Friday, July 17, 2015

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Gimme a Break

Something I started for a demonstration at the Toronto Schoolism Live workshop this year. Finally finished!

Monday, July 06, 2015

Some Gadgets from Disney Infinity

I was asked to design a robotic flying turret for AIM, but I figured there was no reason why it couldn't have a pilot. 
A car-sized flying turret for Green Goblin? Sure, here you go.
I don't know if this made it into the game, it was supposed to be a Shield-issued version of the Green Goblin's glider 
Some weapon designs from the Toy Story in Space playset, only a couple of these made the cut.

Friday, June 26, 2015


Something I forgot to post with the others.
This is the image I did the demonstration at the end of the atmospheric effects lesson.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Atmosphere examples from my Schoolism class

These are a bunch of examples I painted for the "Expressive Atmosphere" lesson of my Lighting for Story and Concept class.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cover and tutorial for ImagineFX

 Finished this one recently. They pushed the saturation of the cover image into crazy land for some reason though, but I guess it turned out alright anyway. The full page image on the article is more what I imagined it should look like.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Symbols and Motifs Cheat Sheet

I've been wanting to make something like this to use in my design classes for a long time now: a quick reference guide for visual symbols. If contrast is the key to visual communication, symbols are the vehicle we use to create contrasts and making those contrasts meaningful, like words that make up a sentence, or sentences that make up a story. Having useful symbols at your fingertips is essential if you want to create designs that have a high propositional density (the link talks about graphic design only; maybe another post on how this applies to visual development later!).

This is not meant to be comprehensive: it doesn't include every meaningful line, or every version of a symbol, or every possible interpretation or meaning of the shapes. These meanings are only the ones I've run into most often (so far), and this chart doesn't include ancient meanings unless those meanings can be found or inferred naturally by a lay person.

That said, I'd love to hear your feedback. If you see errors, have suggestions for symbols that are missing, or think of meanings I should include, post them in the comments either here or on Facebook. I'm considering it an open document and I'll revise as many times as necessary until it's as useful a resource as possible!
Quick note on the negative context/positive context thing. These aren't just positive vs. negative associations: White text are meanings that will arise naturally in a neutral or positive context, while black text descriptions will only arise in cases where the context skews the way you're viewing that shape. For example:
In both examples, the triangles add an element of sharpness and danger to the designs (so sharpness and danger are white in the chart), but the context changes the way we perceive the oval in each. In the left, it softens the character and adds a sense of friendliness in contrast with the sharpness of the triangles. But in the negative context, the sphere appears extra weak and vulnerable. Let me know if that makes sense!
Large version here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Hearthstone: Black Whelp

A little dragon I did for Hearthstone's Blackrock Mountain. You can actually see it animated (whoever did that, good job!) in the trailer here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Jumble of Jasmines

I didn't contribute much to the final Disney Infinity figure of Jasmine, but early on when we were figuring out the Disney Infinity style, I used Jasmine (among other characters) as a base to test out different styles.
This set was done during the dark days of our search---nothing we'd done was gaining traction and the art director keep asking for "something weird or edgy." That is why these are so messed-up looking.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

"What kind of brushes did you use for this?" (My CS6 brushes)

As much as it is mocked by people, this is actually not a bad question! Although it can be difficult to answer, because it's not what the brush is that makes it great, it's what you use it for. That said, the tool you're using is still a critical part of what you accomplish: saying good painting is not about the brushes is like telling the mechanic that fixing the car isn't about the wrenches. I definitely learned this when I switched from Painter to Photoshop a couple years ago: I felt suddenly inept as a painter using all these clunky, awful brushes. This is when my long search for great brushes began.

The last time I posted some of my brushes, they were all in CS4. I've had various requests for my CS6 brushes, but I've hesitated to post them because my toolset was getting so large and unwieldy. I've found a way to organize them now that will hopefully make sense. Some of these are my favorites out of these collections, or from Chris Wahl's sets. His spatter and inking brushes are especially great, so if you like the ones I picked, I'd recommend you check out his full sets. The rest of the brushes are either heavily customized or created by myself.

