Sunday, November 13, 2011

on concept art

Everyone and their brother wants to get into concept art. And I suppose it's easy to see why, if most of the stuff I see is any indication it's a very nice field to make things WOOK PWETTY. Which is something an artist wants to do naturally, I understand, but there's something about the sleekness and "perfection" in most concept art that does the same thing to my brain as old documentaries. I'll try to get into them for the sake of wanting to seem informed and intelligent, but when it comes down to it I'm neither of those things, and my brain shuts off after about five minutes. Or to bring the analogy full circle, after about five drawings of the same bloody forest or the same bloody space station or the same bloody grungy ruined city.
a city AND a forest in one!
What sticks in my craw about concept art these days is very much a reflection of what sticks in my craw with movies and video games in general. There's so much stuff stuck in my craw, it's like a garbage bag full of bricks in the ocean (don't think too much about that simile, I certainly didn't).
At the risk of sounding incredibly snobbish (which I suppose I've already done by now so, screw it), mainstream products these days have become a real cess pool of creativity. Yeah, yeah, it's kind of obvious that the interesting stuff happens on the fringes... but that's not my point. Maybe I'm seeing the world through pixellated rose-colored glasses, but it seems to me like there was a lot more exploring being done back in the day, dagnabbit. When you think "shooter" these days, you're probably thinking of a brown and grey trudge through a ruined city. You can see every scratch on your iron sight, and when you get shot enough someone splashes strawberry jelly on your eyes. Compare it to 15 years ago or so. You could play Doom and fight your way through Hell itself, play Duke Nukem and visit a strip joint before blasting the alien of the month... or maybe Wolfenstein, kill yourself a bunch of blue Nazis in a big blue castle!
A very roundabout way of saying it, but my point is, which do you think is more conducive to interesting concept art?
imagine Mecha Hitler in one of the myriad WW2 shooters these days. Instantly cooler.
It's not hard to do interesting things with digital art, which is what leads me to believe that stagnation in concept art isn't the fault of the artists, but rather the environment we're being brought up under. Hell, computers in and of themselves are prime creative real estate because, generally speaking of course, no artist really knows how they work. There's so much exploration still to be done, whether it's "glitch" art (basically, taking an axe to the "codes" which make up a digital image), or just fooling around with settings until you stumble upon something you didn't expect. The issue is, these days video game and movie companies are playing their cards so close to the chest, the concepts and stories have become suffocatingly samey. Mainstream properties have basically limited creative aspirations to "how many bumps can we show on this building?" There's only so many ways one can realistically render a post-apocalyptic city and make it interesting. I think they would do well to allow a little branching out. I mean, a cartoony Fallout 3? Can I even begin to describe how awesome that would be? ...I mean, I know I totally just exposed my bias, but still!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

some notes on writing

In writing this little comic of mine, I've learned roughly a butt-ton about myself, and how I work. Or, perhaps more importantly, how I DON'T work. Learning what not to do is perhaps the most important lesson of all as an artist (or I guess any profession, though learning not to stick your arm in a wood chipper is probably a lesson best learned through advice rather than experience), and even though I wish I would've learned that by pumping out a bunch of crappy comics rather than no comics at all, it's still important, and it is something I'm improving at.
See, the reason I get so frustrated at times is because when one of my comics ends up on the cutting room floor, it's always due to the same thing. It goes a little something like this:

-inspiration. A frenzied night of writing where my music's really loud and the idea floodgates have burst far beyond the help of a small boy plugging the leaks with his finger. Probably the most enjoyable phase.
-scaling. Trying to make some sense of everything I've just written, organizing it into something coherent. At times it's not fun, but let's face it; making the crazy nonsense in our heads manifest requires some dialing down at times.
-bloating. This is, I believe, where most of my stories get killed. Taking the original bursts of inspiration and trying to make them more "epic" in scale, make them more like the stuff I grew up liking. More has to be at stake! People have to die! How can I write this?!

At the bloating phase is where I start looking at other comics to see how they did it. BLAM. Hear that? That was the sound of my story being shot right in the face by the big ol' 10-gauge of self-doubt. This next idea is capitalized just as much for my benefit as the benefit of others: DO NOT LOOK TO OTHER ARTISTS FOR THE TEMPLATE. YOUR WAY IS THE CORRECT WAY.
It's why ideas written in the spur of the moment will always be more pure and immediate than ideas that have been endlessly rethought and rewritten. Don't boil the living crap out of your coffee, and don't rewrite something more than twice. Least of all your main storyline.
I can't speak for everyone, but I've never felt the strongest part of any piece of work has been the overarching plot. Hell, look at Watchmen; you could fit the gist of that story on a Post-it note... and it was hardly a new one. It was the development of the characters and the way their struggles were presented that made it so brilliant. I've taken a new policy; if I can't sum up in one sentence what the story is about, it's probably not a good one.
If you're thinking about what the moral of your story is, what people should take from it, what it should all mean, how to make your plot different from everyone else's, take it from me: STOP. Pick a story template. Evil guy wants to take over world, evil government operation to kill millions must be stopped, some kid wants to hook up with this one girl... there are plenty. Clichés exist for a reason. It's when you stop looking to others and realize that you are a completely unique vessel which can take any trite, tired plot and make something special out of it that your best stuff arises.

So, here's the Post-it version of this, um, post: KEEP WRITING.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

a few drawrings

It's been a month, geez! Well, here's a smidgeon of the work I've been doing since. Emphasis on "smidgeon." That's the thing about art school, you end up drawing quite a bit!

rough of an illustration project for... um, illustration. basically, to make a poster for a band. Radiohead aren't exactly known for sticking to one sound, so I went for the general trend they've been following, which has been more on the ethereal, ambient side.  
another illustration project, this time depicting a fairy tale. I picked Pinocchio, and decided to robotify everything. et voila.
Mirabelle, woot! speaking of the comic, it's coming along. actually really digging the way it's turning out, once I get a decent start I'll put some up.
watercolor portrait for Media class of a lady named Andrea

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Every week for illustration class we have a sketchbook assignment. so... here's some of them's. a-here we go:

theme: children. being the child-loving bunny rabbit of a man I am, my imagination naturally went to snapshots from the post-apocalypse on burnt, dirty photos.
theme: monsters (1/4). Frankenstein's monster at all times has the expression of a passed-out drunken man just begging to be drawn upon. so... I did?
theme: monsters (2/4). Death turtle thing. has serious gas problems. I love drawing stupid monsters.
theme: monsters (3/4). the mancubus is probably my favorite Doom monster; it's basically just a morbidly obsese bloke who shoots fireballs at you. 
theme: monsters (4/4). Going back to the cartoony stuff here. speech bubbles and everything. mmyeeees.
theme: self-portrait. had some fun with this one.

Monday, September 5, 2011


     As is the case with a lot of people in art school I would imagine, I went from being "the kid who draws" in high school to a college where EVERYONE draws. In this kind of environment, I'm starting to realize that technical prowess only gets you so far; at the end of the day, there will ALWAYS be plenty of people who can blow you clean out of the water in your rendering, your draughtsmanship, you name it, there's someone who can clean your clock in it. I'm starting to think that what I should get out of this school is not so much "LOOK AT THIS BUTT I'VE DRAWN HOW IT SHINES SO REALISTICALLY" but better knowledge of when to flex the technical side of the artistic muscle. The artists I've always found the most interesting are the ones who can be economical or outright stealthy with their mastery; somehow Picasso has convinced a LOT of people (who clearly DON'T KNOW ART AT ALL) in today's world that he didn't actually know how to paint, he just drew blokes that looked like deformed flounders. Completely ignoring context and just how revolutionary he truly was.
     It's why photorealism is about as interesting to me as watching slow-motion golf; all you've proven to me is that you can spend a buttload (thanks Matt for the new word) of time precisely recreating a photographer's vision, which takes about the level of creativity found in your average jellyfish.
not pictured: an artist
    I guess the reason I'm spewing all this is because I'm starting to think of these things as they relate to my comic (which I've been delaying for far too long due to thoughts like these); there's been an inherent disconnect between my looking to show off my learned technical prowess (however minimal it may be), and the goofy story I wish to communicate. All that ends up happening is I have a vaguely anime/comics-esque style trying to mate with a story which screams "cartoon." It falls under the general question "I could... but why would I want to?" Yes, I could render all my characters with an extremely academic attention to detail, but unless my story demands that kind of gravity and realism (which, believe you me, it doesn't), it's being incongruous with the comic's core "mood" at best, and being entirely masturbatory at worst. In conclusion, I guess I'm just trying to say I have a lot to learn from Adventure Time and Gumball. Talk about simplistic yet incredibly effective designs.
according to Adventure Time, this is a horse. and I couldn't be happier with it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


getting a weekly sketchbook assignment for Illustration class, this week involving the concept "masquerade." This was yet more dicking about with Mirabelle (IF YOU CAN'T TELL my favorite character I've created and she's evolving every day), mostly reference-free. Anywho I s'pose I'll post these weekly

on a subway
having fun at a bank
about to have fun at a convention
...a costume
don't bogart those glasses, girl

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

sketchbook crap

some stuff from the ol' sketchbook

an ink copy thinger which was an exercise in Illustration Media, blah blah blah. Also another comic character.

important class notes


he's sad 'cause he doesn't have a light bulb

some thumbnails for an Illustration assignment which entails a twist on a character actor (the example given was portraying Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow on a bottle of Captain Morgan). So far I've got Daniel Plainview the dentist, and Rocky the squirrel... boxer... thing. Still working on these

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I openly admit I'm not really what one would call a "badass." No matter how accurate an impression of Tony Stark I can pull off, I just don't think I fit the bill. As a kid I was always the one that stuff happened to. Slipped on a tour of a fire truck and get the wind knocked out of me? Fall a bit weird off a swing set and get the wind knocked out of me? I've done it all, and gotten more wind knocked out of me than Aeolus after eating Chinese (probably literally ate Chinese people, those Greek gods were bananas, man).
The reason I bring this up is I'm now suffering from something I go through a lot; nervousness in shaky and probably excessive amounts. Right now I'm freaking out about driving to Florida. I mean, there's not much that can go wrong, really. Maybe I'll miss a turn somewhere and get immediately corrected by GPS. Maybe I'll get cut off and get angry because some guy could've hit me. Maybe I'll reach a gas station a bit later than I would've liked. Objectively, the road trip I'm about to take is a long session of sitting on my butt on a nice day. But that doesn't stop my brain from thinking about what might go wrong. It's an attitude that I guess keeps me alive, but sometimes it's just absurd.
I was nervous about going into my freshman year at Ringling, which as it turns out is a wonderland of nerdy artists, many of which are far more attractive than nerdy artists have any reasonable right to be. For some reason, total happiness FREAKS ME OUT beforehand; this happened to me before I played my first show with the band I was in during high school. Right before stepping on stage I kinda felt like I could throw up out of nerves, but seconds later when I actually walked on the stage, that began one of the most fun times I've ever had. I can't help but wonder if other people go through the same kind of thing, or if they just get excited without the unfortunate side-effect of nausea.
I guess this entry is kind of cathartic. Just trying to shake off the anxiety so I can sleep and not pass out at the wheel tomorrow. Would that be ironic, Alanis Morissette? Getting in a car crash due indirectly to fear of getting in a car crash? I dunno, but I'm sure I won't find out tomorrow or the next day. One thing I've found out about myself is that I'm extraordinarily lucky. My time ain't come yet, there's comics to be written.
See you guys later, I guess.


This post is about birds. Why? Because just as birds migrate to new climates like clockwork, I too must journey southward to begin a new year of college. One which will be, as Bill & Ted would say, most triumphant. The journey in question, however, for me entails two 9-hour days of driving alone on a flat, long interstate. I definitely think I'm capable, but... the boredom. The boredom might overwhelm me and cause me to just hate everything with wheels forevermore. Little kids on bicycles better watch the crap out.
some birdies from my sketchbook 
some more birdies from my sketchbook

Snowball the dancing cockatoo, in case you SOMEHOW haven't seen this by now.

and, Strong Bad. giving you the bird.
See you guys in a few days... hopefully alive.

little demon match (video game manual)

Another project I've been working on over the summer on and off is a manual for a video game that doesn't exist. As my pixel-covered decor no doubt suggests, I'm a video game kid, and as such my main toilet readings through my youth were video game manuals. I decided I'd use some of the characters I left on the backburner in high school to make my own video game manual for a game called Little Demon Match; this covers the bases of story, characters, illustration, graphic design, writing, and all kinds of other fun stuff. There's still lots to be done with this thing, but here's a few completed pages. What I'd LOVE to do is print up an actual Game Boy Color-sized legit copy of this manual when it's done, but first I have to finish it then I have to find out what it actually takes to build a manual. Baby steps, friends.
Cover page. Still need to come up with a better name for the system this game's gonna come out on.
The first of three character pages.
A page discussing the combat system. 
First page of three covering the story to this game. Like any good old-school game it's silly and makes little to no sense.


Starting this past week I've started to make at least one monster a day, each one with a 20-minute time limit. It's actually been a pretty useful exercise; if nothing else, it's a good deterrent for artist's block. Believe it or not each one of these Pokérejects has a narrative that I developed while drawing them, and I think they could all be developed further into more unique characters--which is, after all, the field I'm looking to get into. I'm gonna keep doing these as long as I can, but here's the first batch of freaks.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

summer update

Remember when I said I'd update more frequently? um... heh, sorry about that. Still fixing that habit.
Beartrap, Mirabelle's pet fox 
ink drawing of Kaitlin Olson
Pamphlet for the DSE
quick charcoal sketch of some classy-looking fellow
charcoal Mirabelle
artist's block: more of an overabundance of ideas than a lack of ideas
Digital Mirabelle
Digital self-portrait

Sunday, June 19, 2011

and to round things out...

and here's the last batch of stuff I'm gonna upload here today. hoping to update more consistently in the future.
one day, I say today, we live as a lion. so yeah this is Zack de la Rocha, best known for being the frontman of Rage Against the Machine
drawing of a character in my comic. cute turtle thingy named Starbuck.
same drawing, but with INK!   

(A drawing for a comic I'm starting on called Madbar Marauder. Still not entirely out of the thumbnailing/preliminary steps yet, but it's moving along nicely.) The Madbar Engineer-Thieves took great pride in their brand of robbery, which they viewed as an art form. They used innovative technologies which even the most cutting-edge security systems struggled to keep up with. They looked at face-mask-and-pistol gas station robbers as amateurs, the mediocre pop stars of the crime world who forever drowned in obscurity after their brief blips in the news, where their robberies left no injuries, or indeed any trace that they were ever there. Despite their lofty views of their own work, however, the small fortress in which they resided was decidedly modest. Perhaps they simply wanted a "den of iniquity" untethered by the riches they could gather at the drop of a hat. Perhaps it was to maintain secrecy. Or, perhaps this gave them the ability to go nomadic, should the need arise.
At the center of the robberies was usually one golden-haired rogue named Mirabelle. She wore an almost constant impish grin, and had a fire in her eyes befitting only of a troublemaker. Yet, there was much about her to be liked. To her friends, she was as kind and compassionate a soul as they had ever known, even taking into her care a small destitute turtle... thingy. She simply held very high standards for everything in her life, which explains why her days of boredom could only be remedied by theft, why her few relationships tended to end explosively and suddenly, and why blueprints for gadgets in her department of thievery stacked to the ceiling, while she had only built around ten of them.
Zack de la Rocha again. what can I say, the man's fun to draw.

huskystarcraft doodles

so yeah. if you've noticed it's been a while since I updated. so there's gonna be a butt-ton of stuff flowing in here today, of all different varieties. this post I'll share with you the doodles I did for HuskyStarcraft's forum, (basically Husky is a commentator for the video game Starcraft who I watch pretty religiously, despite the fact that I'm not even good at Starcraft), and the stuff he says while casting is often SO LULZY that I must draw it. kinda wanna do more at some point but here's what I've done thus far (for Starcraft outsiders... you probably shouldn't even try to "get" the "jokes")
The Terrans have a unit called the Marauder which looks a bit like a football player.
Husky's beloved car was recently broken into, so he should probably invest in some static defense.
Husky has a habit of calling the Protoss Fleet Beacon a "Fleet Bacon." which to me sounds like a delicious breakfast chain.
the miniature icon of the Zerg Mutalisk totally looks like a T-Rex. go look.
Zerg player Spanishiwa spares no expense to ensure the safety of his Drones!
taking unit quotes out of context is an important part of life
Overlords in ZvZ games are downright chummy, passing by each other or even hanging out together. how adorable.
Husky's most beloved "character," Pylo the Pylon who was tragically cut down in his prime. This is probably my most well-known drawing... ever so far, haha. Husky made it his profile pic and thus far it has garnered 1,231 "likes" on his Facebook page. hm.
when Queens hog ramps to block incoming enemy scouts, what else are they supposed to do besides knit sweaters for their children?