Dec 272012

The year has come and gone like a bandit. A bandit that made out like a bandit, as I can honestly say I never would have expected to get the opportunity to do some of the things I’ve done this year in any of my weirdest dreams. Adventures in artwork included drawing and animating for a few games, a few music videos, upgrading all of my workstations, and getting to employ my skills in numerous mediums like 3D, Pixel Art, Vector, and digipaint all mashed together.

To start off with a big highlight I can add to my career and life achievements is that I was invited, much to my gleeful surprise, to help create an animated segment of a music video for what I have considered to be my favorite band for the last four years – Anamanaguchi! The video is primarily non-animated footage of the band getting into strange situations that transition into an animated interlude, where it changes into anime-style pixel art of the 4 members in a bizarro Daft Punk homage for about 25 seconds, setting the stage to change back to live-action for the end finale of the video. It is not yet released, so I can’t say much about it yet, but last I heard it should be going public very soon. The opportunity came to me from my good friend and past-collaborator Mike Scott, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with on his music video projects twice in the past before this. The first time, it was for the ambitious and viral video game-reference-filled pixel art video for We Come Together by Goldfish, which I did a large number of character and scene animations for. The second time, he brought me in to create the finale for another Goldfish video project, Woman’s a Devil (my portion is at 3:32) that was a pixel art parody of love and tribute to the old adventure game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards.

Pixel animation segment of Goldfish – Woman’s a Devil by Carl Douglas, aka Argyle.

When Anamanaguchi saw We Come Together, they approached Mike to create the animated portion of their new single’s video and invited him to include any artists that were apart of the project to drop a style bomb on it. Topping it all off with the cherry of awesomenitude, at the risk of saying more than I ought to, the live action portion of the video was handled by none other than the geniuses over at Abso Lutely (you’d know their work from the likes of Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Check It Out with Dr. Steve Brule). It was a long road of work, but we are proud of the resulting animation work that was created for them, and the guys in Anamanaguchi were incredibly cool and easy to talk to – made me love the band that much more.

On the gaming spectrum a few things of note that I occupied myself with included contributing more creatures and animations to the in-development cross platform online game Fantasy Tales Online, designing characters, illustrating, and animating dinosaurs and a big ball of violence for a run-forever platformer. Also, I contributed a few modular characters to a game from HolyMonkey Studio that will utilize the Spriter animation software package. Illustrating and animating in vector format for an interactive digital children’s book for Android, and creating many ships, tanks, scenery, and effect assets for an ambitious iOS Shoot-Em-Up title were two great projects that I sadly had to cut my involvement with short due to getting a job with the next project I will go over – Star Command.

One of the favorite things I’ve learned this year was that the animation industry term for those clouds of dust and parts is “Big Ball of Violence.”You don’t find jargon like that anymore…

Star Command is an upcoming title by the startup company, Warballoon, described as Game Dev Story meets Star Trek, that coming to PC, iOS, and Android. Before it came to my doorstep, the game had found success in two parts through Kickstarter. After their first campaign was funded for the development of the game for mobile devices, they later launched a second project fundraiser to further the development to port the game to PC with modding capabilities, expanded numbers of alien races, and more missions to add to the amount of storyline and gameplay. This is when they contacted me to see if I would be interested in creating the animations for those expanded libraries of assets for their characters and weapon props with different attacks, gruesome deaths, and various effects. One of my favorite things to work on is animating artwork that is established and ready to go, and they presented a great amount of creative freedom for the animations I would be making; the one stipulation that came with it was that there was a production schedule that came with a high amount of precedence so that timelines could be kept so that the many numerous backers that invested their trust and funding for the project would not be kept waiting even longer than they have been already for this high profile and anticipated title.

A small sample of sprites I’ve animated for Star Command

Over the course of a few months, the contributions I brought to the project amounted to over 60 separate animations for about 18 characters and objects which amounted to over 1,100 frames for the sprites. In that time I was graced with the task of making zombies catch fire and disintegrate, reworking aforementioned zombies to fit into dresses and lipstick, and roasting a race of bird-men that coincidentally had a great resemblance to Angry Birds into charred chicken carcasses (among many and much more fun oddities). It was a laborious task to complete everything, but the road to the finish line is swiftly closing in on the end to reach the finished product and I look forward to sharing the assets for all to see once the final release is live.

All of these projects have paid off by allowing me the financial leeway to make some much-needed upgrades to my home workstations that have increased my productivity a good deal. I’ve custom built a new desktop rig with dual 21″ monitors (which were given to me by a past-coworker and great guy, whom I hope to repay in kind), upgraded from a 2004 TabletPC to a new Fujitsu LifeBook T731 Wacom Penabled, Multitouch convertible tablet notebook (specs and price sheet for if I had bought it new, instead of through fujitsu’s factory refurbish center at almost $2000 less than retail price.) It’s literally a transforming robot computer you can draw on! Also added an arsenal of new peripherals and toys. Namely, we finally advanced past the point-and-click digital cameras by purchasing a nice Digital SLR Canon camera. Another tool worth noting was getting one of those goofy looking gaming keypads you see competitive gamers toting around, the Razer Nostromo, which has been lending itself very successfully to being a productive addition to my workflow for art creation whether it’s being used with the Wacom Intuos4 tablet, plugged into the TabletPC, or simply in conjunction with a mouse. It’s programmable with key combos and macros for every one of its 23+ keys that can have multiple cycling keymaps that are all application specific. I’ll do a writeup on how each of these things and how they can be used for better art production in a future post, and even share some of my profiles and the cheat sheet I made to make it easier to transition into for new users.

The Razer Nostromo – for people who like to work like l33t pwnz0rz

2012 treated me with kindness, and I hope to put the experience gained to good use going into 2013. Every project teaches me new things, both skill and technique-wise as well as in the risks and consequences that come with freelancing. Sometimes you must sacrifice some practices you prefer to take and make judgment calls about what must take priority in your work – picking who must be kept waiting when multiple client projects collide under the same timeframes and adjusting to juggling them all together. But getting better about working more efficiently and making conscious choices about what your time can best be put toward is something you grow to recognize and gets easier with time. 2013 will have more surprises, I’m sure. But 2012 has definitely humbled me into being a more well-rounded and flexible freelance artist, which will make the upcoming year easier to tackle than it was the previous year, so long as my silly brain can actively put those lessons to use.

To wrap things up, this was the last thing I’ve done with the year – it was for the Pixelation forums‘ annual Secret Santa pixel art gift exchange. It’s somewhat of a ritual part of the holiday ever since I first took part in it some four years ago, and it’s always exciting to see what everyone else there makes. The turnout showed many incredible pieces of artwork from the talented members there, but here was my present for Kren, who listed this as his suggestions for whomever drew his name to be secret santa partner with:

I study Mechatronics so robot stuff and gears are cool, I’m also into anime so any anime related is cool, evangelion, HunterxHunter, Fairy Tail, Nichijou

Merry Pix-mas! – for Pixelation’s Secret Santa 2012

For those interested, here is a WIP Animation showing the steps taken in making the gift piece. The wonderful present I received was from the immensely skilled and famed artist known as iLKke. I went to make a large poster print of it and hilariously ran out of tonor about two inches into the start of the print, so that will have to live perpetually on my to-do list.

iLKke’s Secret Santa gift for Argyle. Quite right! Click to see full size.

About the Author

Carl Douglas is a graphic artist and animator of all things drawn, tweened, puppeted, and exploded. You can learn more About Him or enjoy a glimpse at how his brain chooses which 160 character combinations are worth sharing by following him on Twitter.
 December 27, 2012  Posted by at 5:59 pm 3D, Animation, Articles, Artwork, Digipaint, Personal, Pixel Art, Vector Tagged with: , , , , , ,  Add comments

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