Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Reel!

The last week has consisted of me hunkering down on the "Beer Cans" shot; couple of reasons behind that. One: heck yes! I love animating and wanted to add something fresh, fun, and new (another word for "fresh," but who's counting?) scene to my portfolio. Two: Batman: Arkham City and the animated Batman: Year One are both dropping on the 18th. In other words, I'll be busy soaking up some Bat-entertainment for a little while... or longer. After all, all work and no Batman make Derek a dull boy!

At any rate, the new reel is ready! Check it out below!

I do have at least 2 new shot ideas in mind for the coming months. Probably something less in the realm of dialogue, or with any speaking really. I want to try to explore more "reactionary" acting shots and I have two really fun ideas I want to try.
Also, I keep getting offers for video game animation but clearly I don't have many great "game" animation examples on my reel just yet. So, I may delve more into something in the vein of a "run and gun" sequence or something identifiable to that sort of crowd. We'll see. And so will you if you stay tuned!

Before I go, I did want to mention a couple of completely non-animation-related things. First off, I am going to begin writing new Slow News Day with Derek Stewart episodes very soon. If you don't know what that is, it's sort of a sketch-comedy thing that I started doing in October of 2010. It's not always going to be politically correct and it may touch on the slightly insane; but I assure you (and any recruiters or employers reading this) it's all in good fun. Here's just a taste:

Lastly, I wanted to address the passing of Steve Jobs last week. I've never met the guy. We've never communicated. I was late to jump on the "i" craze. And I generally thought he could have really pulled off a cooler look than a turtle-neck. BUT! I sure as hell respected what he has done to change the world. If it wasn't for him, I'm not sure I would even be doing what I am doing, thanks to his investment in Pixar and the inspiration he helped pass onto billions of people around the world. The world lost a great visionary and a great human being. And I suppose I'm a bit sad that I won't get to shake his hand someday.

Rest in peace, Steve.

Okay, That's it for me! Hope all is well in internet land!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Been Cans" update

Folks, I have a problem with irregularity.
No, this isn't a laxative commercial. I'm talking about posting to this here blog! My deepest apologies!

To show that I am a good sport, I am going to go ahead and give a quick update on where I am at with my "Beer Cans" scene with a nice progression comparison. Enjoy!

The end is near!

In other news, I got my first rejection letter from PIXAR! Wooohoo! Hey, no news is bad news. No news is MURDER to a working artist. You never know if they saw it, what they liked or not. There's just no closure! So, it's nice to know that it's a "not right now" situation with one of my favorite studios, but that hasn't dissuaded me from continuing to work toward the dream jobs.

I shall certainly keep those interested abreast of the employment situation in the months to come!


Thursday, September 15, 2011


I know that I've gotten off the beaten path here regarding animation, but I think it's important to express that being an artist first is key. If you forget to put yourself into what you create than what's the point? Expression. That's what it's about. And in this case, I've decided on an introspective piece about the heart and the choices it forces us to make. That's all the clues you get! ;)

Enjoy it while it lasts!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

George Lucas, I love you.

So, I think people should stop giving George Lucas so much shit.
Look. I get the “fear of change” thing. I can understand the mentality behind a traditionalist mind. But make no mistake, Star Wars isn’t yours.

Recently, news hit the (fan?) internet about the soon to be released Star Wars Blu Ray set. With it, comes a high definition transfer of course, but there a lot of new tidbits like a fully-CG Yoda to replace the puppet in Episode I. Personally, I felt like this was a major feather in GL’s cap as far as changes go, and I think many people would agree on that. But there are other updates including a new Obi-Wan dragon call in Episode IV, and Darth Vader yelling “NOOO!” in Episode VI. Well, needless to say…

Fans. Lost. Their. Minds.

Well, I’m here to say it: George Lucas, I love you.

The fact of the matter is that GL is the rightful owner of these stories. And he should be! It belongs to the man that thought it up, found the way to fund it, scouted out the best talent, directed it, and kept it alive for 40+ years.
You don’t have to dig where Star Wars is now. You don’t have to dig the changes. But you also don’t have to buy the Blu Ray.

Consider this: Lucas isn’t unlike most artists who might go back to a canvass and change this or that. His masterpiece is a lot bigger than most, but he’s got the tools, talent, and money to add some more flavor to his wildly imaginative and deep universe.

Fans should be a bit more thankful of the effort GL puts into these updates. He’s doing more than just shelling out the minimum cost for a high def transfer but essentially the same movie experience. We’ve seen these movies a million times. Getting a slightly newer experience adds to the novelty of these things.
I’ll close by making one last point. I have a 3 year old. He’s only seen the DVD transfer of the series. (Yes, we started with Episode IV. I’m not above doing things in the “right order”) Do you think he’s ever going to care if Han shot first according to some guy that saw it in the theater 40 years ago? Do you think he’s really missing that giant ugly black dot on the Emperor’s hood in “Jedi”? NO!

Relax, folks. And maybe think about revolutionizing the way we imagine the universe outside of our own with your own mind for a change.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


One of the pluses of being an artist of many mediums is that when you get bored, stuck, burnt out, or are just looking for a different outlet to express yourself you have options. One of the things I have really been into for the last few years is digital ink & paint, matte painting, illustration, etc.
Photoshop is great for this, and using the ol' Wacom tablet from my Art Institute days makes for almost instant gratification.

A new project I have been wanting to tackle originates from my ultra-talented girlfriend. She creates these fantastic pencil sketches that just routinely blow me away! A lot of the time she will paint these things and she's amazingly talented in that area as well, but I wanted to take a crack at using her pencils as a base and bringing the whole thing into Photoshop to see what I could do. I'll just shut up here and show the progression so far.

The original pencil sketch.
After the first pass of color, some highlights, basic form.

More texture added to the hair, refining of the skin and features, more texture in background, and painted ears.

The process isn't something I'm going to go into right now, but I think it's worth checking out Amy's artwork. As you can tell from the sketch, she offers a LOT to work with and provides a great foundation to build on. Do check out her blog as well!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Shot gets Beer Cans (Planning to Blocking Plus)

Try as had, I was unable to make it to SIGGRAPH 2011 in Vancouver, BC. Curse you, expired passport! *cue the violins*
So, instead of sitting around sulking and drowning my tears in a bowl of Honey Smacks, I took the energy and momentum carried up from the Animation Mentor graduation and BBQ weekend in San Francisco and started straight away at a new dialogue shot.

Now, I am an advocate of subtle acting and even more enthusiastic about subtle humor. So, I knew when I heard this line from arguably one of the best buddy comedies ever made, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, my engines started running (no pun intended) and I wanted to get right to work.

*courtesy of

Del: "I had no idea those beer cans were gonna blow like that."
Neal: "You left them on a vibrating bed. What did you think was going to happen?"

The first step I took was to offload this great bit of audio into my iPod, and ingrain it into memory. I let the ideas flow like salmon of Capistrano. What sort of predicament could these guys be in that might warrant an exploding beer and a vibrating bed? The dialogue didn't suggest a ton of wiggle room as far as setting was concerned, so though my initial idea was the pair having it out in a kitchen of a hotel, (the Steve Martin character was even going to be icing his eye with a cold t-bone slab of beef) I wanted to push less on the idea of the bed and more on the idea of where they might be sharing a cold one. Fishing made sense to me.

Next, I had to establish a backstory for both of these guys. 

The first, voiced by the late, great John Candy, was to be named "Jimmy" and he was simply a bread delivery man, motivated by the need to be liked by just about everyone he comes in contact with. So when his high-strung, newspaper columnist buddy, voiced by Martin and affectionately named "Marty," has been instructed by his doctor to take in some R&R at the risk of suffering some pretty nasty fallout as the result of hypertension, Jimmy does his best to entertain Marty on a lake fishing trip. Having spent one night in a cramped honeymoon cabin (it was all they had left, much to Marty's dismay) Jimmy tries to make it up to his pal by bringing along a few brewkies... that he accidentally left on a vibrating bed for most of the morning. Marty soon makes this discovery once the pair hit the water.

So, I had my backstory. Next came the fun part.
I knew the scene was going to be played pretty minimally, but i still needed some reference to get me started. This is how it came out:

As you can see, I wasn't going for anything Oscar-worthy, but I needed to get my barrings on how to stage the shots, how the characters might play off one another and how they might be motivated internally. Jimmy was going to be vary worrisome and apologetic, while Marty was going to be played much more subdued, and rather annoyed at his friend's constant bumbling. 

Next I thumb-nailed each character out, again speed and clarity of the idea I was trying to convey was my prime concern here. I didn't spend a lot of time trying to make things pretty, but I did want a pretty clear idea of how these guys were going to move and I made note of anything special in the performance that I watched of my reference footage which I may have wanted to include in my scene.


Once, I had my sketches in place and I had a nice clear idea of the beats I wanted these guys to make, I set up my characters' look, the look of the scene, and planned for any props. For my own sense of entertainment and forward momentum, I rendered a quick still of just how I wanted this scene to "feel" in terms of tone.
At this point, I was pretty pumped and ready to go. I had my reference footage, I had my character background, I had my feeling and tone and all of my scene plans jotted down to keep me on track. The next step was about finally putting my little scheme into motion... literally! 

So, having already set my key-poses, or my rough story-telling poses, in place, I fleshed things out by adjusting for timing, spacing, and began cleaning up arcs and even adding some animation to the face and fingers. 
When it comes to animation, the idea, for me anyway, is sort of like a sculptor chipping away at piece of stone that kind of already looks like his subject. This early on, I don't dare go too far with details like facial animation and I certainly don't attempt to polish fingers at this stage, but I do my best to keep the feeling of the scene alive as early as I can in the scene and attempt to maintain that throughout the process and evolution of the shot or series of shots I might be working on, all while trying to keep my ideas as clear and simple as possible. 

Even though there are some obvious bumps and hitches (not to mention some nice little graphical glitches thanks to an old computer and its failing graphics card) you can still get a sense of the direction I have been planning from the beginning. 

Well, that's about where I am at so far! The next step will feature some refining of each character, but first I will seek out some feedback from some friends just to make sure my emotional beats are reading clearly.

Stay tooned!