Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Future of Art and Entertainment - Part 2

In "Part 1" I talked about how a new virtual reality technology could potentially change the way we experience videogames, film, and "online" activities such as shopping or talking with friends. I think this current drive towards ever more "3D" and "immersive" and "real" entertainment experiences is the symptom of a cultural desire to blur the line between the tangibility of everyday life and the excitement and wonder of our digital lives.

In "Part 3" I'll talk about how this ever-increasing technology relates to art production - but today I thought I'd just share a few examples of art that blurs the line between 2D and 3D in really interesting ways.

3D movies are obviously big right now, but they've been around for a while. I remember going to see the 3D Muppet movie in Disneyworld when I was 5 years old.

"Did someone say cheap 3-D tricks?"

In actuality, 3D movies have existed for almost as long as film itself - the first 3D projection system and viewing mechanism was patented in the late 1890s by British film pioneer William Friese-Greene, and the first 3D camera rig was patented in 1900 by Frederic Eugene Ives. The trend was actually very popular in the early 1950s, and then enjoyed a revival in the 80's and 90's (mostly as an amusement park gimmick) before growing into the big-budget filmmaking technique we are enjoying (or not, depending on your point of view) at the moment. We can buy our own home 3D televisions, sports games and concerts are broadcast in 3D, and filmmakers like Peter Jackson and James Cameron are reportedly never going back to 2D, touting it as "the way forward for film."

For me, working within the tv/film industry, it's cool to hate on 3D as a gimmick used mainly to drive up prices. Generally, if a movie is available in both 2D and 3D, I'll see the 2D version. But in my personal opinion, 3D looks best in animated films. I remember the first really great 3D experience I had was going to see the movie Coraline in 2009.

At one point early on in the movie, Coraline finds a secret passageway to a parallel universe. As she peeks into the hole, that tunnel (pictured above) expands out in front of her, away from the audience, into the distance. I remember gasping out loud when I saw it. It looked like I could walk right into it.

The other really great 3D experience I've had was seeing one of my favorite films, How To Train Your Dragon, in IMAX 3D. The flight sequences were absolutely unreal.

3D film has become almost the norm now. And a new trend is just starting - with December's release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we've seen the debut of Peter Jackson's now-infamous 48-frame-per-second high frame rate which critics have derided as looking "sped up" at best, and some combination of a soap opera and a videogame at worst. But the main argument FOR this technology is that it looks more "real" - that it's like you're looking through a window at the scene.

Jackson says: "As a filmmaker, I try to make my movies immersive. I want to draw the audience out of their seats, and pull them into the adventure. We live in a rapidly advancing digital age. Technology is being continually developed that can enhance and enrich the cinema-going experience. High Frame Rate shooting for a mainstream feature film has only become viable in the last year or two, and yet we live in an age of increasing home entertainment. I started shooting The Hobbit films in HFR because I wanted film audiences to experience just how remarkably immersive the theatrical cinema experience can be."

This speaks to the main point that I'm getting at here, which is that the 3D drive in film, the increasing realism of videogame graphics, and the creation of the Oculus device I talked about in my last post are all symptoms of our desire as a culture - and probably, species - to be able to step into another world, to be transported out of the drudgery of our daily lives. We want to be able to live out our dreams and fantasies as if they were real. And our technology is getting closer to doing that every day.

Three-dimensionality and realism is a coveted quality in art as well. In my first art class, VisComm 1, we were taught to approach any object with its full form in mind, drawing "through" the shapes to create a sketch with weight and substance. Now I'm taking Perspective, which is completely based on how we see the world in three dimensions, with vanishing points, horizon lines, foreshortening of planes. Having a drawing look "flat" or "un-lifelike" means you've failed. It takes a rudimentary understanding of geometry and physics to make a sketch look "right."

Recently there's been a bit of a blowback to the 3D movement, at least as far as film goes - people have nostalgia for the days when films weren't so tricked out with flashy upgrades and, in animation, the golden era of traditionally hand-drawn Disney films, before Pixar came along and changed the game with CG animation. A few things I've seen lately have attempted to bring the two together in a way that appeals to everyone. The most obvious example of this is Disney's short film Paperman, which I wrote about back in October, and which was actually just posted online in full a few days ago.

A similar-looking technology is being used in a new videogame called Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, developed by LEVEL-5 in collaboration with Studio Ghibli, the film company of the legendary director Hayao Miyazaki. The game looks like his gorgeous trademark 2D anime films - yet the characters and objects operate in three-dimensional space.

(I couldn't find a great gameplay demo video on youtube, but this one on Amazon gives you an idea of how it looks while playing.)

