Sunday, May 1, 2016

It ain't over until the Theaster Bunny Sings!

I find myself saying this same thing every year, but students just keep getting more and more impressive, and this semester's group of Illustration students who just presented their thesis work, are the very embodiment of impressive!

Focus Week at the PNCA normally comes about when my freelance work is at it's height, and whereas sleep is nil through it's duration, it's a joy to see just how all these inventive minds have evolved!  I can't help but think about where I was when I graduated in the early 90's, and how much further along their opportunities will surely take them in the years to come.  So very exciting to have taught most of these students, given the chance to prod about in their wonderfully creative brains, and then realize their potential with such a grand show of all their wig bubbles hanging on the walls of the 511 building!  Truly something to behold every semester!

Let me begin with my Mentorship this semester Malcolm Bridwell.  Malcolm took my Character Design class twice, and both semesters filled his sketchbook with Robots!  Some fashioned from my Cute/BrĂ¼t and Super/Mini Challenges, and others fun mash-ups of Transformers and Pacific Rim.  Well, for the last 14 weeks Malcolm's created packaging and Orthographics for a series of Robot Toy designs, with their backstory tied into satirizing technological expansion and convenience culture.

Doggy Defender, LawnLady, and The Ovenator (complete with Glow in the Dark chicken roast), created by Gadgetech, a company garishly catering to society's need for uber-convenience.  They're all depicted quite innocently killing swatches of post apocalyptic humanity, by simply doing their job.  Malcolm has a wonderful mind for illustration, but also the construction and documentation of 3D forms, valuable to any toy manufacturer.  Check him out on FaceBook, and he'll keep you updated on which path these Bots lay waste to in the future, he may even potentially sell them as designs that you could download, and print out with instructions on how to construct the Bots from Paper!  Great Job, Malcolm, and may your LawnLady's Two-Lips be with you.. Always.. =)

Kelsey Holland-Rayle is currently doing phenomenal work for my Character Design class, and although time didn't allow me seeing her presentation, let me say that Kelsey's mixings of hand-craft and illustration is phenomenal!  Kelsey has an impressive knowledge of botanicals, and actual species of animal that she anthropomorphizes with, and her pastel colour palette and flowing lines are not soon forgotten!  In her thesis presentation, Kelsey created a product line with characters and objects to both define and help with specific mental health issues.  Brilliant topic, and brilliant results!!  Her diligent process, speed, and general smiling earnest and ease to work with, will make her a brilliant editorial illustrator for absolutely anyone hiring!  Check Kelsey out on her blog Curiocosm and on Instagram.

And then there's Colin Laurel..  Another stunningly skilled young illustrator I had in class, who has a very distinct style, wonderful movement in line quality, and great graphic appeal to his work.  Colin's thesis was based on Homeless folks and the special relationships they have with their pets.  Setting up a call out to folks using the Portland Animal Welfare (PAW) an organization that gives free veterinary care for pets of people who are homeless or living in acute poverty here in Portland, Colin started his ambitious project.   A touching group of drawings, more subtle in approach than his normal illustrative style, but nonetheless beautiful series of portraits.  Please do yourself a favor and check out Colin's Website and process Blog.  What a wonderfully sweet charitable work, and from such brilliantly skilled talent.  Bravo, Colin!

Eva Landis took my class her 3rd year at the PNCA, and I could tell from the minute I saw her sketchbook, that she was a brilliant technician, and spent time taking visual notes of intricacies of Character.  Her thesis was called Eat Trash Be Free, and although I'm again poking myself with a fork for not being able to attend, Eva's environmentalist conservationist ethics mixed with solid research on animal behavior and cohabitation are apparent throughout her work.  Quite a brilliant mind, and providing both traditional and digital techniques for your every editorial need.

The week began with a student I've never had in class, but whom I could pick style out of a crowd almost instantly; Marlowe Dobbe.  Marlowe unleashed a video game idea, Margaret's Blight, that if produced, will surely play a role in subtly combating some of the harmful vid game tropes that unfortunately still exist today.  Through anthropomorphization, humour, and juxtaposing ideology when you least expect it, Margaret and team may become the next generations standard in youth market vid games!

