September, 2003

Sept. 1, 2003 - "Check in Day"

The first day at Calarts was full of mixed feelings. It was pretty difficult to leave my family and friends in Chicago but sometimes you just have to go for your dream and take a risk. Not having any extra ties to Chicago (like a girlfriend) will make the transition a lot smoother for me.
My dorm was great and much more spacious than I thought it would be. I found out that my roommate, Joel, was a character animation student and a caricature artist for Six Flags Magic Mountain. It's great that we already had those two things in common right off the bat. (I'm an animation student and caricature artists for Six Flags Great America). After a while, we met our neighbors, Erik and Demitri who were also character animation students. We didn't have much of a party that night. I don't think there were many parties at all as a matter of fact. We just sat around the dorms and talked about animation till 2a.m. We did manage to meet a bunch of people while they passed the halls. No matter whom you are or what you're doing, it seems like everyone will introduce themselves. I've never met so many people in a day before!

Calarts is not the typical college (at least so far), so if you're looking for a party school, DON'T go to Calarts because you'll be extremely disappointed. The school is filled with highly skilled and dedicated student artists who will rarely care to talk about anything else other than their field of study (which is awesome). The atmosphere at Calarts is AMAZING for anyone that is very serious about becoming an artist. It may be a bit of a culture shock for someone that isn't used to being around a very diverse and liberal crowd. I've heard that the school doesn't even care if people walk around the halls naked!

For lack of a better word, I'd describe the students at Calarts to be very artsy (duh). I've noticed that a lot of people wear grungy styles or "fashiony" styles. Then again, you'll also see people who don't really care what they wear. But, for the most part, the students here seem to really put a good amount of effort to express themselves through the way they dress. This is just my initial impression and I included it just to paint you a clearer picture of how it is here.

Here are some of my fellow character animation peers. The dude in the blue is my roommate. The dude in the light blue and red are my suitemates. They're all pretty cool and hopefully they won't kill me for exposing them to the internet world. muha muha muhahaha.

Sept. 2 2003 - "Getting Comfortable"

Today was filled with orientation activities. There were two meetings and one tour that I attended. I also took pictures for my ID. After the oreintation stuff, the second year character animation students invited us to have dinner with them at a Chicago style restaurant called "BJ's". Oh yea, go Chi-town! We talked about animation, Calarts and looked at each others sketchbooks for hours. This was my first opportunity to meet some upper classman and ask questions. So, I did ask questions and when you ask questions at Calarts, it seems like everyone is willing to help you out. It seems like a great learning environment.

On top of meeting people, I got to see some of their work! Before I came to Calarts, I was hoping that I'd be surrounded by tons of talented artists that kick my ass in drawing. Well, I got was I wished for. There are some awesome artists here! I was absolutely blown away from the talent. Now I know why this animation program is one of the best.


Sept. 3 2003 - "First Character Animation Meeting"

The character animation orientation was held at the "Palace" today. The Palace is a big room in the animation department where some screenings, figure drawing classes, and visiting artist lectures are held. It was nice to finally see all of the animation students in one room. But, it was more exciting to see some of our mentors give lectures for the first time. My heart was beating fast the entire time. I felt both nervous and excited. I was nervous because my class was very talented! Sometimes you begin to look at your sketchbooks with a frown after seeing something better. But I know this is the ideal situation for me to be in. I'll learn a lot more around better artists.

Frank Terry (Director of the Character Animation Program) was the primary speaker for this meeting. His speech was exciting and straight to the point. He told us to "forget about your social lives for four years". There is a lot to learn in character animation and Calarts expects a full commitment from their students. I don't know if many people are willing to make such a huge commitment but if you want to get into animation, there is no way around it if you want to be successful.

Frank Terry seemed like a nice guy. He was well spoken and at some points, very serious. I think that he wants to be very clear about the level of dedication he expects from us. There were a few other teachers in the room. One of them was Cornie Cole, who was the advanced figure drawing teacher. He seemed to be a little more lax, cracking jokes here and there. He seems like a funny guy. Then there was Mr. Brown, who was the landscape and animal drawing teacher. He seemed to be pretty laid back as well. In all, the teachers that we met seemed really cool.

