Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Inspiration: Norman Rockwell and JC Leyendecker...

I grew up with a massive Norman Rockwell coffee table book kicking around the house. By the time I was a teenager, this book was dog eared from me flipping through the illustrations. This image above still brings me back to when I was little, even then I was amazed at the brilliant artist/illustrator. I love the level of clarity and the use of a solid figurative silhouette in this piece. It's something every animator should keep in mind.. clarity above all. Clarity, proportion, weight, character... Norman would have been an epic animator. Every time I hang out at the society of illustrators here in New York, I think about Norman Rockwell and JC Leyendecker hanging out at the bar having a drink. Norman probably annoying JC with his fan boy questions. Rad. Enjoy the Leyendecker above, another one of my holiday favorites! I mean.. wha? that composition is just incredible... everything in a perfect place, working in complete harmony with the space. Wish I could have been there hanging out with those guys. Here's a great page of Santas, mostly by Rockwell and Leyendecker. Merry Christmas Everyone!!!!! I'm off to Wyoming to shoot more guns, see y'all in 2009!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Paintings that express MOVEMENT..

(above: pull #1,2,3 by psmith) "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." -Albert Einstein. I'm not a fan of the "static" image. For me, it's the flaw of a majority of portraiture and still life painting. There's no action. I want to know what the next frame looks like! I want to see a direction, feel the surge of movement. Animation is incredible because it's the only drawn art medium that does not use the static image, but despite this, movement has a way of creeping into great works of art. (above: nude descending a staircase, by marcel duchamp) It's interesting when people point out how difficult it must be to draw the thousands of drawings that go into making animation.. but it's NOT like drawing thousands of individual drawings, it's really just drawing a single MOTION.. you carve out the action incrementally frame by frame.. i NEVER think about it at individual drawings. (above: turkey pond, by Andrew Wyeth) I spot action in paintings and it really pulls me into the work, most great artists have this quality, Homer, Sargent, Wyeth, Duchamp, most futurists. Next time you see a work and it really captures your interest, perhaps it's because it has the quality of movement!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Admiring the Dapper Artists...

I was looking at this image of Winslow Homer (above left) the other day, and it struck me that we, as artists, just don't look as good as we used to. An individuals self worth is often gauged by the way they present themselves. Generally speaking, artists have historically been some of the most stylie people ever. Homer exemplifies what I'm talking about. A bit closer to home would be artists like Winsor Mccay (above right) and Walt Disney (middle). It seems to me that no matter what photo you see of these men, whether they were working or out on the town, they looked insanely stylish. I do know several artists today that seem to always look dapper, for example, animator John Canemaker (below left), seems to always be looking rad. Tom Otterness (below right) looks pretty good usually. But for the most part, artists these days seem to dress down. Maybe it doesn't matter.. I personally have my moments, but for the most part I'm just another skater turned painter, and I look like it. sigh. Yet another example how we're not as cool as our predecessors.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Jim Phillips Skate Art Books... i'm obsessed.

I bought the book, Skateboard Art of Jim Phillips the other day and have not put it down. It throws me back to when I was in middle school and got my first jolt of artistic inspiration. There's so many images in this book that I haven't seen since i was 13. The book, for me, is a nostalgic trip, covering a really cool time of my life, and giving me a style to shoot for that is obvious to this day, 20 some years later. Pick this book up if you can, it's truly a great addition to any library, especially if you want to get a grasp of where my little gen and culture came from. Other books you also may want to check out, Surf Skate & Rock Art of Jim Phillips, another must have, and also The Rock Posters of Jim Phillips. All fantastic collections of this very prolific graphic artist. His studios website is Here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

MTV ID's from the 90's

If you read this blog, you've probably read that i got my start with an MTV ID commission, here's some others that were produced at roughly the same time.. some of my favorites. I'm currently working on getting together as many as i can get a hold of, i want to make a full res festival program out of it, some are really tough to track down. i've talked to a lot of the animators, I'll update this as they come in.

This one above is by the jail-bird Steve Dovas, it's a true classic that got tons of play.

This one above is my personal favorite, directed and animated by Dieter Mueller, *thanks danny

This one is by sir rockness, Danny Antonucci, inspired by his short film "Lupo the Butcher".

This next one above is by Olivia Ward and Miguel Martinez-Joffre, it came out the same week as my own ID. It won a BDA gold, beating me out, i won the bronze that year. Stay tuned, I'll keep posting as I get them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Influence: Hisko Hulsing

Dutch animation has rich tradition of quality and originality. Some of the first independent animators I started to study were Borge Ring, Paul Driessen, and Co Hoedeman. Borge Ring's "Anna and Bella"(1984) was one of the films that solidified my interest in hand drawn line animation. This tradition continues with Hisko Hulsing. I first met Hisko in Annecy France back in 2004, where he was showing his film "Seventeen". I was there with my film "Delivery", I like to think our styles are similar, albeit, I believe him to be way more advanced than myself.
Hisko has the rare skill of artistic diversity. He is not only a talented draftsman, but he excels at animation, painting, music, and even the challenging game of government financing. The content of his films are emotionally charged, and quite often, actually regularly, on the dark side. Hisko does not shy away from content that other animators would never consider. He uses sex, violence, and solitude as tools to express his stories flawlessly. Hisko's newest film "Junkyard" seems very promising, go HERE for some clips and stills from it. He sent me the animatic last year, and I really think it's his best work yet, even in the animatic stage. Hisko utilizes pantomime, which I've always sworn by as a great way to tell stories. Try to check out his work.. it can be tough to find, he's managed to stay off of youtube.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Plushgun Album artwork...

Taylor Armstrong, the Guitarist for the Brooklyn band "Plushgun" (he's also a talented animator and artist) asked me to design the cover for their upcoming album last month. I love doing album art, and I wish people asked me more often. I really dig their music as well, so try to catch a show or at least check them out on myspace. Above is the initial sketch i showed them, and below is a portion of the final art. enjoy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sketchbook: "PUPPET" development..

I'm often asked how to go about starting a film, and I always answer the same way: it begins entirely in the SKETCHBOOK.. this is where ideas are explored and figured out. there's no judge to say that this is bad or good.. just exploration and refinement which the audience will only see the result of. The roughs in your sketchbook are studies that are a necessary part of figuring out the complexities of moving a character within a space.

Please visit the NEW WEB PAGE OF SKETCHES with most of my sketch book drawings for my last film "Puppet". Enjoy! happy vOting!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Jumbo Pictures Reunion...

Last week I went to the Jumbo Pictures reunion, the studio that i worked at back in 1996, right before I left for Indonesia. It was an amazing studio, situated in a massive loft in the heart of Soho, and filled with some of the best people I've ever worked with. I met my studio mate Tony Curanaj there, as well as good friends like Jack Spillum, Don Poynter, Jonathan Royce, and Otis Brayboy. The show we did was called "Doug", it was my first job as a storyboard artist, which was a segway into directing. I can still remember hanging out in the "pit" with all the other artists, or going to drawing classes across the street during lunch break. It was one of the best times of my life.Above: Jonathan Royce, Chris McCulloch, Patrick Smith, and John Schnall. The talent that was assembled at Jumbo back then was really impressive.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Puppet" two years on....

Puppet has won several recent awards lately, since it's premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006. Most recently, it won Best animation at Arizona Underground Film Festival, and also at Naperville Independent Film Festival. Awards are fun to get.. it's always nice to get recognized for your work. It wasn't too long ago when i swore that i just COULDN'T win anything. my first film "Drink" screened for over a year with not a single prize.
Best Animation, Northampton Independent Film Festival, 2006.
Best Animation, Action on Film Festival, Los Angeles, 2006.
Best Animation, Griffin International Film Festival, 2006.
Best Animation, Grand Festival Award, Berkeley Film Festival, 2006.
Best Animation, Phoenix Film Festival, 2007.
Best Animation, Backseat Film Festival, 2008.
Best Animation, Arizona Underground Film Festival, 2008.
Best Animation, Naperville Independent Film Festival, 2008.
Honorable Mention, Signals International Film Festival, UK, 2006.
Honorable Mention, Smogdance Film Festival, 2007.
Third Place, First Glance Film Festival, Los Angeles, 2006.
Runner Up, Asheville Film Festival, 2006.
Third Place, Lake Havasu Film Festival,AZ, 2007.
Second Place, ASIFA-East (Association Internationale du Film d'Animation), 2007.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sketchbook: Girl Studies...

The female character offers specific challenges for me. I've been drawing a lot of designs of girls for an upcoming project, and I'm starting to really enjoy it. I've always struggled with girls (artistically and otherwise), but I'm really starting to understand the subtleties of their form more.. especially facial features. enjoy these scans. I always draw in ink.. it's something i started to do a long time ago.. the logic was that it forced me to commit to the lines, and it speeds up your drawing quite a bit. Matter of fact.. i just may be the quickest sketcher i know.. not sure if that's a good or bad thing. my previous sketchbook was stolen... well.. actually, i left it at a bar in my bag. still can't understand why someone wouldn't return a sketchbook.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Woodstock Film Festival this weekend...

(photo above: Bill Plympton, Arthur Metcalf, Patrick Smith with champagne at Woodstock Film Festival 2007) This year, since my new film isn't ready, I'll be a judge at the Woodstock Film Festival in Woodstock, NY. I love this festival for so many reasons, but primarily, it's always my official way of welcoming the autumn, my favorite season. My fab producer Noelle Vaccese and her sister Joy animated the signal film (an animated intro to each screening with the woodstock logo at the end), so they will be in attendance, along with Signe Baumane and Bill Plympton, who are also judging. Any filmmakers out there, i highly encourage you to submit your work to them next year! (photo below: Noelle Vaccese and Patrick Smith at Woodstock 06)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

That was a busy summer...

You know, i always forget to talk about what me and my studio are up to. This has been a busy summer (not that i'm short on montauk beach excursions). We've been slammed with a commision of nine segments for the new Electric Company for Sesame St. workshop. I know I slag off doing projects for kids, but i really enjoyed animating these.
In addition to the Electric Company Job, we've been busy on a number of fine art commisions, including a colossal mural for the new Salvation Army headquarters in Manhattan, a project that i'm really excited about.
Recently, we just wrapped up a music video for Disney featuring the bird filled "Tiki Room" (above). It was a fun project because I love the challenges of animating along side live action characters. We also did several segments of a childrens music video for "Ralph's World", another Disney show, both were done through Ghost Robot productions. ALSO we animated a Three minute video for Samantics Productions, kind of a jazzy school house rock type thing.

And, as always, on the forefront is a new independent animated film, which I've mentioned very often, the film "Masks", a collaboration with the composer of "Drink", Karl vonKries. We had a sneak preview of it last week at Marthas Vinyard Film Festival, and I was stoked about the reaction it got. It's by far my best work. What are you up to?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chillin' with Richard Williams...

It's not every day you get to have a drink with a legend. Me and Bill Plympton met up with Richard Williams and his wife mo up at his hotel, he's in town for his MOMA show, and over the course of an hour, I was able to talk to him about everything from working under Art Babbit, Ken Anderson, and Milt Kahl, to their techniques, personalities, similarities and differences. (below, a really crappy iphone photo of me and Dick)I was hesitant to get the conversation away from regular stuff like what we're up to, and how the weather is in Bristol, (i'm always up for convos about England).. but then i just finally said, "richard.. i'm sure tons of people ask you this.. but what was it like to work with Art Babbit?" i was happy to see his eyes light up.. and he just talked for 1/2 hour straight, his jet lag seemed to disappear. One of the things that stood out was that Art Babbit did a lot of "pick up and trace" animation... which is the process of picking up the top sheet of paper, pivoting it at the joint of the character, and tracing the new position. This is a technique that I do all the time and i've always thought it was a lame cheat. We also talked about the value of solid drawing, as well as a personal theory i have, that animators spend so much time finding the "easy" way to do things, that if they just did it the hard way, they would finish quicker! he slapped me on the knee and told me he couldn't have said it better himself. I also LOVED the stories of how Art and Ken were IMPROVING even into their 80's. Dick said he witnessed it personally. These guys were the real thing. Outside of that, we discussed self taught animators, something we have in common. After we had a drink, I cabbed down to a party for Woodstock Film Festival, which I'm judging the first week of October. stayed out too late talking endlessly about Richard Williams to other filmmakers who didn't even know who he was.

Friday, August 29, 2008


These are stills of a secret independent film project i've been working on with the design studio Plus et Plus. I animated the 500+ drawings and we rendered every frame in pencil (needless to say, it's taken quite a bit of time). The result is really shocking, very fluid, and surprizingly graphic, especially with it's Massive Attack inspired score. stay tuned.. i'll let you know when it's all done, should be within the next couple weeks.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Influence: Tom Otterness....

I love the work of Tom Otterness. I've admired his public art for years, and always have considered him one of my biggest influences. We have a specific thing in common: We both utilize the approachability of the cartoon image in order to convey a more thought provoking idea or expression. I was asked once about my approach, and i said that it's like carving an important message onto the chest of a fluffy bunny. the fluffy bunny being the cartoon, the message being the idea i want to convey. Otterness definitely outdid my statement though, in 1977, he actually killed a dog as part of a looped video installation, something which he apologized profusely for later in his career. This is how i think of Toms sculptures... when you see them in public you are drawn to them because of their innocence and approachability, and then, you're hit over the head with meaningful artistic missives. not too far from killing an innocent animal, minus the blatent law breaking and disgusting morals. I'm willing to bet that Tom has no use goofy whacky cartoon animation that exists for the purpose of entertaining the mob, or worse, children of the mob. The difference between art and entertainment can often be summed up as attempting to either make the audience laugh, or think. I've never had an interest in amusing people. Tom Otterness's images are filled with urban tales that hold up his social commentary. and the vehicle that he chooses to use, public bronze sculpture, eliminates any pretension that would interfere with his message. check out his site, chances are he has a public art project to check out very close by.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Diving Bell and the Butterfly.... Schnabel's masterpiece..

It takes a painter to make a film like "Diving Bell and the Butterfly". There are moments in this wonderful film that only a painter could ever think up. One scene in particular, a long moment of a girls wind blown hair in an automobile is so subtle, hypnotic, and beautiful, it seems to be lifted directly from one of his abstract paintings.I was fortunate enough to visit Julian Schnabel's studio in Montauk this winter (all the cool kids have studios out in montauk;), and it was so inspiring that I jumped at the opportunity to go see "diving bell and the butterfly", as well as several other of his films, ie "basquiat, and "before the night falls", the later of the two is another epic film worth it's length in gold.
Netflix Before the Night Falls. Netflix Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ridley Scott influenced by Classic Painter Gerome...

I love this... "Gladiator" is such a triumph on so many levels, it wasn't a surprise to read this quote by Ridley Scott (article here), citing Jean Leon Gerome's Gladiator painting as the reason he agreed to make the film:

“I’ve known Walter Parks, the head of DreamWorks for years, he came in and gave me the script and said, ‘I don’t want you to read it yet as it needs a lot of work but this is what it’s all about.’ He then showed me this painting by a French painter called Gerome, I looked at it and said, ‘I’ll do it.’ He looked at me, shocked, and said, ‘But you don’t know what it’s about!”- Ridley Scott

As I watched "Gladiator" again, in preperation for this entry, the classical influence really becomes apparent in terms of cinematography, color, and dramatic compositions. Jean Leon Gerome is one of those ridiculously amazing painters that came from the apex of the french school in the late 19th century, that ebbed due to the rise of modern art that started with Manet and his Salon de Refuses. One of my favorite books of all time is The Judegment of Paris, by Ross King, a book that examines this incredible decade of art history.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Influence: Makoto Aida

There's been so much written about the Japanese artist Makoto Aida, that I feel a bit behind the times to say that I've just recently gotten into his work (he's another epic artist that Kristin Dalton pointed me to, she's on a roll). This "Blender" piece above has obvious characteristics that I'm drawn to, the configurations of the figures become a human "stew", whose gruesome and violent result is clearly and horrifically shown as the iconic modern kitchen tool, the blender, does it's work on humanity(specifically female humanity). it's just such a powerful piece on so many levels. It has a nice Rubens quality, a bit of a modern twist of "overthrow of the damned". (one of my favorite pastimes is linking contemporary artists to the classics, just can't resist). Anyway, possibly one of the coolest things about Makoto Aida is that there's not a clear direction to his work.. and it's kind of rad. He's a bit of a "what is he going to do next" type of guy. Here's a great article that explains what I'm talking about more. enjoy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Patrick Smith....

How rad is this? There is another Patrick Smith, and he happens to be not only a really good artist, but also, an amazing animator! I dig it. I don't know Patrick, but we do have a few friends in common. Check out his site VectorPark, there's some really interesting stuff, my favorite is the interactive animation called "Spider", it's highly addictive, and I can't get enough of making the little spider with sticky little legs walk around! Enjoy, and thanks Patrick Smith, from Patrick Smith.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Influence: More on Gustav Vigeland...

I discussed the influence of Gustav Vigeland a while back, and I wanted to continue. I originally was drawn to Vigeland due to his use of structural compositions that utilize the figures as a way to build broad configurations (like my drawings, and the sculpture above). Now, another aspect of his work that I'm beginning to appreciate is his use of dynamic, yet truthful, expressive poses that create intimate and subtle relationships between his characters (in my experience, dynamism often relies on exaggeration and not truthful representation). He's a master at rendering multiple characters, and this is even more evident when he's dealing with only two or three. He renders every character with severe emotion within the context of the other character. This sculpture above is so beautiful, i have no words... the only thing that comes to mind is... truth , clarity, strength, humanity and love. At first I was so impressed with his use of structure and weight that I didn't register the emotional content (a product of the differences in my own life, then and now, i guarantee). I can't wait to visit Norway and see these sculptures!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bad Posture...beware!

Let's talk about posture.. fellow artists. A while back I worked with a very talented director, in the course of the time we worked together I visually noticed this poor posture, turning into a slouch, turning into an actual physical condition! I noticed it a few other times, especially with older artists. As I write this, i'm straightening up a bit... i'm not kidding.. we live our lives hunched over a canvas, computer screen, or drawing table... it could happen to you!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

More on Scale... Ron Mueck..

Scale is power. It gives art a larger than life energy. Ron Mueck utilizes this concept throughout his amazingly realistic and often disturbing sculptures. I was thrilled to learn that some of his background is in film, transitioning into fine art in the late 90's. I've always been proud of my own background in television production, and i love to learn that other fine artists have similar histories. If you haven't seen some of his work in person, he's def worth seeking out. Mueck's early career was as a model maker and puppeteer for children's television and films, notably the film Labyrinth for which he also contributed the voice of Ludo, and the Jim Henson series The Storyteller.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sketchbook: Fun with Spheres...

Whenever i'm depressed about drawing, or can't seem to loosen up enough to animate, i fall back to my "fun with spheres" game. basically, you draw a sphere, and you place characters onto it, holding it, being crushed by it.. whatever. and what happens is that you gradually loosen up within the context of space, weight, perspective and balance. in addition, i always draw in ink, so you're further forced to give your characters energy and movement. let me know if this little exercise helps anyone else, i swear by it! above is a page from my sketchbook from this past week.