Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Following the ghost...

These excerpts from my story involve the girl chasing after the spectre of her dead friend on the horizon, only to find something altogether different at the top of a pile of boats. More to come soon!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Karma Chameleon: Start to Finish

I took my very first Skillshare class recently. I recommend it for its breadth of courses, good teachers, community feedback and low cost. This particular course was taught by Charlie Bowater, a talented concept artist with a very charming British accent. What follows was my progress for the month:

Karma Chameleon

Updated Fri, Nov 22nd 2013
Greetings and salutations beautiful peeps!

This is my first Skillshare class and I'm really blown away and humbled by the talent here. As someone who's always loved character design and dabbled in it, I relish the chance to be able to delve into it more seriously.

My main theme here concerns an ancient civiliization that combines animal spirits and a synthesis of Mayan, Chinese and Japanese mythology. The characters here are all following paths that lead to the same destination, but have different motivations for getting there. The world they live in is out of harmony and it's reflected in the weapons, magic and strengths/weaknesses they possess.

Here is my first round of thumbnails. It's probably more detailed than it needs to be, but I love erasing just as much as I love laying down brushstrokes. I would like to do another round when I have a breather, then onwards to the selection process! I welome any comments and feedback meanwhile.

As promised, here is my second round of thumbnails from the same universe. I feel like it took a slightly different direction, perhaps more sword n' sorcery, but I still wanted to have this frailty and subjugation aspect of it that these characters are trying to break free from.

Happy Halloween everyone! I feel like this is the perfect community to share our little monsters with :) Here are the choices I went with for refinement. Thank you everyone for weighing in. With so many beautiful projects here, I'm appreciate any time you give me and will do the same for you.

I think I mainly went for these puppies because they have the most opportunity for something dynamic, strange yet familiar all at once. I'm now vascillating between the bookend characters. What do you think?

I definitely made some choices here with the Variation stage. Hopefully, one of them jives more than the others. Influence wise, I think the classic, beautiful Thai stylings of the Mandarin Spawn action figurefrom the late 90's came through for the middle figure. For the gender swap, I was channeling some kind of anime couture, or perhaps a more down to earth Bayonetta.

Due to some great community encouragement and feedback, I finally have this finished character to show. In the end, he comes out to be both an angel and demon. I decided to meld attributes from the first two variations that seem to resonate best with the character in terms of gesture, clothing and silhouette. I hope I made good choices!
I also included some closeup detail on the face for you to see as well.

Thank you all once again for the great critiques and helping me with the forward momentum. I hope to do more of these and continue to share progress with you. I look forward to seeing all your great works as well!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Whirling Dervish - Made with Mischief

This whirling dervish was my first attempt using a revolutionary piece of software called Mischief. If you're actively in or dabbling in digital these days, it behooves you check out this game changer. In essence, you can paint like you do in Photoshop/Sketchbook Pro, but have all the possibilities of vector scalability at the same time in Illustrator/Flash. Best of both worlds. http://www.madewithmischief.com/


In the spirit of catching up, here are all my entries for Inktober collected in one posting. It was definitely a mixed bag from my point of view, but it's a great way to create some discipline in the creative flow of life and keep one honest. I'm not on a Daily Doodle list from which I will start sharing work here as well.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Moments of connection...

I apologize for neglecting this space of the world for awhile now, as I've been more active on my Facebook fan page. Having said that, I have been spending weekly time with my characters, drawing them connecting with loved ones and their animal spirits. Some of it has been inspired by movies I've seen as a child, being embraced in my own life and watching strangers connect in various ways. It's ultimately a very comforting subject to work on, even full well knowing that tackling the themes of loss and letting go will be right around the corner. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Anatomy of a Scene - Baobab Tree - Part 2

As promised, here's how my first pass at the animation of the Baobab sequence is going. There is still work that needs to be done in regards to the motion/timing of certain elements and the animation of the girl within the music notes, but the emotion is present.

