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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Plaster Cat

Yesterday I was working at home and the maintenance man came to plaster a wall that had paint peeling. He sanded the plaster after it dried and then asked me what I did. I got a little vain when he said he'd seen HERCULES and took him in the studio and showed him the Fates cel on the wall. I then fired up the computer to show some of the illustrations for the book.

Just then a pure white cat ran into the room and leaped gracefully onto my lap, landing in a cloud of white smoke, and said "MEOW", very clearly.

It actually took me a minute to realize what she had done. Ryan said my face was a study. I wish I had seen it.

I took Gizmo into the living room, held her on my lap, and beat her with the flat of my hand like a carpet, raising a large cloud of dust each time. (She didn't mind this since it did not hurt her.)
I then held her and brushed both sides more than she'd been used to. Fortunately she is not an aggressive animal and did not try to fight me.
I have something called Pet Wipes. I used them.
Meanwhile Ryan vacuumed up what was left of the plaster powder.

Gizmo had another wheezing attack later that evening, but at least now I know what it is from.

So I am calling her the Plaster Cat.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Back to back

I sent off the first third of my book to the editor two weeks ago. A recent email stated that he likes the illustrations. He will write about the text later. Dad (who has no contact with the industry) read an early draft and typically enough stated that I am not writing a real textbook, since it is actually readable. Mom corrected a few typos. (Spellcheckers? We don't need no steenkin' spellcheckers!)
I am polishing the prose as I go along, working in sections (as I do when I animate) and using humourous examples when possible since the method works when I teach. There are comical illustrations as well as negative examples , some of which were given to me by a very helpful student. Examples of his much better recent work will be published right alongside the weaker work to make sure that people don't get the wrong impression.
My writing style can be verbose so I edit out repetitions and keep the text short and sweet. The first eleven chapters please me and got a good and fair crit from Greg Ford and Ronnie Scheib, who are acting as unofficial editors. Chapter 12 is underway but a sudden health emergency with Gizmo has slowed me down a bit. Poor cat has to go to the vet since meds made her sicker than before. I do this on the weekends and so this takes time out from the writing, but one must prioritize things. Student work will be used for some of the illustrations and this should give a nice mixed flavour to the proceedings. Many animation books only contain drawings by the author, and this leads to a one-way mentality (as in 'only one way to do this'.) It's important to show the way other artists handled their projects. Particularly students. When considering a faculty hire, I want to see a reel of students' work rather than their own showreel. Good student work is the best advertisement for a good professor.
Weather here was bright and very cold and we had the first snowfall in a week and I was never gladder to see it. There is something desperately wrong with sixty degree temperatures in Rochester in January.
The new computer is chugging along beautifully though I no longer have the picture publishing program. Oh well, must find another. This is a double drive monster that effortlessly handles very large files. I got it just in time, the other one was dying fast. Dad claims he has resuscitated it, but the repairman claimed the disc was skipping. Anyway, Dad is welcome to use the old laptop if he can keep it alive.
And I registered with Tina Price's new company, the Creative Talent Network for a very reasonable fee. It was amazing to see all my old Disney colleagues there, even those who are still there have a site. Tina was always a real self starter and this could be an interesting association.
I've got to send her a disc of some of my artwork. She's kind enough to set up a page for me onsite. There's no way I can do it with all the other stuff that is going on.
The Academy dvds are a royal pain to deliver here since they all have to be signed for and the deliveryman has an irritating habit of coming when I am at work. Fortunately I have someone who will sign for them for me when I'm not here.
The best films I've seen so far have been GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (both sure nominees for Best Photography and probably a couple of others as well.)
My main objectives: get the cat well, get some more writing done, and get ready for classes next week.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Winter Break

I've been busy writing my new book during the Winter break. The topic: storyboard and character design for animated features and shorts. The publisher: Focal/Elsevier, a well known textbook publisher. The deadline: next summer, all inclusive.
After that nice long Canadian trip I figured I'd settle down and get this thing going on all subsequent breaks.
I figured getting a cat at this time would be a good idea, since I'm spending so much time in front of the computer that I get a little distracted from things like eating and housekeeping. Gizmo is doing a superb job at reminding me that I have to get away from the machine every now and then. Every few hours she pokes me in the bum and insists that I get up and play with her. Sometimes she has jumped on my shoulder and sat there like a parrot. This has not been as popular with me but it is funny to see. She refrains from kitty editing or messing with the computer in any way. This girl was the ideal recruit for the job.
My old computer fainted and trembled at the size of the graphics files I must use, so I went out and got a double barrelled, double disc, hypercharged Ferrari of a machine that effortlessly handles all the materials in a fraction of the time.
And what materials! Hundreds of illustrations must be drawn, and I am a little angry that I seem to only be able to do eight or nine a day. The writing's about one third done. Thankfully I have writer friends who have been advising me on technical and literary matters. My writing style is direct and they made me changed it when it started to wander. I'm grateful and they will be suitably credited in the dedication.
Several students at RIT have given me permission to use their work. This will, I think make the book unique, since some of the projects are advancing at the same time that I'm writing the book; so we'll have progressive developments in three media (I am working with cartoonists, CGI animators and one stop motion student.)
There are a lot of topics to cover. Every storyboard book I've seen has been aimed at either comic book artists, live action filmmakers, or television animators. This book will contain notes and storyboard materials that I assembled over a thirty year period, including interviews with Tex Avery, Ken O'Connor, and a variety of other animators and writers.
And who knows, maybe someone will buy it. I haven't though ahead that far, to tell you the truth. Right now I just want to get it done.
School starts next week and so I'll take care of student issues first, then go on with the writing.
And, of course, play with the cat.