Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Yeah, I know. Its getting redundant.  Holidays and whatnot.  I apologize, Geek Nation. I will be posting  frequently soon.

 I just finished up a contract with a swank group of folks out in Santa Monica that goes by the name of  Moyo Studios.  They were a great group to work with and I got to work in 3D, which was a nice break from my usual schedule of  Photoshop. I will give more info as soon as the game is officially announced.

I have a couple movie reviews to toss at you soon, so look forward to or wince in anticipation of depending on your disposition toward film critiques.

My good buddy Tyler Rhoads has given his pet project, the web comic Looking for More, a shot in the arm and has been blogging regularly the past several weeks.   If you notice the familiar Knights End logo on Kirks shirt or recognize the name from earlier blogs its because I worked on it initially but due to a habit of keeping to many irons in the fire wasn't able to give the project the attention it deserved. Although, I have to thank Tyler a great deal because it was this web comic project that spurned me on to work/hone my skills beyond simple professional interest, renewed my passion for art and set me on my quest for the perfect line (and caused the birth of this blog). Sorry, tangent.  LFM.    The scripts are fantastic and the initial art designs with the new artist looks great, so get excited about seeing it online soon.

Christmas was excellent this year. Lots of quality time with all of the family and everyone seemed to be full of holiday cheer despite a hard economy and high unemployment.  I got some incredible swag that just impressed the heck out of me.


A few of the highlights.  A Stay Puft piggy bank, Tron Legacy ornament, blade runner umbrella, some great Dr who related stuff (yes that is a Tardis drawn on a page from a 160 yr old Austrian dictionary), a tea set (shut up), duct tape wallet, charlie brown nativity scene, self gifted vintage Madballs and a signed copy of Clive Cusslers newest novel.  The Cussler book was a big surprise considering the person who purchased it for me didn't realize that I liked autographed books, nor that he was my favorite author up until I graduated college and discovered Neil Gaiman and Jim Butcher (Cussler is still pretty high on the list).

And last, because this is an art blog after all, here are a few items from recent art tests for your viewing pleasure. They were all to be done in the styles of other online games.  I would tell you the games, but if you can't tell at least two of them just by looking at them then I didn't do a very good job.




And, last last, random website that I stumbled upon today which belongs to a gent whose pixel artwork just blows me away.

Keep on having a great holiday week, fellow scribblers.

Monday, November 8, 2010

White noise

Sorry for the lack of content lately, ladies and germs.  I have been pretty booked up with Halloween happenings, contract work on a couple of Nintendo titles and a few art tests for a couple of studios in LA.  I've also had three new titles that I worked on hit the streets.  Two Sesame Street learning games hosted by Elmo and Cookie Monster and a Diego Mega Bloks title that I was the lead artist on.  Keep on sending those positive vibes my way, they are very much appreciated.  

I recently set up a twitter account in order to increase my online visibility, so check me out @KnightsEndFilms.  Also, today I found out that the Ex-High Geek of the blog Geek Orthadox, the man responsible for me embracing my inner nostalgia geek, has started a couple of new blogs.  Hey, check out my Art and Hey, check out my toys.  Check em out!

I have been taking much to long getting the purchase order together for the Missouri Film Alliance of Springfield gear purchase.  They have some grant money they are putting to spectacular use by getting enough gear to make sure the local indie and semi professional film makers never have an excuse for not having the right tools for the job.  A pair of Canon 7Ds with the works will make sure anyone can have the look of a million dollar movie for the low low price of a membership to the Alliance.  Check out their website here.  Membership and hourly rental fee for a week combined still wont cost you what it would take to rent this gear from any studio.

Well wishes to any of those fellow scribblers who are participating in National Novel month!  The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel by midnight on November 30th.  Unfortunately I have only been able to sit still long enough to put in about 200 words on mine, so I am hoping the last half of the month will have my muse pouring himself out via my keyboard.  Which reminds me, he has been tinkering with the idea of a video blog entry here.  I haven't decided yet if I want to free him on the populace of the internet.

A random note of pride.  This past Wednesday my mother finally got to watch Winters Bone.  I was unable to answer the phone when she called, but according to her message when she saw my name in the credits she was so giddy that she didn't realize she was crying until several moments after the fact when she noticed the tears tickling her cheeks.  Apparently seeing your son's name on a movie that came from Netflix instead of one of the ones he has burned himself makes the whole event far more real.  Either way mom, much love and thanks for the support.  

I leave you with this image, True Believers.  Follow its heed whatever your creative outlet may be.  If you don't, Batman will get you.

Batman wants you to do art!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tentacle Monster

A quick monster for Halloween I painted while waiting for a phone call.


Girls of 80's Animation Piece 1----Janine from the Real Ghostbusters!

Considering this is my second work ever in Painter I am incredibly happy with the results.  As I mentioned before I wanted to combine two things that I love, the classy Gil Elvgren style pin-up girls and the animation that I grew up with.  Let me know what you think!


Also, a couple of quick sketches.  A suddenly fearful flamingo, and a scribble of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory (which I will argue is the best sitcom currently on television).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blackwing 2.0 Test Drive Results

I am pretty sure I was one of the first, if not the first, to get in an order of the new Palomino Blackwings.  I shouldn't be proud of this considering it meant I was on their website at 1am hitting refresh every minute or two until they became available at 1:15.  Naturally for all of my eagerness to get a box of them it then took me several days before I had a chance to sit down and give them a decent test drive.

