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A New Start for Ecstatic Pixel

May 20 2020

Thats a lotta 20

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So You Want To Be An Artist part deux

So if you got this far I assume you must have decided that you really do want to be an artist. Truth be told its kind of a trick question. Artist really don’t get to choose. For some people its just what you are.

Anyway the question of how to become a successful one still stands. Unless you were born a genius prodigy  ” pretty rare ”  you will need training to make it work. In the old days ” art history here ” talented youth mostly wealthy later sons of wealthy families ” the one who didn’t get sent to the church and weren’t suitable for the military ” would be apprenticed to a master artist for years to learn the fundamentals and become an artist. Thankfully today education is a lot more available and less creepy. The training you need depends greatly on your ultimate goal but the fundamentals are the same for pretty much any artistic career path. As I mentioned in the first post the basics include

  • drawing ” sketching “
  • painting ” mixing of paint and use of tools, materials etc…
  • color theory ” understanding how color works and how to control it in your work “
  • composition and basic design principles
  • perspective ” the method you use to show 3D form on a 2D medium
  • figure drawing ” human and animal anatomy “

Theres more to this but by the time you have mastered these basics you will be well on your way to specialized training where you can expand upon what you know and add the specific skills needed for you discipline. Designers will follow a different path then say illustrators or Graphics Specialist.

Throughout the process you will be working with computers, printers, scanners photographic equipment etc… The current and future artist / Designer must be up to speed on all the industry standard equipment and technologies software packages etc. that you can. As somebody who came to the computer late in my development I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this. When I began working things were still being done mostly by hand, I made the transition to digital art about 2 years after graduation. Luckily thanks to my good friend Mat, I bought a Mac Clone the last term at school and he and I kind of taught ourselves Photoshop… I had friends who were already mastering serious 3D and animation software at the time, if I could do it all over I would spend the time down in that computer lab!

Anyway at this point its not even a question you will be using computers to produce most professional work.

Where to get your training is the real question and my answer is from many sources. While your still in high school take advantage of your schools arts programs. The more you learn early on the faster you can develop and the more enjoyable the process will be.

Here are some things to look at using in your training plan. Art of any type is not a cheap undertaking, unless you have the good fortune of well heeled parents you’re going to need to be strategic in your planning.

Make use of as much free or cheap training as you possibly can.

  • The library can be an amazing resource. look for classes and workshops. For example here in Orlando the downtown library offers training in beginner and advanced 2D and 3D graphics. For the price of the workshop which is just a few bucks you have access to thousands of dollars worth of equipment and an instructor.
  • art clubs and local artist associations.Almost every city is going to have some local artist. Connect with them, the advice and help they can provide is priceless
  • Online instruction sites and youtube. You tube is packed with an insane amount of tutorials and videos to teach you pretty much anything your interested in. Not all of its great but a surprising amount of it is very professionally produced and presented by working artist . Thats unbeatable! Then you have sites like Udemy and Skillshare that offer even more training for a very reasonable amount of money.
  • Artist blogs and podcast, I don’t do tutorials maybe some day I will but there are good artist that do. These people are sharing their knowledge and experience for a multitude of reasons. Its inspiring and instructive here are a few of the ones I watch
  • Fung Zhu Design, this guys work is amazing, he went to ACCD a few years before me…
  • Trent Kaniuga art Video Blog – I found this guy while trying to figure out some function in Sketchbook Pro my favorite sketch app which also happens to be free 😛
  • Bob Ross – This may be ancient history but the guy still has something to say…
  • Blender Basics – good 3D tutorials even for an old guy like me
  • The Craftsman – I am not sure how to describe this show? But the guy is a lot of fun and full of great info especially for being creative on a budget…

Point of this is that there are an almost unbelievable sources for artist to learn new things online. This didn’t exist 20 years ago when I was a student. Be sure to take advantage of it.

Back to the core question should you go to school?

