Pixar Animator Mike Makarewicz’s Excellent Lecture Notes

Academy of Art alum, 8 year Pixar animator and all around swell guy Mike Makarewicz (MUH-KARE-UH-VITCH) gave a great talk at the 79 Montgomery theater on Saturday April 21st on the most important of the 12 animation principles to him: timing. It was an excellent talk. He spoke extensively on the subject, provided great film clip and musical examples, reviewed animation club member Brandon’s reel, and even gave a demo on how to animate Sully from “Monster’s, Inc.” Animation gold, I tell you. Here are my illustrated notes. You can also read some non-illustrated and equally helpful notes over at the Animation Club blog.

Bay Area Women in Film & Media

Attended an AWESOME panel this evening hosted by the Bay Area Women in Film & Media. I’ve only been in this town for four months and I am blown away by the sheer amount of creative coolness swirling about this city. Panelists from ILM, Kabam, San Francisco State University and Pixar were on hand to discuss how they got into the industry and answered numerous questions from the audience.

The best part – even though half of us were not able to register online they let us pay at the door – which I hoped they would. The event was posted at school yesterday, and by then registration had ended. I figured – “What the heck? If they turn me away oh well, but I’m going down there to see if I can get in.” And I did. AND I got free parking. AND I met awesome people on the panel, board members, volunteers, as well as some folks from AAU majoring in 2D, 3D and design.

Good times all around. Here’s who came:

EMMA COATS, Storyboard Artist at Pixar

LAUREN FREEMAN, Art Producer at Kabam

MARTHA GORZYCKI, Associate Professor, Animation Coordinator at SFSU

GEORDIE MARTINEZ, Creature Technical Director/Creature Trainer at Industrial Light and Magic

LORIEN MCKENNA, Art & Story Dept Manager at Pixar

My favorite speaker of the night was Geordie as he came to animation through a circuitous route. He did poorly in high school, joined the Navy for six years, then went to college and got his BA, and worked while attending Animation Mentor. Out of all of the speakers, I can relate because animation was not in my mind when I was in high school, I had a completely different career path in mind. But after much diligent work he accomplished his goal. Very rewarding to hear a story like that.

And as always, some sketches from the event:

Kenwood, CA wineries

My folks were town this weekend so we drove up to Kenwood and visited two wineries. We had fun and had some delicious and not – so delicious beverages of the alcoholic persuasion. Here are some photos from the trip:

Rows of Landmark Winery grapes

Close up of Landmark grapes

Even more Landmark grapes

Landmark lake

Landmark fountain

Ledson Winery Castle

Ledson Winery Castle 2

Ledson roof

Ledson side view

Belle and the Beast are here somewhere.

Ledson fountain

And one last shot

APE: Alternative Press Expo

Attended the Alternative Press Expo for the first time on Saturday and had a grand time. The event highlights those in the indie press industry, as well as independent creators and bigwigs like Fantagraphics, Top Shelf and 4D Entertainment.

I met every creator that I really liked and now have some great autographed books. With the exception of Keith Knight and Andy Ristaino, all of these folks started out as web cartoonists and either published their own books themselves, or in the case of Kate Beaton, got picked up by a major publisher.

Best of all, the event was small enough to get around fairly easily but large enough to not get bored. And they had the typical comic convention things – how to get started, learning the craft, etc. etc. which I skipped since drawing comics is not my thing but it’s good that those events are around for the folks who like them.

And now for the calvacade of photos:

Obligatory crowd shot. The convention center was much bigger. Best shot I could get.

Ben Costa, Xeric winner and author of Shi Long Pang The Wandering Shaolin Monk.

Kory Bing of Skin Deep fame wearing her super cool Indiana Jones-esque hat.

Keith Knight of The K Chronicles, Th(ink) and The Knight Life. I got a book and a free cookie.

Academy of Art University’s very own Kevin the Lab Tech of “Funky Bat” illustration.

The one and only Jeff Schuetze of the semi-autobiographical jefbot. Cool thing about Jeff, his card swiper wasn’t working so he sold me the book for the $16 in cash I had – $4 off the cover price. Thanks Jeff!

My friend Dan of Lamp Post Inc. and his comic Chelsea.

The fabulous Kate Beaton of Hark! A Vagrant.

Lead character designer Andy Ristaino of Adventure Time with one of his own creations.

