Blog 20

May 4-May 10

After meeting with my mentor, I was instructed to go back to the drawing board in terms of creating a better base for my larger cartoon project.  Joel told me to try and frame the ideas I had around a more personal story, something taken from my own experience.  I wound up spending the week trying to come up with different ideas but didn't get much work done.

May 11-May 18

Spent this week working on gifs and short animations.  My goal was to get work done every day and have something I could post to Twitter by the end of the day.  As a result, I feel like I got a lot of work done, mostly building walk cycles and other short gifs.  I also made a mother's day card in the form of a ten second video where I tried to emphasize the expressive gestures of a bird telling his mom how much he loved her.  It was a simple project, but I'm very happy with it.  Also I pinned down the larger theme that I've been trying to identify in my work that I can move forward from, that being the dissolution of cognitive dissonance.  

This week has been good as a sort of reboot for my system.  I plan to continue making something small each day until the end of the month or until I've decided on what the final version of the larger project is going to be.

Blog 19

April 14-19

My drawing tablet stopped working as soon as I sat down to start getting work done.  I spent the week working on some basics of water color painting.  I've never had any real experience with the more delicate analog art of coloring so it was a good experience for me, but it also reminded me how far back I am on stuff like that.

I also spent some time trying to clear up the story for the frog cartoon.  As it stands, the story is revolving around the idea of Virtual Reality serving as a representation of what people find value in both in and away from their own personal reality.

April 20-26

Part way through this week I got my new tablet and was able to start working on animation again.  I also came up with an idea for a smaller piece that I may be able to be finish before the next residency, but I'm not sure.  The idea is that hair acts as a reflection of your inner thoughts.  It's a 2 and a half minute short where a guy goes to work and has a bad day but takes the brunt of it without complaining.  Meanwhile his hair is freaking out and making a big scene wherever he goes because it's constantly being ignored.  The climax is when the guy gets pushed too far and freaks out on his own terms which leads to him eventually coming back home and relaxing, his hair finally showing a sign of inner peace.  I'm not as interested in spending a lot of time going over premises like last time, so instead I edited together some music, wrote out the basics of the story and now I'm just going for it, starting a rough animation draft to get the basic beats and actions mapped out so I can go back in and animate over it all if I get the go ahead from my mentor next week.  Besides that, not a lot else to mention. 

April 27-May 3

Continued working on the hair cartoon while ironing out characters and beats from the frog cartoon.  This is a good system, one I wish I was doing more of throughout the semester.  It gives me a chance to just go ahead and make something while also still taking my time with my eventual final project.  It's been a more productive week as a result, and I'm meeting with my mentor tomorrow to talk about what to do for the last month of this semester.  That's all for now.

Blog 18 etc.

*cricket noise*

Well, here I am.  It's been nearly two months since my last blog.  I need to stop this from happening again in the future, I've just been terrible at following through on this side of my work.

It's actually been an incredibly productive period of time for me.  The day after my last blog was the day I first met with my mentor Joel Frenzer.  Since then I've had two more meetings with him and each has provided me with a new perspective and approach to my work.  In order to catch up from where we left off, I'm just going to go through the broad strokes of what I've done, as well as where I'm at right now.

This semester has been focused almost exclusively on process over product.  I know already that I won't have a large finished animation piece to show off at the next residency.  Instead what I will have is a series of studies on the cartoon I'll be completing in the next semester.  

What I'm working on is a cartoon about frogs and about enthusiasm.  That's what I decided during my residency in January.  I wanted to explore the theme of enthusiasm, and my original idea was to frame it through the story of a frog leaving utopia to find fulfillment in the untamed wilderness.  I had a basic idea of what I was going to be working on, and I had notes and scenarios written and scenes storyboarded on note cards. 

When I talked with Joel, he asked me to focus on the part of the story I really wanted to make, which for me was the cathartic conclusion to the story, in which the protagonist takes on a former bully after having acquired his skills and overcoming his trials so that he could teach said bully a thing or two.  I wanted it to be a brutal cartoony brawl in which the bully is hammered with all the lessons the protagonist had learned over the course of his journey.  Joel told me to stop beating around the bush and just make that, so I did.  I made a two minute rough animation of a fight scene between the frog and his bully set to the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.  It was a blast to be able to just sit down and do that without taking into consideration how it was supposed to fit into some story.  I wanted to focus on the animation over the dialogue, and I really enjoyed myself.  

After putting that together, I met with Joel again and we talked about where I could go next.  He suggested I step away from the story altogether and focus on the characters.  How do they eat?  How do they talk to each other?  What is life like for these frogs?  I had a month before I'd meet with him again, and I took that time to create a series of vignettes.  These were all rough animations (as in just drawing the frames quickly to covey the intended image without cleaning it up) which is a stage I skipped for my first semester project.  As a result, that project wound up looking pretty rough itself, and took far too long for me to figure out how everything moved.  It's been very helpful and I can do it so quickly now that I'm kicking myself for not utilizing it more before.  

As for the vignettes, there were 5.  The first was 20 seconds of the original frog protagonist waking up for the first time in the wilderness and getting slapped in the face with a fish.  The second was 45 seconds of anonymous frogs being invasive and taking food and shelter away from other animals.  The third was a minute long segment in which a poison dart frog is tricked into being eaten by a heron, only for his corrosive bodily toxins to melt him a way out.  The fourth was a half minute scene of a king frog being fed flies before being interrupted by one of his servants.  The fifth was a minute long scene of 4 frogs eating hot dogs in their own ways.  If it isn't already obvious, I've changed the focus of the cartoon significantly.  I made up a larger cast sheet during this time and started focusing on the dynamics of a poison dart frog being introduced into a kingdom of regular bull frogs.  

I met with Joel again at the beginning of April and we talked about what I had done so far and other things to think about.  At this point I've gotten so many ideas and directions from Joel that it's hard to pick a path and stick to it.  Since our last meeting, I've been trying to pin down a central conceit that can bring the frog characters I've been working on together in a way that still reflects my original theme of enthusiasm.  I've been stuck trying to decide on an idea that both reflects the idea I want to work on, and makes coherent sense as a choice for a cartoon about frogs.  I've decided to favor the former priority over the latter.  My current idea?  Virtual Reality!

Now that we're closing in on the next residency, I want to have my foundation set so I can really dive in on the project next semester.  The central idea I've been revolving around this whole time has been the opposing forces of enthusiasm and comfort, and how they both conflict with personal responsibility.  I've been circling the artificial utopia often presented in so many science fiction stories and wondering what would be missing from a world in which everything works for us without requiring our participation to keep it running.  That's why my original premise involved a frog escaping utopia.  At this point I've gotten tired of that literal translation, and have shifted my focus toward a more current day interpretation of the potential of utopia.  Virtual Reality, while still in its infancy as far as its marketability is concerned, has the potential to completely change how we live our lives.  When it becomes cheap and convenient to live life in a virtual or virtually augmented world, what is that going to do to our connection with reality?  It's already a question being asked in popular culture with movies like Ready Player One depicting a dark future where everyone is super into marketable obvious nostalgia and nothing else.  

What I want to do is explore how enthusiasm and comfort can be filtered through virtual reality and what that does to different people.  It's still a cartoon about frogs, and I still want to focus mostly on the humor and visual potential of that medium.  Through those parameters I'm setting up my direction going forward.  

Blog 17

This has been a pretty slow week for me.  I'm trying to build up my twitter and website presence and begin the search for work in my field.  It's been a slow start, but this is something I've needed to do for a while, and now is as good a time as any to start moving forward with it.  

I've been continuing to work on the concept for my larger cartoon, and have found a lot of good inspiration just from my daily walks to work and school.  I feel more ready to tackle the script and continue building out the initial storyboard with more infused humor to elevate the story.  Besides that, there isn't much else to say right now.  And so I won't.

Blog 16

This has been a slow start to my new semester.  I've been actively drawing every day, but in terms of larger projects I feel like I've been dragging my heels.  This past week I started storyboarding my larger cartoon on index cards to get a basic visual story laid out.  I made some good progress there, but there's still a lot to do.  I've also been working on a word document for a couple weeks going over the story and overview of the cartoon from different points of view.  Included are thematic and comedic overviews of each section, distinguished by the rising and falling action of different sequences.  To put it more clearly, I'm trying to segment the different ways I think about the cartoon as far as writing goes.  I started my previous project by writing out different drafts of the script, but I never bothered to break it down into an outline or story beats, which made me feel more restricted by it later on.  By taking a more granular approach to the narrative, I'm trying to give myself a better foundation for this cartoon.

As it stands, the cartoon is split into 9 segments.  Each segment is meant to last a minute or two and cover a leg of the journey for the main character.  I've written out some sample dialogue, but I'm not trying to write out a specific script yet.  I want to focus on the storyboard first and fit the dialogue to that.  I'm also making it so most of the cartoon has no dialogue to challenge myself to tell more of the story visually.

Another hurdle of my work ethic has been finishing my previous cartoon.  All I really wanted to do was add some additional audio effects and tweak some things around, but it took me a while to get the motivation to pick the thing back up.  I was tired of working on it, but I finally finished it this week, and sent it off into the Internet.  Overall, I'm not entirely satisfied with it, but as a project and a learning experience, it's everything it needed to be.  Now that it's out of my periphery, I'm feeling more free to get back into a regular work schedule.

That's all I have for now.  This is a bit of a scattershot post, and that reflects where I'm at right now.  Hopefully next week I'll have a better grasp on my upcoming projects and can post something less 'rambly.'

Semester 2 Blog 15

I have entered my second of four semesters at Lesley University.  The residency where my work was shown and critiqued went well, and while I still have work to do with the audio, I'm happy with my previous project for what it is.

As I begin this new semester, I'm beginning with a new direction.  I will not be attempting to create a full cartoon every semester as I had previously planned.  Rather, I will be taking the next three semesters to put together one larger cartoon, taking none of the shortcuts I exploited last semester, and creating smaller pieces on the side to keep my work from getting bogged down and tedious as I put extra effort into the one project.

I will be doing my best to keep the blog a regular weekly thing with more updates surrounding smaller projects rather than going on and on about the same thing over and over again.

As for what my large project is going to be, I'm now coming up with the basic premise of the cartoon in which a paradise made for frogs leads one of its inhabitants into the bowels of ennui where he tries to escape the structure of his life and finds himself lost in the wild.  The cartoon will focus on themes of comfort and enthusiasm, and I'll be playing around with different styles to represent the different modes of life the frog goes through.  I'm focusing more on research and preproduction than I did for my dinosaur cartoon, and I'm hoping that will result in an overall more fleshed out final product.  I'm also focusing on less dialogue based storytelling and allowing most of the cartoon to be told through the actions of the main character, and not a back and forth script.  

My goal right now is to give myself the time and resources necessary to create something more professional than what I've made previously.  I have the time now to really dig into what I'm capable of, and work toward what I'm not capable of.  Having smaller projects (which may include short videos, gifs, illustrations etc.) as a regular focus will allow me to still crank things out and satisfy my desire to have a tangible example of my work.  I'll be posting to the site as well as my twitter and instagram as I'll be making more attempts to put my work out there for people to see.

Now is the time for me to start thinking about my professional future with my degree and portfolio, so I'm going to be taking this all more seriously.  I'm excited for what this new approach will offer me, and I'm ready to get back to work.

Blog 14

The animation process for my project is finished.  I'm done, it's over.  Now, my next step is assigning and creating sound effects to flesh out the environment of the video.  It will be a messy experimental process, but I'm close to being completely done with the video which is exciting and very satisfying.  

In terms of additional materials for my critique space, I haven't had as much time as I would have liked to create these.  I am planning to have a little picture book set aside to highlight the absurdity of this past year with out of context quotes from noted political figures recontextualized with silly cartoon characters.  I'd like to have a few additional still pieces to hang around the space including some concept art for my next project, but that's up in the air right now as the deadline is closing in.

As for my next project, I've had a change of heart regarding my labyrinth hydra idea.  I may return to that, but I was inspired when I was visiting the Murakami exhibit at the MFA to create a project that plays around with the format a little more.  My idea is a cartoon centered on a frog set in a hypothetical future world where everything is perfectly designed to give these frog people a theoretically 'perfect' life.  Everything is automated, everything fits into everything else, and all of their basic needs are met with relentless efficiency.  I'm going to show this by designing the world with a modern minimalist style where everything is composed of basic shapes of color that intertwine perfectly.  The story of the cartoon is the frog in some way faltering in his role as a citizen (I'm thinking the ground is laid out with perfect grooves for their feet to fit into and the frog slips, knocking over an endless row of identical frogs behind him).  He is determined mentally unwell due to his species' unfortunately imperfect design requiring additional stimulus outside of unrequited satisfaction in order to function properly, and is sentenced to a mandatory weeks vacation in the 'untamed' or something like that.  The untamed is exactly that, where not only is there no automation to provide for the frogs' every need, but the art style is much messier and unorganized.  Here the frogs shell of protection breaks and he has to fend for himself in a wild setting to reconnect with his natural roots before he can return home.  In the process he also sheds his minimalist simple shape design and reveals the haggard animal inside.  This segment would feature the frog having to learn to catch flies, flee from predators and eventually overcome the challenges of a world not designed for him to succeed, but one which he himself was designed to survive in.  The cartoon would end with him having grown accustomed to this free lifestyle only for him to be thrust back into his modern world of cleanliness and convenience.  Here, his new design would persist making the world built for him no longer fit.  I'm thinking it would end with him noticing other frogs with a similar problem of not fitting in anymore because they've been exposed to the real world.

There are a lot of themes that went into this idea, and I don't think I can fully express them here, but the overall idea is questioning how the design of convenience may be acting against our natural predispositions as animals evolved to survive in an un-sanitized world.  I'll have more to say about this as I move into next semester.  For now, I have some more recording and audio work to do.

Blog 13

I am in the tail end of animation.  Backgrounds and final lip syncs are all that remain in terms of the visual aspect of the video.  I've been spending some time focusing on the setup for my next project, an action oriented cartoon about an adventurer exploring a labyrinth while running from a hydra.  I'm coming up with potential encounter scenarios and how the finale will play out.  

Beyond that, there isn't much to report.  I'm planning to spend some time with some still image pieces during the month of December amidst audio work as I finalize the video.  I'm also planning to have a workbook with descriptions of my video and the process spent developing it to include in my display space.  That will be another smaller project to work on.

Blog 12

I'm currently at another point of transition for my life in Cambridge.  Due to some particularly bad roommates and opportunities arising for better living conditions elsewhere, I've been devoting some of my time toward finding a new apartment this week.  Whether or not that goes through is still up in the air, but it is once again getting in the way of me being able to be as productive as I'd like.  

But I'm pressing onwards with my project.  I've started the process of lip syncing different characters and implementing the suggestions made by my professor during my last trip to her critique class.  The primary animation is done for everything but the background characters in a few shots.  Then I'll get into backgrounds and audio editing etc.  I still feel pretty good about being done with most of this by the beginning of December so I'll have more time then to dedicate toward smaller illustration projects and formatting my display space.  I'd like to include a few supplementary materials around the projector showing my video to better contextualize it for people when they walk by, as I found that was one of the more effective ways for time based media to be presented when I was visiting the MFA earlier in the semester.  

