Monday, September 6, 2010

Inspired by Jack Potter

Recently, there was a posting on this great blog: which showcased a truly inspirational instructor in my early college years. Jack Potter was a gifted illustrator, consummate professional, and an towering figure in SVA's faculty. He had a zest for life and art that was contagious. When I entered his class room 501 for drawing instruction there was a crackle of excitement in the air as I and the rest of the class anticipated the latest adventure of drawing Jack's models, set ups, and themes.
That was the thing about Jack's class and personality. He brought such enthusiasm for the medium of illustration, that he swept up the class in the drama of each model setup and invited us to delve into our imagination to make the "story" presented that much richer. For a first year undergrad class, this was a big departure from just learning the "basics" of illustration.
The blog above details more of Potter's Principles than my quick sketch above. I quickly tried to jot down the things I remembered from his class and put that into my sketch. It was a great time for continual learning and inspiration.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

San Diego Comic Con 2010 wraps.

San Diego Comic Con 2010!
Another year has brought thousands of fans to the sunny climes of San Diego where they braved the frigid temperatures of the climate controlled Convention Center.
And what would Comic Con be without tons of fans of what else? Tons of Comics!
Below all shapes and sizes scour back issues for their treasure. Dig the guy dressed as Russel from Pixar's UP in the FG.
And what is Comics without Hot Mexican Love?

Above we have LarryDigital and KeyCon manly manning the booth. Muy macho!
Later in the day we have Senor Ira, Senor Allora, and Senor Calleros capturing the hearts of the fans with magnetic gazes of amor. Each of those entranced indulgers of Hot Mexican Love walked away with an original sketch and tres veces el amor.
It was great to have had the chance to experience Comic Con for only a short while behind a booth in the small press area. Every con I've been to, I'm usually walking the floor, talking to artists, and picking up new art. It was a thrill to be giving time this year to making art and handing it off to smiling fans. What better way to kick off a new experience at Comic Con than hanging with the passionate amigos de amore!
Hasta manana!
Adios Amigos!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

HMLC UPDATE: Comic Con 2010 just 2 weeks away!

Here's a nice shout out and announcement on the upcoming Hot Mexican Love Comics 2010 edition:

I am really excited and looking forward to attending San Diego Comic Con this year.

It may be pretty cool to stop by the HMLC booth and hang with the Amigo's De Amor for a little while. It's going to be a busy con for sure.

I haven't had much to post lately as the current season finale show has kept me extremely busy.

I almost feel like I've already been to Comic Con in some ways. ;) More on that later.

In the mean time here's another peek at the story I worked up in this year's edition.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hot Mexican Love

Hey there!
Happy July 4th! In just a few short weeks the 2010 edition of Hot Mexican Love Comics will hit the shelves and be proudly touted in the San Diego Comic Con. This years edition is jam packed with stories written and illustrated by animation industry artists currently working in the field.
In this years edition you will also find a short story by yours truly. It was a great experience putting it together from script to final lettering. It opens up ones appreciation for the way modern comics are assembled by various artists along the production.
So below is the first page from the story as an appetizer. I'll probably be posting more about the process as the weeks come closer to the convention.

For more info on Hot Mexican Love Comics, check out the official blog here:

Friday, May 28, 2010

On Japanese Animation

Many of you probably don't know but when I was going to art school, I was majoring in illustration. When I had graduated, I worked as a freelance artist for a while doing many illustration related projects for film, comic books, on-line games, and marketing comp art, to name some fields. I always had an interest in animation, from any country.

I remember being blown away the first time I saw AKIRA. I had never seen anything like it before. Growing up, watching Disney classic shorts and features as well as the slew of animation programming in syndication, I'd never been exposed to animation that was so technically well done. The story didn't quite jive with my western story sensibilities beaten into my subconscious mind from years of Western animation/ film exposure, but AKIRA had an unshakable quality of uniqueness and mastery that I've yet to see rivaled.

