Friday
Feb212014

SketchBook Pro demo on GeekBeat.tv

Special thanks to John & Cali of GeekBeat.tv for inviting me on the show. I had a really great time teaching them some of the basics of SketchBook Pro! You can check out the recording here:

 

Wednesday
Feb122014

Coloring a Character in SketchBook Pro

My name is Michael van den Bosch, a freelance character designer from the Netherlands. During my internship I was stationed at Hallmark Cards, where I saw all these freelance illustrators bring in their traditionally painted artwork. I then realized this was what I wanted to do. In the middle of this I decided to drop-out, got myself registered and became self-employed. 

Thru the years I've worked for various companies, doing graphic illustrations, logos, mascots, 3D character design and worked on some Dutch commercials. I've done the 'Character Animation' course at AnimationMentor, and lately I've been doing children's book illustrations and cover art. Half way thru 2013 I decided to create more female artwork (felt like I was creating too much of the male characters for my own taste), so I started a new company called Pin-Ups.eu.

I love waking up in the morning, knowing there will be a blank (digital) piece of paper waiting for me in the studio, of course I also still work the traditional way and when time is on my side, I love to paint on canvas.

 Learn more about Michael on his website, his portfolio, and his Facebook Page.

Tuesday
Jan282014

CAVE Paintings

 

Talented artist and educator, Susan Murtaugh, is no stranger to SketchBook. Her Masterclass, which she teaches from her iPad, has been a sellout at Autodesk University for the past three years.

 Watch her class, Sketching on an Apple® iPad® 101, at the Autodesk University website here.

Susan spent her free time in Las Vegas capturing moments from the first Autodesk CAVE.

 

Check out more of her work on her Flickr.

Wednesday
Jan222014

Storyboarding on Archer

Read Kevin's previous post here.

My day job is as a storyboard artist for the TV show Archer. I work with a team of 3 other people, and we have two art directors : Neal Holman and Chad Hurd. It's a very small team, which I like. A lot of the other sections of the studio are made up of larger teams, but our group is small and we've become really tight-knit over the last year.

It varies from episode to episode, but we generally get a script and divide the work up into sections. The two more senior/experienced boarders will take larger chunks, and the rest of us take smaller chunks, usually divided up by acts.  It's generally been Justin Wagner and I splitting an act, and we sit next to each other, so it's really easy to address any concerns and talk about scenes we have that take place in the same settings so that we're on the same page with things. We all take turns doing board cleanup, on our own work and each others.

Inside the studio

Then I will go through with my sketchbook or some paper or SketchBook Pro using a file with tiny board templates on it (usually 9-12 per sheet) and thumbnail out (as quickly as possible) the whole part I'm working on. This can take a few hours, or the whole day to get through. It varies depending on the complexity of the episode and how many characters are in each scene. The more characters in a scene (and on Archer, there are around 7 main characters, often more depending on any ancillary characters and guest stars) the more complex the scene is and the more time it takes to figure out.

That said, the show is a dialog and joke-driven show, so even scenes with just 2 people can be complex just by volume. I'm working on a scene between Lana and Archer right now that's just them talking, but it's around 4 pages of dialog. I feel like my job at that point is not just to convey the acting, but to keep things visually interesting and to find as many camera angles that make sense within our parameters as a limited-animation show to keep it from just being a static medium 2-shot scene with a couple of over-the-shoulder reverses. But sometimes, that's exactly what's needed.

Archer sequence part one

Once I get a pass that I like, I'll show it to the other boarders to get feedback, and then I'll work on refining things, and making the figures clearer and indicating backgrounds more. Often-times, backgrounds and new characters are being designed as we're boarding, so I check with the art directors to see where things are at or get any notions from them as to what a setting will be like so I can accurately stage things at this point (or sometimes let them know how I'm staging something so they can design with that in mind). My camera moves and character setups can change wildly depending on what the setting ends up being, so keeping things loose but readable is key.

All of this takes place in just a few days. We generally have about 2.5-3 weeks to board an episode from start to cleanups. My understanding is that this is a much faster time-frame than most animated shows work on, but since this is the only one I've done so far, it's all I know.

Archer sequence part two

I was happy and surprised to find myself surrounded by people who are not only talented, but passionate about art and animation and funny as hell. Most of the people I meet in Atlanta who work in animation are amazing to be around and talk to. I shouldn't have been surprised by this, but I was. Also, everyone wants to make something good. No one wants any part of the production to suffer or be sub-par, and that attitude can be infectious.

The one tool I have beyond being able to draw is to finish that drawing and put it out into the world and then move on to the next one. Being someone who finishes things is key to any walk of life, but doing (and getting) work in art, especially.

As far as keeping inspired, I'm of the school of thought that this Chuck Close quote describes: "Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work."

Archer sequence part three

I mostly use SketchBook Pro to design characters and pencil my comic pages. I started using it a few years back (2009, I think?) and it quickly became my go-to drawing program. I was incapable of drawing in other programs on the tablet I had at the time, but for some reason SketchBook Pro made sense.

Once I got a Cintiq, that process and result only heightened. The weekend I got my first 12" Cintiq, I was on a severe deadline and had to do layouts for over 30 pages in about 4 days. SketchBook Pro allowed me to make them my pencils that I could print out and ink from, as I was able to move quickly and intuitively throughout the program and able to go back and forth between pages easily to check consistency. I draw faster in SketchBook Pro, for some reason.

I've been a convert ever since. My book with Blair Butler, HEART, was penciled in SketchBook Pro. American Muscle, with Steve Niles, was penciled in it. A lot of my commissions are thumbnailed and penciled in it. It's my go-to program for sketching and drawing.

