Last year I worked on Pixar’s Brave for the Leapfrog Explorer. It was a big project and my main task for this was painting backgrounds. One challenge for work like this is the way the ground plane is tilted up at such a strong angle. The reason this is done is that many objects need to be placed in the scene for the player to find. Another challenge for these backgrounds is that only a small part of them is seen at any one time which creates challenges for composition – also the perspective would naturally shift in a scene that a character walks across them, but as these are flat backgrounds you have to create a strange type perspective that doesn’t really make sence.
In June I went to the Pixar campus in Emeryville, California. It is such an amazing place. As Brave was just being released they had the place decorated to celebrate. They had enormous tapestries in the lobby and even the security was dressed in Scottish regalia. The receptionist was also dressed up and when asked by another visitor if that was how she usually dressed she came back with, “Yeah, this is just how I like to dress when I’m pumping gas on the way to work.”
I was excited to see they had even made a full size the stone circle from the movie. Here’s a picture of me awkwardly posing next to it:
The third series I’ve been working on is portraits of my family. My son was interested in the portraits that have become the Held series and asked if I would paint his portrait, too. I had him sit for me a few times. I don’t think I’ve completed a piece that I’ve had as much emotional investment in before.
He wore that red shirt specially for this portrait – it’s actually a Smurfs shirt. I didn’t put that in, though, as I thought it would be distracting. I have three other portraits in progress for this series (including one of my cat) which I will be posting soon.
This is the first image of a second series of paintings made on an iPod touch. Part of the reason I’ve been doing portraits like this is I like the feeling of intimacy these pictures have, held on a small screen. It reminds me of the miniature paintings travelers would carry with them before the invention of photography. Portraits like that were often used as a form of introduction, or to have an image of a loved one with you when you couldn’t be together.
After doing a number of portraits of people like this I felt compelled to do something a little different. So here we have the first of a set of animals, in this case a chimpanzee. The challenge with this painting was to imbue it with a sense of presence, but not a human one.
This is a series I am currently working on called Held. The work came about after a few things happening around the same time. One was that I had an iPod and was wondering what I might do with it creatively, another was I found out about an app called Brushes from a colleague. The third was that I had been looking at a series of paintings made by Théodore Géricault, his “portraits of the insane”.
In 1821, Géricault painted a series of ten (only five remain today) portraits of psychiatric patients. What I find compelling about these images is that the circumstances around their creation was very unique for the time. These people he painted hadn’t commissioned his services and certainly wouldn’t own the work when it was complete. I think it is for these reasons that Géricault was free to paint these people as he really saw them. There is no attempt to flatter and there are no favors to be gained by connecting with these people. The result is something so honest and psychologically complex.
I considered doing studies of them (I still might), but what I wanted to do more was something new. So here we have this series:
Last spring I worked on a project called Crayola Art Adventure. The project was made for the Leapster and featured a number of Crayola products via a series of art lessons. I developed the art lessons, story-boarded and made character designs for the project. Below is a sketch of the character I designed. His name is Roy G. Biv.
It’s funny, I am left handed but that has never come up in my work before, but over the years I have developed a habit of drawing things from right to left so I don’t smudge my drawings. After I had animated a few of the drawing lessons for this project and they had kid tested them, they noticed that the lessons seemed left handed. I hadn’t done this intentionally, it’s just become part of the way I work. Then again it even came out in the drawings I did of Roy. As you can see, he is gesturing with his right hand – because I was using my own right hand as drawing reference (I, however, have five fingers not four).
They didn’t ask me to re-do the lessons, but for the remaining ones I animated them as though I was right handed. I have to admit, it kind of looked wrong to me. 😉
Here is the coloured version of the above sketch:
Note that he has five fingers now.
The backgrounds I did for these story panels were inspired by the old UPA cartoons. I love that style.
I’ll show you one last bit of that project. Below is a sketch of a contraption I did. Roy G. Biv is kind of a mad scientist type character and this machine he built is meant for producing colours. See if you can find the logic in it. It almost makes sense if you don’t think too much. Either way it was fun to draw.
This past summer I worked on a title for Leapfrog’s new Leap Pad called Disney Animation Artist. It was a tough project, but worth the effort in the end – and it’s been one of the top sellers for the Leap Pad. I was creating drawing and animation lessons using Disney’s heritage characters; Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. I lead the animation on the project with Eric Goldberg supervising. I have to admit, I was pretty intimidated when I found out he was reviewing my work – I’ve been a real fan of his for years. He animated the Genie in Aladdin and did that amazing Rhapsody in Blue section in Fantasia 2000 among many other accomplishments. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in direct contact with him, but his comments on my work were very kind and informative.
While I was animating this project I listened allot to Clay Kaytis’ Animation Podcast. If you are interested in animation, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Here is a production sketch I did of Daisy:
You can see the commercial for the product on Youtube here. Unfortunately, it looks like they had a compleetle gleetch during Mickey’s dialogue. It looks much better on the Leap Pad.
I did quite a few storyboard drawings for Cars 2 on the Explorer. Usually I do these kind of illustrations in pencil, but this time I used Flash for the job. There was a ton of work to do, so keeping the sketches loose and quick was the way to go.
That’s Finn McMissile in the foreground (above). He was voiced by Michael Caine -one of my favorite actors. My father said he went to acting school with him in London. I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but it makes a good story.
If you like Michael Caine, check out a movie he did in 1981 called The Hand. Caine plays a comic book artist who loses his drawing hand in a freak accident. Then Caine loses his mind and starts murdering people… or is it THE HAND?!?!