This last example isn't experienced through a screen - an artist called Shintaro Ohata is both a painter and a sculptor, and presents both as part of a whole piece, the sculpture being an extension of the painting and vice versa. His own website says: "He is known for his characteristic style; placing sculptures in front of paintings, and shows them as one work, a combination of 2-D and 3-D world."

I think all this experimenting, this merging of 2D and 3D worlds is a good thing. I personally love what's come from it so far. And I'm excited to see where we go from here.

(Part 3 will be the last in this series and then we can return to our regularly scheduled programming. I'll post a big old sketchdump this weekend.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Future of Art and Entertainment - Part 1

This video is long, basically uncut footage, and the good moments are kind of few and far between... but it's worth watching anyway.

I tell people I'm a gamer all the time and I think of myself in that way - but I've started to realize that in reality, I'm not REALLY a huge gamer. I love videogames. I'm not just saying that just because I think it makes me cool to like them. I actually love videogames in that uncool nerdy way where I can just lose myself in them. I think if I had no self restraint whatsoever I would spend my entire waking life playing videogames. But luckily I'm an adult and I DO have self restraint and playing for longer than an hour now makes me feel guilty. So I'm not really a gamer in that it now takes me about 6 months to finish a videogame. 

All that said - I enjoy games for many reasons - specifically, their ability to transport you to a different world, like a book or film, but UNLIKE books or films, you actually have control in those worlds. You literally get to take control of someone (or something) else and walk them through a story. I love the stretching of the format that's gone on recently, especially with the advent of the indie game movement (See: Portal, Braid, Fez, Limbo...) And I love that, now more than ever, there's more emphasis on the quality of the story and the character development. There's a lot of good things happening in that industry right now. (Not least of which is my little brother being accepted into RIT to study videogame development. Go Jesse!!)

So my initial reaction to this video was excitement. This technology is supposed to become available to consumers next holiday season. If it's as amazing as these reviewers say it is, I see this becoming a widespread gaming norm. (And potentially not just for gaming either - but we'll get to that.) I mean, this is what everyone wants, right? The experience of being IN it. The reviewer's reactions in the video (pointing upwards at the "snow" only they can see, freaking out when an NPC character "walks right by them") reminds me of that story about the Lumière brothers, back in 1895, showing a group of carnival-goers their very first film - "Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat."

When they showed that to an audience of 19th-century people who had never seen a film before, everyone in the theater (apparently) ducked when the train rushed out of the frame. So that's what this new technology would be like for people. I would even say that the entire advent of 3D technology in film is related to this endeavor - people are trying to make entertainment an ever more immersive experience. And consumers want that. They want to be IN it.

My other reaction was... I guess I would say fear? Or at least trepidation about what this means.

Last summer I read a book called "Ready Player One," by Ernest Cline. It was my favorite book I'd read since Harry Potter (apparently I didn't think I was branding myself as enough of a nerd so I'm gonna go ahead and drop that sentence on you). I don't want to spoil anything for anyone, but I'll give you the basic premise - it's set in the future when a technology called the Oasis has become more or less the next internet. It's a virtual reality that people plug into (very much like the Oculus in the above video) and see/experience - everything from shopping, to school, to videogames is done in this giant virtual world. It's so immersive - not to mention addicting - that most of the world's population now spends most of their time in this simulation. And not to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything, but I can see that happening with this technology.

Maybe not. After all, videogames already exist and are wildly addictive - MMORPGs like World of Warcraft already claim many lives - yet they're still more or less a niche market! That's why consoles like the Wii exist in the first place - to get the average family interested in gaming. But I also think that technology like this has many applications outside of videogames for the average user. (Virtual shopping. Virtual redecoration of your home. Virtual hanging out with friends. Virtual dates. Virtual sex? Some of these things are already happening in WoW or Second Life.)

But also, maybe so. Near the end of the video, the person holding the camera says "this is a digital drug." My favorite part of Ready Player One was actually the end. ---SPOILER ALERT!!!!--- The main character was a teenager who was addicted to the Oasis. But at the end, when he meets the technology's creator, the guy says "I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life. Right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real." And I think that's such an important lesson to learn - but ideally sometime before you're dying. I learned it when I was about 22. I finally bought and installed WoW on my computer - only to uninstall it 3 months later when I realized I was running around doing errands for NPCs in a virtual world when I could be spending time with friends or creating stuff. But had I grown up playing WoW and never learned social skills? I'd probably be playing it right now instead of being gainfully employed, trying to learn to draw, having an active social life, and keeping up a blog.

What does any of this have to do with art? Part 2 of this post will be much more art-centric. But also, I think it's important to note that all kinds of art are related (and videogames are an art form, no matter what Roger Ebert thinks). Painting and sculpture, fine art and comics and concept art, books, television, film and videogames - they're all threads in the huge woven basket of culture, and anything that affects one will affect another.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Daily Sketches - Week 3

The news is good: I have found a job that starts on Monday (nothing terribly exciting, just back at my old company for the moment) and thus am a functioning member of society once more. However, now the real challenge of keeping up these daily sketches begins. I am expecting to see a noticeable loss of day-to-day quality. So you probably should too.

