Sunday, December 30, 2007


In lieu of a shiny 3G iphone from the future, I'm trying to get in the habit of carrying a sketchbook... here are a few quick pages I threw down while waiting on planes/trains on the way to New York. Riding the Hudson Line opened up this whole train of thought on Yetis, Sewer Rats and Demons... a little odd, yes, but I'm going somewhere with it. Really.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gesture Drawing (Rudy Giuliani)

Just got back from a nice 10-day trip home to New York. On the return flight, I recalled a Gesture Drawing session from a few months back where I tried cartooning "Mr. 9/11" himself into the model's poses. The model was not informed of this insult. Here are a couple of painted results:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Drawing - subtle photoshop textures

One more from that last model, where she moved away from the dancer poses and into a series that reminded of catching and releasing an insect. Just playing with Photoshop a little... maybe too conservatively. Got to start somewhere, right?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Drawing - "Dancer" (Continued)

Keeping with the same painting technique and set of drawings as the previous post.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Drawing - "Dancer"

One of my goals for the new year is to make drawing more of a habit, hopefully finding a more entertaining purpose for keeping at it than class alone. A co-worker of mine suggested that a good way to improve after a drawing session is to revisit the day's work, and re-draw everything with a fresh critical eye. So this series of drawings is an attempt to breathe some life into what was originally a particularly lousy day of gesture drawing class for me, using the original drawings from class as inspiration for fresh ones that pushed the poses further and had a little more detail.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

One Month Off

For the next four weeks, I'll be free from work, unimpeded from writing, reading and sketching all day, working on my pro basketball career, or busting some dewey decimals at the local library. Though I'll be in New York between December 18-28, my real intention is not to travel or rest, but to take some time to focus on defining new goals and enabling more satisfaction in everyday life. Look for a much-needed resurgence in Art posts coming this way!

For now, check out this TEDTalk on creativity and education; A fringe product of very intense academia myself, I'm inclined to agree with much of what the speaker has to say. Most notably, I do now realize that the biggest challenge I face in every day is not only accepting but embracing and enjoying the idea of screwing up in the interest of trying new things... This sort of perfectionism - which I think a lot of former strong students experience - is exactly what our education system too often demands.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Custodian

Looking forward to a great Thanksgiving weekend here in the Bay Area, I'm reminded that I will unfortunately miss my 10-year high school re-union in New York. As a retrospective in my absence, here's an uncensored version of the DFHS-Academy Award-winning short film Nisheet and I put together as a nod to our graduation-bound class (and, secretly, the great Steven Segal). For all the embarrassment, it was worth taking the role of goofy sidekick for this one... ok, maybe I was that goofy in high school. Golly Gompers!

Reflecting on this barely pre-Columbine, pre-digital video (note classy dual-VCR edits), completely adolescent high school film, it occurred to me that the generation of kids graduating high school today, despite their far more advanced diversions and life-long exposure to Computer Animation, must be remarkably softer in character as a result of all the overprotective measures put up over the last 10 years... Just think, those entering college today may have their smooth facebook instead of our ghetto-code ICQ, but as children they never had waterguns that were actively marketed for their likeness to the real thing, did they? No overprotective relegation to orange water gun barrel tips to cloud our violent imaginations, we are one bad-ass class, '97.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

James Jordan Photography

Originally uploaded by JamesJordan
My friend James has clearly been hard at work over the past couple of months exploring his photography interests. He has some incredible portraits (see Cathy's in particular, and the newer ones with Eric are pretty funny), but I'm curious to see where he's going with this new, playful angle...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Drawing Inspiration

An amusing nod to animation history from the depths of the internets...

I have been doing a fair amount of drawing lately, but haven't been home much to scan & post... will get something up later this week!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

William & Mary Alumni Magazine Interview

Look Mom, I'm almost as cool as Patton Oswalt!

The Fall edition of William & Mary Alumni Magazine includes brief interviews with comedian Patton Oswalt and myself regarding Ratatouille and our common background at the school. A related article covers Jen Becker, of my same class. This is such a step up from that time the AP interviewed the 1999-2000 W&M SIN directors but never even mentioned me in the article! :)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dan Rather's CBS Lawsuit

"Somebody, sometime has got to take a stand and say democracy cannot survive, much less thrive with the level of big corporate and big government interference and intimidation in news."

story with video from Larry King interview

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Gesture Drawing - Now in Glorious Technicolor!

It's been a nice, quiet weekend at home for once, so I've started scanning in some unused Gesture Drawings and experimenting with some painting techniques in photoshop. I think the textured patterns (shirt, background) are something I'll be exploring a lot more in figuring out what I like. For now, here's a start!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Drawing Inspiration

As I've been re-learning how to draw over the past two years, moving from a more clean, precise architectural approach to something more organic and gestural, I've hit a point where I need to figure out exactly where I want to go with it all. Aside from knowing that I need to draw more, I'm really not sure... so I'm going to start collecting inspiration on this blog as I come across it, and see where it leads.

I know next to nothing about painting in photoshop. Traditional painting was never that appealing to me, since it seemed to clash with my more obsessive-compuslive habits. Seeing artists using photoshop at work, however, certainly has me curious about its versatility... even if I just try to apply something much simpler and cartoony to my own drawings.

Here's a video from MAD Magazine artist Tom Richmond where he describes his painting technique as part of a series on digital coloring:

Though the subject matter of a bikini octopus woman might seem a little juvenile to some, here's a pretty cool time-lapse video of a surprisingly simple photoshop painting technique:

Amazing that people are out there sharing stuff like this!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Life Update

My blog will live! This post is intended mostly as a friends & family update on where I've been all this time...

Over the past month I took a trip to San Diego for the SIGGRAPH Conference and a little exploring with friends, and I backpacked Half Dome at Yosemite. It was on the latter trip that I met a superhero, who demonstrated that people can, in fact, fly.

If you've never heard of "Birdman", take a look at this video. With a winged suit and parachute, Birdman (let's just say there's only one) can take an extended glide down mountains and across the sky before deploying a parachute for a soft landing. I thought this was strictly the stuff of Warren Miller films and insane Austrians, but little did I know...

Exhausted from the hike to our campground atop Vernal and Nevada Falls in Yosemite National Park, my camping group (Karen, Joey, Jenn, Troy, Mahyar, Andy and myself) decided to call it an early night on Saturday evening in preparation for a 3am night hike up the side of Half Dome. The timing would allow us to avoid the infamous summer crowds on that route, and arrive in time for sunrise over Yosemite Valley below.

The hike went very well: On time and with no bear encounters to stop us, we caught our first glimpse of Half Dome as a huge, monochromatic, arching shape reaching upward into the starred sky, with a short line of headlamps from other early risers slowly working their way up the steep cable climb. Sunrise at the top was beautiful (see pics linked above), and we relaxed up there for over an hour with a dozen or so other people, who gradually trickled off after sticking their heads out over the 5,000 foot tall cliff edge over the valley floor and braving up for the cable hike back down.

Eventually, only four from my group and a couple remained on the rock, finishing our packed breakfasts and preparing to make our own descents. The only person looking towards the valley at a time where everyone else just happened to be turning their SLRs to the sun, I was startled when, out of nowhere (my first thought: A climber?), a man in a helmet, goggles, and a bright red and yellow suit calmly walked to the outermost extreme of the cliff edge, about 25 yards away with a rock outcropping somewhat between us. He seemed perfectly at home standing at the edge, and as he turned to adjust his suit I caught the sight of his backpack. "A base Jumper!" I whispered and signaled to everyone else, keeping quiet such as not to startle the guy before he was all set. "He's going to jump!"

