Mental Health

  • On April 15, 2024 ·
  • By ·
Mental Health on Scrabble tiles

I considered titling this one “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)” but that’s a lot to take in all at once and probably why my therapist didn’t lead with it.


I’m by no means an expert on mental health. If you’re dealing with issues, please seek out a professional. And if that professional isn’t a proper fit, seek a second opinion, just as you would with any healthcare provider. This is my own experience looking for answers and what has worked for me.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

I’ve written before about my ADHD. Growing up I went undiagnosed for various reasons. Being a good student didn’t fit the image most people had at the time. Also the stigma against having something “wrong” with you, especially mentally, is very real. My family haven’t had the best experiences with doctors, to say the least, and actively distrusted counselors/therapists. I don’t really hold this against them as the American healthcare system is broken and mental health services are abysmal. It simply made navigating this all as an adult difficult. Especially when so many resources these days are about treating your ADHD child. :V

The CliffsNotes are I have attention regulation and prioritizing issues. If something isn’t engaging I can literally blank it out. (When I was younger I tried several times to watch the movie Batman (1989). I’d get as far as the hoodlums saying “they call him The Bat” and next thing I knew it’d be at the credits rolling.) On the opposite end, if something is engaging and new I can hyper-focus. Meaning I’ll lose track of time, forget to eat, be unable to sleep, completely consumed until the novelty is worn off.

Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Asperger’s Syndrome has actually been phased out in favor of rolling it into Autism Spectrum Disorder. Johann Friedrich Karl “Hans” Asperger, the Austrian physician who first identified the condition in 1944, had problematic ties to Nazi Germany and eugenics. For our intents and purposes, Asperger’s is viewed as less severe symptoms than Autism, with little to no language or cognitive troubles, (some testing even higher than average) but issues with social skills. It’s gotten the nickname Little Professor Syndrome due to those afflicted having intense special interests they can often have one-sided conversations on. This short video by Danny Raede of Asperger Experts is a good introduction:

I also want to share this one he did on the sensory funnel, which addresses issues of overwhelm and getting somebody with Asperger’s out of Defense Mode.

When I originally asked my doctor for help and started seeing a therapist I thought I had an anxiety disorder. I would have panic attacks, an ever-present feeling of stress hung over me like a flickering florescent light. There’s a scene in Man of Steel (2013) where school boy Clark Kent has to process and make sense of the world around him as he becomes overwhelmed by his super powers. He has a meltdown and hides in the classroom closet until his mother helps him focus. I’ve dealt with similar situations, lately when I experience a meltdown I think of Ironside from Kill Bill (2003-4).

Medication helped quiet the internal noise so I could begin to address outside influences more closely. I started journaling, becoming more aware of my environment while also trying to better read and understand my own responses. Mindfulness has become a buzzword these days but it is an actual thing we sometimes have to practice. Raede also has videos on panic attacks and dealing with stress I recommend watching. He mentions realizing he was more comfortable being stressed than being relaxed and working to change that. How stress doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, that we can let sensations and emotions go through our bodies without feeling like we’re going to die.

What It’s Like Having Both

It’s often multiple similar conditions can occur at the same time, i.e. comorbidity. I recently stumbled upon this video by D.S.A. Threads Costuming which really hit close to home in a lot of ways.

The problem I’ve been struggling with most recently, I think, is getting out of Defensive Mode. That’s where I de-stress, listen to myself, and make decisions going forward. I’ve had a lot going on in my life the last couple years. Moving to another country, getting married, sorting out immigration matters, on top of regular daily concerns like household chores and worrying about finances. It can be very difficult for me to switch gears when I’ve been doing something consistently. I’m not renting separate office space to work outside the house anymore so my ability to isolate isn’t what it used to be. Plus I have trouble letting myself enjoy drawing for fear I’ll lose track of things. It’s important to allow myself time to play creatively so the ideas come out.

