August & September Recap & Some Thoughts on Improvement


September is coming to a close and I definitely feel like I'm racing towards the finish line for my thesis (count down to 90 seconds of full color animation has begun!) September feels like its been a pretty productive and successful month, but I am definitely feeling the rush and panic of being in the semester again.  Even though summer has almost the exact same schedule as fall (animation every weeknight and then marathon work sessions Wednesday and Saturday) the summer still feels more relaxed.  This week low motivation and burn out were definitely on my mind enough tough I feel like I've only bee working for three weeks (but really its been an intense schedule since I got back from my Pittsburgh trip.

Here are some highlights from August and September


  • Weekends Short Film warped (I helped out in coloring the animation and some very simple compositing for this film back in July--it was an awesome experience! & I am also credited on the website...and the film too!)
  • Completed tie-down of 3 scenes (minus a few edits I'm still working on)--Including a HORSE!
  • Read "Steal Like an Artist"  which was an awesome confidence boost about sharing art  work and helped me start thinking about how to be more professional about my work


  • Completed tie down on horse run cycle & made major improvements
  • Progress on two backgrounds
  • Re-analyzed my shots & strategized about what's best to finish before reviewing this semester
  • Made schedule for when the review/presentation materials will be completed this semester
  • Found time management schedule that *mostly* works for me
  • Listened to two awesome podcasts about young women creating their own careers & navigating life that really got me thinking (Millennial & Real Talk with Rachel Antionnette)

Art & your demon

The talk also encouraged us to draw our own demons, here's mine -- EVIL Amber!  Always tellin' me not to do stuff, post stuff or talk to people about animation...stop that!

The talk also encouraged us to draw our own demons, here's mine -- EVIL Amber!  Always tellin' me not to do stuff, post stuff or talk to people about animation...stop that!

Before I left for my vacation, I listened to a live lecture by Lucy Bellwood and Jessica Abel about fear, making art, and freelancing as well as  creative life and all the craziness that goes with that.  A few points in the talk really resonated with me.  One of the most obvious ones was a poll that opened at the start of the talk.  Jessica started a poll with the audience before the talk began, asking "What does your demon stop you from doing?" and while I checked all of the above, mine actually stops me from FINISHING work most often.  I have thousands of tiny sketches but the thought of finishing and being judged by the work is terrifying, it might be 'wrong' or have errors and then everyone will know that I am a hack --or that's what my demon keeps telling me anyways.

The talk was excellent and gave me a lot to think about.  In the past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about how I want to present myself after graduation and how to go about making the transition into a creative illustration or animation career.  This talk really identified SO many of of the ways that I had been struggling and helped me to see that EVERYONE feels this way, even professional artists and its more about showing up, doing the work and putting it out there than it is about being the 'perfect artist'.  It made me feel better about publicly presenting myself as an artist, especially online.  Lucy stressed that online presence is so much more about PROCESS and building a community of your peers than it is posting perfect work to attract the illustration/animation 'Gods'.  Lucy also suggested that the audience read 'Show Your Work' and 'Steal like an Artist" to help those struggling to either put themselves out there or get started (or BOTH!).  I read "Show Your Work" over my vacation because at the moment I'm most interested in how to get over the fear of posting finished work (err...well finishing it at all)!  It was an excellent (and short!) read.  Many of the points it makes were actually mentioned in the talk but the book is able to go into more detail and helped to put working as an animator/illustrator into perspective.  You don't need to be perfect, you just have to let people see how you work and let them into the process of what you're making and why.  

You can see a recording of the talk here.  And equally as awesome but unfortunately I probably can't link back to it is--Lucy Bellwood hung out after the talk to answer remaining questions! I was left with so many thoughts about realizing my animation/illustration dreams when I left the chat room and hopefully I can begin putting some of those things into practice soon!

Here's a few ideas I went through when trying to figure out what my demon might look like.  At first I thought it might be 'Evil Hershey' (one of my cats) because some days he's my nemesis and he likes to stomp all over my artwork with his brother smokey! I realized that I'm really more of my own worst enemy that Hershey is...and he probably just wants a hug anyway.

PitTsburgh & East Coast Adventures

Just takin' a selfie with this guy in the Pitsburgh airport! (btw--its the 2nd best airport in the country...or that's what the sign told me)

Just takin' a selfie with this guy in the Pitsburgh airport! (btw--its the 2nd best airport in the country...or that's what the sign told me)

In the past few years I taken one long break (well, long-ish) from school and work for an adventure with friends.  I think the only way I can relax completely and process the feedback I've been getting from both school and my day job is to leave all my responsibilities behind and get physically away from everything, eat A LOT of food and try some new and interesting things!

This year long time-college friends and I met with a couple members of our gang who recently moved to Pitsburgh, PA for work.  It was great to reunite with them and hang out as one big group again! I'm an extrovert so having 8 days of non-stop chatting and eating was just what I needed to recharge!  

Here's a short recap of our adventures over the last week!

We checked out the the "Cathedral of Knowledge", which was probably as close to Harry Potter as we'll get in the US!  Its a beautiful cathedral on campus that has classrooms and study space.  Several of the classrooms were decorated by different cultural groups--when I first heard this from my friend I was imagining posterboards and construction paper but they are REALLY elaborate and beautiful with elements that were imported from different parts of the world.  I can't believe that you can actually have class in them because they feel like a museum! (but maybe if my classes were in them I'd have paid more attention :-p.

Cathedral of Knowledge, looking down into the study space--can I live here??

Cathedral of Knowledge, looking down into the study space--can I live here??

Below is a us walking around and a couple of the rooms and details from the room (more of this place is coming soon!) This was probably my favorite place in Pitsburgh!


While we mostly wandered from food location to food location, I DID manage to get some sketching in while everyone else played Pokemon Go (I think I will never understand the appeal of that game!) but at least it meant we stopped for a few minutes and meant we drove all over the city of Pitsburgh.   Below are some of my sketches of all our adventures and the distracted Pokemon players!

To balance out all the Pokemon we also checked out the Andy Wharhol Museum (apparently he is from Pittsbrugh, who knew?!) which was actually super interesting.  I'm not a huge fan of Andy Wharhol but I really enjoyed seeing a museum devoted to the work of just one artist.  I could see the development of his process and ideas and how his art changed over time both as he aged and developed as an artist and as a response to events happening in the world around him.  Even though I'm not a huge fan, I think it helped me develop a greater appreciation for his work and I enjoyed seeing how he began to develop his more abstract ideas, which is something I would like to do more in my art--be a bit more experimental and let myself explore more rather than just settling for what I think others would like.  (More on this on my Vlog--COMMING SOON!)

I was very pleasantly surprised by Pittsburgh, PA! It's a beautiful city with such a long history!  Coming from California and seeing the range and age of all the buildings was really exciting.  I love history but California's material history is so recent compared to PA.  In the evening we took a little tram up a mountain (?---maybe its a hill) to check out the city from above ...but we didn't stay too long because it was actually cold up there!  

Gettin' a very large German Beer!

Gettin' a very large German Beer!

From Pittsburgh we took off to visit some friends in NEW YORK! (after taking a quick stop in Philly to eat a cheesesteak and take a look at the Liberty Bell!)  In New York we checked out the Met, ate cookies, walked forever and visited with friends.  It was an excellent weekend and much needed break!

FINALLY! Me and Diana looking super tired after spending a day in the airport and having our flights re-arranged, delayed and ultimately CANCELED! But we did get to take an adventure to the Pizza Shop from Spiderman 2 and explore the city a little more so it wasn't that bad. After an hour and a half walk all through New York we were pretty hot and tired but the pizza was AMAZING!!

Now that I've filled up my extrovert reserves, I can't wait to get back to my thesis and really get to work! Unfortunately because our flight was canceled on Wednesday, I'm now a day behind and not fully adjusted to time on the west coast! (we got in at 3am CA time, so about 6am NY time and I can not sleep on planes!) Still a super fun weekend though!

Creative Mornings Sacramento


Sacramento has FINALLY gotten Creative Mornings.  I have been watching lectures from creative mornings since 2009 after I graduated from UCD.  They were a good way to stay connected to design and art while I tried to regroup after graduation during the height of the Great Recession and having to withdraw from animation schools due to the cost and start looking for employment.

Here are some notes from a couple of the talks I was able to attend! I hope I go to more later on in the year when work is a little less crazy! Its a great way to meet other creatives and hear about other's big projects! I always leave feeling inspired to start something new (which is actually probably not a good thing...because I have too many ideas already!)

Taboo : Amal Iqbal

This talk was an inspiring look at how religious and cultural taboos helped to shape her as a designer and how she went on to create a unique studio (Studio FIG) that combines fashion, graphic design and interiou design to conquer more taboos in the design world!  Check out the talk here! (I'm somewhere in the audience!)

Melody Stone - Stories

This talk had a completely different feel! This was the first talk that I attended and it was super interesting take on finding stories in your everyday life, asking questions and staying curious!  And in turn developing a career out of those questions.  It definitely still has me thinking about what the story behind the weird things I see in Sacramento are! You can watch her talk here!

Previews & Story Work

Here are some quick previews of some things I'm working on in between my finishing my thesis backgrounds this month.  I'm trying to develop some work for a Story Portfolio so I'm actually trying to turn this stuff into a bit more finished looking work than my normal sketchbook pages--if I still like the drawings & ideas when I look at them by the light of day that is!  

Here's one I still liked:

These were some sketches of me trying to explain the merits of stage acting v. film acting (and why Stage & B&W films are better!) to Matt, who wasn't buying it--I'm gonna say I won that argument (Matt may still not agree with me :-p).  And the top sketches are what happened when I Matt came to watch Abominable Bride with me--I was SUPER excited & he was well...asleep ..or bored I'm not sure which--something about not getting the 'hype over Benedict Cumberbatch' ....maybe if he'd stayed awake he'd understand ;-p.

Great Goddess

Goddess_arankin My mythology course required a sketch this week as commentary on the Great Goddess.  The topic was pretty interesting and discussed how at one time we saw many contradictory aspects in the Goddess and how it is an ancient idea that we lost with time and changing perceptions of women.  The contradictory nature of the Goddess traits made me think of the emotions in Pixar's Inside Out because I was struck by how well rounded and dynamic the original version of the Goddess was--she represented motherhood & sexuality, civilization & nature, and tradition & transformation (the character I drew is also representing 'clairvoyance' which in this article went a long with transformation).  That is just a few of the traits that She embodied.

For the drawing part of this--I tried to get my sketch to show more character and not be 'just a pretty picture' as I'm often critiqued for.   I don't think I've quite nailed that yet so I'll have to give it another go in my next illustration/sketch--remember--specific characters Amber, specific characters with specific emotions/thoughts/etc!!


Warm ups -- Turns Out They're Kind of Important

Its been a pretty intense couple of weeks (midterms + my thesis have made me a bit crazy!) but I thought I'd make a post of some of the sketches I've been working on.

Recently I've started doing warm up drawings pretty regularly. I used to do them occasionally when I felt like I 'had time' but it wasn't a normal part of my drawing practice.  I knew that warm-up drawings were 'good for you' but I never really understood what is was you got out of them until just now.  For me they're a way to get out all my 'bad ideas' and 'bad drawings' so that I can start stiff and get looser and get lost in making an idea rather than just shapes or a 'pretty picture' (my most dreaded and most often told critique!!)  They also help on days when I'm feeling exhausted and pretty inspired--I can turn on a quick show and just draw sort of whatever comes to mind--like pictures of me drinking coffee or looking tired or scenes from books I've been reading or weird ideas and concepts I see on Tumblr. I'm learning that my best ideas are definitely NOT my first and often I'm not even sure what I want to do on my first drawing but they get better as I go...So far I think it might also be helping my animation --which has gotten more loose at the beginning and I feel like I can more confidently get my poses right or at least work on them until the ARE right.  So more warm-ups it is! :)

When you need to loosen up...

When you need to loosen up apparently you need need to draw on a bumby train--here's a few sketches from my train ride home last night.  Usually the train is bouncy and too annoying to write or draw but the internet wasn't working so I started trying to get more into story and character in a few sketches--some sketches are of me on a train, and from a medieval book I keep trying to read and a myth we just read for my mythology class--pretty fun! I'll have to make a habit out of this.

Hopefully  I'll be able to turn a couple of them into Inktobers and catch up tonight!