My ANI421 Animation Mechanics Class

Posted by on Oct 10, 2011 in Artists, DePaul University CDM | 0 comments

ANI421 is the first of the new cohort of courses for the Master of Arts in Animation program that was recently split of from the Master of Science in Cinema program. Animation was previously just a concentration of DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media‘s cinema curriculum but we now have our own standalone degree program as of this fall 2011 quarter!!!

Our professor for this class is Scott Roberts who heads up the animation program within the School of Cinema and Interactive Media. He’s a renowned digital artist in his own right so we’re getting the benefit of a wealth of experience.

Scott has us focusing on the fundamentals of effective animated motion. We’re digging into the details of many of the 12 Principles of Animation as outlined in The Animator’s Survival Kit. Our other reference is Timing for Animation which is helping us learn how to move different parts of the body at different speeds.

At this point at least we’re focused on using stick figures in Flash to be sure we nail down the principles. Some of my classmates are really accomplished artists so they are beyond stick people. Drawing on a monitor is definitely different than drawing on paper but I plan on getting beyond the stick people too before the end of the term as I get more comfortable with sketching poses in the software. In the meantime I’ll share some of what I’ve made so far.






After four weeks I’m really getting a lot out of this class. I’ll be able to apply this to any of my future 2D and 3D work. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

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My ANI460 Animation Graduate Seminar

Posted by on Sep 9, 2011 in Artists, DePaul University CDM | 0 comments

For the fall quarter of 2011 I will take my third class with one of my favorite professors, Lisa Barcy. Much of it will be an overview of the animation industry and careers. It’s going to cover a lot of aesthetics and cover some international styles. Our first night of class we looked at  a Japanese short film and a slightly longer Czech film so she has us hitting the ground right from the start just the way I like it. Lisa is our main stop motion professor. If you’ve never seen her work before this one is my favorite. Check it out.


Anonanimal from Lisa Barcy on Vimeo.

During our “getting to know you” introductions I learned that we have a couple of working animators in the class as well as a few people with an interest in comics, something that has been recently rekindled in me. Plenty of opportunity for collaboration and to learn how to make the transition from classroom to the animation workforce by people who have done it and are doing it.

Lisa is also making us spread our wings and see more of the local arts community outside our campus walls to events at venues like the Gene Siskel Film Center, Columbia College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. We’re also going to have professional animators including some of our own DePaul College of Computing and Digital Media professors as guest speakers in class and off campus. I’ll give a plug to my advisor Alexander Stewart who is curating his second Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation (this year’s URL coming soon).

We’ll also have lots of good reading and reaction papers to the reading and to films that we screen in class. Each of us will give informal presentations of subjects that we’d like to explore further and  final animated projects because although this isn’t a production class it is ultimately it’s about producing some work. I’m thinking about doing something with a superhero character especially since I’ve been inspired by all the comic artists I’ve met this summer. I’ll keep you posted on that when we get closer to actually planning projects.

Lisa is starting us off with  the first couple of chapters of “A Short Guide to Writing About Films” as a compliment to writing our papers more effectively and we’ll be using “Animation in Process” to learn about a variety of aesthetic approaches to the animation craft.



It’s going to be another great term and I’m going to soak it all up in sponge-like fashion. Of course I’ll share some of my papers and projects with you guys over the next ten weeks so leave comments and tell me what you think as we go along.

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The 501st Legion Invades Chicago ComiCon 2011

Posted by on Aug 29, 2011 in Artists, Comic Art and Comic Artists | 0 comments

Couldn’t bring yourself to to throw out that old plastic light saber? Neither could these guys. The Midwest Garrison is a branch of The 501st Legion (Vader’s Fist) a non profit costuming group of Star Wars re-enactors who raise funds and donate to causes for children. They also dress in costume to entertain youngsters and bring a little joy to their lives.

Darrell Hargrove made the hyperjump from the Midsouth Garrison in Kentucky to join his fellow Illinois stormtroopers of the Midwest Garrison at Chicago Comic Con 2011 and tells us more in this interview.



These guys and girls have as much fun as the cosplayers only more often. If you want to channel your inner child while doing good, consider joining a 501st Garrison near you.

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I Met Real Life Superhero Yorli Huff at Chicago Comic Con 2011

Posted by on Aug 25, 2011 in Artists, Comic Art and Comic Artists, Comics | 2 comments

How many people get to tell their life story in heroic illustrated fashion? Yorli Huff is one of the few among us who can make that claim. Yorli is one of many people in the comic industry that I’ve connected with and been networking with on Facebook and I got to meet her in person during Wizard World weekend.

It’s funny how we finally crossed paths on the convention floor. I was walking with my head down taking notes or fidgeting with equipment or some such thing and someone walking the other way down the aisle shoved a couple of cards in my hand. I looked up and it was Yorli and her artist Derrel Spicyy handing out Special Agent Phaedra shields and Veil of victory placards.

I looked up and realized that it was her in the flesh and I said “Hey Yorli, I was coming to see when I can interview you.” We shook hands and she said “Give me ten minutes. I’m going to get an autograph from Pam Grier.” Couldn’t argue with that (LOL) and I caught up with her and Derrell at her at her table a few minutes later.

Two things to love about the comic is that there is no cursing and none of the characters die so it’s appropriate for all ages. I walked away a happy customer with my autographed copy.

As you can see from the interview Yorli is a busy lady. She has the comic book and her real life story The Veil of Victory. Also be sure to friend her on Facebook to keep up with her latest public appearances.

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Secrets of the Superstars at Chicago Comic Con 2011

Posted by on Aug 18, 2011 in Artists, Comic Art and Comic Artists, Comics | 0 comments

The Secrets of the Superstars panel hosted by Glass House Graphics artist agency CEO David Campiti featured two of Marvel Comics finest in a discussion on secrets of the comics business. His international talent company helped launch the careers of panelists Mike Deodato (Secret Avengers) and Will Conrad (X-Men) and all three shared thoughts and answered questions.

Some general tips from the trio included:

  • Create a portfolio with the characters of the company you want to work for. They want to see if you can draw their universe.
  • Tell the story with as few words as possible because you will be limited by word balloons.
  • Omit common American phrases because you are writing for an international audience.
  • Learn to draw poses with shadows and practice drawing the folds in clothes.
  • Use reference images or personal photographs of things that interest you to practice drawing.

It’s great advice and simple to apply. These guys obviously enjoy what they do and get a lot of pleasure out of being comic artists as you can tell by this video from the Glass House Graphics web site.


As you might expect from top flight professionals both Deodato and Conrad are self taught artists (most comic artists seem to be) but they both continue to study in order to constantly improve at the craft.

Mike emphasized that knowing more can only help you by making you more versatile. One response to a particular question was that a tool is a tool and you should become as comfortable with as many traditional and digital drawing tools as possible.

Will Conrad shared his typical day with us.  His day can start with taking the kids to school then getting home to work from 7:00AM to 12:00 noon. He’ll take a break for a little while and get back to it from 2:00PM to 6:00 or 7:00PM. Then he’ll allow a longer break for family time and life and he’ll hit it one more time from 11:00PM to 1:00AM. As a parent and a graduate student I can identify and his answer was very affirming too me.

David gave great tips on how to assemble a sample test plot before submitting a portfolio. His company has a wealth of information on the process so you guys should definitely read up on it if you’re serious about breaking into the industry.

Secrets of the Superstars was a great panel. I can apply much of what I learned and I hope that you can do the same.

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What I Learned About Tom Nguyen’s Style of Inking At Chicago ComicCon 2011

Posted by on Aug 17, 2011 in Artists, Comic Art and Comic Artists, Comics | 0 comments

One of the best parts of Comic Con is the hourly information presentations you can attend on all sorts of comic related subjects. One particular subject I wanted to learn more about is inking and D.C. Comics inker Tom Nguyen is one of the best in the industry. I got a chance to sit in on his session “Tom Nguyen’s Style of Inking” Friday afternoon at Chicago Comic Con 2011. Don’t know what an inker is? That’s the second person in the creative process of making a comic book or graphic novel. The penciler draws all the panels and then they hand it off to the inker who makes the dark outlines, shadows and backgrounds. The letterer handles the lettering including thought and speech bubbles along with effects lettering and the colorist finishes it off to bring the page to life.



D.C. Comics inker Tom Nguyen
Tom shared a lot including the tools he uses and his daily routine. One of the cool process things he taught us is the fact that comic artists never create at comic size. Everything is done on an 11 X 17 Bristol pad. When each artist has done their part the Brystol is reduced to comic page size for publishing. The Brystol page has a cardstock type of texture. That’s probably  because it’s going through so many artist’s hands before reaching the publishing stage.



Some inking tools include Micron pens which come in a few different sizes. He said Sharpies are good to use for concept art but not serious inking because you can encounter bleeding issues and the tips get blunted with use. He also noted that technical pens are good for drawing mechanical objects and borders.

Tom prefers to use brushes (size 1 or 2) with India ink though. Windsor and Newton is his favorite brand but he said it’s not necessary for a beginner to use a top of the line brush like that while learning the craft. He mentioned that some inkers like to use crow quill pens because they give you great control over line variation but they’re not for him as the tips wear out so quickly. He also uses brushes for black fill in. When working digitally he fills in the blacks with the Photoshop fill bucket. White-out pens or thinned white acrylic paint are commonly used to correct errors.

The final tool in the inking process is the prep work to pass it on. That requires a scanner and Tom uses a large format Epson scanner. After this point the pencilers and inkers usually work out personal agreements on how to split the original art. Sometimes they keep it for themselves and other times they sell it. Inks are actually some of the coolest for sale work in artist alley at the convention.

It was also good to learn about his daily routine and personal journey into the profession. He makes it his goal to complete one page a day and while he’s working he likes to listen to music or documentaries. Not watch documentaries, just listen to them (LOL).

Tom got into the field at the age of fifteen by working with D.C. artist Doug Mahnke in Minnesota. A few years of that was enough to get him started full time at the age of nineteen. His answer to the question “what if you don’t know anyone in the industry to get an internship” was to attend conventions and show your work there. You can ask for critiques from the pros on the spot or online. People asked lots of good questions and Tom made lots of other great points during the session.

He capped it off by giving us a demo of inking in Photoshop with a quick Batman sketch.  Using his digital tablet and stylus he mentioned that he uses the default brush settings. He doesn’t bother with creating his own. The most interesting technique pointer was that changing line width when you encounter a change in direction on the shape or character makes it look more dynamic (he said to think “thick-thin, thick-thin” while working) . Techniques like that are what makes the inker more than just a tracer of the penciler’s original work.

Another cool part of his Photoshop demo was the way he used the lasso tool to make corrections. Most of us who use the software only think to use the lasso to delete a section of a layer or to move the lassoed section to a new layer. He used it to reposition a couple of sections of the Batman face and edited it back together using the eraser or clone tool (I don’t remember which) and then redrew where he needed to reconnect the shifted parts of the face.

It was a great choice of a first session for me and I walked away with some ideas that I can immediately apply in animation school this fall and going forward in my career.

Tom isn’t a one dimensional artist. Among other things he’s an accomplished photographer as well. Check out his photography site here. Also keep up with Tom’s projects on social media via his tweets at @tomnguyenart.

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