All six of us on the Dome got on our stomachs and crawled towards the cliff edge, holding our cameras out to get sight of the jumper as he made his final preparations. He didn't seem to mind us at all while he adjusted his goggles and some sort of camera on his helmet, and as we watched him we began to realize that this brightly colored suit was nothing ordinary at all: it had wings connecting his legs and armpits!

After a number of goggle tweaks, the man, who seemed about 40, turned to us for the first time and, with a thick European accent, said:

"Hey guys! Don't tell anyone about this, okay? It's a very severe penalty!"

I'm going to assume he was talking about the Park Rangers or Police so I can continue the story here. We all gave Birdman a flurry of support in reply, and he turned back to the cliff, toes to the edge. Then a one bounce, two, three, and... THE GUY JUMPED HEAD-FIRST OFF THE SIDE OF HALF DOME! WOW! He quickly fell out of sight, but that was immediately followed by a loud fluttering sound... at which point the Birdman absolutely soared out across Yosemite Valley, wings opened, flying far away from us before making a broad turn around a central rock face. He disappeared from view behind that face for a few anxious seconds, but re-appeared with parachute opened just in time to land in a small clearing in the forest at the opposite side. Within seconds, he was packed up and gone. His route expertly planned and executed, the Birdman showed off the closest thing I've ever seen to superpowers.

The four of us who witnessed this stunt wouldn't shut up about this for the rest of the day. Hopefully this explains why I questioned what actually caused the lunar eclipse that night...

Back on Earth (err...), I've also wrapped on my third (!) feature film assignment at work. My time on WALL-E's Characters Team felt extremely brief after spending two and a half years on Ratatouille (just a half year or so in this case) and it's too early to get into details, but it was great to be a part of something so unique. WALL-E will be a stunning film and I'm very curious to see how people will react as they learn more! Since wrapping on that project two weeks ago, I've joined the very small crew of the short film that will accompany it. It's been a while since I was in shorts (JackJack Attack on the Incredibles DVD, where my role was fairly small) so I haven't yet decided whether I should be terrified or excited over my very intense production schedule there now. Fortunately I do know that the film is gonna be sweet! :)

There's a small stack of drawings sitting on my desk that I'll try to scan in and share this weekend. If you know of any good getting-started web references for photoshop painting on top of drawings, I'd love to see them!

This post brought to you by the Buy n Large Corporation.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Still Here

It's been an insanely busy month: working late, setting up my new place, July birthdays (including my own), Modono's wedding, wine country goodness, inspiring books, planning a San Diego trip... but finally, I'm at now now. Everything that's happening now, is happening now.... and that's refreshing!

Mahyar's done a nice job of covering a backpacking trip the Costa Rica gang took to Lake Tahoe National Forest, as well as this weekend's absolutely mind-blowing Daft Punk performance at the Berkeley Greek Theater. Many thanks to Dono and Eric for buying a block of tickets way back at the start of AD2007; this was easily the best electronic music show I've ever seen and I would highly recommend you catch it if you have the chance. Our favorite French Robots opened with the call-response of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and we may as well have been on another planet from that point on... made us all wonder what Pink Floyd shows must have been like, and how this would compare. Here's a grainy glimpse at the "Human" encore of this tour as performed in Amsterdam; unfortunately a lot of the detail is lost, but check out Mahyar's site for higher-quality still representations:

Monday, June 18, 2007

Who cooked the Ratatouille?

I've been too busy to post much lately as I prepare to move into a new apartment, but with sneak previews and reviews of Ratatouille now pouring in, I'm happy to say that I can finally - finally! - tell my family and friends just what I've been doing over the past two and half years!

I can't think of any other studio out there as committed to pushing the Art of Animation as much as Pixar. Having worked fairly early in the production pipeline for well over two years, it's been a wonder to see so many talents come together to create what might be one of the most beautiful animated films ever produced.

Most of my time on this film was spent Modeling and Articulating the film's human characters. Those are some fairly esoteric terms, so to explain: "Modeling" refers to the sculpting of the static three-dimentional polygonal "Model" representation of a character inside of a computer program. "Articulation" refers to the process of giving that static Character Model animation controls; Much like puppet strings would give a puppeteer the ability to manipulate an otherwise lifeless doll, the process of Articulation is the technical preface to a Character Model's animation, giving Animators the "strings" they will need to make our characters act. Working with Artists and Animators, Articulators figure out what a Character Model will look like in motion - how its skeleton will move the skin, what its range of facial expessions will look like - and create animation controls to accomplish every sort of subtle movement animators will need to get those Models acting convincingly in scene.

Rat does a wonderful job of pushing human caricature, so I feel very fortunate to have played a significant part in tackling the Articulation and Modeling challenges behind its villains: Chef Skinner (voiced by Ian Holm) and Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O'Toole). Watching animators push those models as far as they did was both thrilling and frightening ("We need the left nostril to do what?!?"), but an incredible sense of energy and life was pumped into the characters in the end. Responsibilities toward each character's model development on this film were highly shared among Articulators, but I also provided many months' worth of work towards Horst, Lalo, Mustafa, Lawyer, AdMan, Health Inspector, Colette, and numerous other background humans, background and pre-production rats, and character props. My last few months on the film were spent on animation fixes and cloth simulations.

I'm very proud of the job my friends and co-workers did on this film, and can't wait to see it in a public theater on opening weekend among a completely fresh crowd! Please get out and support Rat in theaters if you can; skip the latest inevitably disappointing big-budget Sequel* and try something fresh! If you can stay for the film's very entertaining credits, you'll see my name under 'Characters' and 'Additional Simulation Support'. Enjoy!

*ok, well see Transformers after Rat :)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pura Vida! Stories from the Costa Rica Trip

Wow, last week was a blast... Costa Rica was easily the most adventure-packed vacation I've ever taken, and thanks to some some crafty bribery of Costa Rican police by Melissa and Joey, I even made it to the Ratatouille Wrap Party on time!

Melissa, Karen, Joey, Mahyar and I flew into Costa Rica overnight last Friday, surprisingly well-rested thanks to a combination of earplugs and Tylenol PM. It wasn't long before Melissa's bilingual superpowers came into play, as United Airlines left our group's checked luggage behind in LA. Crisis mitigated, we soon filled our wallets with Colones and set off for the Cloud Forests of Monte Verde in an inconspicuous new 2008 Toyota Rav4.

A few things were obvious off the bat: The roads in Costa Rica are an adventure in themselves: credit Joey for not blowing a tire or axle like so many cars and Turismo buses pulled aside along the way. There are no highways or sidewalks in Costa Rica, so the roads are shared with people, chickens, dogs, horses, and anything else that cares to roam free. A portable GPS navigation system is well worth packing to alleviate route guesswork, though we managed to get by without one. I'm now very thankful that we have at least some emissions standards on vehicles in the US. The expression "Pura Vida" can apparently never be used too often in Costa Rica. Costa Ricans call themselves "Ticos", and they are for the most part extraordinarily friendly. Ticos are very fond of rice, beans, and Christina Aguilera. A handful of Spanish nouns and verbs learned in high school came to mind soon after landing, and were dutifully fumbled while ordering value meal #4 from a fast food counter at a mall.

Monte Verde was well worth the prerequisite off-roading experience. Late May falling well within the wet/off season, we arrived just after a major storm system cleared and settled into the sounds of the cloud forest over a few card games in our fortuitously upgraded cabin. The next morning we found ourselves zip-lining along suspended cables through the canopy, an experience which was surprisingly serene once you got used to landing on tiny treehouse-styled platforms precariously bolted to trees 100 feet above the ground.