Making an Animation Demo Reel

  • On April 9, 2024 ·
  • By ·

So you’re an animator looking to show what you can do. Maybe you’re looking for work, applying to get into an exclusive program, or for some other reason you need to introduce yourself and demonstrate your skill level. There are plenty of guides, tips & tricks, and advice articles out there.

What Goes Into a Reel?

The Demo Reel Formula via Ron Doucet
The Demo Reel Formula via Ron Doucet

Consider the purpose behind making your reel. If you’re a student highlighting what you learned in a course, you’ll want to show clips of your best exercises. Studios want to see examples that match the job listing and the type of material they produce. (There’s the off chance of starting a totally different project, or maybe a recruiter will like your random submission, but it’s a safer bet of staying within their wheelhouse) Freelancers will probably have more general reels, showcasing their range. It’s a good idea to personalize for specific use cases. Somebody looking for a lighting specialist isn’t going to get much our of a reel full of whiteboard videos.

Examples of the types of jobs in the animation industry, including some for non-artists:

Animation Jobs Explained by Laura Price
35 Types of Jobs in Animation by mewTripled
Non-Artist Jobs in Animation: Production & Post-Production (Part 1) by Eric Bravo

Do I Treat It as a Short Film or a Clip Show?

“You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

Donald Rumsfeld

You won’t often see me quoting Rumsfeld but he made a point. If you don’t have much to show and time is short, spend it practicing exercises instead of crafting a narrative. This is where I share my own weaknesses with you. It’s very tempting to always be chipping away at a project, wanting to make it perfect, just taking a little more time. Eventually you look up from your work and realize years have passed.

The Animators Who’ve Spent 40 Years on a Single Film by Atrocity Guide

I don’t say this to scare but to encourage recognizing reality. Your reel should serve a goal of getting you somewhere, wherever that may be. Consider Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. There’s a time for everything. Your demo reel shouldn’t be your master work. It should be the thing you use to get the opportunity to make that next masterpiece.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Slap your name and contact info at the beginning and end of your reel. Don’t make it harder for people to get ahold of you than it needs to be. Nobody wants to miss out on a job because they didn’t include an email address. Don’t expect others to track you down when you’ve already got their attention.

Follow directions. You’d be surprised how many folks forget to check requirements. It’s easy to accidentally miss details. Other times it’s a matter of thinking rules don’t/shouldn’t apply to you. If you’re asked to include a resume or shot breakdown for your reel then do so. If asked for links, send links. If asked to send physical media, send physical media. (Just not originals!) Some advise nothing more than a bare bones title and contact screen. As an artist I feel this is a chance to show a little personality and stand out. That said, be careful not to shoot yourself in the foot.

Use clear, legible, properly sized fonts and lettering. Nothing should be difficult to read or hard on the eyes. Don’t waste time with complicated title sequences, they’ll annoy anybody waiting through them to get to your actual footage. Music should be minimal unless it’s important to the animation. If you’ve been online long enough you’ve probably seen videos and unmuted only to wonder why somebody put something totally out of place behind it. Imagine the poor soul going through the stack of submissions who has to deal with a bunch of those to get to you.

How Do I Talk to People, Again?

  • On April 1, 2024 ·
  • By ·
Angry woman holding a bullhorn and raising her hand into the air

How Did We Get Here?

I’ve had my own website, in some form of another, since 2002. In that time span I’ve graduated college, been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), moved countries, gotten married, even grown a salt and pepper beard. The online and IRL world have changed a lot since then, too. For lots of people the internet is a handful of apps probably run by the same couple of companies. These apps tend to aggregate content without providing anything themselves, save access to attention. (I suggest reading the articles on Stratechery’s concept of Aggregation Theory for further thoughts on the differences between platforms and aggregators)

There’s been a lot of stuff people don’t want to mention for fear of being too topical. Use the wrong phrase and suddenly people on both sides of issues will brigade you as opportunistic. Or you get shadow-banned; flagged as unfriendly to advertisers, regardless of your stance on something, your posts and comments having zero reach because you mentioned something verboten. Or maybe you’re simply tired of hearing arguments from the squeakiest of wheels.