A short while into my freelance years, I had the opportunity to work @ Walt Disney Feature Animation on Mulan. That was my first total immersion into the process of animation. It was pretty intense work for someone new to the rigors of animation production. I remember long days into nights sitting at an animation desk producing drawing after drawing to get through each scene. Each drawing had to be of the highest quality so that it could "read" on screen what was being "sold" to the audience through the art itself.
When I think back on the hours, days, weeks, months, and years that I invested in the Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear, it all seems like a blur. Each film, I learned and grew as an artist, through sheer "pencil mileage", working with extremely talented artists, and learning the animation process from the inside out. Working conditions were generally good. We worked hard. Played hard. I met a ton of great people and influential artists. Together, we created outstanding projects that will stand the tests of time for that genre of animation.
So what does all this have to do with Japanese Animation? I was just thinking recently about the huge impact that the Japanese animation industry has had in America. Are the animators that create some intensely awesome and highly admirable animated product revered in Japan as they are here in the US? Are these animation ninjas treated the same as the top talent for major US animation studios? What's it like for them during a production, creating the amazing entertainment we've grown accustomed to seeing on our cable tv and sold in the big box retailers?
Now I can't say that all the statements in the link below are completely verified by a major news network special report. The article does share input from artists in the industry. (It's on the internet, so take it for what it is, right?) At the very least, for me anyway, give me a sense of what animation industry veterans and newbies in Japan go through to bring us their very best exportable entertainment artform.

p=111 What do you think?

Here's a perspective presented by a Westerner in Japan at Production IG:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


This past week we saw the passing of heroes from the arts. So much has been said about them already by many who can deliver a much more eloquent summation of their contribution to life and the arts than I. They have undoubtedly inspired and fueled the imaginations of many aspiring performers, myself included.

Lena Horne June 30, 1917 – May 9, 2010

If on the silver screen or the stretched canvas these artists delivered to their audiences an enthralling performance full of skilled artistry and passion.

Frank Frazetta February 9, 1928 – May 10, 2010

Farewell and thank you for the inspiration!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Process Sketch Stages: Zip and Some Tone

So here we have the sixth stage in the process of this little manga cat character.
I've painted on zip and added a zip texture to the background. For added dramatic effect I've thrown down a layer of shadow with a little gauzian blur to soften up the edges. Now that I'm looking at it, I'm contemplating going forward with color, since I had added a blue grey hue to the BG. I'll have to let it sit for a few days to see if the sketch warrants the time to drop color on to the cat. What's your take? Color or no color?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Process Sketch Stages: Tie Down

So here we are at Stage 5 in the drawing process of this manga cat character.
As I was progressing on this drawing, I was thinking about that this will be one of the first "inked" drawings I've done digitally that feels somewhat successful. Now that CS4 actually has the rotate canvas function, much like Painter does, I can now finally ink curves that I still couldn't get by turning my Cintiq.
I have to stress something about this process. The stages that I've presented so far on the blog, I most often employ when creating art for reproduction ( Comics, Illustration, or Commissions) Even though I dashed the previous sketches out in a few seconds, the stages would be much too time consuming to employ when creating art for storyboards in general. There is especially not much time when story boarding for television animation to ruff out each pose and do a very beautiful clean up drawing. When you have very active sequence with hundreds of poses and dozens of camera set ups/ layouts to draw with tight deadlines there has to be a better way to meet the deadline.
What I try to do instead is pre-visualize my sketch before I draw it. Then in as few lines as possible I try to capture the essence of the pose and characters emotional state, while staying loose and working furiously. I am thinking about the underlying structure of forms, the flow of the drawing, the action axis, the emotional context with concentrated efficiency.

I tried to keep each of the qualities mentioned above alive in the more tied down drawing while attempting to emulate a Manga style. That being said, if I were inking this drawing my traditional way, I would have approached the inks quite differently. Since, I wanted to emulate Manga, I was more conservative with the line weights.

The next stage of this drawing will add the zip tones and we'll call it done.
Till next time!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lightning Appeal

I'm not sure how they were able to achieve it. Practice on previous projects? Some unique channel into my psyche? Or creators just having a great time and operating at peak performance?
The question is how is it that the creative forces of Passion Pictures and Jamie Hewlett fused so much appeal, charm, quirk-i-ness, and fine multi-media animation into an introductory short for the 2008 Olympics in Bejing, China. that to this day I can still watch repeatedly?
I was charmed when it was first released on to the air waves. If you haven't seen it, I think you may just like it. If you have enjoy the ride here:
Then come on back and let me know if you thought the trip was worth it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Process Sketch Stages

So tonight I thought I'd share a bit of the process I go through to create some of the drawings I've done for comics, illustration, and animation. For demonstration purposes I've chosen to draw my interpretation of a character from a Japanese manga digest I picked up from a local Chinese bookshop. (It's not a translated volume. I am not sure what the title of the character or book. If you recognize it please let me know.)

Looking through the source material, I chose an adventurous cat character to draw in an action pose. Below I've started out with a very loose gesture of the cat's action pose. I'm thinking about weight distribution (as if I took the pose myself), the thrust of the action through the body, and the volume the figure occupies in perspective. I may be thinking about all these items consciously, but will focus now on getting the energy of the gesture down on paper.