First off, the temporary gift box packaging they are currently shipping with is awfully pretty.  Simple and sleek, it wouldn't jump off the shelf at anyone who didn't know it was a Blackwing without reading the gold band, but for online orders I would keep the pencils in this package.

*the smurfs unload the first pencil under the watchful eyes of their Azure Overlords.*

Upon opening the box, the scent of cedar hit me and I admit to a little nerdish twinge of glee.  I sharpened one of the Blackwings with my old school pencil sharpener and proceeded to create a quick sketch that involved lots of random pencil strokes just to see how smooth the lead was on the paper.  I was surprised at how well the point did glide across the paper, not miraculously so but more than I can remember from any other pencil I have used.  The eraser performed remarkably as well, completely erasing all but the deepest gouge.  Also, as to their claims of no crumbling graphite I found that even when pressing so hard as to worry about breaking my lead (leaving the aforementioned gouge) there were almost no errant flecks of lead to smear my work.  Living up to promises, I am impressed.

Still living off of my Legend of the Guardians high, I drew a grumpy old horned owl as my first Blackwing artwork.

Really, the only cons are stylistic and financial.  $20 for 12 pencils seems a little on the high side.  I am too much of a Missouri boy to see spending $1.66 on a single pencil as a deal.  Of course, that said I just purchased a single original Blackwing from an exceptionally talented writer for the New Yorker  at almost the same price as a box of the new pencils, so perhaps I am a hypocrite.

The stylistic issue could be considered minor if not for being so closely associated with the Blackwing name. I am referring to the motto that used to be stamped onto the side of every Blackwing.  'Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed.'  It just doesn't feel quite like the real deal without it.  The owner of California Cedar posted something about their reasoning having to do with it not being scientifically accurate, you cannot physically get something at twice the speed with half the pressure.  And half the pressure as compared to what?  How would they measure such a thing?  Personally, I think someone messed up in the trademark department and they weren't able to successfully get the old motto and now they are putting out some silly jibber-jabber  explanation as to why.  I hope that future runs of the pencil end up with the golden motto, if for nothing else to ensure the new pencils carry on the long tradition without being a mere 2nd best replacement.

The Boston Globe did a great article on the Blackwing which you can see here. 

Micheal Leddy did a review of his Blackwings as well.

My overall review is a A- with high hopes that a simple change or two could put them at the head of the class.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Don't you...forget about me....

Rachel and I celebrated our two year anniversary this year the same as we did last year which is the same as how we celebrated surviving the stress that is a wedding day, by going to see a bunch of movies back to back.  The first years movies were almost all terrible.  The 3D misfire Igor is the only one I can even vaguely remember.  Last years movies were almost all awesome, Whip it, ZombieLand and Where the Wild Things Are.  Wild Things was the lemon of the three, I thought it was terrible.  Okay, it was visually intriguing but I felt like I was being doused in Emo the entire time and came out feeling slightly suicidal.

This year we hit two movies,  Easy A and the Legend of the Guardians.  I hadn't really noticed a decline in the number of people attending the movies until that night as both of the theaters were completely empty save for us. True, it was a Monday night but one of those suckers was a 500 seat auditorium.  You would think there would at least be a bored concession worker in there.

Easy_A (1)

 Easy A stars Emma Stone as a girl who lets a lie about loosing her virginity help out a gentleman friends popularity.  However, things get out of hand and she quickly becomes the school harlot via rumor alone.  She handles it as any sassy teen would.  Inspired by the English Lit class reading assignment The Scarlet Letter, she sews a red A onto all of her wardrobe.

Okay, from that description alone it doesn't sound like that incredible of a film.  I can't argue it.  Honestly, the main selling point for me was Emma Stone as I have an undefinable crush on her (see Zombieland the year before).  Look at her, can you blame me?


However, shock of all shocks was when I caught a John Hughes reference...and then another, and another.  Then there was a flat out discussion about how love in real life isn't like a John Hughes movie.  The whole film turned out to be an homage to the 80's brat pack films from John Hughes, right down to the redhead lady in the lead.  Not only that, but it was a good homage!  I'm not kidding.  It had interesting characters, compelling story and the characters grew over the course of the film. The characters had an arc!  I know, wild right?

Seeing this sort of character arc shouldn't be so shocking in its rarity, but it seems that more often than not studios are cutting out character development for more explosions and breasts...although, thankfully, not for exploding breasts.  More often than not in popcorn cinema the character is witness to an event or a 'truth' and either instantly or over the course of a fifteen second montage walks away a changed person.  See the film Knocked Up for an easy example.  However, I am a sucker for a well rendered character and will gladly watch a plotless film for interesting characters.  For instance, I loved the Big Chill.

An added rarity is that the film was made for a mere 8 million even though it had no less than a half dozen above the line actors/actresses in it.  It was also a spec script, meaning someone wrote it simply for the want of writing a good story and then sold it when a studio read it and despite it not being based on a book or a foreign film or having Redemption, Return, Resurrection or even a simple 2 at the end thought it would be a good bet.  It paid off, their 8 million has already brought in 45 million and counting.

So, Easy A gets an A+ in my book.  Need more convincing then check out the trailer below.

Easy A Trailer

Go into the Story has an excellent write up on Easy A and why they believe it has done so well.

