Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Signing an NDA between myself and Lady Gaga and how it meant my work was shown in the Louvre.

So one cool thing to happen during the recent slow period in the VFX season is that I start picking up random freelance jobs, half the time that I am recommended for by fantastic friends and fellow artists. This time I was put in touch with a gentleman from NY who was working with the Photographer (its a Cap cuz once your work is in enough big time museums you probably earned it) Robert Wilson and Lady Gaga to put her up in the Louvre in Paris.  Apparently it had been a long time desire as a google search pointed to articles for the past three years mentioning her wanting to have some installation involving herself in the centuries old museum.
  With her new album being titled "ArtPop" then the marketing planets aligned and it went into motion.  The installation was a mixture of photography and looping videos put up in rooms throughout the Louvre, and all of the pieces mimicked a piece of artwork that was either nearby or normally seen in the same area.


 I did some compositing and looping on a video that mimicked John the Baptists head on a platter, originally created by Andrea Solari in 1460. You can see my version in the image above.

  A few of these videos were hung in the same room as the Mona Lisa. I have no idea if mine was one of the lucky few, but the possibility of it and my artwork being in the Louvre at all is pretty incredibly awesome for a country kid from Missouri. I've had video work in the MET in New York as a VFX artist, but this is the pinnacle of art museums in my humble opinion.
 I think in total there were around 23 video pieces installed throughout the museum and I am pretty sure there were a couple other John the Baptist segments.  I wished I could have managed a trip over there to see my work hung up in the vicinity of half of my art history book, but c'est la vie.

Bonus Material:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

BeetleJuice 4 hour speed paint.

Beetlejuice was on tv.  My attempt was to speedpaint a frame of Beetlejuice before the movie was over.  I would have managed it if the movie was as long as Lawrence of Arabia.  So, 4 hour speedpaint study in photoshop.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Urban Paranormal Fantasy Series. Who do you love?

My favorite book series is The Dresden Files.  It takes everything that I love from the crime noir genre and mixes in all of the magic and wizardry that I also dig in order to create an incredible world that is close enough to mine to be relatable but fantastic enough to be escapist.  One book involves the detective wizard Dresden riding a zombie Tyranasaurus Rex into battle, which is pretty much a standard level of amazing that this series hits with every novel. Also, Jim Butcher is just an awesome guy.

2013-07-19 12.26.56

I wont waste time writing a synopsis of the series when it has been done by better than myself already.

What I wanted to do was look for more stories of a similar vein so that I have plenty to read in those long cold years between new adventures with Harry Dresden, Murphy and the skull Bob (and how bout that Molly Carpenter, huh?).  I have made a list from a couple sites and forums and wanted your opinions on which you prefer and if there are any that I have missed (I have not read most of these). Of the ones that I have read I have found I prefer those more realistic, set in real locations (Chicago, LA, New York) and are not borderline romance novels (see Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter by the talented Lauren K Hamilton or the True Blood series). Books of paranormal romance have their merits but I want sarcasm and action with any relationship stuff to be a minor component. Very little brooding, no sparkling. Some of these books listed may involve a heavy romance component or not involve an urban setting, but as I said I have only read a few so I do not know for sure.  Feel free to tell me as well as recommend other titles in the comment section!

My current list, in no particular order:
  1. Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore (Okay, I lied. This one is in order as this is one of my favorites so it made the list before the others I have not read.)
  2. Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews
  3. The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan
  4. Iron Druid chronicles by Kevin Hearne
  5. Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
  6. Nightside Novels by Simon R. Green
  7. Wereworld Series by Curtis Jobling
  8. Incryptid by Seanan Mcguire
  9. Feed Trilogy by Mira Grant
  10. The Hallows Series by Kim Harrison
  11. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
  12. The Night Watch Trilogy by Sergei Lukyanenko
  13. The Felix Castor series by Mike Carey
  14. The Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks
  15. The Myron Bolitar by Harlan Corban
  16. The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro
  17. Webmage by Kelly Mccullough
  18. The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen
  19. Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
  20. The Zombie Fallout series by Mark Tofu
  21. The Secret Histories by Simon R. Green
  22. The Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman
  23. The Hellequin Chronicles by Steve McHugh
  24. The Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones
  25. Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony
  26. The Women of the Otherworld series by Kelly Armstrong
  27. Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart
  28. The Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka
  29. The Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine
  30. The Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks
  31. The Black Company series by Glen Cook
  32. The Dark Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  33. Riftwar Cycle series by Raymond Feist
  34. The White Trash Zombie series by Diana Rowland
  35. Tome of Bill series by Rick Gualtieri
  36. The Demon Accords series by John Conroe
  37. The Grimnoir Chronicles series by Larry Correia
  38. The Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy
  39. The Laundry Files series by Charles Stross
  40. The Allie Beckstrom series by Devon Monk
  41. The Greywalker series by Kat Richardson
  42. The Imp series by Debra Dunbar
  43. The Remy Chandler series by Thomas E. Sniegoski
  44. The Anonymous Rex series by Eric Garcia
  45. Norse Code by Greg Van Eekhout (Awesome, but not a series.)
It is by no means a comprehensive list as I assumed it to be a small genre when I first discovered it and constantly find new series to add to the list. After I wrap up reading the Feed series I plan on reading Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicles, which I realize is not urban fantasy but how can you say no to a guy like this?
  (pictured left at SDCC 2013 with fellow Knight, Tyler Rhoads)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

life in the 401st---THE BASICS

For awhile I've been thinking about a list of things I wish I had known long before I had moved from Springfield to LA to pursue a life in the visual effects/art/film industry. Having just wrapped up my most successful year, it seemed like a good time to put it together under my freelancer heading Life in the 401st (My LA area code is 818, Springfield Mo's is 417.  Math in place of creativity.)

Here are the primary bullet points which I will expand upon in future posts. I really hope that you are reading this at around age 20 instead of age 30 when the wonderful obligations one accumulates during life has started to slow you down.  Everything is easier when you are young and you have more time to commit to passions instead of mortgages.

 Start yesterday.  Not when you get your portfolio where you want it. Not when things slow down. Not as soon as you finish that last level of Kill Em All X.  Now.  I dont care what field you are wanting to work in. Illustration, design, VFX, production, IT DOES NOT MATTER.  Start looking for freelance opportunities as soon as you have a more than vague idea of what goal you are looking to hit.  If you dont think you are good enough yet then give them a bargain basement price (or no price at all) and use the experience to get better.

-portfolio focus
 Make sure your portfolio is focused on the specific job you are applying for.  Dont send a folder full of character designs, backgrounds and still life drawings to Nickelodeon.  Decide if you are applying for the position of background artist and make sure whatever you submit is full of backgrounds and then maybe a random piece or two to show other marketable skills.  And always remember, Quality over Quantity. The same goes with an animation or effects reel.  If you want to be a modeler then 90% of your reel should be models.  Texturer, lighter, rigger, effects, compositor, etc.  Someone who doesnt really know anything is going to tell you that employers want you to do everything.  Maybe, but they are going to hire you for ONE thing.

-dont put video copilot in your demo reel, keep fan art to a minimum
  Andrew Kramers tutorials are amazing.  However, everyone in the effects industry watches them.  We can spot a texture from his Action Movie Essentials pack a mile away.  Learn from his tutorials and then make them into your own.  Unless you are creating for local television, you will never be reproducing one of them exactly anyway. Same with art.  If it looks like you could have copied it, it will probably be assumed you did.  The internet will catch you.

-credits, you need em.  the ole catch 22
  Unless you know someone (see networking), anyplace that hires you will want to see you have some recognizable titles on your resume.  How can you get a credit if you cant get hired onto a big project?  You could lie, but its a small community when it comes down to it and its easy to get black listed. There are a couple ways, outside of catching a leprechaun (which is how I broke into the VFX industry) none will really pay the bills. This is the reason to start when you are young and your bills are minimal. You can afford to---

-work for cheap---but not for long
  No one wants to take a risk on an unknown when there are so many seasoned pros out there looking for work.  If you really want that first credit, offer to work for as minimal as you possibly can in order to get experience and that first credit on the resume.  However, know your worth and do not make a habit of this.  On my first feature film credit, Winters Bone, I couldnt get out of my day job (which was also in my career path, so not expendable) for more than a week.  They couldnt hire me for that short of a time period.  So I offered to work for credit only.  I got on IMDB and they got a strong back to haul cables and fetch coffee. Win Win.  But I only worked for free the one time. As shocking as it is, the world is full of scheming douchebags who love to tell the artistic that all work should be done for 'the love of the art' and by asking for money you are 'showing how little you care about fill in the blank'. They want cheap labor because it means more money for them and not because they want to help you get your foot in the door. Once you have a few credits on your resume, charge a fair price for your work.  If you are good, someone WILL pay it.
  Within the first 6 months to a year after graduation from college you are eligible for so many artist development programs it makes me weep that I didnt hear about them until too late.  Companies enjoy grabbing up fresh faced grads to train in their business model before bad habits are learned.  Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network as well as countless others offer these programs.  Start applying your senior year and do not stop until you are told to stop.  Also,  just about every company in Los Angeles has a few interns (sometimes known as Production Assistants) on the payroll. Repeat after me: I am not too good to be an intern or a PA.  If you want to believe that its likely you will end up being a waiter or barista for a lot longer than you need to be (and still likely making less money than the intern). 

-always be networking
  The internet is awesome and the best tool you have. Instead of trolling forums, post in them.  Start discussions.  Become involved in the society that forms around the job you would love to have.  Its incredible the number of people I have met who ended up getting offered a job because someone knew them on a forum, linkedin or meet up. When you are looking for work, you need to be the most charming, chatty, and helpful You you can be.  Post WIPS, throw your demo up and ask for tips and recommendations. Then actually use them. Post it all up again.  If people can see your progress and you become recognizable, you will get hired.

