Thursday, February 5, 2015

CTN 2014 Recap

Heeeeeeeeeello everyone... I'm just going to pretend I'm Phil the Groundhog today, poking my head out to see if it's really, actually 2015 and I really, actually haven't posted in 3 months. (Two and a half if we're being really precise so put down those pitchforks already.)

I wanted to do a recap of the 2014 CTN Animation Expo before it got too far away, since building a professional concept art portfolio to show at that convention was ultimately the goal that I've been driving towards for... the entire time I've been writing this blog. To start off, here's a cute little recap video shot by artist Anthony Vu. (You can even see yours truly from 2:03-2:12!)

For anyone who doesn't know, CTN Expo (stands for Creative Talent Network) is a 3-day convention held every November in Burbank, primarily for the creative side of the animation and videogame industries. The convention floor mainly consists of artists selling originals, prints and books from their booths, but the major animation studies (Sony, Disney, Nickelodeon etc.) all have representations there as well. There are professional portfolio reviews that you can apply for ahead of time, as well as art-related panels and demonstrations that are constantly going on. It's almost frustrating to be there, because at any given time, 5 different things could be happening, all of which you want to be present for.

This was the fourth year of the convention (started in 2010). I had been the previous year, in 2013, but just for a day to walk around and see what it was all about. This year I went all out. I bought a 3-day pass and made reservations for a couple of art demos that I didn't want to miss. And most importantly, I worked really hard, for four months, to get my portfolio in order so I could have something at least mildly professional-looking to present for reviews. My completed portfolio can be seen here (or by just clicking the 'portfolio' tab above).

Firstly I just want to say that the energy at this convention is insane. It's a growing event in a fairly small space, so it can reach Comic-Con levels of crowdedness - but it's so awe-inspiring to be in a place where you know everyone else is just as much of an animation and concept art geek as you are. That said, it can also get incredibly taxing, especially if you enjoy your personal space as much as I do. My first day there (Friday) was an extremely long 8 hours of waiting in lines and jostling with crowds, as well as approaching artists I had been admiring over the internet for years, introducing myself, and asking them to look at my vastly inferior portfolio and give me feedback (which feels about the same as vomiting in front of an attractive stranger). I also had a professional portfolio review with Disney and with Bento Box (the producer of Bob's Burgers. Interesting side note, I found out they operate out of the same office building as 51 Minds, the reality TV production company I work for. Hollywood is a really small town sometimes).

I got really wonderful portfolio feedback - in that I have a fairly clear direction for what I want my next steps to be art-wise. I had several people say "Your skills are in a great place, you could be working as a prop designer right now, no question" (which got a little frustrating after the 4th or 5th time, because of course the ideal response would be "Okay, so... here I am!!") Lora Innes and Justin Copeland of the Paper Wings Podcast literally freaked out over my portfolio, giving me a huge boost at the very start of the convention. I was able to meet Pascal Campion, Cory Loftis, Brett Bean and Justin Rodriguez (both of whom I knew from the Drawing Club), my former character design teacher Jose Lopez, Oatley Academy helmer Chris Oatley, Clio Chiang, Stephen Silver, Bobby Chiu, and James Gurney (!), the author and illustrator of Dinotopia which I have loved since I was four. In addition, I was able to ask most of the above for a portfolio review, most of which were, at the very least, favorable. Almost everyone said something along the same lines - that I need to imbue my characters with more personality and I need to work on my storytelling. They all said this in different ways - some more specific, like tailoring environments to fit the characters more - and some more vague, like “It’s all in the line - you just have to find the line that speaks to the personality of the character.” They all asked for more action poses and more expressions, and more process work, like silhouettes and rough sketches, and they all encouraged me to do more plain observational drawing, painting and sketching. But the true revelation came when I talked to Dutch artist Edwin Rhemrev, and he said “Character Design isn’t about how the character looks. It’s about who the character is.” He showed me a page of sketches he’d done for a single character and said “See how these all look different? Here he’s old, here he’s young; here he’s fat, and here he’s skinny. But they all have the same personality. And you can tell.”

Ahhh. The clouds parted. I don't know that I've ever felt such sudden clarity in my life.

© Edwin Rhemrev

But the best thing about the convention was that by the end of the third day, I felt like I wasn't a lone little fish swimming against the tide anymore. Just from the sheer amount of time I spent there talking to people, asking questions, being polite, generally networking, I felt like I belonged there. My normally overactive imposter's syndrome had faded. On Sunday afternoon, I made the rounds to revisit the artists who gave me portfolio reviews, to thank them and buy something from their booths (the least I could do after the free advice they'd given me), and they all recognized me and greeted me warmly. I no longer felt, or feel, like an outsider in the Los Angeles animation community. Since the convention ended, I've been to several of the drop-in lifedrawing sessions and sketch clubs that I know of around LA, and almost every time I recognize someone and am able to quickly strike up a conversation. Even though I'm just an amateur artist, and it looks like I'm going to stay that way for the time being, I no longer feel like a phony sitting down to draw next to professionals from Dreamworks or Disney. And that feeling is priceless.

© Gina Florio 2015

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Song of Storms

It's a much-needed rainy day here in Los Angeles - it's been coming down all day! - so what better time to share this delightful piece of artwork I found on the interwebs a little while ago.

