14 January 2019

My work from 2018

It's that time again, the time to share a year's worth of work. I don't get to do as much as I might like to, with a full teaching schedule and all. I even had a class over the summer; it brought in a bit more income and gave the the chance to dive back into good, old-fashioned drawing. 

My first official freelance illustration of the year was actually a 4-part series. It took a good bit of work and was challenging to put the scene together correctly, as I didn't really have good photos of the worksite. That makes things much harder and it takes longer, too. Of course, with Photoshop, some parts only have to get done once. That's one of the benefits of working digitally, especially with layers. 

Here is another version that shows a previous step in the building process. The dirt gets built up in various levels, getting closer and closer to the roadway. This image shows a lower dirt terrace, along with some interior structure of the retaining wall being built. I did quite a few images for this series, but these two will suffice for here.

This is a render from a 3D model I had to build for an animation. As usual with something like this, I work with another artist who builds most of the models. My job is usually to fine-tune and organize the geometry, texture it, light it, and render the final frames. Often, I edit the final video and motion graphics for the deliverable video. Only a little of this model was in the animation, and then again, not for very long. But I was pleased with my work here, so I'm including it.

The final video looked something like this. I had to do a lot of test rendering to get it to look good. Some background elements were purchased as stock models. That can be good, but quality can vary quite a bit. I had to go back in and rebuild some pieces because the geometry was so low-poly. This scene came out nicely. I was pleased with the tracks I was able to cut out of the dirt, which was oddly much harder than I thought it should be.

Now here's something different. This is basically a personal project, done mainly as an in-class demo for my first ever digital illustration class. This was for a portrait assignment and I was showing some basic ways of how to craft the illustration. I chose this image of Brian Cranston that I found randomly. The purpose was to show that a portrait could be impactful and interesting without being what we might consider as classically beautiful. The many lines and wrinkles here add so much character to the face and are fun to paint. And no, I really didn't exaggerate anything here.

Now here's something you probably didn't expect: a drawing on actual paper. This came from my summer figure drawing class I taught. I was able to schedule some good models for the class and had a good time as the instructor instead of as the student. This was one of my favorites. After she was done and the class was over, I stayed working on it for another hour or two, mainly finishing up the chair. Unlike people, chairs don't care how long they pose for you. I have other good drawings from these sessions, but this is the most finished. I did submit this to a drawing competition later in the year, but unfortunately, it wasn't chosen. I still like it, though.

What we have next is probably one of the most complex and challenging 3D animations I have done so far. I had to build outdoor environments, create an expansive and realistic landscape backdrop, and deal with scenes that became increasingly more and more difficult to work with as the poly count rose higher. I blame these darn trees. I'm just including this frame from this very long animation. It looks pretty good, but there was a lot more to show. I try to learn and do something new each time I have to work in 3D.

Back to a simple illustration for this one. Well, it's not so simple, I guess. The source images I had were pretty good. It's somewhat conceptual and I guess it's okay, but I don't love this image as much as I would like to. The inner scene of the overall pipe plant looks good, but somehow, the whole composition didn't come together as strongly. If the upper left corner looks a bit rough, that's because it is. In the ad layout, the entire left side was covered with a translucent bock for text and other ad content, so it wouldn't really show. These things take so long that I don't want to spend any more time on them than I have to.
Another still from another animation. Except this wasn't really an animated video. I just rendered out various stills and then used them as source images for a video created in After Effects. The idea was to simulate a 3D rendered video without having to pay for the usual render farm that we use. For the most part, the geometry I used was free or stock models. My job was to texture and light various scenes. For this project, I was really trying hard to get some realistic lighting and textures. It did take a lot of test renders, but as I was only doing single frames, I was able to do it all with my hardware.

I ended up rendering several still images for this animation, mainly indoor settings which are sometimes hard to light and make look good. For this interior shot looking out a window, I used Photoshop to composite the pieces and do some final adjustments. For me, it was easier to solve these problems in 2D, rather than in 3D.

My last illustration of the year. This one was tough. Some of the equipment was done from pretty good source material, but the overall scene was pretty complex and I had to make much of that up. The problem is that with all the levels and the four different rigs I had to include, the photos I was given weren't all at the right angles. I did what I could, but didn't have much time. Actually, I was up against a tight deadline. I made it (with a bit of an extension), but then of all things, the magazine kicked the ad back because it wasn't the right kind of equipment for their publication. Great. It did eventually get used in another magazine and I made a poster out of it, but I ruined my fall break trying to finish it on time.

And there's finally this one. For some reason, I thought I didn't have much to post for last year, so I did a quick little painting based on photos I took while biking around Vancouver over the summer. I was there for Siggraph and found a little time one evening to get out and do something. It was a hazy, smoky day, which made for an impressive effect as the sun went down. I tried to capture it and I think it came out well. But, it didn't take too much time to do.

26 November 2018

Speaking at UNG

Earlier this month, I spoke at the University of North Georgia Symposium on Innovation, Research, and Engagement (SOIRE). They were looking for instructors from our department that could share topics at this one-day conference to showcase faculty and staff achievements.

Having just a few minutes, I spoke about techniques I first taught earlier in the year in my Digital Visual Effects class. As an example, I showed footage I created as demos for the class and I had a couple of my digital paintings on display as well. It was a good event to attend and I made some good contacts. There is some interesting and innovative work being done here. I look forward to seeing what else I can get involved in as time goes by.

Click here to read about this year's SOIRE.

18 September 2018

Good news, everyone!


