will be inconveniently located slightly more than an arms reach away from me when I need it (this is why I made my enviro-friendly homemade pocket sketchbooks, but that'll be a future post. I dressed it up a little bit in Photoshop too really quick. I like it :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Warner Bros. Backgrounds

Looks familiar, don't they?

A friend recently sent me a whole bunch of these backgrounds from old Warner Bros. cartoons. It's safe to guess that they're from the Road Runner cartoons, eh? What I found most fascinating about these was that they are not only beautiful environment illustrations, even by today's standards, but without a story, characters, or animation taking place on top of them, you actually have a chance to appreciate them as stand-alone art (you can even tell where the action was staged by the negative space and framing in most of them. Its not hard to imagine the rest of the shot's animation).

Every profession has its front-and-center rock stars and unsung heroes that make it all happen behind the scenes. For every headlining movie star there is a production designer who's name you'll never hear and who's face you'll never see. Please visit to see more scenes like this. Its very inspiring and worth bookmarking on your web browser.

Thanks again.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Karmann Ghia New Paint

I recently learned how to use the paint shader in Maya and replaced that old Blinn shader from the previous post for the Karmann Ghia. Turns out it is remarkably easy to use and is built into the Mental Ray shader menu. It's no wonder why its so easy to miss out on some of these things in Maya. Just look at the user interface - the cockpit of 747's are probably more intuitive to use!

I also like how this shader makes the subtle taper along the bottom of the driver side door more detectable, too. I spent a lot of time on that part, and it was a shame when it didn't show up in the previous render. The lesson here is that crappy textures, shaders, and lighting can undermine a good model. Like sheep in wolf's clothing, I guess.

Thanks again for stopping by :)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Citroen 2CV Model Work In Progress

The Karmann Ghia was a success for my first-ever attempt at modeling a car in Maya, and now I'm currently in the middle of modeling another vehicle. This time its another quirky European car from another era - a 1979 Citroen 2CV. I settled on this particular car from this particular year for three reasons: 1. I was able to find a nice high-resolution blueprint image online with all four views (front, top, rear, and side), and 2. There are plenty of reference images and videos available online, and 3. Not a whole lot of Americans are familiar with this car, so the final product will have a little more intrigue than another vehicle that we've all seen before.

I've got just a fraction of the time I had for the Ghia to complete this one, so lets hope that all the lessons learned equal a quicker turnaround time for this one. I'd like to spend a little more time on the car paint shader this time around, too, since I didn't budget my time particularly well last time.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Anatomy Sketches

Gotta know what is under the skin in order to draw the outside even better :)

Karmann Get It!

Here's the results of a recent project we had to do for a visual effects modeling class that I'm taking as an elective. It's a 1963 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia hardtop. The curvy body lines proved to be quite a challenge in the beginning, as they taper and fade as you make your way across the body panels. I had restarted a couple different times before I learned that if I traced the body lines with an EP curve, I could more accurately tell where the dips, swoops, and bulges went. Its amazing how much of a difference it makes having those guidelines there (you can see them poking through a little bit on the front drivers-side quarter panel in the work in progress screen shot).

Its my first attempt at modeling a car, so I'm pretty proud of the results :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Apple Dock and iPhone Icons

I was recently approached to design an Apple icon for an application that will be available on the iStore (can't say what it is until it's officially published). I was playing around in Photoshop, trying to emulate the classic "Apple" look and came up with the blue button above. Naturally, I had to play with it. I then transformed it into "Apple" scrabble blocks with my wife's name on it, because we had been playing the famous board game earlier that day (point values are correct - I double checked). Megan kicks my butt every time, and she really love the game (I wonder why she keeps wanting to play against me?), so this little impromptu illustration holds special meaning to me. I'll post the final icon once I've got it finished, and once it's available on the iStore!

Latest Flatbook Sketches

Here are a few images from my latest update of my flatbook drawings. For the most part these drawings are less than a year old, with a few exceptions. I tried to show a variety of styles, since some days I feel like I draw totally different than others (funny how that works). A few of them are from when my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Germany and Austria this past September. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Clive Thompson on the Power of Visual Thinking

I recently inherited a stack of past issues of WIRED magazine from a friend of mine. He had invited my wife Megan and I over to have dinner with his wife, and asked me if I was interested in postponing their inevitable dive into the recycling bin. I said sure thing! The thing I like about WIRED magazine is that the editors and authors are able to strike an amusing, yet intelligent balance between technology, art, design, society, and current events (I've never been a fan of technology magazines or publications that are essentially one entire "Special Advertising Section" from cover to cover). The October 2010 issue (I know, its late, but I already informed you why) did not disappoint.

Clive Thompson, a regular contributor to WIRED, wrote a fantastic article about visual thinking and technology entitled, The Power of Visual Thinking. This article struck a special chord in me because I have recently been asking myself, "What else can be done with art and animation?" other than TV shows and movies. Awhile back I realized that animation isn't merely a technique for making films that wind up with Happy Meal toys, but rather a very powerful tool for explaining things that might otherwise be difficult to explain or grasp. If a picture is worth a thousand words, than animation (which is 100's or 1,000's of pictures blowing past the eye at a rate of 24 frames per second) is worth millions or billions of words!

In the article Clive talks about two men, Dan Roam and David Sibbet, who are pioneering the art of using pictures (often very, very simple pictures) to help people and businesses solve all kinds of problems. Roam's best-selling book "The Back of the Napkin" champions the art of quick and dirty, low-tech problem solving. Roam even used his simple illustration techniques to explain how President Obama's proposed healthcare reform would function, effectively accomplishing what no democrat or republican could articulate no matter what Ivy League school they had graduated from.

Visualization expert David Sibbet has spent the last three decades serving as a consultant for businesses, effectively drawing infographics during board meetings for distribution afterward. I used to illustrate my notes in Biology class (and virtually every other class) in undergrad and would have classmates ask me if they could see them. I just thought it was further evidence that I had chosen the right major (art), but Sibbet has turned it into a profitable career.

If the iPhone, iPad, the ubiquity of the television, and the rise of the smartphone (along with the death of the "dumb phone", I guess) are a harbinger of the things to come, then I see the art of animation and visualization mutating and evolving into applications and industries that were previously unheard of or nonexistent. One needs a screen to watch animation, and we've never had more screens in society than today. In the coming decades I foresee more and more animation, illustrators, and for lack of another all-encompassing term, "art students" making significant contributions to society in ways never before imagined. All it takes is a little imagination.

Thanks for visiting!


Illustration by Postypography