My favorite tools are a custom pencil brush that I made, and a couple of inking tools that I modified off of some of the settings Callum Watt was using at one point. His work in SketchBook Pro is nothing short of amazing and inspiring. For color, I generally just use a few of the marker tools and an airbrush, although I've been messing around with the synthetic paint tools when I get a chance. 

Click here to download Kevin's brushes for SketchBook Pro.

Wednesday
Jan152014

Creative Opportunity by Howard Wong

Howard Wong is a writer, working in the animation, comic, marketing, designer toy and video game industries. He’s received numerous accolades including being nominated for a Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Writer. This is the third of a three-part article where Howard shares his insights on writing, storytelling and creativity through his years of experience collaborating with artists, editors and producers.

If you missed the previous articles, you can find them here, A Writer's Perspective and here, Conquering Creative Challenges.

I’ve talked about using creativity to develop a compelling narrative, as well as to overcome production challenges. Here, I want to talk about how creativity can help you find opportunities beyond conventional methods and some basic contractual things you might find useful. 

So when you look for a gig what do you normally do? Go online and head to the job boards and company websites? It’s a good place to start, but your search shouldn’t end there.

 

ONLINE PROFILE, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?

Most see theirs as the blog/website that they built to show their work and abilities to potential employers that they’ve applied to a job with. Besides the places you’ve applied to, there are others who search for people they want to hire or collaborate with. They will use your online profile as their initial deciding method to work with you or not. So designing your online profile with this in mind might lead to unexpected gigs.

 Parka Samurai pages by Howard Wong & Monica Munster

SOCIAL & OLD SCHOOL NETWORKING

Social and traditional networking is one of the most invaluable methods in finding opportunities. No matter if you connect with people through Facebook to Twitter, mentorship programs to internships, meet-and-greets to conferences, conventions to cold calling and chance encounters (I'll get back to what this is in a bit), you get access to the newest information on opportunities that aren’t found on job boards and company websites at that moment. You also get a pulse on the current happenings in the industry you are (interested) in, which may help guide you to opportunities as well.

 

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER WITH A USED SOFA

The various networking opportunities I mentioned minus chance encounters, have you connecting with people who are most directly in touch to both opportunities and information you are seeking. While chance encounters is mainly about the indirect connection to opportunities and information.

 Let me illustrate with a story.

Once upon a time, I went to look at a used sofa that my wife found online. As I spoke with the owner, we ended up talking about my life as a freelance writer. I bought the sofa and a few weeks later the previous owner called me. Her sister needed help. She needed some writing done, which I so happened fit the bill for. I ended working on an interesting project, which I would have never have known about had it not been for a used sofa.  

This is what a chance encounter is about. Those moments in your life where you meet a random person online or in person, who connects you indirectly to opportunities. Whenever you meet someone for the first time you are laying the foundation of who you are, where you are able to build on it with what you do and sometimes what you are looking for. People you’ve met are then able to revisit what they remember of you and connect you to people they know.

I want to expand your concept of what connecting with people really amounts to. Think of how many people you know. Now think of how many people they know and keep going. So when you connect with someone you’re not just connecting with them, but instead with everyone they know as well. This is what makes networking invaluable to finding opportunities. Though many feel that industry connections are the ones that really lead to opportunities, creative thinkers should see beyond that. They are aware of the possibilities from the unexpected and understand the dynamic aspects of networking.

  Tin the Robot Monk Coloured by Howard Wong & Mark Torres

GETTING EXPLOITED

When you get opportunities to exploit your own work, you’ll encounter intellectual properties, copyrights and contracts. Understanding that each country has their own set of rules for their playground, I’ll be talking broadly about them. 

Intellectual property (IP) is the creative product of the mind that includes design, inventions, literary and artistic works. So when you talk about something you just created, you’re talking about your IP.

 Copyright is a form of legal protection for the copyright holder(s) to give exclusive rights to exploit their IP. This includes making copies, selling, performing or marketing works of art, music and/or literature, where it financially benefits the copyright holder(s).

 Here are some useful websites that will give you more in depth information:

 

Contracts are agreements that lay out the framework for the relationship between the copyright holder(s) and those they’ve authorized to exploit their IP. Among other things, it defines who controls the IP copyright, how it will be exploited and how costs and profits are handled. It’s legally binding and should be taken seriously.

When you look at a contract, think of everyone’s underlying interests and see if it makes sense to you. Are any of the conditions seemingly one sided? Are there parts that aren’t clear to you? Whenever you don’t feel right or don’t fully understand something in a contract, it might be best to seek legal console for assistance.

 

PARTNERS IN CRIME

When you collaborate with others, you might want to use a contract to help avoid messy issues down the road. There are many stories of people fighting over things they could have avoided, had they defined what everyone expected to get for their contribution to the IP. It’s a touchy subject especially between friends, but an agreement does help avoid possible misunderstandings between everyone. I’ve work with others with and without contracts. Every situation is different and it really comes down to your comfort level working without one.

 

THE BIZ

Knowing and understanding the business side of creative industries will help you recognize contracts that don’t benefit you in a positive manner, stop unauthorized exploitation of your work and perhaps help you find the best ways to exploit your work. You don’t need to be an expert, but you should get to know enough so you have a good idea what you’re getting yourself into.

 

BEFORE WE RIDE INTO THE SUNSET

Something I want to leave with. Many of you are striving to reach a creative plateau, but when you reach it that’s not where you should stop. There are other plateaus above that you can now go after! Your creative journey only ends when you let it. Good luck!

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