Monday, August 31, 2009

Tim Burton Sits Down with Ray Harryhausen
Over the weekend, I ran into this cool interview of Tim Burton with Ray Harryhausen. Burton's a real hero of mine, so it's funny to watch him geek-out over basically anything Harryhausen says. If you're interested in listening to the wisdom of one of the masters of the animated craft, follow the links below:

Part I: Inventing an Artform
Part II: The Pitiable Leviathon
Part III: Monster Music

Ray Harryhausen mentions that a major artistic influence on him was the work of Gustave Dore. This was a new name to me, so I thought I'd look him up. His work is fantastic! As a kid who grew up on flat-toned comics, dramatic lighting doesn't come very naturally to me. So to see this level of mastery is pretty inspiring!

Dore's imagery is truly cinematic. It's unfortunate that he died in 1883, a mere five years after Eadweard Muybridge's experiments in real-time photo-capture, and just before the development of the first motion picture camera. Like Harryhausen says, if Dore had been alive during the age of film, I'm sure he would have been one of it's most successful auteurs.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Choose Your Own (Drawing) Adventure
The idea behind the Choose Your Own (Drawing) Adventure is for people to vote on the story they'd like to illustrate. This week's winning concept was:

"Once, there was a baby-stealing goblin who sailed the seven seas so he could make an award-winning documentary."

I wonder what the goblin's film was about. I saw a few art films at CalArts that looked like they were made by goblins, but I'd hardly call any of them award-winning.

Coursing through the waters red
With golden sun above their heads
Laughing as the baby cries
Goblins green, with bulging eyes

In their wake, the mothers wail
As on the shore they shout and flail
Alas, their infants' fates are sealed
For baby's goblins' favorite meal

Let me know if you partook in this week's challenge, and I'll post your design along with these other tyke-taking terrors:

Next week's challenge, to be posted Friday, Sep 11th:
"Once there was a pink kitten who made a deal with the devil so he could avenge his parents' death."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Choose Your Own (Drawing) Adventure
The challenge is to illustrate the concept: "Once there was a baby-stealing goblin who sailed the seven seas so he could shoot an award-winning documentary." All are welcome to participate, just let me know you've posted a design, and I'll link to you. Sketch greatly!

Also, please be sure to vote on next week's Choose Your Own (Drawing) Adventure in the polls to the right. Much obliged.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's a little-known fact that, when they're not hunting down hobbits or feasting on man-flesh, orcs spend most of their time like the rest of us: hanging out in the garage and shooting the breeze.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Prehistoric Runway
Paleontologists in southwestern France have discovered fossil footprints of a landing pterosaur. This find offers a rare glimpse into the way these animals moved. The way I see it, now we have no reason not to animate pterosaurs. Wired magazine describes the researchers' conclusions:

"As it arrived, the dinosaur used its wings as brakes, then planted its dainty hind feet into the mud. This wasn’t enough to slow its momentum; it bounced momentarily back into the air before touching down again, this time dragging its feet. Once under control, it leaned forward, placed its wingtip forelimbs on the ground, and ambled away on all fours."

Here are the actual tracks and a dance-step-like breakdown of the landing sequence.

These tracks come from a smaller pterosaur (probably no more than a meter long). What I'd like to know is how a big guy like this Hatzegopteryx took off in the first place. This guy had a 40 ft wingspan (that's larger than a Cessna), and is estimated to have weighed over 500 lbs. Oh, and he was discovered in Transylvania, so I'm pretty sure he was vampiric.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My buddy Pen just released a new music video. Check out his sweet dance moves!

When he's not busting out his mad dancin' skills, Pen can usually be found stalking Matt Groening.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Final Installment of The Jurassic Journals
At the end of our long week of dinosaur-digging, Greg, Chuck, Brandon, Zack, and I said our fond farewells to everyone at the Waugh dig and returned to the Black Hills Institute in Rapid City, South Dakota. Having toiled for hours in the dirt and sun for every fragment of bone, the colossal skeletons in the museum took on a whole new meaning. I can only imagine what it must feel like to find something as large and awesome as a rex skull.
Pete Larson took us behind the scenes to the BHI's fossil workshop. We watched him clean-up Greg's Camarasaurus claw and he let us go through drawers and drawers of dino-bits including specimens of Camarasaurus, Brachiosaurus, Stegosaurus, Hypsilophodon, Allosaurus, Barosaurus, Triceratops, T. rex, and (my favorite) Apatosaurus. I love how the fossil cleaning stations (seen below) could totally double as animation desks; I'm getting ideas for my future home.
While in South Dakota, we did the obligatory Mt. Rushmore trip. To be honest, it was kind of a let-down after all the prehistoric hijinks.
Our last stop more than made up for Rushmore's lameness. Matt Seney (remember the snake-handler from Journal Six?) used to work at this local attraction called Reptile Gardens. He wanted to give us a backstage tour of the joint, but due to a flash storm (more on that later) he was stuck back at the dig site in Hulett. Fortuitously, the waitress we had at lunch knew a guy who worked at the Gardens, so she hooked us up with a backstage tour anyway!
There was something poetic about ending our dinosaur trip with a visit to their descendents. This komodo dragon certainly bore a striking resemblance to his ancestors. He was pretty relaxed, but his head would perk up every time children came up to the glass.

Our tour guide introduced us to a baby alligator who quickly became my new best friend.

There was a croc handler who gave a presentation in a pen with an assortment of fifteen crocs and alligators. He'd drag em out of the water by their tail and wrestle them to the ground. Amazingly enough, he still had both arms and legs; I don't think he'd have had as much success in a pen with Deinosuchus (whose name means terrible croc). Just for reference, here's a picture Zack took of a modern man-eating croc's skull inside the jaws of the dino-eating Deinosuchus.

Meanwhile, back at the dig site...

Remember that storm I mentioned? Well, while I was cuddling up with my new gator pal, our friends at the Waugh ranch were being slammed by a massive hail storm. We had seen the storm front amassing earlier in the day, before we left camp. Since the only road out of camp was a two-mile dirt road, we said some hastey good-byes to all our friends so we could hit the road before the storm made it impassable.
A mere two hours after we sped off, hail the size of softballs began pelting the camp, smashing nine of ten car windshields.
We heard of one family who also decided to hit the dirt road before the storm washed away. They packed up their tent, their digging gear, bone fragments and dog. But they forgot one thing as they zipped away from the camp in their RV: their eight year-old son! He was still at the camp site in the hail! Everything turned out alright; they went back for him and no real harm was done. But imagine being abandoned by your family and left in this (thanks to my buddy Amar for the great footage!):

Thus ended our first great dinosaur hunt. As you can see, it was an amazing time, and we all made some fantastic friends with dino-lovers from all over the world. For any of you,who are interested in going on a dinosaur dig yourself, I highly recommend contacting the fine folks at the Black Hills Institute and volunteering for next year's Waugh Dig. You don't need any experience (heck, I'd never been camping!), just a love for everything prehistoric.
From left: Holly Barden, Oguchi Shota, Zack Keller, Amar Dosanj, Greg Dykstra, Chuck Waite, yours truly, and Brandon Hyman.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"One does not simply walk into Mordor."
"Not with ten thousand men can you do this..."
" is folly."

Friday, August 14, 2009

My entries for this week's Character Design (or Chades) Challenge, which was to draw perspiring automatons:
"You sure you should be in here, Lew?"

Help Waldroid find and destroy Waldo once and for all!

I thought it'd be fun to see one of Ashley Wood's creations hunt down Waldo, I know I used to sweat as a kid whenever I was hunched over one of those damned puzzles. If you designed any sweaty robots, let me know so I can post your design. Next week's drawing challenge is an entirely new game:


The challenge is based on the votes of this week's polls: "Once there was a...", "Who...", and "So they could...". This week, there was a tie between: "Once there was a baby-stealing goblin who chased rabbits the size of asteroids so they could shoot an award-winning documentary," and, "Once there was a baby-stealing goblin who sailed the seven seas so they could shoot an award-winning documentary." So feel free to illustrate either (or both) stories.

Since this is a tall order to fill, I'll give you guys a couple weeks to work on it. Post your documentary-shooting, rabbit-chasing/sea-sailing, baby-stealing goblins by Friday, August 28. Sketch greatly!

I also thought it'd be fun to include a little interview with each of the drawing challenges, to offer insight into each artist's work method. The first conversation is with an old pal of mine from school: Laika storyman, fellow CalArts alumnus, and all-around highflyer, Vi-Dieu Nguyen.

Interview with a Genius I: Vi-Dieu Nguyen

me: hey-o
Vi-Dieu: yo
me: mind if I interview you?
Vi-Dieu: do it
me: I'm going to post an interview on each Chades Challenge
Vi-Dieu: ok
me: starting with you mon frere
Vi-Dieu: great
I'll try to be controversial
me: awesome
How do you balance cartooniness and realism in your work?
Vi-Dieu: I try get a certain "feeling" with my drawings. so if it feels too much like hanna barbera then I'll try to add more classical influences
me: nice
What is your favorite thing about drawing?
Vi-Dieu: getting lost in it. flo
ever heard of that term? flo?
me: nope
Vi-Dieu: it's when you get in that groove
me: that's what I figured
Vi-Dieu: like being addicted to the act of creating
me: Do you think about style or how other artists might approach this subject as you design?
Vi-Dieu: both. other artists do certain things so well, but again, I have to be "me," so ... actually, if I think of other artists, I like to use the lesser known ones to reintroduce the old to modern times
or 'hidden artists'
me: I'll let you keep your resources a secret
Vi-Dieu: haha
no, you don't have to. I advertise them all the time
me: How much does composition play into a gag? Do you rework drawings for better clarity or workout the thumbnail first?
Vi-Dieu: sometimes. sometimes the first drawing comes out nicest. but if I want to convey something clearly, then yeah, I'll rework it. but sometimes it's just about having fun
me: How do you decide when a drawing is finished?
Vi-Dieu: when I can't figure out what else to do with it, it's finished. or if I get tired of it
me: haha sounds like my approach
Vi-Dieu: yep
me: okay, last question
What makes a good drawing?
Vi-Dieu: I want to say something really generic, but for me, a drawing can be wonky and stiff and still be a good drawing...I love a drawing that has something interesting about it. if a drawing is interesting to me, I think it's a good if it fits with things I find interesting at the time
me: I'll make sure to do more drawings of cosmonauts.
Vi-Dieu: haha
me: Thanks man, good answers!
Vi-Dieu: well, for example I'm getting into audobon. if you look him up, you'll "ah, of course Vi would like that"
your welcome
that was fun
I will return the favor someday
me: I'll make sure to be crass.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Louis Gonzales instructed our gesture class today. He started the session off with, "All that I ask today is that you focus on angles. Forget about anatomy, forget about fingers and toes, I know you can draw em. What I want is the angles, the main idea of the pose. And proportion would be the second thing."
"You've got thirty seconds to nail the pose."
"Draw each pose twice. Try something different the second time around. Push the idea further or explore a new approach."
"I'm sorry if you came here hoping to make a pretty drawing. That's not what we're doing, today."
Every time I started getting caught up in anatomy, Louis would pause and sketch a far more pushed, clear, interesting version of the pose next to my drawing. It was a healthy slice of humble pie.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Part Six of The Jurassic Journals
The last two days of the dig, Pete reassigned us from the gruelingly fruitless F Quarry to the bountiful A Quarry. My first assignment was cleaning up a bit of camarasaurus vertebra recently unearthed by the bobcat tractor.

The Faileontologists' response to being reassigned to A Quarry:

One day, after returning to the mess hall after a long day of digging, we came upon a crowd gathered around Matt Seney (the dude facing camera, in front of the van).

He had found a baby rattlesnake and was handling it with a hook in one hand while smoking a cigarette in the other. Matt used to work at a local theme park called Reptile Gardens. He informed us that, while baby rattlers are dangerous, it is a myth that they inject more venom than an adult. They inject a higher percentage of their venom, but because they have smaller venom reserves to begin with, a high percentage of their venom is about as much as a small percent of the adults'.

Matt also caught a scorpion. He showed us how the dromopods glow in the dark under a black light. Matt was quickly becoming my hero. Later, while a group of us were playing paleo-poker in the mess hall, we heard Matt utter, "Oops." We turned around to find him holding an empty cup and squinting at the gravel on the ground. We played the rest of the hand standing on our benches.

Every bench, table, outhouse, and shower stall was covered in graffiti. Here's my contribution.

Zack, Brandon, UK students Holly and Amar, and I decided to take a break from the dig and head into Hulett, Wyoming for some R'n'R. Our first stop was a local dive called the Ponderosa Bar. We played Thriller on the juke box in Michael Jackson's honor, and were amused to see two of the older local gals doing the zombie dance at the bar.

Zack and I tought the brits how to play Purple Rain, the greatest game since Telephone Pictionary.

We decided to visit Devil's Tower at night in hopes of spotting a spacecraft. We brought some Wild Blue, a blueberry-flavored beer and local favorite. After your first sip of Wild Blue, you smile and exclaim, "Tastes like a muffin!" By the end of the bottle, you're frowning and staring at the remaining dregs of beer as you mutter, "Tastes like a muffin." Honestly, when's the last time you felt the urge to dunk your blueberry muffin in beer? Despite the other-worldly flavor of our booze, there were no extra-terrestrials to be found. Still, it was an awesome experience, I could almost hear the John Williams.

Back to business! I make my most important discovery on the dig: a small theropod toe bone! Since theropods (being carnivores) are rarer than herbivores, and a toe-bone indicating the possibility of a body close-at-hand, Pete said this find earned me "the right to come back next year."

And Greg finds a ginormous camarasaurus toe claw, which makes him an instant legend. Pete says Greg definitely earned the right to come back next year as well. A Quarry rocks.

"Don't mess with me, man. I'm a scientist."

Tune in next week for the stunning conclusion of The Jurassic Journals:
Everything Prehistoric
The Storm

Friday, August 07, 2009


Above is my contribution (yeah, I had a little help from M.C. Escher) to one of my favorite blog games, James Gurney's Art By Committee. James challenges his readers to illustrate random excerpts from old sci-fi manuscripts. If you're into fun drawing challenges, you should check it out!

If you have some weird aversion to sci-fi texts, you can always contribute to my weekly drawing game, the Chades Challenge. Next week's challenge is


Everyone is welcome to participate and design their own perspiring automaton; just post a sketch on your blog and leave me a comment with your blog address. I'll post the oodles of doodles here on the Translation each Friday, along with the subject of the next challenge, so make sure to check back to see what everyone has done.

Thanks to everyone who contributed this week to Chades Challenge XX: Cheshire Cats. Here are the twisted tricksters for your viewing pleasure: