Very Ancient Things

November 7, 2011 - posted in sundries

A weekend of very ancient things: fire, earthquake, time, clay, charcoal, and raw wood.
Today: blood, tears, and primitive screams.

Now it’s time for candy.

Olden Days

November 5, 2011 - posted in sundries

Tonight we’ll sit around the fire and listen to stories like in the olden days.
If the stories aren’t good, we’ll club and eat the person telling the stories like in the olden days.

Yesterday: Migraine?

November 3, 2011 - posted in sundries

Yesterday I had the worst headache ever known to man.

There was a brief dimming of the light, and then it was the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where they opened the crate and the air was filled with shrieking demons and lightning, and the Angel of Death was melting my face. There was thunder and fog and locusts, and time and space cracked open and Elmer Fudd was singing Wagner operas. I opened my mouth to scream but there was no sound; shut my eyes to pray but there was no god. The devil laughed and women and children cried. Birds scattered into the sky! Fish washed up dead on the beaches! I saw fountains of molten earth and plumes of ash and human sacrifice, and all at once it was raining frogs and blood and fire and I heard a voice say “Zuul!”

Afterward, there was a rainbow-– God’s promise to humanity that this kind of thing would never have to happen again. But after this, I don’t know if I can trust that guy.

I didn’t used to get migraines, but lately I think I’ve had a few.

(some of you will notice I used roughly the same words on facebook the other day talking about diarrhea. I have no qualms about stealing from myself with regard to describing bodily afflictions. Next week I’ll use it to describe a sneeze or an orgasm.)

We The Robots Design

October 31, 2011 - posted in work in progress

This should have gone on the We The Robots site while the strip was still running but I didn’t have the time then. I always meant to post some of the work that went into the design. I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out and used to get a lot of questions about it. The look of the strip also ended up completely changing the design of the Work In Progress. So here’s some stuff about all that…

It needed to be quick and easy to draw in the spare moments between babies waking up in the middle of the night. Originally I planned to just post doodles in a notebook with no digital clean-up. But later it seemed to want to be a little more finished.


The look for the characters and backgrounds evolved from the short I was working on, and from Robot Family— a show I was trying to develop with my friends Chad Strawderman and Jeff Barfoot back in 2000. (God help them, I’d hate to have to work with me on a show)

Since we were trying to make a tv thing, our intention was to design characters simple enough that any human on the planet could animate them.

I also started to like the idea of having characters that were pared down so much that they became little more than a gesture or an expression. Characters that lack a complicated anatomy can be easier for an audience to project themselves into–  like you’re inside the character, as opposed to watching him from a distance. (Scott McCloud has written some good stuff about these ideas).

This kind of style suited the strip since it wasn’t driven by some unique character, but was really just me talking to myself and projecting it  onto a robot landscape. It seemed the simpler I could make the designs, the stronger they would be.

In retrospect, there must also have been a subconscious influence from Ed Emberley. When I was a kid, I loved the way he could just stamp a dab of color onto a page and bring it to life with some simple black lines. Brilliant.


If you figure out a color palette ahead of time it can save a lot of work. I was stuck until one night, reading to my daughter, I noticed the super-limited color in some of  her books. They seemed to be printed using black, blue, red, and yellow. Orange, green, purple, and lighter primary shades seemed to be achieved by overlapping shaded coquille or halftone screens. (something simpler and less predictable than process colors) Sometimes the colors were slightly off-register, especially in older printings. I scanned a few pages from “Go, Dog, Go” and took a sampling.

We The Robots would need a bit more range, so I mixed some of the inks to get a wider palette. (I also added some browns). In all the strips, I think I only strayed from this palette one or two times.


Once I had derived a palette from a mid-century printing process I wrestled with the idea of making the whole thing look like a low-fi print, even though it was entirely digital.

At first it seemed like an inauthentic approach. I’m not much into digital simulations of age, or of other media. (I can’t quite get into the Instamatic app, for example)…

In the end I decided that everything about this comic was a wholesale illusion anyway. Maybe for nostalgic reasons, it seemed like it would feel warmer with some texture and color imperfections. And I could at least figure out my own organic, hand-made way of doing things. (to the right are the earliest experiments I did using ink stamped onto paper with a rubber eraser) But I still feel uneasy about the whole impulse.

The final process was to draw and color the strip entirely in Photoshop, then slightly off-set the CMYK color channels for everything but the lettering. Then I would overlay a scanned paper texture onto the entire thing.

So in the end, the entire design was nothing but a cruel digital lie. But because the characters were so simple and potentially robotic, I think they benefited from the treatment.

I used to get a lot of questions about how the strip was drawn– whether it was digital, cut paper, or whatever. A few people commented on how much emotion the strip could contain, even though they thought the artwork was terrible.

Whatever people thought of it, the look was always very deliberate. I think it was fairly distinct but also reasonably quick to draw, which was handy since the writing part was really, really hard. You can read the finished comics here.


Redirecting We The Robots Site

October 30, 2011 - posted in news

I think I’ll be redirecting over here tonight. All the strips I could stomach are archived here, so anyone interested can still read them for all eternity. (I cut a few of the very worst strips and corrected a couple, but otherwise the whole mess is intact.)

To all those people who were fans, thank you so much for supporting that site. I’ve never had such an inspiring reaction to anything I’ve done. I hope a few of you will come along and dig the animated thing the comic was derived from… I’ll be working on it here for a while.

It is Legal and Advisable to Steal Pictures from the Children

October 27, 2011 - posted in work in progress

I was a fool! All that time making pictures of branches, when I could have been stealing from the children. Their little tiny brains seem to naturally produce fractals. (Well, chaos anyway)


October 26, 2011 - posted in work in progress

Trying to make some branches a while back…
Experimented with: inverted lightning, various gnarled objects
Settled on: ink blown across velum with straw. (Amy’s idea)

I need to get some color up in this log. Lately it looks like chromophobia.


October 24, 2011 - posted in news


In case anyone wonders, here’s what’s been shakin’ at the Animation Concern since the last post, three years ago!

I took some time off from animating to work on a comic strip for a year or two, and briefly attempted some children’s book ideas. We had our third daughter around that time and I started a new, very strange job that kind of knocked the wind out of my sails for a couple years. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a job that you weren’t cut out for, but sometimes you can get yourself into a pickle and it takes a while to get back to where you belong.


Margot just turned 2 and is as beautiful as her sisters, and I  just got back to my normal day job. I’ve finished rebuilding the site and hope to get some amount of animation done over the coming year. I’m feeling humble about how much work has been left undone and excited about what’s to come.


Website: Check!

October 24, 2011 - posted in news

Holy crap!

At last, I have a website again!

It’s made of xerox and tape and impatience!

Also, I’ll be trying to Facebook and Twit once in a while, so keep yourself informed about that.

Now that the site is finally running, I’ll have to resort to animating something I guess.

If anyone out there is still following this, I thank you greatly for your patience.

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