Saturday, December 31, 2022

Hello Friend. I'm Still Here: A Recap of the Past 3 Years

Hello friend. It's uh... been a while, I know. Just about 3 years in fact. Probably the most world altering 3 years in recent memory. Knowing what I know now, it's almost comical to look back at my last post and see how optimistic I was to be entering the 2020s. This decade certainly didn't start off how most people imagined that it would. I'm sure you're sick of talking about it so I don't need to provide a ton of commentary on current events. But I will say, like most people, the atmosphere around me has caused me to behave differently. It's like there's been a dark cloud surrounding everything, and with that looming in the air I haven't felt as motivated to share my art. I haven't been going out and doing things as often as before. I haven't been posting on social media much these days. Life has just been different.

But after 3 years, I think it's finally time to move past this. I'm not saying that "we're out of the woods" and everything is back to normal again or anything. But it's time to start looking forward to the future again. It's time to get back to improving myself. It's time for me to get back to doing the thing that I love - making art and sharing it with the world.

Maybe that was a bit overly dramatic, but the point is that I plan to post more regularly here again. Probably just my yearly recap posts, but who knows... maybe I'll go deeper into some of my processes like I've always wanted to as well. So that's this year's resolution. Nothing crazy, just: I am going to share my artwork again.

So let's kick things off with sharing some of the stuff that I've worked on during my absence. Even though I wasn't posting it on here, I've certainly still been creating art.

2020 - 2022 Art Summary

I continued my new love of traditional art. The first one that you see here is a piece showing off characters from the Sega Saturn game Soul Hackers. This one was mostly created using the new watercolor markers that I bought. They work a lot differently than regular watercolor paints do, and this was my first time using them so I hadn't quite gotten the hang of balancing some of the rich, saturated colors. I do like the way that I blended them with traditional watercolors to get the skintones though.

And speaking of traditional watercolors, that's how I created the second one. It's the character Abby from Great Pretender. I think it might be my favorite watercolor painting that I've done yet! I've gotten a lot better at blending colors, and I'm proud of the way I achieved the water droplets running down her skin. I've added a few more traditional art supplies to my arsenal (Posca markers, some skin tone markers/pencils, etc) so expect to see more pieces like this soon.

This is a random assortment of things, all pictures of The Nays. Doodles that I did as gifts, a scene from an Eventure that I wrote, and a continuation of The Worlds Portrait Project.

This is from December 2020. I drew portraits of my sister's main characters, the M Nays, and had them printed out on a physical canvas. I'm not sure if I have a photo of the actual canvas on hand, but once I get one I'll share that as well.

This one's still a work-in-progress, but I'm not sure when I'll ever get around to finishing it so I wanted to post it even if it was unfinished. It's a digital painting of Rosie Redknees managing her bar. I like that I managed to get lots of process shots of it. Hopefully I can finish it at some point.

An assortment of prompts about The Nays. We have Topaz drawn in Ghibli style, Chiz drawn in shoujo anime style, Kaenah, Yaro, and Elfno drawn mimicking some concept art from the Venture Bros art book, and a couple of characters from our old " Channel 6 TV shows" that we used to make with action figures.

These next 2 were part of a similar event where we tried to depict scenes from The Nays in the style of various classic video games. I've done a few of these in the past but these were done in more of a "speed" method where I tried not to take too long. It's Gojo in Suikoden 2 and Animale in Toe Jam & Earl.

One of my favorites of the bunch. For this activity, I drew each Nay in the style of a manga panel from current-ish Shonen Jump series. There are quite a few of these in the collage that I'm really happy with.

I normally don't share these much outside the family, but I did some pretty interesting stuff with a few of these so I thought I'd put a few together. For every major holiday (birthdays, Christmas, Mothers/Fathers Day), my sister and I make photo compilation videos for my parents. I usually put together some kind of interesting title sequence in Cinema 4D and After Effects, and these were a few of my favorites over the past few years. I'm especially happy with the last one. I tried to make it look similar to the 2D-HD style seen in Live A Live on the Switch (even parodied the logo for the ending sequence).

Animation Scenes

These are from an animation that I made for my sister called Ralphie and Ted's News. I recently learned how to use Adobe Character Animator for a project at work, so I decided to take those new skills and make a 2D rigged animation about a newscast set in The Worlds. The characters are lip synced and animated like puppets. I also made a short "commercial break" a hypothetical new video game with a parody DLC character pack. It was a fun little project to work on.

So one thing that happened during this time period was that Final Fantasy 7: Remake finally got released! I got really into that game for a while, so a gift that I made for my sister in 2020 was a parody animation of a few scenes from the original PS1 FF7, using our characters in their place. It's pretty goofy but I really enjoyed replicating the original PS1 style.

Global Game Jam

Lastly, we get to our entries to the Global Game Jam. I've participated in this event for the past 9 years and I intend to keep that streak up for 2023! This is one of the few things that I actually posted about on social media during the year, so I'm not going to devote too much time to it here. I'll just link to each of their project pages if you want to check them out.

2020: The Note Competition. This was a tower defense style game where you rapidly try to build up your base before your opponent. Game mechanic-wise, I think this is one of the more fun ones to play.

2021: Slumbered Apart. This is an adventure style game where you switch back and forth between two characters, Pam-chan and Gojo, to solve puzzles and progress through the story. I really like the look and feel of this one. It feels like one of our most complete games that we've worked on!

2022: Prisoners of Time Fabric. Probably our best GGJ project yet! It's based on an Eventure about alternate realities, which is represented by two parallel worlds - one modern and one in the style of an old Gameboy game. This game has a hunger system and crafting mechanics, so it's one of the more technically advanced projects that we've put together as well.

And on the topic of Prisoners of Time Fabric, this is a big project that I put together for my sister's birthday in 2022. It's probably the highlight of this whole blog post for me. So I built a diorama out of an old shoebox based on elements of the game/eventure. Megumi (the girl in front) is double sided so you can see her from multiple angles. As is Gregorn (the man in the suit). In the story, the timelines split based on whether he wears a green suit, or a brown suit, so I put him on a rotating chopstick so you can spin him around in both directions. On the right side, you can open the time traveling refrigerator to find Clove inside eating popcorn. Pressing the corner of the door will play a sound byte from Clove and then part of the music from the game. This is a recording that I did with a little microphone. On the left side of the diorama, there is another sound device, but this one is loaded up with an mp3 file. It plays music from Chrono Cross, which was a major inspirationn for all of these alternate reality ideas. This was a pretty involved project but I'm really happy with how it all came together.

And that's just about everything! Thank you so much for reading this novel of a blog post. The next one will definitely be less than 3 years from now, so it should be considerably shorter and easier to digest. I hope everyone has a wonderful and productive 2023. Until next time... Adios!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Welcome to the 2020s - A Look Back at 2019

Hi everyone, it's once again time for my annual New Year's post. We've officially entered a the 2020s and we don't even have flying cars yet! Not exactly how I pictured it back as a kid, but there are still plenty of cool things going on to be excited about. It's hard to re-examine the 2010s as a whole because there was just so much that happened during this decade. Crazy to think that in 2010 I was still an inexperienced college student who had barely even ventured far beyond the confines of Ohio. Since then I've started a career in 3D animation, attended tons of conferences around the country, traveled to many different cities to teach students, and even made my way to Japan. It's been a great 10 years and I'm even more excited about the next 10!

Focusing in on 2019 though, I had a few goals that I set for myself and I'm pretty happy with how much of those I accomplished. Let's take a look at the breakdown.

2019 Goals Review

Draw more personal illustrations
I didn't really do a great job at this one. I did some drawings throughout the year and even did a few traditional watercolor pieces, but I think the overall frequency was a bit less than some past years.

Continue studying Japanese
This one has been pretty successful. I have continued learning a lot of Japanese grammar and vocabulary and I've managed to brush up on it fairly frequently. I mainly use the app LingoDeer and to date I have completed 50 modules which consist of 137 lessons in total. I've still got a long way to go and probably couldn't even hold a conversation with a Japanese pre-schooler yet. But I'm steadily making progress. Onto kanji in 2020!