I also started my second art class this week - Perspective with the great Gary Meyer at 3Kicks Art Studio (they share the same building as Concept Design Academy in Pasadena, but are a slightly different organization). As far as I can tell, in the art world, perspective is the class that everyone has to take and everyone loves to hate, but I'm enjoying it so far. Math was definitely never my favorite subject, but there's something about the cleanliness and definitiveness of it that I like. This week we have no homework (so it's ALREADY way different than VisCom 1... that class was amazing but it had a tendency to kill my outside-of-work life), but I'm excited to get started on drawing some vanishing points and boxes and shit next week.

Here's this week's work.

Monday - A drawing of baby Shane for my cousin Lindsay. My realistic people drawing skills leave something to be desired but this was good practice.

Tuesday and Wednesday - the Atherton twins from Cirque du Soleil's "Iris" - great show

Thursday - the Hollywood mountains from the observatory... super quick

Friday... more Iris characters

Saturday - the diner duo

Sunday - watercolor fun... no idea where this came from

I have some videos and stuff to post but I'm starting to realize that I should focus my posts more and not make them huge amalgamations of Everything I've Been Looking At On The Internet Lately. So those will come later. In the meantime, hope everyone's well, keep drawing!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Daily Sketches Week 2

Week 2 of 52. This is going to be one hell of a year.

I actually don't like this sketch at all but I've committed myself to posting everything I make for the year so... apologies. Also you can see here I was so delirious I forgot what year it was.

In which I also forget what day it was... this was the 11th

Doodled during the Golden Globes on the 13th
Started yesterday and finished today.

Short post today since I am still looking for a JERB. See y'all soon.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Video Friday

Today I'm pretending I have an actual blog and doing a little video roundup for yous guys. Some of it is art related, others are just things I found interesting on the internet. As a bonus, I've finally learned how to embed internet videos so that they no longer appear as tiny little squares in my posts, so. Get excited.


An interesting-looking new kids' web series. Bonus points for introducing young minds to the glory of steampunk (I am a pretty unapologetic steampunk nerd, expect to see much gears-and-dirigible-and-corset type art down the line once I move past, you know, learning how to draw.)

Andreas Deja a.k.a one of my favorite bloggers is making an animated film (unsure whether or not it will be a feature or a short). Here's his post on the film with some concept art.

A trailer for a new animated feature out of France with some really lovely animation.


Lately I have Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's The Heist on repeat (literally, I listened to it twice in a row today). Nobody seems to be talking about it, so in case you've somehow missed out on the smash hit that is "Thrift Shop," here is the music video for your watching pleasure.

This is the first track on the album. It's also become my new theme song, as soon as I actually listened to the words and realized what it was about. (Also, whoever actually watches this, the person got it wrong in the chorus, it's "hands" not "ants." But it sounds like ants so it's understandable. I guess it would be cool for ants to carry you? 10,000 presumably strange hands touching you could get a little weird.)


A great little inspirational video.


Some new years' fireworks exploding backwards which creates a very interesting visual. It's often the simplest ideas that are the most revolutionary.

2011 from hey_rabbit on Vimeo.

And last but not least - this was a video that went viral around this time last year. I really identified with this video when I saw it because, well firstly it's one of my favorite songs, and secondly because this girl was living my life, having an experience really similar to mine - she'd just moved to L.A., was discovering life after college in a new place with friends, learning how to love it and appreciate the little moments... I don't know if I'll be in L.A. forever, but for now, I'm loving this time in my life and being in this place. I'll always have a real place in my heart for this sprawling, beautiful Southern California city.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 So Far

Sketch-a-day status: holding fast.

Jan 2. Lesson of the day: I need to work from photo reference.

Jan 2 extra
I'm well aware this is not a sketch. Just a record of me trying out my new watercolor set and experimenting with layering/mixing. Thanks Kris for the lovely Christmas present!!!

Jan 3 - apparently the Christmas spirit does not subside even when it's well into the new year and you've been rocking it since before Thanksgiving

Jan 4 - Dave's parents' house. Foliage sucks. Shadow of tree across driveway looks like many-fingered devil hand.  Much to learn.

Jan 5 - Dad and Pirate

Jan 6 - PHL airport

Sorry about the shoddy picture quality on some of these. Right now I'm taking photos with my phone, and good light on the go can be a little hard to come by. But I'll figure this out as I go along.

I'm going to post a daily sketch roundup here every week (or so). Right now planning on Sundays. But if you have a smartphone and you'd like to follow along in real time, you're more than welcome to follow me on Instagram. I'm a private user, but if you request me I'll be happy to friend you!

I am enjoying my new watercolors but I'm hopelessly uneducated in how to use them (which is sometimes fun but mostly frustrating). I think the first thing I've realized is: work light to dark, back to front. This recent Armand Cabrera post, Learning To See (part 2), was extremely helpful in pointing out how to organize elements of a painting. (The whole 'Learning to See' series is good - part 1, part 3.)

If anyone has any tips or knows of any good watercolor tutorials, please point me in the right direction! I've been rewatching some old Gurney Journey videos for inspiration and a bit of instruction. This one in particular was helpful:

Last but not least - for any of you making new years' resolutions, art-related or otherwise: here's a great article that I've been meaning to link for a while, 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. I felt really motivated/affirmed when I read it, because it's really a list of things that I'd been realizing myself in the past year. It's tied up in the same sort of thing that I've been posting about a lot. Like Noah Bradley says: "Shut up, stop whining, and get to work." Nike says: "Just do it." Yoda says: "Do or do not. There is no try." That's really the biggest thing I've realized this past year: Is there something you want to accomplish? Either you're going to do it, or you're not. It's that simple.

At the end of 2011 I typed up a big long list of stuff I wanted to fix in 2013, with things like "listen to more new music" and "don't buy things you don't need just to qualify for free shipping." This year, I'm simplifying the process. These are my resolutions for 2013 - written down on a post-it note stuck up on the wall next to my computer.

People are paramount.
Do more with less.
Be a creator, not an absorber.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Noah Bradley

Like many other people on the internet, I spend too much time on Reddit. I've had this AMA with concept artist/illustrator Noah Bradley bookmarked for some time and today I finally got the time to read it. Some of Noah's art:

The AMA is great - there's lots of good advice in there to start, but it ultimately led me to his blog and finally to this post called Stop Whining, Start Working. (It's on a similar subject as my earlier post about Letting the Learning Get in the Way.) I'll repeat his text here, as I felt like it was speaking straight to me:

I hear it all the time:

Am I talented enough? How much should I draw? Am I studying right? What’s the best way to use XYZ book? Art school or no art school? Do I need a degree? How will I know when I’m professional? What should I draw? Should I do more studies or finished work? What are the best materials? What kind of paint should I use? What pencil should I use? Are pencils or pens better to draw with? Should I draw big or small? Is it bad to draw from photos? Should I paint digitally or traditionally? Am I too old to start learning? Is Photoshop or Painter better? What’s the best way to hold a pencil? Where should I find inspiration? What do I do if I’m not inspired? How do I get through “artist’s block”? How long will it take to be a professional? Why does it feel like I’m not improving? Should I get a Moleskine? Is art dead? What is art? How do I do backgrounds? What are the best tutorials? What resolution should I work at? How do I come up with good ideas? What do I do if I stop enjoying art?

Well, I have the answer to all of your questions: it doesn’t matter. Really. It doesn’t. These questions are excuses, plain and simple. They are used by people who aren’t drawing or painting that want to get wrapped up in petty minutiae at the expense of their own work.

The fact is that if you want to make art, then you need to make art. I could answer every single question on this list and it wouldn’t make you the slightest bit better at drawing.

Now, I should qualify these statements before people start chucking rocks: these are mostly valid questions, with equally valid answers. They’re worth discussing at times, and are things that you’ll eventually figure out. But by and large, you’ll figure them all out for yourself by working. Notice a pattern here? Don’t be afraid to ask questions and research things, but be sure you’re not doing it at the expense of actually learning things.

So shut up, stop whining, and get to work.

Thanks Noah. And now I'm going to get off the internet and do some drawing. :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Holiday Instagrams, and a New Year's Resolution

If anyone knows of a way to embed instagrams into a blogger post... that would be most helpful.

My playmobil advent calendar
Tiny office Christmas tree

The homestead after a Christmas Eve snowfall

Snow cat wants to come inside

Baby Noah's Christmas nap

I hesitate to make this resolution because I don't know if I'll be able to keep it. But at least the willingness must be worth something... right? I'd like to do a sketch a day this year. As short as 5 minutes, or as long as an hour, however much time I can find. (Which of course I'll be posting on the blog.) There are some days where I just haven't found the time to draw despite my commitment to it this past year. It's a little difficult sometimes feeling very split between editing and art (and life!). But I'd like to try to be better about it this year. We shall see...

My biggest resolution this year is: THINK BIG PICTURE. I'm a very detail oriented person, and sometimes I can get lost in the little things. This applies to everything - to my art, to my editing, and to my life. It's so easy (for me at least) to get caught up in the day-to-day and to forget about my overall direction. But this year I'm going to work on actively changing that. So here's to 2013! I hope good things are ahead for all of us.