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Writing Wednesday: Blank on Blank

18 Oct

One of the projects that was keeping me busy earlier this year was my foray into the world of whiteboard animation. Paul and I were approached by David Gerlach, who found us through our work with Drawn Out Storytelling. David runs Blank on Blank,  a site that publishes previously unreleased portions of interviews with notable public figures–anyone from Big Bird to Barack Obama. He’d noticed how popular the RSA Animate video series had been and thought Blank on Blank might lend itself to that style of storytelling as well. David picked out a few interviews that he thought would translate well into an animated style and gave us our choice. I selected Kelly Slater (a famous surfer, for those like myself who aren’t in touch with the world of sporting games), while Paul went with Alex Bogusky (the adman behind several famous ad campaigns as well as the genius behind chicken fries).

We took a few days to listen to the interviews and pick out the main ideas and imagery in each interview. With those themes and images in mind, we’d each create a storyboard to go along with the interview. While this is similar to what we did for Drawn Out every month, I was surprised at how much more challenging it was! When you’re working with a storyteller, chances are they’ve already thought about the themes present in their story and have made a conscious effort to emphasize particular moments. For example, Caitlin Brodnick carefully builds up how enamored she is with TV stardom and all the makeup and attention that come with it in her story about being in a commercial when she was young; that only makes it that much funnier when she reveals that, not only has she been completely unaware of the larger things concerning her family at the time, she’s also been unaware that she is not, in fact, the star of the commercial. That’s not something you can easily do in interviews. While a good interviewer can absolutely choose which parts of an answer to follow up on (just as a good interview subject can elaborate on the parts of a question they feel are most relevant), it’s not really possible to go back in and say, “Okay, that was good, but this time could you mention the baseball game when I ask you about your childhood?” Or, rather, while it is possible, it’s not really that ethical if you’re claiming to publish someone’s genuine responses. That meant that, if we wanted to set up some cohesive themes right away, the visuals in our animatics would have to do some of the heavy lifting.

No, the grave's not casting a weird shadow; that's the soil.

For this sequence, I wanted to play up the idea that all of the bad things happening to Slater were part of one continuous experience. I didn’t want to do several separate drawings, since that would emphasize the fact that they were separate incidents. Instead, I chose to put everything in the same setting–not a literal one, of course, since the image of Slater cheating on his girlfriend while simultaneously mourning his father pretty much ruins any pretense of a somber or contemplative mood–and used the setting sun as shorthand for time passing. Ultimately, I think it ended up working well.

Once we got our storyboards sorted out, we sent them off to David. We did a few rounds of revisions, making sure we were all on the same page about what themes were important, how they were reflected in the images, and how the images and dialogue worked in concert. Then it was time to film. David’s workspace in Manhattan has a pretty great setup for this kind of thing, considering it–like most buildings–wasn’t designed with filming elaborate whiteboard pseudo-animations in mind. There was one wall that was essentially a giant whiteboard, so I just pulled up a chair and got to drawin’!

…Well, okay. As with any shoot, we did a lot of tests to make sure that the lighting was right (whiteboards tend to reflect pretty well, resulting in a lot of glare) and that my head wouldn’t get in the way as I drew (it often did). Once we were satisfied with how everything was showing up on-camera, the real filming began. Boy, let me tell you: you never really notice how much your hands can shake until you’re trying to recreate a drawing perfectly, while people watch and film you, no pressure or anything, and by the way it was a really smart idea to drink all that coffee this morning! The more I drew, though, the more comfortable I got. It was an interesting challenge to work with such a different medium–dry-erase marker handles pretty differently from the brush pens and watercolors I tend to use. Plus, David directed the shoot very well, and I had Paul around for moral support. In the end, it was an awesome project to work on, and I had a lot of fun!

So close, yet so far.

This is maybe my favorite image from the animation. I won’t spoil the context for you, so you should just go watch it! You can see the full interview, complete with my illustrations, here. While you’re there, the rest of the Blank on Blank site is definitely worth checking out as well! You can watch Paul’s animation here, and there’s lots of other interesting content as well.

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I survived another year!

10 Oct

And that means that I’m totally 25 now! I can’t wait to start reaping the benefits–namely, renting cars and…uhh…I dunno, telling people about times before the internet, I guess!

Anyway, I know it’s a Writing Wednesday, but I’ve got birthday celebrations to attend to. (Singin’ in the Rain isn’t going to watch itself, you know!) So, today I’m outsourcing the bulk of the writing to you guys. Please leave a comment letting me know what you’d like to see me draw for next Monday’s update! I’ve gotten a lot of sweet birthday wishes today, so I want to pay some of that forward and do something nice for you guys, my loyal readers. ;)

In the meantime, here’s a small doodle to hold you guys over until Friday. I only recently switched to Timeline over on Facebook, and I wanted to come up with something fun to do with the “cover photo” function. Here’s what I ended up with:

I tried to fit as much Captain Haddock into this as possible.

Fans of Hergé will recognize the background from the endpapers of certain editions of the Tintin comics and the profile picture from my attempt at drawing myself in Hergé’s style. It was pretty challenging, especially because of the difficulty of finding reference pictures of young women in his work. I looked at a lot of crowd scenes to figure out how to translate my features into a character who would fit into Tintin’s world. Never in my life have I regretted not looking like Bianca Castafiore so much.

All right, that’s it for me tonight! I’ll see you guys on Friday with some fanart. :)

Fanart Friday: Kirby and Waddledee!

6 Oct

(Shh…this totally counts as a Friday update because it’s only 9 pm on the West Coast, right?)

It’s a week full of innovation (or at least alliteration)! This is the blog’s very first Fanart Friday. I like to draw, and I like to talk about things I like, so this is what you get.

Hmm. That sounded like more of a threat than I intended. Here, have something cute to make up for it!

Let's go on an adventure~

Here is a not-very-surprising fact: I totally love Kirby, you guys. He’s adorable, he’s super fun to draw, and Kirby and the Crystal Shards was one of my favorite games as a kid. (My other favorites will be making an appearance soon, don’t you worry.) I’ve also started playing Kirby Super Star at Paul’s behest, and the companion system makes me really really happy. It doesn’t matter what boss I’m fighting, though; I always pick Waddle Dee. I like to make him go on adventures with Kirby. ♥

This picture was also an excuse to mess around with Illustrator again. I recently upgraded to CS6, and it feels a little like I moved into a new apartment. All my stuff is there, it’s just arranged a little differently. I just felt like making sure I still knew where it all was. I was also lucky enough to have CJ Joughin and Micah on hand (er, computer) to help me out when I needed reminding. This was a nice reminder that I really like Illustrator, and I like the look of vector art. You’ll probably be seeing more of it in the near future.

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Writing Wednesday: Cartoon College and the Newport Beach Film Festival

3 Oct

Welcome to the very first Writing Wednesday on the sketchblog! From now on, I’ll be updating every (you guessed it) Wednesday with some (you guessed it again) writing about something I’m working on, news from the comics world, books I’ve read, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It’ll be comics-related for the most part, but I’ve also been embarking on some exciting writing journeys, and I can’t promise I’ll stay quiet about them.

My subject this week is…(drumroll, please)…

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 Cartoon College, the fabulous documentary by Josh Melrod and Tara Wray! It’s all about the Center for Cartoon Studies, the Vermont-based comics school. Maybe y’all have heard of it? I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I graduated from there last year and it changed my life. And not just in the discovering-lolcats-for-the-first-time sense, but in the redefining-your-life’s-direction sense. What I’m trying to get at here is that I totally loved it at CCS, and I graduated a better artist and storyteller and all-around person. (If you want the down-and-dirty about my time at CCS, check out my post from CCS Awareness Week last year.)

Josh and Tara spent years interviewing not only students and faculty from CCS but also comic artists and scholars from all over the country. The result is a great introduction to the world of indie comics. Comics aficionados will recognize a lot of big names (why, hello there, Art Spiegelman and Lynda Barry!), and you may also learn a few new ones.

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Speaking of new names in comics, Josh and Tara made sure to include conversations with students from several different years at CCS. As you can see from the above image, I made the cut! They also chose to specifically follow five or six students, mostly from years previous to me. I thought this was an interesting approach. While I’ve obviously got some narcissistic tendencies and would have loved for my class to be the main focus, I also learned a lot about the classes before me. I even learned some new things about alums that I’d spent a fair amount of time with!

I got a chance to see Cartoon College for the first time at the Newport Beach Film Festival at the Orange County Museum of Art. Josh, Tara, and Leslie Feibleman, the Director of Special Programs and Community Cinema, kindly invited me to attend the festival’s showing of the documentary and to give a Q&A session afterwards. It was basically the best night ever (sorry, prom night). I got to visit a great museum, watch a cool movie (that I’m totally in! Did I mention that yet?) while eating delicious food truck fare, and talk to a captive audience about the things I love most in life: comics, the Center for Cartoon Studies, and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

…Okay, I’m joking about the last one. But it was still a fantastic time.

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I also gave an interview with Kristy Kircher of Newport Beach TV. She and I discussed some stuff you guys probably already know about from reading this blog (such as what got me into comics and how I ended up at CCS) and some stuff you might not (like what being a comic artist actually entails these days, and why the moniker “funny books” isn’t always relevant). You can see the full interview here.

All right, I think I’ve written enough for tonight! Plus, it’s nearly midnight, so I gotta get this uploaded before I have to change the name to Writing Thursday. If there’s anything you guys want to know about Cartoon College, the Center for Cartoon Studies, or how to get your shirts to glow red-and-green on camera, just leave a comment and I’d be happy to answer it!

(Also, if you guys enjoyed the first installment of Writing Wednesday, why not head over to Paul’s blog? I have it on good authority that he’s also posting some writing tonight, and it’s definitely worth a look!)

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