THU 2018 Review, Recap, and Fun Times Part 2b

General / 20 September 2020

Talks and Workshops

Continuing on with the talks, we start out now with a day of mostly workshops.  I had signed up early enough for a medium workshop with Gio Nakpil, but I hadn't signed up for another workshop I was interested in, the Scott Eaton workshop.   In the last minute a friend of mine who had already done online courses with Scott Eaton, gave me his spot for the morning workshop with him.  So I managed to get in Scott's workshop for that day.  Scott's reputation as an authority on the subject of anatomy for artists is pretty established.  Many 2d and 3d artists know his name and several professionals of the industry have been through his online workshops.  He's been around for some time and many AAA studios have booked him for workshops to upgrade their character artists and provide them a stronger knowledge of human anatomy.

From the moment I found out about Scott attending the event I made it a point to try to meet him and talk to him at some point.  Between the workshop I attended with him at THU and the short time I was able to talk to him he convinced me that I really needed to take one of his online workshops.  It is one thing to have anatomy books, study them on your own, draw and copy diagrams from them and even try to analyze and learn the names of important bone landmarks, muscle groups and the like.  It is completely another to have human anatomy thoroughly explained and taught to you by an expert with artistic experience.  Earlier that same year I had been working on the 37 figures set of Street Fighter miniatures.  During that project I did my best to brush up on anatomy and dig deeper, I had all my books out, I bought scans from anatomy 360 and had an extensive photo ref collection from the pictorials by and yet I still felt uncomfortable and unsure of what I was doing through that project.  At THU I had the opportunity to show Gio Nakpil the SF minis and he praised the compositions and the way I handled the FX on the figures, but Scott laid down the law, he gave me credit for the stuff I did right, but he let me have it for the stuff I was doing wrong. 

Scott has complete authority and thorough knowledge over the subject of human anatomy.  Seeing someone with that level of command and expertise in a subject so important, it's like a damn infinity stone that every artist who wants to do characters needs to have.  I learned that from Scott's THU workshop and from talking to him.  THU took place in September, and as soon as I got home and had some time to get back into my routine, I made sure I signed up for the Eaton workshops that were starting in October of that year.  After going through that workshop and building a 3D écorché with all the origins and insertions as correctly as possible, I came out feeling much better about my knowledge of the human body.  I'm still learning and grasping things like the forearms and back muscles, but the investment is more than worth it and highly recomendable.

After the workshop with Scott, there was a lunch break and later I headed over Gio Nakpil's Oculus medium workshop.  To be honest I didn't like the VR sculpting process, I'm too comfortable with  Zbrush and have become very fast and effective at getting the results I seek with it.  Working in VR with medium for about half a day is not quite enough to get used to the tools and the experience was a bit frustrating for me at least.  I don't know where the tech is standing at today, but one thing that can't be argued with is Gio's results with Medium and his enthusiasm for the tools and the tech.  Gio is known for having sculpted the Hulk for the first Avengers movie and several other films he was involved with during his time at ILM.  Outside of the oculus tech and medium tools, Gio's presentation had really great info that helps explain the secret sauce of his work.  Gio is all about getting the primary forms of a sculpture in place, he has the right priorities and intuition about primary and secondary shapes.  His ability to understand, break down and execute those aspects of a sculpture are at the core of why his work is so good.  HIs human figures and creatures feel alive and believable, and it stems from the gesture that he brings to his work, combined with great execution on the shapes with priority on primary shapes that give a solid foundation to all the form that follows after.

After two workshops in a row I would have been to burned out to attend any other talks right after, but I think by the time I finished both workshops it was dinner time anyways.  After dinner, just like every night before there was one more big key note or fireside chat, as they call them.  This one was with Scott Ross and several people from his Digital Domain crew of those days.  This is where lots of the war stories come out.  Stories about Scott Ross and his working relationship with James Cameron, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Visual effects and all the computer graphics related industries are full of tales like the ones told here.  You don't have to be crazy to work in many of these fields, but it seems to help... and if you ain't crazy, you might come out the other end of this a few cards short of a full deck, but in a good and interesting way... I think, or hope.

By day 6 most people are exhausted zombie versions of themselves in the morning, after several days with only a few hours of sleep.  Still, it's a pricey event where you want to get your money's worth, and the FOMO is real.  That morning we went to Ian Spriggs' talk, which was great.  By now you can find online written and video interviews where he talks about his process and the thinking behind him...  but my silly conspiracy theory about Ian is that he's just Rembrandt reincarnated in the UK, using 3D tools this time around... dumb jokes aside.  He knows his stuff and like many great artists out there, he's cooking with water, as they say.  He's just worked his ass off to get to where he is, he has developed an incredible eye for likeness, along with a mastery of the tools he needs and he just keeps tweaking until he gets the result he seeks.  He studies the works of masters from previous eras and he brings the feeling that old portraits convey into his modern 3d portraits.  He was great to talk to and very generous with his time and knowledge.  

After Ian's talk we went to Gio Nakpil's talk on the value of personal work.  Gio is an OG master of the modern CG art scene.  He started out during the times when people were still using NURBS  to model characters.  He's someone who had a long and  productive career at ILM, where he worked on amazing projects like Pirates of the Caribbean and early MCU films, but in his talk he showed many of his personal projects, including a book where he created dozens of alien creatures with personalities and jobs.  At the time of that THU Gio was working at Medium, not sure if he's still there, but the pieces he showed in that presentation, works that he's done with Medium... damn.  I mentioned this already in regards to his workshop, but it bears mentioning again.  His knowledge of form and gesture are at the top of the list of most artists that know even a little bit about 3D character artists.  He's an artist to keep an eye on in social media and whose work you've seen in movies and media before, even if you had no clue you did.

Later that day we went to Shannon Tindle's talk about Kubo and the Two Strings.  In it he ties together several personal stories and anecdotes to explain to the audience how these seemingly unrelated stories influenced and inspired key story points for Kubo.  I wouldn't re-tell the stories for fear of butchering and remembering details wrong, but the important take away from this talk was about how our experiences and the people we meet in life become important in telling epic stories.  People that we meet in life and perhaps lose unexpectedly often teach us and inspire us much more than we ever expected them to.  Having those inspiring people in our lives can often inspire characters or aspects of characters that inspire other people in the same way that those people inspired us.  It was a great talk and Kubo is a beautiful movie, go watch it if you haven't.

The last talk we atended in the event was Kelly Port's talk about Thanos in Infinity War.  The cool thing about THU's association with  Scott Ross, was that he has pretty direct access to people who have worked or are working there on amazing projects.  In this talk it was interesting to get a small idea of the scope of a project like Infinity War, in which basically every FX house in California, the UK, New Zealand, and parts of Europe were involved.  All the big guns like DD, Weta, ILM, Framestore, etc.  The other cool part of this talk was seeing the breakdowns of the shots that involved Josh Brolin as Thanos.  The technology for performance capture takes a leap every now and then, and this Thanos performance seems to have been another one of those leaps.  In the film and in the MCU, I think that Thanos is the closest we've come to a villainous character for the ages at the level of a Darth Vader and Heath Ledger's Joker.  The colosal army of artists involved in creating that performance helped make that happen.  We live in a time of a weird art renaissance that is digital, takes place in video games and film, and often involves massive collaboration of art and techology.  We take a lot of it for granted because to us it's entertainment and much of it is throwaway, but in a few more decades we'll see which games and movies stood the test of time and became classics.  Began the streaming wars have, and now with this pandemic, Hollywood is in a lot of trouble and will come out the other end looking pretty different.  Interesting times we live in...

That's all for the talks of the 2018 edition.  I enjoyed them thoroughly and would recommend them.  To many people this seems like an expensive event, and it is, thing is... it's worth it.  They book top notch speakers and they give you great access and opportunity to talk to them, pick their brain, or just enjoy a beer with them.  Speaking of beer, I'll wrap it up later with the last part about the parties and meeting lots of great people, I'll keep that one short and simple.  Cheers!



THU 2018 Review, Recap, and Fun Times Part 2a

General / 16 September 2020

The Talks

The event is structured in 6 official days, counting from day 0 just for early badge pickups, and day 1 and 2 including several optional events like recruitment sessions for people seeking an interview, a job fair.  Day two also includes the group photo:

Early enough in the morning of day 3, September 26th, you get your first big talk.  That year Jorge Gutierrez was one of the speakers that sort of took the show.  He had a great talk where he went over his career trajectory starting from his early years in Mexico.  He's a great story teller so his talk was full of great anecdotes and important lessons he's learned along the way.  One of those stories was about how he nearly got rejected from admission at CalArts because he had made a portfolio based on the stuff he had been told he should show, the admissions director at the time hated his version of all that, and just as he was about to leave humiliated, some of his more personal art peeked out of another portfolio he had with him.  That stuff impressed the director much more and he got in.  Jorge has a very specific and bold art style, which can be easily noticed on most of the tv series and films he's been involved in.  It was a very inspiring talk about how he has succeeded and failed through the years, and how many of his apparent failures setup the chess pieces on the board for the next big play.  Another highlight was one of his stories about meeting Guillermo del Toro and pitching Book of Life to him.  He also showed some stuff from his upcoming Netflix shows.  Overall it was a great talk and it made me pretty happy to share a culture and heritage with guys like him.  There are lots of very talented Mexican artists doing big things in Mexico and around the world in creative fields.  Jorge remained super popular through the rest of the days of THU since he made quite an impression on everyone with his talk and later interactions he had with the attendees.

Next talk I attended was RafaelGrassetti's.  Raf is a big deal in the industry, and for good reasons, he's one of the most prolific character artists who can somehow be an Art Director at one of the top developers owned by Sony, he does hordes and heaps of fanart and personal projects, and also is a husband and a father.  His output is hard to believe and he keeps doing it.  In his talk he covered a quick run of his career trajectory with his early beginnings in advertising cg in Brazil.  The talk covered a lot of interesting material about the art direction and asset production for God of War.  This game was one of the biggest of that year so it was pretty interesting to see a lot of that material.  I was especially interested in all the RnD and development they did on muscle deformation for Kratos.  It was a worthwhile presentation.

Next talk we went to was Gerald Parel's.  His presentation was in one of the smaller rooms, more cozy and personal.  He was a bit nervous and his french accent was a bit hard to understand at times, but the artwork he had to show was very impressive.  He's one of those artists that makes it pretty far, but hasn't noticed how far he's made it, so he seems surprised by his own success at times and suffers from impostor syndrome, like many good artists do.  He kept skipping through folders in his machine and in one of them I saw one folder that read "Captain Mexico" and I kept waiting for him to go into that one, but he didn't.  When the talk opened up more for questions I asked him to show us what was in that folder, boy was I glad I asked.  It was a super fun Mexploitation animated short that looked great and had lots of funny bits in it, everyone seemed to enjoy it and he seemed surprised, like he didn't think people would like it.  I guess some times it's hard to know the difference between what we think will be well received and what ends up coming up short.