In sketching each drawing has a vitality or "life" which you can feel when you are sketching. It can almost be considered an "energy" much like what we have in our own bodies.
Here is a quick diagram of the major action lines and secondary action lines that i think about when designing the flow of the figures form in the pose.The blue lines represent the major action thrust of the arching back while torso leaning forward over the hips that flows back through the hips down the far leg and exiting the far heel. I imagine the secondary flow (green line) originating from the torso and flowing through the arms. One flow of "energy" travels back in perspective, through the right arm and hand, up the sword blade, and exiting the tip. The other end of the "energy" flow travels down the arm into the hand and exiting the fingers. I'm consciously designing the "energy" flow as I go along through the stages.
At this stage I am starting to think more about defining the "volumes" or mass of which the character consists. I'm thinking about how those volumes are organized in perspective and space. "What would each volume look like if I were really seeing it in front of me?"
Check out Preston Blair's book Cartoon Animation for more details on volume. He doesn't call it that by name but the book has plenty of solid foundation exercises to help artist think about volume when drawing.
You'll notice that I have adjusted the distances of the legs, enlarged the head and changed the foot placement in space. As I refine the drawing and push and pull the volumes to make them feel "right" I still keep it loose. I'm consciously exploring the mass of the figure, not committing yet to hard details. I want to make sure that the volumes, shapes, and flow of the figure are working before I start putting on the descriptive details.
At this stage, the figure is really starting to take shape. I am describing the dimension of the figure by wrapping the folds or edges of cloth around each volume. I'm keeping in mind the flow from the original sketch as I continue to build the figure up. There is still room to tweak the figure before I commit to the finish. More on that later. I'll be back shortly with the final stages of this sketch.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Keep those Creative Juices Flowing!

Warm up sketch this morning from random photo scrap.

Most times when I feel like I'm in a creative slump, it's most often because my creative "being" has been starved of the right "food".

If I think about my personal health, if I were to work 14 hrs a day, exercise and not eat or rest I'd probably only be able to go a day without collapsing. We wouldn't force ourselves not to eat or rest consciously.

Similarly, if we consider our "artistic health" if we worked creatively for days without daily feeding ourselves good art "food" via study of: comics, illustration, movies, etc and reading books, novels, ancient tomes, etc our artistic bodies would collapse into a creative slump. The slump then leading to frustration, anger, doubt, depression, uninspired labored work, etc.
Yet as artists, we often "expect" or "demand" that our creative selves can work tirelessly day after day without taking time to "eat".

The key I've heard from other top artists in my field has been that they are "eating" on a daily basis from the creative pantries of the artist's they admire. Studying the "masters", has been made part of their daily schedule like brushing teeth, eating 4 square meals, going to the gym, etc.
This often keeps them soaring over what ever creative, intellectual, or personal challenges occur during the work day.
I've tried it, and it works. I can definitely feel the difference when I get out of the habit.
For what it's worth,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Directions

I've been working hard the past month or so on another challenging TV episode and a thinking about what it was like when I first started out in the field of art.
When I graduated from SVA with a degree in illustration, I was sure that I'd be working for DC in a year or so. Little did I know that my career was about to take a detour into animation. I've been traveling on that animation highway for about 14 yrs. During that time I've been involved in quite a number of high profile projects like: Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch, Brother Bear. I've also taken smaller roads off the main highway where I was able to learn and grow in other areas of story telling and experience different studios and production schedules: Straight to DVD featurettes, smaller feature film production, video games, and mass market publications.

During my travels, I have met and learned from a number of great artists and storytellers who were generous to share their time and experiences in animation. From talking with many of the talented artists that I admired and had the privilege to work with on those various animated projects, I learned that they too were on a similar path. They hadn't reached the "ultimate state of creativity" and they too strove on a daily basis to improve and exceed the previous day's performance. How could this be? My perception of their art and their ability was that they had soared into the lofty heights of creative excellence.

The mind comes up with so many complicated reasons why an artist is "awesome". We haven't seen the process they go through to create "awesome'. We just see the final result. So we can trick ourselves into believing that there is some "secret to awesome" they possess.
Now a bit more mature, I have come to realize for myself, that the journey is never over until it's over. There is "no" final arrival point for artistic growth, no "Creative Nirvana", no Pantheon of the Art Gods that bestows a vessel of ultimate artistic elixir to a select few.
No, there is only the select few that drive themselves and work their hardest at each sitting at the creative table to do their absolute best work every time. This constant toil to plum the very depths of their creativity and bring all of their tools/skills to the fore produces fruit which we view as "awesome". They study, practice, and work their asses off on a daily basis.

You may be saying to yourself right now, if you've made it this far into the entry, "No duh, Phil! I knew that already." Well that's good for you that you figured that out. For those yet to discover it for themselves, it may be something to keep in mind. I'm just coming to terms with the new direction that I need to take knowing the facts above. It all comes down to the sweat equity you put in to what you are passionate about. Sometimes when we're on the journey of our lives, careers you can distracted by the promises and hype from advertisers about "instant success", "Fast results now" or "instant anything". Which ultimately, distract us from the reality that artistic growth is anything but instant. It is for some a lifetime commitment to practice, study, and continued application of extreme effort.

You probably know that already too. Just knowing that the artist's I admire are "awesome" because they worked their asses off, put more time or experience into a work, takes the edge off that "awesome". Don't get me wrong, I still admire them. But thinking about the hours they put into training to get to what I consider "awesome" reframes my perspective and is motivating. "How much time have you devoted to your artistic growth?" I might ask myself.
If the answer isn't satisfactory, "Then you know what you need to do."

I originally started this post with the intention of sharing some of the ways which I have stimulated artistic growth on my own artistic journey. I also wanted to share insights with aspiring artsists who want to get into storyboarding and possibly pass along something useful to those artists already working professionally. With that in mind, I thought I'd just run down a list of helpful books that have helped me through the years keep sharp and inspired:

The Five C's of Cinematography by Joseph V. Mascelli
Film Directing: Shot by Shot by Steven D. Katz
Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video by Gael Chandler
Animation From Script to Screen by Shamus Culhane
Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodrigez
The Animators Survival Kit by Richard Williams
Story by Robert McKee
The Business Side of Creativity by Cameron S. Foote
The Complete Guide to Perspective by John Raynes.
The Visual Story: Seeing the Structure of Film by Bruce Block

By no means is this an exhaustive list, merely a small selection of books that has aided and equipped me in various stages in my career. In the coming day's I'd like to share with you all some insights into storyboard production for television animation. I have a list of topics that I will cover at some length. No hard or fixed rules, just general observations or tips that may help you on your own journey.
Till then, hope that you get into some inspiring reading.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Current Affairs

Dear Blog Readers.
I have removed older post images dated post 01-01-09 to a private collection, in the efforts to curb improper or illegal use of posted art.
In the near future, art posts between 01-01-09 and 12-31-09 may also be moved to a private collection.
It is uncertain if continued investing in this portal is in the best interest of The Art of Phil Allora. The current future of this blog is being re-evaluated to determine the best showcase for artwork. This re-evaluation is in light of the incredible draw has received in the recent months.

Reader input regarding this matter could greatly influence the continuation or discontinuation of this blog showcase.
I hope that all of you out there reading this can understand where I'm speaking from.

Friday, April 9, 2010

What's the richest nation in the world?

"Do-Nation" This small excerpt of a conversation I had with a homeless gentleman on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum in NYC many years back. This was interesting because the guy comes over to me as I was sketching people on the steps. After a little friendly banter about art, he offers to draw something for me. Hesitantly, I accept , and hand him my sketchbook. He knocked out a unique line drawing of an African queen. Then I paid him for the sketch, and he headed off to buy himself a hotdog lunch. He was a slick cat for sure. I've been getting many an email from former coworkers or acquaintances, or friends of friends on FaceBook who are trying to get pet projects off the ground using websites to collect votes so they can win cash or are calling for donation from their own websites. There is a growing trend of donation funded entertainment projects. It's a internet phenomenon that has been growing for a few years now. Probably the first I've heard of it was reading a blog run by a female film maker who was trying to collect a dollar from a million people across the globe to fund her film.
I believe the contributors would be credited in the final film.
It's a contextual thing. I'm not cheap, but with the recession going on, I'm more inclined to give money to folks that could use it, pay bills/ buy food/ save a life/ than to fund home grown entertainment projects by individuals that may very well have $ in the bank. Even if I wasn't looking for back end residuals : $$, credits, free art. Short sighted or shrewd? P.

Friday, April 2, 2010

When I was attending art school, one of my instructors recommended that the class pick up a copy of the book "The Art Spirit" by Robert Henri.
One of my trips to the Strand ( an incredible book store in NYC) I picked up a used copy for 3.50. Totally worth it. You can still find the book in print on the major book sites and is probably still recommended in art schools far and wide.
In my current artistic journey there are new developments. The recent lack of posts is due to new additions persnally and professional duties.
Deadlines and board production have been fast an furious of late, so it has caused a significant lack of my posts.
But as I sit up at night assessing the work I've posted here, I've picked up my old copy of The Art Spirit to listen for whispers of insight from the past.
I found that this statement struck a chord:

"When the motives of artists are profound, when they are at their work as a result of deep consideration, when they believe in the importance of what they are doing, thier work creates a stir in the world". Robert Henri.

