Post Categories


We respect your email privacy

Procreate to Illustrate


It’s been one year since I released my first interactive book, Ten Monkey Marbles, to the Apple app store. Not a huge selling product by far, there is still something satisfying in just finishing something creative and putting it “out there”. Out there is basically anywhere that isn’t my stacks of drawings, art filing cabinets, or in some cases boxes of drawings destroyed by flood waters.

Although I spend a lot of time talking about creating games on this site, it doesn’t reflect that I split my time in my studio between developing my games, and writing/illustrating and painting.

Aside from trying to expand my repertoire into writing chapter books in the last year, I still work on my picture books and have been dusting off some work in the hopes of finishing them up lately, especially post-flood where I heaped a great deal of my artwork and illustrations into the trash.

My first attempt at writing, Monkey Marbles, was written when I was on my first sabbatical from Rhythm and Hues Studios. Sabbatical from visual effects was something that was unique and highly valued at R&H, and it was this time off, that gave me time to consider other directions for myself.

My writing has taken a back seat to the practical needs of jobs over the years, or raising children, or digging out mud from floods more recently. Now as I try to dive back in again more deeply, I pulled out one story that I was having difficulty finding a look for. I’ve done some sketches, thumbnails that are usually pretty small to get a feel for my book and the past couple weeks I decided to scan my thumbnails and bring them into Procreate, a painting program on the iPad that cost me a whopping $5.99.

Having digitized all my illustrations, I'm finishing them up in Procreate.

Having digitized all my illustrations, I’m currently finishing them up in Procreate on the iPad.

Procreate has some limitations, and yet I find myself enjoying it, enjoying being unchained from my workstation.

One limitation is the number of brushes, but yet the brushes all feel useful and they work well, making the software far more useful. The thing I enjoy about Procreate is that when painting with it, the brushes behave as I would expect them. I can paint, blend, and use brushes that give realistic textures. I feel like I can be spontaneous, which I have never felt in Photoshop (not a painter’s program at all) or even Corel Painter, which for all it’s bang is somewhat overbloated and easily gets slowed down. With Corel all intuition goes out the door for me, which is not a loss I can bare well. When I have to scratch my head too much about what’s happening in a program, I tend to avoid it because it gets in the way of spontaneity and the real creativity in service of technical hurdles. I don’t like technical hurdles because I don’t want to spend my time thinking about the software, I want to think about the story and illustrations and get into the zone.

“A Little Space” is another book I wrote awhile back, not as far as Monkey Marbles. I’ve sat with it and every once in awhile I try to illustrate a page. I haven’t been able to get the look that I want. This is my first dabbling at an illustration for the book in Procreate, and I feel like possibly I’m on the right track so far, and that maybe I might get to what I want. I’ve stopped now as I look into sizes of children’s books that might be printed digitally to an e-reader (other than the iPad) so that I can rethink formatting before I get too far.


Exploring more loosely with Procreate, to see if i can find a style I want to express a story about a little boy who wakes us to find he’s lost his gravity.

They are two different style of illustrations, one that took a lot of more meticulous preparation and another that is very loose and based on quick thumbnails I made to capture the story (thumbnails I scanned).

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to bypass thumbnails on paper for my next illustrations and see if I can do more of this on my ipad. I’m not opposed to doing work on paper and canvas. I feel most fluid with pen/pencil and paper, but I know that my meticulous nature in preparing illustrations means I’ll get lost in prepping boards, transferring drawings and those are the things that I’m trying to eliminate so that I can illustrate and write more, and prep less.

If it works out, it would mean that changing my software, not the computer tablet or the pen, but the painting software really ends up paying off.

The real goal though is to simply get back to creating books again, writing stories, and finishing what i’ve started.

Skimming Stones

At the end of winter semester at Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, I resigned from my position as Head of Game Art to pursue my personal projects. Since then I have been doing just that on several fronts at the same time working on games, paintings, writing, and pulling together my notes on creating games.

Although there are a lot of things I’m working on I’m going to try and confine this post to my first product that I released today to the iTunes store for the iPad. It is called Ten Monkey Marbles and a link can be found here.

Ten Monkey Marbles is meant to be my way of starting out and beginning the process as an Indie Game studio. The story itself is a counting book for children, and is meant to be a small introduction to the Monkey Marbles concept I came up with years ago while on Sabbatical from Rhythm and Hues studios. Monkey Marbles is a longer book and more complex which may not work well as an interactive, but I will put it out into the world at some point.