We had a global pandemic that largely shut society down for years. Most of us couldn’t physically be around each other from ~2020-? Reddit saw site-wide protests over API changes. The changes still happened, shuttering many 3rd party apps. This led to an exodus for those seeking alternatives. Elon Musk bought Twitter, changed its name to X, and continually muses about getting rid of the block feature. This also led to an exodus as users scattered to alternatives, where some of us learned about the Fediverse. They then got frustrated trying to understand it, confused by everything being decentralized and yet still able to be connected.

(Toot from via

What Does All That Mean?

Communicating with people is complicated. Trying to communicate online is even more so. Blogging feels like walking around with a bullhorn wearing a sandwich board sign. Comments become a cesspool of spam and GIFT. (True story: Even after disabling comments on this site spammers still got in. I literally had to get a plugin that nukes that functionality to stop it)

Podcasting is fun but requires so much effort to assemble, format, post, troubleshoot… not to mention it still feels like I’m talking mostly to myself. I have no interest in hosting a group show again as that becomes herding cats.

I’ve considered taking YouTube or one of the other video platforms more seriously, though that tends to result in falling down rabbit holes, researching and trying to figure everything out before ever posting anything. Putting the fate of my work in the hands of the various algorithms does worry me, I’m not gonna lie. But I’ve still got this site if a host limits what I can do with something.

Web 1.0 was average people putting stuff online. Web 2.0 was supposed to be more interactive and user-based. We’ve accepted the retroactive argument that this meant social media. Now we have doomscrolling. Web 3.0 tentatively includes tech like the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, NFTs, cryptocurrency, and metaverses. Personally I don’t like the vision of the future large companies seem to be pushing. It feels like we’re being sold stuff nobody really wants in the interest of making a select few tech bros very rich.

So What Do We Do?

I’m going to embrace the spirit of the small web. That means intentionally focusing on my presence online. I’d like to start blogging here regularly again as I properly build up my portfolio and demo reel. Hopefully that means getting myself organized on projects and sharing them as I work. I’m always apprehensive about announcing things and failing to deliver. But I’d rather be failing regularly than disappear because nothing ever had a deadline. So check this space next week to see how I do.

I’ve also been tinkering with building an HTML5 animation site since Flash died. I think I have the technicals sorted out. Now it’s mostly a matter of creating content.

On Monoliths

  • On September 26, 2023 ·
  • By ·
Astronaut on Mars standing before a monolith

Hey there. How are you doing? I’m doing alright today. Apparently it’s been 477 days (or 1 year, 3 months, 20 days) since my last post.

Yeah, I’m not proud of that.

The short answer is I’m a bit intimidated by blogging. It feels like writing a note on receipt paper and once I’m done it’s ripped off and handed to somebody else. I never seem to have enough to update with or there’s too much going on to know where to start. It doesn’t help that I have a habit of making mega-posts that require lots of research and links.

It’s no surprise the guy with ADHD has trouble making and sticking to a schedule. Consider the New Years resolution to get in shape and how many fail to follow through because magically on the 1st they’re supposed to be an entirely different person. We can’t just tell ourselves “I need to get in shape.” We need to block out the time, say no to the rest of the world for a while, and physically start moving. Most of us, if we miss days, we feel like we’re never going to crawl out from under the disappointment. I learned with webcomics not to see updates as pages that have to be accounted for eventually, otherwise the backlog will brew resentment.

Another issue probably linked to my neurodivergence is perfectionism. I keep giving myself unrealistic expectations and then get frustrated when I don’t meet my own arbitrary standards. Didn’t make a post on Monday? Obviously I’ve failed for the week. Got an idea to write about? Must be branched out into a multi-part series. Gotta maximize effectiveness! Can’t let one slip by without burdening it with the Ghost of Blog Posts Yet to Come.