As I said, the second film we watched was the Legend of the Guardians.  How cool can a movie be about a bunch of owls?  Pretty flippin cool is the answer. The average 'hey mom, bring your kids to a movie' poster is below.


However, the image they should be promoting is this one.

legend of the guardians-the owls of gahoole-3

The aerial battles in this film were mind blowing!  Also, this is the first 'in 3D' film I have seen where the 3D didn't seem tacked on as an after thought.  You know what I mean, that one shot in these movies where an axe or coin goes flying at the camera in an attempt to make the hour and a half you wore those uncomfortable glasses worth it.  Legends uses 3D as an artistic measure, not a bullet point.  They use the third dimension to make you feel claustrophobic, the thrill of flying through a thunderstorm over a boiling ocean, or the chaos of a hundred owl mid air knife fight.  I would expect nothing less than this sort of artistic forethought from the films director, Zack Snyder who brought us exceptional films in the new Dawn of the Dead, 300 and the Watchmen.

Parents bring your kids to see this flick, but expect to enjoy the movie as much as they do.  My only complaint is that I wanted to go out immediately afterward and buy up some battle owl action figures and there were none to be found.

Check out the Legend trailer below.

Legend of the Guardians Trailer

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I had to share these.  A guy doing the redesign for a new Nickelodeon TMNT posted a design for krang on his blog.  He has several other character designs for TMNT on there, I highly recommend any fellow shell-heads to check them out.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blackwing-ing their way to me

For those interested, the new Palomino Blackwing pencils just came available to order about 5 minutes ago.  Yes, I already have some on their way to me.
The first time a Blackwing has been available in stores since 1998.  I hope I am not the only nerd excited.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Morpheus, why hast thou forsaken me?!

For whatever reason the more I am creative and productive, the less easily I fall asleep at night.  Its a snide little punishment my mind plays on me.  When I need to be productive I feel drowsy.  When I have no want to be productive I am wired.  Of course, if I were to try to be productive at 1am, then I would be awake till dawn then my next day is ruined.  Bah.

Currently I am rereading Stephen Kings, On Writing.  I cannot stress how important this book is to the aspiring novelist.  Half of the book is an autobiography of King, from his first memory all the way up 1997 when he wrote the book.  By the time you get around to the portion where he discusses the basic tools of the trade, your newfound insight into who he is allows you to accept his recommendations on writing as a suggestion from a dear friend .  His discussion of his methods are surprisingly real, which sounds cliche but I can think of no better way to describe it.  There is no superfluous language, no putting the 'craft' on a pedestal.  Its work, habit, practice and the ability to accept a negative critique.  His thought experiment of writing as telepathy is worth the price of the book.

 “All the arts depend upon telepathy to some degree, but I believe that writing offers the purest distillation” 

It seems ridiculous; however I cannot argue his hypothesis.  
He says to picture a table, covered in a red tablecloth.  Upon the table rests a cage, and in that cage contentedly munching on a carrot is a white rabbit.  The number 8 is dyed in blue upon the rabbits fur.  

  There.  He had an image, I passed it on to you, now you have the same image.  A bunny in a cage dyed with a blue 8.  The specifics of each object is moot, the point is you thought his minds image even through my poor translation.  Don't take my word for it, read his book.  If you need further urging (and this sort of thing does it for you) apparently they had an homage to this blue numbered white rabbit in an episode of Lost.  

As I said, its a pretty fantastic read even if you don't care for his fiction.  Point of fact, I had never read any of his fiction until after I read On Writing.  Then I pretty much had to.

Recently, I've also been oogling a great number of pencil tests from various 2D animations.  The sheer artistry is always incredible to see in this world of poorly done 3D and flash animation.  The best example of exquisite line work comes from Sandro Cleuzo, a gentleman lucky enough to be trained by Don Bluth and Milt Kahl. On his blog he linked to a vimeo page with some fantastic pencil tests.  

Another good site to hit is http://www.penciltestdepot.com/ .  Its got bits and pieces of all sorts of different artists and genres.

Also worth a watch is a Mickey Mouse cartoon from the 50's series Make Mine Music that was shelved before it was finished.  Its called Plight of the Bumble Bee.  Disney keeps taking the videos of it down because they got tired of people asking them to finish it, but if you hunt for it I am sure its out there in the vastness of the interweb somewhere.

With Halloween right around the corner start expecting to see reviews of horror films that have been reviewed a hundred times before discussed by me.  Hopefully there will be one or two you haven't seen that I can introduce to you.

Sleep well.  I am off to chase ewes with a pot of blue dye and a paintbrush.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed

In every profession, at least when dealing with people who have a love for what they do, it seems there are those who are extremely passionate about a certain physical representation of their obsession.  A voice over artist or musician may have a certain type of mic they refuse to record without, a chef a certain type of skillet, a doctor a special stethoscope.  These items often take on mythical qualities and become akin to a secret password to identify our true brethren from within the crowded auditorium of our respective fields.  For animators and writers, one such item is the Blackwing Pencil.  While it has scores of blog pages devoted to it, my personal favorites are those of the Blackwing Diaries and Andy Wefle (who is also the first person who introduced me to the term scribomechanica so I thank him for that).  

Now, for those that may be reading this blog for its art content you are probably familiar with the Blackwing pencil.  Please be quiet, don't ruin it for the rest of the class and skip ahead a few paragraphs.  However, for those who are not familiar I will expound (plus I like to hear the sound of my own keys clacking).