Something surprising has happened recently. Before last school year ended, I was offered the chance to go onto tenure track at the University of North Georgia. This is what I was hoping for, but it came along much sooner than I had expected. Even though the position was offered, I still had to apply (while I was in Vancouver, Canada no less) and meet with the hiring committee. But the official offer letter has come and now I am an assistant professor. The teaching is about the same, but now I have to get involved in service opportunities, outside professional accomplishments, and other projects that would benefit the department or school. I'm already working on some right now, so I'll keep everyone updated if anything happens. But needless to say, this is quite exciting. The track lasts five years, with a review after three, so that's the road I'm on for a while.

03 August 2018

Work from this summer

I taught a class this summer, and for the first time ever, it was a figure drawing class. I have taken many as a student in the past, and had various teachers. There were some classes where I thought that perhaps I could do a better job. Well, I finally got my chance. It was an interesting experience, different from my point of view as a teacher as opposed to a student. Enrollment was small, but I think we had a good time and I tried to get a lot across in this short but intensive class. We worked with a variety of good models and I was able to get some nice sketches and drawings in, which is one of the best parts of having a class like this. Even as a digital artist, you need to keep up the traditional drawing skills. Here is one of my favorites from one of our longer drawing sessions.

15 June 2018

A warning to freelancers

I'm teaching a life drawing class this summer. It's quick and intense; next week is our last week. I'll post some of my drawings that turned out okay. But I'm always looking for freelance or remote work, so I'll share a recent negative experience in hopes of keeping others from my same fate.

I found a remote job working for Vimeo posted on my local Craigslist. Maybe that should have been my first red flag. I was selected for an interview, and went through a fairly intensive online set of questions. After a bit, I was told I had the job. They were going to provide the hardware and software, but as a freelancer, I had to purchase it in my name. Vimeo would send me the funds to do this. Maybe you can see where this is going. Unfortunately, I didn't.

Anyway, the end result is that it was all a scam. Vimeo doesn't hire like this. I have lost thousands of dollars through a loophole in banking regulations that lets you purchase secured funds (a cashier's check) with unsecured funds (a questionable check that has been deposited). So a warning to all of you out there: don't do it. Don't send anyone (a client, new employer, business partner) a cashier's check. You can't stop payment on it and if you are the victim of a scam, you are on the hook for whatever has been stolen from you. Your bank probably won't help you out.

07 April 2018

New in-class demo

I am currently teaching a digital illustration class at UNG and a recent assignment was to paint or create a digital portrait. Making a good likeness was a key requirement. To demonstrate some possible techniques for painting a face in Photoshop, I found a random photographic portrait to use as source material. It just turned out to be Brian Cranston. I worked on this in class a few times to answer questions about how to start such an assignment. It was mostly done, but I decided to put a few more hours into it and finish it up at home.

29 January 2018

My illustration work from 2017

As you might guess, it's been a big year. The move across the country and starting up a new, long-term job have taken much of my time and attention. But I still have other work to do and I'm continuing my freelance work. Much of what I did in the previous year was for animation, but there always is illustration. So here it is:

This is actually test frame from a long animation I worked on. Most of the textures were created procedurally in Cinema 4D. Another artist built most of the crane and then I had to fine-tune it and texture it. I also built the geometry of the items hanging in front.

Here is another test render. Thankfully, the tank model was provided by the end client and I didn't have to build it. I did, however, have to spend a lot of time organizing the pieces. I then textured it and built the scene around it. This is how animations start.

Another 3D render. Again, this was a model provided by the client, since it's their product and it has to be perfectly represented. I just had to texture, light, and render it so it looked pretty.

Here's a simple one, mainly vector shapes that I put together. It was created in Photoshop, using its great vector tools and layer styles. It was supposed to be the background for an ad or something like that, but sadly, I hear that the client didn't like it and I don't think it was used for anything.

You may remember other illustrations similar to this one. I end up doing a lot like this. I'm almost becoming an expert in heavy machinery of this sort. It's demonstrating a process of building a geotechnical retaining wall. The rather plain sky was designed to be the background for the text of the final ad. I do like how this one came out.

Now, here's something different, for a different agency. Apparently, another artist had been hired to illustrate a lion head for a package. What he really did was steal the lion image from the poster for the movie The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, pick half the face, copy and mirror it, then apply some quick Photoshop filters to it. I was hired to paint it from scratch. But all my initial sketches were turned down until it finally looked like the image I was supposed to replace. So I basically ended up copying the original image anyway, down to the (inaccurate) color of the eyes. But at least I actually painted it. Every pixel is my own.

A very different piece. This is mainly a photo, but demonstrating a new product that is in development. Part of the problem was to illustrate luminous elements. This is always a tricky proposition, but it eventually worked. I did have fun working on the reflected elements.

Another piece for the same client as the previous image. This one included various photographic elements composited together to create a hopefully realistic and believable image. It also included 3D rendered elements that had to fit into the scene as though they were present.

These tanks may look familiar. It's a frame from the final animation. The whole thing took a lot longer than I had expected, but I do like the end result.


Another frame from a 3D animation. I ended up doing a lot of this work during the year. There were a number of items I had to animate in the final clip. Much of this work is based on photographic textures, as the animation needed to look quite realistic. It's also a good way to speed up the work flow.

Yet another frame from an animation. Another artist started it and did much of the initial work. I just had to finalize it, improve the textures, and make sure all the elements came together.

Here are two separate images that were put together for a company's holiday animation. I guess it turned out okay and it was well received, but it's not my best work. You may notice that the lighting is a bit off. Painting snow is hard, especially at night. I didn't have much time and no source material provided, so I guess it's okay for what it is.