Installation Game

Recently I was contracted to create some pixel art for a game that is played on the side of a building. The game is called CTRL ALT PDX. It was designed and programmed by the awesome folks over at WILD aka Built by Wild.  So I spent a week hanging out with them and making some pixel art. It was a lot of fun and the game is launching Friday, March 20th.

Installation Game

In order to play, you stand in front of the building, call the number shown. You then are prompted to create your character using the number keys. The information is then fed into the system and routed to the game which is projected on the windows so you are effectively using your phone as the controller!

Installation Game

The game has many lines of cute dialogue written and recorded by the guys over at WILD, I laughed quite a lot testing the game out. As far as art style, they wanted a mostly black and white almost ASCII art feel to the game. Here are some characters and items I created for it.

8-bit items

pixel npcs

Pixel Bridge

If you are ever in Portland, be sure to look it up and check it out!

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How to Draw Better

So you want to know just how to make teh guud drawz? Well read on and learn how!

A few months back, after teaching an exploratory camp in Concept Art, I had a student approach me after class with a desire to take her art further. She specifically wanted to get into animation or graphic novels and asked if I knew of any colleges or high schools where she could begin training.

While at college, I not only studied art itself, but how to get better at it as well. I wanted to know the exact process of how to get from point A to B, from stick figures to master level visual representation, but this was never laid out plainly for us to see. So with much intensive research and study, I was finally able to break down the journey into simple sequential steps.  When my student asked me how to be a better artist, bless her heart, I saw this as a great opportunity to document this guide and share it so that others won’t have to waste time figuring out what to do.

I now present you the guide to which I wrote her.

First things first: remember that manga, american comics, animation, illustration, concept art, storyboarding, GOOD gallery art, etc, are all about VISUAL COMMUNICATION.  If you want a career in one or more of these sub-disciplines, you need to be able to communicate ideas to people visually and do it effortlessly. That means learning and mastering the fundamentals of visual communication, ie: the way the human brain perceives visual imagery.

Here’s a small PDF on these and more:
Mastering these means you:
  • Can draw what you see
  • have CONTROL over line
  • Have a DEEP understanding of perspective
  • Can draw 3D shapes effortlessly
  • Understand Color Theory and how it applies to human psychology
  • Understand Gestalt Theory
Further more you are going to have to know figure drawing like nobody’s business:
  • Body rhythm (line of action)
  • Gesture
  • Human proportion
  • Anatomy (Bone/muscle/features)
And if you want to get into animation, you need to know all of the above PLUS animation principles:
This is a lot but don’t worry, you’ll get better at this stuff with practice. Remember, there is no such thing as talent, only AMBITION. You should be attacking your art education with the intention of being the best artist there ever was. Don’t stop until you are. If you shoot for the galaxies, you’re sure to hit the stars. 🙂 I’ll list some books that can point you in the right direction. Even fine artists that just make blobs and squares on canvases understand the basic visual communication principles, which brings me to style.
Notes on style
Remember style comes second. Style is something that you layer ON TOP of your knowledge of the above principles. A good artist should be able to analyze and draw in ANY style. Your personal style is something that is always evolving, you find styles that you like and add stuff from them to your own style but only AFTER you’ve mastered the fundamentals.
Before you can draw this: (Stylized)
You HAVE to be able to draw this: (Non-stylized)

Notes on drawing/figure drawing
Manga, anime, storyboarding, and virtually all forms of art require knowledge of figure drawing. To get good at this you should be drawing humans all the time.

Go out and buy super cheap sketchpads and try and fill AT LEAST one per month of figure drawings, gestures, hands, feets, heads, etc. Draw people you find on the street, pay attention to their pose and body language.

You should also get an anatomy book and MEMORIZE the scientific name of every visible bone and muscle. I’m not joking. If you know the name of a a body part, then you will know not to leave it out when you draw it.

Take life drawing classes and attend life drawing workshops when you can find them. The internet is a great place to look for these in our area. I’ll add some good resources in the next section.

Helpful books/videos/websites
Here are some great resources to use in your education. This is not everything thats out there, just some good stuff I have found in my own art journey. Some of the books are links but check your library to see if they have them first so you don’t have to buy them. You can also ask the library to buy the books so you can check them out.
Drawing what you see
Drawing on the right side of the brain by Betty Edwards (This is THE BOOK used in all intro to drawing classes. I got better at drawing just by READING the first chapter. Do every exercise in this book multiple times. This is where you start out. None of the other stuff I’m talking about matters until you have control over your arm. This is what this book is all about, learning to tap into the right side of your brain at will and drawing exactly what you see.)
Line Control/Perspective
How to draw by Scott Robertson (Great for learning to draw 3D shapes which is the next step.)
General Drawing
Free Drawing Books by Master Andrew Loomis  – (download these, they are awesome.)
Color Theory
Gestalt Theory
Figure Drawing
PixelLovely – (GREAT tool for figure drawing practice)
Figure Drawing: Design and Invention by Michael Hampton (One of the best books out there on the subject)
Launching the Imagination By Mary Stewart
NOTE TO BLOG READERS: The camp was held in the Portland, OR area so these highschools are in that area.
So the only high schools that I’ve found in the PDX area that give an advanced level of study in art are these two:
Vancouver School of Arts and Academics  (The one that I showed you before, it has like at least two semesters of animation stuff and 2D stuff, though the 2D stuff seems to be more “fine arty” and less about hard skill which is what you will need for comics and animation.)
Northwest Academy (This one seems pretty good and its in down town portland which is nice. I don’t think it has animation but has drawing, though it might be “fine arty” as well. In fact, many schools across the US don’t emphasize hard skill enough. Here is a recent article about that controversy.)
If you don’t end up going to one of these its ok just make sure you study study and practice your art! 🙂
Notes on choosing colleges
Ok here is a list of the colleges I’ve discovered throughout my travels, these are the cream of the crop, the best art schools in the united states. Some of them are very expensive so try to get scholarships to them, call them, ask them, look on their website, etc. These aren’t the only great schools they are just only the ones I’ve found to be good. They are all in the United States, there ARE great schools in other countries, I just personally haven’t looked (mostly because their websites are in other languages).
When looking for a college, you want a college that cares about its reputation. These school will be both difficult to get into, and once you are in, they will be VERY critical of your work and some will ask you to leave if you aren’t doing good enough so you have to work VERY hard. But thats what you want in an art school – one that will help you be a great artist. DO NOT go to the Art Institute of Portland, they don’t care about greatness, all they care about is money so they will pass you even if you are doing poorly which in the long run will leave you $80,000 in debt with no skills to show for it. I’ve listed the schools in the order that i’d recommend but they are all pretty good. Make sure you research them yourself. When I find an art school I always look at their student work section to see how good they teach them.
Art Center Pasadena, CA  (One of the best schools in the world for art. I think they offer a scholarship if you submit some awesome work to them, look on the website.)
Art Students League NY New York, NY (Not really a college but a conservatory. Its cheaper than a college because you are learning directly from Masters. Some of the greats like Andrew Loomis and Ai Weiwei went here.)
Calarts Valencia, CA (Very prestigious college, all of the great disney animators went here.)
School of Visual Arts New York, NY
RISD Providence, RI
LCAD Laguna Beach, CA
SCAD Savannah, GA
Ringling Sarasota, FL (Good school but Florida is a terrible state.)
Pratt New York, NY
Academy of Art University San Francisco, CA (Anyone can enter this college but few come out, they care VERY much about their reputation.)
AICAD (This isn’t a college but its more of a list of non-profit, reputation oriented art schools. Most of the schools I listed above belong to AICAD.)
Atelier System:
Another great way to learn art (and cheaper too) is the Atelier system. Its basically the way that the old masters like Da Vinci and Michelangelo learned. In an atelier you learn directly from a master artist. Tuition is cheaper because you aren’t paying a school, you are paying the master him/herself.
ARC (This is the Art Renewal Center, it lists most of the Ateliers in the world, read about them. I have listed a couple that I like below. I don’t have any experience with this system though.
Georgetown Atelier Seattle, WA   (Tanaya Sims is the master and he comes from the entertainment industry so he will probably gear his lessons to help you enter this field.)
Watts Atelier Encinitas, CA    (This atelier is right next to the heart of the entertainment industry and many people who attend Art Center come down to this atelier during the summer to improve further.)
Angel Academy of Art Florence, Italy   (Its pretty far away but seems like a great place to study, its also in the heart of where the renaissance took place.)
Japanese Schools:
Here are a couple of schools I’ve heard of in Japan. Bear in mind you will have to know fluent Japanese to go here and if you plan on making art in Japan you will probably be advise to make a Japanese pen name to make your work under as its harder for Gaijins like us to get a foot in the door over there.
Kyoto Seika University (This place has a college program in manga creation where you learn from professional mangakas. Here is a video of a foreign girl attending it.)
Digital Hollywood Tokyo, Japan (Seems like a cool place to learn a variety of skills including Anime, maybe you could go here after studying in the US first? Here is also an article about it in Danny Choo’s website.
There are probably many other places out there where you can learn to adapt your hard traditional skills to japanese styles, all you have to do is research!
Remember, there is no such thing as talent, ONLY ambition! If you REALLY want something, then you’ll have the dedication and patience to go out there and achieve it. Read Danny Choo’s article about himself for a great example. Further more, subscribe to these daily inspirational quotes to help keep you motivated on your journey – with whatever you decide to do.
 It doesn’t matter what you chose to do, if you are willing to sacrifice, you can become great. There are no rules. You don’t even have to go to college to become great but you’ll have to motivate yourself to draw and study every single day which is hard for many people. Getting trained is great for motivating you to do that, as well as making connections to help you in your career. Nothing worth having is easy to achieve!

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