The Blackwing is an odd looking pencil.  Sporting a slate grey paint job that resisted the normal dulling a pencil gets inside of a pencil bag, it has a squared off shape to keep it from rolling off your desk.  Its most noticeable feature was the eraser which was designed to be removed and flipped around when one end was used up in order to extend the life of the pencil.  From what I have read it became common practice to push the frugality of the instrument even further by putting cut off portions of drawing erasers in as replacement when both ends had been wore down.  Its lead was a graphite wax combination that kept the quality of the line consistent, did not smudge and did not crumble, meaning as you wrote/drew you had a smooth, even line without little flakes of sooty debris messing up your pretty white space.  The waxy consistency of the graphite was what gave the pencil its slogan, 'Half the pressure, twice the speed' stamped with gold foil along its length.

The Blackwing was originally manufactured by Eberhard Faber.  I couldn't find any reference as to when the Blackwing pencil began production, which strikes me as odd considering the ridiculous amount of  devotion pages I was able to find.  Judging by the earliest packaging I would guess sometime in the twenties.  If they were new near that time period, this would make some degree of sense as to why they were so popular with the original Disney animators.  Glen Keene, Ward Kimball, Fred Moore and many other animators of the time were said to always have a couple on hand.  Cecil B. Demille, Raymond Chandeler, and Ernie Kovacs all were known to prefer them.  John Steinbeck, who claimed to go through 20 pencils in a given day, claimed they were the best pencil in existence.  He said they "floated over the paper just wonderfully."        

The Blackwing Pages has an in-depth review of the various iterations of the pencil here.

As they were primarily popular with writers and artist, the Blackwing was never a big seller.  Honestly, what percentage of the population has been made up of scribblers over the past century?  In the 1990s, the company that produced the pencils was bought by Sanford Corp (owner of the Paper*Mate brand as well as many others).  Then in late 1997, the machine that manufactured the pencils broke.  Specifically, the portion of the machine that failed was the bit that created the unusual ferrule that held the eraser into the end.

Considering their average annual production during its later years was 1100 pencils it didn't strike them as a profitable line to keep manufacturing.  So 1998 was the final year you could go out and buy a Blackwing off the store shelf for $.50.

When word of the cancellation traveled around, artists and writers started buying up the pencil as fast as they could.  I have read accounts of some people who would ONLY create with a Blackwing buying up arm-loads of them and storing them in a hall closet.  This created a Tickle-Me-Elmo effect, and what you could buy two for a buck suddenly shot up to $10 bucks a pencil.

Cut to now.  Currently, a single unused Blackwing is going for $40 on ebay (don't go look right now, I don't want you outbidding me on the one I am trying to get).  This means that unless you are Stephen King and your pencil shavings make you money, you have to be a ridiculous scribomechanica enthusiast for this purchase to begin to make sense.  Of course, that said there are plenty of us out there.

Thankfully for my pocketbook, the Blackwing brand has recently been purchased by California Cedar and there is a revival in the works.   I first heard about it on the Blackwing Diaries, and then subsequently BoingBoing.  According to the blog of the owner of the company (or at the very least the blogosphere spokesperson) they will have the new Blackwing available this coming week.  There have been a few changes, most notably the lack of the old slogan stamped into the pencil and the color of the eraser.  Reports from beta testers of the new product swear while a great pencil, the new just doesn't quite match up to the quality of the old.  However, there is a lot to be said about the effects nostalgia can have upon the quality of a product.  I mean, I don't even care for Pepsi but when Throwback Pepsi came out I bought up cases of the stuff, only drinking  it when watching Goonies or Gremlins and swear nothing is as tasty these days.  

Whether as good as the original or the next best thing, I intend to buy a box or two of the new Blackwings just to say I have them.  It will make me feel like part of a special club and foster the delusion that using them will help me be a better scribbler.  It wont be out of the ordinary for me considering I just purchased a reporter style Moleskin and new bottle of ink for my fountain pen just so I could feel more like a 'real' writer*.  Now I just need to sit down and actually use them.  

*Note: scale of delusion may not equal scale of actual talent.

For the curious out there (I had no idea) here is a video detailing how a standard pencil is produced.  

Go out there and scribble like the wind, True Believers.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chances in Heaven

After taking far to long to get it put together, I finally have a trailer for the short film Rain in Hell ready for viewing.  Its a gritty mobster movie written by the talented Mickey Stone. I directed, shot, edited and special effected the short film...what I lack in production speed I make up for in end credits.  :)
  In all seriousness though, it has turned into a pretty spectacular short film. it had top notch acting talents all the way through.  Mickey and Nathan Shelton play the Hayes Brothers, enforcers for a local mob kingpin (played perfectly by Arlin Somers) who has recently passed away.  They know without the fear of the mob boss protecting them, the brothers are about to be in the cross-hairs of every mook out to make a name for themselves.  Also giving incredible performances were the exquisite Rachel Scott, the indomitable Allen Marsh, the brooding Shaun Young and an awe inspiring cast of supporting talent.
  I have to hand it to Mr. Stone for rounding up a superb group of musicians for the soundtrack.  Theolynn Carpenter and The Wardrobe Cathedral lent a couple of songs to our soundtrack.  Without a doubt her vocals have to be some of the most imposing I have heard in a very long time and the texture of their music adds an exceptional quality to the film.
  Beth Thompson also was kind enough to let us use a few of her works, providing an incredibly emotional undertone during a couple of key moments during the film.  You can check out the music video of one of the songs we used here.
  Last but not least Todd Anthony Mandieta lent us use of some powerful guitar work that sounds so natural and pervasive its hard to believe we shot the scenes without his music already in them.
  We are speaking with a gentleman in LA who regularly lends his talent to a few Fox television shows and feature films to compose the score for our feature.   I have been wanting to work on a project with him quite some time, but unfortunately I have never had a project get close enough to completion to get the chance.

