Fun story behind this:
Caitlin and I have known each other for about a year and a half, but never actually met prior to Mahalo.
Our interactions were kept on the phone and email when I did some editorial art for her feature articles in The Union Weekly.
So when I started assembling a team for WellCast, I freaked out about finding a voice-over and didn’t know where to start. I posted my dilemma on FB hoping for some guidance, and the first person who responded was…
We still look back to that day and how weird it was. Caitlin later told me she was like “WHY NOT?” when replying to that post and didn’t think anything would happen. Hah. Hah. Hah.
After our first recording session, Will and the CEO had doubts about her. I kept pushing back for Caitlin and it paid off.
Now, it’s hard to imagine WellCast without her in it.
Tomorrow will be the last recording day for WellCast, a show produced by a company that had my life by the balls for the better half of this past year.
For a show that’s consumed most of 2012, I find it odd to be writing about it now. So, let me just start at the beginning first.
August 6, 2012-
I got an email from Will, a classmate I knew from grad school, inviting me up to Culver City for a freelance illustration job.
I drove up, got lost, and was a half-hour late to the interview. I managed to get the right directions from the cashier at Panda Express (which I later learned is in the same plaza as Smash Burger).
When I finally got there, Will came down and gave me a tour of the place. We walked around the set where MMA Surge was being filmed. I was told that they finished their first episode just last week.
We went up the stairs to the loft area where the rest of the production team worked. There, I met the video, writing and design team- a cool bunch of peeps.
Will and I sat in the conference room and talked about the company, Mahalo, and its upcoming shows, especially one in particular called WellCast.
He talked about the potential of WellCast and how it would be different from the rest, mainly that it would rely heavily on illustrations.
After showing him my demo reel and having lunch with the design team at Rush St, Will and I went outside and sat at the front picnic table.
Will: “So I brought you here today because I wanted you to be a freelance illustrator for WellCast.”
Will: “But after seeing your reel and how you know AfterEffects, I want to offer you a full time job…”
Will: “…to direct WellCast!”
We talked a bit more in detail and I thought about it. OH YEAH, he did sort of mention a tiny fact about a crazy CEO, but that’s not important at this time, not important at all. At the end of the conversation, I smiled and extended my hand.
Me: “I’m in.”
On November 3rd, Joe Bryant, Mike Pallotta and I will be making our debut with AFTERMAN at the Long Beach Comic Con!
Afterman was a two-year long project working with writers, Joe and Mike. The comic is a culmination of our passion, hard work and long sleepless nights. In total, there are 97 watercolor paintings beautifully laid out in 22 pages and printed on high quality photo paper.
It will be accompanied by a very awesome cover illustration by Anne Lee and a rad variant cover by Andrew Wilson.
The first print run is 500 copies, so let me know if you want to preorder!
You can view more info about it at www.oldcollegecomics.com
A lot of ambition was set out for this last installment. I started this in the summer of 2011 and carried it to the end of that year. Through the course of it’s development, I kept finding myself ill-equipped to the unforeseen problems that arose. That said, this project wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of my friends and faculty. They helped me realize a lot of my dreams and I am truly thankful.
This last video is important to me in a lot of ways.
It called on a different approach to storytelling. Early on in its conception, I wanted to recreate the interview through the use of a stop-motion puppet. I intended to show depth by having an interplay between the sculptural puppet and the flat, two-dimensional images. It was my intention to have the interviewee’s memories be recreated in the background as drawings and flat shapes.
This was also the first video in which I started using charcoal animation on one sheet of paper. I was influenced a lot by the films done by William Kentridge. The tedious process of adding and erasing marks became oddly rewarding once you see the drawing come to life.
Another new element was choosing to incorporate my own voice into the video. Putting myself in here not only cements this as an interview, but allows me the opportunity to have the puppet react to my questions and, in a way, acknowledge the viewer that is watching.
Lastly, the story was told from a very different perspective. It’s a unique insight and I want to again, thank the storyteller for her contribution.
A lot of the set pieces were created first and film individually before combining them together in Adobe Aftereffects. It was a lot of planning, especially if I knew beforehand where the camera would be for each shot. That meant making sure the perspective was right when I started painting every house and building.
I was influenced by some of the stage designs done by David Hockney. There’s some really cool stuff you can check out here: http://www.hockneypictures.com/works_stage_design.php
The classroom scene combined a bit of the stop-motion and digital animation. The paper cut-out kids were created using textured paper and fabric. They were then scanned and brought in to AfterEffects to be animated.
Everything that I’ve designed for this video was meant to clash against the charcoal animations. I wanted the ex-boyfriend to be represented through the addition and subtraction of marks on paper. It brings a certain rawness and weight about his situation.
I wanted the two art styles to contrast each other…
But it also allowed me to have the ‘twist’ in the end when you see their worlds come together.
The main body of the puppet was made with a wire armature covered in clay. I then airbrushed the skin tones. Hair was done with strips of watercolor paper assembled together, and then airbrushed as well. As for sewing the outfit… well… I didn’t get to the finished product without a couple bandages on my fingers.
The desk itself is actually skewed to make it look like it recedes back more. It was constructed with watercolor paper and drawn with graphite.
Once everything was assembled…
Many, many late nights in the studio.
My second video tells the story of a political activist who I met during the course of my research. I was impressed by her strong will and tenacity during the few times we corresponded. By tagging along to see her work, I never quite knew what to expect when it came time to interview her.
There was a quote I remember (I think it was from Studs Terkel) about how the people we interview become our teachers. The things she had to say were insightful, and at times, hard to hear.
The total interview times I usually have go to about two hours. To try to cut and edit it all down to 3-4 minutes while preserving the core messages is… well… a little short of impossible.
But a lot of the challenge was, again, trying to figure out the right imagery to go with this interview. Needless to say, this video went through a ton of revisions.
The first two stills above are from the first draft of my video. Again, it was comprised mostly of still images that moved from one side to another. Even the ‘oranges’ were just flat stains I scanned in. In reworking this video, I did away with the stains and filmed my ink drops actually mixing together to become the oranges.
I still kept that same surrealism feel of having the main character be bigger and overlooking her ‘landscape memories.’
This is an early test I did with more ink drops. My initial idea was to have the main character be animated through ink and watercolor washes. I liked the ink brush treatment given to the orange trees, so I wanted to replicate that with the main character as well.In the end, it became too ambitious for the amount of time I had left (only one scene was done with watercolor at the end).
So I worked more with animating more cut-out paper images. In this case, it’s to show the cornfield beginning to ‘wilt.’ I filmed the different corn stalks individually through stop-motion and combined them all in Adobe Aftereffects, which you can see in the bottom.
When the main character begins questioning everything, I wanted to have the camera slowly pull out. This was to show her world expanding to this vast landscape that was new and frightening at the same time.
The image below shows my before and after versions of the same scene. In my earlier draft, it was a fairly linear camera movement that moved from left to right. It didn’t quite capture the feeling of her growth and learning.
And in almost the reverse process, I had the camera pull forward inwards when she begins to question herself again. In the scene where she looks into the mirror, I wanted to show that struggle in her mind. I thought having the camera zoom and rip through the layers of paper would emphasize that soul-searching.
Here is another example of me reworking a scene to allow for a more interesting composition of images. The top image is from the earlier version of the video.
I lost a lot of sleep trying to draw a fitting conclusion for this video. It was the last scene I had to finish, two weeks before my exhibition, and my mind kept drawing blanks. I think linking it back to the orange trees somehow got the wheels turning. I intended to have it finish with her dreams about to take root in reality.
“Without A Map”
I started work on my thesis a little over a year ago in spring of 2011.
“Without A Map” was the first video I worked on as I was still trying to nail my conceptions. As such, it went through copious amounts of revisions and editing.
Looking back on it, my first draft had the story unfold through a student notebook. A collage of handwritten notes, homework assignments and other paper scraps would help carry the imagery through. This was to help reinforce the idea that all my interviewees were college students.
My initial illustrations for it were mostly done with graphite and ink. I wanted to give it a very rough and messy treatment.
These ideas were all later scrapped mostly because the elements never really contributed much in a thoughtful way. The correct term I believe was ‘salad dressing.’ There was some awkwardness in the anatomy and drawings. More importantly, there was no animation then and it had simply come to be labeled so thoughtfully as a “glorified slideshow.”
It was around this time that I started to learn more about film composition, framing and editing. I had to figure out creative ways of involving the audience more without resorting to obvious cliches.
This is the first charcoal animation I experimented with. I wanted my characters to still feel that they belong in a drawing or sketch, even when they’re moving. So one by one, I made a checklist of different scenes that I can ‘bring to life’ through this stop-motion process.
Here is an example of switching out a still image with my charcoal animations. There is a bit of rotoscoping that takes place. This all wouldn’t be possible without the help of my model, Jacob Hanover. You can watch more of my process of doing a stop-motion animation here:
Here are a couple of before/after shots. I refined several images that were either awkward or drawn improperly.
Over time, I wanted the train to have a more important role in the story. It shows up a couple times and I wanted it to strike a parallel in the journey between the speaker and the speaker’s own family. Even though the speaker isn’t traveling over a great distance, he’s still trying to move beyond his own situation.
And here’s the most painstaking part: Watercoloring every single frame and making sure each stroke and wash mimicked the frame that comes before and after it. There’s no digital trick behind it!
THRESHOLDS: voices from the 1.5 generation
“The principle is that ordinary people have extraordinary thoughts — I’ve always believed that — and that ordinary people can speak poetically. Also that no one else speaks like that and that there is no other person like that in the world.”
Oral histories hold within them the life lessons of their authors. These stories do more than sing the struggles and achievements of an individual — They speak of the time and place in which the person lived.
Hearing their voices adds an undeniable human layer to the narratives that the printed word may struggle with.
I believe recording stories from a variety of individuals helps to inform and provide a better understanding of the world we live in.
I am interested in documenting these oral histories as an art form. This process begins with the journalistic nature of interviewing people on contemporary social issues. Their recorded stories become the source material to create a visual narrative. I have created time-based illustrations to partner with the audio recordings with the intention of embodying, rather than merely echoing, the spoken word.
My work explores social issues. As I approached the body of work for this MFA project, I found myself drawn to the stories of my peers, specifically those that dealt with the subject of immigration. What they have to say is compelling because of the uncertain nature and ambiguity of their situation. It is my intent that portraying their stories can offer a different perspective and insight into this social issue.
And I want to thank these storytellers.
You are truly the bravest individuals I know.
Illustration MFA Thesis
Worked on an illustration to accompany the New Time’s cover story about the SLO County’s sheriff’s plan to create a new special operations unit. Is this a Frankenstein monster in the making?
You can read more about the article, written by Matt Fountain, here.
My initial sketch for the piece:
Final image is done on 14.5” x 18.5” wc paper with watercolors and pastels.
Here’s a look at my process along with a little sneak peek at what will be in my upcoming thesis show “Thresholds.”