A Quick Cartoony Head Shot In Adobe Illustrator

Posted by on Oct 31, 2012 in Graphic Design | 0 comments

I created this one in Illustrator recently to keep my chops sharp. Since I’ve learned to use Inkscape open source illustration software at work I’ve begun playing around with Illustrator on campus.

I’ve used this as a head shot on some of my social media profiles. It’s not me but I do favor a cool beret in cool weather. What do you think of it?

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My Illustrator Workshop Class In Review

Posted by on Dec 22, 2011 in DePaul University CDM, Graphic Design | 6 comments

Just before the beginning of the Fall 2011 quarter the School of Cinema and Interactive Media in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media acquired the graphic design department from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. This development has provided a slew of new courses for us. I’ve always wanted to take Adobe Illustrator and learn more about vector graphics to accompany pixel based Photoshop. It’s a freshman level course but it’s one I can imagine using in a variety of ways in my future animation projects.

Our lecturer for this course was Chris Kalis. Although one of his specialties is graphic design this wasn’t a graphic design course, just a basic “how to class”. We learned some important basics such as masking, creating our own character fonts and learning how to create abstract shapes with the line and circle tools. We got a lot of good work in with the color tools too.

Chris didn’t let us off the hook just because it was a beginner class though. We applied design and composition principles to our projects with the layouts he assigned using a variety of techniques. On our first major project he took our head shots, we turned them into silhouettes and then got creative blending it with our initials in a variety of ways. Here’s one of mine.

This is the reason I took the class. To learn how to draw in Illustrator. For this exercise we found a picture of an interesting object and traced it. After Placing (sometimes preferable to Importing an image) the picture on the art board you lower the opacity to make it more opaque but not completely transparent. Then the line tool is used to draw the contours of the object. In the end the closed spaces can be filled with color. The file below was my boat project which included a labeled diagram.

This is my final project, my re-imagining of a Donald Byrd album cover. It is a process book layout of one of his jazz album covers. The objective for the final was to pick an album cover, create a few stylized versions of it, including the logo, and then picking a color pallet to use as inspiration for something unique in the end. This exercise gave us more practice on learning about fonts and duplicating them as closely as possible. The PDF flip book will let you leaf through the pages of my final.

I learned more than expected from this class, especially creating custom fonts that I can use in any animated situation. Christ is a great instructor. This is Chris’s personal site. If you’re a student of animation or graphic design I definitely recommend that you take a course from him. And if you need a vector based alternative to the pixel based PhotoShop you should definitely fire up Illustrator and start playing around with it.

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Behind the Scenes of My Interview With Illustrator, Animator and Logo Designer Russ Cox

Posted by on Aug 10, 2011 in Artist Interviews | 0 comments

The interview you’re about to watch was one of the potential subjects of my final project during the Spring 2011 quarter at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media (The CDM Baby!). The task assigned by my DC489 “The Big Picture” course professor Dan Pal was to interview someone in the entertainment business. Russ Cox, owner of Smiling Otis Studio was one of two artists I contacted who agreed to a live interview.

I contacted him through LinkedIn. That won’t surprise those of you who know I am huge believer in the power of social media for networking. I don’t exactly recall how I came across Russ’s profile, probably a LinkedIn group, but two things caught my attention. First was his profile picture with one of his characters popping out of the top his hat but also his hilarious bio (read the funny Summary section). His summary is so well written that I rewrote mine in narrative form as he had done. I realized it’s O.K. to use humor in your profile even on a forum as professional as LinkedIn so my Summary isn’t stiff like the original version.

At any rate that was the impetus to formally connect our profiles then I messaged a request for an interview. He was happy to help an emerging fellow artist and we worked out the details. Take a look at the interview and I’ll continue with the backstory on the other side.



The method I arranged for was a recorded Skype interview via the VOD Burner system. VOD Burner is a downloadable program that connects to your Skype video call and records it. You can then save and edit the video conference in a variety of formats. I’m a Skype pro but this was my first time using the recording program and I had a couple of issues that I needed to work around.

Although Russ and I were able to see each other and converse through our computer cameras VOD didn’t record my half of the video portion. It processed my audio just fine but you’ll notice in the two panel layout that the left side is green opposite Russ’s video on the right. My face should be where the green is. Somehow it didn’t work out. Don’t know if I didn’t have the settings correct or if the program flaked out but it called on my sense of creativity to make it work.

I initially imported the VOD Burner files into Adobe Premier Pro, my favorite film editing package. For some reason Premier Pro and VOD were not agreeing with each other (I won’t bore you with the time wasted on figuring out how to process the VOD interview footage into a useful format). For some reason Premier Pro garbled the QuickTime files. Never had that problem before, nothing but a headache this time. Adobe After Effects wound up being the tool for the job.

Since my smiling face was nowhere to be seen I inserted a series of images into the left panel and used the green as border for each of them. In the middle segment you’ll see a transition to a single screen. I simply moved the dual panel to the left centering Russ’s face on the screen and inserted black layer over the green panel. Then it switches back to the dualĀ  screen layout for the last part of the interview. This forced technical adjustment helped me to give the interview some additional visual interest. Plus, I now know how to do multiple video layouts within a film intentional for future projects.

The other adjustment that took some time figuring out was how to adjust the VOD default frame rate (30 frames per second OR fps) to the standard 24 fps that I’m used to. Didn’t know how to change it on the VOD side and neither Premier Pro nor After Effects could adjust it after I imported the files. These differing settings resulted in the audio and video being out of sync.

I finally figured out that I had to use two copies of each segment as individual tracks, one track for audio only (by turning off the video) and the other track for video only (by turning off the audio). This allowed my to slide the audio track ahead of the video by a few frames in order for words and mouth to match up again. Five frame seemed to do the trick. With all manner of audio visual trickery I finally got it to where it needed to be. Such is the life of animators and film makers. Obstacles sonstantly present learning opportunities to get the job done.

I hoped you enjoyed the interview and learned a lot from Russ as I did. And if you’re an Adobe software user be sure to save this post for reference in case of future problems of your own. Leave comments, tell me what you learned or tell me what you thought of my aesthetic choices and workarounds.

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