There blogspot version of the trailer is only for those who want to scan it quickly, as the quality is terrible.  For a higher resolution and far more watchable version check it out on vimeo.

  For a full list of credits, check out the website raininhell.com.

So, its on me to finish up the feature so we can share that as well.  I have a few special effects scenes to wrap up and then we can send it out into the world.  I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks of it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Glad to see the back of August

August was not a great month. Work was slow, then it up and stopped for a bit. September feels like its starting off well though, so I am excited for the possible progress the month holds. Plus, its raining today for the first time in what seems like at least a month and rain always makes me feel like there is a clean slate.

Anyhow, as far as progress! I have my portfolio website mostly updated for the first time in a year. I am going to add some sprites from the Garfield game that I worked on back in the day and then it will be solid. Also, I have made quite a bit of headway on the feature film that I shot a couple of years ago. I finished the rough edit and I am halfway through the final edit. I am impressed with how well it is flowing considering it was the first feature for everyone involved. But, even with having worked on several features since then, my first still seems like it was one of the best sets I've been on. Winter's Bone is a close second. Organized, on deadline, on budget and an incredible feeling of comradery from all involved. In thinking about promoting it I may start putting snippets of the behind the scenes video that my good friends, Juan Diaz and Nathan Shelton (the producer and one of the actors of the film), shot during their downtime on set. They have about 5 hours of footage and I think it will go a long way to show the dedication and talent the cast and crew had on that pic.

Also, I have made some headway on the effects work for Mickey Stone's film, Rain in Hell. Its a gritty gangster type of movie with a samurai twist. I storyboard'd, DP'd, directed and edited the short. It has some incredible music in it from Theolynn Carpenter and the Wardrobe Cathedral, Beth Thompson and the Shway, and Todd Anthony Mendieta. Also, the acting was top notch. I need to get a trailer together ASAP to put up on the website to start promoting that work as well.

An unfortunate side note, at one point there were four or five Geek blogs that I checked daily for empowering and in depth articles on toys, comics, sci-fi and general geek culture.  However, over the past several months the majority of those guys have had to either slow down their posts or close their blogs entirely due to new babies, new jobs or commercial success ( I know, priorities, right?).  So, I need someone to recommend some new geek/nerd type blogs for me to get my creative juices flowing first thing in the morning.

One blog I recommend folks checking out is a friend of mine who makes delightful hand sewn household items.  She discusses her exploits on her blog, then sells the items on etsy.  As an additional aside, she is one of the best video game producers around.

Before I go, just to show I am doing some real artwork I leave a teasing thumbnail of a series of paintings I am working on inspired by Gil Elvgren (you know, from back when pin-ups were still classy) and the ladies of 80's cartoons.  This journey into Corel Painter has already shown to have better results, so I look forward to showing off the final work.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

3G's Show at 1988

Just a quick post. The gallery 1988 is having a show entitled, the 3G's. Its an art show where everything has to do with my all time favorite three films, the Goonies, Gremlins and Ghostbusters. You can check out some of the art at the link below or a few of the artists in my inspiration well have posted a few of their pieces on their personal blogs.

Check it out!

Scroll down a bit to see this guys poster for the event.

Monday, August 2, 2010

First painter artwork

Below is my first attempt at using Corel Painter. The learning curve is a little bigger than I expected, but it does look a lot like my early acrylic paintings used to, so its accuracy to the medium is pretty close.

Finally, art on an art blog!

I realize that for an artists blog there has been an awful lot of " words " lately. I apologize for that, I just haven't had a lot of Non-Disclosure Agreement art that I could share recently. However, that is all about to change! Bring on the sketchbook art dump!

The next pic is a drawing of myself as an old man, done for an art blog.

Then this is a character concept for my buddy, Tyler Rhoads, web strip LFM. This kat is Neal.

Yeah, that was a little anti-climatic. So, in an effort to promote more content check out some of my links on the right. They are the blogs and websites of writers and artists of various mediums and styles that I find inspirational and check on a regular basis.

Also, the past couple of days I have been trying to pull together a collection of vintage Garbage Pail Kids. So far I have won about 400+ of them on ebay for about 15 bucks including shipping (so much for resale value). While disgusting, a lot of the artwork on some of the earlier cards is pretty impressive stylistically and shows how lacking the current run of Garbage Pail Kids is in artistic quality. So with that in mind, click here for your moment of Zen.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Babies Babies everywhere and Steve Martin with a Banjo

