Sunday, April 22, 2012

Top Ten Inspirational Artists

Final Fantasy VI artwork by Yoshitaka Amano

No artist is a blank slate, approaching their craft alone. We bring a little bit of ourselves to each image: our life experiences, our hopes, our feelings on a particular day and, of course, things we have learned from our artistic idols. This list is my attempt to narrow down a vast group of my favorite artists into a Top Ten of those that have been among my most important influences.

Many of the artists on this list do not have their own official websites, so I had to rely on Wikipedia and fan sites to share images and links to additional information on their lives and careers.

The artwork of Yoshitaka Amano has been a great inspiration to me over most of my life. Amano's name was the first I wrote down when beginning this Top Ten list. I discovered Amano's work through the Final Fantasy video game series on NES and SNES. I pored over the Nintendo Power magazines and Final Fantasy strategy guides I bought to collect his images of heroic characters, bizarre creatures, and fanciful technology. Amano's confident, yet sensitive use of line, bold patterns and color was unlike anything else I had seen. It sparked my imagination. Though the graphics of video games from the late 1980's and early 1990's did not always faithfully translate his artwork into pixels, Amano's images transported me into the world of Final Fantasy and made me feel as though I lived there.

Like most children, I was drawn to cartoons. I didn't just watch animation–I was also fascinated by the way it was created. By the time I was old enough to understand what was going on behind the scenes, I had begun to recognize the work of individual animators. I was especially drawn to Chuck Jones's style and used to be able to pick out when he was animating a particular character. Chuck Jones was responsible for creating several Looney Toons characters, perhaps most famously the mortal enemies Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. 

Jones had a way of drawing and animating the most outrageous expressions on his characters. The diabolical smile of The Grinch towards the beginning of my favorite Chuck Jones animated feature, Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is a perfect example. Much of my art during my youth included cartoon animal and monster characters that were undoubtedly inspired by his work.

My high school era discovery of Akira Toriyama's humorous and colorful artwork marked a turning point in my own work towards designing characters. Out of all the artists on this list, most people probably would have picked him out of a lineup as a major influence on my drawing style at the time. Toriyama is most well-known for his famous manga series, Dragon Ball, and his contribution of character and monster designs for the Dragon Warrior video game series. While some may dismiss Toriyama's artwork as just cartoons, he is an excellent draftsman and can just as easily draw cars and complex fantasy machines as he can alien martial artists. I highly recommend his art books, especially the Dragon Ball illustration books and Toriyama's the World and The World Special. Check out this Tumblr to see more of Toriyama's work.

The Explorer's Guide to Drawing Fantasy Creatures will be on sale at through Friday, April 27th. Enter the coupon code DRAWFANTASY upon checkout to receive 10% off!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What I'm Baking: Bake Sale Edition

To coincide with the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale and Earth Day, Sidecar for Pigs Peace is holding a vegan bake sale this weekend to benefit Pigs Peace Sanctuary. I baked a bunch of goodies for the sale, including Peanut Butter Blondies and Rocky Road Cookies, both from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. Check out the recipes below:

Peanut Butter Blondies
Recipe conveniently already online!

Rocky Road Cookies
These cookies are delicious and nutty and fudgy.

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I use almond)
2 TBSP ground flax seeds
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups plus 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 cup non-dairy white chocolate chips
1/2 cup roasted almonds, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Line some cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond milk, flax seeds, canola oil, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract until smooth.
3. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir to form a thick, wet dough, being careful not to over-mix.
4. Fold in the chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and almonds.
5. Drop about two tablespoons of cookie dough onto a baking sheet about two inches apart, leaving room for the cookies to spread. To more easily measure and distribute the scoops of dough, it's helpful to use a small ice cream scoop sprayed with a little bit of non-stick cooking spray.
6. Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes until they have spread and look firm on top. Let them cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. (Or eat while warm and gooey if you prefer!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Creature Sketches

Getting the focus back on art with a few recent sketches...

Urrt, one of the Armfolk from my friend Fred's novel The Star Shard. Go check it out!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Emerald City Comicon 2012

I swiped this photo from the Komo News website.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we exhibited at Emerald City Comicon for the second time. We had a great show! This convention is one of the best we've been to. It has a comfortable mix of comics, games and other media, but keeps the focus on comics much more than some other cons of its size. Artist Alley takes up nearly a third of the convention floor. There are a lot of local artists in the Seattle area, and artists who work in the gaming, comic book and other publishing industries are well represented.

Our table.
Our table was at a good location on a major aisle, and there was a lot of table traffic for the duration of the convention. We heard a rumor that Saturday's attendance alone matched that of all three days last year. There were so many people in the exhibit hall on Saturday afternoon that a restless line of attendees was asked to wait outside the hall until enough people had left in order to comply with fire codes. Please don't let the crowds discourage you from coming in 2013, though. It's a wonderful convention (still not nearly as crowded as San Diego) and there's a lot to see and do. I only wish I had had more time to wander the exhibit hall and check out the work of other artists.

Vinod's side of the table.

My side of the table.

Now onto what you were really waiting for: the photos! Since we were occupying our table throughout the weekend we had to wait for various costumed heroes to come to us for photos, but if you'd like to see more, check them out here.

Me at our booth.

We at our booth.

Emma Frost

"Everyone can relax! Gambit has returned."

The second Jareth to appear on my blog!

Vinod's friends dressed up as Nightcrawler and Phoenix.

"Hello there!"

Padme and a Schoolgirl Trooper

Thanks to everyone who made it such an excellent show! We'll be back again next year!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spectrum 19

I figured this was a good enough excuse to post a picture of Detective Frank Pembleton wearing a party hat.
Emerald City Comicon (blog post forthcoming) was this past weekend. Thursday night, during our usual mad convention preparation rush, I decided to take a break and check the Spectrum website to see if the list of selected artists for Spectrum 19 had been posted. Vinod and I both entered this year after a two or three year hiatus.

The competition is fierce. I didn't expect to get in, so I wasn't sure why my heart rate increased as I scrolled down, scanning the list for my name. When I got to "F" I actually gasped: I got in!

I submitted to Spectrum once every few years since graduating from art school. My work was first accepted in 2002 when I entered a sculpture of the Norse god Thor I had made as a part of my senior thesis at Ringling. I hadn't been accepted in my several attempts since. I'm very pleasantly surprised to see my name on the list, and I look forward to seeing which piece or (if I'm lucky) pieces will appear in the book!

Many thanks to Cathy and Arnie Fenner and the judges for their hard work and dedication to showcasing the fantastic arts!