Monday, November 28, 2016

Intro to Visual Development for Animation Workshop at CCA!

Join us or spread the word! We still have plenty of room. Great space and location for a 4-Sunday vis-dev workshop.

Intro to Visual Development for Animation

OAK campus
Instructor: Eugene Young
Sunday, November 27-December 18, 10am-4pm
4 sessions. $325. Noncredit
Prerequisite: Intermediate-level drawing and painting skills and basic Photoshop skills recommended

How do artists design people, places, and things for an animated film?

This course introduces the techniques used in visual development for animation. Learn the developmental stages of designing characters, props, and environments with a focus on audience and storytelling.

Traditional and digital tools are covered as well as strategies for research and problem-solving through drawing. Students complete the course with a presentation of process sketches and finished designs. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Neo Admiral Tsukino

This month's Sailor Moon Character Challenge inspired me to take on a redesign of the iconic star of the series. I imagined her as a much older commander with a stocky build like Captain Avatar from Starblazers.
The style choices borrow from an Iczer 1 character album I bought back in the late 80s. It was filled with beautifully reproduced stills from the film and had vibrant colors, crisp cel shading and that characteristically rough animation line.


Final Design
I decided later in the process to try a quick prop and vehicle treatment in the same style. In hindsight, everything could be pushed a lot more but I think the basic idea comes across in the final design.

Check out more art and artists at

Friday, June 24, 2016

More work in ZBrush

 ZBrush continues to be a great way to test my sculpting knowledge and an endless source of fun and discovery. This is not an easy program to master. The quirks and bugs keep me on my toes, but when I want to just explore making things, ZBrush is hard to put down.

 I learned that I was running an older version with a bug that kept the Adaptive Skin feature from working. With the update, I was able to go from ZSpheres to mesh with much better results than I did with classic skinning.

Masking for painting creases and textures has also been a great technique. I can detail the model in much the same way I would with an airbrush, washes and dry-brushing.
 I saw so many great examples of hard-surface modeling coming out of the Games program at AAU, but I never expected to get my own work beyond pencil and paper or rendering in Photoshop. Thus far, I have been able to build models based on two of my favorite childhood creations: the Double Dodger and the Dart Fighter. These fighters were part of my Convoy Battles story and had several designs. Both had an issue with too many polygons, but now I have a slightly better handle on how to reduce polys and just how many is too many.

 I also too a stab at sculpting a clothed character over a ZSphere armature. Knowing when and how to reduce polygons is still a bit of s stumbling bock for me, but I think I'm getting the hang of it.  More to come...

Thoughts on the LMNA

I felt a need to share this update on the LMNA, especially in light of the recent expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the closure of the Cartoon Art Museum. Few things in SFMOMA have inspired me as much as the exhibitions at the CAM. I should preface this my mentioning Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Lee Bul, Lee Bontecou and Lebbeus Woods as huge influences whose work I first saw at SFMOMA. From an early age I was instilled with a deep curiosity about all kinds of art and I value accessible spaces where we can experience modern art. On the other hand, some of my strongest memories of art come from mass-market science fiction novels, movie posters and superhero comics. Granted, local book stores and public libraries have made it easy to learn about the artists and the art from these genres, but here's nothing like seeing the real thing in person. I see things in actual paintings and comic book pages that the how-to books just can't show. Physical art is treasure trove of information and so much of the subtle materiality of a given work gets lost in a reproduction. I was probably drawn to work by artists who painted with an illustrator's imagination and specificity because they were master communicators. I could understand an illustration right away without second-guessing myself. Even when the work was hard to relate to content-wise, it inspired me to give this magical story-picture-making thing a try. So much of what ends up in museums today seems driven by educational trends, markets, culture and personal tastes. And that's just fine. We all can collect and preserve works that resonate with us in whatever forms and quantities you can. Whenever I see the names of founders, donors and private collectors on gallery and museum walls, I'm reminded that they did just that. The only difference is scale, wealth and access. 

