Mariah's Story

This illustration ran with a story that was published on February 11th in the East Bay Times/Mercury News newspaper and website. Longtime colleagues Matthias Gafni and David DeBolt reported on this one, and they did a terrific job. You can read it online right here.

Open in a new window for a much larger image.

I worry when I'm tasked with creating illustrations for stories that are controversial or sad – it's too easy to offend; it's too easy to hit a bad note. I fear I might hurt the feelings of those who the story will impact if the people involved are victims of misfortune or tragedy, but there was no way out this time. The direction was suggested by the editors and after a teary reading of the first draft, the drawing began to take shape.

I found a picture of my daughter taken a couple of years ago when she was Mariah's age – there are so many of her on my phone – and used her body for reference. I drew a likeness of Mariah from the photos included with the story and merged it with the figure drawing. It was a sad process. I didn't like doing it at all.

The first pass of the drawing was initially in sepia and a bit of pink but, as you might imagine, it seemed awfully brown. I tried to find a way to bring in more color without softening the mood, and above is the final result. I'm glad it came out as rough and "unfinished" as it did and I'm pretty comfortable with its attitude. I'm happy with how it turned out, but looking at it does not make me happy.

I wasn't sure I was going to post this; it has been waiting in draft mode since, well, since a few days before publication. I didn't want to take the time to write about it. There's been too much bad news about little kids lately, but here it is. It's not comfortable but in light of the events of this week – more kids lost to gunfire in school – I thought I should show a little courage, a little courage for the kids that have been failed.

The end.

Messing Around With Moho

Here is a short animation I put together recently. I've been working on the character and the background during quiet moments; finally put them together and made them move and wiggle with Moho Pro 12 (formerly Anime Studio.)

I can't describe the joy I felt when – after days of frustration and study – I got the rigging and switch layers to work. Not an exciting animation I guess, but hey! Progress!

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This is not a commercial, but:

Years ago I bought Anime Studio, eager to try animating on a computer. The learning curve was steep. I had no digital animation experience and no friends with a shared interest. That left me sitting alone, reading the pdf instruction booklets and trying to mimic written tutorials. YouTube had very few instructional videos at the time, and those I found weren't much help.

I managed to fight my way through the fog and put together a modest project or two – each one running about ten seconds – but there was a lot of trial and error. It was fun in the way that learning new things is always fun, but I burned way too much time trying to do more advanced things without being able to do the basic things consistently.

Recently I ran across the Udemy site, and they had a sale on Moho courses: "The complete rigging course – Moho & Anime Studio" by McCoy Buck, and "Anime Studio Pro 11 – A practical training course," credited to Simply edukator.*

They really did the trick for me.

I know, I know... there are dozens of tutorials on YouTube now, and most of the information is out there, but the structured courses nail the tips in place. When I (frequently) forgot how to flexi-bind or bind a switch-layer folder to a bone, it was easy to find my way back to the video that shows you how, and the videos are about 5 minutes a piece so it's not difficult to scrub through and find the relevant info. That's just one example; I was frequently baffled and forgetful, and I never had to thrash about blindly hoping to find the solution to what was vexing me.

And the courses cover a lot of topics you won't even know about if you're like me and your attention wanders while you read through the SmithMicro Moho 12 Tutorial manual. That is one tough manual for a newb.

McCoy Buck has put some chapters from his course on his YouTube channel so you can check out his teaching style there; the Udemy site also has some samples. Again, highly recommended!

*At the time I'm publishing this post, I don't know the name of the person teaching the "Anime Studio 11 Practical Training Course," but when I find out, I'll edit his name in here and provide links if he has something to link to.

There's a whopping ten hours of video on that course, and I haven't gotten through half of it yet, but it was a huge help. Skimming over it again, I see a lot of things that I will be referencing in the future.

The End For Now

Another Silly Animation

Short post:
Made a silly little animation using MOHO 12 for a story that ran on the Mercury News website by longtime colleague Jessica Yadegaran. It was fun to cartoon it and lots of fun to make it move around a bit.

Drawn in Clip Studio Paint and Photoshop.