This may not come up in class all the time, but my Pop died with ALS years ago, and although he didn't suffer the long decline that many folks with this horrible disease do, I'm still very struck by the toll it takes on families and completely empathize with what they endure.  This was the case with former student Anna Colasanti's wonderfully heart felt thesis project.  Anna's Father passed of ALS as well, and this was the subject of her brilliantly poignant and thoughtful children's book, A Man and A Cat.  I watched Anna move in her skill set by leaps and bounds in my class, and as I watched her presentation, past some tears mind you, I saw both her traditional and digital skills and her writing skills click completely into place.  Guided by none other than the PNCA's NYTimes best seller, author/illustrator Victoria Jameson as Anna's mentor, the story tells of the loss of a loved one, through the relationship developed between the Man and the Cat, but with such grace, simplicity, and brevity of words and symbols that you must read it yourself to see.  What a brilliant therapy this book will be when published, and what a wonderfully heart felt tale you given us.

I mention Victor Ambrose (beloved kid's book, and archeological illustrator for the British series called TimeTeam) all the time in my class, and former student Morgan Viger's thesis was based in a similar vein; Archeological Reconstruction.  With documentary processes in drawing; cataloging, (large, almost to scale) prints of Greek friezes from the Pantheon in near original colouring, and a wonderful wit, Morgan gave us some insight into this rare form of illustration (a career path that I'll admit to being a bit jealous of. =)  Just a wonderful show!

I was part of the thesis panel reviewing the Comic work of Jenelle Newman, and although she's another student I've never had in class, her hopefully soon to be webcomic Slice of Life was yet another very ambitious, and very impressive work.  Covering the topic of depression, this promising first issue features a protagonist named Fred, who becomes a Grim Reaper.  Jenelle has great line quality, a great sense of design and paneling, and I just can't wait to see what the next issue will bring us!

Last but certainly not least, was a brilliant act of kindness (and as far as I can tell, a brand new tradition for the PNCA Illustration Department) from Jessica Mick.  She essentially designed and sewed a toy plushie for each graduating senior, based on their thesis topic.  Calling them "Theaster Presents".  I just have to tip my hat to this kind of brilliance, and I must have this awesome Sloth.  Jess and her awesome plushies are all on her Etsy site, and I'd encourage anyone to get this cuteness into your life!

Colossal job, Ayebody!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Another Crop of Creations

The Unshearables - Fun Traditional
Textures demo I did over two semesters.
Watercolour and Sand Inclusions
I'll always love the way that a certain similar combinations of words will trigger wildly different interactions and responses depending on the individual artist or creative.

Couple title page sketches for students, May it serve you well!
It happens all the time in my Character Design class, and shows that our "style" doesn't fully derive from our technique, but that it also comes from our tastes and the way we think.

Bombus Bee by Hylian Rinku DeviantArt
 In this net full of Creations from the last couple months, I can see this notion in full force.  Enjoy all the wildly different diversions from the DeviantArt Fantasy Genesis page, and some sent from the myriad social nets that keep me away from the easle.
      Christopher West's Cthumeleon & Cthumonkey DeviantArt
Turtle Humanoid by Megan Seltzer
Douglas Egolf's  MantiCrane
Hope you dig them as much as I dig receiving all the Creations made with Fantasy Genesis.  Keep em coming, and Stay Tuned !

Friday, May 22, 2015

First Class Grads

Deniz & Mr. Shiny Head
Teaching is at times next to an impossible task for a freelance illustrator that wants to remain at all relevant in their genre' (and on their partner's good side), but I must admit to it being a very rewarding process with all of the leaps and pitfalls combined.  Student success can spring from exploring a variety of techniques, researching opportunities and navigating through a vast multitude of influential events, sometimes they take years of grinding through obstacles (self driven or otherwise), and sometimes they line up like a brilliant celestial equinox as soon as they leave school.  It's a period of time I try to make shorter for all my students, regardless of skill set, as that time for me was quite a hulking draw back as I left school.  I've had the great fortune to mentor six new illustrators on their paths into the professional world so far.  Every one of them has had such a brilliant take on their Content, and it's been a pleasure to have guided them all in as much as I have.  This semester brought with it more of the same brilliantly fulfilling work with my mentorship, Deniz Johnson.

