This sounds like heresy…

I might willingly skip V. Bros. tonight. 

I know. 

I’m ashamed.

And also really tired.

I went through my old texture stash and found a bunch of textures that I could make work for a sort of abandoned factory texture sheet.  It’s really slap dash and there’s a bunch of stuff on there that you aren’t seeing. 

allen white mouse game environment

This kind of thing will be pretty typical for how we tackle stuff in Unity, it prefers (as does every engine really) as few draw calls as possible.  A mega 4k will be the MO I just have to do some concepts to figure out where the focus needs to go.  Something as common as the concrete floor could easily take up a whole quarter of the sheet…  The fewer the draw calls the more flexible the entire operation is as well.

I did find some very groovy reference pictures bombing around the interweb the other day which has my brain beakers bubbling away (what does that even mean?). 

Never underestimate the power of more reference.

Tyler and I spent some time talking about Vogler, Campbell, Eliade and Jung.  Who we may or may not have a borderline dangerous fascination with.

Vogler gets thrown around a lot in classrooms because its Campbell-Lite.  I find it to be a drag, but its not written in Campbell-speak so the layman (drooling art student mongoloid) can actually wrap his sad limp brain around it.  (You’re not all mongoloids, settle down.  Ok, some of you might be… read earlier posts about Passion and decide if you need to be here at all.)

At the same time I find Campbell can get more than a little kooky (see ‘Power of Myth’, also, say kooky more often) and is also just watered down Jung.

Jung is my gold standard for myth smarts.  Not that its a legend that he’s smart, he’s smart about legends.  In my estimation the more you know about symbols the better an artist you are because your job is to tell stories with symbol “collages.” 

As such I occasionally find time to read ‘The Red Book’.  Which can be summarized as Jung’s proof of concept on individuation focusing on himself.  It’s absolutely terrifying in that sort of mad-scientist way.  He thinks it works so he’s gunna shoot himself up with the new drug.

I’ve read a lot of Jung and this is by far my favorite.  It may not have the instructional capacity of his later, practiced work, but ‘The Red Book’ is the source.  The logic follows the symbols but you’re presented with the borderline insanity of ALL of the images confronting Jung, not his case studies and hand-picked historical references used to reinforce a bullet point in some big dry lecture.

As an introduction it might melt your mind.  If you’re familiar with what’s going on you owe this one to yourself. 

Much like ‘The Golden Bough’ by Sir James G. Frazer I expect to finish sometime in the years shortly after I die.

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I would have robot hands…

If I could.  I’d want at least one of them to transform into something seemingly unhelpful in the grand scheme.  Like a stapler (calipers also come to mind but those actually sound very useful).  I dunno, for comedy.

Also, my hands get tired from drawing/painting/arting all the time.  I assume the robot hands would need a tune-up once in a while (after delicate work), and I wouldn’t be able to lift anything heavy for a while cause my arms might fall off (that’s what Billy tells me anyway)…  Seems worth it though.

The rat is all set up to start painting weights on!  Won’t get it done tonight though.  Kind of a bummer, I gotta get this to the animator asap.

allen white rat guard rig

Following up the Curtis book I’m going to start building a list of must-have books for student designers and some others that I think are overall pretty solid.  Once I come up with a format for that and get some time I’ll start sprinkling those in amongst my regular posts.

I consider the entire operation very hazardous.  Too many worthless posts now have so much helpful upside.

I keep looking at the Halo Mega Blocks when I’m at the store. 

I want to like them. 

Cause its Halo.  And almost Lego.


Mega Blocks is not Lego.  And the sheer terror of that heresy keeps me away.  Also the figs are clearly handpainted by starving children, which is very dissappointing next to the gorgeous and crisp Lego figs we’ve all grown up on.  Well… I grew up on them.

I really can’t imagine me in a world without Legos.

Before you’re all creeped out by a mostly (lies) adult (pictures of also lies) guy meticulously analyzing all the toy aisles at the Walmarts and Targets of the world… It’s kind of my job.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

Seriously, you can learn a lot about the world from the toy aisle though.  Look closer.


Books but no coffee table…

I bought this RADICAL book! 

Edward S. Curtis; Visions of the First Americans 


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I highly recommend it if you’re one of those people who buys sweet picture books… which if you’re serious about this stuff you should be.  The internet is not a substitute for lots of books.  Even in design pow-wows passing a book around increases the probability of “happy accidents” tremendously compared to emailing a pic.

I love Native American imagery, they lay the culture on so thick you almost can’t stand it at times.  It goes too far and I like that.

I saw a really sweet looking book about the development of the P-51 Mustang.  I might have to pick that up.


Selling tiny stuff…

allen white raccoon racoon wizard

Most of the trick with this here Mouse Game stuff is selling the scale.  Everything is tiny, but we’re looking at it through equally tiny eyes.  When we started all this I did some… math… and decided 2m in game space was equivalent to 4″ in good ol’ RL.

I even got so carried away I made a little cardboard Mouse and took photos of him around my apartment, approximating the game camera position.  It’s important to get your head wrapped around what reads as tiny and what is not gigantic.  The Coon Wizard here is very large for our game, but even the threads on the various bits of his head-wear have to seem appropriately large in order to sell the scale. 

This whole issue will be a gigantic texturing headache at some point.  Gogogadget decal maps!

I am not a rigger.

allen white rat guard rigging

But rig I must.

Seriously, if you want to get a job as an animator learn to rig.  It seems to be an under-appreciated skill, which is odd as its totally essential to the process.  I can’t really wrap my brain around animators primarily working with the animation dummy models that are pretty much just skeletons.  It seems like such a cop out, artistically.

I couldn’t get behind such a narrow education.  Art and design are about solving problems, if you only have one approach you’ll be a poor problem solver.  Color me skeptical.

I’ve said this to a lot of applicants but I’ll repeat it…  If you want a job the more skills you are good at in addition to the job you’re applying to the easier you are to hire.  This should be agiven for Concept Artists because people that can “draw” are a dime a dozen, and competing for one of the sexiest jobs there is.  You really have to earn this kind of gig and the more bang you give me for my buck the easier the sell. 

As always it boils down to overwhelming your customer with your value.

I picked up the new D&D Essentials Dungeon Master Kit.

I’m sort of underwhelmed.  It feels like 85% fluff and 15% charts and tables.  You can’t just go buy the old 4th ed. DMG and expect to get any mileage.  Despite Wizards stance this is not a new edition, almost all of the rules have been errata’d.  The races changed, the classes changed.  If that isn’t a new edition I don’t know what is.

Truly I’m in the “I don’t care if its a new edition” crowd.  I was terrified by the AD&D to 3rd jump, but 4th was fantastic and although I feel like its darn near perfect I trust the D&D crew to keep turning out solid products.  I’m sure its a marketing/PR decision in the end and the design team is just playing the cards they’re dealt.

Let’s get off that tangent.

The book is great if you’ve NEVER DM’d.  But for me its a drag.  You really only need the encounter balance charts and the treasure calculation chart.  The selection of magic items is VERY short (15 pages).  The Rules Compendium is a better buy.  You get no monsters except what comes packed in the 2 short adventures.  With the Monster Vault not coming out for another month this is a bummer.  You can find a million unboxing videos on the interwebs if you’re super curious and want the whole run-down.


Anthony Hopkins is probably a Vampire…

I had this radical dream the other night, let me summarize;

Anthony Hopkins was a vampire.  And I was hunting him.  But you know how it is with vampires, they’re also hunting you, so there was much tension and subtext to be had as only I seemed to know he was a vampire and only he knew I was hunting him.  Which I’m sure the studio audience appreciated.  I did manage to trip him into a pit but he turned into a gas/bat cloud and whisked away.

When I awoke it dawned on me that it is highly likely that Anthony Hopkins is a vampire and I was actually battling him in his shadow dream realm.

I’ve been sick if you can’t tell from the above which is really cutting into my painting energy.  Bummer.

allen white sweet robot

Lookout for this sweet robot!  I’m going to throw some rotations alongside him in the next couple days.

Also have a WIP for all the cats haranguing me for a video that I can never remember/find-the-time to do.

allen white racoon shaman

I dig magic.  Totally fascinated by all its portrayals.  I think its fair to say I like it dark, but that’s simply a byproduct of wanting it visceral.  These aren’t soothing spirits.  Magic is in the basement of every human beings dreams and fears.  The sacrifices and auguries are our last desperate struggle for reconciliation.  Magic isn’t pretty. 

I was engaged in a pretty interesting discussion regarding magic in entertainment (particularly games) particularly whether or not I felt it was anti-biblical.  The issue caught me a little off guard at first, but this is a pretty widespread sentiment…  Think back to all the ruckus the ‘Harry Potter’s’ raised, and lets not forget the original “Satan’s Game” D&D.

The question I always ask is; “Are the Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings evil?” The answer I get is usually “Of course not, they’re allegorical works about Christianity”. The next question has to be “Don’t they have angels, and demons, and magic? Why are they exempt and D&D not?” I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer. I don’t think there is one. Seriously, the Bible is full of demons, murder, rape, treachery, genocide, etc. If we aren’t supposed to come into contact with these things ever why would the Bible include them?

If you draw the line at magic how can you not include violence?  Can you read Shakespeare? Or for that matter watch Sesame Street?  Isn’t a talking animal an abomination?  Do cartoons distort reality and are therefore a perversion of creation?  This is a train of thought I really can’t see stopping once you take the logic brake off.

Contrary to what some might tell you Christianity is not a cult of suffering.  The Bible isn’t against games.  The point of games is to have fun.

To this end I consider Monopoly a far more evil game than D&D.  Have you ever known a more allegedly friendly beloved title that so quickly and consistently deteriorates ‘family-game-night’ into fighting and screaming?  (btw, Monopoly has feedback loop issues)

For believers this is totally an issue of phase.  If God only sees the “negative” intent of “secular” products and not the intent of you, the consumer, he is clearly not God and you tread dangerously close to creating him in your image. 

Before you ask…. my dreams often have movie stars.


Breaking the new tablet in…

Sat down for the maiden voyage and realized none of the hotkeys were set the way I wanted them.

Then found I actually didn’t know what my tablet was setup like at the office so I had to try and paint, ignoring the fact they were wrong so I could figure out what was what.  Creatures of habit.

Slammed this down real fast.  Been thinking about re-reading Tarantula if I can find my copy…

Bob Dylan ; allen white

It’s randomly cross-hatchy, go figure.

Super-Secret-News: Drawing sweet robots at work.

More as it develops!


Check Boxes, always up to something…

The blog now boasts shiny new Categories which should help people look for specific info down the road.  You won’t have to sort through all the miasma, but the posts will all still read like I’m a raving lunatic so good luck.

A brand new Intuos 4 XL should be arriving today.  I suspect it will make at least most of my dreams come true.

I always get a lot of questions from would-be tablet owners about what’s the right tablet to buy.  Oddly enough Wacom doesn’t have a total corner on the market and since they’ve added the Bamboo line everything is fuzzy about what you need.  The Cintiq invariably comes up as well.

Here are my shopping criteria:

1) It has to be gigantic

Why?!  Well, I draw ALL day.  When I leave the office I come home and draw.  I’ve been doing this since highschool and its just about destroyed my arm with repetitive stress.  The bigger your drawing surface the more you draw with your arm and not your wrist and fingers which allows you to really marathon on your tablet comfortably.  A bigger tablet makes it much easier to letter (write) on your artwork as well.  Concepts require a lot of labels so this is important for me.  Scale alone really narrows the field for me in a hurry.

2) The Cintiq is so pretty!

I know, and they’re wonderful, but there are a couple things I don’t like.  First is the price.  They’re wicked expensive, like almost a new computer expensive. 

Second, and this is probably the biggest for me, is your hand is on the screen.  I’ve been using a tablet forever so the hand-eye coordination thing isn’t a thought for me at all.  But I’m sure for people just getting into the game drawing in a more traditional manner is a godsend.  I prefer to have my hand comfortably out of my field of view.  There are a couple guys at the office that swear by them, so I can’t say the Cintiq is a bad choice- It’s just not my choice.

3) Wacom or no?

Wacom is the industry standard.  The Intuos and Cintiq lines are made for artists.  I’ve never used another tablet brand and I never plan on it because the Wacom’s have always delivered (even back on the models that connected via serial).  When it comes to art supplies you get what you pay for, and when something works I never have any desire to shop around.

4) How does the 4 compare to older Intuos models?

Night and day, the 4 is light-years better.  The new Touch Ring allows for some very intuitive on the fly nib adjustments (I wish photoshop would add rotation already) as well as zoom and layer cycling.  Along with the hotkeys all the features are customizable and the LED displays let you know what each button does and can be calibrated application to application so what you need is always handy.  This is a big deal for me going back and forth between Bodypaint (where I want some 3d navigation controls) and Photoshop (where I need more tool options).  If that doesn’t sell you, the sensitivity and pen weight (SO light) alone were enough to make the upgrade worth it for me.

5) Conclusion

The Intuos 4 XL is the stealth bomber of tablets.  That is to say it is the pinnacle of science and sorcery.  I’m pretty sure every single one contains the soul of a dark god.  How else do you explain the fact the pen doesn’t need batteries?!

Bonus Thoughts for folks starting out with a tablet!

1)  Switch your pen nib out for a felt tip (they’re in the pen holder, twist it open!).  This will give you a little more resistance and be closer to drawing with a pencil on paper.

2) Get or make some good painterly brushes to improve the quality of your work.  I should be uploading a few I’ve made over the years soon.

3) Always revise your hotkeys on the tablet to find exactly what you need.  The less time you spend reaching for the keyboard the faster you will paint.  Every little bit helps.

4) The higher the opacity you can paint with the better.  Let the pen do the work for you and adjust the sliders less.  Again this is about speed, but it also has a look I prefer, so your mileage may vary.  I like the spring loaded nib to help give you a little more pressure range.


Lvl 1 Internet Constructs…

I ordered an Intuos 4 XL.  I’m spoiled on the company model I get to use at work.  This medium thing is awful, its a glorified post it note.  Working on it feels like I’m trying to paint a mural on a wall of post it notes in a stiff breeze.

If only I was famous enough to sell this medium thing signed on ebay at a ridiculous markup…  I might try it anyway.

I’ve doodled a few potential characters over the last couple days to help get my brain wrapped around the options for the Mouse Game.

allen white mouse game

These things take no time at all, and they’re basically how I’d start a painting I intended to carry further to completion.

The internet is a weird place.  I think the web guru’s set out to make a hub for the sort of social networking nonsense that goes on in the world but soon everyone started knocking each other off.  Who can blame them?  There’s money to be made in competition. 

Now, it seems like you need a spirit guide to assemble all the elements needed to be discovered, or official, or hip, or internet…ed.

I nearly have the blog, the folio, the facebook, the twitter, and the linkedin all speaking to one another.  It does feel like I’m negotiating between members of a very estranged family that also can’t remember why they’re fighting.  Another evening’s science should get it all in place but I still can’t help feeling silly calibrating this much apparatus with which to repeat my insanity across the ether. 

But I can’t give up.  I must assemble the golem.  I need the internet points. 

More as it develops,


I try to be helpful…

Occasionally (always) I get asked what I’m looking for in a portfolio. 

Usually (always) I say, “It depends on the position.”

Generally (again, always) its about a Concept Artist position.  Because its more or less the Holy Grail of art jobs.

Every Concept Artist job post read more or less between the lines something like:

Responsibilities:  Make crap up.  Get paid. 

Rock and roll.

Aside: I know I said I’d talk about game design stuff but this came up again for the second day straight and its on my brain.  The design stuff is a big tangled web of stuff I’ve written down in a lot of different places I need to coalate and it won’t make any sense if I just brain barf it at you.  It’s not a complicated issue but I’ve never “taught” it so its not in any order out of context…


I’ve reviewed almost every artist portfolio that has come in the door at Kiz since I started,  as such I’ve seen a LOT of Concept Artist apps.  There are a few things I look for specifically in a Concept Artist, and while they may seem simple they are key.

1. Variety of style and genre:  While I like to see at least one group or series of elements from the same story make sure you include at least a few different looks.  If the studio you’re applying to does a lot of varied titles (assuming video games here) show breadth, if they focus on one style give them that style.  Personally I want to see breadth regardless, especially if its all really good, because I want capable artists.

2. Solid anatomy:  Characters are the least important part of your portfolio anyway if you’re starting out.  The senior artists will be handling almost, if not all, of the character work as characters tend to be fewer and further between than environments and props.  As such, nothing irritates me more than weak or derivative anatomy (looking at you anime).  Do all your characters look the same?  Work on it.

3.  Good hand:  By hand I mean the way an artist draws/paints/makes marks.  This is different from style, and while the two do mutate each other from piece to piece an artist with a strong hand is more confident in the basic creation process so less energy is invested in the execution.  This isn’t really a right/wrong issue but it certainly factors into how I judge a portfolio. 

Ok, those are pretty straight forward and honestly you’d expect them in any portfolio along with the usual, keep it simple, only your best work, etc guidelines.  And I expect everyone to have a handle on those, because your classrooms and the entire internet are full of suggestions on these things.  So here’s the nitty-gritty…

The key to being a good concept artist, and what you have to get across in your portfolio is good ideas.

It just isn’t good enough to be able to draw.  Everyone can draw, the industry is full of artists that can draw.

My mentor, Tyler Tunney, used the word ‘solutions’ for this same issue.  He wanted to see how you’d resolved the problems in a given task and turned them into strengths.  This sort of thing is particularly an issue in theatre design where you have so many physical limitations, but they certainly come into play in game design as well.

Richard Tyler Tunney

As a concept artist, more than in any other position in the art pipeline, you are the first line of problem solving.  A critical thinking brain is essential and any way you can communicate how smart you are helps your case.

Perhaps the most important mantra Tyler drilled into my head… one I’ve more or less hijacked and recycled daily during my time at Kiz… is “Go too far.”

I’ve retranslated that into, “Give it more zazz.” 

If the script/design-doc/story/whatever calls for a large robot; the correct answer is not a robot one head higher than a man.  That robot should be three-four stories tall, with extra arms, shooting fire, in space, at a mutant octopus.  You see where I’m going.  (I smell a really sweet remake of the Odyssey!)

Darth Vader is not just a guy in a black hat twirling his mustache.  He’s a cyborg-samurai of death and evil.  He has zazz.

It’s not uncommon for me, when working with less experienced artists or artists I haven’t work with much, to say something to the effect of, “Make this so crazy it looks wrong.  And then make it crazier.  That’ll be just good enough for me.” 

Does that sound insane?  Yes.  Does it work?  Every time.

I have been working on some sketches for additional characters for the Mouse Game.  I’m still weak on what the story is going to look like but this is giving me some chess pieces to start swinging around cosmogonic space and its starting to take more shape. 

The Hero definitley needs a second costume for after his rebirth.  I’m actually a little surprised about how “feely” this project has turned out as I generally have everything in my head very quickly.  I’ll post sketches soon.

Venture Bros. 4.2-4 airs tonight.  I’m stoked. 

I have coffee to keep me up because I’d much rather sleep off my sorrow about the Colts. 


Get the Science Done…

I think I have the Forward and Diagonal run animations looking respectable on our Mouse Hero. 

Animation… It’s really not something I’m good at.  I can analyze it and see what sucks but making the right changes usually causes more damage than good.  I’m getting the science done bit by bit, but someday soon I need to recruit a fortune hunter to take over this madness.  I would like to at least get the process perfected with Ben so we can just plug our animator in, set them to crispy, and walk away.  Or whatever it is animators do.

Fortunately I know some wicked talented people I would love to rope into my self inflicted nightmares.  Unfortunately it looks like I’m not much of a salesman.

I’ve been drawing a lot at work to keep up with our ever accelerating world builders who continue to impress me with their mastery of our style and all the quirks in the pipeline.  I feel like we’ve all settled into a very comfortable groove, communication is open and encouraged, and the art is improving daily as a result.  Its hard to not be stoked about that.

It does mean I’ve been resting my hand though, so no concepts to report. 

I continue to have good discussions on CDN, and a lot of good questions about the early design process for making games.  Most designers get trapped in a ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ mindset.  Games are not complicated to design, its a pretty simple critical thinking exercise no more or less complicated than designing for any other major entertainment medium… but it presents some tricky questions that most people don’t know how to get in the right mindset to work through. 

I’m going to break this down a bit more in my next post. 

Its funny what your parents remember about you growing up compared to what you remember.  My dad reminded me today about how I would often be called down to the office in elementary school to fix the printer… a detail I’d totally forgotten. 


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