The cloud forest was teeming with life, so Mahyar and I followed up the flying bit with a short hike out into the zip line area trails at sunset. This was something I would recommend, as the sounds of the transition (birds yielding to insects) were very intense: just remember that swinging on vines can be very abrasive to the hands, and that you'll need those flashlights sooner than you'd think! At one point on the hike, we heard a low-pitched, fluttering purrrrrrr coming from just off the trail but out of sight - was it just a large-winged bird settling in for the night, or a rare encounter with a Jaguar? We chose to believe the latter over a sampling of Imperial, the omnipresent, mediocre beer of the country.

On Monday morning, we toured a nature reserve featuring a suspended walking bridge over the forest canopy. We weren't particularly adept at spotting tropical birds outside of one that repeatedly sang the first few notes of Star Wars' "Imperial March", but we were amazed to find how lizards and exotic insects could literally be hiding under any leaf.

After Melissa earned her second guava cookie for asking for directions when we found ourselves lost in the unmarked roads around Tilaran, we spotted our first Toucan just outside of Arenal, at the base of the continuously active Arenal Volcano. The experience played out during an ordinary stop at the side of the road with much similarity to that scene from Jurassic Park where that 'Newman' guy from Sienfeld is attacked by a poinson-spitting dinosaur; in fact I wouldn't be surprised if the filmmakers borrowed the sound the Toucan seemed to make before we managed to spot it. Tropical bird sighting requirement satisfied, we checked into the Arenal Paraiso Hotel and soon found ourselves sipping Pina Coladas at its otherwise nearly deserted bar, conveniently located in the center of one of its hot spring pools.

But enough with the rest! At 7am on Tuesday, we found ourselves stepping over a 165-foot cliff edge on a canyoning outing, rappelling alongside and through waterfalls as we found our way down a deep ravine. At lunchtime we indulged our now well-versed appreciation for Salsa Lizano, the standout among otherwise somewhat nondescript Costa Rican meals alongside their tasty fresh fruit drinks. ("Guanabana"!)

Putting all other guava cookie hopefuls to shame, Melissa once again called upon her superpowers, hiring one of our half-dozen rappel guides, Eric, to lead our group on an evening excursion to the Volcano in what would become one of my favorite parts of the trip. Having had a few hours too many to think the outing over, it had become slightly unnerving for all of us to trust an impromptu guide who spoke little English to lead us into such an unknown, dangerous environment. The atmosphere that night was literally electric with tension - a storm was rolling in and the sky was overcast as we notified the hotel of our outing, packed ourselves, Eric and Stephanie (a fellow Savannahian from the rappel tour) into the Rav4 with flashlights and rain jackets in hand, and crossed our fingers for the lluevo to hold off.

Eric directed us to a more active side of the volcano from our hotel around 7pm, and deep into a park where a handful of people were struggling to get glimpses of the mountain's peak through the clouds that now flirted with it. Starting on a trailhead to an observation point, we had to hike about 20 minutes in the dark through a tunnel of young but very dense vegetation. About halfway in, we suddenly heard a series of deep, extended rumbling - much lower in tone than the thunder - coming from the direction of the mountain. We couldn't see a thing through the walls of jungle at either side of the path, but it sounded so close! A shot of adrenaline took hold as we realized we were hearing the crumbling rocks of active lava flows nearby, and with a quickened pace we cleared the tree line at the trail's end for a better look.

We were standing on the uneven, crumbled igneous rock debris left by the volcano's last major eruption in 1992. That event had destroyed an entire town in its wake, the ruins of which now sat below Lake Arenal below us. Eric informed Melissa that we were about a kilometer from the flows, and we took a seat in front of the dark, monochrome shape of the volcano, which reached up into the clouds but was, for the moment, disappointingly silent of activity.

For about 15 minutes we squinted in near silence at the shape where it met the clouds, some glancing incredulously over to others who claimed to see tiny flickers of red. Finally, that familiar rumbling sound gave a hint of life, and our wait was rewarded by a clean line of red stretching down out of the clouds, bringing up a little applause from us before it slowed and faded into the black. For about an hour we sat in the dark and listened to the volcano with the thunder behind us, squinting at flickers in between sporadic shows of bright red lava traces and occasionally glancing back to make sure Eric hadn't left us for dead in his search for a better vantage point.

