Saturday, July 19, 2014


Today I went with a bunch of friends to the California Academy of Science's "Skulls" exhibit in San Francisco. If you know anything about me (which I'm hoping you do if you're reading this blog), then you know that I'm fascinated with animals and their anatomy. Bones in particular I've always found fascinating, and since I've always gravitated toward doing art related to faces and facial expressions, skulls are kind of my favorite.

Mule Deer  (Odocoileus hemionus with ridiculous antler/skull pathologies

While there, a bunch of us did some sketching. I'm not particularly happy with any of the sketches I came out with but it was a lot of fun just sort of roughly block stuff out. I was enjoying the process a lot, which is nice.

The exhibit was fantastic. There was a large variety of things, and they  put many diverse animals right next to each other to hammer home just how much variety can be seen in the same basic layout. There were mostly mammals, but plenty of birds, reptiles, and fish as well. I was basically like an ADD kid in a candy shop, overstimulated by the amount of stuff they had in there; constantly getting distracted from the cool thing I was looking at by another equally cool thing that I caught out of the corner of my eye (this is also what I will blame my lackluster sketches on  - I was too excited by the plethora of things to really focus on any one subject). Overall lots of neat things! I highly recommend it! :D

Here are some bonus images:

Tapir and Sea Otter. Best of friends?

My old pal, Alces alces

Dwarf Sperm Whale and Duck-billed Platypus

The ever-popular B. rex, with his Spoonbill, hornbill and toucan friends

One of those crazy four horned sheep

You should ALL go if you can! There is PLENTY of things I haven't spoiled here, like Elephants, and a WALL of sea-lion skulls, that challenges you to use your comparative anatomy skills to pick out the non sea-lions. Oh, and the rest of the museum is really pretty great too. But don't take my word for it! BA-DUM-BUM!


Thursday, July 17, 2014


Shameless plug time! Three years ago, when I first made the move across-country to California, it was to start an internship animating on a short film. That film is finally coming out! It starts the festival circuit this week, and you should check it out if you have the opportunity.

The film is called MONSTRO! and it's written and directed by Christopher Romano as a part of a joint project with Side Effects Software (PSSST! That's the HOUDINI guys!). In premise, it's a comedic animated spoof of the classic Universal Monster movie, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, but there are plenty of surprises. It's quite silly and fun.

MONSTRO! ... TRAILER 01 from Chris Romano on Vimeo.

This project means a lot to me because it is really the first time I was working on a CG project outside of school, and the first time I actually got paid to animate, and play around in CG. The people behind the film put a lot of faith in me by offering me an internship when I was some 2700 miles away, since I was willing to do character animation in Houdini (That's right, pretty much everything except for modeling was done in Houdini for this project). That internship was a HUGE step in launching me on my career path, and I couldn't thank my friends and former coworkers enough for helping me make that happen.

But enough sentiment - for the film, I was brought in essentially for character animation. I was given a lot of freedom to experiment with different animation styles before the production started. I spent a lot of time with the first few characters, particularly these two:


I did a number of animation tests helping to define and develop their movement styles and personalities (which I may post soon, if I can dig them up). I believe the final film only has one short series of shots that are my final animation, but I ultimately ended up setting up a lot of the pipeline, and designed the face rigs, since there wasn't really any out-of-the-box or established ways to work with faces in Houdini (Most if not all the rigging specific tools, including the auto rigs, are very body-centric). So I learned a heck of a lot and had a lot of fun working on this project.

Anyway, keep your eye out for it. You can find the festival schedule here, so if it's in your area, you should go see it. Also you should be sure to 'like' and 'follow' it to help get the word out there!


Monday, July 14, 2014


Over at 90 Minute Comics, the words for this week were 'Canvas' and 'Waves,' so it felt natural to just paint a quick Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) -

(click to enlarge)

Teeheehee getit???  :D


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Speculative Biology Time, Starring: Quad-Vultures!

Hello All, this post was inspired by a bizarre moment in a dream that I had, involving vultures. But these weren't just any vultures. These were a weird, made-up species of vulture that were secondarily flightless, as they were adapted to running around on all fours. That's right, unlike most actual secondarily-flightless birds, these guys didn't just reduce their wings down to practically nothing, but actually adapted their wings to work as a set of front legs.

How most birds do it. The ridiculously small wing of the extinct Elephant Bird (Aepyornis maximusfrom Madagascar.

And the rest of the bird. Photos by me from an exhibit on islands at the California Academy of Sciences from a few years ago.

But how could using wings as legs possibly work? You might ask. The bones in a bird's hand are fused, inflexible, and would not support weight! Well there's the short answer and the long answer. The short answer's a damn dream, and dreams don't make any goddamn sense.

 But, the interesting thing about the dream, is that my subconscious dream-brain was apparently trying to make sense out of it the best it could. They looked  pretty much like Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus), with some modifications. The way the birds moved around, was a sort of a 'knuckle walk' on their hands. The wings were still fully feathered, but the primaries and secondaries were reduced quite a bit to allow better clearance. Their wings and legs were also both lengthened to allow for  better support, and a more cursorial lifestyle, to give them better ground clearance when running. Yes that's right, in the dream they were cantering around like dogs in someone's yard.

They also behaved rather dog-like, and would run up to you like an excited puppy - but it threw me off in the dream, since they were bizarre and I wasn't expecting it (even though my brain invented weird how that works). So ultimately I was fascinated by them, but got nervous when they were close, because I was unsure of if they wanted me to pet them, or if they wanted to rip my face off. And normal large birds by themselves can make one nervous, since they have such snappy movements, which make them feel unpredictable. I remember this well from that time I was filming Emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae):

But anyway, toward the end of the dream, they were keeping their distance, and I was desperately trying to get my phone out to take video and document these bizarre quad-vultures. But of course, with how dreams are, I was fumbling with my phone for too long, and by the time I was up and ready, they stopped moving around and I missed my chance. When I woke up I decided to do a rough sketch of the creatures, which is where this post comes in. Here is pretty much what they looked like:

Anyway, thanks for humoring my impossible bird-ramblings. Just goes to show you that inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places I guess! :)


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hey, I'm Artistically Aware!

Hello all! A different sort of post today. My friends over at Artistic Awareness have been so kind as to invite me to participate in the 10th episode of their video-podcast! It's a podcast concerned with all forms of artistic development; personal and professional.

I was invited to talk about researching and gathering reference material to help inform one's art, as well as just for the sake of learning. Check it out below!

If you enjoy this, you can subscribe to Artistic Awareness on YouTube"Like" them on Facebook, or follow them on the twitters.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Some Creatures

It's been a while since I've posted. I've been much more active these days over at 90 minute comics. I have some ideas for some interesting things brewing though, which I'm not at liberty to talk about until substantial progress has been made though.

Anyway, this is just a quick post of some fun things I've posted on my facebook page but realized never made it to here. First, since the world desperately needs more critically endangered Saiga antelopes, I spent a couple hours getting back into ZBrush and roughing one out.

(click to bigify)

I would like to get better with starting sculpts from scratch in ZBrush instead of taking the time to first do a low-res base mesh in Maya, so that's what this was an experiment in.

Next up, is just a digital sketch of a dragon I did when I didn't have any ideas for one night of 90 minute comics. This was done in Photoshop in the allotted comics 90 minutes. It was fun to just make it up off the top of  my head as I went. Been a while since I had such an enjoyable sketch session :)

(click to bigify)

I'll try to be more regular. Sorry about the hiatus!



Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jack-O-Lantern Designs: IRL 2013

Alright, as Halloween settles down, it's time to post this year's edition of Jack-O-Lantern Designs In-Real-Life.

I only got one this year, from the ever-popular Nicole Altmann of Sunny Philadelphia PA:

For those of you who don't have them memorized, this is a design from the very first group back in 2010:

Thanks for playing Nicole, I think it turned out pretty great! Even the shape of the base-pumpkin matches pretty well. Extra points for that! For the rest of you, hopefully we'll see some more next year :)

Happy Halloween Everyone!