Being about 9 months in from the beginning of last years winter, its babytime in springfield. Of Rachel's sisters, one has a fresh baby girl named Avalon and the other is about to have a baby girl named Hartley (thats my vote anyway). Then our good friends the Darst's are about to have a baby boy, whom I hope remains to be called Catfish although I am sure he will eventually be called John or William or something less fish related. With all of these little ones around I think back to my childhood and wonder if I had been born a couple decades later how much different my life would be. I feel sad for the modern child, growing up in a disposable, Politically Correct, me me me society. Self respect and more importantly, responsibility for ones own actions seem to have fallen by the wayside. So many of the little joys seem to be coming obsolete or considered inappropriate. Kids are having to be forced to play outside rather than going on their own, but you can't travel to far from the yard because you never know who is using facebook to keep an eye on your folks so they know when they can snatch you up. There are legal groups trying to get toys taken out of Happy meals and childrens cereals. Their reasoning (and I am not joking), 'Kids arent bright enough to make informed marketing and nutritional decisions and will pester their parents until they buy them.' Pretty much saying todays parents are completely controlled by their kids and have no say in what their children eat or play with. Again, an odd state of constantly shifting arguments of 'I don't want to take responsibility for the actions of myself or my children' and 'Don't tell me what to do or how to raise my kids.' Its mind boggling.

Plus, I couldn't imagine being nostalgic for the toys, cartoons and video games todays kids have. I know I sound like an old man at the ripe age of 29, but I can look at my toys I still have and easily remember my childhood with remarkable clarity. Todays youth culture doesn't seem to be given any type of property that will have any retention value. All of the toys are either rip offs of some decade old japanese cartoons whose entire philosophy is creating as many variants as possible and then making the catch phrase 'gotta buy them all', or anime reimagined versions of toys I had as a kid. The cartoons are more Japanese redubs or crappy flash or 3D animations that have no soul to them. Not to mention, there are almost no Saturday morning cartoons anymore. Used to be you would get up at 730 and have back to back cartoons until noon. Now you have a 8-930 window if you are lucky. And the video games? I somehow cant see being misty eyed remembering an xbox or ps3. The 80's were a time where girls toys celebrated being a girl, hearts and flowers, and all of the toys boys would ask for christmas had a certain gross out factor. Madballs, Garbage Pail kids, My pet Monster, Boglins and mutants. And all of them came with a can of ooze, whether it was Ghostbuster, Ninja Turtle, or He-man. There was one rule to live by, never put Moss Man or Grizzlor in the Slime Pit...ever.

At any rate, cool thing this past week. Steve Martin, yes that Steve Martin, was in Lampe, Missouri as part of his banjo tour. The only reason I can think he ended up at an outdoor ampitheater in Lampe was that when he began his standup career 40 years ago he played there (he mentioned this fact at the beginning of his set) and wanted a certain symetry. Otherwise, there is no reason an intelligent manager would put a place that far out in the middle of nowhere on a tour. Of the 4000-ish seats in the joint, I think they maybe had 1100 full. It was sad. But as Steve said, if all goes well I will only loose $12,000 on this tour. I suppose when you have had his type of success, you can do big things for fun and not profit.

The show in its 3 and a half hour entirety was glorious. Rhonda Vincent played for an hour, then the legendary Earl Scruggs, then Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. They were all incredibly talented, but Martin's combination of comedy and super slick banjo pickin completely blew me away. Also, he gave me a new favorite song that you haven't lived until you have heard, a bluegrass version of 'King Tut.' Although, his song Atheists got no songs was also pretty spectacular. Yes, be jealous that you missed out. Below are some pics from the event. Also, buy the CD if you even think you may like banjo.


May and June were slow months

The majority of May and June were spent with me in bed or easy chair in a crotchety mood popping pain meds due to my back so there was very little of note to be spoken of. I turned 29 in June, which was cool because Rachel threw me a surprise party. However, it was not cool because I spent a celebration of being older using a cane to get around. Bah.

At the beginning of May I did get to see Winter's Bone at the MSU student Union with some of my fellow crew and cast members. This was the first time I had got to see it and I was blown away. It was a remarkable film with some incredibly stunning performances (they are talking oscar worthy) by John Hawkes, Jenn Lawrence and my good friend, Lauren Sweetzer. I could definitely get used to seeing my name roll by in the credits. Its most likely at a theater near you right now, so go and catch it.

As far as professional life, I had one new DS game I was art lead on hit store shelves and (as of last week) another was wrapped up. The one on the shelves is Chuck E Cheese, a shockingly fun and addictive game. For the price, its replay value is completely worth it if you enjoy classic arcade games. I spent a couple weeks of preproduction on this guy researching old video game cabinet designs and layouts to try to make the visual style appeal a little more to parents my age as well as their kids. You can see a video of some of the gameplay here.

The game we just shipped to nintendo's approval department is Nickelodeons Go Diego Go, Mega Bloks Build and Rescue. You can find it on amazon as well, but despite being art lead I want you to know I had nothing to do with the cover art shown on there. I am hoping its just placeholder until they can get some better stuff up, but you never know. It is a pretty fun play, and despite being the 7th or 8th Nickeloden title I have worked on/lead its my favorite thus far. Its a mega man style side scrolling platformer type game where Diego has to go thru mega blok style habitats to gather rescue badges and lost animals. Two of the guys that did the bulk of the sprite animations that really make the game shine were James Rutherford and Zoey Engell. I've never seen either of these guys do anything less than stellar pixel work and they were on their A game for this title.

Almost caught up!

Zombie Survival, a lecture by Max Brooks

April went by with very little to report, outside of the aforementioned injuries. The one very note-worthy event was getting to meet Max Brooks, the son of Mel and the author of the two zombie-phile bibles The zombie survival guide and World War Z. You cant call yourself a zombie lover if you do not own at least one of these books. The zombie survival guide is one of the few books I have owned multiple copies of, because I kept giving mine away.