Take the stairs more often than the elevator
This goal has been a huge success! I originally wanted to take the 5 flights of stairs at work 3 days a week but instead I managed to take them nearly every day of the year! I took the stairs going down 100% of the time and of the 213 work days in 2019, I climbed them 197 of them, or 92% of the time (the original goal was 51%). That's only 16 days of using the elevator, and nearly half of them came in January when I was slightly less committed to the idea of just doing it every day. Honestly, at this point it has just become second nature to avoid the elevator. Aside from days where I'm sick or carrying something heavy, I plan to continue taking the stairs all through 2020 as well.

Vegetarian week
Another goal that I one-upped the original plan. Instead of spending a week as a vegetarian, I took it one step further and went full vegan. It was a fun challenge and I discovered a lot of tasty new recipes. I wrote up a post with lots of pictures over on my travel blog. I definitely want to do this one again in 2020 and I'm hoping to find some fun way to add another spin on it.

All in all, I'd say it was a very successful year. I might not have done anything extraordinary in terms of art skills, but I went above and beyond on some of the other life goals so I feel pretty accomplished overall. In addition to continuing on the stairs and vegetarian challenges from this past year, my biggest New Year's resolution for 2020 will be learning Kanji. I still have a few more modules to go in LingoDeer until I reach level 2, but as soon as I hit that level I plan to jump right into studying kanji characters. I'm also hoping to be better about getting a full night of rest. It's far too often that I go into work on only 5 or 6 hours of sleep and that will definitely catch up on me sooner or later. That's why in 2020 I want to get more sleep. Not setting any strict rules or tangible goals on this one, but it's a mantra that I will keep in mind throughout the year.

So... 2020 goals: Learn Kanji and Get More Sleep. I think that sounds pretty reasonable.

Before I wrap up this post, I want to share a few pieces of artwork I completed in 2019 (this is supposed to be an art blog after all!). Most of them were simple sketches or concept pieces for The Nays, but I also did 2 different watercolor pieces. Here are some of the various things that I worked on this year:

2019 Art Summary

Starting in January, I took part in my 6th Global Game Jam. My sister and I had one weekend to create a game centered around the theme "Home." Naturally we decided to base it on The Nays and we came up with a pretty cool little project. It's honestly probably our best one yet. Head on over to our page if you're interested in giving it a try.

These were some of the backgrounds that I drew for our GGJ game. Not bad considering I did a few of these after 36 hours of no sleep!

This was the second of my ink and watercolor drawings of the year (you can see the first in a previous post on this blog). I backed the fabulous crowdfunded project Indivisible and had a great time playing the game when it finally released a few months ago. This is my favorite character from the game, a small little botanist with his trusty living turnip buddy. It's got some really unique character designs!

I bought a brand new water color set for this project. It definitely has a lot more colors than my previous one so I didn't have to do as much color mixing. It's nice to step away from the computer and do some art on paper every now and then.

Just a quick little doodle. I re-read the Scott Pilgrim comics earlier this year and felt like replicating one of the covers with my characters Shaw and Megumi instead of Scott and Ramona. Nothing crazy but it's always fun emulating other unique art styles.

This is just a few random drawings that seemed too minor to get posted on their own. The three on the left are character concepts (One-Sixteenth the cyborg, Punchy and his new ninja outfit, and Copit the Zargo family limo driver). The next two are more major characters from The Nays, Summer and Chozu. That one was from an activity that involved drawing familiar characters in different outfits than they usually wear. These are the kind of things I had in mind when I wanted to do more personal drawings, so I definitely need to do more in 2020!

Shifting gears a bit, this is a 3D character from a game I worked on with the crew at Endless Terminal. This creepy looking creature is called a NasNas and it's one of the first enemies you see in the game. Planning this out for rigging and animation was certainly a challenge because it has such different anatomy from real-world animals. It is fully rigged and game ready though, so I stuck with it through the whole character pipeline.

Here's a quick turn-table of the NasNas from different angles. If you're curious about the game, be sure to check out Endless Terminal on social media. They're posting lots of progress shots and scheduled work streams, and the game should be pretty cool once it all comes together.

This was a short animation that I created for my sister's birthday called Chozu Versus Cimc. As you can likely infer from the "remastered" in the title, this is a remake of an animation I made a very long time ago. Like... "back when I still drew things with a mouse" long time ago. Thankfully I think this version looks quite a bit better than the original.

