Friday, May 28, 2010

Getting a Stride

A couple days ago, I posted that I felt like I was finally reaching the personalized style I was striving for.  Now I'm feeling a lot more confident in my designs and have created a few sketches I am quite happy with.
First, I have a posed sketch of the design I displayed in the last post:

I just want to note that the shading looks really nice in my sketchbook.  Once again, my scanner has washed about a bit more than I would have liked.

Next up, a new design:

And once again, the previous design posed and shaded:

Now for some extra information, i.e. references/inspirations.
The first design (Nelia) was mostly inspired by Talim from the Soul Calibur series.  Small bits of inspiration for her also came from assorted images that came up on Google when searching for things along the lines of 'amazoness' and 'female monster hunter'; I don't remember if those were the exact queries.
Rick, on the other hand, is mostly (and perhaps a bit obviously) inspired by designs found in both the Street Fighter and Dragon Ball franchises.  He also has a large, strong jaw reminiscent of Batman (or superheroes in general I suppose).

When I get all of the designs for the main characters of this project ready, I plan to do thorough digital clean-ups of all of their original sketches and composite all of them in a large group shot.
As for the 'project' itself, I don't/won't give much detail on it, at least for the time being, because I still have a lot to work out.  I have a vague premise for the story and plan on it probably being a graphic novel.  There's really not too much else to say that wouldn't just sound silly/weird since I have so little of the context worked out.  Regardless, I hope you enjoy the artwork I'm posting.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Getting There

So, over the last few posts I've mentioned my goal of developing a personal art style.  I've also had a personal project which requires doing plenty of character concepts.  As you might have guessed, the two endeavors overlapped well.

As you can see, it's not a finished image but it's at a 'rough-clean' stage which is my personal favourite stage to observe art at.  Most of the construction lines are still present (though a bit drowned out by my scanner) and you can see the finished-ish line.
While it's still not quite at the point of unique, simple and slick that I'm aiming for, I was still pretty happy with this concept; though I may rethink the poofy shorts since they just seem to make her thighs look really weird.

UPDATE: I believe I've realized what about the shorts is making the drawing look weird; the ends of the pant-legs  should be curved downward rather than upward, and from such a dead-on angle there should be a little less of a curve.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mega Man 10 Review Pending, Super Mario Galaxy 2 Review...also Pending

So, after being pleasantly surprised by the really good reviews Mario Galaxy 2 has been given, I decided to go pick it up on release day (i.e. today).  I realized just as soon as I turned on my Wii that I still haven't beaten and reviewed Mega Man 10.  The problem is...I honestly don't know if I can, and I'm now deeply ashamed of myself.  The Wily stages are tough and even knowing the bosses weaknesses, I still have plenty of trouble with them when I get to the part where you have to marathon all the boss fights.  However, I've yet to try grinding enemies for money (screws) so that I can stock up on E tanks, etc. so there may still be hope.
As for Mario Galaxy 2, I just finished the first world and am taking a break.  Much like the original,the game just emanates polish and what I've played so far has been great.
That's all for now.  Later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


My greatest post title to date.  Incidentally, this post is untitled because it's not focused on anything specific, just some more ramblings.  I've been drawing some more lately and I've worked out a weekly thing with a friend who is also a certain type of art student where we'll be going somewhere public to draw people once a week.  I'm hoping this idea will prove good practice and I have confidence it will.
On the subject of art, my project/first graphic job sort of fizzled out a bit.  The client decided to enroll in the same animation program I'm taking and wanted to take over the job for practice.  I only put about 9 of the 20 total hours it would've taken but nonetheless I'm still getting paid so I'm somewhat happy. A little disappointing but also kind of cool to meet a potential animator before they're in the program.  Also cool that there's a lot more truth to calling myself a graphic artist since that was my first time doing graphics for a professional purpose.

Currently, I have nearly completed re-watching Futurama with commentaries in preparation for the show's return next month.  I am about halfway through Into the Wild Green Yonder as I type this.

The only other thing I can think of to discuss for the time being is that Super Mario Galaxy 2's release date seemed to jump right up on me.  The game is to come out in 3 days.  Seems like the last time I even thought about it, it was still a couple months away.

In conclusion, to any readers interested, I would be happy to take commissions for artwork.  I'm always up to create art for someone, I want to draw as much as I can and I could, of course, use the work.  I'd also like to make it clear that I would keep the pricing reasonable...unlike the rates I've seen some artists post for commissions.
EDIT:  Oh yeah, contact information!  Anyone interested in commissioning me for artwork can contact me at  It would be ideal if you happen to be in the Chatham-Kent, Ontario area, but even if not we could probably manage something.

UPDATE:  I just remembered something else to mention.  FUNimation has begun releasing their DVDs and Blu-Rays of Dragon Ball Kai, retitled Dragon Ball Z Kai for the dub.  Season One Part One is now available and the show is supposed to premier on Nicktoons on the 24th; the version shown on Nicktoons will be edited to suit the expected viewing audience, the home video releases will be uncut and unedited.  So, it's much the same as Dragon Ball's previous runs on TV as opposed to the more recent DVD releases.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pencil Envy

I am hereby coining a new phrase, 'Pencil Envy'.  As an obvious parody of a dirtier phrase, pencil envy is the feeling of deep jealousy of another artist's style or ability.
My name is Erik and I have pencil envy.  I am officially jealous of Sean Galloway, AKA Cheeks.  For those who don't know, he's probably most popular for doing the character designs for The Spectacular Spider-Man.  He's also done a lot of other work and I've been mesmerized by his DeviantART and Blogger pages.  His art style looks like absolutely nothing else and still manages to look so good.  Admittedly, I don't like everything he's done but that doesn't change the fact that I'm jealous that he has such a unique style that's just so unique in a good way.
Lately I've been rather frantically trying to work out my own style, making notes of everything (likes, dislikes, inspirations and just general notes) but nothing's turned up just yet.  Incidentally, consciously trying to create a personal style is probably not the best way to go about it but it's been a hard thing to ignore lately.

Remaining hopeful a style of my own will come through, I continue to draw every day noting, especially, that I need to start approaching art with more confidence.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Red Steel 2 Review

Red Steel 2 Review

 Alright, it's finally time to take care of this one.  To kick things off, I'm just going to reiterate feelings I noted in a previous first impressions post. The game is incredibly slick visually, though the environments prior to the last couple areas, are a bit bland.  The difficulty starts out really easy, despite having played the game on Normal-difficulty.  There is a curve to the difficulty which I'll talk about later.  And the controls:  They work, they're somewhat simple and, most importantly, they're fun.
Now for a brief look at the story.  Note that I'm making it brief because I didn't pay much attention to the story, the game is a linear experience so the plot wasn't all that important.  You play a silent protagonist with a ridiculous outfit (as parodied above) who reclaims a sword that appears to be the desire of every non-ally around.  You start off facing a clan known as the Jackals, and you work your way through a few others.  There really isn't much else that needs to be said for the story.  It's decent but it serves no purpose beyond linking the gameplay together; which is exactly how it should be in a game.
The biggest matter to cover and the biggest improvement over the original Red Steel is the use of motion controls.  In this case, the MotionPlus is utilized to give increased precision to the swordplay.  It works just fine but prior to the game's release, the development team seemed to make a habit of saying the game would have 1:1 sword fighting at every opportunity.  I can't honestly say I ever felt like my exact motions were being translated to the on-screen action.  And, even though I'm fairly forgiving of the issue for the sake of the payoff, the MotionPlus needs re-calibration just a little bit too often for my liking.
In spite of the issues though, the swordplay is still very fun.  On top of that, swordplay and gun fighting can be switched between as you see fit, as opposed to the original's designated sword fights.  This adds a lot enjoyment when gaining the ability to knock an enemy into the air with your sword, and then firing bullets at them before they hit the ground.
The overall control mechanics are simple and very effective.  There isn't anything extremely intricate in how to play the game but there really doesn't need to be.  Swinging the remote, of course, swings your sword; the strength of the attack depends on the speed of your swing.  Tapping the B trigger fires whichever gun you have equipped, and does so instantly even if you don't have your gun drawn beforehand.  You can have four separate guns, one set to each direction on the D-Pad, pressing a direction equips that gun.
As time goes on, you learn additional skills to use with both your sword and gun.  A mechanic similar to the first game's technique of slowing down time and marking targets to shoot makes an appearance:  You hold B and you can mark the targets for up to four bullets, which are fired very fast after letting go of the trigger.
As for the less interesting controls:  Obviously the control stick is used for movement, pressing A executes a dash, and tapping A while in a dash will trigger a quick jump which you can swing your sword out of.
There's a lot of room to come up with your own combos and methods of attacks, and a fair variety of enemies to test your methods on.
The enemies themselves are quite easy throughout most of the game.  A couple types of recurring enemies present a more prominent threat but are unfortunately rare.  The most common enemies that appear can be taken out with a couple strong swings.
Boss fights on the other hand, while there are only a few, are of pretty enjoyable difficulty.  Each consecutive boss fight is more difficult than the one before which is ironically rare in games but definitely a plus (just like it was for No More Heroes 2).
Together, the enemies and bosses make for a difficulty curve that is noticeably awkward but not a serious hindering in the overall experience.
I believe soundtrack is the only area left to cover; why I seem to always leave this for last I don't know.  The background music in the game is fitting and enjoyable though nothing about it is exactly catchy.  Basically, there's nothing special in this area but it does the job it's supposed to do just fine.

In summary:  It's a good game.  You're likely to notice a few issues, in particular the need to calibrate the MotionPlus after every few fights, but in the end you're also likely to have a very fun experience.  There's nothing bad about the game, and there's nothing esoteric about the game (which may be an issue with something like No More Heroes) so there's no reason for me not to recommend it.
No More Heroes 2 remains my favourite Wii game so far this year, but Red Steel 2 is damn close to matching it.

The Red on the Steel has Finally Dried

So I finally completed Red Steel 2 earlier 'today'.  I don't have the time to review it for the time being but expect to see a review within the next few days.
Also, since I think everyone should know this:  Portal is currently free through Steam and will continue to be free until May 24th.  The DSiWare title Photo Dojo is also free until June 1st.
Portal is a pretty incredible experience though I doubt anyone needs to be told that by now.  As for Photo Dojo, I just downloaded it and haven't tried it out yet.  The concept is cool though; it's a fighting game where you build the characters yourself by taking photos of people or items in the poses you need.  I plan to make use of my toy collection to build some of the characters.
Erik out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shortest and Luckiest Job Hunt Ever

As you can probably deduce, I have found a job.  In a stroke of luck, a classmate who had told me about a job he'd be doing during the summer messaged me that he could no longer do it and gave me the information.  Admittedly it's unfortunate for him, but it was an amazing chance presented at the perfect time.
So as for what the job is:  Creating graphics for independent games.  So not only did I get a job almost the instant I started looking, but it even ended up being a job in my career field.  In short, this couldn't be better.

Oh, and I'm still working towards finishing Red Steel 2.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Summer Time Means Summer Job

So, things have settled down and I'm now trying to decide what to do for work.  I would really like to do some freelance graphic design, artwork or even some animation but demand for that in my town seems to be low.
My highest priority in finding work is that I don't end up in a call center again.

I've been working my way through Red Steel 2 some more though I have no idea how close I am to completing it.  A review could come soon or it may take a while, we'll just have to wait and see.

That looks to be about all I have to say today, so for now, see ya.

Monday, May 3, 2010

S. H. Figuarts Dragon Ball Kai Piccolo Figure Review

S. H. Figuarts Dragon Ball Kai Piccolo Review

I suppose I'll give a quick preface to start off so everybody knows what I'm talking about.  First off:  Dragon Ball Kai.  For those who don't yet know what the series is, basically it's Dragon Ball Z with mostly all the filler (content that didn't appear in the original manga) cut out.  Basically this means no more 5 minute staring contests, no more 20 minute attack charge-ups and no more Garlic Jr. saga at all.
The series has been running in Japan for the last year or so and the S. H. Figuarts line of high-end action figures has been releasing toys for the series.  Piccolo was the first figure released, followed by Super Saiyan Goku.  In the coming months, normal and Super Saiyan 3 versions of Goku will be made available, a Super Saiyan Gohan with an interchangeable Super Saiyan 2 head is coming and a Vegeta, presumably Super Saiyan, will also be released (as I've discussed previously).

On to the review.  First, let's take a look at the box.
A nice display, and a well-designed box.  
The right side has a pointillism image of Piccolo that wraps around onto the front a bit.
The back shows a few different shots of the toy as well as several bits of info that I can't read.
(just a closer and slightly higher shot of the back)

I am not an MISB collector (that is, Mint Inside Sealed Box) so let's have a look at the important part now:  The toy itself.
Partially opened, we see that every piece has a spot designated for it which makes it easy to store those not in use if you simply want to display your figure.
The figure comes with three heads.  The first, which comes already connected to the body, is just a neutral expression.  The second has him scowling, looking to his right with veins bulging.  The third has his signature weighted turban.  Changing the heads can sometimes be annoying because the ball-joint they connect to is on a hinge that likes to flop backwards when you push down.  With enough attention, and really not too much, to how your positioning the head before you push it down it shouldn't be much of a problem.
Three pairs of hands as well as a fourth right hand for the Special Beam Cannon/Makankosappo position come with the toy.  Changing these works much the same as swapping the heads.  The wrist has a hinged-ball joint, though this one presents the hinge issue discussed above far less often.
As you can see, the pairs of hands include fists, open-palm with curled fingers and open-palm with straight fingers.
And last (ish) of the accessories:  The cape.  As shown in the image, there are two interchangeable fronts.  If you refer to the opening image and the image that shows all the accessories in the package, you'll see one of the pieces is Piccolo's arms folded.  The smaller cape front is shaped so that if you have the folded arms on, it looks like the rest of the front goes behind them.
Swapping the cape fronts takes some force but is manageable and not hard to do.  Attaching the folded arms, however, is my biggest issue with the figure.  The connection points on the shoulders just seem to be really stubborn and I have yet to actually get the folded arms firmly attached to both shoulders at the same time.
Despite small feet, the toy stands quite well (even while wearing the cape) with little fiddling to get the balance right.
Same pose, sans weighted clothing.  In terms of design, the figure does a very impressive job of blending great articulation (which I'll get to in a bit) and eye-pleasing aesthetics.  However, something that stuck out at me ever since first seeing pictures was the design of the legs.  In the anime, most of the characters wear baggy pants and they're always widest near the bottom.  On this toy, the pants are widest around the knee.  When the knee joints are fully bent, the calf settles in a bit of a groove on the rear of the thigh so I can understand why the widest part is where it is.  Still, it almost looks like the thigh and shin are the wrong way around.  This is far more noticeable on the Goku Figuarts.
Starting to play with articulation here.  Two joints at the elbow allow his arms to curl about as much as a real person can as opposed to the 90 degrees or complete lack of elbows more common in toys.  The pegs that connect the arms to the shoulders allow the arms to rotate inwards and outwards.
His 'sleeves' are actually separate from his torso and connected to his shoulders via ball and socket joints.  This really helps to keep his shirt accurate without hindering the articulation of the shoulders.  However, it can take some time to get these little pieces in a position that doesn't make it so apparent that they're not really part of the shirt.
The feet connect to the shins with ball joints which allow you to tilt and rotate them as you see fit.  The toes, or rather the points of his booties, are on hinges which allow you to tilt them as well.
Hidden by the sash is a joint that allows the chest area to tilt in any direction.  You can also pull the chest up ever so slightly to increase how much tilt you can have.
There are two joints at the knee which, just like the elbow, allow them to bend about as much as a real person could.  Contrary to how the (blurry) photo looks, the hidden joint is the same colour as the pants, it just happened to catch a bit of light.
You can also actually dislocate the thighs a bit to allow for a greater range of movement in the legs.

In the end, there's no much one can fault this figure for.  The articulation is wonderful, the sculpt is beautiful and the accessories are pretty much all you would ever need to represent the character.
If you're a Dragon Ball fan and a toy collector, that's all the reason you need to have this figure.  If you're a parent perhaps considering this toy for a child, then by all means get it; though you may occasionally be called upon to help with connecting things.
Personally, with just this one toy, I've fallen in love with the Figuarts line.  As I mentioned in the past, I have Gohan preordered and will be getting Vegeta as well.  From there, I'll likely get any character that interests me because these toys are just really very nice.  They feel like little works of art when you play with them.

Extra Notes & Random Thoughts:
-The Gohan toy depicted in the opening image is not the Figuarts, it's just a toy I've had since I was around 11-years-old.  It seems to be in decent scale with Piccolo; just a small bit too tall.
-The S. and H. in the brand name stand for Simple Style and Heroic Action, as seen on the back of the box.
-All the photos for this review were taken with my DSi, hence the low quality.
-Toy collection seems to be becoming a more common hobby.  It's certainly not for everyone, just like anything else, but it's very nice to see it becoming accepted rather than so ludicrously over-criticized.
-Despite Dragon Ball Kai technically not having a manga to its name; even though it is more manga-accurate than Z; this Piccolo figure depicts his manga colour-scheme with muted yellow muscles and a red sash.  In the anime, Piccolo's muscles are pink and his sash is blue (not counting the movies).
-The purple on Piccolo's torso is of a slightly different shade than the purple seen on his pant-legs and 'sleeves'.  A lot of photos seem to make this more apparent than it really is in person.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yep, Another Week

Hey everybody, I know I've once again missed updating for a week and I really wanted to avoid that.  Unfortunately, I didn't have much of a choice.  This week marked both my second year finals and, more importantly, the death of a good friend.  I've managed through the worst of it and will hopefully be back to a regular routine soon.  I have the photos ready for the review of S. H. Figuarts Piccolo so that's likely to come soon.
See ya later.