The song is "Daniel" by Bat for Lashes.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Anatomy of a Scene - Baobab Tree - Part 1

An update on "Cradle the Sun" is long overdue, but rest assured I've been working on it. I thought I'd take this opportunity to delve into both illustration and animation.

Today, we're going to start tackling the Baobab tree sequence of the story. This is where the boy finds the source of the ancient music that pulls him out of his sadness. My aim here was to really give the tree a reassuring presence from first sight. The reader/audience is discovering this place along with the boy, hand in hand.

I started off with several different iterations of this tree, the composition and finally settled on the Baobab. It's known as the tree of life and is positively mythical looking in physical size and grandeur. This was the sketch I was finally satisfied with.

1. Using this sketch as a template, I started to lay down the major shapes of the tree in solid colors in Photoshop in different layers. I do this upfront so that I have options when I start animating the scene in terms of z-depth.

2. The reason why I lay down solid colors is because it allows me to utilize them as masks for texture, shading and lighting. I model and use various brush strokes and varying opacities to approximate the feeling of a Baobab trunk. Most importantly, I use a lot of visual reference here while still making it my own.

3. Next up, I worked on creating a rounded hill for it rest on.  I wanted it to feel a surreal and water like, so I chose a very specific brush to ground everything. The long term benefit of this choice is that it also allows for the water themes of the other story to seep in subconsciously. I chose to tone down the hotness of the tree, so everything could feel more unified. I still have to do more work on the color of the grass, but all in good time ;)

4. The sky had to feel different here from the previous frames, for the same reason that I said earlier in regards to the water theme. It also serves as a counterpoint to the punishing heat and violence to the earth, like a literal break in the clouds. It was really fun to paint these fluffy little clouds, Bob Ross style!

5. Time for some warmth and rim lighting. Light to me, is nature's way of speaking to us, which is probably why I place such an emphasis on it in my work.

6. Last but certainly not least, our little boy has to make an entrance. If you look at the original sketch, the pose is different because I felt it was too stilted and staged. I wanted there to be a little lilt in his body, listening intently on the music. A few birds never hurt to break the landscape either.

7. Although I previously cooled down the tree, I wanted to bring some warmth back into the overall plane, but sparingly so your attention is still focused on the two central characters.
(Sidenote: The funny thing is saving versions of this file, I almost lost it altogether and was weirdly wise enough to back up a nearly done version on a USB drive. That's why if you look at this shot, it looks slightly different. I actually prefer it.)
In the next few installments, I will be working on illlustrating/animating the abstract music notes coming from the conch, filling out the field, and making this puppy sing!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ludovic et Gregoire sur la plage...

I was watching a fine French tutorial on character design by Aurélie Neyret. I was so under the spell of her Gallic ways, I could not help but draw something in that European whimsical world. Yes, pantaloons and striped shirts will always be featured.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mama's Day

In my mum's favorite dreams, she experiences the joy of flight, as if it's an everyday thing. Here's to all the moms who lift our spirits, hearts and mind miraculously on an everyday basis.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Writing - Inner Voice

Writing - In connecting with a character, I sometimes write in his/her inner voice. This would never make it into a book, but it's my way of giving the character an internal life. This takes place during a turning point in the story:

"The sound… a breeze and a blanket at the same time, holding me close. I still can't stop crying, but this time it's because I know I'm not alone. Before I even turn my head, I can feel the music pulling me. A song I've never sung or heard, but has always been inside me. Deep in the heart of a half remembered dream. I know you. Please show me your face. In return, I will show you everything I have left in my heart."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Birds of a Feather Episode 3

I recently got back from a short trip to Maui and was able to spend some time with adorable critters, amphibious and mammal alike. If you look closely, you will spot a bird called the Java Finch. This is third candidate for my bird spirit!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Birds of a Feather - Episode 2

As promised, here's another bird for you to take a gander at as a possible candidate for the girl's story. The red-tailed hawk is very near and dear to me, as they like to glide outside my window every day. They thankfully force me to unplug and admire them in all their galactic glory.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Concept Art - Boat Sequence

Silhouettes - If you took some of your favorite cartoon characters or even movie icons and only saw them as black silhouettes, I would bet dollars to donuts you could still identify them. Such is the power of a good silhouette.