This was new to the remastered version. I created a simple 3D version of Chozu's house and rendered in C4D using the toon shader. Most of it has really simple geometry but creating it in 3D allowed me to do some fun camera rotations without having to draw so many background frames.

Speaking of animation remakes, this is a scene from my big project Nays 2018. One of my favorite animations that I've ever created was a 5+ minute one called Nays 2008 (which I ironically didn't actually finish until 2009, hence why I let the remake spill over into 2019 for the 10 year anniversary). I didn't have the time to fully remake every single scene shot-for-shot, but I gave the visuals a much improved overhaul.

I used tons more real world references and tried to make the backgrounds a lot more interesting than the original. I'm really happy with how some of these shots came out and I'm very excited to post some comparisons.

I want to go further in-depth with the comparison analysis though, so I'm going to save that for a full post of its own some time in the coming month. Ideally I'll edit a video cut so both animations can be watched side-by-side simultaneously. Overall, this animation was definitely the most elaborate project of the year for me, so I want to do it proper justice with a full blog post.

And with that, my 2019 review post comes to a close. I felt like I was kind of inactive art-wise, but when going through and gathering things for this post, it turns out I did a bit more than I realized. In a perfect world I would post these things more frequently throughout the year, but I've grown to like this year-long recap approach. Maybe 2020 will bring a few more posts on this blog than past years. Either way, thanks as always for reading this far and I hope you have a wonderful year/decade. Until next time... Adios!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Fun with Watercolor and Ink

Hey guys! This week, my sister and I decided to do a little experiment with watercolors. After watching the new DBZ movie, I've been looking at a lot of artwork from the series and I'm always impressed with the traditional old animation cels. When I was in Japan, I visited the International Museum of Manga in Kyoto and picked up a few new art supplies that we've been wanting to try out. So I figured a watercolor and ink version of Gohan's Super Saiyan 2 transformation would be a fun project.

I don't delve into traditional art very often (I like being able to ctrl + z!), so this was a pretty unusual experience for me. So my sister brought out her old watercolor set and we both got to painting (you can see her results over on her blog). The white watercolor tube was all dried up so we had to substitute in some acrylic... which was kinda weird but still worked well enough for color mixing.

First I drew out a sketch. I normally do this on a layer underneath the drawing in Photoshop, but since I didn't want a mess to erase, I did a practice doodle on a separate piece of paper. From there I did the line art in pencil on the full sheet of paper.

The watercolor process itself was pretty slow and tedious. I don't know how people manage to mix their colors consistently for an entire painting! I felt like it was really hard to repeat the same color again once my brush dried up. But it was an interesting process and I was pretty happy with the results.

After letting the watercolors dry overnight, it was time for the inking! This was my first time ever using a manga pen and inkwell, so it was definitely a learning process. I found a great guide that walked me through the process. I would have never thought to clean the nib off with rubbing alcohol before starting, so it was good that I did some research first!

Even with the guide, the inking was a bit unexpected. I never knew if I had the right amount of ink on my nib and sometimes the lines would get a bit scratchy (could have been from my low quality paper!). But when it started flowing smoothly, I really loved the pen! I was able to get some really fine lines that are nearly impossible with a regular ballpoint pen.

Without the crutch of an undo button I was constantly afraid I was going to mess something up. I managed to avoid any big mistakes for almost the entire process until I was nearly at the very end... and disaster struck! I must not have wiped enough ink off my pen because a huge gob dripped down right onto Gohan's forehead. Luckily it was close enough to the blood spot that I could kind of make it look like it belonged, but I was pretty bummed out when it happened.

Lastly, I filled in the word bubbles with his dialogue from the Japanese manga. It says "mou yurusanai so omaetachi" which translates roughly as "I will not forgive you." I thought it sounded a bit cooler than the English Viz translation (plus I wanted to practice writing Japanese kana) so I went with the original.

And that is the finished version. I feel like digitized images of traditional art usually don't do them justice, but my new camera captured it pretty nicely. Overall, this was a really fun project (and it counts towards my New Year's resolution of more personal art projects!). Hope you enjoyed seeing the process behind it. Until next time... Adios!