Hopefully, the Lucas collection will find a home in California soon. It's just something I'd like to see either in the Bay Area, or at least somewhere in California. Maybe there are just too many cultural and political forces at play in most major cities to allow something like the LMNA to flourish. Then again, a place like Skywalker Ranch found a home well-outside the city limits of San Francisco. Pixar settled in Emeryville, not Burbank or Hollywood. It will be interesting to see how this saga ends.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


This Thursday night is opening night of the 18th Annual San Francisco Black Film Festival in San Francisco. Tickets are available now for opening night and the various screening venues. It's going to be another phenomenal festival!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

ZBrush Fun

 I've been having a blast bringing one of my creature designs "to life" using ZBrush. The Louisiana mud goblin was an amphibious feline creature created for one of my graduate courses at AAU a couple of years ago. The thought of sculpting it in Sculpey® had crossed my mind but never happened. Then, former student and ZBrush wiz did a sculpt of another creature in record time. We discussed possibly trading the production work for funding a 3D printing course, but I ended up declining the offer for financial reasons.

 After several hours of online tutorials and experimentation, I realized that it would be a better use of my time to work on a finished design rather than "sketching" new ones. The main problem was that everything I did out of my imagination lacked cohesiveness and direction. They often ended up as floppy "meat blankets" with weak design.
The mud goblin was fairly well-researched, giving it a good grounding in reality. Just about everything, like the shape of the tail or placement of the ears unusually close to the eyes, had some thinking behind it.
Using ZSpheres for fleshing out the base mesh turned out to be a good way to start. I still don't know why I can only get results when I use the "Classic Skinning" options in the Adaptive Skin palette. The Unified Skin gobbled up the tail and turned the toes into silly string.
Long hours of researching and drawing muscles for various vertibrates made the sculpting process a bit easier. We learned the basics of feline, bovine, canine, avian, dinosaur, and primate anatomy, but I still found myself winging a bit on the back and shoulder muscles.

My goal is to get a prototype 3D printed by the end of summer and possibly do a short run of plastic models at around the same scale as my Schleich animal toys. I'm keeping my expectations low for now since I have no idea if the surface details will hold up or if I will need to break up the model into multiple parts. For now, I will focus on getting strong pose with minimal kinks and realistic anatomy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Hi kids!

Put down the remote and join us this Thursday, May 24 at F8 Bar in San Francisco for yet another night of art and merriment. I will be a guest artist for this month's TV Shows-themed event. I've had the guy with the TV head from FLCL on my mind recently, so I think I know how I might interpret the theme...

Buy some locally-sourced art created on the spot, or just hang out and draw with us. There will be a DJ, raffle and drink and food specials for early folks.

Quick Draw SF was the birthplace of my Karju series, and continues to be a favorite "test bed" for new ideas.

QUICK DRAW SF #24: TV Shows!
Thursday, May 26, 2016
6:00 PM

1192 Folsom Street (@8th)
San Francisco, CA

Bye kids!

On the Z-Axis

I first saw a demonstration of ZBrush during the Insomania workshop in San Francisco. Someone had a laptop and an unusual control device that looked like an advanced silver and black paddle controller for an Atari 2600. As artist used the tool to digitally sculpt on a demonic head, he explained how the process was a lot like painting in Photoshop, except that the brushstrokes could add or subtract from the model surface.

Years later, I had a recent graduate audit my digital drawing and painting course at Dominican University who was already very well-versed in the ins and outs of ZBrush. It was another opportunity for me to get my feet wet with the program but I was already overloaded with my MFA coursework and teaching part-time at two schools. How could I possibly find time to learn another program?

The first ZBrush (organic modelling) course offered at AAU ran during my final semester. I convinced myself that a semester of Autodesk Maya with an experienced instructor might give me a better 3D foundation that I could then take into ZBrush. Maya turned out to be way more than I could handle at the time, but surprisingly, I was able to use some of what I learned on some concept work for Faroukh Virani's sci-fi short "Vimana". To date, I am still haunted by a deep yearning to master UV mapping, rigging, building controls, setting up a turntable, and pulling off a basic walk cycle.

Enter a generous perk of teaching at City College of San Francisco. The vast libraries of online video tutorials got me back into exploring 3D with Maya's nicer cousing, Blender. I even managed to rough out models of a few of my childhood vehicle creations like the Bladestreaker, Double Dodger and the Green Axe Eruptor. However, I knew that ZBrush would get me where I wanted to go with my work much faster. After finding an offer with a modest academic discount, I placed the order and started with the tutorials included with the installation disk. The first hurdle was learning how to navigate the interface. The second even bigger hurdle was wrapping my head around the difference between the tools, brushes, projects and the canvas.
A ZSphere sketch with Adaptive Skin applied

A recent study using ZSpheres

A layered sculpt based on the Julie.ztl model
 So far, it has taken a lot of repetition and review of several basic concepts for me to be able to start building things with more confidence. Ryan Kittleson's essential training videos gave me a good foundation for using tools and brushes. I am currently working my way through another series where Kittleson develops a racing android from an existing model.
A creature sketch using ZSpheres
While a lot of these studies have been fun, I find that it is really easy to forget about design and get lost in details or overusing some tools. That said, there should be a happy medium between sketching things out by hand and doing so in ZBrush with a similar level of thought and spontaneity.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Back in the Arena

It's official! There will be five of my original illustrations from Ophidian 2350 included in the Ophidian 2360 CCG Kickstarter relauch. Many thanks to Jason Robinette, VP of Marketing and Design at Hack and Slash Games. Keep up with recent developments in this amazing project here:

The original sketch for Cybersnipe (Unpublished).

There and Back Again

I recently came across a copy of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicle Companion: SMAUG - Unleashing the Dragon at the Ingleside branceh of the San Francisco Public Library. The branch is within walking distance of City College of San Francisco where I currently teach a beginning and intermediate section of Adobe Illustrator in the Visual Media Design department. I drove there, and intended to return yet another science fiction novel that I just couldn't get myself to read consistently enough to finish. "A Darkling Sea" by James A. Cambias had wonderful echoes of my favorite deep sea films from the 80s and 90s including Sphere (1998), DeepStar Six (1989), The Abyss (1989), and even Leviathan (1989). 1989 was a particularly good year for the genre. I was a senior at Berkeley High School and deeply enamored with the idea of doing practical effects and design work for feature live-action films. I would buy issues of Fangoria and Cinefex and imagine one day working at a studio building models or sculpting creatures.

My subscription to (which is also, I learned recently, free to SFPL patrons) and recently decided to dive into learning ZBrush. The learning process has been slow and frustrating thus far. And yet the idea of at the very least sculpting one of my own creatures keeps me going. Little by little, the basic concepts are sinking in as I take in the information in short, 2-3 minute video chunks. The possibility of one day using ZBrush for paid illustration work seems a long ways away, but even the steepest learning curves can be surmounted.

When I saw Weta's Smaug book on the shelf, its small size reminded me of the popular film reference books I sometimes see in the children's section. But then it occurred to me that there just might be some valuable insights into the thinking and digital tools that went into the design of Smaug. The book did not disappoint.

The book is divided into sections that focus on various phases of the design process such as previs and concept art, sound, motion capture and texturing. Various team members describe their roles and experiences working on the project. I appreciated the balance of artist, technician and supervisory voices in the book that compliment the images. Both the 3D and 2D work was phenomenal; smart design choices, dramatic compositions and unique problem-solving.

The book took me back to my first issue of Cinefex may have been the one with a vibrant shot of the U.S.S. Enterprise D from Star Trek: The Next Generation on the cover. In high school, I was a huge fan of the show, and even tried painting every panel and window of the model issued by AMT around the same time. The color was a mystery. The instructions suggested grays that were not available at my local hobby shop, shots of the model in magazines appeared to have a soft, blue color that differed from the TV show. A mishap with my spray gun led to the underside getting a stippled texture while the top remained smooth. I think I got as far as painting the entire saucer, including little tan rounded squares that represented the ship's lifeboats. Cinifex was never an easy read for me. Maybe it was the industry jargon. But what struck me about the Smaug book was how easy it was to read. Knowing a bit of the language of visual development and the special effects process really makes a difference. (Thanks, AAU!)

Ever since the early 80s, building scale model kits was one of my favorite hobbies. I had a subscription to Fine Scale Modeler, Air and Space magazine and even got random monthly kits from Monogram®. The pastime peaked when Revell released several Japanese robot and vehicle models under the Robotech imprint. They were marketed with no backstories and the diorama photos on the box tops took liberties with color and decal placement on the kits. This introduced me to the idea of modifying kits and kit-bashing. The biggest kit I ever took on was a 1/48 scale B1-B bomber that took up my entire dresser. Kit building got me to finish things and taught me the value of patience and careful planning. My ability to visualize a project from start to finish comes right out of modeling. While I was never into cars and mechanical toys like RC racing, something about seeing how things are put together, part by part, fascinated me and directly informed how I drew vehicles from my imagination. The kits were also notoriously delicate which forced me to invent repairs for broken posts, antennas and joints. My discovery of Friendly Plastic® at a Amsterdam Art in Berkeley led to a few mildly successful attempts at sculpting my own characters and vehicles. Years later, I would take a chance on Super Sculpey® which opened up even more worlds of possibility. All the while, I continued to harbor a strong interest in doing that stuff for a living, or creating and sharing my own universes.

Last night, I accidentally brought up the cover to the high school yearbook I worked on as one of five the artists. (We never called ourselves "illustrators" back then. I might not have even heard of illustration as a career.) "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Berkeley High" had an anonymous helmeted astronaut on the cover and throughout that 1990 edition of Olla Podrida. We each had our own styles, loved sci-fi and comics and created our own corner of chaos on the yearbook staff. The work was decent, and we were all very happy to contribute to the project. Sadly, I never got a copy of the yearbook.

Something deeply ingrained in me compels me to create. I've known this from an early age and I was lucky to have been born into a family that never discouraged my creativity. That drive may ebb and flow but it never leaves me. Something tells me that none of it was ever meant to be a hobby or a "side thing".

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

More Mechs!


Mother E

Swamp Thang

Sexy Rude

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New Vis Dev Course @ CCA Extension

I am very excited to announce this NEW course offering through CCA Extention:

Intro to Visual Development for Animation
OAK Campus
Instructor: Eugene Young
Saturday, 10a.m.-4 p.m., July 2-August 6
6 sessions.
Prerequisites: Intermediate-level drawing and painting skills and basic Photoshop skills recommended

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sketch Dailies and the Robot Toy

I've been enjoying a great series of Twitter sketch challenges called @Sketch_Dailies. A recent inspiration was this digitally painted sketch for the recent cat-alpaca mashup. My fascination with robot toys from Japan is definitely still with me. My first robot toy must have been one of the mini-Shogun Warriors from Mattel. I had a Gaiking, Combattra, and a Poseidon. Combattra and Poseidon vanished from my "cubby hole" at Oxford Elementary. It was one of many thefts of toys I was silly enough to take to school and share with friends. I would spend hours staring at the tiny details and imagining what a label, divot or protrusion might be. In my favorite animated mech shows, panels would open to reveal entryways for pilots, hidden tools and more. The Shogun Warriors later appeared in feature-length animated films known as "Force Five", which introduced me to an even broader world of anime beyond Speed Racer, Battle of the Planets (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) and Starblazers (Space Cruiser Yamato) which aired on local television and cable. As an avid scale model builder starting in the mid-80s, I was treated to more than a few illustrated cutaways in the instructions sheets of robots and weapons, sometimes with the major components labeled.

Memory is an interesting thing. I sat beside Kim Jung Gi during last year's CTNx during his "Conversation With the Creators" talk. He challenged us to attempt draw the room we were in, people, objects and all, completely from memory, and from any point of view. Since then, I have been slowly nudging myself toward this new way of "seeing" my surroundings.

During my late teens, I was obsessed with learning how to achieve photo-realism with acrylic paint. The airbrush was at the top of my list of tools to master. My first airbrush was a dual-action bottom-feed Paasche VLS. I would hook it up to a low-wattage tankless compressor that "walked around" the garage floor as I worked. As I learned about masking and other techniques, a new habit formed that is still with me: I started imagining how to render everything I saw with an airbrush. Everything from hard and soft edges to textures and gradations of color became something executable with an airbrush, French curves, masking fluid and frisket. This "deconstructing eye" is always at work wherever I go. My student years at AAU doing plein air in oil further pushed my habit of looking to see, learn and retain for future reference.
The original sketchbook drawing in progress. 

But, there was always a problem. In the late 80s, there were plenty of how-to books, but I a slow reader and fiercely impatient. Reading a series of detailed steps, however clearly written, was tedious and discouraging. With no one to "show me how", I often dove right into a piece, skipping through the careful steps that inevitably lead to good illustration work. Looking back, a similar lack of patience affected my model kit building. I wanted to get kits done and painted as quickly as possible. Only now can I set aside a work-in-progress long enough to let layers of paint to dry.

Somehow those countless hours of trying, building and breaking things fed my imagination. A scale plastic model kit on the sprue revealed so much of the inner-workings of the very toys I enjoyed as a child. They taught me how to see through moving parts and continuously informed my own designs. Even the act of transforming an old robot toy that had long lost its play value helped me "re-see" and retain enough information for me to be able to create a satisfying approximation of those amazing plastic objects. My guess is that I need to touch the subject and experience it in the round at an accessible scale in order to really "learn" it. I learned and retained more about human anatomy from Carol Tarzier's ecorche workshop offered at City College of San Francisco than in all of my formal and independent study combined. She taught us the value in knowing what we drew, whereas most of my teachers emphasized drawing what we saw and felt.

Learning to draw from my imagination with confidence has been a slow, decades-long process and I am still learning. I can enjoy this piece as one of the occasional milestones that confirm that effort leads to improvement.


If you happen to be a Pinterester, check out my board of Japanese robot model boxtop art. It includes some of the very illustrations I saw on the shelf at Jeffery's Toys (later R.A Martin) at the El Cerrito Plaza and Iron Horse in Albany.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Ophidian 2360 Kickstarter is UP!

Gun Kipa (minion) from Ophidian 2350 CCG
By Eugene Randolph Young

The Ophidian 2360 Kickstarter is up! These guys are putting a lot of ton of love and passion into bringing Ophidian CCG back into the gaming mainstream with a new look and the support and distribution it deserves. I can also appreciate their sensible art policy and commitment producing the game in the U.S. for better quality control. It was a huge honor and privilege to contribute art to the original game and I really want to see the relaunch soar! Link below:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Heartbreakers Show

I will have two pieces in the Oakland Drink and Draw Heartbreakers group show. The opening reception will be Friday, Feb. 5 from 5p-7p at Black Spring Coffee Company at 2950 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, California. Everything is 40 bucks!

Illustration by Justin Lawrence Levine

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Falcon Shenanigans

As I continue to grapple with my aversion to making fan art something just short of magical happened Thursday night at the Quick Draw SF event.

I had a blast sketching six vehicles based on the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars films. Each ship had a name based on an idiomatic term or expression for a duration of time. My favorites were the "Whythehelldeytakinsolong Falcon" and the "Minute-Plus Falcon". I think Lando Calrissian would appreciate these names, don't you?

I hadn't had this much fun jamming on a topic since the "karju" series started in October of 2014. In fact, I liked these little Falcons so much that I couldn't put a price on them. They combine my love for cartooning and those last, dying embers from a childhood dream of working at Lucasfilm.

As always, thank you to Shayna Yasuhara and Jason Furie for putting the event together and for having me as a guest artist again. It was great meeting some new folks and seeing some really good art.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

BCAF 2016

Be sure to stop by the second annual Black Comix Arts Festival (BCAF) expo in San Francisco from 11a-5pm. I will have a modest selection of books and art for sale.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Quick Draw SF January 2016

"There can be only one."

I am excited to have been asked back as a guest artist at the sci-fi/Star Wars-themed Quick Draw SF  event on Thursday, January 21, 2016 from 6pm to 10pm. There will be a DJ, merchandise table, and raffle with cool prizes and a full bar with a limited food menu. I might even decide to suspend my mildly draconian "no fan art" policy for the night.

Quick Draw SF is part of a monthly live drawing series co-curated by Shayna Yasuhara of PAINT PENS COLLECTIVE and Jason Furie of NEVER ENDING RADICAL DUDE. While everyone is welcome to come draw, ten guest artists will have a reserved seat at the event, be included on the promo, and have the opportunity to sell their work at our featured “merch" table...think prints, stickers, zines, small original pieces, etc. The event also features an “Art Wall” where anyone can post their creations from the night.

F8 Bar & Gallery
1192 Folsom St.
Thursday, January 21st

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Dr. Sketchy's SF Stormtrooper

With the disappointment that came with Star Wars: The Force Awakens still weighing on me, I gave tonght's Star Wars-themed Dr. Sketchy's SF a shot. It was an odd combination of lingerie and the iconic helmet design of the original Stormtrooper from Episode IV: A New Hope. I owned one as a kid and never imagined the faceless troops in gleaming white armor as being even remotely erotic. And there I was, decades later taking in a gender-bent life-sized costume-fantasy version of what I saw in the films.
Which brings me to Captain Phasma in The Force Awakens. It was our first time hearing a female voice coming from a stormtrooper's helmet and her silvery armor suggested in the trailer that she might play an important role in the film. It was a tease similar to the "red stormtroopers" that appeared in the Marvel adaptation of Return of the Jedi that turned out to be imperial guards and also delivered similarly wooden performances. In either case, the prospect of seeing something new and exciting was part of the draw to the sequels. New worlds, new creatures and vehicles, all of that stuff made the Star Wars universe unforgettable.
I arrived without a strong black marker or brush pen and had to sacrifice a few poses to various levels of incompleteness. My plan was to use some of the brown walnut ink and white ink along with the white. The paper was from my 6" x 12" Pentalic® Nature Sketch. The white was from a small jar of Kuratake white ink and a Faber-Castell PITT white big brush pen. I had a bottle from a former student was selling her homemade walnut ink at a reception for the spring book arts class at CCSF. It lacked the dark, inky quality of the Tom Norton Designs batch I got from an art store years ago, which also dries with a nice sheen.
 I started with broad washes of the ink of various sizes in preparation for short and long poses. The smaller ones ended up working well for single compositions rather than small ones on each block of color.
Our model's slender physique worked well with the long format of the paper and forced me to push things deep into caricature. The classic silver border from Kenner's original Star Wars toys found its way into several of the sketches.
The helmet also seemed just a bit too big on the petite model, so I had fun playing with that aspect as well. Dr. Sketchy's has always been a place where I could test new tools and techniques with fun and original subject matter. The venue also lets me practice quick decision making and risk-taking in ways that I often forget to do in traditional life drawing classes and with location drawing.
There will be another Dr. Sketchy's SF on January 16 with a Disney/Star Wars mashup theme that should be fun.