Deniz created a wonderfully dark and shadowy group of portraits, depicting six female characters from some of the vast Histories, Mythologies, and Cultural Symbols that revolve around Halloween.  Her presentation ranged from the real story behind the Witches Broom, to the Greek's guardian of the underworld Persephone, to some of the more demonizing portrayals women have received over the centuries, wrapping things up with some thoughtful feminist content as well.  The series can be viewed here on Deniz's site Alien-Rat Illustration, but I would also take a look at what's going on in her Tumblr in the months to come.  Deniz has a great sense of embedding symbols and tension in her work, which I can see being utilized in the Editorial Market, nice figurative and characterization skills, and works quickly and consistently enough for these images to show up in any number of venues in the future!

Taylor Davis @ Pivlywhip
Taylor Davis was my Independent Study Student this semester, and really knocked her project out of the park as well.  Taylor has essentially re-imagined the original Grimm's Fairy Tale, The Lily & the Lion (Beauty & the Beast) with a Strong new cast of Characters, illustrated in a much more Multicultural Light.

Taylor's was quite a fulfilling Independent Study, primarily as she's very self driven in her goals toward Character Design in the entertainment industry, but partially as I saw first hand, some of the things I placed in my Character Design class from the very first syllabus, revealed so nicely in the final Lily & the Lion pitch book.  Always nice to see the kind of attention paid to Period, Region, Behavioral Gestures, and Facial Expressions that I try to encourage with every assignment.  These aren't sketches from Taylor's project but they are indicative of the quick and delicate sketch work she produces.
Make sure you check out Taylor's Blogs on Instagram & Tumblr called Pivlywhip, and look out for her incremental posts that will reveal the whole Lily & the Lion project from the beginnings.  Also look out for Taylor at the annual Sakuracon for CosPlay portraits and a fun mix of Anime' genre merch!

I was fairly sick throughout Focus Week at the PNCA this time around, but I did manage to see two other Thesis Presentations.  First being a former student of mine, Andrew Moir and his wonderful Children's Book, "Welcome to the World of the Forest"!  Printed in board-book format, this is a beautiful romp through the Forest, in Andrew's abstracted illustrative style suited nicely for the Editorial and Children's Book world.  It was also created for the Moir's new baby boy, who was there for the presentation.  Check out Andrew's Website for contact info and updates on titles and projects in the future, he's an utter joy to work with, and I can't wait to see the kind of work he get's up to outside the PNCA!
Andrew Moir
 Last but not least was a thesis presentation I served as panel member for, given by Devin Amato.  Although I've not had Devin in class, his thesis was of content close to my heart, Buddhism and Comics.  He wrote and illustrated the first volume in a comic series called "A Visual Guide to Buddhism", and I mean to tell you if you've someone looking for a lighthearted and quick intro to Buddhism, pick this book up!  In the tradition of Tsai Chih Chung's "Speaks" series, this 30 page Comic is well thought out and executed, and Devin's presentation was filled with his brilliantly quick wit and knowledge of his content.

Devin Amato - Visual Guide to Buddhism Vol.1
Well, there were certainly more brilliant young artists that I missed this year, but I wish you all, past and present, the very best into your future professional careers, and bow to your inner LightPushers !!  ILLUSTRARE'!  ..and stay tuned !!  =)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Zom-B-Q in Hades

Some have an insatiable need for cheese.
I hesitate to even begin where my illustrative career has taken me over this last year?  There's been about as many wig bubbles cold flippin' outah me lid, that I need a lid tapper to come and tap up some of those holes to keep em all up in there!!  I've been teaching Character Design with some fabulously creative Portlandians at the PNCA again this year, and the brilliantly dedicated team of creative directors at Wizards of the Coast.  Both Magic and D&D have given me some absolutely wonderful opportunities, including this painting for the 5E Dungeon Master's Guide.  I brought the painting to class to show students professional practice, and the importance of AD/Illustrator relationships, but after going through the history
©2013 Wizards of the Coast

of the painting, there was still a tiny regret which can visit all professional artists in one way or another.  The fact that; the image and content that you have set in your mind to paint, won't necessarily be the image and content you end up painting.  Simple, selfish, stupid, but rather hard to shake.  I think from being a student myself, throughout my 30's it became less a hinderance, but it's always been a bitter pill?  Emotionally, it's expectation that does it.  The Buddhists & Taoists tell us we should quell expectation of both past and future, by emptying our minds, remaining in the present, concerning ourselves with what Master Yoda explains, "where you are, what you are doing!"

Now this would be easy, were it not for my delinquent 20-something buddy Expectation.  He comes into town from Burning Man unannounced, drinks all my good Scotch Ale, looks at my sketchbook and says to me, "DUDE! This one, is the ONE, this [idea/sketch/composition/specific or complex aesthetic] is AWESOME!  You should do that!!  You gotta %@king do that!!  You should be so proud of that, and get attached to it like it was your child, man.. or your favorite shirt you refuse to throw away.. or an adorable little kitten, or something..!!"  My normal reply being, "You're a completely reckless @!ck-weed, you owe me money and years of my life, but YOU ARE SO RIGHT!" ..and so the stubborn anchor of disappointment takes foot.. =)

©2013 Wizards of the Coast
I love the fact that most of the ADs I've worked with at Wizards have given me a fairly long leash when it comes to ideation and briefs, as was the case with this piece as well.  It's really a luxury I've not seen in other markets, who really don't have half as many specifics to contend with, so I'm wildly grateful.  At the beginning of this project, the brief was just that open, a Lich using a crystal ball, and since I worked on concepting a couple Lich characters, I pitched two thumbnails with those characters, and the 2nd Edition illos of Michael Kaluta and Wayne Reynolds in mind; One human male Lich in a lab with gilded Frankensteinish, bubbling tubed canisters surrounding his crystal ballishness, and one being a Tiefling female in Hades using the crystal ball, (as you do) surrounded by a horde of black robed Witchy Hags who were holding squirming worm larvae.  Oh yes, the sweet smell of baking larvae in Hades!

Now it's at this point, while I was waiting for approval, that my buddy Expectation lost his blinkered mind about the sheer and utter grossness of the gooey cool hued larvae, contrasted by both the dark robes, and all those reds and oranges from the pits of Hades!?! "DUDE, they gotta dig it !!!.. It's the most evil and disgusting image that's ever crawled up the sides of your skull!!"  I fully agreed, and even worked up a couple color schemes so the hot gamut of all those reds would print correctly.  Well, they did end up picking the Tiefling female in Hades, but as is sometimes the case, a revision was called at the 11th hour.   I was bitten by my old buddy again, wanting that horde of witches so badly, any revision seemed silly, but there was something that sated my buddy Expectation's rattling, as what was going to replace the witches were bloody Zombies !!  So, my inner 15 year old, who is over joyed to still be working on this kind of imagery no matter the revisions, gave Expectation a couple concessionary pats on the back, booted his deadbeat arse out the door, and I stepped to painting zombies.. =)

After living through this process with me (and liking the zombies a bit better I think) my brilliant Partner deemed this one, Zom-B-Q in Hades.  I'll toast a couple buns for ayebody, grab a copy of the brand new 5E Dungeon Master's Guide, and enjoy!

©2013 Wizards of the Coast

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fantasy Geneticists popping up everywhere!

Wow, did I have a wonderful 2013!!  Fantasy Genesis has been seen in Michael's stores all over the Sphere,  but I've been so busy with a special series of Magic the Gathering paintings, 21 oil paintings for Heroes Cards made for their new THEROS world, that I've been rather negligent with my list of blogs.  However, I've drawn in the nets from the Fantasy Genesis FB page, have turned out a loovly little clutch of Creations flopping about for me to Like and Share, AND would also like to give big propers to my only mentorship of last semester, PNCA Illustration graduate, and amazingly skilled artist, Tori Meader!

Let me say from the start, that although these wonderful illustrations could be seen as creations from my book, Fantasy Genesis had little to do with Tori's thesis process, as the line of illustrations she developed for her thesis were focused on very specific aspects of the Zodiac.  It's called ZODION.  Tori inventivley assembled a cast of 12 bio-mechanical animal totems re-imagined from the signs of the Western Zodiac.  In addition, Zodion is a brilliant collection of SF&F animal creature concepts, and the sketches on her site underline her passion for conceptual work.  Check out the whole series at the Zodion website, look up your sign, and check out Tori's fun Commission deals, and extras coming out of her FB blog, Etsy, and StoreEnvy shops!

Well, it's always a brilliant surprise when I find all the different paths we Creatives will take with a couple simple word association exercises, and make it their own, and this group of examples were no exception.  They all really gave me a double take on how my game is influencing artists and creatives, and in a real way.  Thank you all so much for taking the game, and just swimming with it!

First there's Emily Wendland Krueger.  It turns out Emily and her husband Steven play Fantasy Genesis on a regular basis, and they were kind enough to post these great creations up on Facebook.  She's just a wickedly talented young illustrator, with a bend towards animals and typography it seems, and anyone looking for new editorial work with those qualities, would do well to give her a holler.

Next up is Ethan Myerson, who I met through the Fantasy Genesis FB page.  Ethan is a great photographer out of Tucson, that's used Fantasy Genesis to play with some SF&F concepting as well. Great plant life, and Turtle/Newt warrior seen here, but check out Ethan's site for more.

Last but not least, is Ian Strandberg.  I met Ian way back in I want to say, 2004 or earlier when I would do GenCon Indy every year.  I was working on concepting the Band of Orcs characterizations and mask designs at the time, Ian came by the booth, and I remember him having a lot to say about the benefits of puppeteering with anything theatrical.. He's definitely one of the hardest working men in show business types, and I could tell he was very driven when we first met.. =)  Ian not only does visual effects work, 3D and 2D, but does Creature and makeup sculpts, and gives live Zbrush tutorials on Twitch tv in his spare time!?!

Wherein one of these tutorials, he did this Frog+Bull sketch up on Zbrush.. Love those bifurcated toes!  Check him out at his Website, but also check out Ian (VerbalProcessing) for his tutorials and otherwise Mad Genius on his YouTube Channel!

Bowing to your collective inner LightPushers!!  Be good to each other, and stay tuned!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wicked Fantasy Genesis Creations

Haven't had a lot of time for showcasing the awesome creations that have been rolling in from across this brilliant Sphere of ours, but lemme tell yah Lords and Ladies, they have been rollin' in at a steady clip!

Tea Time at the end of the World
by rsek off of DA
Cactus Cow-Ram
by Myth-Dragon off of DA
So, here's another great showing from the Fantasy Genesis gallery on Deviant Art, including work from Steve Huczek, Heather Kreiter, and also a couple of brilliant pieces I received with a nice email from Karen G!  Thanks Karen, and be sure to send me more  in the future!!  You're really running with the original spirit of the game, and not just replacing parts.. =)

Bee Pirate Newt by Racingspoons
(Steve Huczek) off of DA
Steve has also started the first couple pages of his comic called Cornman!!  Check Steve out on the FB page and keep a look out for the Kickstarter to begin fairly soon for Cornman.. Can't get enough of this Cat's wildly inventive and brilliantly cynical writing style, and I'm sure Cornman will be every bit as funny and satirical as what I've come to expect from Mr. Huczek over the years..
Kitsune by Heather V. Kreiter 
Recently found this piece by Heather Kreiter, fellow freelance Lightpusher, and among the folks I'd see when I did GenCon.  Heather runs Shaman Soul Studios, and on top of illustrating for L5R and other RPGs, also makes loveably evil, My Little Demon toys, plushes, temp tattoos, and a host of more product with your favorite Pony-like bringer of mayhem.. =) Thank you so much for including the FG born Flora in your L5R painting, so many cool textures and that Kitsune (hope I'm getting the right Japanese Mythos) is so lush.. Glowing fur!!
3 Awesome Creatures by Karen Gosselin
(I especially love the Pine-Stag here)
Turtlekeet Mech by Karen Gosselin
I'll have more in the months to come, but in the mean time if you'd like to see some of my charity portraits, and an upcoming story with Cmdr. Sisko actor Avery Brooks involved, visit Portland Stink-Eye and as always, Stay Tuned !!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Workshop in Estacada

Lecture on brow structure
from Fantasy Genesis
I miss teaching..  There, I said it..  Straight away, no qualms, no regard hitherto stated evidence against, case closed without recourse from judge or jury!  Granted, not every day teaching is a successful, or even mildly pleasant day (especially mornings on deadline) and I doubt any particular mode or method one chooses will bring results to everyone, even if you're the most brilliant educator the Sphere's ever seen, but you can, and Do have an effect on some folks in a quite rare and magical time in their lives, and that's something few of us can predict or quantify.  It's simply the best! (bettah than awl the rest!)  Even though my freelance work has never given me time to completely focus on teaching, my inner LightPusher would love to start up again in the future, and the opportunities to teach seem to appear from time to time. =)
Couple of in class sketches showing Staggered & Aggressive brows
Although between recently being invited back to Focus Week by a couple of my students to finish out the school year at the PNCA, and giving a workshop/demo to three great groups of high school students at the Tri-Valley Art Conference, one thing has been revealed to me.  The fact that there are times we all can be teaching without a gig, without even being aware of it?  Like a chaotic ink wash, perhaps it's those serendipitous moments that are the most informative or inspirational, when we are at our most genuine state?

After all, a Compassionate action is never a one way road, both folks or groups need to bring something to the table to empathize or to understand.  This was the case in every class I taught at the PNCA, and it was the case at the Tri-Valley Art Conference in Estacada put on by Janice Packard a couple weeks ago.  I gave some sketched demos, had some great one-on-one time with art students from three different high schools, and generally had a blast!  What an awesome bunch of kids, and I hope to do more one-day events like this, but I got a sense of what kind of skill sets students are capable of nowadays, at such an early age?  A real baptism of fire, that!  I've always thought that if students were young enough to have been raised with the internet and it's exponentially growing supply of photographic reference, then you definitely had an advantage over my generation of beta-max video recording and library reference, and moreover this was the main reason for the quickening in skill sets; The more access to cleaner and more infinitely diverse photographic reference picturing this Sphere we're livin' on, and all it's wildly diverse Cultures and History, the more accurately one is able to document it all?  Of course it's more than any one reason, but you can tell the skill sets are just getting better and better from when I was in high school, and I can't wait to see what those students have to offer when they graduate?  Goot Lawrd!?!  =)

It was also fun to observe what modern tech doesn't necessarily teach at all, and the kind of things that will spring from an individual's personality traits or archetype, regardless of the tech around at the time of development?

I think there's a theatrical bug in most illustrators (especially the one's who might also want to be musicians, or spend a portion of their youth in front of a mirror) and I've noticed this leads to them/us mimicking and documenting emotions through facial expressions earlier than most.  Since Facial Expression & Anthropomorphism was the subject of my workshop, it was interesting to see who gravitated to the emotional aspects of the face, or who might have a better grasp on documenting realism, or who might veer towards expression in gesture and pose, or for those most skilled, who had a really good start on all of the above.. =)

More to come on Focus Week at the PNCA next post around,
and gracious thanks to all the talented young folks that attended
my short workshops at the Tri-Valley Art Conference!
Keep in Touch & Stay Tuned !!