And what con would be complete without cosplayers? Especially Dr. Venture and Dr. Girlfriend.

An Evening with Craig Thompson

San Francisco’s very own Cartoon Art Museum celebrated the release of Craig Thompson’s latest graphic novel “Habibi” this evening at 7 pm. It was a delightful showcase of Thompson’s artistic endeavors as well as an in depth look at how the artist created the 600 + page tome. That’s right folks – 600 pages of gorgeous art. Not only is the line work beautiful but Thompson was open and honest about feelings of doubt, writer’s block, and how he persevered through the seven year undertaking.

After describing the process and themes of the book, he answered a generous helping of questions from the attentive crowd of all ages, ranging from who inspired him to how the Islamic themes in the book have influenced his own perception of the world and its’ peoples. He noted that while he understood a great deal about Christianity, having grown up in that environment, he knew little about Islam and Muslims before starting his epic research quest (something he likened to procrastination). As he worked on the book, he became acquainted with many Muslims who later became close friends. They offered him advice as well as helped him translate many of the passages in the graphic novel from English to Arabic. Thompson also studied the Koran in English, and the novel is filled with passages relating stores such as the tale of Abraham’s sons Isaac and Ishmael.

Currently I am on page 20 of his work and I am thoroughly enjoying every bit, from the lavish ink detail to discovering the deeper meaning of the stories being told. And as a fan of “Blankets,” one of my all-time favorite novels, graphic or otherwise, it was quite exciting to meet Thompson in person. I found that comic book artists in particular are fascinating people, and it is refreshing to know that there are individuals out there who still love using pen and ink to create. Computers are wonderful devices, but they cannot replace the tactile beauty of watching pigment soak into a page. Praise also goes to the Museum for showcasing a truly talented artists. The general public often thinks of men in tights whenever comics are mentioned. Superheroes are awesome and no one compares to Spider-Man, however there is more to this art form than caped crusaders, and I salute an institution that widens the eyes of the public.

Thompson is an honored guest at the Alternative Press Expo this year, so if you were not able to attend the Cartoon Art Museum’s lecture, it is worth your time to visit APE and hear more about Thompson’s artistic process and purchase a few books as well.

National Portfolio Day

Went to Portfolio Day yesterday. It was…different.

I expected it to be crowded so that was no surprise. It was kind of organized in some areas and not so organized in others. Some lines had chairs, others didn’t.

I received the best review from Academy of Art. I say best because Frances was the friendliest person I spoke with, gave me plenty of advice on how to improve the art and was actually interested in getting me, personally, to come to her school, instead of just ushering me in, checking out my stuff for two minutes and ushering me out. She was very enthusiastic about the school and I found out I could apply for the MFA animation program or the BFA2 program. Either way, I would only be in school for 2 and half years instead of 4 because 66 CREDITS would transfer from UT. WooHoo!

Worse review was from California College of the Arts. The woman didn’t introduce herself, didn’t ask for my name, spent less than a minute looking at my portfolio, didn’t offer any advice and suggested I include photography. Eh? Why would I include photography in an ANIMATION portfolio? Not only that, but a bratty high school girl came in asking if I had waited in line because she had like, been waiting for an hour. Good grief. I couldn’t believe she asked me that. If I had tried to get into that room without waiting I would have been jumped by about 8 angry high school moms. Get a grip, child.

And the weirdest review came from CalArts, believe it or not. The recruiter said her favorite portfolio piece she ever saw was from a girl who made a self portrait out of bread. Say what now? I’m not making pictures out of lunch material. That’s just strange. She did like my zoo drawings. But she only spent 5 minutes with me and kept looking at the clock because she only had 5 minutes to review 4 other portfolios. I expected more out of CalArts – she gave everyone else about 20 minutes at least. I would say that I wish I had gone to her table first, except AAU was so awesome that I am glad that was my first review. I am definitely applying there. I will apply to CalArts too because…I feel like I should. You know it has a great reputation but I have yet to speak to anyone in the recruitment office or in administration who sounded knowledgeable. I’m beginning to think that their reputation is what keeps them afloat, rather than the work that comes out of the school. All of the animators I admire graduated from there more than ten years ago. I am less impressed with them as a result of my experiences with the administration and the application process.

I am going to call CCA and talk to someone more knowledgeable. I don’t want to toss out the school because of one clueless person.

Sadly Sheridan and VFS were not in attendance. I would have liked to have met reps from the schools in person.

I saw a lot of high school kids in weird arty clothing, a few were dressed professionally (very few), some had portfolios, some didn’t bring sketchbooks at all, which I found odd, and one girl walked out of her review and burst into tears. Yikes. If you’re busting a gut now the real world might kill you. She sounded like she had faith in herself after talking to her Dad. Hopefully now she’s recovered.

As for my art, the reviews were positive. Mainly keep doing what I’ve been doing, work on perspective and try drawing things in color to mix it up a bit.

I can do that.


Hi folks,

I had the great pleasure, thanks to my friend Rose Beetem, of volunteering for the 40th Annual MileHiCon in Denver today. It was quite fun! I have been to cons in Texas (Wizard World Dallas – first year held!) and the East Coast (Big Apple Con! New York Comic Con! Mocca Fest! Onna Fest! Katsucon!) but was beginning to fret that such interesting times were not to be had in Colorado.

But oh, how wrong I was.

I arrived at 8 a.m. to register and sign up to volunteer and was helped by no less than five people – Annabel, Steve, Ron, Suzi and Richard. I then met up with Rose for pre-event coffee and breakfast and met several of the authors giving panels later that day including Nicole Givens Kurtz, Tim Powers and David Boop. Very excellent and enjoyable folks.

And that, in fact my friends, was the theme of the Con. I must say that the people I met were some of the friendliest Con folks I’ve ever worked with or listened to. My previous Con experience has been with comic book and anime conventions so it was interesting attending a predominantly literary con (and a scifi/fantasy one at that) for the first time. And the Dealer’s Room was selling Dr. Horrible goggles! And Captain Hammer t-shirts! How awesome is that?! Oh, but if I only had more expendable income! Curse you low funds! Grrr!

While in the Dealer’s Room I also met Stan Yan of Squidworks, the local comic book collective. Man, was I glad to meet him. I was beginning to think that myself and my handful of comic book friends here in town were the only ones in the state that read comics. Stan proved me wrong. Squidworks meets once a month on the second Sunday of each month and you can check them out here. I’ll definitely blog about them come November.

I also learned how to BUILD MY OWN WORKING LIFESIZE R2D2, courtesy of Lynelle Phillips’ panel. Did you know that people do this for fun? I had no idea. It’s expensive, but interesting, I’ll tell you that.

And I met Hugo and Nebula award winner Connie Willis, who is an absolute hoot. One of the funniest speakers I’ve ever heard, and considering she was talking about WWII, not typically considered comedic fodder, is saying quite a bit.

I also had the great pleasure of volunteering for Jeanne Stein and Robin Owens’ panel, both of whom read from their upcoming novels, and meeting Susan Crites, owner of Neon Hearts, an online used book store. Lovely ladies!

Since MileHiCon is on the smaller side of Cons, you have the opportunity to actually talk to authors and guest speakers for a longer period of time ( 10 – 30 minutes instead of 2, on average), there is more of an opportunity for you to volunteer for rooms with panels you’ll like, and volunteers got a discount on parking.

The downside is that some of the panels were rather obscure. And some I just didn’t like. I volunteered for one that ended up being on cannibalism in film and literature. Didn’t realize it would be on cannibalism. I didn’t see the sign until afterwards. The presenter was actually really cool and knowledgeable and the audience was fun but quite frankly, that’s just gross. Eating people. Ewww. And the panel on Joss Whedon was disappointing because instead of it being about Joss and say, how he gets ideas, or how he is so successful, became a group of people lamenting over the loss of Firefly. And I love Firefly. But EVERYONE AND THEIR DOG is in agreement that Fox totally blew it with that one. That’s not news. Let’s lay it to rest and move on by supporting Dollhouse in January. Thank you. But on the upside I learned about stuff that I didn’t know even existed (like droid building) and I even learned a few Joss and cannibal facts. Facts I’d rather not know, but hey, knowledge is power. I guess. So not a total loss with those two.

I encourage you all to go tomorrow if you have the chance. If not, they’ll be back October 23, 24, and 25, 2009. And if you volunteer for 8 hours, you get a free staff shirt. And raffle tickets for prizes! I’ll post my winnings if I get ’em on the blog.