Environments: Line Art and Tests

With the onset of early summer weather, my apartment was extra hot and gross this week!  The perfect conditions for drawing some sweltering desert environments.


My goal is to finish the line art for all the backgrounds, then recruit a friend to help color them while I get going on animation. So far, I’ve completed line art for a little over half the environments.



In other news—the first environments test with the coffee textures from last month is finally finished!


This pipeline works well for shots that have simple camera motion (or none at all).  However, a few scenes have camera motion that is too complex for this workflow!  I’ll be working out a pipeline for these shots next.

More soon!

Model Sheets!

It took two weeks to refine and finalize April and Grandpop’s character designs.  Here are the results:




Grandpop needed a full redesign, since his original appearance no longer matched his character, following some important story updates.  SO GLAM NOW.


More soon!



Watercolor Textures for Environments (Pipeline Test)


This past weekend, I started the first pipeline test for environments!  The goal is to find the quickest way to incorporate analogue paint textures and line-work together with digital color.

The first step was creating some physical watercolor textures that could be used for environment art.  I experimented with some watercolor and guache, as well as some coffee staining techniques.  Pretty messy.


Final results will be on the way soon.

Greenlit! Project Management Tools for Production


It’s been about two months since Merge was green lit for production!  There are literally hundreds (possibly thousands) of tasks to complete before the film will be finished.  But it can be done!

These days I have been splitting my work time between two different productions.  Merge is one of them—the other is a long-term freelance project set to be finished this year.  With these two major deadlines approaching, I’ve decided to take on some new tools to help me manage these productions in tandem.

The first program I’m using is Toggl.


Toggl is a free time-tracking program that helps monitor where my time is going across multiple projects.  This way I can keep track of how long production tasks actually take to complete, and then use that info to make more realistic schedules for future tasks.

The second program I’m using is Asana.


Asana is primarily for project management, and it allows me to create tasks, assign deadlines, and check tasks off as they’re completed.  It also allows me to schedule multiple projects on the same calendar, and monitor how much of each project is complete, vs. how much is left to finish.  This is extremely helpful!

I’m currently working 40 – 50 hours per week on these projects!  It is satisfying to be able to track progress.

More soon!



From Storyboards to Animatic


Hello again!

This month I resumed full time work on my thesis, after wrapping up a yearlong contract at the lovely animation studio, Primal Screen.  I had a great time working there, and learned a lot!

Since the last update, I’ve been working nights and weekends to complete storyboards and a third draft of the animatic.

To keep storyboarding quick, I worked small to discourage getting bogged down with details.  Each panel was the size of a literal thumbnail.

bitsy storyboards

I mapped out complex motion and perspective changes in single extended panels like these:




Using these rough boards as a guide, I began constructing the animatic in Toon Boom Storyboard Pro.  Today, I completed Draft Three!


This animatic is the first version to incorporate the associative imagery I explored almost a year ago, during the image board phase.



I will be meeting with my thesis committee soon to request feedback, and hopefully tighten up the story.  The current run time is almost 5 minutes (!)

More soon!


Cat Dance Animation Test

I’ve been hard at work on the Merge animatic since last October!  So I decided to take a quick break.  I’ve been wanting to try this animation process for months–inspired by the amazing animators Caleb Wood and Alex Grigg.  It involves animating the joints of a character straight ahead as points, then connecting them.  Quite unstable and kinetic.  Maybe useful later?


Image Boards

One of the artists I’m studying is Japanese animator Masaaki Yuasa (湯浅 政明).  Famous for his experimental approach, Yuasa’s animation is often characterized by heavy bodily distortion and dynamic camera motion.  Last year, I bought his sketchbook—it’s fantastic!

Masaaki Yuasa Sketchbook Cover

Sketchbook for Animated Projects, Masaaki Yuasa

I was lucky enough to get a verbal interpretation of Yuasa’s comments about his creative process.  Instead of going straight from script to storyboard, Yuasa first creates “image boards.” These seek to convey the strongest images Yuasa has in his head when he envisions the film he’s making, rather than tell a cohesive story.

Image board, Kaiba

Image Board for animated series Kaiba, Masaaki Yuasa

So, this month I adapted Yuasa’s process to make some image boards of my own, based on imagery that I associate with my own early anxieties about growing up.

Toy Image

This process led me my own childhood memories of digging up cicada pupae in the back yard, and the cicada nymph shells scattered around my childhood neighborhood. Riffing on this helped me to arrive at some images relevant to my protagonists’ anxieties.



I’m currently trying the cicada as a central metaphor, since it is much closer to my own associative images of teenage anxiety, and also has implications for bodily metamorphosis, chaos, and limbo.

Next up—Storyboards!


PS. If you’re interested in buying the Yuasa sketchbook, there’s a great review of the book on HalcyonRealms.com, along with instructions on how to order from Amazon.jp.