Besides that, I'll be visiting another critique class today to show my progress since last time and will continue to plow away at what remains.

Blog 11

The time has come for me to bunker down and start making some real strides with my project again.  As I mentioned last week, my output has been unfortunately low this past month.  While the meat of the character animation is done, there are still segments I still must finish and adjust so that I can move into the final stages of adding additional sound design and backgrounds.  My goal with this month is to finish the animation of the main characters and begin work on mapping out the backgrounds of each shot.  I'm planning to draw out the shape of the backgrounds in the flash document and then 'paint them' in on a sketchbook pro program with more detailed brush options before putting them back in the original project.  

Once that's been done I can export the whole thing (which will probably take the majority of a day) and put them into a video editing program so I can start putting in the sound effects as well as the audio tracks for the dialogue and music.  I'm close, and I've been burnt out this month, so now I need to push forward and make those last strides to complete this whole thing.

I visited my mentor's critique class again, and now that I had a more complete draft to show them, I got a lot more productive criticism, largely focused on making it clear where everything was taking place in relation to the two trees being focused on.  Also, the tree I'm currently using as the stage doesn't read well, so I'm going to hack it off, and leave only the raised stump for the debate stage.  That'll make it easier to see the cliff behind the debaters for when they're eventually knocked off it by the T-Rex.  

I'm off to spend the day filling things in and clearing things up.  I'll write again next week hopefully.

Blog 10

It has been a month, not a week.  That's a bad habit of mine, I haven't been updating this blog weekly like I'm supposed to.  And unfortunately this hasn't been the most productive month in terms of my work.  I've had to take more shifts at my job, and it's been getting much busier there, so I've been less inclined to get animation work done after coming home.  

I've been continuing to fill in animation throughout the dinosaur video and updated the light commission project sending in a final version to the client.  Most of what's remaining with the former is the lip syncing which will take some time but requires only some simple drawings and playing around with the frames, and the backgrounds which is an aspect I'm much less comfortable or familiar with.  Still, I have an idea of what I want everything to look like, it's just a matter of biting the bullet and jumping in once the animation is finished.  I shouldn't have any problem getting this project done by January, but it will still take some time.  

I have a solid idea for what I want to do for my next big project.  I was inspired from a few different places to make a cartoon about an adventurer traversing a labyrinth and avoiding the snapping jaws of a hydra.  The arc of the story would follow the adventurer gaining and losing ground in their fight with the monster and their search for the center of the maze where a treasure is rumored to be hidden.  When they finally make it there, its revealed that the hydra is standing over the treasure.  Each hydra head emits a dissonant tone whenever they see the person, and when they reaches the center, all four heads come together and the resulting chord is harsh and upsetting.  Just as the adventurer braces for their doom, the tones shift creating a major chord, and the hydra heads proceed to jump into a barbershop quartet version of 'I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire' originally by the Ink Spots.  The tone of the scene changes and the adventurer sees that the hydra is offering them the treasure.  When they open the chest, a band poster for the hydras is all they find.  They smile weakly and make their way out as the hydras continue to sing.  

I might replace the band poster with a 'spare change' sign or something like that.  I don't know, the basic idea though is to create a series of dynamic action sequences that escalate into an anticlimax, allowing me to practice and produce a different type of work then the squash and stretch comedic animation I'm more used to.  I brought it up with my advisor and she liked the idea.  We had talked about how the way I've approached projects in the past is limiting and can keep me from going above and beyond my current skill set, so I asked her what she would suggest I start doing in preparation for this new project.  Her idea was to start with a board game that maps out the architecture and path of the labyrinth in a way that grounds my approach before I start animating or writing.  I like the idea, and so I'm going to be working on that and some concept art as I'm wrapping up this dinosaur thing.  

In addition, I want to have more still images for my next critique, so I'm going to play around with some landscapes and technology work, things that I'm less familiar with then character design.  I'm still trying to branch out and away from my comfort zone.  This semester has largely been me taking the extra time this program allows me to really make something bigger then what I've made before, and I've been relying on my developed skill set to make that happen.  As I start transitioning into the next semester, I need to be mindful of what I'm doing, and what I could be doing differently.

Blog 9

Here we are again.  This week I've done more work animating isolated sequences in the cartoon.  I've also shown my professor my updated draft and recorded a version of the video to share with friends and family so I can get a little feedback.  She's largely in favor of the changes I've made and gave me a few notes to take into account for next week, mostly focusing on framing the stage of the scene better so that when the tree and candidates are knocked off the cliff it makes more sense.  

Other feedback has been largely positive right now and I'm feeling good about the direction I'm going in.  One of the things my professor said to me was that the project has seemed a little restrictive for me given how script heavy the design process has been.  I've been feeling the same way, and while I am happy with it right now, I think it is going to be beneficial for my next projects to be a little more open-ended so I can focus on the elements of design I'm really interested in developing.  I've been going to some museums to prepare for my 3rd paper of the semester as well as inspire some new ideas, and I wrote down a few yesterday which I think will give me some fun stuff to do once I've finished this dinosaur deal.  Things seems to be going well, so that's all for now.

Blog 8

Another Week has come and gone and I'm continuing to make progress on my dinosaur cartoon.

Last Monday I presented my work to my professor's senior critique class to get their input on where it was and what I could do to improve it.  I appreciated getting the chance to hear from other people what they thought of it thus far, but the process also reminded me how much criticism is in and of itself a skill.  Some of the comments were a little more self-serving then constructive, and in the end I didn't have too much solid input outside of my Dr. Baker who was also just using this as a chance to give me some more suggestions.  

As a result I went back and rerecorded a few more little bits and replaced a few gags in the audio, then went back and adjusted the animation to match.  I need to storyboard the new segments, but I was able to get more base animation done on parts that are already pinned down.  The process is coming along well, and I think I'll have it done with plenty of time to spare for the residency.  My next step is to decide what other projects I'll be working on.  I like the idea of the extended gif that challenges the audience's engagement to find out where it truly loops and just some more gif work in general to work on my ability to convey expressive and dynamic motion.  Part of what's been so great about my current project has been that it's challenging me to think about all different kinds of movement and I'm getting better at predicting how many frames I need to get the motion I'm looking for.  Making a series of brief gifs would be a great way to exercise that muscle and really start nailing the details where they count.

Blog 7

Here is the blog of the week.  I got a lot of good work done this week in regards to my main project.  I drafted a storyboard, had to redraw it due to technical issues, put it into flash and started animating segments of the chicken character.  I was able to get a lot of sequences drafted out and it's looking pretty good.  I have a good idea of what the project is going to look like at this point and now it's just a matter of doing the work and drawing the characters.  My weekly schedule is being changed to better match my time commitment to the project, so I'm planning to spend three days each week coming into the school and working on my stuff, three days working at the cafe, and 1 day doing something unrelated to recharge.   I've been meeting regularly with Dr. Baker and will plan to come in after work on Thursdays to help her out with her class as well as go over my own progress with her.  I'll be meeting with her critique class on Monday to see what her senior students think of my work right now.

In addition, I had an idea for an additional project which is a little more display-friendly.  The idea was an extended gif (like 10 minutes) labeled as a test of patience in which the viewer can pop by at any time and watch for however long they think it will last.  The time code for the video would be obscured and it would be designed to give off the appearance that it's just a simple gif.  However, the more time that's spent in front of the display, the more likely you are to notice something new, some new expression or movement that shows the video hasn't looped yet.  It would be a simple project to make as it would only require a series of simple animations strung together by long periods of repetition and reused motions.  I'm going to bring it up with my professor the next time I see her and we'll see if this becomes a larger project I pursue on top of the dinosaur cartoon.

I'm feeling good about my work right now, and I think the direction I took this semester is paying off.  My goal is to have this stuff done by January so that next semester I can explore new mediums of animation and expand my horizons farther.

Blog 6

Hm...  I missed the last couple weeks, so I have a lot to update in this blog.

First, regarding my commission piece on light, I finally heard back from the recipient, but I don't have much I can do moving forward until I get more feedback from them.  I've made some adjustments to the aesthetics and formatting based on suggestions from my mentor, but everything else is currently waiting in the wings until I hear anything more.

Next regarding my larger piece, the dinosaur debate cartoon is moving forward at full force.  I've rewritten and rerecorded the script over a half dozen times now, but the last version I made a week ago felt right and my mentor approved me going forward with it.  The focus is now on Chicken and Lizard as rival campaign managers trying to make their inept candidates look good on stage while undermining the efforts of the other.  It ends with the always present T-Rex growing tired of the senseless bickering and taking his own stance as ruler of the roost.  The cartoon is about 5 and a half minutes long, but the action is constantly moving forward and I think it's just the right length for what it needs to be.  I've done the recordings, and paired it with a score.  I drafted a storyboard and am now in the process of integrating it into the animation software so I can start the real fun; drawing the same thing over and over for hours on end.  I'm relieved to be taking the next step, finally.  The writing and rewriting has been tough, and I know that what I'm working with now is leagues better then what I had a month ago.  My next steps are designing a consistent work schedule and giving myself effective deadlines so that I don't lose my momentum and have the project finished by January.

The tone of this cartoon is much snappier and relaxed about the underlying message.  It's obviously about political elections and the shallow emptiness of the debate setting, but it's framed around frantic decision making and desperate pandering in a way that addresses the problem without ruminating on it.  There's more room for the audience to assign blame or decide who's who when addressing the political spectrum in relation to the characters onscreen.  And I feel confident I can make the antics amusing to keep people engaged while the underlying message makes its way in subconsciously.  

Overall, I'm really happy with what I have right now, and I'm excited to keep moving forward with it.

Blog 5

Another week, another retooling of my current video project.

As I've been meeting with Dr. Baker, I've started rethinking the value of the Dinosaur Debate project and I went back into exploring some of the inspirations I was drawing from, namely routines from Abbott and Costello and old Looney Tunes shorts.  I was watching with the intent to pin down what makes the characters and scenarios compelling, and I remembered something I had forgotten when I was creating the script for this project.  Structure is very important to these old comedy sketches.  Without structure, the goofiness of the jokes or dialogue is in service to nothing.  "Porky Pig's Feat" was the short I watched that helped me realize what I had been missing.  In that cartoon, Daffy and Porky are trying to exit a hotel without paying after Daffy lost his money in a bet.  The driving conflict is between their desire to escape and the hotel manager's desire to keep them there until they pay off their debt.  While the delivery is over the top and the comedy is wild and silly, there's an immediate connection you can draw to the crisis Daffy and Porky are facing.  They can't afford what they already owe, and so the only thing they can do now is try to run.  This is something prevalent throughout the Looney Tunes catalogue.  Whenever the characters are put into domestic situations, the stakes and conflict are raised to the point where they have no option but to break the rules of civilized 'modern' society.  While this may serve to make the characters stand out as more cartoonish and unrealistic, at the same time, they're being pinned into a corner where that's their only option, and so as a viewer, you can empathize with them in a simple way.  That's what I want to convey with my cartoons.  I want to provide scenarios that give reason and justification for the outrageous antics that ensue.  And having two animals argue about clouds for 6 minutes, just doesn't raise the appropriate stakes for that.  

So I went back and thought about the central theme of the project.  Debate.  Debate is such a pervasive and aggressive sector of modern American culture, as everything now can spark controversy and offense.  The age of information we're living in has provided us with a means for tracking down the 'right' answer to questions that are ultimately unanswerable.  Everyone has an opinion, everyone is an expert in something, and we all have access to the library of Alexandria in our pockets.  What's interesting though is how almost universally disgusted people are by the role of debate in politics, no matter what side of the coin they fall on.  There's an understood artificiality to the political landscape we see on the news everyday.  We anticipate corruption, we expect to be disappointed.  And if someone fervently believes in the politicians wearing their favorite colored tie, the other side may as well be composed of goblins and vampires.  Obviously this is a gross generalization of people's view of politics, but I think it represents a greater trend toward polarization in the way we engage with our government.  In this toxic climate, what is the point of debate?  Ultimately, it comes across as a formality, and a race to see who can pander the most convincingly.  Can that be a funny video?

I think it can.  I scrapped the script I was working with and returned to the idea that originally prompted the scenario a month and a half ago.  A debate among dinosaurs.  In my original idea, the debate primarily consisted of a T-Rex blurting out falsehoods and viciously devouring his competitors as a sort of obvious loose analogy to Trump's rise to power.  I think that could be funny, but it's a little too obvious and on the nose.  Plus, there's nothing to say exclusively about Trump that hasn't been said.  So now as I'm rewriting the script for the tenth-something time, I'm focusing the action on a smaller dinosaur and his chicken campaign manager.  The dinosaur will go out on stage and debate a well-informed and policy driven opponent by making empty promises and dogmatic blanket statements.  He wants to win because being the boss is a cushy gig in his mind.  He doesn't know anything about politics, but he knows how to gain the system.  The chicken, however, will serve as the protagonist of the story, essentially having to frame each lame point of interest the dinosaur comes up with as appealing through merchandising, manning lights, and spreading seeds of interest throughout the crowd during the debate.  His journey will be a series of quick decisions and frantic problem solving to make his boss look good, despite the fact that he knows none of it means anything.  As the dinosaur goes on, he slowly wins over the audience to the point where they actively root against their own interests for the sake of cheering on the guy with the biggest stick to swing around.  That's when the T-Rex smashes in, inserting himself into the middle of the stage and blowing the other dinosaur's talking points out of the water through threats and intimidation.  Now the audience is so primed to follow the biggest ego, they immediately switch allegiances and root for the T-Rex as the smaller dinosaur has to make up lost ground and try to argue against the T-Rex's terrible policy.  It's too late, and the T-Rex wins, as the chicken disengages from the whole process, sick of the unfair work thrown on him.  The cartoon will open and close with some classic revolving newspaper headlines, the final ones showing the roost of dinosaurs collapsing in on itself as chicken faces some of the consequences of his allegiance.    

There's still an obvious connection you could make to Trump here, but now the focus isn't on him alone.  Rather, the point of the video is the smaller dinosaur and chicken paving the way for him by systematically undermining the actual values of the process in exchange for slogans and empty promises.  It's their fault things turned out the way they did, so it'll be important for me to convey the crowd slowly coming over to their side to emphasize their role in opening them up to vote for a literal giant monster.  It's placing blame on the lead-up, as opposed to the outcome.  Writing the scripts has been a challenge for me this last month, but I'm feeling better and better each time I go back to the drawing board.  It's just something I have to get more experienced with, and practice makes perfect they say. 

In addition to all that, I also took some time to work on a commissioned piece on light for a fellow student from the MFA program.  The video is about 30-40 seconds, and while my initial goal this week was just to draw up a quick storyboard to give her an idea of what it would look like, I got caught up in the fun of making it and wound up creating a pretty substantial draft which I sent to her the other day.  I used the project as a chance to play around with colors and palettes as the light source changes throughout the video, changing the overall feel of the scene.  I'm very happy with it so far, and while I'll need to make some adjustments to it in the future, I think it turned out great and I'm excited to hear back from her when she gets a chance to see it.  It was also just satisfying to make something.  Even though it did take quite a bit of time, it didn't take as long as I expected to get this part done, which gives me more confidence that I'll be able to finish my longer project before the next residency.  In a weird way, the animation aspect of it feels like it takes way less time, I guess because I just have more experience with it now.  

That's all for now, I'll be rewriting the script before my next meeting with Dr. Baker and workshopping it with her, as well as seeing if she has any thoughts on the draft for my other project.  So long reader.

 

Blog 4

Another week has passed and I have new things to report.  I met this week with Dr. Baker in regards to both the research assistantship program and my current video project.  She gave me suggestions on cutting down the video length to better optimize the time needed to complete the project.  So that's what I've been doing.  I've gone back to my original script and started cutting out jokes and bits that didn't warrant as much of a response.  In addition, I segmented the script by the prevailing jokes or themes being carried through each part and started to clear up lines to shorten it up as best I can.  I also wrote an alternative ending to the short in which the chicken outwits the dinosaur with the same non-logic he uses with the lizard.  

In addition to that, most of this week has been spent training for a new job I'm getting at a local cafe, finalizing my paperwork for my new apartment, and flying out to Illinois to celebrate my Grandpa's 90th birthday.  Now that I'm back in town and will start settling into a more regular weekly schedule, I hope to start following a pattern of consistent work every day on my current project in addition to some more things coming down the pipeline.  This week I'll try to finalize the updated script and re-record it so I can start actually animating everything.

BLOG 3

Good things come in threes.  This is my next blog post about my current MFA work.  This week I pinned down a part time job working in Cambridge and all but confirmed my housing for the next year.  As a result, I have more of a stable position to work from, and can really start investing time into my projects.  

I met with Catriona Baker this week and went over some of the mentorship information.  I also showed her some of my previous work and gave her a quick rundown of some of the work I want to do this semester.  She gave me some good advice out the gate regarding the way my characters move so that they feel more distinct as characters.  I took that into consideration this week as I spent a good amount of time storyboarding for the dinosaur cartoon and re-recording the dialogue to cut down on unnecessary segments and smooth out the exchange between the characters.  The video went from 8 minutes to less than 7 minutes, not counting a brief introduction that I will try to keep under 20 seconds.  That would bring the total time to about 7 minutes, which is one minute longer than the previous animation I had done for City Year this Spring.  This video will also involve a more dynamic back and forth between 2 characters, whereas the City Year video was focused on one character fighting against his own clothes.  So, overall, I know this is going to be a more time consuming process, but given the lax schedule of my new job and my better accessibility to the school as I'll be living in Cambridge this fall, I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to give it the time it needs.  

In addition, I spoke with Wen-Hao, a Group 2 student who is leading a seminar and larger project on asian cultures this fall.  She wants me to make a 30 second to a minute long animation highlighting light as a cultural artifact, and gave me a bunch of ideas for what I could be inspired by, including the short film Coda, as it uses light in a very dynamic way.  This would put extra pressure on me, as it would require additional time being spent on a different project, and the parameters are loose and undefined at the moment, but it's something I would definitely be interested in, especially since it would be a paying gig, in addition to another piece of my portfolio.  I think as I'm moving from storyboarding to animating the dinosaur debate project, I'll also begin working on this light video and cementing what it's going to look like.  As of now, however, I'm still thinking of what it may end up looking like.  My initial impression is that is could be a short video of a young woman and a rabbit (done in a sort of sillhouette design) walking into frame, when a burst of light manifests in the sky.  It takes many forms representative of different traditions within asian culture and with unique personalities, and then shoots into the rabbit, turning it into a handheld lamp of sorts.  I'm still thinking of different ideas, but that might be what I go forward with.  

That's all for now.

Blog 2

Greetings screen and digital text, and perhaps human eyes beyond the ghost of the machine.  This is my second blog post for my MFA program in which I will be recounting the work I've been doing.

As of this week, I've written a script for my dinosaur cartoon, and have created some basic concept art to design the characters and scenario around.  The focus changed dramatically while I was watching some Abbott and Costello videos on youtube.  Since the theme of the original project was debate, I drew a connection to the quick-paced, frenetic, combative wordplay that those comedians were so well-known for, and I started writing the script with that value in mind.  I was very happy with the end result which focuses primarily on two smaller animals arguing over inane topics in preparation for an intimidating debate with a roaming T-Rex.  I shared it with my roommates and family, and got some pretty positive responses, which was extremely vindicating.  I will be going to the school tomorrow to do some recording, and hopefully complete the voice acting section of the project.  I'll then do some audio editing and maybe have a complete track that I can plug into Flash so I can start storyboarding inside the program.  All good stuff.

In addition, I've been working with my newly agreed mentor Dr. Baker on a research assistantship program in which we're unraveling the ins and outs of the latest version of blender and how the grease pencil tool can be used for various effects.  I'll be meeting with her again on Monday to go over some more Blender stuff, as well as go over the basics of what the mentorship position is going to mean for the both of us.  If we have time, I'd also like to go over my dinosaur cartoon with her and see what she thinks/any suggestions she'd have on my process.

Finally, I've been spending a lot of my free time these past few week playing the online illustration telephone game 'Drawception' which has been a great way for me to relax at the end of the day and step outside of my comfort zone in terms of what I'm drawing.  Because of the limited range of it's tools, it also encourages players to think about laying out the base colors before doing the line work, which is the opposite of my traditional approach, preferring to just use the paint bucket tool once I've drawn the outline.  Overall, it's been a positive exercise and I feel more confident in my flexibility as an artist as a result.  

I'll plan to do these regularly on Saturdays I guess, and that's all I have for now.

FIRST BLOG POST

Haha!  This is the first of many blog posts in which I will regularly be updating my current work and providing some samples of what I'm doing.  I'm starting this in accordance with the expectations of my MFA program at Lesley University, but also because it will probably help me focus on my work if I have more outlets relying on it.

As of now, I'm coming out of the MFA program with a few dozen ideas scrambling around in my head and a lot of other pressing priorities keeping me from focusing on them.  I'm currently looking for both a new job and a new apartment for next year as I just finished my work at City Year and am planning to live a little closer to campus so I can better utilize their facilities.  Once I've got a better handle on all that, I can really start pinning down my next projects

As for what I'm planning to work on, I have a few leading ideas:

1.  First, an idea I came up with during the residency was a cartoon about a T-Rex forcing smaller animals into debates they can't win so he has a reason to eat them.  Originally I was thinking it could play out as a debate with the audience uncomfortably accepting the fact that everyone is being eaten for no good reason.  Then I thought to redirect that as a sort of horrible holiday where the T-Rex gets to just challenge anyone he finds to a debate and then eats them when they don't provide a compelling counterpoint.  I'm thinking of using some conspiracy theory language with the T-Rex in part because I think it's funny to have a giant lumbering monster making wildly dumb claims, using linguistic sneakiness to make it sound like the only possible answer, and then just eat people because whatever, he's a dinosaur.  The other characters would be a lizard and chicken in hiding, desperately trying to cram for their inevitable standoff with the monster as he munches down on innocents around them.  As for the conclusion, I haven't fully decided on that, but I think I want them to realize that the only way to beat him is to let him contradict himself without saying a word in response until he already dug his own hole.  Then by accordance with the tradition the T-Rex has to let them eat him, slowly but surely.  I'll be writing out a script and scenario later on, but I'm feeling good about this as a sort of absurd high-energy dialogue-heavy project.

2.  Another thing I'd like to take a crack at is comic writing.  Specifically, I have an idea for a light-fantasy comic about an adventurous Skeleton and his more restrained friend infiltrating a tavern owned by an actual dragon and trying to pull off the heist of the century.  The dragon in question has the power to command the forces of justice and uses it to command civility and lawfulness within his establishment by cosmically obliterating anyone who steps out of line under his roof.  The thrust of the action would be inspired by the careless confidence of the skeleton as he insists on following through with the clearly not-at-all-thought-out plan, and the cautiousness of his friend (not yet determined) as they try to navigate a restaurant that has become a sort of neutral zone where people come to settle disputes knowing the ever watchful eye of the dragon will keep anyone from pulling any funny business.  

3.  A smaller project I'd like to work on is creating a small series of gifs.  I have a theme in mind of people responding to spills and accidents.  I got the idea during the residency when I spilled my can of Lemon tea on the table and how absurdly quickly everything happened as soon as people realized there was a mess.  There's something funny about how the mind and body kick into overdrive when we know we knocked something over.  I don't know exactly what that will look like yet, but I think I'll be working on them on and off throughout the semester as sort of a way of stepping away from larger projects to refresh myself while still making something.

4.  I have another larger video project in mind, but I doubt I would be able to get it done this semester.  The idea is actually one I've had for a while about a semi-cracked egg saving his fellow eggs from a baker trying to make a cake.  The premise is simple enough, a baker gets a call just as he's closing from a friend who reminds him he's supposed to make a cake for their friend's birthday.  The baker panics and rushes to pull ingredients from the fridge onto the counter for a last minute recipe, accidentally dropping an egg in the process.  The baker thinks nothing of it, but as we zoom on the egg, it starts to shake and suddenly arms, legs, and two eye holes pop out of the shell.  The egg sees what's going on on the counter above, and realizes he has to do something or the other eggs will be destroyed.  So, he makes his way up and around the counter, and sneakily uses the ingredients and supplies to snatch away the eggs before the baker gets a chance to use them.  The epic climax happens when the baker finally catches him and starts to chase him around the counter.  The focus I would have for this project would be on establishing the objects in the kitchen as compelling and involved pieces of the story, using the perspective of a tiny egg to turn a kitchen into a series of traps and looming threats.  Again, it's not something I'd likely be able to do in addition to everything else, but I'd like to start thinking about it so it might be a part of next semester's display.  

 

Those are the principal ideas I'm working off of right now,  so hopefully I'll be in a slightly more stable spot soon so I can really go full hog on these over the next few months.  Until next time, that's all.