Saturday, July 31, 2010

crustacean nation

60-second sketch with a 2B pencil, with 3 minutes worth of painting on top.

Working this weekend to catch up on the film a bit.

Swam out to the kelp beds again today for the first time in a week or so. So creepy out there. Saw something new this time - long-legged crabs (between 2-8" diameter bodies) are climbing up the kelp. Maybe 1-2 crabs per twist of kelp on average. Most are holding onto the tangled braids of whiplike stalks, but sometimes a smaller one is perched right on top of the kelp ball.

What is up?

They weren't there before. Visibility is a lot lower right now because of higher water temperatures (= more algae), so maybe the crabs climb higher to follow their sun-loving prey up the kelp?

What the hell do crabs eat?

Friday, July 30, 2010

"the film and death"

First sketches for a couple paintings I may do for a friend. I don't think they're there yet, but it's enough to start painting from, to see what happens. The sketches might look lame right now, but suffice it to say I have a theme for a series of paintings that I'm excited about - I hope to turn it into an art show this fall / winter.

The following is something I found on my computer from a month ago. I spewed it out at a frustrated moment when my film felt like it was taking forever to complete. I've learned a hell of a lot about life while making this film. My way of living has been completely reworked; I don't wrestle with myself nearly as much as I used to (knock on wood).


I panic when its end date is extended because that means the rest of my life is shorter,

As if my life is wasted right now, I’m not counting this as living, (as a bright goldfinch streaks past the brush, spits of rain on my laptop and backs of the hands)

I’ve been considering death lately. Like, “what would happen if I died now?” or “What if I drove the car off the road right now?”

I think these things are related. I’ve stopped seeing life in the “right now”. For some reason I’m judging this as a purgatory before I can go on with living.

Something tells me it’s because I’m not making money. Because I’m not making money this time must be useless.

RATHER, because I’m not making money, this time is crucial. It’s absolutely an amazing time that I should not take for granted. All the shit and uncertainty and hate and loathing as well – those are periods to go through to realize that this now is life, and really, whatever comes after this will have the same challenge of BEING THERE, accepting it, and doing it in the present, without thinking “what’s next”, or “I have to do something else”. What I’m doing now is all there is, nothing is good or bad about it. My life is only now. Don’t compare or judge, be real be there.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


The brain is starting to accelerate now that my film is nearing completion and I'm doodling more again. I have a tonne of ideas. The challenge will be to focus on a doable amount...

A wasp just blundered into a tiny spider web outside my window. I've never seen a spider move so fast, he was leaping all over the place trying to bite the wasp before he escaped.

The wasp pulled himself out, now he's gracefully wiping the webs off his butt with his long rear legs. It's one of those long wasps.

He's also wiping his face at the same time. I'd like to try wiping my ass and washing my face simultaneously sometime..

I got home drunk last night and decided to add a bit of ultraviolence to the end of the film. It makes me laugh and as the brand-new saying goes: "The filmmaker should always listen for his own laughter."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Something I painted for someone. I like the geese but I didn't plan out the bubble image enough, so it's a bit sloppier than I'd like.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Lots of visitors these days. A new young friend (Grade 7) is learnin' me on jellyfish. Check out this sumbitch he showed me. The Arctic Lions Mane.

Big ups to artists, children, dancers, fresh ideas, crashing waves, crashing waves viewed from underwater, treehouses, sweat, jellyfish, dry grass, dub, woodsmoke, ice cream, bike grease, nasty sex jokes, cuts and scrapes, wine, beer, doobs, coffee, sun.

Summatime, bitches!

Friday, July 23, 2010

tree bits

The top image is tree branches that are offscreen at the beginning of the shot. As the tree falls, the top of the tree enters the screen and these top branches face the camera to conceal the bottom of the tree as it flattens (since its just a painting textured onto a grid with a simple skeleton). Another new thing for me, didn't know if it would work, but it does!

Lots of classical animation going on now with the red bird. Closeup cute / afraid shots and stuff - really fun.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tree Falling

I be fallin' trees with the paper I'm using!

Tree Falling is also the name of this shot - this is the 44 frames of a bird that flies through the shot. Ink drying on the floor before I erase the pencil, scan, then color on the computer.

PD085_TreeFalling is the craziest shot I've ever done:

SIX painting layers (BG sky, midground trees x 3, ground plane, foreground elements).

ONE 3D computer animated layer (giant robot stumbling and hitting tree).

SIX layers of particle systems, using two different pieces of 3D software (leaves falling from the tree as it falls, and smoke pouring out of the back of the robot).

TWO classically animated layers (1 is the bird, another is dust billowing around the robot's feet (thankfully re-used from a previous project).

TWO shadow passes.

ONE falling tree, which is a bunch of paintings strategically placed to look like a tree (and not flatten out like a piece of paper) as it falls towards the camera.

Some objects are moving in and out of focus as they get too close to the camera, and there's a bunch of camera shakes as well.

Son of bitch! No more shots of this complexity in the rest of the film, thankfully.

Will post some of the paintings and stills of this shot tomorrow if nothing else interesting comes up.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

swimming with a seal

This seal was hanging around because a tourist-fisherman fed him baitfish, which you're not supposed to do. It's not the smartest idea to swim with a baby seal - kind of like playing with a bear cub. If its mother finds you, expect to get torn apart. That being said...

I swam with a baby seal!

People were onshore keeping a good eye out for the mother. The seal came right up to me and we made squealing noises back and forth. I guess he was asking for more fish.

He slid under the water to get a better look at me, I did the same. We did that for a few minutes. Then he dove and swam slowly between the rocks along the shore. I dove and followed him, until he disappeared ahead of me.

Later, he resurfaced right behind me and squealed again. I held out my arms like you would if you were holding a baby and he floated into my arms. I stroked his smooth,soft skin a bit. Then we spent more time floating around each other. He'd come in for a little bit of contact. When I swam, he'd brush against my legs occasionally. I wonder if that's how they tell their mothers "I'm here".

It's probably not a good idea to get wildlife too used to human presence, for all kinds of reasons, so I left after a while.

Despite all those practical facts and warnings, it's an amazing thing when two species can come together for a moment and look into each others eyes and want to understand each other. Maybe these occasional little connections are just as important as keeping a respectful distance. It is a beautiful reminder that we are not above the rest of the animal kingdom - we're just as much part of it as plankton, spruce trees, jellyfish and bears.

It's difficult to not get preachy about this. Suffice it to say I have very strong feelings about the furry / fishy / plant-y / rocky members of our communities.

So I got my wish and swam with a seal, and it is something I'll never forget.

(I didn't have my snorkeling mask, but I was opening my eyes underwater anyways, and lost both contact lenses. I just put in new ones that morning... dammit.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

sketch and thanks

A doodle I did. One good thing about this blog is I start to see patterns in what I'm posting, so it encourages me to shift things around. I haven't been sketching with colour much, so there you go.

Yesterday's animation notes are superimposed onto the sketch. Usually two pages get filled with frame numbers, notes on shots, ideas, other chores that need doing, etc. I'm fastidious about keeping track of how many hours I work on art every day, so that takes up a bit of the page, too. Yesterday was 6 hours and 10 minutes.

As the film winds down, other projects are miraculously starting to surface. Three painting commissions have come my way in the last month. I love how that always seems to happen. It's like a constant sign from the Universe that you're doing the right thing... but you have to put yourself out on a limb and really commit for it to happen.

Like Bruce Lee said, "If you want to learn to swim, jump in the water. On dry land, no frame of mind is ever going to help you."

Thanks to the people who have appreciated my films and paintings, over the years - and to the people who continue to support me by asking for work. I would be driving a cab if it wasn't for you.

(Although I sorta want to drive a cab.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

the water

Slowly learning about the natural ways of this island... the wind comes at different times than in Vancouver, and means different things. North wind means warm water, south wind means cold. Windy on hot mornings, but it dies down in the early afternoon. Unlike Vancouver, the evenings are dead calm. (Katabatic winds bring in South-westerlies on summer evenings in Vancouver, until the sun goes down.)

I swim out to the kelp beds at least once a day now. I haven't been out there with the seal though.

The sea life around this bit of shoreline is astounding, and I'm sure I would notice something new every day if I swam here for the rest of my life. But I've been reminded that the most diverse sea life occurs in other areas where there is more constant current - i.e. in the channels between islands. Plankton and everything else gets carried through there in higher concentrations, so it's like a big drive-through restaurant, and everything wants to hang out and eat.

My early job dream was to be a marine biologist. I read literally tens of thousands of pages on marine life before the age of 13. Some of that information is starting to filter back. Bring it on!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bird Up At Shadow

Frame from the latest completed shot. Classical animation coloured on the computer, comp'ed onto a multilayer painting of a tree which is comped over another blurred painting.

Really hard to work with all the sun and ocean out there. My sinus cavities are often sloshing with sea water. When I bend over, it runs out my nose. Getting better at swimming, this evening I went for a non-snorkeling swim that's four times the distance (and twice as far out) as I dared to do when I first arrived. When I get back I'm always tired and feel like napping instead of working.

The tide was super low this morning, so I had a chance to see the seafloor further out than usual. Lots of neat seaweed, different starfish, lots of fish hiding in the longer weeds. I went out to the kelp bed and cruised around in total awe of the forest of ropy tendrils, alien bulbs and long swaying fronds. Tonnes of fish out there.

The problem with snorkeling is that I don't tend to exert myself much, so my body cools off after a while. For two days in a row now, I've gone out for quite some time and come back with a deep chill and had to sit under blankets. Obviously the coolness is getting into my core. Could be that I'm losing fat as well, because of all the exercise. I have a wetsuit, but I like to go as natural as possible. I think I'll try kicking a bit more, keep the heartrate up, and see if I can get used to it before I start using the wetsuit.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

the vibe

I get to do some classical (hand-drawn) animation for the next few days. I'm really enjoying the challenges of classical - I can see myself doing it for long long time... as opposed to 3D (computer) animation, which I'm getting a bit tired of.

Every time I do a classical shot, I understand the vibe a bit more. It's the same as sketching, in that you gotta stay loose so the lines are expressive. But the difference is that you're drawing motion - so you sometimes draw lines that don't make sense in a logical way in a single frame, but work in terms of flow and movement.

Shit like this is hard to put into words.

Lots of jellyfish in the ocean today. I got stung a few times, got a nice burn on my hand from a bigger one, but its so worth it. Went out a little deeper today so I couldn't see the ocean floor, only blue-green, and unearthly formations of delicate shimmering-white jelly creatures.

There's a kelp bed about 100m offshore that a seal likes to hunt in at sunset. Next step is to gather the courage to go out there with the mask and snorkel and check it out, see how he reacts. I don't want to mess with his vibe, so I won't do it much, but I would love to think I could laze around in the sea and watch a seal jetting around below me without shitting my pants.

Monday, July 12, 2010

ferry ladies

Quick sketches with an HB pencil. I think it's time to start dabbing a bit of paint on these sketches to make them interesting. Sketchbooks are way more fun to flip through when there's color in 'em, and the pages are thick and crinkly from water.

I've always liked dumpster divers and "homeless" people, and found them more interesting than most other city dwellers. My imaginary hero that I created years ago, Dr Gogomax, is a street dweller. (I will do a comic / film about him one day.) I got to do some street living this weekend, and will definitely do it again. Lots of lessons to learn. Here's a few things I already picked up:

DO NOT sleep on city rooftops. Too loud, too much light. (I planned on sleeping on a school roof this weekend, but when I got there, it felt wrong... the next morning at 6:00 am there was a crew up tarring the roof! That would have sucked to have been caught by them).

DO sleep under trees in parks or vacant lots instead. Quieter, darker, good fields-of-view without being seen. Vacant lots are especially good because they tend to have fences around them, and be overgrown.

DO jump nude into clean water whenever possible. Even if it's a high-traffic urban area. You need that shit to stay clean and feel normal.

I can appreciate how it must feel to be homeless and never feel secure where you're sleeping. You wouldn't know if a bunch of drunks are going to come kick you, or if you're in someone else's spot, or if an all-night security guard is going to find you. But it sure is nice to wake up to the sounds of chirping birds and the feel of weather (in the summer, at least).

Every homeless person should be given a camouflage groundsheet and tarp. Next time I'll bring a camo tarp that I can cover my bike with.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Dear Diary,

I just sketched out the last few shots of the film. Those "few" shots have turned into fifteen. I thought I had 2-3 weeks left, but now it looks like I won't be finished until near the end of the summer. It feels like this film never ends. Why does it keep going on and on?

If I cut out shots, I know I won't be happy with the end product. Maybe I just need to work more hours. I definitely need to breathe deep and take it as it comes.

It feels very strange to spend so much time working on something solely for myself. I don't know if people are going to like the film. All I can do is enjoy the process and craft something I'm proud of, because I might never have a chance to do something like this again.

I have a whole list of fun projects taped to the bottom of my monitor. The title of the list is "IDEAS FOR LIFE AFTER THE FILM." I'm dying to get into those projects, but I guess I need to set them aside for another two months.

Deep breaths...

down on trees

Lots of tree paintings these days for backgrounds, which suits me just fine. The reference for these trees was a photo I took looking down from a bush plane, flying over the northern tundra in NWT, about 2 km south of the Arctic Ocean and 100 km West of Inuvik.

It's pretty hilarious how little of the paintings are actually seen in some of the shots... but I think that the extra work still shows through.

This is a very quick shot at the end of the film when everything gets crazy. I'm blocking in the last of the shots today. Some are going to be a lot of work to complete, though. A tonne of classical animation, 3D character animation, visual effects and compositing. These shots are really quick and the action is fairly complicated, so it's a real challenge making the cuts work and the shots clear while maintaining a high level of energy. Lots of fun!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


This happened inside my head.

Shaded with coffee.

Monday, July 5, 2010

comin down

Sketches of people from the local pub. I like the energy in the lines, and the variety of strokes. It helps that I was using a 4B pencil. Softer lead is so much better for recording the energy of your strokes, but it also smudges and fades fast if you don't spray it with matte finish. For this reason I tend to use harder leads or ink in my sketchbooks.

Just got back from a wedding. Two-and-a-half days at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. A dozen cold swims in a glacier-fed river. Nine hours of straight dancing. Two soccer games. One good solo hike, three thousand belly-laughs.

Now sliding back into a quieter place where I can create.