I've been using and modifying a lot of brushes from the Kyle Webster Megapack lately also, which is absolutely worth the money, especially if you do a lot of inking.

So my new idea for organizing brushes is to put different categories of brush into separate toolsets, separated according to the type of work that needs to be done. Then if you use "Load Tool Presets," you can append however many preset groups you need. If a set gets too large then I have the option to break it into even more specific categories. This makes finding the brush I want while I'm painting faster and easier.

Here are my current categories. The title of each has the link to the brush download. You load these up from the Toolset menu, not from the brushes menu!

The Base Set
This brush set is mostly drawing brushes, but it includes some other tools I use all the time, like the rounded eraser and the Smudge Nice tool I created. The idea is to keep this set loaded and append the others to it. You'll notice that I use the tilt function a lot in my brushes---you'll need a Intros 4 or higher model to see what these brushes are really meant to do.

The Painting Set
I add this set in when I'm past the sketching phase and ready for painting. The occlusion brushes are a quick and dirty way to paint ambient occlusion around edges of objects. Again, you'll need the tilt function to use it.

I have my two most used blending tools as part of the base set, but there are a bunch of other effects it's nice to have handy. This might be another set I load in when I start painting.

Spatter/Texture and Organic/effect brushes.

I put both of these in the "other" category; they're both specialized for when I need leaves, ground cover, or other textural effects. I imagine as the set grows that I'll separate character elements (fur) from environment elements (clouds and trees), but right now there aren't too many to keep track of. The way I see it, if you like this system of organization, you could add your own tool sets of tech elements, particle effects, or whatever you like, without bogging down your UI or workflow with too many things all at once. Take what you want, delete what you don't, and have fun!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Disney Infinity: Guardians of the Galaxy

I was watching the Guardians of the Galaxy tonight and thought it was time to post these. I didn't do a lot of concept for the Guardians, but I did at least one take on each character (except Rocket, where I just painted Jason's version).

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Disney Infinity 3.0

I did some work on Disney Infinity 3.0 before I left Avalanche to work at BYU, so I'm feeling pretty proud/happy seeing the stuff coming out about it. Here's a great video showing the toy design process, and introducing you to some of the Avalanche concept and modeling team (I miss you guys!) and there's a bit of art I did in there as well.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

More Infinity Avengers Stuff

When I first drew the middle one I thought the lips were okay, but now that I see it I wonder what I was thinking.
This one was really collaborative so I'm not sure who deserves to post it, but I guess I will and give the others credit. I think Ben Simonsen did most of the painting work, Jon Diesta did some drawing/revision, I did some painting and detail work, and I think Sebastien Gallego worked on it a little also.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Disney Infinity Avengers

With Avengers: Age of Ultron coming out this week, it's a good time to pull out some Infinity stuff from the Avengers playset.
At the very beginning of Infinity, we were talking about using different toy types for each character, in the spirit of the Toy Story 3 Toy Box mode. It's a good thing we didn't go this direction, but I still think bouncy ball Hulk would have been awesome.
A bunch of Cap designs from early Infinity through Infinity 2.
The middle and right paintings are based on sketches by Jon Diesta
The upper Iron Man in the previous image is from an early Infinity style take I tried. I still really like the strangeness of this lineup.
I'll post some of the other Avengers later this week!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Twilight Whelp

A card I did for the latest expansion of Hearthstone.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Disney Infinity Frost Giants

I got to work on the frost giant designs for the Avengers playset. 
The early versions were more beast than man for rating reasons.
At this point I was abandoning the toy-ishness altogether just to find the look. I knew at some point we'd have to reintroduce toy elements.
A painted variant on an awesome design by Brandon Dayton
A paint over of a great Ben Simonsen design
The game designers wanted a powered-up version where the armor's spikes grew. I think they abandoned that idea pretty quickly after they saw this painting.
Another variant on a great Brandon Dayton design. This one was supposed to use the Hulk Rig (abandoned concept)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Schoolism class giveaway

For anyone reading this blog who might be also interested in winning a free spot in one of the full critiqued versions of my Schoolism classes, go like this post and share it. I'll be picking someone out of the list of shares/likes to win!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Baby-Face Bias

I've seen a few different people complaining about the similarity between Disney heroines, and while I don't want to join in on that debate, I feel now's a great time to talk about why so many protagonists in animated movies have baby faces or child-like features.