A group of the second and third year character animation students attended our orientation. I thought that this was a really nice gesture because they didn't have to be there to welcome us into the program. It seems like all the students are pretty close and it's not hard to see why. I'll learn a lot by just hanging out with some of the upperclassman.

Sept 5, 2003 - "Class registration"

It was a big day because we registered for classes today. I'm excited about this semester because every class that I'm taking is very cool. The only thing that makes me nervous is that I'm taking 18 units (12 is full-time). Some people have to take around 21 units because they didn't have classes transfer over from their other schools. I'm lucky. I already have 27 units out of 48 finished for critical studies. I'm taking one crit study this year. It's called European Studies 19-20 centuries. Also, I finally decided on a work study job. I'll be working at the Office of Admissions for about 8 hours a week. I hope it won't interfere with my studies too much since everyone says that the animation students have the hardest workload at Calarts. I'll break down my schedule for you.






Animation 1


7-10 p.m

7-10 p.m

Video Anim/ Computer Intro



Life Drawing 1



Basic Perspective



Color and Design



Beg. Story Dev



Animation Principles


7-10 p.m

European Studies



Story for Animators



work study

1-3 p.m



I'm really excited about the animation class. Supposedly, Mike Disa is a really awesome teacher. I've heard that he'll keep you in the class till 1a.m sometimes. Also, my figure drawing class will be fun. Mike Mitchell was the guy who looked through my portfolio last year and gave me some really helpful suggestions on how to put it together for the review commitee. If it wasn't for his help, I probably wouldn't be here. Oh, and he actually remembered me when I saw him at registration!

Sept. 9, 2003 - "Classes Begin!"

Classes started yesterday and boy do I have a lot to tell. I'll start with my Video Animation/ Computer Intro class which was on Monday morning. My class is HUGE. It turns out that there are about 50 students in the freshman character animation class. I guess the previous graduating class was that large so they needed to fill spaces. Besides that, my teacher, Thor Moser is hilarious. We didn't go over too much other than basic rules, an outline of what we'll cover and he also shared a few funny stories. I thought Thor was funny because of the fact that he wore big black sunglasses in the classroom. I kinda wanted to ask him why but I didn't. Maybe he was trying to be a goofball. He's a pretty energetic teacher. It's just what you need at 9a.m.

My next class was Perspective. The teacher, Mr. Hanson, seemed like a really reserved guy. He's pretty much the complete opposite of Moser but it's Ok. Hanson has worked for Disney and several other places as a layout artist. It's so weird to have artists from Disney as teachers. That part is still soaking in. Anyhow, I learned a lot about perspective already. As a matter of fact, I put together a new perspective tutorial just because I thought the material that was covered would be really helpful for everyone. It cleared up a lot of confusion that I had about perspective and adding characters into a composition.

The last class on Monday was Story Development with Theresa Petengill. Theresa works in the story department at Dreamworks (drool).
She's outgoing, enjoys games, and likes to laugh. So, as you can imagine, the class was pretty fun. We watched South Park and Beavis and Butthead for a while, too. That was awesome. But since I have three classes on Monday and only one on Wednesday, I'm switching my story development class to Wednesday with Ramos. So you know what this means right? I can watch Monday Night Football, baby! Yea, you heard me. Go Bears. *ends sidetrack*

The first day of school went pretty smoothly. All the butterflies that I had on Monday were gone by the time Tuesday began. This was a HUGE day because I had Color and Design, my first day of work study and....DUN DUN DUN.....Animation 1 with Mike Disa, who is one of the most highly regarded animation teachers around. booya! Let me just say something about cube sign ups first. You don't want to be around Calarts animation students on cube sign up day! (every animation student gets a cubicle to work on animation projects) It is absolutely insane how crazy and desperate people get over the cubes they want. Most freshman got the shaft end of the stick and were sent out into the lodge cubes, which are located outside of the main building. It's like an isolated island out there. Nobody likes it too much. But if you know me, I don't play around when it comes down to something I really want. I woke up at like 6:30 to wait in line and was able to grab the second spot in line. I have an AWESOME cube next to AWESOME artists. Hopefully, I'll learn a lot from them over the course of the year.

Color and Design was a cool class. Miss Danger reminds me a lot of Theresa. They kinda look alike I think. Danger is outgoing and laughs a whole lot. It's kinda funny that her name is Danger.

Workstudy was brainless but fun. I shredded some paper and put together application mailings for prospective students. I saw one going to Chicago. woo hoo!

I don't really know where to begin with my Animation class with Mike Disa. It was scary as hell but at the same time, very inspiring. Disa didn't fluff anything up for us. He layed everything down very bluntly and basically told us if we weren't serious about becoming artists we should get the fuck out of the classroom. Fortunately, I feel really strongly about studying animation and I REALLY liked his animation reel. He worked for Disney for 8 years. There is definitely a wealth of knowledge to gain from that guy. He's a VERY good speaker. Everyone seemed so captivated by his lecture throughout the entire class period. We'll dive right into the bouncing ball exercise two days from now. From now on, it'll be non-stop drawing till the end of the year. I best get some sleep.

Sept. 11, 2003 - Second part of first week

Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind today would be the World Trade Center disaster two years ago. I can't believe it's already been that long. Feels like it happened yesterday. Anyhow, I'd like to express my sympathy to the families and friends of the victims.

Yesterday, I had my first story development class with Carlos Ramos. Right off the bat, he seemed like a pretty funny, layed back kinda guy. The entire day was just like an overview of his career and also some lecture about the industry. It was really cool. He graduated from Calarts like 5 years ago and has worked as a developer/writer/director for several major studios including Disney, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network. So, this guys knows his stuff. I heard a lot of great things about him so I'm excited to learn as much as I can about story development.

The entire character animation department had a huge meeting today at the "Palace". The teachers and the director of character animation, Frank Terry, spoke about the year ahead of us and also a little about the animation industry. I was really energized after that meeting. As every day goes by, I realize more and more why this program is the best. They're on top of their game and it's exciting to be a part of it.

At 1:00p.m, we started our first life drawing class with Mike Mitchell. It was the best life drawing class I've ever been to for a couple of reasons. First, it's an amazing experience to be in the same room with a bunch of extremely talented artists. The energy was incredible. The model was really cool too. At one point, the model put on a bunch of wacked out costume pieces like a big grey helmet, ripped up clothes and other strange accessories. That was pretty fun to draw. Mike Mitchell seems like a really good teacher. He walks around the room over and over again watching everyone draw. He gave me a lot of good suggestions and didn't hesitate to tell me if something wasn't right about my drawing. Overall, I feel like I did pretty well. Mike said that this was the best first day for a freshman class ever. That's awesome.

Mike Disa's animation class was really fun today. He lectured us about the physics and mechanics of a bouncing ball. Believe me, there is a lot more to a bouncing ball than one might think. He said once we master the concept and mechanics of the bouncing ball, we'll have a basic foundation established for more advanced animation. And again, his lectures are great. In the first class, he emphasized how much he really didn't give a crap about us because we'll be his competition one day, haha. He was still cool that day but tonight, he seemed a lot nicer for some reason. He really wanted to make sure his lectures sunk into our brains. I asked a few questions and he cleared up any confusion that I had. I appreciated that. Character animation is pretty tough so it's good to have a teacher like that.

Okay, now comes the fun part. Well, not really. I went to my first party today! Yay! After a friggin week and half over here and only ONE party. For those of you who are looking to apply to character animation, I hope you're not a big partier, haha. Supposedly, we won't see the light of the day once we're deep into our films. Anyways, this party that I went to sucked big time. It makes me miss Chicago night life a bit but I think that part of the reason my social life out here sucks is because I don't have a car. Oh well. In the end it's best. I took a picture of this silly party. A little while aftterwards, this guy on this piano guitar thing started singing all crazy. He took his shirt off and put on a braw. Hmmmm....that was weird. I went back to the dorms shortly after that.

Sept 14, 2003 - "First week overview"

It's Sunday and I just got back from watching that one movie "One Day in Mexico" or something like that. You know, with Johnny Depp and Antonio Bandaras. It was by far the WORST movie I've seen all year. So yea, I don't recommend it. As for the weekend, I've stuck around campus working on various homework assignments and other projects. I finished most of my school work except for that darn bouncing ball animation. I mean, it's not all that difficult it's just that I want to understand it as much as I can. So I'm redoing it several times. I'll eventually write a tutorial for the bouncing ball animation. It's pretty important to understand the squash and stretch principles.

Friday, I had my Story for Animators class with Chris Meeks. Again, story is extremely important especially since there are tons of crappy ones out there. I want to work my butt off in this class to be more versatile once I get out of school. Meeks wanted us to buy the book "Story" by Robert Mckee. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about storytelling. I've read two chapters already and so far, it's really good.
There was another party on Friday night. Someone from the animation program was throwing a birthday bash in the Ahmanson dorms. It was a fun time. I shouldn't get used to it though. Everyone from 2nd year (character animation) told me that it was their first party that they've been to at Calarts. Wow. I didn't know they were THAT busy! The top includes some character animation buddies. I'm in bottom picture with the red shirt on. I want to give you an idea of how the party looked. Too bad the camera didn't pick up the awesome balcony view of the mountainous landscape. It looked amazing. The Ahmanson dorms rule!

I spent some of the weekend fixing up my cube. I figure I'll make it sorta comfortable since I'll be spending 99.9% of my time in that little box. I bought a Ninja Turtle (Michelangelo) for display. I know, I'm a nerd but since everyone else is going crazy with the toys, I might as well buy one too. Especially since the Ninja Turtles is one of the reasons I'm here. I also decorated the cube with a panoramic poster of Chicago's skyline. It looks pretty sweet. Once I'm done fixing up my cube, I'll take pictures of it and post it.

I'd like to end this entry by letting everyone know how PISSED I am that we don't have ESPN in the dorms!! I couldn't watch DA BEARCE play Minnesota on ESPN Sunday Night Football. Pshh!

September 17, 2003 - "Color Wheel party"

The second week of school is moving a lot faster than the first. I'm getting familiar with the campus and I feel like I'm getting into a routine...almost. This animation program is getting better all the time. The classes rule!....and I'm more comfortable with my classmates.

It's cool being a part of this program because after watching some of the films from previous classes, I can see the influence that Calarts graduates have had on the animation industry today. It almost seems like they ARE the animation industry right now. Especially TV animation. Supposedly, Calarts animation students in the 90's were "known" for their very graphic, hard edged design style. Well, that's pretty much all you see now on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. That's awesome!

I can imagine a lot of the artists that I'm going to school with being the latest trend in the future of animation. It'll be interesting to see how the animation styles evolve in the upcoming years with all the different influences mixed in. Everyone at Calarts has something unique going on with their art.

After being here for a couple of weeks, I have all these ideas bouncing around in my head that I don't really know how to digest yet. So, I'm just going for it. I've come up with a few possible story ideas for my freshman film. Before I started school, I was soooooo worried that I wouldn't be able to find an idea. I think the hard part will be picking out one of the film ideas that I have! I thought of three so far but I'd like to come up with more just so I get better at story development. I'll post some of my ideas up in the forum pretty soon for critique.

Last night, we had a "color wheel party". Our Color and Design homework is to create a color wheel and grayscale chart. This assignment is extremely time consuming so we decided to get it done right away. Yup, I know. We're nerds but that's OK. We had a lot of fun. At about 1:00 a.m my classmate, Nick, put in the "Disney themepark soundtrack". We were singing along to classic Disney songs that we grew up on....ah yes. Here is a picture of the party.

September 21, 2003 - "The Cubes!"

I finally took pictures of my animation cubicle for you all to see. I thought I'd do a lot more decorating but I'm waaaay too lazy. Some cubes are really nicely designed. I've seen some with custom floors, painted walls, couches, beds, fridges, etc. My cube is pretty plain. As you can see, there is a Ninja Turtle hanging around and of course, a poster (which I made myself) of Chicago's downtown skyline. Other than that, I have the basics which include a NICE chair which supports my back prettty well, animation desk, a couple cabinets and a trash can. I'm thinking about getting some sort of radio or something eventually. Oh, I have a cube mate, too. I forgot her name though. I didn't meet here yet, isn't that funny? Supposedly, she doens't use the cubes so much so I'm pretty lucky. I have lots of space to stretch and do yoga. Totally kidding.

This is a picture of the little hallway outside
of my cube.

Here's a nifty overhead picture of the animation department from the third floor. That room down below is where my perspective class is held. As you can see, there are tons of little cubes smashed together. Yup, we'll be living in those puppies for most of the year. If you look all the way to the left side on that upper level, you'll see one of the several pencil test areas. It includes a VCR, lunchbox animation system, TV and camera.

(below) Here is a picture of the animation department's main hallway. It's filled with student's work. Mostly life drawings. The first door on the left is where Frank Terry (Director of Character Animation) and the rest of administration is located.

(right) Here is a picture of the hallway right outside of my cube. I have the black curtain. You can see a bit of it in this picture

President's Picnic

FREE FOOD!! At this point of the year, I'm learning to take what I can get for free because food isn't cheap! So, as soon as Color and Design class ended at 12:00 p.m, I (along with everyone else in my class), raced for the pool area in Chouinard to grab some grub. When I first entered the picnic area, I was stunned at how COOL it was! There were so many people having a great time, dancing to live music, filling their faces with hamburgers and hotdogs and even some jumped right into the pool. I myself was thinking about taking a dip because it was extremely hot out. But, I had to go to work at 1:00p.m. Damn. Either way, I thought that this picnic was so cool that I HAD to make a quick journal entry about it. Here are some pictures of the event.

As far as the classes go, they're getting better and better every week. We're really starting to get into the work and I'm learning more than I've ever learned before. It's so accelerated because all there is to think about is animation. I ALWAYS bring my sketchbook everywhere and I'm beginning to make some really sweet discoveries. I've decided to start up a sketchbook gallery on the site.

Animation class is probably my favorite class of all only because of two words. Mike Disa. Disa IS the man! I love his class because he's extremely honest about the animation industry and about life in general. He's also extremely clear and well spoken which is critical for good teaching. Information is sinking in like butta' on bread, baby.

I have so many awesome classes but if I HAD to choose, I'd say that Story Development is my second favorite class. In this case, Carlos Ramos IS the man! He's another teacher that amazes me. We just finished our third class about an hour ago and it was AWESOME. He had us create a quick storyboard 12 panels long about a character waking up and taking a drink of water. We went over every single storyboard in class (which was about 20 or so) and he critiqued them. This was valuable because everything he said made so much sense. At the second part of class, we watched some video clips of some movies and analyzed how the characters were introduced. I have a sketchy idea of what I want to do my freshman film about and the entire time, I was trying to think of ways to introduce my main character. Things are beginning to come together.

September 30, 2003

"The artist places time, money, and people at risk because his ambition has life-defining force."

- "The measure of the value of a character's desire is in direct proportion to the risk he's willing to take to achieve it; the greater the value, the greater the risk."

Wow! I completely identify with those two quotes from the book, Story, by Robert Mckee. Anyone who is looking to fulfill a dream must take huge risks to finally reach their goal. I've already taken some huge risks just to be here at Calarts. I left my family, buddies, Chicago, da Bearce, Cubs, my way of life... and racked up huge loans to persue a dream that I've had since I was in second grade. Maybe I'm crazy, right? I miss my life in Chicago but then I think about what would happen to me if I stayed there. Where would I go? What would I do for the rest of my life? The same thing many people do. Settle.....
But I don't want to settle for second best! Why should I? There is only one life to live and I think I should live it up and take advantage of everything it has to offer me even if it means that my life will change drastically. If I never took advantage of this opportunity, I don't think I could go on the rest of my life dreaming about what I COULD have been. I feel really strongly about becoming an artist. I get the biggest RUSH out of seeing myself get better and better everyday. After a month at Calarts, I'd say that it's been one big rush. I can't believe how much I've already learned in such a short time!
At first, I was really nervous about staying here because of the risks, but I can totally see the value in the education I'll get here. Best of all, it'll last for a lifetime. Nobody can take knowledge away from me.
OK, OK.. I'll stop with the drama now! I just wanted to reflect on my first month here at Calarts. It's been a crazy month! Yup, lots of change. I'm pretty excited to see where I'll be by the end of the year. It'll be cool to look back on these entries at that time, too. I'm glad that I started this journal.



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