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I work for Toys for Bob / Activision. Posts here are my personal views, and do not necessarily reflect that of my employer. 

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kaos Speed Drawing

Here's a quick speed sketch of Kaos, using a Bic pen

Monday, March 2, 2015

Toejam and Earl Kickstarter

ToeJam and Earl is on Kickstarter! Greg gave me my big break back in ToeJam and Earl III, in which I was the character concept artist, character modeler, and lead animator. Now Toejam and Earl is back, and kickin' it old skool, with style from the original 90's feel, but in a hybrid of 2D mixed with 3D. At the time of this post, they are almost 1/2 way to their goal, please back this project! Lots of rewards, from $5 and up!

Back Toejam and Earl; Back in the Groove!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Hamster Walker on Discovery Canada

The Hamster Walker was recently on Discovery Channel's Daily Planet, in a segment called "Top 10 Ways to Get Around", coming in at number five. Here is the little clip from it:

This is the second time that I've been on the show, the first one dated back to 2008, for my steam and electric robots.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Maxmadco Bolt Action Pen Review

I've been searching for the perfect ballpoint pen to sketch with, something that felt good to draw with, elegant and simple, well made, and a little unusual without it being flashy. I've found the pen, it's the Maxmadco Bolt Action pen.

Hand made in the USA
Maxmadco Bolt Action Pens are hand machined pens, and at the time of this post, comes in aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium (Bronze is sold out). These pens are truly works of art, understated, with tighter machined tolerances than any pen have the right being.

Top to bottom: Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Titanium
The minimalistic and simplistic design, is what first drew me to them, but the quality of the machining is what I really appreciated, once holding one of these puppies. I'll be reviewing these base on how well they work for purposes of loose sketching. This is completely subjective, of course, as a pen's "feel" really differ from person to person. It's also skewed for art, so the "feel" may have different goals for art vs. writing.

Because I am reviewing this for art, the ink refills are very important. These take any "Parker style" refills. There are lots of ballpoint inks to choose from, but you can also use gel refills that are Parker styles. In fact, these pens comes with a gel refill, which is great for the writing. I do use gel pens for sketching (Previous post about Hi-Tec-C gel pens with water brush), but I wanted a simple ballpoint for sketching and to carry with a EDC sketchbook. I'll post a comprehensive review of ballpoint ink types for drawing soon, where I've tried over a dozen types. But for now, let me just say that the Schmidt and Shaeffers are the best ballpoints for art, and is what I've been using for this review.

One of the objectives for me, is the size and weight of the pens. Too heavy, fat, skinny, slippery, or gummy could be affect line weight, or are uncomfortable. Of course this is all very subjective, I just prefer the skinnier pens - too many of the refillable ballpoints are too heavy, and taper at the end, or feel like you're holding a squishy guppy. I like the simple stick type, something more like the shape and size of a normal pencil. So maxmadco pens hits the spot, at just barely thicker than a typical #2 pencil.

Balance is perfect. I have some pens that are too heavy in the tip or the back, which I find fatigues the hand too quickly. I like pens that rests nicely on your hand, and not too long or short. Short pens tend to feel too front heavy, and long pens just feels awkward to hold.

Bolt action:
Of course the big difference with this pen, is the bolt action mechanism (aside from being hand made with unusual materials). It is fun, addictive, I can't stop playing with it. The simplicity in the design, means that it won't break.... seriously, it's ingenious, I'm not sure why more pens aren't bolt action instead of clicky type. The mechanism is super smooth, and requires no lubing, in fact lubing will just end up attracting dirt and gunk. The clip is simple and well made as well. However, I wouldn't rely on it for pants pockets.

It's important to mention that these come with a gel pen refill, but also comes with a really nice leather pen case. They provide good protection, and has a magnetic flap. If you look around the internet, these type of leather single pen pouches costs around $35 and up, so it's nice to be included with your pen for free. The shipping is also super fast, and reasonable. Jim Madrid is the master craftsman who makes these pens by hand, and is very responsive to any needs or questions that you may have. These pens come in different materials, here's a breakdown for each:

Stainless steel:  (1.04oz / 29.5g with refill)
This is the heaviest of the three. Maxmadco is sold out of the bronze, otherwise that would be the heaviest. This pen is substantial, it feels unusually heavy in the hand, like a you're holding a solid metal rod, which I really love. However, once I started drawing with it, it felt a bit heavy and fatigues the hand faster. Because of the weight, it is more difficult to control line weight, after using it for a while. If you like heavy pens, you won't be disappointed.