The concept of Monkey Marbles occurred to me in a moment of silly word play while skimming stones at the beach in Los Angeles. I had been working in my studio a lot, and listening to a lot of Bob Dylan. His syncopated lyrics had stuck in my head and I started to make up my own song in that syncopated way in the first draft of a song or poem came out. I went home and wrote it down and had the basis for Monkey Marbles.

It began with these words which I still imagine singing in a mock Dylan voice; “Innocently me, skimming stones into the sea, when I heard a sound far of from me, innocently me.”

No it wasn’t meant to imitate the real versing of Dylan but it didn’t matter because I knew immediately I had something, monkey marbles.

All of this as an indie artist and game artist is like skimming stones down into the unconscious to see what gets struck. You skim stones and sometimes they go far, and sometimes they don’t even skim once. As artists we don’t really know what we’re going to find when we skim stones down into the unconscious but we follow and hope that something will happen, some sound will come back from far off. To me so much of the process being an artist is about trying to facilitate that unconscious process in order to come up with something.

The skimming of stones is one thing, you throw but what we’re really looking for is that interaction between the medium of the stone and the water, the ripples that grow from each point the stone touches and then how they interact.

I know this sounds rather vague in some ways but when I teach this and talk about it, I give drawing demonstrations and show it in action. I sketch a haze onto a page using pencil or marker or even chalk in photoshop and then I see what images come up from the haze and focus in and pull out the creature, and sometimes an entire story comes forth.

The thing I try to remember whenever I work is that the more I try to control things then often the harder it is for it to come forth spontaneously and I guess in the end that is exactly what I’m talking about. When things feel forced and over-worked you can feel it, but when they feel spontaneous and alive they grow of themselves.

A good example is the recent portrait of Kate Middleton. Although the portrait is executed with the finesse and competence of a great painter it has lost the spontaneity and truth that is Kate Middleton.

Games are like this too. When we as artists make all our decisions before hand it’s difficult for a game to grow within that context. We need to set up an environment where we can be spontaneous in creating game play and stories and drawings and yes even portraits of a duchess.

In the end we can tell when things are flowing and spontaneous when we are in the flow while doing our art. Often when we aren’t in that spontaneous flow it is reflected back to us by our audience who will tell us that they don’t feel the connection we had hoped for. All we can do is continue to skim stones, experimenting more and in the end not be afraid to try again.

UDK on a Mac Pro

I am currently developing a game that I hope to launch on Kickstarter shortly, it’s almost in place and as my last semester running the Game Art department at RMCAD wraps up next week, I hope to launch my kickstarter campaign soon after.

I thought though I’d write a little about developing on my system, a 2009 Mac Pro. Since my HP system died I have felt very reluctant to get another PC. They just seem to die on me quickly. So when I decided to switch from developing games in Unity to UDK, I decided to bootcamp Windows on my Mac Pro. I like having everything in one place, because developing an indie game by yourself is a lot already. Having to hustle assets from one system to another every day just extends development pipelines. I lose precious time, and have junk mounting up in multiple places.

Additionally, all those good things on my main mac system; my Wacom Cintiq, my speakers, my 30 inch monitor go to waste. I end up crouched over a tiny monitor when developing in UDK, my main system and monitors waiting for me to do other tasks, which is about half my time.

So I bootcamped my computer, giving a full 1 TB hard drive to Windows. I also split the memory, 8GB for my Mac, 8GB for Windows, 4CPUs each.

A couple months ago I installed a new graphics card, the ATI Radeon HD 5770 1024MB, and finally the last piece, VMWare Fusion. Unfortunately when I ran UDK on the windows side it ran terribly, with terrible compression in the graphics and very slowly even with the default scene and nothing else.

I called people, I researched on the web and I couldn’t figure out a solution to VMWare running it’s own “virtual” graphics card.

Which is code for crap.

Tonight I installed Parallels as a test and re-installed my game on here. I was encouraged by the fact that the game was now working, the last iteration I put on here two months ago had a little lag, but if I don’t run in what Parlallels calls “Coherence mode” then it runs with very little lag.

So I re-installed my most recent game which is far more heavy than the one from two months ago, but it has also been optimized considerably. In fact it now runs better than on the laptop, my FPS (Frames Per Second) going from an average of 11 FPS, to between 18-20 FPS. I don’t detect any lag with the mouse and keyboard, but to me the real test will be with the xbox controller which I feel makes me more sensitive to any lag time.

It feels refreshing to play my game finally on my main system, 30 inch monitor, sounds projecting on three speakers around me (so important) instead of the crummy laptop internal speakers I’ve used.

So far I am happy with Parallels, and take back every bad thing I said about them when I had used them about five years back.

Parallels seems to have grown up, and it all somehow makes sense to me, to be developing a game about a virtual game world, using virtual computers. Indie game developing is starting to feel virtually real to me.

Art Cooperation: Armor Page 2

Before I get fully involved in debugging my video game this morning I wanted to post some more of my reference library online.   A quick reminder that this isn’t to use for resale, or to use in print work but rather as reference for illustration and lighting or to be used as you see fit for textures.

The reason I love this series of photos so much and I think I have around 600 photographs of the armor and armaments, is the richness in the design of the armor.  There is the shape of each piece and how it fits together and overlaps.  There is also the intricate detail in the armor which is stunning.  You also get a great sense of lighting as well as the tiny detail, the pitted metal, the inlay work.  All the things that go into making something look authentic and real can be studied in these photos.

Continue reading Art Cooperation: Armor Page 2

Art Cooperation not Corporation

I’m sharing some texture/reference content online today.   My reason is that I’m interested in seeing Indie artists band together more and be more open to sharing content, such as textures, rigs, models, scripting. The reference I have is good for VFX or illustration, coveted by more than a few of my students from Art Institute.

I look at it this way, as an Indie game maker/digital artist, I’m up against the likes of companies who have deep pockets to create games. This creates a certain expectation even on the iPhone games. I’ve already had someone see my first game and say, Can you do some things more like Little Big Planet? (which  is not on the iPhone).

The expectation is that anyone who makes a game suddenly has a huge budget (and endless time and RAM).  Little Big Planet was years in the making with likely millions of dollars and a  huge team just to get it to alpha. Even iPhone games like Avatar and Terminator  Salvation likely  have a pretty big budget. I am  one man wearing all the hats to  create the game,  from design, to level creation,  rigging, animation and  programming, like many  other casual game developers  out there.

I will be posting more of my texture library and my process as I make the transition from VFX to Indie game Development. Let me know if you find this useful to share and I will likely be inspired to share more of my huge library.

Continue reading Art Cooperation not Corporation

Working Outside The Box

It was not my vision growing up to work in an office building, the dreaded cubicle, that box that I’m speaking out against.

My vision has always been one of working from an art studio and not being confined by both the description of my job, or the size of the box that a company has fit me into for days that range from 8 to 16 hours easily in the field of Visual Effects.  Yet, I did this for many years before I reached the point where I had had enough and wanted out of the box, the office building, and Los Angeles in general.

About four or five years ago I started to talk about telecommuting and telling managers at different companies, that I couldn’t afford to buy a home in Los Angeles, and that if I bought one in the suburbs of Los Angeles I would see my family even less than I was seeing them already.   I wrote a report that was twenty pages long touting the obvious ecological benefits of telecommuting and outlining what kind of techniques and technology I would help build in order to make telecommuting a reliable methodology for artists. I offered to help build the infrastructure myself because indeed, to pay for the expensive software and high end systems myself was still far less expensive than trying to delude myself that I would be able to buy a home in Los Angeles.   Other employees came up to me curious and encouraging, but management did not agree with this vision at all.

Continue reading Working Outside The Box

A Cube with a View

Having arrived in Colorado my wife and I with our son in tow were looking around the house and property trying to decide where I would set up a studio.  The vision of taking the stable and converting it into a studio was pretty strong.    It’s just twenty feet from the creek which wanders on the northern border of our property.  I imagined windows cut out and being able to see the creek while I worked.

The stable is a little further from the house, maybe forty or fifty feet.   Far enough away that when I’m working late I wouldn’t disturb anyone.    So  I called an engineer to come and check it out.  We knew it had to get cleared by him before we could do anything.   After measuring and looking it over he told me that to set up a studio inside I’d have to raise the whole stable two feet to get it above the flood plain.   The stable is sixty three feet in length and roughly 18 feet wide so this started to feel like a bad start to such a lovely vision.    What did he think it would cost to raise the stable?   He told me that it could probably be done for $60,000 dollars.   That there may be other things I could do if I wanted to get around the flood plain rules but in the end just finishing the stable would cost a lot as well.

So I decided to do what I often do in a situation like this.  I back burner it.   It doesn’t mean I give up on the vision of having my studio in the stable, it would be too much money for a fledgling business.   Instead I went to our big two car garage, plan B.

Continue reading A Cube with a View