Convinced that the storm clouds were intensifying at the top of the volcano, we eventually decided we'd seen a good show, and set up for a group picture just as the sound of rain started to creep up on us. It was exactly then - probably by the force of the cool rain hitting the hot rocks we were watching moments before it got to us - that a huge patch of the mountain suddenly sliced open in bright flows of red, sending us off with an incredible finale and the strongest rumbling we heard all evening just before the edge of the downpour eclipsed our perch and sent us scrambling back down the trail.

Eric seemed happy with the tip we gave him :)

Of course there was still plenty to do: We spent the next day on a three-hour excursion on horseback, including an hour rest at the middle to cross a delicate canyon bridge (evoking memories of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - I'm just going to believe that I saw crocodiles in the stream below between the gaps in the floor boards!) and swim around the base of one of those lush, 100-foot waterfalls you might see in tour brochures.

The Hotel Las Tortugas at Playa Grande was the last stop on my trip, and came a sharp change in attitude. About 80% of coastal Costa Rican land is now owned by foreigners, and while this surfer's choice hotel seemed to maintain a respect for the local population and nature, it was more than obvious that the coast is being quickly developed and Americanized. Put it this way: My American neighbors on the flight home were returning from a real estate scouting vacation, spoke very little to no Spanish and hadn't a clue when I asked them about Salsa Lizano. For a country that never had a rich cultural history like Peru or a stable economic center (a non-native coffee business gave way to American Fruit Company-run bananas, giving way to heavily foreign-owned eco-tourism in just the past 100 years), this exemplified a feeling of identity crisis which might have been the one low point to such a broad visit.

Not to be deterred, the sun managed to peek out just enough for me to sneak in my first ever attempt at surfing, an inexpensive lesson through the hotel by a genuine American surfer dude. I managed to stand up on my first three tries and had a great time. Can't wait to do it again.

Tamarindo served up our final overpriced souvenier needs, and we were soon rushing back across the country to San Jose International Airport on its main (one-lane) road... and cutting it close. Sure enough, we got caught in some sort of speed trap and were pulled over by a Costa Rican police officer.

Yet again, Melissa came to the rescue as translator. The officer seemed to take on a tone of intimidation - trying to tell us that we were speeding so egregiously that we really should be put in a judge or fined so many tens of thousands of colones - but he curiously never motioned to write a ticket, arrest anyone, or even read Joey's driver's license. Sure enough, it was only a matter of time before he let out something along the lines of "Well, I suppose we could just forget about this if you give me something now...". The guy even coached us on how to properly fold the money before discretely slipping it to him.

Mahyar and I made it back to the Bay Area with plenty of time to rest up for our wrap party, which would be a huge culture shock and adventure in itself. Melissa, Karen and Joey continued on to Manuel Antonio, where they saw many monos locos. Thanks so much to all of them for handling the bulk of planning this trip; as it was put in the car: "You were the wind beneath my... feet."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Off to Costa Rica!

It's been tough to post lately - there's been so much going on! Tonight, some friends and I are flying out to Costa Rica for a week of hiking, canyoneering, zip lines and surfing. I'll be returning just in time for the Ratatouille Wrap Party on June 2, and will get you all the latest stories and drawnigs at that point. Hasta luego!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Point Reyes

Fueled by tasty breakfast tacos, Vicki, Chris, Kevin, Frank and myself hiked about 11.5 mountainous miles through Point Reyes this past Sunday, conquering Mount Wittenberg, crossing rolling hills overlooking the Pacific, exploring rocky beach caves, and even taking home a new insect friend along the way. My feet are still recovering two days later, but the time outdoors proved a much better alternative to watching the Warriors chuck 3s and collect technical fouls!

A rough start of 2 miles uphill led to some rewarding views:

A well-deserved rest at Sculptured Beach: