February 16, 2013


Which is more important? There has been much debate over this fact in the animation community for some time, yet the truth is neither is more important than the other. A film won't be as successful as it could be if either of the these parts are neglected. The characters in a film must be interesting and appealing for the audience to care enough to want to find out whats going to happen to them. And the story arch for the characters must have enough conflict and hardship, so that when they finally prevail, the audience can feel like they have grown, and learned from their experiences.

Yet there is one thing that I have observed in television and film that is interesting, characters will sometimes act out of character for the sake of the story. Most of the time the audience doesn't even notice that its happened, and most of these characters are human, they are allowed to make mistakes. In fact, making a mistake will often make the characters feel more real and human, because we all know everyone makes mistakes. Often times this is used to create conflict for the character, and to propel the story onward. Here are some examples.

Sleeping Beauty - One of the BEST from the Golden Age at Disney.

Maleficent places a curse on Princess Aurora, saying that "before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she shall prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and die!" So in order to protect the princess, the Good Fairies take her into hiding, vowing to keep her from harm until her sixteenth birthday passes and she will be safe. So they do protect her, and they do a damn good job, for on her sixteenth birthday she is fine. The Good Fairies want to throw her a party, completely understandable, but instead of locking her up in her room on the very last day that she is in danger, they send her out into the forest to collect berries!

Seriously Fairies?! You have spent sixteen years protecting this girl and on the very last day you get sloppy and let her run around in the forest unprotected!! Yet if they had just locked her up in her room until the sun set on her sixteenth birthday, there would have been no conflict! She would never have met her prince, she would never have become Sleeping Beauty, and the prince would never have gone on a quest to awaken her! So the Good Fairies HAD to act out of character to create conflict and move the story along its arc.

Avatar: The Last Airbender - One of the BEST Animated Shows Ever.

First of all, this show is riddled with amazing characters that you just don't want to stop watching. And one of my favorites is Momo, Aang's pet flying lemar.

Momo is an incredibly intelligent pet, often taking spoken commands from the other characters and following them without hesitation. That is how he interacts with others on a normal basis, but in S1E13-The Blue Spirit, Sokka and Katara get very sick, and Aang has to leave them alone to go and retrieve some medicine. So while Aang is off, Katara asks Momo go and fill up one of their canteens at the river, should be simple enough, right? Nope, for the rest of the episode Momo continues to bring back random things to Katara, such as a dead mouse, a tiara, as well as plates and vases. Momo is acting incredibly out of character in this episode, yet he is doing it to create comedic relief, which is a very different reason than that of the Fairies in Sleeping Beauty.

November 14, 2012


West Demo Reel

Here is my current Demo Reel. I worked on the first and second shots in Michal Makarewicz's critique class. The third shot was for my realistic animation class.

May 17, 2012


I have been in San Francisco for two years now, working on my thesis, 
"Just Looking," and learning more and more about animation. Initially, I wanted to learn more about the principles of animation, and went back to character animation's roots by studying some of the classic Disney films: "Sleeping Beauty", "101 Dalmatians", "The Jungle Book", "Robin Hood", and "The Rescuers." These are my favorite films from Disney's Golden Era, and are beautiful examples of classic hand drawn animation.

One of the fundamental rules of animation is clarity ("keep it simple"). Through my analysis of hand drawn, I found that, personally, Timing, Spacing, and Posing are the three primary principles, with all the secondary principles falling underneath one of these three primary principles.

To further my studies, I took the "Demo & Lecture" class at the
Animation Collaborative, taught by Pixar Animator, Mike Makarewicz. In the course, he taught the class his personal workflow, the layered approach to animation, which utilizes the power of the graph editor. The "Demo & Lecture" class has been the most invaluable learning experience in my animation education thus far.

By breaking down animation into primary and secondary principles from hand drawn, paired with Mike's shared knowledge of how to use Maya effectively, animation has become easier to comprehend, and more fun to work on!

November 29, 2011


So at the same time that screen-printing was becoming my favorite 2D art form, I was starting to learn 3D animation in Maya. I really enjoyed learning 3D because it felt like I was sticking my hand into the world of movies and games, it felt like anything was possible. Yet my professor really only focused on character modeling, and I wanted to learn character animation, so I just started teaching myself. Rotoscoping became one of the best ways for me to learn, I would film myself acting out shots, then study the movement, and then recreate the movement in Maya. 

I worked on a short film for my final year at JMU, which I focused mainly on character animation, but I also tested out particles systems, shatter effects, glow and lightning effects, motion trails, camera movement and layout. So here it is, my first film: The Cloud and the Cupcake.

September 14, 2011


After high school I had a choice, go to Johnston & Wales and continue my education as a chef, or go to James Madison and study animation and fine art.

I decided to go to JMU, where I met a lot of great people and learned a lot of new skills. While Fine Art included sculpture, painting, graphic design, jewelry making, and figure drawing, my favorites soon became clear when I started to learn the process of screen printing and computer animation.These two art forms, while fairly different, have many similarities in process and in the artist's way of thinking. It didn't take long for screen printing to become my favorite 2D art form.


The main reason screen printing is great : Versatility.

The possibilities are endless because printing is all about layers, each layer has its own stencil, and one can create these layers with any material. You can use pencil and pen, cut out paper or paint, grease pencil or ink as well as anything you could do in Photoshop. And when you're printing, you work in editions, with multiple copies, and you can sell them or trade them with other artists for their work. In other words, I was hooked. I took screen printing every semester until I graduated.

The thing that I soon realized is that learning to think of your art in layers, is one of the most important tools to learn as an artist. I was using it as the driving force in screen printing, yet it also applies to the process of drawing, painting, and animation. Once I realized this I started experimenting in my figure drawing class, using different materials such as ink, charcoal, markers, and highlighters. Out of that experimentation I found that I really liked ink, because I could manipulate it in ways that I couldn't with charcoal and pens. I could drag out long strokes, or splatter the ink, or tilt the piece and let gravity pull the ink around. I soon started using ink in my screen printing which lead to some of my favorite prints such as the one at the top of this post, as well as the title image of The Batcave.

August 27, 2011


I grew up with a vegetable gardening, birdwatching, carpenter for a father. 
A stained glass making, graphic designing, landscape painting mother. 
And a brother who loves to go fishing, hunting, mountain bike riding all day long.

They were doing their things, while I was inside reading 
Calvin and Hobbes, studying Bill Watterson's drawings, 
his humor, his imagination, and his artistic eye. 

Watterson's work helped me learn that I had an artistic eye as well.
It came through when I studied drawing and photography
in high school. As well as cooking in Italian restaurants.

I didn't know it yet but these arts were slowly leading me towards
becoming an animator, learning about visual weight, 
contrast and timing, texture and presentation.

August 9, 2011


Hey, everybody! I'm starting an animation blog. I will be posting about all of my interests in art here, and how they evolved from drawing and photography, then onto screen printing and animation. I will be posting here as I work towards finishing my collaborative thesis film, Just Looking.