Artist Statement

The way to convey reality through gesture, contour and model rendering is to “follow the story of the light” (something one of my life drawing teachers would always say). This is the essence of drawing reality: understanding the nature of light and dark, movement, and proportion. While this might sound like strict defense for realism, I am in fact using it to defend more. Cameras are machines that capture the light for you. But I believe that stylization, in its many forms, takes this many steps further. Capturing only the light that is visible to the eye only tells one story. But stylization is essential to telling a different story: a more engaging one. Stylization eliminates non-essential visuals to promote and enhance aspects of a story or character that cannot be conveyed simply through photographic imagery.
 

I can take a picture of someone smiling, but it certainly doesn’t capture all the moods and feelings of the moment. But I can draw a caricature of him that exaggerates his smile. A few simple lines and bam! I have successfully captured the moment more accurately than a camera.

This is why I want to work in animation. I have experience in painting and drawing, and if a picture tells a thousand words, a moving picture must tell a thousand per frame. Like stylization is to realism, animation is to live action film. I have experience in drawing for most of my life, and began oil painting in college. To me, the mediums were never powerful enough, as my inspiration always came from the motion and progression of story that is found in animation. Animation can convey moods, feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc. that are difficult, if not sometimes impossible to fully convey in live action. Stylization and stylized animation also convey a unique visual aesthetic that would otherwise never been seen in this present reality.


“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” — C.S. Lewis
The characters of Phineas and Ferb vs. their sister Candace are great examples of this. Who doesn’t wanna be like Phineas and Ferb? How awesome would it be to wake up every day and say, “I know what we’re gonna do today!” and then proceed to have the best day ever? 

The Truth is my ultimate standard for what I do. My work hinges on iconic imagery; the kind which the viewer always knows when he sees it. These archetypes are recognizable to those who are unfamiliar with it. While this sounds like an oxymoron, it is true that many have had the experience of seeing an image that makes them feel like they’ve known in their whole lives. This can be experienced in a painting, a movie, a book, television show, song, or anything that is art. Like Plato’s allegory of the caves, it is the reality behind the shadows. My ultimate goal is to bring out the Truth that is the story of the Light of Men.

Diverse City: Diversity in Animation

I recently watched the latest episode of Young Justice. I was suddenly struck by how diverse the cast is. What struck me even more is that it took me a while to notice it. Which means characters are never stereotyped. The focus is always story. It got me thinking back about some the history of diversity in animation.

 
While the United States grows increasingly diverse, most of the media remains predominantly white and male. The faces you see on TV rarely reflect the faces you see in your everyday life. On top of that, women are often portrayed as having no other goal in life than to find their guy. Now, I’m no supporter of feminism. I think modern feminism had done more harm to women than anything else. But the media is what’s largely fueling the fire of stereotypes. Some shows, like LOST have successfully broken many of those, but when there’s one that breaks the mold there are ten more to counter it. It used to be that animation was even farther behind in the realm of diversity with even fewer minorities and female characters. But lately, I’ve noticed a huge change in the trend. Now it seems animation is surpassing live action.

I started to notice it when I went back and watched some episodes of Pepper Ann. Pepper Ann was a city on hill in the 90s in terms of diversity.


A female lead. Two out of three of the main characters are female, and the male is Hawaiian. What I loved also, is that it could have easily taken the feminist route. Pepper Ann was very much a hipster show. But it didn’t. Pepper Ann didn’t ignore, but embraced true femininity. Pepper Ann is obviously infatuated by boys and is never unfeminine despite being a tomboy. Her story is also never solely focused on getting the guy. She has other goals in life. She wants to be a scientist, beat her rival, be a good friend, etc.

Following is one of my favorite movies ever: Lilo & Stitch. Hawaiian leads? No white main characters? The main human character is a child AND female? AND she actually acts like a real child? AND the movie is a huge hit? Hollywood, take note.

While there are many other examples, I’m moving on and focusing on those that have stood out to me. Enter: Young Justice. Andrea Romano has been great at trying to get diverse actors for the talent. The folks over at Warner Bros. have been moving in this direction for a while. But it has never before been so successful as Young Justice. First of all, I’m surprised that they’ve managed to have no single main character. This is normally thought to be death for childrens’ animation. But Young Justice pulls it off. Female characters are not just tokens. And neither are the minorities. Their first leader is cast as black (Aqualad). They’ve recently opted to include Rocket, a creation of the late Dwayne McDuffie. There are nine main characters, four of which are female, and five are non-white. That’s impressive. And again, you won’t even notice it unless you’re looking for it. Their ethnicity is never the focus; no stereotypes. The characters always have genuine conflict that is relatable to a general audience. I’m also excited that Artemis is portrayed as bi-racial (half Vietnamese). I’m bi-racial myself and most of my friends growing up are as well. (Though they probably should have made her hair a little browner. I don’t think the genes would allow for that bright a color. But whatever, it’s animation.)

Now, the Legend of Korra, which is gonna be a big hit off the heals of Avatar, has another strong female lead, and one who has dark skin.

Hollywood, are you watching?

And now, a sneak peek at the next season!

Phineas and Ferb Creators Rap About Animatin’! WUT!

One of my all-time favorites: Phineas and Ferb. Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh do an awesome and hilarious rap about the life of an animator. It’s even more awesome for me since I’m an animation student, and I’m taking storyboarding right now. I’m really excited about the projects we get to work on in the class! It seems shows that are written in storyboard tend to be funnier. It goes all the way back to the Looney Tunes days, but I haven’t quite figured out exactly why that is. I guess because comedy is so reliant on the visual, especially in animation, it’s just better when it’s visualized fully while it’s being written. So there’s no gap between the vision of the writer and the artist.

BTW, ever notice the city of Danville is named after Dan Povenmire?

Here’s another video on the Master Class they did. I love what they did here. I work at an after-school program teaching art, and I’ve been experimenting teaching my kids some of the processes of animation.

Ultimate Spider-man VS Spectacular Spider-man

I just started watching Ultimate Spider-man on Disney XD this weekend. While I find it definitely worth watching, there are still a few big flaws.

I’ll give the good points first.

Comedy

It’s something that’s always been part of Spider-man, but this series really takes full advantage of it. Lots of fun with the animation and breaking the fourth wall with Parker’s commentary. There are some clear Scott Pilgrim influences as well. That was a happy surprise as I’ve been hoping it would eventually have an influence on movies and television. Seeing the same use of text and even the K.O. during a villain punch collide with my favorite superhero was a welcome treat.
The downside is that Parker’s commentary becomes too frequent. And some of the dialogues sounds VERY juvenile. It’s not terrible. But it sounds like they’re playing it down for the immature adolescent boys who the show is aimed at. Can’t blame them, but I smell executive meddling.

The Animation

The animation is great! Even better than SS in some ways. Creative script that leads to even more creative storyboards.
Downside: I can’t stand the character designs. They’re just not very appealing and there’s not much stylization. One of my favorite things about SS was the character designs.

Acting

I would say, overall, the voice direction is much better than SS.
Downside is, Josh Keaton still sounds better as Spidey.

Story
I like the fact that they’re incorporating other Marvel characters. I’ve always been a sucker for cross-overs.
Unfortunately, the frantic pacing is sometimes too fast. Especially in the episode Doom, there’s so much being thrown at you all at once that you can hardly tell what’s going on in the last half of the episode. I know kids have short attention spans, but come on! That smell of executives is getting stronger. And then there’s Aunt May. I don’t know if it was this way in the Ultimate comics, but I still don’t like it. Peter actually tells the audience that it would be lame if he was living with his “dotey old aunt” and quickly reassures his audience (who apparently thinks it’s uncool for an orphan to choose to live with his widowed aunt (though he doesn’t really have a choice)) that Aunt May is really “cool!” And by “cool” he means making Aunt May into a completely different character, one who’s feistier, beats Peter at video games, has more energy, strength, looks younger, etc. What’s really uncool? That executive meddling I was talking about. This reeks of it! I’m starting to wish Viacom had bought Marvel instead of Disney.

It’s a good show, but I still prefer Spectacular Spider-man (one of my favorite shows ever!) I also don’t see a reason why this show couldn’t have been a sequel to SS. I miss Gwen Stacy… 😦

Of course, in the end, what you really wanna know is, “Is Ultimate Spider-man worth watching?” The answer is… EDIT

Good Friday

This is an excellent animation on the crucifixion of Jesus. Many comments on the video have expressed people wanting to see more Biblical drama portrayed in professional animation that’s entertaining for adults, taking cues from anime. As an animation student, I agree. Stay tuned… 😉