For those of you who read this blog yet somehow aren't familiar with the zombie lore, The Zombie Survival Guide (from here on referred to as ZSG) is crafted like a traditional survival guide; however, instead of how to survive in the woods its how to survive a zombie uprising. Which, lets face it, is way more handy than learning how to pitch a tent.

World War Z (WWZ) is written as if the zombie apocalypse has occurred and it is years later during societies reconstruction. A military correspondent is gathering reports from various eyewitnesses and survivors in order to craft a comprehensive guide of the world wide disaster for the United States government. I highly recommend the audio book for WWZ as its incredibly well produced, with the actors adding an extra weight to the stories narrative. During my first sampling of the audio book, I have a very scary memory of a road trip where I found myself on a bridge over a lake right around 11pm. About 50 yards from shore, there was a fire burning in the woods. I couldn't see the flames but the smoke was glowing with a dull orange light, illuminating cedar trees from behind, casting them in shadow so they looked like cloaked and hooded giants. On my ipod I had just reached the point in the story detailing how Cuban refugees were being pushed into a shipyard, the living being chased into the ocean by zombies of their families and friends. Trying to reach the relative safety of a few barges and ocean liners a hundred yards offshore, the eyewitness spoke of how the water was deep enough that a zombie could stand on the ocean floor unseen and grab the legs of the people swimming overhead. He spoke with a tremble in his voice that all around him people swimming toward their perceived safety were suddenly jerked out of sight under the crimson waves, never to resurface. The combination of the bizarre destruction I was seeing along this midwestern lake and his incredible testimony left me in a nervous mood for a good 40 miles.

Before I speak about Max Brook's lecture at Missouri State, it is worthwhile knowledge for this story to know that I idolize Kevin Smith and Sam Raimi and based the production style of my first two films after their example. The reason for this necessary exposition will soon be apparent.

Apparently Missouri State University was having a zombie week. How my nerd alarm didnt go off with this happening so close I have no idea. It was simply a matter of luck that I noticed a friend on facebook had posted he was going to see Max Brooks at the student union that very night (a thursday). I thought surely not, I would have instinctually have known the moment Mr. Brooks had bought his tickets to Springfield. But sure enough, he was going to be there that night.

I got a little excited.

And then disappointed when I found that due to this or that only one of my friends was free to see him with me, not even my wife was available. Seats were free, and after his lecture he would sign his books. How could this be passed up?!

I assumed that there would be a ridiculous line considering how awesome he was. I should have recalled that this is the Show Me state, and people only show up early for events when there is a chance they may win a year of smokes or a lawnmower or something. My friend, David Lee, and I got to the union an hour and a half early expecting to be a fair distance back in the line even at that point. However, when we got to the union doors there was no line. Even the majority of the tables near the theater entrance were mostly empty, save one couple seated near the door who when I tossed down my books on an empty table in confusion and dismay simply said, 'You too huh?'

'Yeah, I was sure there would be a line. I'm disappointed in my fellow nerds.'

'Dont feel too bad, we've been here two hours already.'

The doors were locked, so Dave and I sat and read, visited with the slowly collecting group of zomb-geeks and waited for a line to form. After about 45 minutes I saw Max Brooks walking toward the union speaking with who I assumed was the show organizer and being basically ignored by everyone he walked past. The two walked past our table, but stopped within earshot. The show organizer was telling him how after the show would go down.

'We will have a table set up in front of the book store over there for you to sign at. Someone will escort you from back stage to the-'

'Will you excuse me for just one moment?' He interupted her.

He then turned around, walked over to me, put his hand on my left shoulder and with a smile said, 'Kevin Smith, I love all of your movies.'

Then with a wink he turned on his heels and walked into the union theater with the girl.

This proved without a doubt in my mind he was a cool guy. True, I get told I look like Kevin Smith often as most bearded, be-speckled and overweight filmmakers are apt to be, but coming from him somehow it seemed grander. I could have left at that point and still considered the night a good one.

Once they finally opened the doors for the show and he got onstage...well, the lecture was amazing. His wit was astounding as was his grip on the subject matter. This wasn't a how to write a book talk, or my process of writing or even my dad was Mel Brooks ego speech. It was an incredible deadpan lecture on how to survive in a zombie apocalypse. Never once did he even remotely let on as if the content of the book wasn't based in pure fact. A personal favorite line was 'Return of the living dead did for zombies what Adam West did for Batman.' I don't recall ever laughing so hard or being so impressed with someone's speaking ability. It was glorious.

After the show I waited in line for an hour to get him to sign my two books. Luckily I was near the date of a good friend of mine, Nathan Shelton, and he showed up half an hour into our wait. He too is a zombie enthusiast and he brought his copy of WWZ that I had bought him as a birthday gift (along with a short handle crowbar) when it first came out. I had inscribed it with 'Its only funny until its true. Happy Bday." He was somewhat concerned that Mr. Brooks would be annoyed someone else had already signed it.

When I worked my way up in line Mr. Brooks saw me and with arms held wide said, 'Kevin! Its good to see you again!' He signed one book 'Thanks for being a good sport' and the other one 'Survival writing is easy, actual survival is hard' (I had thanked him for writing these survival books for our reference). We spoke breifly about how the WWZ film was coming along. It wasnt coming along at all at the time and he was rightly annoyed at the studio for dragging their feet. Brad Pitt (another Springfield Mo boy) had bought the rights to the books some time back, but the studio had stalled on putting them into production. However, this past week at comic-con it was officially announced production would start in the fall, so hopefully it will be in theaters before you know it.

After I got my books signed Nathan stepped up to give his book to Mr. Brooks to autograph. Once he had seen it, Nathan was quick to point at me to tell Mr. Brooks who had inked the inner page first. However, Mr. Brooks just nodded, smiled and wrote in 'I couldn't agree more' followed by his signature underneath what I had wrote years ago.

Afterwards we got the blurry pic below with Mr Brooks and another of Nathan's friends. I am in focus, as is Mr. Brooks, so I am satisfied with the resulting image.

All in all a terrific night that I will remember forever. I would do everything I could to catch his show if you can, you wont regret it. Unless, of course, you hate zombies in which case you shouldn't be reading this blog.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The long overdue Planet Comicon post

The KC con was indeed awesome. Considering news is still coming from the San Diego Con that ended yesterday, it seems a little silly to even talk about another con, but I have photos and I want to post em. So there.

Like I had said, this year had a pretty decent spread of celebrities from screen and comic book fame. Its rare I go with any intent to spend any large amount of cash on merchandise, but I always have a pocket full of $20s (ie a couple of bills) for autographs. I dunno why, but I dig autographs. Photos, books, comics, whatever. I love meeting the folks that helped create the stories that I love (especially those from my childhood). My prized autograph is from Bruce Campbell and is on my Canon XL2, the camera I used to shoot my first two movies (in eternal post-production). I idolized the Evil Dead films (as well as Kevin Smiths movies) throughout my collegiate career, so having Bruce bless the camcorder I was using to start my film-making career was an amazing moment. But I digress.

The booths were the standard fare of comics and random toys that I had seen 100 times before. No rare figures, nothing from Dr. Who, Dexter, Firefly and almost nothing related to the Big Bang Theory; all things I was really into at the time and wanted some swag to show my interest off. Having fully embraced my inner geek this year, I was hoping to find some figures and toys from my youth, but there was nothing. Not even random MUSCLE men, Ninja Turtles, or Ghostbusters. There were however a couple of really nifty local artist booths, most notably a woman by the name of Anne Quinn from Overland Park who creates pixel images from beads. Considering most of my work in video games has been on the DS, I have spent a lot of time pondering the pixel and how best to get everything I want from a 256 color palette (or even *gasp* a 16 color palette). This gal had some really incredible work, not just video game characters brought to life 10 inches tall in brightly colored beads, but full on portraits of friends, family and beloved pets. Her website, pixelportrayal.com, has a few examples of her work.

After a quick pass around the merch booths, I swung past the artist booths. I was a little disappointed to find that a couple of the bigger names were D-bags. I suppose it could be argued that they earned it, but it seems to me if you have found enough success that fans want to come by and say hi and get a book signed the least you could do would be to give a smile and a couple autographs. There was one gentleman (I wont say who, but he'd been in the industry since the 70's) who would only allow guests to approach his table during two half hour periods each day. During the rest of the time he would work on commissioned pieces only.

I ended up grabbing some art from zombie legend, Arthur Suydam, a bender drawing from Bill Morrison of Bongo Comics and a sketchbook from a Frank Cho style pin up artist, Chad Spilker. There were lots of other artists but most of them I had dropped coin previous years on getting their autographs, so wasnt as keen to get fresh ones. They have the whole list of guests here if you want to peruse em. I also grabbed a few random comics to fill in my collection and the full spectrum of the Light Corps rings from the Green Lantern series, Blackest Night.

I got into a weird moment during the day where all of the celebrities had absolutely no one in line for an autograph. Lou Farrigno was quiet but extremely nice and still could throw the green makeup on and look the part. With Mira Furlan I got flustered talking to her when I first stepped up to get an autograph so kept quiet other than a thank you until she finished signing my Babylon 5 swag to keep from making a (bigger) fool of myself. She had an aura of class that you could feel when you approached her and you couldn't help but know she belonged on the stage.

I had considered not getting Helen Slater's autograph as I hardly remembered Supergirl and had only the slightest recollection of Billie Jean. However, I long ago learned to hit any celebrity panels that went on during my time at a convention (learned by being amazed by the then unknown to me Tura Santana and Dee Wallace at a horror Con years ago), so I swung into Helen's to see what she was about. To say she was an impressive lady would be an understatement. Also, she was shockingly aloof as to her success and popularity (she had a room full of folks in Supergirl costumes) and spoke of some incredibly interesting moments with Peter O'Toole. She seemed genuinely surprised she was seen as a very strong female roll model for girls of the 80s, what with Supergirl and Billie Jean. I had read an article just a couple of days prior discussing how Billie Jean was one of the first films to feature a strong female lead that didn't rely on beauty or sexuality to attain her goals. After the panel I went back and had her autograph a photo for me and was able to talk with her for a delightful few minutes, making her the highlight of the Con for me.

It was a good time and worth making the drive for. Of course, next year I hope to make it to San Diego.

I have a bunch of photos below, mainly cosplay folks (its not a good con without a Zatanna or Power Girl). As I am horrible for not remembering to bring a camera to conventions, I have swiped all of these photos from friends or fellow nerds who attended, let me know if they belong to you and I will credit you as such.