Aluminum: (0.78oz / 22.5g with refill)
After using the Stainless Steel version, the aluminum felt comically light. I had to examine to make sure that it was metal, lol. The pen is still well balanced, and the lightness makes it feel more like a normal disposable ballpoint pen. You can only get this in the anodized black, but it is sleek and cool.

Titanium:  (16.6oz / 47.1g with refill)
Titanium pen, how freakin' geeky-cool is that? It is a bit heavier than the Aluminum version, but not nearly the weight of the Stainless Steel. I find it great to sketch with. I think that if I could only have one of these bolt action pens, this would be my choice. However, it is also far more expensive than other materials.

Because these are hand made by a single skilled craftsman, they are not cheap. I suppose they are not expensive when you consider the work involved, or start looking around high end pens that are in the hundreds of dollars. But starting at $85, they are high enough to turn away most. For me, I love having fine tools and machines that I use a lot of, especially tools to dream and create, so the Maxmadco bolt has quickly became my favorite ballpoint tool of choice.

I'll do a comprehensive ballpoint refill post soon, as well as my EDC sketching setup, so stay tuned!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Creation of the Macy's Skylanders Balloon

I designed Eruptor back in 2009. Never in a million years would I have imagined that 5 years later, he would become a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. This, of course, is a once in a lifetime experience, so I'd like to share my story. 

Eruptor Concept Art

My first sketches of the Eruptor balloon to send to Macy's for inspiration had his arms stretched out wide to the sides. This turned out problematic, because he would be too wide for the streets of New York City. The arms would also probably cover  a bit of the face, and at that body tilt angle, you wouldn’t see his face as well as if he was more tilted down. It's funny that we have similar constraints on the Skylanders toys - size constraints and tilting to make it easy to see for the viewer.

My first pose had his arms to the side, making
 him too wide

Final pose is more narrow, allowing him to be bigger,
and at a good viewing angle from the ground

With color and to scale

After the pose was worked out, Macy's amazingly talented sculptor Eric Hudspeth sculpted him perfectly. I was blown away at the maquette, it was a thing of beauty. After the maquette is finished, they molded and made casts, which were then used to figure out the balloon patterning including how many panels of fabric were going to be needed to make the balloon and  to get the character colors correct. I was astonished at the color model, it looked really 3D. I wasn't sure how it would translate into the real balloon, how could it look this good?

Macy's Amazing sculptor, Eric Hudspeth, 
working on Eruptor
Side view of the Clay Maquette
Street view from the front
Final color model

Models of the new balloons at Macy's window display
The Eruptor balloon featurette video

The day before Thanksgiving, the balloons are all inflated, and here I got to see Eruptor for the first time. Nothing could prepare me for how big and colorful he was… I was blown away. He actually looked even better than the small scale model, the colors really popped, and he looked very 3-D. 

Starting inflation

By night, he was fully inflated

The weather was cold, windy, and rainy the day before, which had me really concerned. I didn't want it to rain on my parade.... get it??? rain on my.... anyway. But on Thanksgiving Day, it was about as perfect as can be.

I got to meet a lot of the balloon handlers, who were all super sweet, and as excited about Eruptor as I was. Some of the handlers and pilots found out that I had designed Eruptor, and took some pictures with me. Macy's even gave me a balloon handler's outfit, which looked awesome. Seeing the balloon for the first time, fully inflated and in daylight, left me speechless. When the handlers unleashed him and raised the balloon, he floated up majestically. He measured 50-feet long, 36-feet wide, and 36-feet tall, with more than 40 gallons of fluorescent paint and 5 barrels of glitter. The glitter didn't look too sparkly, but added a really nice pop to the bright colors.

My first day time view of the balloon
These outfits were great! Wish that I could have been 
able to keep the vest!
hmmmm... I thought he'd be a little bigger
You can see the amazing paint job here
Everyone getting excited to start
Group selfies with Eruptor's giant foot

Then the parade started, and Eruptor floated along to greet the crowd. I walked alongside the balloon and heard lots of people cheering "Eruptor! Eruptor! Eruptor!" or "Skylanders! Skylanders! Skylanders!". It was nuts. I'm walking next to a giant 50-foot balloon of a character that I created with the crowds  chanting his name. Surreal.

One thing that I did not anticipate was how close and intimate we were to the crowds. Everyone waved and wished eachother Happy Thanksgiving. Then it occurred to me, adults just don't wave to strangers very often. It's one of the most fundamental human gestures, and kids do it to everyone. As adults, we get caught up in our lives, and we don't make eye contact nearly as much as we should, and we don't usually greet strangers and wish them well. It felt REALLY NICE to do so along the parade route to thousands of people. I felt more human, and more gratitude, than I've felt in a long time. It was a profound experience that I will never forget.

At one point, we stopped for a few minutes which happens often because of the performances, and I heard the usual chanting of "Skylanders!" by a small group of people. We all shouted back "Skylanders!", and a moment later, they were chanting "He designed it!" over and over. Shocked, I tried to say thanks and try to get them to stop, and noticed that it was one of the pilots telling them to chant that for me. Then a few seconds after I turned back, they started chanting my name. It was beyond surreal, completely embarrassing and humbling at the same time.

In another part of the parade route, a young boy in the front lines had an Eruptor stuffed animal hanging over the rails. I ran up to him and gave him a high five. I think that made my day more than his!
Yup, he's huge 
At the starting line
Posing with the lovely banner girls

Here he is, along with the tiny toy!
Taking over New York

And here it is on NBC, starting around: 1:21:23

And that is how I spent my Thanksgiving in 2014. The year that Eruptor became a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. It still felt like a dream, but it will be the most memorable Thanksgiving that I will ever have, and one of the most proudest days in my life. Thank you Macy's, for your generosity and artistry. And thank you Toys for Bob and Activision, for allowing me this crazy opportunity to design these Skylanders.

"Born to Burn"

And Bill Nye tweeted this selfie!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pilot Hi-Tec-C with Pentel Water Brush

Here's a quick video showing using gel pens with water. These Pilot pens are my absolute favorite gel type pens, and is magic when used with a water brush.

Example using Hi-Tec-C 03 with Pentel water brush
I'm using a Pilot Hi-Tec-C 03, they come in 0.25mm, 0.3mm, 0.4mm, and 0.5mm. There are lots of them to choose from. 

You can also use a Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto, which are the same pens, but in a multi-pen form. They also come in a variety of thicknesses, as welll as vast color options. I perfer the black, dark blue, and brown. The brown looks nice, but the wash turns it more of a red color, rather than brown. 

For the water brush, really any soft brush with water will do, but the Pentel Aquash Water Brush really makes it easy to carry around. I am using the Copic Sketchbook for the paper, they are thick enough to not wrinkle, and easy to work with for these gel pens and water. This combination makes it easy to just carry just one Hi-Tec-C pen, and one water brush, instead of using multiliners with lots of markers. It also has a bit more of a watercolor look than markers, which I really like as well.

There are so many Pilot Hi-Tec-C options, that it can be a bit confusion. Luckily Jetpens has them all, and has this great Comprehensive Guide. Their shipping is super fast, and their inventory is unmatched!

03 with water brush

04 dark blue with water brush

04 brown with water brush - turns more into a red.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Skylanders Trap Team Apple Store Event, this Sunday in San Francisco!

Hello folks, I'll be doing a demo at the Apple Store in San Francisco (Stockton Street) this Sunday, Nov 23rd, at 4PM. 

It's a behind the scenes talk about Skylanders, and how I approach creating characters, as well as an live demonstration of sketching a Skylander on the iPad. It'll be in the upstairs area, and there will be hands-on demonstrations of the game. Spaces are limited, so if you would like to come, please reserve a spot via the event page: https://www.apple.com/retail/sanfrancisco/ just scroll down to Skylanders Trap Team event on the bottom, and press reserve. Hope to see you there!

You can also now purchase the Skylanders Trap Team iOS Starter Pack in the online Apple Store!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Eruptor on Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Guess wha??!! Eruptor will be a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade this year! check him out, I can't be more pleased with how well he turned out. The sculpt and paint job on him, are just simply perfect! In the news on ABC.

Check out his test flight: