Friday, December 24, 2010

Ho ho ho

A bit of Christmas cheesecake to wish everyone all the best for the festive season and an even better New Year

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Astro Yuki

Finally gotten around to finishing this one.
On a side note, I was very surprised and flattered to receive and email a month or so back from Kevin Dart, creator of the Yuki 7 concept complimenting me on my interpretations of her. I hope this one does justice to the collection.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Something different

I haven't done anything like this for a while and I've only just received back a copy so I can finally share it. This is a piece I did at the end of last year for my Father-in-law as a present for his birthday. It's of his parents house in Lorne, Victoria on the Great Ocean road. The house was built by his father high up on the hill looking out over the bay and my father-in-law grew up there with his four brothers and sisters. His father passed away a couple of years ago and the once family home, a popular spot particularly during holidays has since been sold. My wife had suggested this as an idea, and it was reinforced earlier in the year after seeing a similar effort done by someone else for another of his siblings.
The original, in pen and ink hangs, framed in pride of place on one of my parents-in-laws walls.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ranga Nation

It's taken me a little while to get to do this one, but I couldn't resist doing our new(ish) lady Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sketch dump

Haven't quite gotten around to finishing these, but in an effort to keep things ticking over here's some ruffs.
...and a sneak peak of a job I've been working on the last couple of months

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Hendrix Pig

Here's my contribution to Guy and Stacy's brilliant Dueling Banjo Pigs blog

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yuki again

That last pic of Yuki 7 was so much fun I had to do another...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I don't know why I never tried this earlier.
It was quite fun and it's a great concept- Kevin Dart's Yuki 7

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Footy Girl

My daughter has started playing Auskick- a kids version of Aussie rules football- and loves it.
The team colours she's running around in aren't my choice but I've got an uphill battle on my hands there. I haven't seen her run around yet either, but thought I'd have a bit of fun with the idea

Monday, April 26, 2010


Just a bit of a play around with and old rough drawing and photoshop

Thursday, April 08, 2010

My Apprentice

Time for a more positive post
For the past few months I've been working from home on an animated Feature Film. It's been something of a nice safety net post-ettamogah and has also given me the opportunity, even if remotely to work with some of my old friends and colleagues from my time at the Disney Studio in Sydney. I can't say much about the project except that it's a film that will be out later in the year, and at that time I'll be able to show some of my work from it.
In working from home I've been able to see more of my family which has been great, and I've also been able to share what I've been doing on a daily basis with my kids. My daughter in particular has been quite fascinated, climbing up the ladder into my attic where I've been working in the mornings before school and having a look at what I'm doing and wanting to have a go. The project has been done using digital animation software where I've been drawing directly on a tablet monitor which has been interesting. It's left my old Disney animation desk sitting to the side collecting dust, well, except for when my daughter comes up for an inspection. She's been making herself quite at home climbing into a seat and drawing away, even grabbing model sheets from the production to practice on. A junior animator in the making.
Here's her latest effort of the main characters-

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Craig's Pissed

As Artists we've all been there, young and enthusiastic, wanting to make a break for ourselves when we've been asked "If you do this for me [cheap], I'll have loads more work for you" or told "This'll be great exposure/experience for you" and most of us grab these opportunities only to be left with a bad taste in our mouths. I've always wondered why it is that people will gladly fork out the going rate to their mechanic, plumber, accountant, doctor, name your professional; yet when it comes to artwork some people just expect our "God-given" talents to be just handed over, because we can just "do it" despite that no amount of apprenticeship, trade-school or university time will ever bring these peoples abilities anywhere near our levels.
I received a link yesterday that contained a post from CraigsList (a US "trading post" type site) that calls out to every Artist and have decided to share it here. The post itself was quickly flagged and removed by CraigsList users but not before being picked up and reposted on blogs and design newsboards because it captures so perfectly our plight.
So here it is, the gift that keeps on giving.

Post from CraigsList

Every day, there are more and more Craigs List posts seeking “artists” for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of illustrative service.

But what they’re NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be.

To those who are “seeking artists”, let me ask you; How many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the services you need? A dozen? Five? One? …none?

More than likely, you don’t know any. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be posting on craigslist to find them.

And this is not really a surprise.

In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field.

So, given that they are less rare, and therefore less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street?

Would you offer a neurosurgeon the “opportunity” to add your name to his resume as payment for removing that pesky tumor? (Maybe you could offer him “a few bucks” for “materials”. What a deal!)

Would you be able to seriously even CONSIDER offering your web hosting service the chance to have people see their work, by viewing your website, as their payment for hosting you?

If you answered “yes” to ANY of the above, you’re obviously insane. If you answered “no”, then kudos to you for living in the real world.

But then tell me… why would you think it is okay to live out the same, delusional, ridiculous fantasy when seeking someone whose abilities are even less in supply than these folks?

Graphic artists, illustrators, painters, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person. In short, it makes you look like a twit.

A few things you need to know;

1. It is not a “great opportunity” for an artist to have his work seen on your car/’zine/website/bedroom wall, etc. It IS a “great opportunity” for YOU to have their work there.

2. It is not clever to seek a “student” or “beginner” in an attempt to get work for free. It’s ignorant and insulting. They may be “students”, but that does not mean they don’t deserve to be paid for their hard work. You were a “student” once, too. Would you have taken that job at McDonalds with no pay, because you were learning essential job skills for the real world? Yes, your proposition it JUST as stupid.

3. The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it’s one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their “portfolio”. They get to do those things ANYWAY, after being paid as they should. It’s not compensation. It’s their right, and it’s a given.

4. Stop thinking that you’re giving them some great chance to work. Once they skip over your silly ad, as they should, the next ad is usually for someone who lives in the real world, and as such, will pay them. There are far more jobs needing these skills than there are people who possess these skills.

5. Students DO need “experience”. But they do NOT need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, this does not even offer them the experience they need. Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the “experience” they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother’s house when they were seventeen?

If you your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of scrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.

6. (This one is FOR the artists out there, please pay attention.) Some will ask you to “submit work for consideration”. They may even be posing as some sort of “contest”. These are almost always scams. They will take the work submitted by many artists seeking to win the “contest”, or be “chosen” for the gig, and find what they like most. They will then usually have someone who works for them, or someone who works incredibly cheap because they have no originality or talent of their own, reproduce that same work, or even just make slight modifications to it, and claim it as their own. You will NOT be paid, you will NOT win the contest. The only people who win, here, are the underhanded folks who run these ads. This is speculative, or “spec”, work. It’s risky at best, and a complete scam at worst. I urge you to avoid it, completely. For more information on this subject, please visit

So to artists/designers/illustrators looking for work, do everyone a favor, ESPECIALLY yourselves, and avoid people who do not intend to pay you. Whether they are “spec” gigs, or just some guy who wants a free mural on his living room walls. They need you. You do NOT need them.

And for those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world. The only thing you’re accomplishing is to insult those with the skills you need. Get a clue.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Stranger than fiction

They say “the truth is often stranger than fiction” and I had good cause to realise just what that meant last week. In the still on-going Ettamogah saga you simply couldn’t write this next chapter and have it believable if it didn’t actually happen. Myself and three others, all former (yes, “stood-down”) employees of Leigh O’Brien and Ettamogah Entertainment received letters from TressCox Lawyers citing defamatory comments made against Mr O’Brien on our blogs and the now shuttered “Boycott Ettamogah” group on facebook. This is the same Ettamogah Entertainment that has been reported on by The Age here, Inside Film here and here, and Screen Hub here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

After the initial shock and anger, or what one of my fellow recipients calls “The seven stages of What the F…!” I did some reading on the internet about defamation and what you can and can’t say and all that it entails. This particular site had a line from its opening paragraph that I found to be quite pertinent- “In practice its [Defamation Law] main effect is to hinder free speech and protect powerful people from scrutiny.” So here we were in a position where we’d been stood down from our jobs unlawfully and without notice, we’re fighting for our entitlements and the company is being investigated by Fair Work Australia, The MEAA and the ATO and yet in voicing our disgust we were now in trouble.

The letter from TressCox pointed out that “Mr O’Brien is a well known and respected figure” and “enjoys an enviable reputation within the broader business community, and in particular, within the entertainment, animation, hospitality and tourism industries”. The letter proceeded to claim that statements made on this blog “convey imputations which are grossly defamatory of him” and that “these statements have caused [him] much hurt, distress and embarrassment.” Whilst I can’t speak for my fellow stood down colleagues, I will say that as an actual member of the animation industry I wasn’t consulted to give Mr O’Brien a character reference.

Therefore under the threat of a potentially lengthy legal battle with someone who is better equipped to fight it than me, you may notice a bit of editing in the posts below because I, apparently am forbidden to provide my opinion on the matter.

And with that I’ll return to drawing pictures…

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Battle of Brighton

There's been a battle going on in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton for the last three months, one that should have been resolved by now but, to the frustration of those of us involved, still lingers on due to the unwillingness of the company involved to resolve it. Now, I don't usually write up opinion pieces and prefer to post artwork on this blog partly for the fear of putting my foot in my mouth, however I'm going to hold my silence no more.

This company, Ettamogah Entertainment, in many ways has a goose that lays golden eggs in it's hands. It's a company that owns the rights to the comic art of Ken Maynard who for many years produced a cartoon set around the fictitious "Ettamogah Pub" in outback Australia for the "Australasian Post" magazine. Strangely enough, the first things produced by the company were replica themed pubs and restaurants, the first opening in 1987. Then a couple of years ago, the decision was made to utilise the roots of the license and produce animation based on the style. What a great idea- here's a recognised brand (perhaps a little kitsch, but hey everything old is new again), something any start-up company would no doubt kill for as it would no doubt alleviate the need to source funding; plus there's the potential to divert revenue from the pubs. Now I've worked in animation for nearly twenty years; I've worked for Disney, and I've worked for smaller companies. The biggest obstacle isn't the ideas (well, that's another story), it's the funding. Getting the finance, the pre-sales, the distribution, the money all sorted out in the first place so that you can get the thing made. Disney has its own brand, and out of that branding comes a revenue stream, one that finances the products it makes. Smaller companies have to rely on funding, co-productions, pre-sales and if they're very lucky they may get to work with a recognised brand or style.
Eighteen months ago, this company opened up a brand new, custom built, fitted out studio in Brighton.
And then what did they do?

Well, it all culminated three months ago, when without notice or warning more than half of the staff were told as they were finishing up for the day not to come in the following day, that they were being "stood down"- whatever that was supposed to mean. We weren't being fired, sacked, made redundant or let go, we were still technically regarded as employees of the company but being asked to sit on the sidelines and wait anywhere from approximately 2 to 8 weeks, until the company had sorted out the mess it had gotten itself into, there was a catch though-we just weren't going to be paid. And as it turned out, also for the week and a half preceding this announcement. There'd be weekly updates on the situation they also told us, and what have we received? Sweet bugger all.

But don't just take my word for it; this article hit the local trade press the day after it happened.
Then there was this article from a major Australian paper.
Followed by this again from the trade press.
And ScreenHub have reported on it here, here and here. For those without a subscription, here's a copy of their latest article from last week-

Melbourne Animation Turmoil: battle moves to art

Screen Hub
Monday 11 January, 2010

With the Melbourne animation community buzzing with the matters surrounding Ettamogah, there are many theories about the problem. But nobody will go on record...

The industry knows there is problem. With a maximum of around 120 official staff, very few are actually working. The rest are suspended in limbo, pending promises to return, to bring pay up to date, to deal with the unpaid superannuation.
The other Melbourne animation outfits have been fielding emails for months from Ettamogah staff looking for work.
As of the beginning of December, the company was being advised by "a production consultant". Managing Director Leigh O'Brien was reassuring his staff that entitlements were a priority, and they would be notified about a new structure.
The phrase "production consultant" is code for "completion guarantor."
We know that the MEAA is involved. We know that the Australian Writers' Guild is in there too. We know that a heap of people have discovered good reasons to join a Union.
We also know that Li'l Larrikins is an ambitious 3D animation series, with a presale from Network Ten. The amount is confidential, but the deal has not been put to Screen Australia, where it would be subject to the floor price of $95.000 per half hour.
We understand that Ten has stockpiled enough material that it is not in desperate need of the show to satisfy its content requirements.
Ettamogah has never announced an international presale for Li'l Larrikins. Ettamogah execs hired a booth at MIPCOM and worked hard to create interest in the series.
A hypothetical production of this scale, with around 120 staff, paid a conservative $60k each on average, shooting for twelve months, will cost around $7.2m in wages.
This hypothetical show has a low presale figure of $55,000 in Australia. This hypothetical show will recover its costs solely from international acquisitions.
You can see why the financiers of this show would be concerned. And why such a show might have a cash flow problem.
Any attempts to deal with schedule problems by outsourcing work overseas will ultimately create an income problem - that expenditure is not a qualifying Australian expenditure according to the tax regulations.
Everyone with any internal knowledge of Ettamogah has private theories about the situation. They will inform the thinking of a generation of animators as they build their own projects and companies. Trauma does that to people.
Now, an anonymous cartoonist has arrived on Blogger to publish a series on the workings of a company called Docklands Entertainment.
In the about section, it says

"Sally Quince and Bret Braddock are not real people. They only seem like they might be.
Docklands Entertainment is not a real company. No real company would function like this.
Nobody writes or draws this comic strip. Who would bother?"

You can decide for yourself which company is being parodied.
We will give you one hint - it is neither Channel Seven, which has a studio in Docklands, or the Melbourne Central City Studios, based in Docklands.

Perhaps you too can learn something about the adventure of building a new enterprise. With just a few clicks, you may avoid the suffering that the good folks at Ettamogah are surely enduring.

As Colin South is prepared to say on the record, "It is really sad that this has happened. It is sad that people will always remember the bad stories."
"The guy [Leigh O'Brien] has to take responsibility for what he has done, but there are no books on how to set up a studio, and you have to learn from experience. We made a lot of mistakes at the outset, like everyone else, and at the end of the day, it is the people you want to protect."
"I am really disappointed, particularly in an environment where everyone is looking at co-productions as a solution. A studio which produces internally is helping to create the next generation of designers and board artists and lead animators and production managers. That is the sad part about it, and I do hope they manage to keep going somehow."

How did it all get to this? As the ScreenHub article suggests "there are many theories".
This sort of practise was common in the late 80's and early 90's when animation was having a resurgence. Entrepreneurial types would raise a pile of money, hire a bunch of young, enthusiastic artists trying to get a break into the industry, and try and fly a turkey that would no doubt end up crashing and burning. I know, I got burnt a couple of times early in my career. But I would have thought that sort of reckless abandon was by the wayside now. Apparently not. As it currently stands, the company is still delaying requests to outline a resolution regarding its staff to both the Government watchbody and the union refusing to grant access to staff records.
It's caught out people again trying to make a start in the industry (especially post-Disney) and also those with experience, leaving an oversupply of talent in the local animation community and everyone wondering "Is this cruel mistress of animation actually worth all this torment?"
But, how did this happen? Were there warning signs? Yes, I think there were, and many, and as employees, we chose to ignore them because we figured the company was starting up, having teething problems, the paycheque (at that stage) was coming in, we were doing what we loved, name your excuse.

Now I've never run my own animation company or tried to start one up and as Colin South, who I have known for many years says- there's no textbooks on how to set one up, but I have worked in the animation industry for nearly twenty years now on Feature films and TV series and if I owned the license to a comic strip and decided to create an animated TV series based on it here's what I'd do- For starters, I'd look to hire someone who had a sizeable amount of experience in the animation industry, preferably as a director, but at least a key creative person who had a thorough grasp of the process and what was involved in putting it together. Also, I'd hire a writer who'd had some experience in the market I'd be looking at pitching towards (kids TV), preferably as a lead and I'd hire a producer who'd also had experience in animation to create a budget and a schedule and also to lead the sale of the product. And the easy thing about hiring these people, they get credits on everything they work on and there's a one-stop-spot to verify it.
These three key personnel wouldn't be cheap, but they'd be the key staff and decision makers leading the project. They'd be the people that the production staff when hired, would look to for advice, to have made the decisions to move the production on to completion, people the workers would have faith in. I'd get them to collaborate and come up with a product that suited the market, was well crafted and artistically achievable within a set schedule and budget. You see, the budget/schedule, art and writing are all intertwined. Do some research, ask some questions. Figure out how we're gonna do this. It wouldn't have to be ground-breaking, revolutionary, star trekking stuff, simply a product that was appealing, solid and doable.
As a result of this process I'd then have a collection of artwork depicting the characters and setting in a style that was deemed appropriate and achievable given the budget and schedule. As nice as it would be to have Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting, expecting it for the budget of a Marvel comic would probably be asking a lot. I'd also have from the writer what is termed "a Bible"- basically a document which says who all the characters are, their personalities, describes the location, gives a run down of the premise of the series and has a breakdown of the individual episodes. This also would be tailored to suit the artistic style of the show and production method. For example, you wouldn't load up a show that's budgeted as a sit-com with expensive action scenes, masses of crowds or loads of locations.
From this I'd then have the basic pre-production assets to launch into production. Some things may need further development or expanding but this is done at this early stage when costs are low as opposed to when it hits production when the majority of staff are hired and things are considerably more expensive. You see, with animation, it's all about the planning.
And with setting up the studio, again I’d seek input from these three key personnel to create a comfortable, efficient and productive environment. I’d find out what equipment was needed; hardware, software, stationery, whether there was any special requirements. Weigh up cost versus productivity on certain items. Then as needed, I’d hire the relevant, qualified and experienced people to set it up for me.
Seems like common sense doesn't it?
You'd think so...