This piece of quick and dirty concept art was a way for me to see how best to construct a set for my girl character to climb to the top of. Which of these feel most foreboding or monumental?

I made these boats into custom brushes, so that I could make many boats at different sizes and shapes to create the preceding pieces. Photoshop custom brushes are often a great way to go when it comes to prototyping a scene without overthinking things too much.
This scene was inspired by a tsunami documentary I saw recently where you saw dozens of boats just stacked up against each other. I heightened them here for dramatic purposes, as I wanted the girl to be able to really climb a tall structure, for what she sees at the top needs to be seen from a wide angle. Not to mention the act of climbing can be a metaphor for moving on and upwards.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cradle the Sun & Moon: Introduction to Concept

Cradle the Sun & Moon: Intro to Concept from Kevin Ang on Vimeo.

Here is a video of yours truly talking briefly about where the story began and just exactly how the two characters interweave in the form of a book. Thank you for watching!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Moral Premise

Forgive the chicken scratch, but this is a card that sits on my desk to remind me why I'm working on this story. It reads:

"No matter where you are in the universe,
kindness is only a breath away,
in the space of a thought,
and limited only by our imagination."

My Children

 Here are the two kids in my life right now. They truly are more than just characters to me, as I've lived with them on paper and tablet, within the written word and in the quiet moments. They have no names and I never intend to give them ones. I just know that with the integral help of my writing group and Picture Book Club (more on these beautiful people in a later post), my kids talk to me in their real voices communicating their heart's dreams, fears and hopes. I love them very much.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Storyboarding from the hip...

Storyboarding as a craft is a wonderful way to synthesize directing, cinematography and editing. I've been a storyboard artist for the healthcare and tech industry for several years now. It's allowed me to use visual thinking as a way to communicate concepts, the mechanisms of pathology to different types of audiences. But I've rarely had the opportunity to tell an emotional, more personal story. "Cradle the Sun" has given me that chance.

One of the first distinct images to take hold was of a sun drenched field of empty shoes outside a thatched hut. It was inspired by a pair of shoes that I saw sitting neatly yet forlornly beside a wall. It left me with so many questions. It was as if its owner just drifted away into the sky. It made me think about disappearance and what impact that would have on the boy in my story. I could see him hiding, the most scared little boy in the world, not knowing what the light of day holds. From there, I was off and running with his story.

Funnily enough, the image of the shoes never made it back into the current work. In fact, there are many frames and thumbnails that never made the final cut. That's the beauty of storyboarding. With very little overhead, you can quickly see if not only the pacing is right, but if you're hitting the emotional beats in the process. You can actually still spot the shoes in my first pass below. Conversely, you can also see how close some shots have stayed in spirit to my final piece.

What a Big Dummy

There are two big lessons I've learned in boarding for a picture book. One is that the art of the page turn in children's books is paramount. In feature films, it's the closest thing to creating a suspenseful or surprising sequence for an audience. Although I had it in the back of my head, I really didn't get it until I had gone through a whole slew of sketches and tried to collate them into a rough dummy. The results, though not a total disaster, still felt awkward because it was clear that I was not putting myself into the shoes of a reader and being conscious of how they would physically interact with the story. The page turn is very unique to the world of picture books and it forced me to compose differently and think more deeply about anticipation.

What's a dummy you may be asking? Without going into too much detail, it's essentially a mock-up of your book that you can send to a publisher. If you're curious to find out more, here's a great write up courtesy of Yellapalooza.

The other lesson that I gleaned from the experience of boarding my story is that boarding itself is sometimes not the best path. Although it worked out relatively well for the boy's side, it actually was a real struggle when it came to the girl. When I workshopped the whole piece at the conference, it became very evident how unfocused her side was and that major revisions were needed. It is only now that I can say that I have a better grasp of her voice and story. But that's only because of having joined a writing group and letting her tell her own story. But that, my friends, is for another day, another posting.

Thank you for reading!