CTN Animation Expo 2010 Recap

This is long overdue but now that work has slowed down a bit I can finally get back to regular blogging.

Last month I attended the 2nd Annual CTN Animation Expo in Burbank. Once again it was a smashing success. Hundreds of animation artists converged in the Burbank Marriott to immerse themselves in everything animation. There were dozens of workshops and seminars given by top names in the biz, live drawing demos by industry legends (i.e. Andreas Deja, Eric Goldberg, etc.), portfolio reviews from top animation studios, free life drawing sessions with costumed models, and a show floor packed with artists and booksellers exhibiting their wares. As an extra bonus the event was bookended with special screenings of The Illusionist and Tangled.

I was given the honor of being one of the artists chosen to give a live drawing demo. I was also selected to interview for a freelance position with an established animation studio known for its work in television series and commercials. Too early to tell but overall I think it went well. At the very least I was able to get my toe into one more doorway in Hollywood.

One of the greatest benefits of a weekend like this is the flood of creative inspiration that washes over you. I packed light knowing that I’d be bringing back a suitcase full of books and DVDs to keep my creative juices flowing.

Live costumed models posed in the lobby throughout the weekend for impromptu drawing sessions.

Just one small portion of the jam-packed show floor.

Artist Sergio Pablos discussed his pitch for Despicable Me (the film was based on his original concept). Unfortunately I’m not allowed to show slides of his sketches but I can tell you his artwork is *amazing*.

How To Train Your Dragon co-directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders discussed the process of creating the film. Throughout the production they recorded their progress and insights using pocket video cameras and then edited the clips into a documentary called “Finding the Story”. As a bonus, attendees of the session were given free DVDs of the documentary. (I’m told you can also watch it on the How To Train Your Dragon blu-ray using the BD-Live feature.)

Master concept artist John Nevarez gave a live drawing demo using a Cintiq.

Disney lead animator Andreas Deja (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Hercules) gave a live drawing demo.

Peter de Seve and Carter Goodrich are accomplished illustrators-turned-character-designers. They showed slides and discussed their work on such films as Finding Nemo, Ice Age, Open Season, Ratatouille, and Despicable Me.

Another live model posed for an open drawing session.

Several of the seminars were attended by overflow crowds. This was my view standing in one such line—and there were more people behind me.

The CTN Expo is becoming a must-see event for the animation industry. Next year’s Expo is already being planned for Nov. 18-20, 2011. It’s not too early to pre-register and reserve your spot!

My Artistic “Influence Map”

There’s a new meme for artists floating around the internet called an “Influence Map”. It was started by Boston artist Matt Laskowski over on DeviantArt.com. Here’s how it works: you download a template that contains a grid of white squares. Then you paste in samples of artwork from other artists who have inspired and influenced you over the years. The bigger the influence the more squares his or her sample takes up on the grid.

Here’s my Influence Map (click to view larger):

It was really difficult to decide who to include, or more accurately who to leave out. There are *so* many great artists out there whose work I have studied and learned from over the years, and the list continues to grow.

To make things a little easier on myself I left out some mind-blowing artists whom I have only recently been exposed to (Nico Marlet pops immediately to mind). Though their work inspires and challenges me, I haven’t really followed them long enough to say that I’ve really absorbed what I can from studying them.

The artists I did include are (from left to right, starting in the upper left): Glen Keane, Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Norman Rockwell, John Nevarez, Stephen Silver, Milt Kahl (he represents all of Disney’s Nine Old Men), Dennis Jones, John Byrne, Heinrich Kley, E.C. Segar, Carter Goodrich, and Rik Maki.

Like any artist my style is still evolving and (I hope) improving. As I continue to learn and grow I’m sure my list of artistic influences will ebb and flow as well. This is just a snapshot of where I’m at today.

What are you waiting for? Zip on over to Matt Laskowski’s DeviantArt page and make your own Influence Map. [EDIT: Feel free to post a link to your Influence Map in the comments section below, as well as over on Matt’s Deviant Art page.]

John Nevarez Character Design DVD




(Artwork by John Nevarez. All rights reserved.)

John Nevarez is an extraordinary talent in the animation industry. He currently works as a storyboard and visual development artist for Disney television animation. His work is energetic and appealing, and I know more than a few people who list him among their favorite modern animation artists. To drool over his artwork, visit his blog. You can also read an interview with John at the Character Design Blog.


In 2006 Nevarez produced an instructional DVD in conjunction with the Entertainment Art Academy. “John Nevarez Design” is a live recording of a presentation given by Nevarez, with the camera pointed down at his drawing desk so that we can watch him sketch as we listen to him talk. The lengthy DVD touches on a variety of topics including character design techniques, putting appeal in your drawings, staging your characters, and some info about backgrounds. There is a lot of great, inspirational content on this DVD. Highly recommended.

You can order “John Nevarez Design” through the Entertainment Art Academy store. [UPDATE: The Entertainment Art Academy no longer sells the DVD, but I’m told you can order a copy here.]