Sketches: Cowboys and Junk

I decided to go back and re-work an Alternate Universe idea for Bohren and Rivek. On the left, we have Jack and on the right, Hawkeye. Jack is a con artist, a sweet-talking swindler who sold his farm to charm ladies and cheat fatcats. Hawkeye is a sharp-shooting, immigrant from who-knows-where who got his tongue cut out. No one knows how because he can't tell anyone who asks. Getting used to drawing guys with facial hair.

I went through a dry spell last week of no inspiration. So this is what happened. I suppose a pose evolved from it? And a composition for the eventual cowboy picture.

Also, look, a skeleton from figure modeling!

Advanced Animation Project: Story Notes and Landscapes

For my Advanced Projects in Animation class, I am working on concept art and visual development. In short, I'm trying to create a fairy tale that exists within my "headworld" - environments, characters, storyboards, etc. Hopefully, I can turn it into a short film when I am a senior.

So, here are some trial environment sketches. I am trying to do perspective freehanded.

At the moment, my greatest difficulty is creating a myth that fits the time frame of a two-minute film while still delivering a moral.

On the bright side, I will be writing prose versions soon. I post my notes more so that I can reach them later if my computer crashes.


JPop Writing: Masculinity Versus the Bishounen

I'm taking a class on Japanese Pop Culture where we are required to write responses to our weekly reading. I hope my late-night entries are insightful enough to post here as well. The book we are reading this week is Japan Pop! .


The term “pretty boy” implies more than a young, attractive, male. The American term has acquired a negative, “sissy” connotation –a man obsessed with physical appearance worth little aside from his looks. In Japan, there exists a word, “bishounen,” which literally translates to “pretty boy.” However, the feminine attitude possessed by Bido of Yukan Club, from the Maia Tsurumi essay, is not a definitive portrayal. Bishounen are not necessarily petty, frequently taking on protagonist roles in popular media.

The traits each culture associates with masculinity can be observed in popular culture. For example, in Gears of War, a testosterone-laden, American video game, characters are older and unrealistically muscled, with stronger jaws and more facial hair. The game itself has a large focus on its weapons arsenal, and its story focuses on shooting aliens to survive and exact revenge. In Final Fantasy, which is mentioned in the Eri Izawa’s article on romance, the protagonist is often younger, with a boyish face and thinner body. The stories often revolve around the main character’s growth through the adventure rather than the specific creatures he has to face.

Another interesting feature which arises with bishounen is homosexuality. Yukan Club’s Bido acts feminine to attract women. One can see a similar trait in reality. Heterosexual women make up the majority of “Boys’ Love,” or “BL,” readers. This work can vary between romance, pornography, and pedastry. However, they all share a common tread: idealism, a trait also seen in other media, like NHK, morning, dramas.

Most of my contact with Japanese culture comes from American conventions. In the United States, homosexuality is treated with a more black-and-white, taboo attitude. From my experience, most American, BL, purchases are made by girls between fourteen and seventeen. I believe this stems from the aforementioned idealism, and as people grow older and experience their own relationships, gay or straight, they want more realistic depictions. Another interesting feature of this phenomenon is that the purchased work usually does not depict direct, homosexual, action. The buyer sees two male characters standing next to each other, and a relationship forms in the buyer’s head.

The ideal American male is cold and aggressive. However, as shown by womens’ actions, the Japanese have developed another desirable ideal, where the male is accepting of his feelings. This type of personality is embodied in popular culture by the feminine, physical, traits of bishounen.


Writing: The Tailor's Daughter

Trying plots for my Advanced Animation project in Concept Art and Story Development. Here is the first. It's a re-working of something I wrote this summer.


Once upon a time, there lived a girl, a tailor, and a magic cat in a house overlooking the sea. All the lands' royal families knew of the silken garments produced within the house, embroidered with silver and softer than lambskin.

However, few knew the family's secret. Fascinated by her father's talent, Tarsa the Weaver blessed the girl with magic, silver, hair, softer than any material found in nature. Each day, the tailor cut the girl’s hair to make his famous clothing, and every night it would grow until it brushed the floor. Tarsa also blessed their cat, giving him power to talk.

"Now," the goddess warned, "this cat is my watchman, and he will make sure you do not abuse my gift."

Afraid his secret would leak, the tailor convinced the girl that she was so frail that she would fall immediately ill if she left their house. Therefore, each day when the tailor went to market, the girl and the cat would count the sea birds that flew by her window.

The girl would long to know where they went. On her sixteenth birthday, she turned to the cat, and asked “Why do I feel so sad?”

“It is because you are lonely,” he purred.

She had never heard this word before. “Lonely? What does that mean?”

The cat laughed wryly, “Tonight, cut your own hair, and in the darkness, weave a silver net. When your father leaves for work tomorrow, cast your net to the sky and catch a sea bird. Then, you will understand what ‘lonely’ is.”

So, the girl followed the cat’s instructions and pretended to be sick the next morning so her father would not see. As she watched him round the hillside to go to town, she threw the net into the sky.

The fibers wrapped around a passing gull. She reeled it in with all her strength. However, as it touched the floor of her room, it transformed. Before her stood a handsome young man with golden eyes.

He turned to leave through the window. “Wait!” she called.

“I am a vassal of Akos the Hunter. A human cannot see me in this form. I must leave.”

As she tugged his arm, her hair caught the sunlight. He recognized the work of Tarsa and took pity on her.

“All right,” he laughed. “I see you are familiar with gods' magic. I will stay for you, but no other human may lay eyes on me. This the law of the birds.”

The girl readily agreed. “What is it like to fly?”

He smiled and told her tales from his journeys across the ocean, about the beauty of the open sky and the follies of sailors. As the sun set, she heard her father coming back up the hilly road. The bird-man left, promising to return the next morning.

The girl turned to the cat, “I feel good. This cannot be the ‘lonely’ you spoke of.”

“No,” purred the cat. “This is ‘joy.’”

And so, this exchange happened every day for a fortnight, and the girl grew happier and happier. More and more she wanted to see the ships her lover spoke of. At dinner, she asked, “Father, if I am very careful, will you take me to town with you next week?”

“What has gotten into you?”

“I want to see what a real sailor looks like.”

“You fool,” he yelled. “The outside world - especially men - are nothing but trouble!” He took her plate and sent her directly to bed.

Suspicious of his daughter's behavior, the tailor decided not to go to work the next day. Instead, he drove his cart and donkey down the hill, out of sight, and waited. He then trekked back on foot, so she would not hear him. He heard voices laughing as he ascended the stairs and grimaced. The voice he heard was too deep to be his daughter's or his cat's.

He opened the door and saw the young man sitting in the window, midway through explaining what a passing robin had said about the king. Silently, as quickly as he had come, the young man vanished in a flurry of blood and feathers. Furious, the tailor struck his daughter, "You ungrateful girl, I have taken care of you all your life, and you chose to betray me. This is the last time you will see the birds. No, even the sun. Tomorrow, I will seal this window and lock this door forever."

She held her tears until the door slammed, and the lock clicked. Then, she collected the feathers around her room by the light of the dying sun.

“This,” said the cat. “Is what ‘lonely’ is.”

She finally understood, and the sobs welled in her throat. Consumed with grief, she leaped out the window. Tarsa the Weaver saw this and took pity on the girl. Before the girl's body hit the ground, her lover's feathers engulfed her, and she turned into the first dove.

When the tailor entered the girl's room the next morning, he could only find the cat. "Where is she?" he demanded.

"She is happier than she has ever been with you," the cat jeered. "You have taken your gift for granted, and, from now on, you will be alone." To the end of his life, the cat never said another word.

As for the girl, she had her own wings and could search the world for stories on her own.


JPop Writing: The Idol Concept

I'm taking a class on Japanese Pop Culture where we are required to write responses to our weekly reading. I hope my late-night entries are insightful enough to post here as well. The book we are reading this week is Japan Pop! .


I'd like to preface this by saying I have little experience with Japanese popular music. I am far more in-touch with American fan culture and its consumption of manga. What I have actually listened to is mostly JRock - Miyavi, Malice Mizer, Pierrot, etc - recommendations filtered through instant messages of American "otaku." Reading this book and searching YouTube broadened my spectrum of musical styles. Nevertheless, my Japanese roommate raised her eyebrow when she heard Enka.

A horrid musician myself, I have no right to comment on the techniques used to play these songs. However, the reading draws forth something deeper than the space between notes. I have always been intrigued by the concept of the “idol” and the role of the woman in Japanese society. The Enka article describes it well: a good woman is loyal in the face of adversity, timid in her heroism. However, the conventions behind these tearful anecdotes apply outside of sake bars. The expectations of a Japanese woman – no matter her status – differ greatly from those in the West. If an Asian woman enters a scandal, her career is likely over. In America, scandal can make a career out of nothing.

The James Stanlaw article, “Open You File, Open Your Mind” explains that, prior to the 1990s, the standard Japanese idol was selected at a young age and trained for her future position. A good idol combined innocence and sexiness – a concept summarized by the O-Nyanko Club song, “Don’t Take Off My Sailor Suit.” However, he claims the 90s trend of adding English lyrics allowed female singers to express feelings without the formality of Japanese. I disagree. Few Japanese singers, even today, understand English. English usage can be just as easily attributed to a ploy to make the song seem more modern.

Nevertheless, this is part of a more general hypothesis. Female idols from the 1990s began to break the barrier formed by societal assumptions, as evidenced by the careers of Princess Princess, YuMing, and Shonen Knife. I agree and would like to propose that the Internet and otaku culture has caused the idol-making process to evolve yet again. In class, we briefly mentioned that opening a popular anime can be an automatic stellar debut. Last year, Shoko Nakagawa sky-rocketed to fame when her song “Sorairo Days” became the theme for Gainax’s Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. She likes video games, draws her own manga, blogs regularly, and cosplays religiously. Her personality gathered a large fan base, and her site now has over one hundred million hits. This electronic connection she has with her fans allows her to be more than just a cute face.


Work In Progress: A Murder of Crows

Here's how far I got tonight on the value painting. Some things are bugging me. Specifically the girl in the back and all the creatures' relative size to the human. I'll ask Dan for a red-line next time I see him. My friends all think I'm gross now.

Sketches: A Murder of Crows II

This is the final sketch I'm going to be working off of. I need to fix some things, though. Oh, motivation, where have you gone...? On the plus side, my computer has a working down key again.

This is the final sketch I'm going to be working off of. I need to fix some things, though. Oh, motivation, where have you gone...? On the plus side, my computer has a working down key again.


Sketches: Dr. Sketchy's Leather and Spikes

Went to Dr. Sketchy's today with Ted and Marissa. The theme was "Leather and Spikes" - 1970s punk. Hoping to go back next month. Here's that results that were worth showing. Used Ebony pencil, purchased with pocket change for the warm-ups (not shown) up to the 10-minute poses. Used a new set of color Derwent for the rest. Layers too thin. May take pastel next time, but I don't have a cheap pastel pad.


Sketches: Color Keys

As an assignment, I had to take three scenes from a movie which use color to help the narrative. Here's the result. I couldn't think of one better than Moulin Rouge.

"Outside it may be raining, but in here, it's entertaining!" The first scene introduces Harry Zeigler, the owner of the Moulin Rouge. I liked how the rows of patrons against the building, further against the sky split the screen into thirds. The value contrast also has a greater range on the figure, which is further brought out by the pinks in the doorway and his face as well as the red on his coat.