 These two sites are the most often used tools I have in finding work.  Many companies have twitter and linkedin accounts and they will not only post job openings but what they look for in employees or you can find current employees and look at their online portfolios. Both of these sites are also incredibly helpful in finding freelance work.  LinkedIn has the added bonus of making it easy to find out the names of their recruiters and HR reps.  These folks are the gatekeepers! If you can find a name and an email address to get your resume straight to them instead of an online application you are already ahead of the game.  

-get out there
Go to every job fair, meet up and casual bar gathering you can find (again, using twitter and linkedin are the best resources).  Let people see your face, talk to them and become more than a generic looking resume or online portfolio.  Again, its all about becoming a part of the community.  After a little while, even if you havent done anything significant, people in the community will think you belong and will start referring you to jobs and opportunities. The major hurdle to this is in order to see your future peers socially, you have to live where they do.  

-moving verses telecommute
Getting hired in LA from Springfield is almost impossible unless you have a fantastic resume and portfolio.  It means to hire you on they will either have to worry about paying moving expenses or be fearful you wont show up for an in person interview (that will likely be tomorrow and almost definitely rescheduled). I set up a google voice account with an Los Angeles area code to put on my resume and website a year before I moved just so businesses wouldn't see an out of town area code and skip to the next applicant.

If you are telecommuting it will make finding work a lot harder and for a long while the pay will likely be smaller, but that could be worth it if you want to stay where you are.  Again, if you are young, single, without kids and a mortgage the time to live dangerously and move is now.  It will only get more complex the longer you wait.

-moving to LA 
Yay! You committed to the dream, packed your life up in the back of your $800 car and moved to Hollywood.  Swimming pools, movie stars.  You were brave enough to get here, success should flock to you like flies to apple pie, right? 

Nope...this is when the hazing begins.  Hopefully you have a friend out here whose couch you can occupy for a little while (or in my case space by the washer dryer and longer than a little while.) You will need to have a lot of money saved because even the crappy day jobs will be hard to get.  LA is full of production kids, actors, artists and hobos all in between professional jobs and they all have to pay that ridiculously high rent (hence all the hobos) so becoming a barista, waiter or angsty sales clerk at the mall will be a process rife with competition. If you get that first steady day job within the first two months you are ahead of the curve.  

Temp work is a great way to bring in the odd paycheck or start making connections. The Glendale branch of AppleOne, for instance, is the company Disney uses for its short term office staff.  An incredibly talented friend of mine started boxing files for Disney through AppleOne and within a few (Im sure exhausting) years through the connections she made and her innate awesomeness, she is now a big time visual effects coordinator.  Also, since every film and tv show need people milling about in the background, registering with Central Casting to be an on screen extra is a great way to see how a real set operates, get paid and see some big time celebrities up close.  Its LA, you might as well try to get into a movie.

But, Caveat Emptor.  LA is full of hidden fees.  Anywhere outside of the valley will cost you to park your car, pretty much a $4 minimum.  Beer will cost you $6 for the cheap stuff and a pretentiously named mixed drink will cost you $12 (you are meant to be seen with it, not necessarily enjoy it so sip and make it last).  Everywhere you go there will be legendary traffic that will eat your gas and your tires. If you make it a month without a $75 parking ticket you must still have that aforementioned leprechaun.  This is the land of the confusing parking regulations.


Also, you are supposed to register your vehicle within 2 weeks of becoming a California resident.  This will cost you at least a couple hundred if not more and is necessary unless you want to run the risk of paying extra when pulled over or getting towed (another great LA tradition).

But personally, I think this is all worth it to live out here.  When you have work its one of the best places in the world to live.

-finish your projects
 My biggest downfall.  If it isn't finished, it doesn't exist, so it does not matter.  Even if you aren't 100% happy with it, wrap it up and send it out into the world. Its finished, which puts it above 90% of everyone else's projects out there.

-always be creating
This is the most important mantra in an artists life.  Whatever your passion is, work at it every day.  You will only get better and you need good portfolio pieces anyway.  If you aren't working at it every day, someone else is and they are likely going to get the job you always wanted.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I still live.

Sorry its been dead on here.  The job has been going 80 hour weeks this month and 70 or so since...Februa-Marc-Jan...?  Ive been busy.  But the end of this week brings a slowdown and possible days off.  I'm going to comicon again, second year as a profesional (its cool on the inside).  Looking forward to meeting Neil Gaiman at the end of this week as he brings his last ever signing tour through LA.

To see what has kept me from here, check out my IMDB page.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The best cracked article ever...6 harsh truths to make you a better person.

In keeping with the spirit of the article, I have things to do, read it here. Its one of the best written and inspiring (to 50% of folks anyway) article I have read in a long time.

I want you to try something: Name five impressive things about yourself. Write them down or just shout them out loud to the room. But here's the catch -- you're not allowed to list anything you are (i.e., I'm a nice guy, I'm honest), but instead can only list things that you do (i.e., I just won a national chess tournament, I make the best chili in Massachusetts). If you found that difficult, well, this is for you, and you are going to f-ing hate hearing it. My only defense is that this is what I wish somebody had said to me around 1995 or so.

Read more: