Friday, May 29, 2009

When it rains, it pours...

... both literally and metaphorically this week.

As of last week, I had little to no paying work and my first 'personal project' since college had been shot down rather abruptly (want to know more, buy me a drink or better yet, some ice cream).

This week? Working on a new music video for They Might Be Giants AND starting up a new 'personal project' - a video to a song by the Handsome Family that will combine actors and foam-latex puppets of singing food! What could be better? Having a new job on top of it!*

Sadly, this tea-cup ride of a week has resulted in a rather lame week of blogs. At this point, my brain must be about the consistency of Cream o' Wheat. All I can offer is a nostalgic entry - Japan's weather patterns as seen from my apartment.

Rain. More specifically, the morning after a tsunami. Note the overflowing fish pond and it's distinct similarity to my life these last few days.


And fog. Japan's weather's as x-treme as their owls.

*watching the Phillies win against the Yankees Sunday was pretty nice too.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Jack of all ______

Back in college, when I thought I knew it all I had an 'argument' with another student whose primary concern throughout school was learning all he possibly could about modeling, texturing and lighting in 3D. I said something to him like "I'd rather be a jack-of-all-trades than a one-trick-pony."

The whole 'argument' stemmed entirely from the fact that I was taking an extra Computer Animation course to learn Maya. He decided this was something like me waving a flag of surrender since I was considered one of the 'experimental' animators. So, today when I came across some work I'd done recently at 8 Hats High, I thought I'd post it here as proof I can at least model in Maya.

Unfortunately, since the Computer Crash of '09, I don't have a copy of Maya anymore so I can't render out an image of the finished character, hood, feathers, feet and all. He looks something like this chap here in the lower left-hand corner.

So who won the argument? The 'jack-of-all-trades' or 'one-trick-pony'?

I'd like to think I did but in hindsight, either is fine. Each is just better suited to different situations. He's doing great and I'd like to think I'm doing pretty good, too.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Brought to you by the letter...


No, G!

Maybe S... ?

The best thing about Japanese schoolchildren is that they'll do anything the big weird-looking gaijin tells them to do.

Don't all you teachers out there wish you could get your students to do this?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The O.C.

No Peter Gallagher here, just Armand Assante, his alpaca farm down the street and the cornfield Jacko burned down to make a music video (more about this in future blogs)...

Been a bit longer than I would have liked between posts, but it's been a rough couple of days. For now, all I will say is I headed home to Warwick this week to see my folks and help prepare for the huge garage sale they're holding this weekend.

Home sweet home!

Aside from the seemingly endless task of pricing and tagging antiques, toys, clothing, film equipment and African artifacts (not to mention all the buffalo body parts), I got to catch a movie with the gang at 8 Hats High and swing by the Orange County Fair Grounds, a place I've been meaning to document in this blog for months now.

Orange County's version of the World's Fair in it's heyday, the Fair Grounds have since fallen into 'Nascar Knock-off' disrepute. With the exception of the occasional county fair, touring circus or race-car derby, the grounds are deserted.

Fortunately, most of the fair's oddities are viewable from the roadside. This old windmill greets you at the entrance.

The lighting is actually my favorite part of the past present. Each one is unique and sprouts from the ground like forgotten scenery to some modernist's set.

Next to grab your eye is the statuary, like this giant prize cattle's portrait immortalized at one of the side entrances.

This one might just run you off the road. Ɯberraschen!

And if you thought they couldn't possibly top this hailing politically-incorrect monstrosity, Weird Al Yankovic will be playing the OC Fair Grounds in 2010!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Who, what, where, when and, honestly, why?!?

So, last night I had this brilliant idea -

Wait. Let me back up a little. I'm a fan of Doctor Who. Not a big fan, but I do have my phone's ring-tone set to play the sound of an arriving Tardis and if someone shoots me a text, the Daleks warn me. Mind you, I started with the old series; it's not just the 'fantastic'-ness of the 9th Doctor that got me in to it.

So, back to my great idea. For a while now I've been meaning to take up knitting... again (I did years ago as a Girl Scout). So, I figured what better way to get back into it than knitting- you guessed it! The 4th Doctor's infamous scarf!

Then I thought, "Wait! I should document this in some kind of journal!" followed by "Wait! I should try selling these!" and concluded with, "Wait! I should just make a website!" So, I dreamed up a domain name and went to register it only to find...

Not to mention the dozens of other related websites you'll find if you do a Google search for 'fourth doctor scarf'. Apparently, there are bigger nerds out there than me.

*Almost everything above is a lie, aside from the website, my obsession with Doctor Who and my years knitting as a Girl Scout. Those are, fortunately or unfortunately, very real.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Short Fuse

WARNING: This blog has nothing to do with being short tempered or that film starring Art Garfunkel (more about that in future posts).

It does have to do with my good friend Stephanie Yuhas' film screening, Show Us Your Shorts, held at the Pour House last night. The size of the crowd below is deceiving, taken well before the screenings actually started. An hour into screening, the place was completely packed.

Honestly, I don't like going to these things. I don't really like straining to hear or be heard especially when I'm trying to hold a conversation with someone I may potentially work with in the future. But, it's a necessary evil. What got me there? The fact that Stephanie is, hands down, one of the most incredible folks that I know and she supports me, so I in turn...

All in all, though, it was a good time. Got to meet some new people, chat with a few people I knew but didn't really feel like I 'knew', and of course, run into some weird folks that will do nothing but add to my collection of "I met this dude once..." stories. And what art gathering would be complete without the typical doodle in the sketchbook?

I've been contemplating sending my cat out to work in one of the local delis.

As far as the films go, it was a mixed bag. Some angst-ridden student films, some surprisingly professional-looking shorts, a fair amount of fun animation and a few shorts where the audience's reaction was more entertaining than what was actually onscreen.

This one involved a dog eating a baby I believe. Best part of the evening?

My outfit.

Seriously. I won a rubber chicken as one of only two folks who actually wore shorts to the event despite the fact that it stated it on the poster.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I don't like spiders n' snakes...

Got another picture from the Japan files here for you all...

I seem to recall hating spiders when I was very little. I learned to get over my fear of spiders and most insects because as my parents only daughter, I had to stand up against my three (well, technically two and a half) brothers. And any fear that may have lingered? These Japanese monsters took care of that...

From about late May to early October, about thirty of these things would string webs straight across the walkway from the stairs to my apartment door. And not just these lovelies; there were other brown ones, twice as big in body with shorter legs.

It was basically a 'run-for-your-life' situation when I came home at night. With the walkway lights on, all the spiders would come out in full force and I'd have to double-over and run all the way to my door with keys in hand. Getting hit in the face with one of their threads (and it happened frequently) was like walking into used bits of dental floss.

One time, I watched one of them fight with a bird that had actually got wound up in it's web. The bird got away, thankfully. If it hadn't, I would have packed my bags right then and there.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spirit Photography

I’ve mentioned my obsession with yokai in previous blogs. You may have also noticed I’m rather fond of photography. So, I suppose it was only a matter of time before the two came together to form...

Today’s blog!

My second year living in Kurihara-shi, I set out to produce a series of photographs capturing modern rural Japan while subtly showcasing a specific yokai in each image. I had planned for a series of at least eight photographs; only three were finished.


One of my favorite yokai. The leg was created from Super Sculpey, armature wire and hand-painted. The geta I made myself from some scraps of wood and cloth. The setting is the ‘lost umbrella’ bin from Kannari Junior High’s copy room. All compositing and shadows were done in Photoshop.


This shoot was a lot of fun despite the fact that we both got horribly sick afterward. The lovely Lindsey Matsuo agreed to pose for me as the foreboding Yuki-onna and in the nude no less! The setting is the outside bath at the local onsen in Kannari (the best thing about my town). We had to smuggle the camera in (photography is not allowed for obvious reasons) and sneak pictures while some nearly toothless obaasan explained to us that New Zealand was really close to New York City. The snow was created later in Photoshop although it did start snowing shortly after this shot was taken.


Another fun yokai and in the same class as the Karakasa above. The setting was a yaki cart that set up shop in front of the MaxValu almost everyday. All yaki carts have lanterns so it seemed like the perfect place for a chochin’obake to hang out. The eye was created in Maya and with texturing and compositing done in Photoshop.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fit the First

Went on a little trip yesterday in spite of the rain. A brief break in the work flow allowed me a few hours to head all the way up to E 88th St. to visit the Church of the Holy Trinity. What for?

These stained-glass friezes were completed by Henry Holiday, a prominent London painter in his time and the illustrator for Lewis Carroll’s nonsense epic The Hunting of the Snark.

A short while back, I came across a worn, but well-cared-for copy of The Annotated Snark at a flea market. Martin Garber talks a bit about Holiday's career in the book's introduction and speaks highly in particular of his work with stained-glass which the artist himself apparently cited as some of his best work.

Unfortunately, as far as his work on Carroll’s Snark is concerned? Well, let’s just say Tenniel is a hard act to follow. Though Carroll spoke very highly of Holiday, most critics found his work to be inferior to Tenniel's illustrations in the Alice books.

His stained-glass work is beautifully detailed and thoroughly realistic.

But that is a hindrance when it comes to the Snark illustrations.

The characters are completely realistic with nothing but the occasional oversized head and accompanying goblin or beaver.

In fact, most of the surreal nature of the illustrations is nothing more than a byproduct of the surreal nature of the poem.

That being said, his work, no matter what the medium, is wonderfully detailed and rich with texture. His drapery is particularly exquisite.

Only one of Holiday’s sketches for Snark was rejected by Carroll.

Later, he explained why:

'One of the first of three I had to do was the disappearance of the Baker, and I not unnaturally invented a Boojum. Mr. Dodgson wrote that it was a delightful monster, but that it was inadmissible. All his descriptions of the Boojum were quite unimaginable, and he wanted the creature to remain so… I hope that some future Darwin, in a new Beagle, will find the beast, or its remains; if he does, I know he will confirm my drawing.'

Thursday, May 7, 2009

So sumi(-e)!

I posted a while back about a video game demo I had collaborated on with a friend of mine, Eric Robinson. While scanning through my older posts, I realized the images didn’t do the art any justice. At least, you couldn’t see any of the elements very well...

The game, called Kanji Kami, is meant to help the player study Japanese. It isn’t necessarily meant to teach you kanji; it’s mostly meant to help you recognize certain kanji and match them to their bases. To do this, Eric decided the gamer would play as one of two characters: Matsuo Basho and Murasaki Shikibu.

The inking was done with a calligraphy brush while all the shading was done in Photoshop. We wanted Basho’s geta to stand out so they were actually colored in. Unfortunately, we never reached the point of design for Shikibu.

Aside from characters, there was the matter of creating all the background elements. Eric wanted only a few assets but each one had to be versatile so we could use them multiple times and in different areas of the game at different scales.

The most important part, as with most productions, was to stick to the style. We wanted to mimic a traditional sumi-e painting as best we could.

Some houses…

Various trees and mountains…


... and, of course, a neko.

Basho’s finished run-cycle. The animation was only tested in After Effects.

After the animation was approved each drawing was then compressed into JPEG form and re-sized to a perfect square so that it could be imported directly into Torq, the program we used to make the final demo.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

One from the hardrives...

I've decided to start a new string of once-a-week entries in which I pull a photo (or photos) from my Japan pile and write a little blurb about it (or them). Fear not... I shall do my best to ensure they are interesting and somewhat in focus! Here we go...

Several of the other ALTs had to teach an Eikaiwa class at night. I didn't have to so, instead, I'd go to theirs to help out on occasion. This particular evening involved a discussion about how American parties differed from Japanese ones. We explained the 'tradition' in America of tormenting the first person to pass out.

Luckily, we had a volunteer to help demonstrate. We did try the whip cream trick shortly thereafter, but he just wiped it on the floor.