Why Is Reading Critical to Being a Great Artist?

Posted by on Aug 20, 2013 in General | 4 comments

Because it naturally ignites the neurons that stir our imaginations. A snippet from a recent Facebook post by George C. Fraser says “Build your vocabulary by reading. The average American reads only one book a year. If you read one book a month, in 5 years the average American will have only read 5 books, you will have read 60 books. You will be smgty_books_ll_120706_wgarter, have a bigger vocabulary and be a deeper thinker.”

I could not agree more. I’ve spent much of my time as a parent imprinting my love of reading upon my children. The logic I share with them is that being a better reader naturally makes you a better writer and speaker. How? Because when you read you’re storing all of those published people’s writing styles and concepts in your brain for future reference. So whenever you’re trying to turn a phrase more effectively, either in written or spoken form, you have all of that expert literary technique to pull from.

That’s another reason I really loved grad school. It wasn’t just about being a pencil and pixel jockey for my animated short film homework assignments. We did seriously deep reading and writing on the arts in general and animation in particular. I share this sam5363719269_aa91529804_ze point with my fellow creatives – especially the visual types – because we’re all storytellers, including those of us who don’t necessarily write or speak professionally. Even for us, solid reading habits inform visual art. If you don’t believe me, try a new habit. Consider taking your sketch pad to a library and read a book as a break from drawing. Whatever you’re reading will automatically drive you back to your sketch book with ideas from that piece of literature.

Other arts forms prove the value of consistent reading as well. Did you know that most feature films are not original ideas from the imaginations of directors? Fact is, the overwhelming wpid-peter-stackpole-movie-director-alfred-hitchcock-dourly-reading-script-for-the-movie-rebecca-_i-g-27-2777-rqmtd00z-1majority of screenplays are book adaptations. So if reading inspires Hollywood directors’ best work then that’s sufficient precedent for the rest of us in the creative world to do the same.

For my musical artist friends the same tip applies for you as well. Those of you who are formally trained already know that reading music makes you a better instrumentalist or singer. You also know that reading music can translate into your being an arranger of other people’s music. I challenge you to elevate your musical talents by reading more literature in general as well. Why? Because the extra mental reference material can make you a more effective original composer (and lyricist) of your own ideas. And in terms of creativity that’s much more significant than merely re-scrambling other composers’ music into new arrangements.

Sadly, the proof of value of reading also explains the state of the rap genre as it relates to the musical arts. I remember reading an interview a few years ago of a Chicago rapper who realized and admitted that his music career was pretty much toast because of his limited vocabulary. Hope he’s done something about it. Although their public schools thoroughly suck, Chi-Town is definitely not lacking in public libraries with plenty of self educational opportunities for the citizenry. I know. I hung out in a bunch of the local libraries while I was in grad school. I saw a bunch of you in there reading with me.

Finally, here’s a career teaching point for you classroom instructors and fellow parents. If a child you know or love tells you they wish they could spend the rest of their lives getting paid to read, tell them with uber gusto, “You can kid. Be an artist.” There’s absolutely nothing better for me than drawing and reading all day, every day, for all the reasons mentioned above. I think you will find the value in adding regular reading to your artistic arsenal as well.

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Our Final Film for ANI440 Collaborative Short Animated Film

Posted by on Jun 14, 2012 in Animation, DePaul University CDM, General | 2 comments

“Masterpiece” is the final short film produced by my team of classmates for the first course of ANI440 Collaborative Short Animated Film. ANI440 is one of the courses for the first cohort of the Master of Arts in Animation program in DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media. Our professor Meghann Artes grouped the class into teams based on our animation and creative interests. My team mates were Christal Charlery, Deborah Mathis and Petra Sobers and this is our final production.

My roles included drawing some of the first storyboards and creating the first draft of the animatic with those storyboard drawings, animating a couple of scenes (scrolling wall near the beginning and the reveal at the end), creating some of the character’s scene props (chisel, hammer, table, cardboard boxes, box of nails, picture frames, ruler) some of the foley (tools dropped on table, horse sculture tossed onto the floor, the box dropping on the floor, the sound of the wood touching against clothing, the sound of his hand stuck to the wood and popping off the wood) and some voice over in (the form of various vocal expressions including my French impersonation, “Bee-yue-tiful!”).

There was plenty for the four of us to pack into ten weeks and it was hectic. Our 3D software crashing on a regularly random basis didn’t serve to help us keep pace as we wanted to but we juggled the pieces amongst ourselves and brought it home. We got an A (and it gave a nice little boost to the GPA) and we’re down to the last two courses over the next two quarters in the Master of Arts cohort.

So what do think of our short film? Leave a few comments. I’d like to tell you more about it.

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My Final Storyboard for Visual Storytelling

Posted by on Apr 2, 2012 in Animation, DePaul University CDM, General | 0 comments

I had heard the phrase storyboard before but I really didn’t know what one was before taking ANI425 Visual Storytelling from professor Devin Bell last winter quarter. Storyboards are the foundational story building tool before beginning a new film. Sometimes they are used to help pitch an idea and other times they are used to flesh out a film after it has been green lighted. In this course we made our storyboards into animatics, short films made storyboard style to give the gist of a film.

For my final in this class I expanded upon previous iterations of the project that I named “Famborted” (Family Aborted). It required a few more drawings to improve story clarity and continuity. The video shows how it all turned out.

The final was a good opportunity to include movement as well. After Effects has a 3D Layers feature that allows for key framed movement of images on multiple layers to help create the illusion of those images seemingly interacting with one another on one layer. In this animatic I use that technique in the sequence where my character slides next to each picture portrait. Those are a series of PNG files on 3D layers. PNG files are used because they have background transparency built in. This makes it easy to mimic 2D objects sliding in front of or behind each other in the way that 3D objects would do.

This is one of those classes I’m putting into immediate use in all my remaining courses as well as my personal projects. Who knows, I might even give it serious consideration as a career specialty. Give me a shout and tell me what you think of my burgeoning storyboarding skills.


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ANI 422 Animation Styles and Techniques Dino Final

Posted by on Mar 17, 2012 in Animation, DePaul University CDM, General | 0 comments

For my first final project of the winter 2012 quarter we had the option of doing something new or enhancing a previous project. I wanted to jazz up my dinosaur so I revised that assignment and retooled it as a loose homage to Windsor McCay (Gertie the Dinosaur) and the John and Faith Hubley UPA (my attempt at minimal animation) style.

The white outline with a gray fill pretty much set the stylization I was going for. Modifications included reshaping the head and adding in-betweens for bent leg motion at the beginning. I also added a few dozen extra Photoshop layer neck motion tweens at the end which were imported into After Effects and sequenced for the animation.

The background was stylized with scanned textile pieces. The mountains were a textile scrap with color adjustments to give it a reddish hue in Photoshop. I shaped the rectangular scrap into mountainous contour by creating a mask with the pen tool in After Effects. The ground was a different layer of scanned fabric. I scaled it down to fit under the mountain range. The lake was four alternating scans of a piece of sheer turquoise fabric that I twisted and reshaped on the scanner table. I masked it into the composition with the pen tool and added a wavy effect filter to each layer for stylized wave motion. Here’s how it turned out.

My professor didn’t want us to use Flash for the final and gave the challenge to use other tools so I had to revert to Photoshop. I love Photoshop for textures and images but it is horrible for animation. It took forever to make edits to layer by layer without the benefit of onion skinning which saves massive amounts of time when tweaking. Nevertheless I chugged through it.

Now that I’ve experimented with textiles as environmental accents I really like the feel it gives. I’m definitely going to use them more often in the future. One final down and one to go before spring break.

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I’m Gettin’ FunGky With My Animation

Posted by on Feb 21, 2012 in Animation, DePaul University CDM, General | 0 comments

Yes, I spelled it with a “g” as in Stellar Fungk, an old 1978 funk jam by a group called Slave. As we learned more about the early animation pioneers as well as a few from more modern times I wanted to continue investingating my experimental chops. This time I went completely abstract with no literal imagery. Just wanted to have the imagery moving rhythmically with the music with some tones sliding in between the movements.

Viking Eggeling, Walter Ruttmann, Oskar Fischinger and others as inspiration for this one. I made this one 30 seconds in length. Take a look.

Can’t you tell I had a lot of fun with this one? If I had more time I would definitely have stretched it out. I had a blast with this one and looking forward to more fun with 2D. Stay tuned and see what I come up with next.

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Emile Cohl Has Me Hooked On Abstract Animation

Posted by on Feb 15, 2012 in Animation, DePaul University CDM, General | 0 comments

Well he’s one one many that have me developing a taste for abstract animation this quarter. One of the cool classes I’m taking this Winter of 2012 is ANI422 Animation Styles and Techniques. I guess since my eye has begun to get attuned to abstract painting over the last few months, appreciating the abstract in digital media should be perfectly natural I guess.

The quarter began with us learning about some of the European pioneers of animation. They came along in the 19th century during the advent of film technology when people were first being mesmerized by moving images of people on a screen. Cohl is credited as being the first to amaze with illustrations that came to life on this new medium. His film Fantasmogorie is the standard reference in animation circles when it comes to how it was done more than a century ago.

His morphing figures make me go “ooh and ahh” now, even with his rudimentary motions, decades before the fundamentals of animation were established. During the quarter our projects are to be inspired by the variety of short films that we reveiw in class each week and our professor Lisa Barcy typically likes us make our shorts 10-30 seconds long. The abstract inspired my so here is my homage to the original master.

What do you think of my first effort? I plan to do more abstract (oftern referred to as “experimental” in modern animation parlance) inspired animation over time, as I continue to learn and research the topic so stay tuned to the blog for more.

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Dream Studio Still Life

Posted by on Jun 14, 2011 in Animation, General, Graphic Design | 0 comments

This is my final project for my 3D Texturing and Lighting course taken Winter Quarter of 2011. I downloaded the geometry of this scene and imported it into Maya. I created textures found from online images and applied them to shaders. The shaders were assigned to each object in the scene and digital lighting was added for realism.

I really enjoyed this assignment. I picked this model in particular as it reminded me of the dream studio I have pictured in my head. It looks like the old loft/factory buildings that many traditional artists use for studio space. I wouldn’t necessarily need a brand new or even a used modern building. I like old places and one properly refurbished would do just the trick for me.

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Kitchen Still Life

Posted by on Jun 14, 2011 in Animation, General, Graphic Design | 3 comments

This was the Winter 2011 quarter midterm project for my 3D Texturing and Lighting class. We imported the 3D geometry into Maya, created textures from imagery found online and assigned them to shaders. The shaders were applied to each object in the scene and digital lighting was added for realism.

This course was my first opportunity to learn scene composition. It was difficulty to pick up on at first but I think this one turned out pretty well.

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Standard Walk Cycle

Posted by on Jun 14, 2011 in Animation, General | 0 comments

This is the standard walk cycle assignment for my 3D Character Animation course. We learned the mechanics of showing weight in the character while making it walk across the screen (as opposed to walking in place which is learned in the first animation course). We downloaded the Generi character, probably the most used animation learning rig, for the assignment.

The objective was to incorporate overlapping action and secondary motion of other body parts to give the digital model actual character.

I created it using Maya 2011 and imported the rendered images into After Effects to create the QuickTime clip.

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Walls of Sound

Posted by on Jun 14, 2011 in Animation, General | 0 comments


If walls could talk maybe they’d make cool sound effects like mine. This was a sound design project produced in my Sound Design class at DePaul University during the Spring 2010 quarter.

We were given a Quick Time movie of an animated wall forming itself with the assignment to apply a creative sound environment to compliment the movement.

The software used is Pro Tools 8. Had major fun with this.  It was a blast combining mechanical, animal and environmental sounds together to create various unique tracks. I could definitely get into sound design full tilt with my animation career.

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Bank Heist Foiled!

Posted by on Jun 13, 2011 in Animation, General | 0 comments


O.K. it was decades ago (just look at this old footage) and it has probably been replotted a million different ways in that time. This short film was produced in my Editing I class at DePaul University during the Spring 2010 quarter.

We were given film footage from what seems to have been a student production from the 1970’s of a bank robbery and cut it into clips to be recomposed as our own unique story. The ultimate objective of this basic editing class is to learn how to tell a story, not just how to put clips together, so  it was a little difficult to grasp at first as I’m not a natural story teller. I have learned to be one in every class since then though 🙂

The software used is Apple’s Final Cut Pro 7 and the music tracks are a couple of my 70’s rock favorites from Paul McCartney and the Steve Miller Band. I think this was pretty decent for my first attempt. What do you think?


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My Career Change Animated

Posted by on Jun 13, 2011 in Animation, General | 0 comments


This is the final modification of my final project from my ANI 201 class, Animation I, at DePaul University in Chicago. It uses images processed in Photoshop and imported into After Effects for compositing. The movie was produced during the fall quarter of the 2009 – 2010 school year.

The concept is to show my career transition in the works. My old life as an engineer in a small engine factory is covered by foliage, ridding me of the old profession that brought me no creative fulfillment. Then the foliage retreats to reveal the inspiration to return to school and unleash my creative juices in digital animation, my new career in progress.

This is the second revision in which I add audio tracks in key spots to give more life to the film. I also added MAYA renderings and hand sketches from my 3D modeling class to the end.


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