We attended the Ryan Lang talk after Gerald's, but no pics were allowed since it was a Disney talk, still it was a nice presentation about the use of references and developing a visual vocabulary.  He showed some great concept art from Wreck it Ralph and other projects.  The talk for that night was with Ilkka Paananen, CEO and founder of Super Cell.  His talk had a lot of interesting info about how Super Cell is internally organized, the hierarchies and structures that they've tried from existing company structures and how they've come up with their own version of that.  They started out from a garage, like many startups, and along the way they tried to keep some of that vibe.  One of the ways they do that is that they seem to organize in small teams of highly qualified people that require very little training or supervision.  Similar to some organizational stuff I've seen from places like Valve.  These companies and teams have a lot of trust in their members, they get a lot of freedom which comes with a lot of responsibility too.  Super Cell tried to recruit me a couple times, once around 2013 and then a couple years later again.  I like the art style of many of their projects, but I'm not so keen on living in colder parts of Europe and mobile games aren't my jam, so I didn't go for it.  Still for people interested in that kind of studio, it seems like a great place to work at.  Good talk and a great wrap up for that first day of talks.

Next day of talks started out for us with Gio Nakpil doing an Oculus Medium demo (now Adobe Medium, I think), Gio had like two talks and several workshops so we'll come back to him with images and stuff.  The next talk that day was from Yuki Matsuzawa, concept artist and art director for Square.  This talk was in Japanese with interpreter, which isn't the most optimum thing, but it sort of works.  The translation slows things down and I think Yuki might have been funnier in Japanese, he seemed serious, but he had a few fun slides in his presentation and he kept showing this one slide of the men's magazine cover that he painted for FFXV.  He showed some of his steps for keyart paintings and for many people that do concept this stuff might be old hat, but for me it's still impressive to see those steps and how things get refined.  Amazing images shown through this talk.  

Next we checked out Alex Alvarez, founder of Gnomon.  He showed some personal art he still tries do make while running one of the most successful schools for our kind of industry out there, he's a busy guy.  His talk had a lot of quotes that some might have seen or heard before, but many I hadn't heard and from there he would explain his own experience in relation to them and things he has learned, things worth learning or noting.  I've seen and heard people de-bunking before the concept of the 10k hours, I think both sides have good points... I don't think you strictly need them 10k for mastery, and whatever mastery is, some versions of it might take way more than 10k hours or lifetimes.  One thing for sure is comparing class reels from the early years of Gnomon and the current class reels, the level up has been insane, thanks to how much the whole industry has learned, the tools and knowledge available. This industry moves fast.

Cory Loftis was another talk from that day, but again, Disney talk so no pictures.  He showed some great stuff from Zootopia and lots of good tips on character design that I was either familiar or new to.  Good tips about story telling in design that by now blur together some with other similar talks I've heard, for better or worse.  The rockstar of that night was Goro Fujita.  He had a great presentation about his career.  He had this great throwback to an old digital painting from 2004 when he was starting out and an image to compare from 324 days later after basically doing a new piece every day... it was impressive enough.  The real impressive stuff came when he started showing the stuff he's been making with Quill.  He's a great evangelist for the tool, so much so that my wife was pretty sold on trying it out and joined a quill workshop the next day.  He also had fun stories about his break-dancing hobby.  The guy is exited and exiting to listen to, he's full of energy and creativity, which can be seen easily in his work.  Between Gio's Medium presentations and Goro's Quill demos, my wire and I were pretty curious about getting into VR creative software... somewhere between work, and other distractions we haven't gone for it yet, but I'm almost sure we'll be buying a set and digging into these tools eventually as they seem to keep getting better.

I'll leave it here for now with the talks for the first half of that.  I gotta get back to work, but I'm having fun recapping these and finding out how much I remember and what stayed with me from those talks.  Since the days of comics magazines like Wizard in the 90s, I always enjoyed reading interviews with the artists and seeing how they got to where they got, it has been very helpful for figuring out how to reach some objectives and what objectives are worth pursuing for me.  I hope that these recaps make some people interested in attending events like these, you can learn a lot from other people's experiences when they present to you the more important things they've learned along the way.



THU 2018 Review, Recap, and Fun Times Part 1 - Malta Pre-Game

General / 14 September 2020

Malta alone was worth the trip

I meant to do this back in 2018.  Shortly after the event and while everything was still fresh in recent memory, but then life happens... I got busy, I lost motivation for it, then forgot.  I didn't go to THU in 2019 since that year my wife and I took a trip to LA for the Zbrush Summit of that year.  I'm doing it now since thanks to the 'rona no live events really took place.  We had plans, flights booked, and were looking into hotels to join THU Japan, but that was postponed, this year's main event is also postponed... so it's a good time to remember those good times and why they matter, I guess.  I put these things in record to remember as a digital scrapbook for my wife and I, and I hope that it also serves to show some people what an event like THU is like.

For years of my career I've been attending different industry events of different types and scale.  Trojan Horse Was A Unicorn is its own beast and it's one of the events that my wife and I have been happy to attend on so far three times.  In 2018 THU moved from Troia in Portugal to Valletta in Malta.  For us it was a welcome change and I'm sure that for Andre, the founder and main organizer, it was a lot of work.

THU main days that year were from Sept 24 to 29.  We arrived on Friday 21 at night and immediately started exploring the area near our BnB.  We made plans to arrive two days before the start of the main event in order to have enough time to explore Malta a bit before things got going.

Malta is a beautiful island and we definitely enjoyed our time there.  After realizing the first night that our BnB was on the second floor of a bar, we had a bit of a noisy night and ended up sleeping in some.  That first day we walked around the Valletta area to explore the sights and they did not disappoint.  Around the same days as THU there is a yearly Military Tattoo event and we got to see the parades going by as they headed over to where they would play their main show,  fun stuff.  We had some delicious pies and great beer at a pub that day.

The sights around the peninsula are breathtaking.  The land elevations and dips make for great vistas and interesting alleys that go up and down.  As artists we can end up seeing the world pretty differently from how other people might see it.  We might look at a building or even a plant and wonder how we would go about building it in 3D or what brushes we could come up with in 2D to depict them quick and effectively.  As a character artist I have to catch and stop myself from staring too long at people with interesting faces, hairstyles or even outfits that would look cool on a fictional character in my head.  We are blessed and cursed with the curious mind that makes us want to process what we see and replicate it with a bit of our own soul through our hands on paper or in pixels.  Those of us that are lucky enough to afford travel and what it can bring us, can end up so enriched by those experiences and I try to never take them for granted, because not everyone gets to enjoy these things, and that makes them worth treasuring.

There are historical monuments and cathedrals concentrated within very small area that you can walk through and get lost in, but in a good way.  It is a small peninsula so you can always find your way to the east or west end and easily find your way with your phone.  It's brilliant.  Learning about history in our travels also gives us a bigger perspective and understanding for when we try to create our own worlds and fictions.  The more we learn about human history, the more we have the tools to create fictional worlds that are believable enough to capture the attention and imagination of audiences.

Many artists, Game of Thrones fans, and THU attendants might already know, but in case you didn't, Valleta is one of several Malta locations where parts of that show were filmed.  There are fortified walls and fortress zones that still have cannons in several places.  It really is a beautiful and inspiring place.  Working from home can get pretty lonely, those that were already working from home already knew this and some thrive in it... now the rest of the world got their free trial of that life and many have found out how much they might hate it.  For me this was part holiday part work to an extent, but not in a bad way.  I normally wouldn't have picked Malta as a place to visit or take a trip to.  It wasn't so much on my radar and I'm glad that this event got us to go there, because it made me realize how high up on our list of countries to visit Malta should have been.

On our second full day we went further out in the island.  We decided to do a day trip to  the north of the island.  We got on the bus that would take us to Popeye Village, where the really old movie with Robin Williams was shot.  Unfortunately, we missed the second bus that we were trying to take there and ended up changing course to end up at Paradise Bay beach.  We had to do a lot more walking under the sun than we expected.  My wife, Inken, was not amused during that part, but the sights were worth it and all was fine when we reached the beach.  It is a very small cozy beach and was worth the trip.  I asked later some friends about the Popeye Village and they said it was a bit of a tourist trap and kinda boring...  I think I'd still like to check it out if we get to go to Malta a second time.  There's also the island of Gozo and lots more to see and enjoy.

After we had our fill of sun and beach there we headed back to Valleta for some dinner and kept exploring areas of the peninsula we hadn't walked around.  As you can see, Malta is pretty young as an independent country, since 1964.  They mostly speak English and Maltese, with some Italian due to their proximity to Sicily.

The multiple cultural influences over the centuries make their gastronomy a pretty interesting mix.  We tried several local restaurants during our stay and were not disappointed.  One of the best things about traveling, as we all know, is trying out the local food.  They got good fish dishes, rabbit, Maltese sausage, pies, and lots of stuff we didn't get around to trying out.

By day 0 of the event (The night when they have the opening ceremony) we were pretty tired of walking.  I had an ankle injury that was still healing up, so I spent most of my time in Malta walking normal during the day, and sort of limping by night, wasn't too bad, but was a bit of a bother.  One of the places that we made sure we checked out was St. John's Cathedral... man it was beautiful.

 The entire interior is overwhelmingly decorated with baroque altars.  A gorgeous painting here, a mind blowing sculpture there, the works.  One of the main attractions there is Caravaggio's The Beheading of St John The Baptist.  Did you know Caravaggio killed a pimp over a tennis match?  Look it up, the man had a temper, but boy was he a master!  Living in Europe and having lived in Vienna you sort of get used to these churches, but I think Europeans end up taking them for granted and don't appreciate them enough.  The beauty and meaning that these places hold is immense and underrated.  If you end up in an environment art team where you might have to replicate one of these places for a video game without scans or other cheats, you might become able to really appreciate what Europeans have inherited here.  Being from Mexico I've come to appreciate and embrace both the heritage of pre-hispanic civilizations and the Spanish heritage that I was born into.  It fills me with pride and provides me with endless inspiration for my personal projects.

Day 0

On the eve of night 0 all the pilgrims that made their way to Malta came together at the THU venue for the opening ceremony, where founder André Lourenço and his mentor, Scott Ross, welcome everyone and give a briefing of what's new in the event, some teasers of what to expect, and how Malta has welcomed the event and the people attending.  That year they introduced the idea of Luchadores and Super Sentais, which was part of the organizers way of organizing events of friendly competition and rivalry among the attendees.  If you came in a group or like in our case as a couple, you were intentionally put into opposing factions.  The main idea, like much of the event is to encourage people to not necessarily stick together only to their clique or group, but to interact and meet up with people from the same faction who might be in a group you don't know or wouldn't normally hang out with.  Some ground rules of the event are laid out, obvious things that some of the younger attendees might need brought to their attention or grown ass people need be reminded of like:

-Clean up after yourself.  Obvious, but important when you're in a historic place like Fort St Elmo, where the main events take place.
-Leave no one behind.  Refers to making an effort to talk to people who might be too shy to start a conversation.
-Don't be an asshole.  Guess partly goes back to the previous one as in reading social cues in case that shy person really doesn't wanna talk to you.  The rest of this one is vague, but obvious enough.
-Get some sleep.  Means that you're in for 5-6 nights of staying up late drinking an partying if you want, but it's a bit of a waste also to get so tired that you miss most of the morning events and workshops because you couldn't wake up.
-Be on time.  Also relates back to the previous one, where if you slept in and are fighting a hangover, you might end up being that dummy, who walks into a talk late, trips in the dark stairs, coughs, farts and sneezes on the way down and breaks the flow of the speaker's chi...  that kinda thing.

After the opening ceremony the THU oasis opens up and the first night of mingling, drinking, meeting people, hanging out, meeting up with old friends and making new ones starts out.  After about 9 months of this pandemic lock-down stuff and the craziness that 2020 has been so far, you get a real appreciation for live events like THU and others.  Lightbox online just took place and although it was pretty good and I'ms till checking out how it went, I know that everyone is looking forward to the proper event coming back too.  As a freelancer I'm used to being a hermit in my cave and only going out so much, but my wife and I were used to socializing enough and going a couple times of the year out for a short or long trip, near or far from Austria, where we live.  The multiple times we've attended THU and the other industry events that we've attended have often been full of fond memories and long standing friendships that we've built.  I could go on and on, but I'll save more of that for the next parts.

Come back for parts 2 and 3 where I'll talk about the talks, workshops, and the parties and fun that were had.  Remember travel and parties?



Darksiders - Do the thing!

General / 23 February 2020

So I made some Darksiders minis...

Who cares? why does it matter?  well it matters to me and that's all that matters.  This is a bit late since the project was unveiled a while ago, I posted the pieces a while ago and they did ok on several communities, a top row in Zbrush central, a couple staff picks here, I got to do an interview and breakdown on it for 80lv and a couple weeks ago I started playing Darksiders Genesis Co-Op on my couch with my wife.  We're busy people so we're still getting through it, but it's a lot of fun.  I also got to play the board game with our minis at least once so far with one of my friends.

So why is it a big deal to me?  well here's one of the reasons why...  these below are some of my oldest comics from back when I was like 13.  Back in the old days when Wizard Magazine was a thing and X-men comics were selling lots thanks to the Fox animated series.  My teenage comic geek eye noticed something... yeah the Jim Lee comics were amazing, Silvestri, but there was this newcomer doing some interesting stuff with his sequential art and comics covers.  Dude's name was Joe Madureira and he was one of the most exiting artists at the time.  He was a bit of a mystery at first, but eventually the magazine articles and interviews with him made their way into Wizard mag.  Turned out he was one of the youngest guys to break into comics ever, he started drawing professionally for Marvel around age 16.  He was also big into video games (one of the reasons his books were often late) and anime, and he was bringing these influences into his Xmen art.  Suddenly the X-men were drawn with these hyper stylized proportions, super dynamic poses and the comics were selling like crazy.  Back then I was still drawing a lot, and Joe was one of the guys that made me want to stick to this art thing and for a while there I was really into wanting to become a comics artist.

After his years at Marvel Joe went on to do his own thing and created his own IP and company, he teamed up with Humberto Ramos, and Scott Campbell, two of my other favorite comics artists.  He created Battle Chasers, Campbell created Danger Girl, and Humberto created Crimson... man those were the days of super fun comics with amazing art.

I was so into these artists and the whole comics scene that I eventually even bought a Marvel Try-Out book and gave the whole thing a go.  For the younglings and non-comics nerds out there, Marvel Try-Out was an official book that Marvel used to publish with a script and some instructions, and even blank comics pages for you to draw the scripted story and show Marvel editors what you got.  I was about 18 back then and by my count two years late on catching up to Mr. Madureira... I really wanted this thing.  I drew my pages, inked them, and even colored them, no photoshop digital colors.  These pages were colored with color pencils, before age 20 and around 1999 I had never really had access to a computer for graphics or software like Photoshop.  I gave it my all, the pages took me several days to complete and eventually I sent them in.  I don't remember if I never heard back or if I have my Marvel rejection letter tucked somewhere in a box at my parents home.  It was worth a go, and if I hadn't been de-railed into computer graphics by watching Toy Story and other new options, I would have given comics many more goes still.

So going back to Darksiders: Forbidden Land, why does it matter?  Again it matters to me because it comes nicely full circle to coinciding to at least a small extent with one of the guys that inspired me, Joe Mad didn't necessarily start this whole art thing for me, but his work was for sure an inspiration and a goal post at a certain turning point... it was stuff that kept me going so for me it's a big deal that he later moved into video games, started Vigil, created Darksiders and that last year I got to work on something related to that IP.  I pulled together a small team of artists and in a couple of months we did all the figures for that board game.

It's kinda weird how things line up at times.  Some people might know already that THQ kinda died some years ago, their IPs got sold off and Vigil games became collateral damage to that shake up.  Later on the remains of THQ were bought by Nordic.  That became THQ Nordid and one of their main offices is here in Austria, in Vienna.  I'm Mexican, I lived in the US, Netherlands, Germany, and these days in Austria...  the company that brought me here to Austria went bust some years ago, by then I had already been freelancing for some years, but one of the people that I knew from that company went on to work at THQ Nordic and she gave me some gigs to work on for them.  That eventually led to doing the Darksiders board game minis...  I often say it's a small world, and an even smaller industry.

Back in the 90s I read an interview where Tod McFarlane, creator of Spawn and McFarlane toys, pretty much bragged about having a collection of around 300 rejection letters from comics companies.  Not sure how many people can take that much rejection or be that damn persistent, but whenever I had rough times I thought about stuff like that.  I never got to be a comic book artist, but I did get to work on some stuff designed by one of my art heroes, Joe Mad.

Back in 2013 in my second year freelancing I got to work on the Mega Man board game.  Mega Man being one of my fave game characters and Capcom being one of my favorite companies that influenced and inspired me as an artist for decades.

Darksiders: Forbidden land was a super fun project for me and it was a nice cookie to get from the universe last few years.  I'm grateful for the wins I get and I keep getting great projects to work on, wait till you see the stuff that is still coming this year.  I leave this now with some pics of my first round of playing the game with my friend, Leo, who also worked with me on that project.

If you want to see a more thorough breakdown of the project and the interview I did for 80lv with my friends that helped out on that project you can find that here: 

You can find the figure projects posted in my gallery here and I guess my main point was to do the thing, be creative, keep persisting and improving.  Things may not go exactly according to whatever very specific plan you might form in your head, but good things come to those who wait and work their butts off.  So yeah, do the thing, whatever the thing is for you, keep at it... git gud and keep getting better.  :)



Street Fighter - Loving what you do and the importance of fanart

General / 17 June 2019

I recently finished up presentation renders for Street Fighter and pushed them out there on several places.  I've written about it here a few times by now.  I've posted WIPs, made preview posts on my portfolio and posted a whole bunch about it during and after the fact... I should probably shut up about it already, but this is hopefully some of the last of it at last.  Part of me wants to throw the whole thing away and part of me is very proud and wants to keep talking about it to anyone who'll listen.  It's been long enough to where I see many of the flaws and things I could still fix, but these things had to be sent to the factory at some point and Capcom gave their approval.  I have a probably unhealthy amount of respect and admiration for Capcom and their OG Street Fighter designers.  In fact, one of the highlights from last year was getting one of my tweets about the project noticed by Akiman and retweeted.  

“If you’re trying to figure out what others love, but you don’t love it, it’s very hard to make that great. So when you work on something, if you fall in love with it, that’s a good sign. Don’t worry about if others do. If you do, others will.” That's apparently something Elon Musk said recently or at some point.  Street Fighter is one of those properties that pulled me into doing art.  Back in the 90s I had a couple of games magazines in English, back when I didn't really understand English.  The crazy colorful adds, the interviews full of sketches, the promotional art for SF2 Turbo, and then the reveal of the new fighters for Super Street Fighter 2 with Cammy, Fei Long, T. Hawk, and Dee Jay.  I was never as good at fighting games as I'd like to be, but I've always loved and enjoyed the art that comes out of them, from concept, to pixels, to final in-game or cinematic models.

Many people here in Artstation are big time professionals that get to work on movies, AAA games, and more, in many cases they're living their dream.  For some it's a job and in some cases it even becomes boring or a chore.  Some people get pretty jaded or even cynical about it.  It's a rough industry or industries... and lots of things about conditions like crunch and compensation needs massive improvement.  However, this is still quite something for me at least, to be doing this and enjoying it.  Back in the day I was some 12 year old kid in Mexico copying drawings by Akiman and trying to come up with new drawings that matched his style.  In fact I copied this drawing down here with color pencils a couple times:

I wish I had a scan of that drawing, it's probably somewhere in my parents' house and it probably looks way off in relation to the original, but it was what I could do back then and I was proud. Those crappy doodles were part of my road to get to where I am and I'm actually pretty happy with where I am and where I'm heading.  Things are lookin' up in my little corner of the world.

On Fanart and other Myths

"Don't do fanart!" or "Do less fanart."  Somewhere down the line I've heard it from art teachers, other artists, students, colleagues, and not even sure who else, but many people make fun of or look down on fanart.  I never understood it and I still don't, because I grew up loving comics, video games, movies, and from the moment I figured out these things were made by people, I tried to figure out who these people were and how they got there.  I grew up reading Wizard Magazine, an American magazine about comics, the IPs, and the people that wrote and drew them.  I learned to read English with comics and Wizard mag.  I learned names like Joe Madureira, J. Scott Campbell, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, and of couse Stan, The Man, Lee...  way before even your average bear knew his name and his MCU cameos.  From interviews with people like Joe Mad I learned the names or at least code names for the Japanese designers like Akiman, Bengus, Ikeno.  I was always curious about these people and tried to learn more.  I became half decent at this whole thing by admiring and studying the work of people who got there before me.  I still admire and collect the work of  these artists.  Their work keeps me inspired and motivated.  The properties they created or worked on through the years spoke to me so much that I had to respond, and fanart was the outlet.  In comics it's sort of a given and pretty normal that your portfolio will be full of fanart, but I guess because concept art is a big part of games and movies, more originality is of course needed, but for character and environment 3D artists, the gig is usually matching a given style and making something that fits into an existing IP.

I've been what you might call a professional for more than a decade and I never stopped doing fanart, and many of the jobs I've landed in the past seven years as a freelancer, have been a side effect of doing fanart.  I'm a fan of tons of mediums, creative industries, IPs, and individual artists, so even if I wanted to I would not be able to stop.  The funny thing about the past couple years is that I've been doing very little personal art or fanart because the projects I'm doing for work are stuff I'd be doing as fanart.  I'm overbooked with work that I enjoy and I finish my day exhausted but satisfied... and at times I go to bed anxious to wake up and get back to it and start the next piece.  There's lots of road ahead, God willing, but I'm really enjoying the ride now.

It's not all roses of course.  I've been close to burnout also.  I should probably look up more official definitions, but the two ways that I understand burnout is when creatives just exhaust themselves by overworking and losing all the joy in the work, or by becoming kind of depressed and creatively blocked.  In my case I had more of the overworking myself kind, but I managed, by taking trips and holidays to see family and get away from the routine.  As for the other burnout where you get depressed or bored and apathetic, blocked, etc... I mostly have the opposite problem, I wish I had more time and energy for all the stuff I want to do, but when friends going through it have asked me about advice, I always recommend going back to origin.  What I mean by that is to just take some time off enjoying the things that got you into this troublesome path in the first place.  Read that comic that you loved back in the day, re-watch that anime, go play that video game, etc. 

At some point I do plan to do more of my own projects.  I have done work for that on and off for decades and I eventually want to turn to that fully, but for now, the projects I'm getting are pretty exiting, hard to turn down, and I still got time to dig more into my own stuff.

The other subject I'd like to touch on is reference... who did this?  who was it that started telling artists that drawing without reference and from your head only or mostly was the way to go???  How is this still a thing?  This Street Fighter project required so much reference and research, I learned so much about my inadequacies with anatomy and how much I still need to learn.  I've been pursuing improvement, like most artists out there, in this area, and it's a long quest.  I thought I had a handle on this thing, way more than I actually did, and I still have plenty to do.  I grabbed again all my old books, gathered up even more ref folders, pinboards, and bought scans from Anatomy 360.  Even then I still goofed a bunch of stuff that I only caught it by the time these figures had been approved.  I'll keep improving then.  At the end of last year I bit the bullet and went for one of Scott Eaton's courses.  So the anatomy quest shall continue.

This project was a big deal for me and the people that backed it in Kickstarter seem to love the work.  Both Jasco and Angry Joe were super happy with my results and more projects have come from this.  I can't wait to reveal some of the next projects and see what else comes after, but in the mean time I'm thankful for that 12 year old little nerd version of me that didn't stop drawing Ryu, Chun Li, Cammy and the others... even when people couldn't understand it or downright mocked it...  those people can suck it!

I live in Graz, Austria these days.  I freelance from here for clients half the world away and that's pretty comfortable.  My parents back home in Mexico are English teachers in a public school... the stories they tell me about the children there, it's rough.  It's rough out there in many countries and in many parts of even the nicest countries.  Selling people too much stories of "follow your bliss" and "do what you love" can be dangerous because not everyone is in a position to do that, and many people misunderstand that and think that it will be easy.  It usually isn't, everyone makes the sacrifices that they can or that they're willing to make.  I made my offerings and I'm still paying some dues, some have paid off better than others, but I'm doing my thing and it's going well enough for me.  I'll keep doing what I can so that it keeps getting better.

So I guess my point is just, do your thing.  Do it well, and love it, love it long time, hahah.  Do it as good as you can do it, and finish it by the deadline or at least close to it, and then do the next one better.  If you can't love it and you don't live in a really tough situation where the risk might be too much, then go do another thing, love that one.  Don't let yourself become that jaded cynic who takes the jelly out of everyone's donuts.  Bide your time and take the risks when you're able, just don't be reckless.  Make the mistakes and learn from them and keep going.  Make that fanart, or don't, but make that call yourself, don't just follow advice from people that are too afraid or narrow minded, and for fuck's sake, do use that reference, and learn that damb anatomy... don't try to be the next Kim Jung Gi when you can't even be the next Rob Liefeld.  That's all I got on this for now.  I leave you with the SF turntables and if you wish to see the individual posts of the figures, you'll find those in my portfolio.  Happy Z-brushing and stuff!





Ghostbusters/Men In Black - WIP minis

General / 26 March 2019

Last year (2018) I backed a kickstarter for one of Derek Laufman's art books, eventually I got my copy and really loved it... around end of the year I got an email asking if I'd like to be part of a board game involving both Ghostbusters and Men In Black.  Like many people, especially 80s and 90s kids, I'm a fan of both movies and the IPs in general.  I was pretty much ready to say yes, but then on top of that they showed me the character designs for the project and I immediately recognized they were Derek's designs.  I was pretty happy to see that, so double yes!

I'm doing all the player figures for this game.  These are some of the core figures, and there's even more surprises coming later when the kickstarter is unveiled.  Derek's interpretations of the heroes and his designs for the enemies are great.  I'm having a blast with this project. :)

The Ghostbusters gang:


The MIB gang:

A few of the bad guys:

Not only am I having a blast sculpting these, I'm actually really looking forward to playing this with friends.  Really looking forward to that.


Street Fighter: The Miniatures Game WIPs - Wave 4

General / 31 May 2018

And still at it!

This is the most ambitious thing I've ever done in terms of accepting and taking on a gig.  I don't know for sure, but I've never seen one single sculptor take on a 30some set of miniatures for one single board game.  Maybe someone's done that many or more figures for one project, but for sure this is the first time pre-painted minis of this scale are being attempted.  It's exiting and nerve wracking.

How do you eat an elephant?  one bite at a time, right?  I'm eating the elephant of this whole cast of characters one bite at a time.  I'm still having a blast and I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, only a few more left to start from base mesh, and after that it's a period of polishing, Capcom approvals, and final prep for print.  

Rashid was a bit tricky, he has one of the more complex outfits, and for the longest time his pose was looking very boring.  I think it's working now, but once I added his wind tornado it became a surfer pose that began to click.  His airplane stage from SF 5 was really fun to incorporate into his base.

Makoto was nice and easy... I converted her base body starting from Sakura.  I repurposed Ken's Gi and added long sleeves to it, the rest was about getting the pose from one of her sprites and I took the idea of her wind effect from one of Rashid's attacks.  The zen garden for her base was also fairly easy to incorporate, pretty happy with her overall.

Karin was also relatively easy.  I took Sakura's base body for her too.  Adjusted some of her school uniform parts and I only needed to make a few new pieces.  The base was easy enough too and I incorporated what I think is her family crest to her base, Capcom will let us know if that's wrong I guess.  

Necalli is one of my favs, one because he's Messican like me, but also because he's just cool looking and fun to play in the game.  I incorporated a variant of the Aztec sun to his base, partly based on his stone form from the game.  It's also a risk that Capcom might not like that for the base, but worth a shot.

Viper still needs work, but she's about 60% f the way to where she needs to go, the pose still needs to get pushed further.

Ryu is coming along, but his pose also needs to look a bit more intense.  He'll crouch down a bit more and flex a bit harder.

Violent Ken is coming along, hope they let us use that Shadaloo logo on his back.

Gouken is coming along, needs more work on the pose and there's almost no sculpting done on his clothing, but he's on track.

Only about 4-5 left for the whole set to start and then it's all polishing, final touches, approvals and print prep...  wish us luck!


Street Fighter: The Miniatures Game WIPs - Wave 3

General / 04 May 2018

Today is the last day of the campaign.  It's been quite the roller coaster ride.

Still working like a dawg and lovin' it.  So much more to do still and look forward to.  Some of these are really challenging my composition, anatomy and working speed.

Ibuki has been tons of fun.  Still got a bit of final detailing and cleanup on her.

Q is based on an awesome drawing by Artgerm.

Fei Long, based on his ultra finisher, and a few pics of the famous Bruce Lee.

T. Hawk.  Dude is massive and he's gonna be a massive figure too.  Some detailing and cleanup left on him.

Dee Jay, based on a drawing by Genzoman.  Lots of cleanup left on this one still.

Juri.  Still bugging me how she looks awkward from some angles so I'll keep tweaking her.

Mika is so fun.  Some cleanup left on her too, but she's on track. 

And there's still more to come... the roster is at around 34 characters and might grow by a few depending on how the rest of the day goes. :)

 Here's a quick collage of all the figures we got so far, and that's not even all of them.  So this isn't even our final form! :D


Street Fighter: The Miniatures Game WIPs - Wave 2

General / 20 April 2018

Hi again,

I've been working pretty hard on more of these while the Kickstarter campaign is going.
Some of these are wide open for feedback and crits since I'm trying to make these as good as possible, so feel free to tear me a new one when it comes to the ones that look more iffy at the moment.
Sakura I'm actually fairly happy with, I'll just do minor polishing on her and her backpack, nothing major.

Cammy, my favorite character and main when playing the game.  Still tweaking things on her like the anatomy, her leotartd, and the blue paint swirl needs some work.  Will also mess some more with the impact effect.

  Balrog is still unpolished, he still needs his Vegas floor base and lots of refinement on the clothes.  I'll try to punch up the pose some more too.

Blanka has given me a bit of trouble, I'm currently trying to re-pose his arms and I'm re-doing the lightning bolts based on feedback from my friend Heri Irawan. :)

Same with Dhalsim, pose is ok, but it needs cleanup and polish, along with some symmetry breakage and I'm re-doing the energy bits on him.

Guile gave me some trouble, but I think both my client and I are pretty ok with him now.

Happy with Honda, but might bulk him up some more if I get a chance.

Dan I'm also happy with, he was very fun to work on.

I'm still working on a bunch of these and having the time of my life.  Best project I've ever worked on and I'm doing all I can to make these good.  Hope you like them too. :)


Street Fighter: The Miniatures Game WIPs

General / 12 March 2018

I've been working since last year on this project and recently finished the semi-final drafts of the first 8 characters.  I'm a long time fan of Street Fighter and Capcom, so it's been very enjoyable to work on this project.  It's also pushed and challenged me on improving my composition and anatomy skills.

Akuma was one of the first I worked on and by the time I finished the other figures I ended up having to come back to him to improve him some more in order to match the level of detail and style that the others ended up with.

Ryu was one of the first I completed with the intention of figuring out the quality bar.  I tried to make his fireball differ from Akuma's while still looking like a similar effect.  I also tried the ink effect based on Street Fighter 4's effect and on a similar effect used on a couple of statues out there.

Ken was requested in a classic Shoryuken pose.  This is a pretty common and obvious pose for him, but I tried to bring something extra to it by making rising fire spirals based on his super move from games like Marvel vs Capcom where the effects are very amped up.

The pose for Chun Li is based directly on the box art for the game.  I added some smoke and wind effects to hold her in the air, these are similar to the effects in an existing statue.  It's tricky to create something new or too new with the licensor and briefing constraints.  Hopefully I made something classic yet unique enough with her.

Zangief has been kinda tricky, but also very fun.  There are lots of interpretations of him out there with varying degrees of cartoony exaggerations and extreme stylization of his muscles and face.

Sagat took a bit of trial and error too, we tried a Tiger Knee pose, but ended up sticking with the Tiger projectile pose.

Vega went relatively smoothly.  We might end up removing the impact effect from his hand so that the claws are more emphasized and not hidden behind the effect.

Bison was started along with Akuma a while back.  He was much easier to finish once Ryu was completed as the style and quality bar.

These miniatures will be around similar size to Amiibos and will be pre-painted.  The kickstarter is coming in April 4th and I'll be working on the expansion characters too.  Looking forward to making more of these and to seeing how the campaign goes.  Wish us luck! :)