Do you think that the art posted here has to say "something"?
Will it be remembered in the nano-second it takes to click to another web page?
Is it enough to post art for art sake or do we need something more?
What do you think?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mysterious Japanese Animation Revealed

So the other day, scouring the Internet to find answers to my questions about Japanese animation, I came across some interesting articles online. Many animation fans as you may know, here in the US, love to watch anime. If those fans are in the pre-teen, teenage, or young adult demographic they may prefer Anime over the current fare of US animation on networks because it covers more diverse subject matter and isn't heavily skewed toward being "family" friendly. (I think you may know what I mean). So I know the current state of US television/ feature animation from working in the animation industry and talking with friends at various studios, but I was curious to learn more about the state of the Japanese animation industry. Here in the US, it is hard not to find an Anime section in most entertainment retailers (or large manga section in most US book retailers) one can get the sense that the Japanes Anime/ Manga industry is making tons of $$$ here in the US compared to our own native struggling animation industry. So you may find it interesting to read this article from 2003 which gives you a glimpse of the Japanese Animation industry from the inside by a US animator working in Japan. (Caveat: It's not as forthcoming with details as you might expect. However it does provide some useful info tidbits and links) And then compare that to this article discussing the "future" of the japanese animation industry from this past year. So have things changed all that much for the Japanese animation industry in the past 6 years? I think the past two years of financial turmoil in the US and this past years global economic crisis/ recession has taken a toll on Japanese Anime sales world wide. It seems that animation companies in Japan are facing the same economic realities with which US companies struggle. The articles puts some of my questions to rest but I still have more about the Mysterious Japanese Animation process.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

La Linea #222

I remember when I was younger, I used to watch Sesame Street. Who didn't, right? There were often clips of animation inter cut with the educational skits to keep the kids entertained. I just recently came across animation clips on YouTube that brought an instant smile to my face. I was captivated, waiting to see what happened next. Some one has posted up clips of animation called La Linea. They are simple entertaining short stories told using an animated line. It is amazing to view it again to see how much visual is communicated through strong silhouette, clear gesture, and audio. The designs are simplified to the point which you can project your own imagination into the scene. No rendering, no fancy back grounds, no complex cgi compositing. Just straight old school entertainment. (What happened to this type of entertainment in the mainstream? The more contrived complexity and realistic rendering that mass entertainment pours on the screen, the more I check out. I've got a list of reasons why. Too long and probably too dull to list here. You all probably know what I'm talking about. There is a hunger deep inside of us as viewers, probably groaning with each year, for something more substantial than mega million studio processed fare). However, La Linea I enjoyed it when I was younger and I can still enjoy it now as an adult. I'd be curious to see if you have the same reaction. Check it out here:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Quando? Quando? Quando?

Soon my dear, there will be more posting.
I've been busy at work on the Cleveland show during the day and creating the artwork for the upcoming issue of Hot Mexican Love Comics. I've written a little tale for the collection and currently I'm inking the penciled pages. I will post the pages once the book has seen print. Which shouldn't be too far off.
You can check out what HMLC is all about here:
On a personal note it's been challenging to start restructuring some of my schedule to accommodate up coming family events. Flexibility and speed go hand in hand to squeeze in time to create art work and spend time with family. It's important for balance in ones life, but I've found that experiences with family and friends only deepen the creative well from which one can draw upon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Into the Ring

Ding! The new year's bell has rung! It's time to get into the ring and start slugging it out with the obstacles which can impede progress.
Have you ever noticed that being involved in continued creative pursuits is very similar to being a prize fighter or olympic athlete? When we embark upon our journey to becoming an artist/ creative, one will put in many hours of drawing, painting, design, or theorizing practice to hone one's skills to join the ranks of the talented professionals. Be it commercial or fine artists, we strive to succeed to greater heights than the artists we admire. Similar to the athlete who begins their career training their particular skill toward the prize fight, the olympic event, or acceptance to a professional team.
The training requires diligence (consistency of training schedules), endurance when the doing gets tough (monotonous), flexibility (the ability to adapt and experiment to get out of ruts), perserverance, and goal setting.
With the rewards (financially) and achievements (gaining professional status etc.) over the years, new challenges arise: new life complexities (family/health), heavy production schedules,
social engagements/ activities, and other obstacles inherent to one's life. When one gets older there comes the nagging want to coast on previous successes and put off the toil of training.
It's hard but the training must continue, to keep the athlete operating at peak performance and reach future gold laurels .
More on this later.