Saturday, December 28, 2013

Crack PaRody!

Some smartass has made an "enhanced" version.  Don't tell me you weren't laughing by the 19 second mark.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Come visit the Cracks...!

Anyone familiar with my older posts know the story well:
In the mid 1970s an odd Sesame Street cartoon appeared.   It involved a girl and cracks on her wall that morphed into animals.  I remember being intrigued.  That would be cool if I wall cracks could turn into things and play with you!
Then came the climax : a jagged  crack face shows up,  growls, and falls apart in chunks!
It frightened me so badly that I ran from the  room when it came on. I feared the "Crack Monster" for years.  I was sure he'd appear on my wall at night.  Even normal cracks made me nervous.  
I figured it was one of those "silly things that scared me as a kid."  Yet when I blogged about it I got tons of feedback from fellow GenX kids who had the same reaction:

Some comments I've collected about it over the years:

"...not nearly as scary as the cartoon with the talking crack in the wall. That still haunts me." -Ann Arbor, Michigan

I am amazed to know there are so many other people that were scared by this. I thought I might be the only one...  .... Scared the crap out of me as a child. "

 "... that **** cartoon with the crack in the wall that came to life (btw, i *REALLY* want to see that so if anyone has it, please let me know!)"-Illinois

"- I have NEVER forgotten is the 'crack' video... ...I remember both anticipating and dreading the possibility of watching it every time SS came on. if anybody [finds it], POST POST POST!!!"

"Good God, I have periodically searched for "crack, camel, master crack" for years .... ...This has to exist somewhere. God, I can't imagine how normal I might have been if I hadn't been exposed to [it] as a 3 year old?"
"This is so strange. I thought I was alone in how this one little cartoon freaked me out and has stayed with me ever since... ...Anyway, if anyone does find it, please please share with the rest of us so we can finally close this chapter"

" I was Googling around and found your reference to the Sesame Street "crack" cartoon, and I was wondering if you have ever found it? I am SO very relieved to see that it either really existed, or we all have some kind of mass psychosis! Seriously, I have been looking for this clip forever, because it scared me so much as a kid and I need closure! :)"
"...a child looking up at the cracks in the ceiling and spotting various animals. Suddenly... a horrible face appears in the wall and says something like 'I am Crack Master!' - But just then the wall plaster crumbled to the floor... 'He'd destroyed himself, being mean.' Yeeergh, that still gives me the shivers."

"Oh my God! My brother and I have been trying to find a clip of the Cracks forever! I remember it as "the cracks overhead" It scared the crap out of us. I would LOVE to find it somewhere."
"When I was a kid, there was an animated skit that used to have me screaming and running from the TV... ... It was about this girl sitting in her room on a rainy day. She has a whole bunch of cracks on the walls in her room (I guess she had plaster walls). As she's sitting there, her imagination starts to go wild, and she sees the cracks form into different shapes, mostly animal shapes, and they start to come to life. There's a camel, and a monkey...
...and behind it is a horrible looking splinter crack monster in the plaster with a really scary face! ...It claims that it is the crack master... ...I remember when the skit started, I was like "Oh no!" And started to scream and then when the face appeared I became hysterical! I had horrible re-occurring nightmares based on it for the entire time it was on the show. I've been trying to find it ..."

As famous Sesame Street shorts began to appear on YouTube, we anticipated seeing our nemesis again.  Yet it never showed.  
Then things got weird.  Jon, an internet acquaintance claimed to have a copy.  He'd gotten it from an mysterious source that allegedly made him sign paperwork that he wouldn't put it online or duplicate it.
A few months later, I met up Jon, half expecting to be pranked.  He did have a copy,  I watched it again for the first time in almost 40 years.
But mysteries remained.  Why was it kept under wraps?  Why did Jon get singled out as a the person who got a copy?  More importantly, who made it?  Who were the artists and musicians behind it?  Why has nobody come forward, especially now that it has a cult status?  

Then, on December 24th, I got a note: it was on YouTube.  An anonymous email to The Lost Media Wiki contained the clip.   I believe it's from a different source than Jon's source- as the latter seemed to be pulled from a Sesame Street episode (A few seconds of Ernie preceded it) and the former started with a title card.  Crack Master has been freed!

Note: One thing I just noticed- I'd always interpreted the character to have black pupils (as if he's looking away from the others).  As he ratchets up his scariness, they grow into spooky socket-like holes.  However, on closer inspection- I think he was supposed to be interpreted as having dark eyes with white pupils.  This makes more sense (why would he be looking the other way) and makes him look less grotesque.  At least he's making eye contact and not staring away, zombie style.
When you look at him, which way do you read his eyes?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Storybook Practice Drawings

My assignment was to draw/sketch five different characters.  I'm not really proud of any of  these, but I had a choice.  Draw what came to mind or sit around waiting for something brilliant (a.k.a. not drawing at all).   Perhaps a detail from one of these will push me in the direction to something better.
Bee Alligator:
What's good:  I like the flowers.
What's bad:  I don't like anything else.
Butterfly with Mangled Wings:
What's good:  I like his expression.
What's bad:  Too depressing for a children's book.
Cat and Dog:
What's good:  I like their personalities- you can tell they're up to something.
What's bad:  Cat and dog?  Like that hasn't been done a zillion times before...  Also I don't like how the background is washed out.  I would have made it more colorful, but feared it would be distracting.  I wish there was a book called "How to make engaging cartoon backgrounds that don't 'fight' with what's in the foreground."
Dragon in Dungeon Nailed to the Wall.
What's good:  I like the frowny face window.  Also the character seems sympathetic.
What's bad:  Too warped and depressing for a children's book.
Weasel and Basilisk
What's good:  I "painted" them with a texture of a pear my friend posted on facebook.  I think it makes the sketch more interesting.
What's bad:  Background is too sparse!  I wanted to add more detail, but didn't know how to do so without  interfering with the foreground.  I also should have left out upper joint on Basilisk leg.  And why doesn't he have eyebrows?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Scary Branches

Practicing putting my characters in actual settings.  Also trying to be more dynamic with lights and darks.
This doesn't completely work for me but I can't figure out why.
Here's a rough reworking of the picture.   It seems more alive.  Hoping my coloring, inking and shading won't drain the aliveness.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Jello Heart

In 1999 I started my VFX career working the graveyard shift at Centropolis FX.  I was one of three overnighters, but the daytime people hung around into the evening.   They were busy, but found time to play around.  A football-sized wad of Silly Putty could be bouncing nearby.  Someone in a Boba Fett mask might be tugging at it and yelling that it was "stuck."   Furbys babbled over the intercom.  An alarm clock that made chicken noises squawked loudly at 3:30 am from a locked room.
Then there was the pop-up prank.
Someone would remotely log into your machine and  run a command that caused an image to pop up, repeatedly, on your screen.   Usually it was something gruesome- as in is That's not marinara sauce and ravioli!  It's blood and-  -HOLY MOTHER OF GAWD!!!
One weekend I had a little fun.  Some revenge.
 I'd found a Jello mold shaped like an anatomical heart.  It came with instructions on how to make a remarkably realistic desert.  You prepared peach gelatin with condensed milk, let it set, hollowed out the "aorta" and painted the "veins" with food dye.  The result smelled fruity but looked liked it'd been snatched from the coroner.   Small patches of unmixed milk clung to the surface like fat globs.  I put it on a tray and dumped strawberry syrup "blood" around it.
That Sunday, I snuck  into work and put it in the fridge.  I figured people would think a Jello heart was funny.  Then they'd eat it.  Right?
I reported to work Monday night.
Not long after, my boss stuck his head into the office.  "That thing you guys left in the fridge..." he laughed.  "You guys are sick f_cks!"
I came forward as the sick f_ck behind the prank.  "Did you like it?" I asked.  "Did you have any?"
He looked at me funny.
Later that night I learned they thought it was real- that I'd gone to a butcher and stuck a bloody beef heart into the fridge, next to the leftover bagels and black bananas.   It was immediately thrown out (they made the new guy do it.)  Nobody seemed to believe it was "only" Jello.  Didn't they notice it smelled like peaches?  Or were they so horrified that they didn't get close enough to inspect it?
 I'm not sure what's more disturbing- their lack of faith in my artistic ability (I did make fake stuff look real for a living, right?), or their assumption that I'd bring a actual heart to work and stick it in the fridge...
Sure, I'm weird, but not that weird.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

More Slug and Goose Evolution

Here's an earlier version of a page spread from my wannabe picture book.  The text is removed, but you can guess they aren't getting along...
 I thought my blue goose creature was a hoot.   Everyone else said "That's a goose?  He looks like Woody Woodpecker."
Then came a more goosey goose.  And slime.  (Left it rough and uncolored because I learned you're expected to submit it that way*)
It's an improvement.  Still, when I showed it to an art director, she pointed out that my art could be more dynamic: too many pages were using the same staging.  And shouldn't there be some kind of background?
Here's a new version (the blank space at the bottom is where the words go.)   Each character is trying to trick the other, so I played that up.  Or tried too.  I'll probably rework this page- and the others- a lot more before I dare submit this anywhere.

*Technically, you submit a mock-up version of your book with rough art, plus a few separate samples of how the art would look when complete.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Uh Oh....

Practicing the "drawings that include the background" concept.
Originally the sky was much redder, but it was distracting.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Caricature Attempt: Myself

This took forever.  I think drawing yourself is tricky because your brain knows damn well what you look like, and will detect anything that's off.  The hair drove me crazy too!
And here's a  revised version.   Resemblance is a bit better, but now it's losing some of the cartoony expression.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Slug Evolution.

Here's the original drawing I made for a spread in my (wanna be picture) book.  
At full size, it looks flat.
  I scrapped the lines and added some stylized shading and texture:
 Then I added slime:
The image  was one  I showed in my portfolio review.* The person doing the critique noticed  that the yellow slug had a  similar color value as the background grass.
Desaturate the image, and he's stealth slug!
 I played with the values, double checking the corrections in black and white:
 Here's how it looks now.  More changes to come, I'm sure.

*At the SCBWI 2013 Summer Conference.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Now What?

I'd been busy.  Working nights, working weekends.  My show was supposed to end in early March and then I'd get a break.    I could skydive again!
That's not what happened.  The show extended into March.  Then April.  Our studio had new owners.  We weren't closing down!   Did this mean my job wasn't in jeopardy?
I got the boot.  
My department got the boot. 
 Pretty much everyone I knew got the boot.  We weren't doing anything wrong.   There wasn't any new work (I think the bankruptcy spooked potential bidders).  What would be the point of keeping everyone until that changed?  And wasn't it cheaper to have this thing done overseas anyway?
To make things worse, it wasn't like I could just get a job at another studio down the street.  Most local studios had closed or moved their workloads overseas (tax incentive deals).  
I'd sensed my career (which in turn supported my skydiving ) might be in danger, but this finality hit me like a brick.  That job you loved?  The one you worked so hard at to be good at?  It's gone.  At least you'll have skydiv-  oh wait.  Without a steady income or insurance you're not doing that either.
In the opera "Madama Butterfly," there's a scene near the end where the heroine expects to be reunited with her husband (whom she knows is in town).  In one moment she learns that he has a new wife and  he's only swinging by pick up her child so he and his new wife can raise it.  She says "They want to take everything!"
That part of the show kept playing in my head.  They want to take everything*.

 When I was a kid, parents and teachers taught me that if I were good, and if I really, really tried (and didn't just coast,) that I'd be successful.  Maybe not rich, but okay.  Down and out people were lazy or had screwed up, I was told.  That scared me!  What if I screwed up?    I tried really hard to be a good kid.

 In my teens I read something about Walt Disney (whom I admired.)   A departure from the "believe in your dreams" fluff that often followed his name:
"He learned to work and work hard."
I never forget that.  "Learn to work and work hard."  It wasn't just wishes and imagination.  "Work and work hard" was a key to success.
 After a decade of "working and working hard**," I'd developed a lot of skills.  I could paint, rotoscope, composite, retime, pull green screens, troubleshoot...
...but these weren't skills that transferred to other fields.  Skill-wise I was a freak.  And the freak show was gone.  Now what?
And, what I could do was done on special software.  Only my workplace used it.  It was like I spent the last ten years of my life learning how to master a weird musical instrument...
 ...only to discover every one of them had exploded  Did I know how to play something else?  A piano? A violin?   I certainly could learn, but I'd still be competing with people who had been playing "standard" instruments for years... (who most likely lived and worked outside of the United States.)
I had screwed up.
 My Inner Critic wasn't impressed.  Other people had to start over from scratch.  Did I think I was special?  Who did I think I was, anyway? Boo hoo hoo.
 Maybe a career change was in order, but what?  I had no talent in the promising "STEM" fields (science, tech, engineering, math.) I'm too squeamish to be a nurse.  I disliked teaching for multiple reasons (and wasn't very good at it).  Should I try my hand at being a professional illustrator?  No, that was silly.  But my main career was dipping into "silly" territory too.  So many of my colleges (including those who were in the industry longer and were more talented than me) can't find steady work.  There has to be something else I'd be good at.  I wonder what it is?  And how will I discover it?

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Ground Duck

 I returned to work about five weeks after breaking my arm and leg.  I was bummed about being grounded for so long, but work kept me busy.  I probably wouldn't have gotten much jumps in anyway.

This was my plan
Work all week, visit the DZ on weekends, learn to pack, etc..  

My work project was supposed to end in March, about the same time I'd be cleared for jumping.  I figured I'd take some time off before starting the next project. Catch up on all the jumps I missed.  Maybe even spring for some coaching.  In the meantime, I'd visit the DZ every weekend and learn to pack.  (Sure, I'd taken the obligatory packing course, but I'm not convinced I can pack properly)
Here's what really happened.
The project kept me way more busy than I expected.   Evenings?  Still at work.  Weekends?  Guess where I was.  Oh well, I thought, I'll take a little break when I'm done.

Then came mid February.   My work filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.  We were for sale.  Whomever bought us had no obligation- an possibly no reason to keep us.

Well, I could still jump, right?  My inner critic was skeptical.

He had a point.  I couldn't regularly throw myself out of a plane with no income and no insurance.  Time to look for a new job.  There was just one catch- what I did for a living (VFX work*) is being phased out in the United States.  It's cheaper to have overseas artists do it.  Why should I get paid to do something if someone else can do it for a better price?  Time to switch careers.
But what could I do?  What was I good at other than my job?  Drawing pictures?  Storytelling?  Cracking jokes?   These aren't exactly marketable skills.  The inner critic chimed in again.
So I may be on the ground a bit longer than I expected.  But I'm not selling my gear.  I'm not sure what kind of job I could do, but job = jumps, and that's motivation.
Or should I jump anyway in the meantime?  Most of my non-skydiving  friends thought staying on the ground until I got the "job problem" was the right thing to do.   Some of my skydiving friends had other ideas...
*I was on the (large) team that brought home these, for example...