Thursday, May 28, 2009

Guess What

More Green Monk:


Friday, May 22, 2009

Mr. Gris Returns

I wasn't totally satisfied with the last iteration of Mr. Gris, so I solicited some advice from a number of friends and re-worked it.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mr. Gris

The result of a digital painting/character design exercise. I originally did the painting on my cintiqe, and I'm not sure how accurate the colors are. My main monitor makes the image look more washed out and greener.

His face is supposed to be a warm boneish hue, but it looks too green. How is it looking on your end?

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Jackie Chan Formula

Action directors take note:

Jackie Chan knows how to make an awesome fight scene better than anyone else in the world.

Better than Michael Bay, better than the Wachowski Brothers, and even better than Christopher Nolan. Yes, even with everything brilliant that Mr. Nolan did with Batman, his ability to direct a fight scene pales in comparison to Jackie Chan.

I recently had an excuse to revisit Police Force and Drunken Master II. And let me tell you, if the only Jackie Chan movies you've ever seen had Chris Tucker or Jennifer Love Hewitt in them, you have no idea how amazing Jackie Chan can be.

It may have something to with Hollywood insurance and that he's no young buck anymore, but all of Jackie Chan's masterpieces were made long before he became the Asian Nick Nolte.

Take a look at the fight scenes in films like Police Force, Drunken Master II, and Super Cop. They're amazing. And there's still nothing out there that compares.

There are a couple of tricks that JC has figured out that make his fight scenes so awesome:

1. The Nice Guy. Jackie Chan's characters are never stoic bad-ass kung-fu masters. They are basically Asian Jimmy Stewarts -- nice guys that end up in a mess and try their darnedest to get out of it. This is immensely important, but action directors always miss this. A bad-ass kung-fu master eats ninjas for breakfast. He might as well just be playing croquet. A nice guy hates to fight, isn't that great at it, and gets beat up a lot. He has to struggle to win. And watching a struggle is much more interesting than watching a croquet game.

This is exactly why Jackie Chan likes to make fun of himself. Bad-asses never look stupid, because then they stop being bad-ass. Jackie Chan makes fun of himself so we know he's vulnerable, and fallible just like us. That way, when he does win a fight, it's way more amazing.

2. Room with a view Jackie Chan understands that every great fight scene is a story unto itself, and like with any story, it's much more interesting if you know what's going on. In contrast to the current trend to shoot action up-close with a million edits a second, JC chooses to shoot wide and edit with clarity. There are close-ups-a-plenty, but they are always used to punctuate big kicks and punches, and comic moments. And cuts always follow continuity and classic rules of spatial consistency.

3. No Cables Needed. Forbidden Kingdom may be the exception, but for the most part JC eschews the Hong Kong action practice of choreographing scenes with cables. It's another one those things that helps to raise the stakes. Cables soften gravity. They make a fight scene feel like it's happening on a trampoline. Take away the cables, and it feels like a world where gravity can introduce your face to a concrete floor. For the same reason JC likes to the play the nice guy he likes to leave out the cables. When your hero is vulnerable you care a lot more about him when he's in danger.

4. Clever tricks. This is one of the biggest innovations that JC has brought to action directing. A fight scene doesn't just involve fists and kicks, but every movable and immovable object within the vicinity of the fight. Not only has revitalized the fight scene with this, but also covertly resurrected the brilliance of Gene Kelly. Check out Signing in the Rain and imagine all of the dance scenes were fight scenes. It's basically just a Jackie Chan film (albeit at half speed).

5. The Cornered Animal aka Beet Face. This is the book-end to The Nice Guy. While JC always likes to play the nice guy, he's always a nice guy that by the climax of the film is pushed to the boiling point. JC knows that if you start with an awesome fight scene you have to finish with an awesomer fight scene. The first fight scene will be the nice guy scrambling for survival, and final fight scene will be the nice guy transformed into cornered animal who destroys everything in his path. You can always tell when a JC movie reaches this point because his face turns bright red ( or purple in the case of Drunken Master 2) and he gets really, really pissed.

The final fight scene in Drunken Master 2 is a great example of all of thee above, and probably the greatest fight scene of all time. Please partake:

Drunken Master 2

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 11, 2009

Let's Flip the Script

Two frames to post today. I decided to make a bit of a change about how I work, and if you pay close attention you can see the change happening between these two frames. For most of Green Monk I've been sketching out each frame with a 4H graphite pencil. I started out using a mechanical pencil, and found that I couldn't get the crisp sharp lines I wanted, so I switched to a wood ensconced graphite.

The reason for the graphite was that it was very forgiving. I could try different things and erase and start over. This worked for awhile, but lately I've been dissatisfied. I still have a hard time doing a really sharp clean up with the graphite. Once I work it too much it's impossible to erase away, which always leads to me trying to clean up digitally. This in turn causes a messier finished look and a loss of a lot of the fine pen strokes.

So I decided to work with red col-erase. I've been hesitant to use col-erase in the past because it doesn't erase very easily, especially after more than two tries. But when it comes to digitizing and cleaning up my art, it leaves no trace (like a good boy scout).

And I think I like that the col-erase is less forgiving. It forces me to be much more methodical about what I'm doing. I take more time to test out thumbnails, and when I'm ready to put pencil to paper I'm much more deliberate and careful.

Take a close look. I think you can see the difference here. Frame 1, graphite pencil. Frame 2, red col-erase. Feel free to point out anything else that I didn't notice.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

After receiving more hits than I will ever receive by posting something totally unrelated to art, I will foolishly return to posting art. This little number took me a couple of days to complete.

I've had a few difficulties with the issue of doing a frame a day. These questions seem to pop up:

What if a frame is taking me a really long time? Do I work into the wee hours to finish it? Do I just get through a frame, even if I'm not happy with it, just to check it off as done for the day?

This is the conclusion I've come to. Starting with a wise suggestion from Twyla Tharp I've decided that my quota every will day will be one frame, or an hour and a half of work, whichever comes first. Second, I won't spend more than two days working on a frame.

While I want to make good quality, I also want to complete something. Two days should be enough to satisfy myself, but if I'm not totally satisfied with the frame, I reserve the option to change it in the editing phase (i.e. after the first draft is done).

So here's today's frame. It took me two days to complete, and I may change it when I get around to the editing phase.

Labels: ,

Wells Fargo Vs. Small Business

So, the other day, while doing some routine financial maintenance, I noticed that my business credit card had been mysteriously been canceled. Had I mistakenly canceled the account? Had I forgotten to activate the new card they had sent me a month ago? Was this somehow the result of credit fraud? Being the vigilant small business owner that I am, I quickly made inquiries to Wells Fargo, to resolve the situation and discovered that the only one messing with my credit card was Wells Fargo.

Their Business Claims unit explained to me that due to the tough financial times, they had deemed me too great of a credit risk to continue giving me credit. What are their reasons for deeming me a credit risk? I don't use the card enough, I have a negative tick on my credit report from 2004, and I've had too many inquiries over the last 12 months (which included setting up a merchant's account with them last year). All of this despite the fact that I've had the card for over 3 years, I pay it off every month, and I have a credit score that is not only good, but has been steadily improving for the past several years (apparently what Wells Fargo deems as risky it not of much concern to Experian).

So, part of what irks me about this is the ex post facto nature of the action, but what really gets under my skin is that I was blind-sided with this cancellation before I've received any notification. On top of that, I was informed that there is no process for appeal, discussion or re-negotiation (I was however invited to re-apply).

Apparently, I'm not the only one this has happened to: Wells Fargo Cancels Credit

So now I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Are my other credit lines with them going to magically vanish? I have no way of knowing. I may just wake up one day to find that what was once good credit is now bad credit according to Wells Fargo. Seriously, is this good banking practice to have your customers in fear that at any moment the rug can be arbitrarily pulled out from under them?

I'm now seriously considering jumping ship. I understand Wells Fargo needs to protect its back, but when it comes at the cost of giving terrible service then I need to do what's right for my business and find a bank that's willing to engage with me like a real human being.

What's really absurd is that Wells Fargo gets to ambush its customers using arbitrary algorithms while peer-to-peer lending continues to be hounded by the SEC.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,