I don't often share / showcase individual pieces of art by other artists on the blog, but this one really spoke to me for some reason. I love the style, the lighting / mood, the color palette, all the little narrative elements. It's an illustration that rewards looking closely. The artist is Matt Rockefeller, a recent graduate of the Maryland Institute of Art.

CTN recap coming soon!

© Gina Florio 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CTN Expo 2014 - I'm Off to See the Wizard

Hey everyone!

Just a quick note to say I'll be at CTN Animation Expo all 3 days this weekend! Besides going to portfolio reviews, there's a great lineup of workshops and panels that I plan to attend - notably, an "all-star" character design panel helmed by Chris Oatley, Brett Bean, Stephen Silver, Tony Siruno, and Jeff Wamester. I'm also excited to visit the many artist booths and meet some of my favorite artists like James Gurney, Ty Carter, Mingjue Chen, Cory Loftis and more. I'll also be going to a "Drawing Party" opening night event at the Silver Drawing Academy on Thursday night. It promises to be a busy but exciting weekend!

I've been hard at work on a new chunk of portfolio pages which I'll put up soon!

If any friends/readers will be in attendance let me know! Hope to see you there!

© Gina Florio 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Portfolio Pages

I'm currently keeping my head down working on a portfolio for this year's CTN Animation Expo, which is happening at the end of November. However, the deadline to submit a 12-page portfolio for their specialized recruitment event was today, and I'm happy to say that I just submitted.

After two years of taking classes and going to countless workshops and art events, it's a bit surreal to be finally submitting my portfolio to actual animation and game studios. No matter what happens, I'm proud of the work that I've done and the skill level I've achieved, and I'm excited for whatever the future holds.

Here's some of the recently completed portfolio pages I made to go along from my work from Jose Lopez's Character Design class. You can view my entire portfolio by clicking on the tab above, or just clicking here.

I had a lot of fun with these if you can't tell! Props = good times. Although I am officially over attempting to do solid linework using a tablet... yeesh... whose idea was that.

© Gina Florio 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

School's Out: Character Design wrap-up

I recently completed my term in Jose Lopez's Character Design class at the Concept Design Academy. I relished the opportunity for a class that built on the foundational skills I had already gained, but also pushed me to think about how to best communicate the things I had in my imagination. I already see such a difference in my sketches from before the class and after. Here's my compilation of work for the class.

I've now been continually taking classes for 2 years straight. When I started going to CDA, I wrote down the classes I wanted to take on a post-it note, stuck it on my computer monitor, and have been crossing them off one by one as I go. 'Character Design' was the final class, and I had a real sense of accomplishment when I recently crossed it off, and was left with a 2-year-old post-it note full of dark lines.

I've decided for the first time in two years to not take another class at CDA this upcoming winter semester. My reasoning for the break is twofold: firstly, I'm not gonna lie, I'm a bit burnt out. Character Design was the 8th class I've taken. The classes themselves are only 3-4 hours a week, but combined with driving and homework, it's been a huge time commitment for the past 2 years on top of already having a 50+ hr/week job. And secondly, I'm preparing my portfolio for CTNx this year and I need all the art-time I can get to go towards that effort.

Unfortunately this also means I won't be taking a class again for at least a year, which is strange to think about - CDA feels like a permanent part of my life at this point. But next spring we're doing a fair amount of traveling, and next summer I will be swamped in wedding planning hell, drowning in tulle and sparkles (there are worse ways to go). In the meantime though, I'm planning on taking advantage of the many online learning options that are available in this golden age of internet education, particularly Chris Oatley's self-paced Magic Box course.

At the end of the day, all I really have to say is this: I don't kid myself about the reasoning behind why I've improved so much as an artist over the past 2 years. I've worked hard. But the only reason I've gotten to where I am is because I've benefited from quality education. My unparalleled teachers and incredible fellow students have given me invaluable feedback and pushed me in ways that I never thought possible. If it weren't for them and for CDA, I'd still be buying new pens thinking *this* is the one that will make me a good artist, and doodling dejectedly in spiral bound sketchbooks for 15 minutes before giving up. I'm no Rembrant. But I have more confidence in myself as an artist with each passing day, and that growing confidence has been a really great joy in my life.

© Gina Florio 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Fun: Musical Chairs

Steve Jobs famously said "Creativity is just connecting things." So, what happens when you connect J-Pop with Heavy Metal music?

The answer... Babymetal. I like to call this the internet's ultimate "Wait for it..." video.

In the same vein, musical group Gangstagrass has been combining bluegrass and rap. (They were nominated for an Emmy for "Long Hard Times to Come," the opening theme song for FX's Justified.)

I love both of these ideas in that they take two seemingly diametrically opposed musical genres and mix them together, with - in these examples - great results.

Happy Friday!

© Gina Florio 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Teaser Trailer for Pixar's New Film

The teaser poster and trailer for Pixar's new film, 'Inside Out,' has been released!

I typically try not to watch trailers at all since they tend to give too much away, but teasers are usually fine. Of course, there's not that much to say about it yet either, except that this looks intriguing and that the premise is pretty bold - I'll be curious to see how they pull it off for an entire movie. Here's the film's writeup from Pixar:

Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.

'Inside Out' is due in theaters June 19, 2015.

© Gina Florio 2014