"All you need is love." The next scene is where Christian, the penniless writer, confesses his love to Satine, the can-can dancer. I liked how, despite the use of all three primary colors, black, and white, the scene still holds together and can be defined as night. The canopy on the left balances out the figure to the right while still staying in mid-ground. The light blue highlight and Christian's dark clothes help pull him out from the background while still showing his face.

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." Here, Toulouse, while acting as a truth-speaking sitar in a musical production, overhears that the play's financier wants to kill Christian out of jealousy. I particularly liked the light green in this shot and, being a complementary color, how it pulled the figure forward from the dark red background. Also, there is a use of value to define the curtain - which is a brightly lit neon - and backstage - which is less saturated brown and black. The diagonal lines formed by the shapes in the scene not only show that Toulouse is above the audience but add an air of danger.


Sketches: Weihsin's Commission

A long time ago in a galazy not too far away, an incredibly kind, patient man whom I met at Otakon commissioned me for a piece that I was ecstatic to do. It took me awhile because there was a lot of research involved, but I'm starting on the actual sketches now... and there's still a lot of research involved. I'm trying to venture into new territory.

So, he gave me four Chinese characters - happiness, joy, sadness, and anger. And I was meant to personify them. Now, it became that each of these four emotions could be associated with four cardinal directions, and with four directions comes four countries, four colors, four elements, and four animals.

The turtle represents the North, happiness, water, and the color black. So, I chose to draw a girl in black Korean hanbok, looking up at the snow (snow being frozen water and 'up' being north on the page).

This is the sketch I will tranfer to watercolor paper.

Next, there was the tiger, which represents the West, white, metal, and sadness. I chose to do a Tibetan girl with a white tiger, sitting among swords and spears. I haven't finished the final sketch yet, though. Tigers are difficult to draw.

Four posts in one night. I must be going crazy.

Sketches: Old BL Stories

Some sketches I did for stories I invented a long time ago, involving boys' love. I think, at this point, the stories need more clarification, but I think I will continue with these sketches.

Adrian is a cross-dresser. I guess this was more a drawing challenge than a story (it's a classicly horrible, fanfiction-style, harem tale) - how would I pose and dress a male figure to making it convincingly androgynous? I just like drawing his hair.

I'm really proud of this one. I've long had an affinity for snakes - since I was in grade school - so the working title is "The Cobra and the Dove." The story is, in short, a prince, Belsamael, travels to a far-off land and falls in love with his tailor (rich displomats get tailors, after all). He convinces the young tailor, Torianye, to come be his queen. Naive and hopeful to move out of his lot in life, he accepts. To keep up this ruse, Tori wears wigs, alters his clothing, pretends he's mute. Unfortunately, one-sided relationships can only be stretched so thin, especially when an entire kingdom is expecting and heir.

I love Middle Eastern clothing, so it was heavily inspired by that. Again, another visual gender challenge. Both characters are male, so I wanted to maintain the masculinity of Bel, who has long black hair, while contrasting with Tori. The linework was just for kicks, but I like how it turned out.

Sketches: The Bow and the Rose

Woohoo. I've been debating for awhile if I should enter the Steampunk competition on CGTalk. Now, I finally have an idea - crafting a movie poster style piece using my old characters in a Steampunk setting.

Here are the head figures I draw which will adorn the frame-elements of the poster. The left picture is the test run, the right is the updated (after Ted's one sentence crit "needs moar gadgets"). Some still need work.

And here's the (horrible!) accompanying first-draft story I wrote.

Rant: They Don't Build Things LIke They Used To

It's about time I write something insightful. Before things turn sour, a quick shout-out to Jonny Cota from SkinGraft Designs. I'm loving the sleek new website. Easy to navigate, and I enjoy the focus on events. I still wish I could afford those clothes, though! (And wish I had the body to wear them... goddamn you, holiday weight gain!) Now, on topic...

I had the fortune of breaking my iPod recently. I also replaced the keyboard of my Dell Latitude two days ago. That's the third or fourth time I've had work done to my primary machine. Poor Phineas has been through an orange juice spill, the abrupt failure of a charger, the eventual fail of a battery, a short circuiting during shutdown, and the slow smoothing of the plastic on his keyboard. All in two and a half years. It's costing me a fortune. What's the point in having a warranty if it barely covers anything? It will cost $100 to repair the iPod which I got less than two months ago. This calls into question, though, not the nature of warranties (which, in my mind, are built to cover everything but what happens) or the nature of my klutziness, but the nature of design. Where are our principles taking us?

I had an interview yesterday at a certain empire-like corporation. That's right, Microsoft. The digs were nice - free food, laid back people, shuttles going everywhere, five-star hotel with incredibly attractive doorman. Seeing real pine trees was a plus for an east-coaster like myself. I think it went pretty well, and I learned as much about them as they did about me - and maybe a little more about this world as a whole.

I should clarify that I didn't interview for a programmer position. I went for "Program Manager" - the shortest way I can explain it is you design a feature within the program you're working on. Scheduling meetings and documentation are secondary. The key is you are a designer. For all twenty-odd classes I've taken at an Ivy League University the key, designer’s, "takeaway" is this: Know your consumer. While I agree, there is something to be said about the way human beings consume.

They consume an awful lot. An epidemic of obesity can't solely be blamed on hormonal imbalances. The number of people who won't turn off their computers overnight borders on - in my mind - ridiculous. A friend once told me she didn't eat meat because it was "inefficient." To make a cow, said cow must consume grain - let's say 500lbs of corn for a 100lb cow. A human can get 1000 calories by eating 1lb of corn or 1lb of cow. Why use an extra 499lbs of corn if a human being can attain the same energy from one? At first, I thought that was ridiculous, but now, I see her point.

What is the shelf-life of a computer? I feel this period is getting shorter and shorter. To my surprise, my old machines still chug along while I my newly-released laptop get fixed so often, it seems like it gets a check-up. My mother watches YouTube videos on a machine from the 90s. It's slow and loud but perfectly functional. Same goes for our color printer.

At Microsoft, they follow deadlines. A product need not be perfect as long as it caters to 80% of the market. Look at the latest Word - bold, italic, underline, all right there. But if you need letting or line height… good luck. In this case, the rule makes sense. Not too many people will care about line height. I mean, there's no Resume Formatters Union. But in the larger scope, should we have so many deadlines to begin with? Should we force ourselves to consume? It is a principle of technology business that once everyone else gets faster, you must get faster, too.

Our younger generation has become spoiled with instant gratification - cell phones, messengers, fast food, credit cards. But do we really need a new video game every month or a new computer every year? If we took the time with our development cycles, we could certainly make things last longer. Better yet, if we slowed down and took a look at the material culture around us, we could sort out what's important - what's 'new' and ‘fast’ versus what's actually 'good.'

Erik, Arik, Rich, Devindra, if you are reading this, it was fun talking with you guys and coming up with ideas. Thanks for the opportunity.

Art post soon. I drew a lot on my trip. :) The Puget Sound is a lovely area, by the by. Sitting next to crying babies on the plane is not-so-lovely.


Art: Chock Full of Cute Chicks

Wow, I actually have people following this. That kind of boggles me. Thank you, everyone! Anyhow, I have some real art updates today. This one is for an exchange over at CGHub that exploded past sketches into pieces somewhere between speedpaints and full works. Oh man, the talent on that site is such a motivator!

And this is a long, long, long overdue art trade for my friend on Gaia. I think her character is gorgeous. And she drew Gaspard Ulliel as my character for me in exchange. Admittedly, who doesn't love Gaspard?

And finally, this one is for Mekania in our Gaia Art Whore Guild winter exchange.

None of these were referenced, but I've been drawing people I know from life and taking a closer look at makeup in magazines. I like doing these portrait things. I really need to practice faces and painting. I hope to enter more exchanges soon! Or rather, I hope I have the time to!