Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Most Honorable Indeed - M&M's World Shanghai












There are times when I forget how awesome my job is and what incredible privileges God has allowed me to enjoy. 

With product design, there's always the next design, the next big deadline, the next season's line, the next store opening.  There's always so much coming up next that sometimes, you forget to just step back for a minute and look at what you've been a part of for the past decade.  

Wow.

I've had the unique honor and privilege to be a character artist at Entertainment Retail Enterprises since 2005.  Before that, I learned the ropes of merchandise design at the Disney Design Group as a Creative Assistant Intern.  

To say that the past 10 years have been a whirlwind would be both true and untrue at the same time.  It has gone fast, but there's been a lot of growth, a lot of challenges, and a lot of work...I mean a LOT of work.  But then, there are moments like this of pure, unvarnished joy.  You get to step back from your computer screen for a moment and see what all your work actually looks like in real life.  

You do so many mockups and concepts and "virtual" art that sometimes you forget that this stuff is actually going to be real.  And then, one day, you see a kid walking through the mall wearing something you designed...something that was YOUR idea.  Forget the sense of pride in convincing your team or your client that it was a good idea.  This is a person who doesn't know you or anything you do and THEY thought it was a good idea.  They thought it was so good, that they bought it and now they're wearing it around...IN PUBLIC.  

That is an incredible feeling.

So I hope you'll understand that this post is, in no way, a self-promotional piece.  It's just a chance for me to share some of the immense happiness and profound joy I've experienced in being a part of something big and seeing it come together in real life.

M&M's opened their newest retail store this summer in Shanghai.  We at ERE had the unique opportunity to be a part of what was an immense collaboration of creative people, managers, merchandisers, buyers, and quite a few positions I don't even know about.  Let's just say it took a lot of minds and hands to make all of this happen.  

We got started immediately and began to research, concept, create, design, produce, and ship new, original, and creative product to a store that had not yet been built in a culture that was entirely new to us.  Scary?  Sure.  Motivating?  More than anything you can imagine!  

The combination of high-pressure and high-creativity is my favorite place to operate.  Being involved on the front end of the creative process allows you to think big and try absolutely everything as you slowly funnel down to what works and what doesn't.  Some of the ideas you'd think would be a home run don't resonate culturally.  Sometimes there are connotations you'd have never guessed - even down to which colors are popular and which ones aren't...I'll give you a hint though...red is VERY popular in China.  All of that combines to make the experience of working with the M&M's Shanghai team one of the most memorable, challenging, and rewarding times of my life.

The majority of the pictures you see here are of what we'd typically call "photo ops", affectionately titled in the store as "character moments".  No matter what you call them, they're life-size 3D M&M's characters with whom guests can pose, photograph, and remember their trip.  

When I was given the unique honor to design the character moments for Shanghai, I was absolutely elated.  I hardly had time to appreciate the excitement, because as soon as I found out, I had to start working on it.  On the concept end, there were meetings, sketches, 3D mockups in ZBrush, focus group feedback, revisions, research, cleanups, final sketches, and then one day, it was done!  The designs were approved and sent off...including a nod to the immortal Bruce Lee in his trademark yellow jumpsuit.

The intervening days were quickly filled with other work as most days are.  There are rarely slow days at the office, so as soon as I sent the designs off, I was on to the next project, almost forgetting about all the work that had just been completed.

And then...a few months later...

The pictures of the completed store started coming in.

At this point, I'll stop writing and let you see how the whole thing came together.  I've included some concept art in various stages of refinement so you can get a feeling for how these things actually happen.  Sometimes, you're creating turnaround drawings, sometimes you're creating fully realized airbrush renderings.  Either way, I really hope you all enjoy seeing the process.  

It's a privilege to not only be a part of something big, but also to realize that these "big" things are made by teams of normal, and totally awesome people.

It truly is a privilege...

and, yes, it is also an honor.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 - Everybody's Workin' On the Weekend


I've been meaning to post about my experiences as a professional illustrator with the EXCELLENT Microsoft Surface Pro 2 for some time now.  Given that they've just introduced their new model, the Surface Pro 3, I figured my timing was just about perfect.

Although I plan to write more in the future, I wanted to highlight my "mobile office" setup using the Surface Pro 2.

The key point I want to highlight at the beginning of this is the concept of being "MOBILE".  There are always trade-offs when you include that term with anything, but in my experience with this setup in particular since January, I can say that framed in terms of being a MOBILE setup, the Surface Pro 2 (SP2) is an almost ideal setup for doing professional work on the go.

So much has been said about the Surface in its many iterations being a "laptop killer" or "iPad killer" or "desktop replacement".  I've done marketing, so I understand that positioning your product is important, but as you can see from the photo, I'm not exactly concerned with using the product as THEY INTEND, I want to be able to use it as I INTEND.  This is where the SP2 really shines - its customizability, flexibility, and portability.

If you're going to be working as a professional for 8 hours / day doing nothing but illustration, graphics, etc., then you're going to want a full size computer and the best full size graphics tablet your budget allows - be it Wacom Cintiq, Yiynova 22 HD, or the many other interesting options.  If you can only afford one setup and you have an office, that is where you want to spend your money.  Size matters tremendously with ergonomics and comfort.

If your budget allows, however, to have a second setup for travel or, as in my case, just so you can get out of your house for 1-4 hours at a time, then you want to find something that fits those priorities well. I think the SP2 is an EXCELLENT choice for that purpose in particular.

The SP2 is ALWAYS with me.

•Meetings - I take it to meetings so I can quickly sketch out ideas / take notes, save them to Dropbox and they're waiting for me when I return to my desk

•Church - I take it to church where I have the outstanding Glo Bible application where I can read / highlight / take notes just like my physical Bible





•Working From Home - When I have to take work home, I can sit on the couch with my wife rather than quarantining myself to my office all the time.  We can spend time together while she grades papers and we can watch the latest episode of "The Voice", "Covert Affairs", or even better - the NY Rangers hockey games.

•Figure Drawing Class - a few friends and I meet up once every week or so for a figure drawing club.  My SP2 combined with Manga Studio 5 is my mobile art studio.

•Reading - I subscribe to 2D artist and ImagineFX, so I keep the PDF copies of the magazine in the cloud so I can read them anytime I like

•Fun - Here you see I'm just sitting at the mall practicing my animal drawings.  (Just try to sit in a food court for any length of time without drawing caricatures of the people...nearly impossible).

•Finished Work - Here is the surprising part.  The display and color accuracy on the SP2 is so good and the performance is so powerful, that I've been able to routinely complete finished pieces on it over the weekend when necessary.  To be honest, I've found that I almost prefer the drawing experience on the SP2 over my Wacom 22HD at work because it forces me to draw a bit smaller and focus on the big shapes rather than all the tiny details.

MY SETUP:
1).  The Case - This is a small leather portfolio case that resembles the one that came with the ASUS EP121 Tablet PC.  I bought it specifically because it allows you to prop up the SP2 at an ideal sketching angle.  You can use it with or without the attached keyboard and it can also prop the unit upright as well.

*Best of all, it has a stylus holder, so you don't have to worry about losing it.






2).  AOC LED USB Monitor - You read that right...this monitor requires NO secondary power.  It just runs off of the USB 3.0 port on the SP2.  It's better than you'd expect and the colors are very very good.  I use this primarily for reference pictures or for menus as you can see from the picture.  But, again, when the priority is being MOBILE, this is an excellent choice.  It packs right up into its own neoprene carry bag and slips right into your backpack.  I have no problems carrying the SP2 along with this.

Does it affect battery life?  Sure.  But not nearly as much as you'd think.  Like I said, I'm able to work with this setup routinely away from a power outlet (often on high performance) for 3-4 hours before I need to find a plug.  That's REALLY not bad for running two monitors on the go.

*If you have questions about this part of the setup, Tweet me and I'll be happy to help. @bucktoothstudio

*The trick for setting this up properly is to actually disobey the installation instructions.  Just plug it in rather than installing the DisplayLink drivers first.  The DisplayLink drivers it automatically installs are actually BETTER than the ones from the support site.  Don't ask me why, but I talked with tech support about it and we both arrived at the same conclusion.  

Just plug it in when you get it and go.  It'll work better.





3).  Mouse - What's there to say?  I find it invaluable to have a mouse with me.  Not everybody needs one, but I despise trackpads and this little guy is actually EXCELLENT and very affordable.  Get one!





4).  Stylus - Here's where I probably differ from most.  I really like the Wacom Bamboo feel stylus, but I got so used to the stylus that came with my old ASUS Ep121 that I've kept it around.  I don't know if you can find it anymore, but for me, it's perfection.  It's like drawing with a lightweight Col-Erase pencil.  I don't like a heavy, beefy pen, I like pencils, so if you can find them, they're worth their weight in gold as far as I'm concerned.  The tip accuracy is actually the best of all that I've tested between the Wacom, SP2 pen, and even Modbook pens.

Here's the Wacom Bamboo Feel stylus which is still the most popular choice.





5).  Keyboard - I actually really like the SP2 type cover, but not for doing work.  When I'm working, I like to have the keyboard off to the left, so I can use my keyboard shortcuts.  For that, there's just nothing better than the standard Microsoft Bluetooth Keyboard.  The key difference for artists between this one and the type cover is that it has Ctrl buttons on both sides of the keyboard rather than just the left.  So, keyboard shortcuts are much easier and can be accomplished with one hand, like my setup at the office.





So, there you go!

Hope that was informative and hope this helps get another lonely artist out of their studio and at least into a Starbucks near their house for a few hours.  ;)




Friday, May 2, 2014

A Ray, A Packer, and 2 Really Nice Guys


No, neither one is named "Ray", but I did run into Carlos Peña (of the Tampa Bay Rays) and Nick Collins (of the Green Bay Packers) recently.  Really nice guys as most pro athletes I've met have been.  

I asked them if I could draw their caricature sometime and after showing them my drawing of Lebron James, they were more than willing to oblige.

Thanks, guys!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Locke On Stock With One Skating Mammal

You guys remember Trapper Keepers and those crazy airbrushed MEAD folders from the 90's? Got the awesome opportunity to buy an original from one of my heroes, Gary Locke, on ebay this week. My wife agreed that this is my Christmas, birthday, Christmas, birthday, and anniversary present for the next couple years. So excited!!! 

If you get a chance, check out Gary's blog at:
http://thegaryartgood.blogspot.com/

Amazing illustrator and committed Christian as well. If you don't follow his blog, you should!

Ok, fanboy moment over, I gotta go draw some M&M's! 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Who Was That Masked Man? My father in law, apparently.



Had an AMAZING opportunity to visit a real working MOVIE SET this past week!  So proud of Chris Whaley, my father in law, who's book "The Masked Saint" (available here) is being turned into a movie as we speak!

The cast, crew, and everyone involved treated us like family and we were genuinely sorry to leave...Tim Horton's.  I mean...we were sorry to leave our new friends in Canada.  I can't say enough good things about the great people we met.  Almost everything you'd imagine about "movie people" was pleasantly incorrect about this crew.  There were no prima donnas, no real drama, and to be honest, if it weren't for the headsets, you'd be hard pressed to tell who the "important" people were on set.  Everyone was diligent, focused, and refreshingly humble and gracious.  

I know you've probably heard actors on tv complain about their long days and you ask yourself, "Really?  How hard could it be?".  Well, I will tell you that after seeing this cast and crew up before sunrise every morning, on set, working 10-14 hours per day, I can say unequivocally that making a movie is genuinely hard work.  

The sheer amount of hands and feet required to set up a single shot was mind-boggling.  For a mere 15 seconds or so of film, virtually every hand was involved.  Once that shot was done and they wanted to shoot it from a different spot, every hand had to move once again.  It was an immense and spectacular sight to behold.

I could go on and on, and I hope to be able to talk more about it soon, but until then, I thought I'd share a few sketches I did of the cast and crew who were so nice to us.  In order, this is the director, Warren, the Assistant Director, Miguel, and Assistant Director, John.  (I hope I got those job titles correct).

These were done in the hotel / airport lobby with my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet in ArtFlow and Sketchbook Pro.  Still getting used to the tablet, but it was fun just the same.

Check out the website here and keep your eyes open for the movie!  Should be body-slamming into a theatre near you next fall!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What's Better Than Getting Thrown UNDER the Bus? Getting Thrown ONTO A Bus!

So cool!
A friend sent me this picture of the M&Ms World London guards I painted last year actually printed on the side of a bus IN LONDON!  (Thank heavens I painted this at 300 dpi).  Whew!

Monday, August 19, 2013

It's A Small Jpeg After All




    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    Adam and Eve-il

    Been doing some doodles recently with a pastor friend I really admire.  I don't usually relate well to  people in "ministry", because I've always felt like I had a bit of a twisted sense of humor that didn't fit well in the church setting.  

    After meeting my friend, Doug, and my wife's father, Chris, who is also a pastor, I've realized that there are pastors out there with even MORE twisted senses of humor than my own.  I can't imagine how you deal with the stresses and troubles of quite possibly THE MOST THANKLESS job in history without a great sense of humor.  

    That said, hopefully there's more to come, but this is one of the ideas we were batting around just for fun.  Hope you enjoy it!

    Monday, July 29, 2013

    Confirmed...I Stinking Love This Show


    Man, I love Mythbusters.
    I don't know if it's the fact that I'm getting a little older or what, but there just seems to be less and less on tv lately.  I find myself watching (if I watch anything at all) shows that are entertaining and at least a little bit informative.  Mythbusters, for me, has been my go-to entertainment for years and since they added the majority of their seasons on Amazon Prime, I've been kind of on a Mythbusters bender lately.  

    Anyway, I got asked earlier in the spring to do caricatures at a few local jazz and art festivals, so I did this as a demo to hang in my booth.  I cheated and sketched it out a little first, so it's not a true "theme-park" sketch where you just go at it with a marker, but that's ok.

    Maybe I'll do the Pawn Stars or American Pickers guys next, I bet they'd be a LOT of fun to draw. :)

    Of course I'll draw your family...if you leave

    Family portraits / caricatures are one of the most fun things I get to do for my friends from time to time.  They're always so appreciative and gracious.  The only bad thing is that I find that they are often occasioned by the family's departure from our lives. 

    Such is the case with my buddies from church, the Livings family.  George is probably one of the most creative writers I've ever known and he's been on staff in our music department for several years now.  I credit him with re-igniting a passion in me to bring artistic excellence to the church in any area I can.  To credit his immense creative contributions to mere talent would be to diminish the sheer amount of hard work he puts in to writing, composing, and directing the multiple musical performances at our church each year (along with the other extremely creative and talented members of our staff as well, of course). 

    His wife as well has shown that yes, Baptists CAN DANCE IN CHURCH...and dance well at that!  We'll miss them greatly at First Orlando, but it's my hope that God blesses their efforts at their new home church in Staten Island, NY.

    Best of luck, guys!

    Friday, July 26, 2013

    I Don't Always Draw Miniature Golf Stuff...


    But when I do, I prefer to draw for my buddies from Congo River Golf here in Orlando. They're great guys who happen to go to my church and gave me a shout to do some doodles for their scorekeeping app.  Here's a few of them, hope you like them!

    Monday, July 8, 2013

    Founding Fatherhood

    Happy belated fourth of July, everyone!


    I have not posted in a VERY long time which may seem totally lame (and it is), but I assure you that it's been because I've been very busy with some VERY cool projects at work.  Been traveling, teaching at church a bit, and just enjoying time with my wife as much as possible.  (Been getting noticeably more mushy and sentimental in my old age).



    Nonetheless, here's a belated little doodle I rushed out on my lunch break on July 4th.

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013

    A Little Mouse Told Me...


    A little technique demo I tried in Art Rage.  I'm trying to replicate some of the magic of the CF Payne technique digitally and I'm including this process gif to show how it transpired.  There's a lot I still need to work on, but for a quick evening's worth of doodling, I was happy with what I've learned so far.

    Enjoy, everyone, and God bless!

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    Our Greatest Asset

    A little doodle I did at lunch today while still processing the events in CT. Odd that we would never trust our money in a building without armed security, cameras, and secure locks, yet we would send our children daily into buildings with none of those things without a moment's hesitation. We are told constantly that children are our most valuable asset, but it seems to me that that which is truly most valuable is evident by the lengths to which you'll go to protect it.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    I Wasn't Lost, But Evidently I Was Found

    Quite an honor!  I was contacted by one of the writers at Salon.com asking if they could feature my Paul Ryan caricature from several months ago on their site.  They were super friendly and although I'm quite sure we come from different ends of the political spectrum, they were really nice to me and I am really excited about the opportunity.  

    Thanks to the folks at Salon!  
    God bless,

    -Bret <><

    Friday, June 22, 2012

    Go local sports team, GO!

    Not jumping on the bandwagon by any means, but it's nice to see a Florida team do well this year after a couple disappointing post-seasons from the Lightning and Rays.  Plus, LeBron's face was REALLY fun to draw :)

    God bless!

    Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    The Eyes Have It

    Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi...is staring through my skull.  I never had an irrational fear of clowns before, but I think I have a perfectly rational fear of them now.  That's a LOT of makeup, friends.

    Ok, in all seriousness, this was actually pretty fun.  Older folks are always fun to draw and for some reason, old politicians are even more fun.  I think it's because you can't separate their personalities from their looks.  Being in the public EYE...yikes, I did it again...stop staring...anyway, being in the public VIEW, I imagine that the more extreme the personality, the more it manifests itself outwardly in their appearance.  

    In complete fairness, Ms. Pelosi is not an unattractive person.  But, as my Mom always said "beauty is as beauty does".  And if what you do defines your beauty, then I think I'm justified in saying that Ms. Pelosi has looks that could kill.  

    Now stop staring at me...

    Monday, April 30, 2012

    It's Still April!

    Whew...just squeaking this one under the wire today.  Trying very hard not to neglect those of you that follow, peruse, or otherwise enjoy the blog. 

    Well, it looks like I'll get at least one post in before April ends, so I thought I'd post some weekend doodles from a caricature class featuring Jason Seiller (yes, THE Jason Seiller).  Working through the material slowly, but steadily.  Week one has you draw a handful of sketches of "citizens" (non-celebrities) and this is the first of three for me.  Technically his sketches use a lot off cross-hatching and look more like pencil drawings, but honestly, I'm so used to working this way that it's just become more comfortable for me to do sketches in Photoshop with a more "rendered" look.  It's just easier for me to fill in the big areas with a bigger brush than to hatch them out, though if you look closely, there's still a good bit of hatching, even when using this modified "painting" technique.  

    Hope you guys enjoy!  May-be (get it...May) we'll have more work to post next month, but things are pretty busy at work, so I can't guarantee anything.  It's good to be busy though, so I can't complain!

    God bless, everyone!

    -Bret <><

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    The Gold Standard


    What's there to say about President Reagan?  I was far too young during his administration to have remembered much, but I have learned a great deal about the man's character, strength, and leadership in the years since.  

    One of the things I think I admire most was his ability to write and speak so convincingly about his convictions.  He was winsome and warm, yet principled and steady.  So many of our current politicians may convey one of those qualities, some perhaps two.  But no one since has embodied the qualities of Reagan in total, making him one of the rarest of historical figures - a man admired from both sides.

    Here's to the gold standard of leadership...a humble attempt at capturing that charming smile in a fun, cartoony style.  

    Enjoy, everyone, and God bless!

    Friday, February 24, 2012

    Grant Goalie-Land

    Man, I love original artwork.
    Man, I love looking at me.

    Man, I love original artwork of me that I can look at.

    My good ol' buddy from art school Grant Gilliland drew this cartoon-tastic drawing of yours truly as part of his "20 Dollar Drawings" offering on his website (linked above).  I've always wanted one of his originals and now I have one!  Thanks, Grant!  

    Check out his site and for heaven's sake, BUY A DRAWING!  It's only $20!

    Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Head and Shoulders, Nose and Gums

    And in glorious RGB color...the final (ish) sketch of my new self portrait.  It's not perfect, but I really like where this is going.  Jon Pinto encouraged me to try using my black and white sketch underneath the color version and glaze on top like the old masters did.  Adapting any traditional technique to digital is always a bit of a challenge, but I am so incredibly pleased with some of the interesting marks and the process of pushing and pulling the color back and forth that I really think this is a technique that bears further exploration. 

    I especially love all the sketchy and wandering discovery lines throughout the piece.  It's as if once you go into digital painting, particularly when you begin doing character airbrushing, you lose all of the discipline and excitement of "mark-making".  Drew Struzan is my hero in this regard.  His final pieces, as refined as they are, make excellent use of his skills as a draftsman.  Even as he layers airbrushed color, acrylic paint, and colored pencil, you never fully lose the gorgeous pencil marks that make up his underpainting.  

    Let's see where this goes!  Hope you enjoy the ride too!
    Thanks for reading, God bless!

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    Not Dispicable, But It Is Me...

    Here's a quick black and white sketch / study for a self-portrait caricature.  Color version coming soon!

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Say Broccoli!

    This one was actually a lot of fun to draw.  Mrs. O has got one of the most unique facial structures I've drawn in a long time.  It was a challenge and a pleasure to draw.  Toughest part to capture?  That expression that looks like she just smelled a poot and is trying not to laugh.  And don't even act like you don't know what I'm talking about.  

    The Mac Daddy

    Thought I'd take a break from politics today and do a quick doodle of Mr. J.  He's an interesting guy with an interesting story.  I'm sure they'll make a "Social Network" style movie about him some day.  

    After his death, it was disappointing for some who were so aware of his commercial success to find out about his personal shortcomings.  It's a reminder that not all great men are good and that not all good men are great.  A question of priorities faces us all as men regarding how we will spend our short time on earth and how we will at the end define our greatness.  

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    One of those days...

    This was a lot of fun!  I've been trying very hard to get my speed up lately and wanted to see just how fast I could do a simple character illustration from a blank page to final.  So, I sat down this evening and finished this 2 hours later.  It's certainly not perfect, but it was a huge confidence builder to be able to start and finish something under such a crunch.  

    Hope you all enjoy it! 

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    MLK Day

    I didn't have today off, but I did take a few minutes over lunch to do a quick sketch of Dr. King.  It was an interesting challenge to start drawing a more diverse range of faces.

    As I've been working though my class on schoolism.com on ZBrush, I've learned an incredible amount about the face and its structure.  Michael Defeo, the instructor, has been outstanding so far.  Just in the first week, I've learned so much about the face that this sketch took shape at least 50% faster than it would have prior to the class.  Wow.  It's nice to have a little "growth spurt" every once in a while.

    Hope you all enjoy the drawing!
    Until next time, God bless!

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Not to Trump My Own Horn...

    Donald in his ubiquitous "you're fired" expression.  My first real attempt at a new Photoshop painting technique.  Trying to figure out how long these would take on a more regular basis.  This one went MUCH faster than I anticipated - just over 4.5 hours total.  I imagine part of that is because of how distinctive his face is and partly because I had really good reference.  It really does make all the difference!

    Enjoy and God bless!

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed

    Michele Bachman has some of the most piercing, intense eyes I've ever seen.  Hope I captured them in this piece as I work my way through the Republican candidates.  Have a happy week everyone!  God bless!

    Tuesday, November 29, 2011

    Retirement

    This is part of what I hope to be a recurring theme on the blog...a "SKETCH OFF" between some buddies to stay inspired.  Back in a previous life, we were members of a site called "Drawergeeks".  The premise was to have a topic every two weeks at the end of which would feature a gallery of sketches and doodles from some really talented folks who'd been invited to participate.  Life, as is its way, took many of us in different directions, and the site eventually retired.  But I loved the idea of a broad topic with a tight time constraint.  

    So, today's topic was "retirement".  We had to start and finish the sketch over our lunch break and have it posted before 1:30.  As my lunch break is now over, I present to you all my doodle.

    God bless!
    By the way...check out my friend, Nelson Gonzalez' piece here.