As for why the girls in Frozen look so similar to Rapunzel, the reason seems so obvious that I'm surprised I even have to point it out:
I'm not saying the designers were going for this. But millions and millions and millions of dollars in Rapunzel merchandise was looming unspoken over every character decision on Frozen. Even if it was spoken, I can't blame anyone for riding that money train while it's barreling along.
But enough of that. What I want to talk about is called Baby-Face Bias. The word bias in there makes it sound like a bad thing, but this principle is awesome because it allows designers to use the natural conclusions people make when seeing a character for the first time, and helps us to predict the lens through which the audience will view that character's actions as they develop. It's not entirely clear how much of baby-face bias is innate and how much is learned, but it appears to be true across cultures.

To understand this, you have to first understand that most character designs are not meant to be a reflection of real life. They are symbols of real things, exaggerated to create the illusion of life. There are lots of reasons for using symbols in design, including the uncanny valley, but I won't talk about that now.
This is an eye.
This is not an eye. It's just a symbol that we understand to mean "eye."
Once you recognize that you're working in symbols, you can start thinking about how you can manipulate those symbols to say what you want, sort of like letters turning into words, and then words turning into sentences.

To understand what baby-face bias tells us about the character, let's compare against the biases that come with a mature face.

These proportions and shapes tell us that this character is able, experienced, and established. You might rely on these shapes and proportional relationships to design a character that is capable and cunning. In fact, use them all at once and your character might be seen as too "streetwise" to be trustworthy.
In contrast, a baby-face says the character is naive, helpless, and forthright. We naturally see that character as having a not-completely-formed identity, or as having a destiny that is not yet defined.

So why are baby-faced features so popular in animated protagonists? Well, the large eyes and big head definitely help make the character readable from multiple distances, but I don't think that's the fundamental reason why.

Most children's movies are about characters who are searching for their destiny or identity, or who are earnest-hearted characters facing a difficult or indifferent world. The characters then are designed to fit the stories, and the similarity in the stories naturally result in similarities in the characters.

That said, very few characters actually go full baby-face; most mix elements together to achieve a character that combines the right elements of experience, capability, innocence, and development. I picked mostly male examples because I wanted to show that baby-face isn't just used on female characters, although I do think most animated films tend to lean more heavily on baby-faced features for women (not just Disney).
Look at the difference between Robin Hood (protagonist) and Little John (sidekick). As capable as Robin Hood is, he's basically a kid, innocent, honest, and unspoiled by the world. Little John is a bit more wary and established: he is who he is already, no character arc to be expected.  

Aladdin's mostly adult shaped face---but with somewhat rounded chin, larger head and baby eyes---supports a character that can be capable and crafty, but also naive and honest-at-heart.
Flint has the proportions of an adult and a more prominent nose, but everything else about him says baby: reminding us there's innocence and good intent behind his irresponsible and dangerous experiments.
Po=chubby baby. Except the larger brow and broad nose with the arced muzzle, give him the potential for some really aggressive moments. 
Even the middle-aged appearance of Mr. Incredible is softened by some baby face: large eyes, long forehead, soft chin, compressed nose-eye triangle. He was more visually defined and sure of himself earlier in the movie, but at this point is exploring his identity and place in the world. 
Even the ridiculously baby-faced Elsa is using certain elements to add maturity and a bit of gravity: stronger brow, longer nose, defined chin, half-squinted eyes.
Could you tell all these stories with characters who have mature-face bias instead? Maybe, in fact it might even be interesting. But doing so would require extra exposition to establish the character's personality, and convince the audience (most of which are very young) to go emotionally with the character on that journey. When you've got an animated film's running time and budget, it makes sense to just design a character that says all the same things and make that screen time unnecessary.

I'm not expecting this post will settle any debates, but hopefully will give some insight into some of the thinking behind baby-face in protagonist design. I'd love to hear what you think too!