You don’t actually have too! I work right now next to an incredible artist for Universal Creative that as far as I know is self taught. He’s at the top of his game in fact most of the marketing art you have seen for Universal Studios theme park is his work so…  At the same time most people do not have that particular brand of self discipline so you will most likely need some instruction.

On to School

Try your local community college. You will be amazed to find that some amazing artist instruct at Community college. Its a fraction of the cost and you can usually transfer your units to an expensive school if thats your ultimate goal. Do as much of your undergrad work here as is available. You don’t want to be paying Art School tuition for basic english and history classes if you can avoid it.

While your preparing the undergrad stuff really start to narrow down what kind of program you want. Not all schools are created equal and one school might be great for illustration and really weak for Graphic Design. Ask around and find the school you will really like.

Remember there are public Universities with great art programs which will be much easier on the budget.

My opinion is that dedicated Art Schools are a positive thing for an aspiring artist but not necessarily for the reasons you see on their marketing materials.

Some things to consider

  • Art School can be extremely expensive ” think $100,000 plus for any top rated school ” and realize that when you graduate that bill comes due ” more on this later “
  • It takes self discipline. Everybody thinks ” from the outside ” that artist because they love their work have it easy. It’s the furthest thing from the truth. Being involved creatively is exhausting physically mentally and emotionally. Outside of my time in the Navy I have never worked harder then I did at ACCD…
  • Some schools are a rip off ” Trump University anyone “
  • Some schools do not prepare you for the real world of Art / Design ” Theres more to being a successful artist then the quality of your work “

For the top schools you’re talking private institutions and they aren’t cheap… Choose this route and you will be hit with a bill that in other schools lands you a doctor or Lawyers credentials. It was the same for me but at this point probably 2 to 3 times more money… Remember that point about getting all the classes you can before heading to the expensive school?

Scholarships and grants can help, they are hard to get but if your serious about it they can make the impossible, possible. Take advantage or whatever programs you can. For example, If you happen to be a young Latina who’s interested in design, think of applying for a program where most applicants are males like product or transportation design. The school and whatever industries support them will jump at the chance to help you… Don’t be too proud this is going to be tough enough…

Make sure to check with the school you want to complete your training with to find out what their requirements are. They will help you if you ask…

One of the main benefits you can receive from attending a top end school is the name recognition of the school. Its hard to pinpoint exactly but there is definitely an effect on potential employers. Top schools also require you to compete for placement. Competition is good and if you approach it positively it will make you a better artist / designer / whatever…

Access to the latest technology and techniques is also a factor ” this is especially true for people working with heavy computer driven industries like 3D graphics or animation

Obviously the best schools should have the best instructors. Look for schools that use working professional as teachers. There is nothing wrong with dedicated teachers but  the people actually doing the work in the market are the true experts.

And finally your peers. In my experience you will actually learn more from your classmates then most of your instructors. Not to mention you are building your network. Believe me when I tell you it matters who you know! In my experience the vast majority of the work I have done comes through people I know not necessarily classmates but some of them are in there too. Your network is a vital part of your artistic career…

Some examples of high end schools, this is by no means an exhaustive list but it should help to make a start

Rhode Island School of Design

Art Center College of Design

Cal Arts


University of Cincinnati College of Architecture

Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising

A note on financial realities. If you are like most people you are going to need to consider your budget and the cost of your education versus its benefit. I speak from experience here, I had no money and no support other then my GI bill which lasted me all of one term at school. I applied for and won a half scholarship and then increased it through a review process. Its the only way I could ever have gone to ACCD. I also was a completely naive about money and credit etc… I literally knew nothing as with my background it just wasn’t available.

I applied for credit cards ” they specifically target students or at least they did back in the 90s.”  Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t living large I just used the money to pay for supplies and live, the problem comes later when its time to pay it back.

A few things to consider

Your education may end up costing way more then you will realistically earn when it comes time to start paying that loan. A great teacher we had Andy Ogden told us this in our 2nd term. He said when he graduated in the 1980’s he owed $50,000 and got hired as a designer for Honda at a salary of $45,000. He then said ” we ” would graduate owing around $ 100,000 and if we were lucky get a job paying $ 45,000… That was in 1994…

Andy wasn’t wrong, his point was that if you are in this career for the money you’re in the wrong place. Keep in mind that over time you will earn more money as you progress but this is not like being a lawyer or a plastic surgeon. Theres a reason we have the term ” starving artist ”

do this because you  love it and it will be a great life. Do it to get rich and you may be disappointed.

Credit and loans can be a great tool but you should treat them like the deadly objects they are. Only take out what you really need and be frugal. As an example use cheaper art supplies in the beginning. There is a difference between a Windsor Newton series 7 brush and a cheaper alternate but as a student you will not get the benefit. Save your money and buy the other supplies you will need 😛

Series 7 – about 350 bucks for 4 brushes

I really do not mean to scare anyone off or depress you, I simply wish someone had taken the time to explain some of this to me when I was starting out.

” learn from the mistakes of others, you will not live long enough to make them all yourself ” Eleanor Roosevelt…

Frank Abagnale is an FBI agent that was also a successful con man. His life story became a feature film and a number of TV series.Here is a link to the youtube video

Catch Me If You Can


I suggest anyone should watch. Its entertaining and highly informative. Well worth an hour of your time. The first part is the mans personal life story which is pretty amazing the second part is most important how to make credit work for you…

Some final thoughts on how to get the most out of your training

  • Be open to direction, whether as a student or in the real world you will need to accept direction. Listen with attention and if necessary take notes, address those notes immediately in your work, this will help establish a positive respectful relationship between you and your instructor / director. This makes it possible for open communication…
  • Learn to accept and give criticism. Critique is necessary if you want to excel at anything. Critique should be given and received as a positive. This is how we learn to push ourselves to become better. Try to accept critique without emotional reaction, remember it’s not about you it’s about the work… at the same time be ready to defend your design decisions, you don’t always prevail but part of being an artist is believing in your vision. I have found a good way to start this to always look first for what is good in something, this sets a positive tone and helps others hear your ideas without getting defensive.
  • Do not fall in love with your work. ” this is particularly important early on.” Unless you are working solely for your own purpose you need to not get too emotionally attached to things as they develop. In the end your work is for someone else and needs to fulfill their desire not yours. Over time you will become better at this, it’s one of the hardest things to do for an artist…
  • Recognize your strengths and the areas you need to develop
  • Be aware of your peers efforts and work to compete with them but do not base everything on this alone. In the end your only real competition is yourself. Becoming a good / great artist is a long process. Do not get down on yourself for perceived shortcomings or become overly confident at imagined strength.

That was a lot and there’s a ton more I could say but hopefully this is enough to help you start making some plans…

More to follow


So you want to be an Artist…

Not too long ago an old friend :” she’s not old but I am getting there ” reached out to me for advice for her daughter that wants to be an artist. My first reaction was                         ”             NOOOOOOOOOOOOO…… we cant stop here this is bat country!!!!!!!!!!!!      ”


Just kidding 😛

I meant to get back with her quickly but life happened. So it occurred to me I could just write some things down here and theoretically it can help my friends daughter and some others contemplating this.

It’s a complicated thing the decision to go down the artist path. There are some basic questions you need to ask yourself and decisions to make.

3 main questions to address…

  • What kind of artist do you want to be?
  • Should you go to school?
  • Can you have a satisfied/ successful life doing this?

There are many more question to answer but I figure these 3 are pretty core to the issue. For the sake of my own sanity I will break this post into 3 sections dealing with those 3 basic questions.

What kind of artist do you want to be?

First of all it’s vital to understand just what is an artist. My opinion is that an artist is anyone that dedicates themselves to creative effort and seeks to explore that with all their energy. Art is all around us it’s in the clothes we wear, the products we use and of course it hangs on the wall at the museum and if your lucky your home… without art there are no movies or plays, music or books or video games.

Bruce Lee – Martial Artist

Art is the very essence of what makes us human. Sounds overblown but I truly believe this. An artist seeks perfection, there’s a reason they call a master of Kung Fu, a martial artist…

I will focus on the visual arts what I know best as it’s my own path but I assure you whether you want to write screenplays, or become the next a Lady GaGa a lot of this is the same.

In visual arts there two main paths with an infinity of sub categories and disciplines. But I think it’s all basically depends on where you fit on the spectrum between the two extremes.

One side is the full blown fine artist and the other is the engineer. In between those two extremes you find , illustrators and architects, painters and industrial designers. My own education was in the last one, industrial design specifically car design. I went to one of the highest rated / most competitive “expensive ” schools for that. I use what I learned there every day but I have rarely been asked to design a vehicle… I will have some ideas on education in the next post..

Think of it this way, fine art is created to serve itself, it can; and great art does, have meaning but it generally exist for its own purpose.

Andy Warhol – Fine Artist

Design is the use of art to solve a problem or provide a service. A car could just be a box on wheels but who would want it.

Fine car Design Vroom Vroom

Engineering is the combo of art and science. Most engineers would argue they aren’t artist but I beg to differ. Just look at an aircraft…

Form Follows Function

Honestly I think it’s not realistic to think you can know right away where you fit on this spectrum. I was attracted to my field because I have always loved cars and vehicles of any type boats planes whatever. But I also love buildings and great illustrations so I think it’s best to just start down the path and keep your mind open. You will quickly discover the things that attract you.

Part of this first phase of preparation is forming an idea of the type of artist you want to be. Everyone has natural inclinations. Listen to those signals as that’s probably what you will find easiest to master and most rewarding. You can always branch out and go after new subject areas and techniques later but for my advice go with your natural strengths first.

Part of what your doing in the beginning is learning to succeed. You want that feeling of accomplishment to happen because it will push you take on new challenges and grow your capabilities. I have known a number of really talented designers that started off in another area. Architects that became car designers, graphic artist that are now art directors for Disney and Universal theme parks. The artist path is long. Unlike many careers paths you are stronger the older you get so there’s time to develop and explore…

Research great artist and become inspired, understand that with rare exception the only thing separating them from their peers is practice and dedication. Go to museums art galleries, and exhibits. Look through the library art section, and of course use the internet. Never before have so many opportunities to learn about and be exposed to art existed…Humans have been creating art since we have been humans so there is a lot to see.Try to figure out what interest you most and realize whichever path you choose it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to master.. you’re whole life if your serious about it. Art as a career is not like many others in that you don’t just do a job and then have a life, the job is your art and the art is your life…

All journeys begin with one step…

If you are serious about art as a career I assume you want to make money. If you already have the money; good for you, life will be a lot easier. For Everybody else you need to be competitive to get the good jobs and that means a high skill set and a serious work ethic. Art is a business like any other the main difference being the product is your creativity and your ability to make that come to life. Competition is fierce and at this point global. Technology; especially computers, have changed how art is produced and for anything other then fine art you must master their use. But the computer is nothing more then a tool the artist uses.

My First Super Powerful Graphic Workstation circa 1995 500mb HD Whoo Hoo!

Your most powerful tool is your mind connected to your hand. I firmly believe all beginning artist need to draw by hand on paper. Whats paper? Ask your mom she will know 😛

Maurits Cornelis Escher,

Hands Drawing Hands – by MC Escher

It’s the first step, it’s where it all starts, the sketch is how you can quickly put down the idea of something in a way that other people can understand. Everything you see around you started life as a sketch… You draw by hand to teach your body and mind the skills you will use in all the other activities. It doesn’t matter what you draw on or with what, it just matters that you get what’s called mileage. The more you do something, the better you will get at it.

The First Designer

Draw anything and everything you see. Try to capture the essence of your subject and don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Trust that with time you will improve and this is all about the journey… carry a sketchbook or similar media with you and use it often. Another hidden benefit of this is that over time you can easily see your skills develop and of course it also makes you look super interesting in coffee shops 😛

the other fundamental skills include perspective, anatomy, color theory, rendering of form etc etc… it’s a rabbit hole but if you want to be an artist you need these basic tools to build on later.

And above all else believe in yourself and do not quit. Art is hard, sometimes painful and it’s incredibly tough to master but if you have the drive it can be a wonderful life…

More to follow

2 am

Yeah me again, just took some zquil so hopefully will go down soon… till then might as well share some stuff. We are in the process of upgrading the homestead ( planning stage ) more accurate 😛

Last weekend I roughed out some massing in sketchup, “still faster in that then anything else” hopefully one day I can get good with blender but I digress… basic plan is to build off of the back patio area and make use of some of our giant flat almost devoid of trees, yard. Med size Pool, jacuzzi, barbecue and fire pit for entertainment. Back-house / Art studio and storage shed…

FANNY wants a Lanai to cover it all and now I actually do too. Inside of lanai will be part of FANNY’s Aquaponics laboratory / garden, and a beautiful living wall. Outside of lanai for good sun, and rain will be big vegetable garden in raised planters probably of cinderblock, depends on what I can find on Even thinking to have a portion of Aquaponics be connected to a nice koi pond inside lanai but we shall see about that…

As a side note, I am playing with a new render plugin from Unreal Engine it’s called Twin Motion. The renders you see here are direct from Sketchup using it with no lights or effects. It has great potential for my work…

You can DL it for free until Nov and I believe keep using the current version after that but any upgrade stuff will be for sale and it ain’t cheap so… maybe check it out now if you’re interested… it’s available for Mac and PC which is also a really nice thing. Seems comparable to Lumion without the $3,000.00 price tag and works on Mac.

Proposed view from back patio – Jackie O figure is for scale…

Aerial view of proposed studio / back house with Lanai ” screened area ” thinking to add solar panels on the roof for power but that’s TBD…

Rear view showing outdoor storage shed and proposed raised garden Aquaponics area, you have to picture the plants for now 😛

Rear view of studio / storage area showing the proposed open air work space...

Rear view showing storage and outdoor workspace, finally have a space for tool usage and large projects

Lanai from above, the idea would be to have the new pool area open to the patio and back doors but still enclosed, would also allow our fur person. To expand his universe a bit since he is now too old for outside…

Looking forward to The koi pond oh yeah…

View of deck / pool area, thinking some nice planters and subtle water feature

I have given the model to what may be our contractor Renato but so far have not heard back. I am hoping he can put some reality to my fantasy, I built the model to an accurate scale of ” Casa de Turnberry ” but I have no idea how you actually design a pool etc…

Oh yeah last fun addition bit is we are planning to add a solar system to the house to help power this new area. Otherwise our electric bill could hit $400 bucks easy. SunRun is the company looking at. The guy says we can do it so… If we decide to actually go forward with solar I will share how it goes…

Wed morn

It’s 1 am and as usual sleep hasn’t arrived yet so I am doodling on the iPad. Sometimes I wonder if this is a normal thing. I draw and design all day and then when I get home I quite often continue working on my own projects, designing the backyard studio / box the moon / poster shop etc. finally I put myself to sleep laying in bed sketching or painting on the tablet…

Doodle fun…

I do these abstract sketches with no preconceived idea have always thought of them as a form of meditation or even therapy…

On one hand I can say I am blessed to actually enjoy what I do for a living, on the other there seems to be no true difference between my work life and life life. I rarely just sit and do normal things like watch tv or read a book. Healthy? I have no idea it just is the way I seem to be wired…

Now I can sleep…

The New Deal…

I started this blog a few years ago while I was living and working in China. I wanted to try and keep track of my experiences living in a fascinating place and chronical the effect that had on my career. It’s kind of fun for me to look back on it now especially knowing I didn’t succeed in capturing 1/100th of it…

Starting in 2008 I began regularly traveling to and living for extended periods in China and Taiwan… This was also when I left Los Angeles and headed south to see what my home state of Louisiana had to offer. Fanny had accepted a job working with her brother in Beijing so it seemed like as good a time as any. While in China FANNY and I lived in Shenzhen “the Beijing job having moved there ” which is a huge super fast growing mega city right next to Hong Kong. we traveled all over Mainland C. , Hong Kong, Macau and of course Taiwan. I worked on commercial set designs, film projects and the occasional illustration. I even got a chance to spend a little over two years working with some incredible folks on what should have been the largest ” 245,000 sq meter ” indoor theme park in the world, “Leo’s Kingdom ” You can find some of my old post about that in the archive… my China adventure ended in 2015 ” at least for now”, when ” Leo’s ” was put on indefinite hold and Fanny’s brother began the process of closing down their offices in Shenzhen.

A lots changed since then and so I am going to pick this blog up again to better reflect my current life back in America and working full Time as member of Universal’s Creative Core.

Fanny and I have made a life here in Orlando with a nice house, one grumpy old cat and ” for now at least ” too many cars…

I am in a good position with the studio, working on exciting future attractions for the parks. My commercial set design work has fallen by the side over the last few years as I usually don’t have the time anymore and frankly with the ever increasing expectations and shrinking budgets of commercial productions I enjoy the security that comes with being a member of a team on incredibly talented artist…I will still do side gigs, but now I have the option of turning down work, something I could never afford to do in the past…

In a very real sense I have come full circle. My career began in the themed entertainment world some 22 years ago when I was hired right out of school to work on Blue Planet Bremerhaven for BRC Imagination Arts. My other opportunity was with Universal Creative back before they moved to Florida. I used to kick myself for having turned that job down ” it didn’t pay as much as BRC was offering and I was an idiot kid back then 😛 “. But maybe in the end it’s more about the journey then the destination… the really funny part is I am right now working alongside some of the very same people as I was back in 1997, including Mathew Martin my second ever art director 🙂

A lot has changed within the industry over time but the fundamentals are still to create great art and design reflecting the best attractions possible for people to enjoy.

Universal is currently working on some really amazing things ” obviously super top secret hush hush ” let’s just say the next few years are gonna be intense.

I recently showed some work at Universals artist showcase, mine were digital prints but there was a wide range of work on display, traditional painting, virtual reality, physical models and even some musical performance.

This first piece is actually a digital reworking of an acrylic painting I did years ago possibly started at Art Center. The original was given to an old friend of my dads that has since passed away, I don’t know where or if it still exist so I worked on a scan I found of it…



This started life as a series of sketches done on a trip to Louisiana in the early 2000’s. It’s all digital and is one of a series of three I called ” Shrunken Heads ”


this lil guy was actually started on my iPad Pro while sitting through a meeting. I doodle during meetings it actually helps me focus on what’s being discussed. My favorite comment of the evening was from my friend Mick who said while looking at this that ” I don’t know what it is but I know we’ve been there ” 😛

Well that’s it for now, if anyone sees this I hope you found it interesting, there will be more activity coming up soon as lots is happening at the old homestead…

Talk soon



Just a quick dip

I haven’t been back here in forever. A lot has changed since my return to the US. I am not approaching my 2 year anniversary working in house for Universal Creative I am a Senior Attraction Designer working on the concept team with Universals Core. I have worked with Universal on and off over the years but never as an employee. Its been fun and I am excited to be working on some of the best Themed Entertainment projects in the world but I would be lying if I said I don’t sometimes miss my freedom :p

the nice part is I get to work with some really amazing people on stuff like this… Obviously I cant take credit for anything but this painting and even that was based on a 3D massing model but pretty exciting regardless, and people are gonna love this land which will eventually make it to Hollywood and Orlando…

done for US Japan’s Super  Nintendo World…

Someday soon I will come back and finish some of my previous China post and maybe talk a bit about what I am doing now and future plans…

Thanks for lookin

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