Catching Up

The biggest news I have to report is Solange and I got married! ❤️ :3

(The Simpsons: The Thompsons via Tumblr)

She always told everybody she’d elope but we decided to have a small ceremony here with her immediate family. The plan was to keep it quiet online, get my family to join us for a stateside celebration in Vegas months later on April 1st, then announce on April Fools Day and see who couldn’t tell if we were serious or not. (Never let it be said my wife can’t commit to a bit) She kept her maiden name, though she’s still angling for us to both change to the amalgam Thomp’olson. I love that woman :V

*Gestures Broadly*

I’ve come to recognize the value in a personal website lately as, well, it seems like the rest of the internet is on fire these days. Some time ago I wrote of the various places I was considering to post stuff. These sites and services have regular daily users so sharing content on them should be a no-brainer, right? Except all these aggregators have their own agendas and responsibilities. To some extent we’ve all accepted giving up some level of privacy for the sake of using these sites. We don’t like it but we shrug it off, like clicking Agree to the new Terms of Service when software needs updating. We try not to think about it too much until it directly impacts us. I’m not going to call people lazy or enabling because I do it, too. We all just want to get through our day without having to deal with making sure the stuff around us functions properly. Problem is, the desire for that ease of use results in forgiving and overlooking pretty egregious behavior. For example: Meta artificially limits your reach unless you pay to boost content.

This is compacted by advertising. These monolithic corporations couldn’t care less about what individual users need. Their guiding light is what advertisers want. Never mind that online advertising revenue is perpetually in decline. Running an ad-blocker isn’t simply about being selfish. Ads are not only annoying and intrusive, they can also leave you open to malware. If you’ve never gone to a page and tried to figure out which download button is real you’ve never really experienced internet advertising. (Also, don’t use AdBlock Plus: they sell ads) And before anybody gets a feeling of self-importance, saying we need to band together and solve this through competition, here’s a video from Folding Ideas discussing VidMe:

Alt-tech has existed for a while but it’s usually been for exiles of the mainstream platforms. Then Elon Musk bought Twitter I mean X. Now people are jumping off to alternatives at a rate I haven’t seen since back in the aughts when popular forums imploded. And just as I started actually using Reddit they decided to kill 3rd party apps. Will any of them be the next Twitter? Honestly, I don’t want another one. You have to track down your friends, see where they all landed, then the site either dies because nobody uses it or everybody uses it and suddenly another monolith becomes Too Big to Fail. I simply don’t have the time or the energy to invest in the game of Which Billionaire Comes Out On Top. I’ll make profiles to follow, I guess, but I’m going to refocus my attention. I’d like to rekindle some of what we lost with the death of Flash. Check out this video by Lord Ravenscraft about Homestar Runner:

Moving to Canada

  • On June 6, 2022 ·
  • By ·
I "Maple Leaf" Canada

(Photo by Alesia Kozik via Pexels)

April and May 2022 have been busy months. I didn’t want to share too much online for various reasons, (primarily because I’m bad at keeping people updated and see time as one continuous strip) but I try to use the calendar to maintain some sort of civilized cycle. As I’ve finally begun unpacking and putting my new office space together it seems like a good time to spill the beans.

Leaving Ohio

I "Ohio" Voting Sticker
Fun Fact: I once made my girlfriend an “I Saskatchewan Voting” design because they didn’t give out stickers

My girlfriend and I had been planning on moving in together for some time but

*gestures broadly*

circumstances delayed that. Once we had actual dates to schedule for we looked at renting a van. We expected heavy winds in a few states and neither of us felt comfortable driving a full moving truck. Turns out nobody wants to rent a van in one country and have it returned in another. So Solange rented one in Canada, I flew into a town on my side of the border, and from there we started the first leg of our cross-country road trip.

Some couples don’t travel well. The day after my girlfriend and I first met in person, we drove 8 hours so I could participate in Quickdraw Animation Society’s Annual Animation Lockdown. Like making any excursion, before I left I had appointments to make and logistics to work out. After x-rays my dentist told me I had an abscess and recommended a specialist for the required root canal. He put a rush order in for the new crown and I checked that from the list. I also booked a vet visit for my cat Hope so she could get up to date on her vaccinations along with any documentation needed.

(Image via Pixabay)

If you’ve never driven across time zones before, going East feels like you’re losing time. I mean you are, considering it’s already an hour later across each one than where you’re starting from, but fold that into traveling and you’re always playing catchup. Everybody hates Daylight Savings Time and it was a factor. The van clock was set to Saskatchewan time, my phone took a bit to update the changes, and my girlfriend had her phone set to Airplane Mode accepting wifi to avoid roaming fees. (In Canada my US provider charges $5 extra every 24 hours it connects. Hers is more than twice that in the states.) The night I flew in there was a blizzard warning the coming weekend so we tried to get out of town early. Weather caught up to us a few days with thunderstorms but we made it back to Ohio before Hope’s appointment.

The following days are a blur of packing and loading. We boxed my computers and such at Idea Works, the co-working office I’d been using. The van gave us more room than other options but space was still at a premium. I grabbed things from the basement home studio and my parents helped us empty out my bedroom. One final group visit with my therapist and we started our return trip in earnest.

Driving to Canada

Actually traveling with my cat was less stressful than finding pet-friendly hotels

We’d noticed on the way that most of the places we stayed at were part of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts with reasonable pet fees so I joined their membership program. This was supposed to cover both cats and dogs though one location told us they didn’t allow cats. We called the number to reserve our stay for the next night and the person in the call center said there was a similar alert for the planned stop. They offered to help us find an alternative, put us on hold, and the call dropped. We called back, got a different representative, and asked them to actually contact the hotel to check their policy. We got mistakenly quoted a $250 fee they corrected to $25, and later the front desk of the hotel called to confirm cats were welcome. Phew.


Even though we were heading West this time we still had a crunch to drive far enough each day so we didn’t take in much vacationing. In fact we decided to add a day, figuring the $90 CAN it would cost to extend the van rental completely worth it. Turns out we’d already rented for a day longer than we thought we had. We still managed to visit a few spots along the way. Solange was writing a piece for her work newsletter, reviewing the bathrooms as she peed in as many states as possible. She took us to Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana where her dad went, (though it went by a different name then) and several M*A*S*H-related locations like Jamie Farr Park in Toldeo, Ohio and Radar O’Reilly’s Ottumwa, Iowa.

There was one place we both totally agreed we needed to see.

The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

(Finding Minnesota via WCCO – CBS Minnesota YouTube)

The comedy music of “Weird Al” Yankovic is one of many things my girlfriend and I both appreciate and enjoy together. Going to see this lovely roadside attraction was an obvious choice. Unfortunately we couldn’t get ahold of any of the volunteers who operate the museum and gift shop to open them for us. (I was totally eager to have my own souvenir miniature ball of twine and a couple postcards. “Greetings from the Twine Ball, wish you were here.”)

The Flood

Crossing the border was a fairly uneventful event, all things considered. The officials were very friendly and helpful. We were stressed out and tired by that point. Once the paperwork was done, however, it was cause for celebration. We had dinner, drove home, introduced Hope to Solange’s cats with the expected hissing, slept until it was time for unloading and returning the van, got the final tally of ~4,000 miles driven, then went back to bed to finally get some rest.

That’s about when the basement flooded.

A container of original art was one of few casualties

Apparently a manhole had issues and ground water got into several houses. We woke up to 4 inches in the basement and our neighbors outside talking with a plumber. Fortunately all my computer equipment was upstairs. My instruments and guitar amp were all propped off the ground. Solange and our roommate had put most of their belongings stored down there in plastic bins, which you really begin to appreciate when you see litter boxes floating by.

A drawer with some of my comic originals leaked. My girlfriend very generously ironed and stacked them with paper towels while they dried. I was mostly in shock until I put them away to come back to at a later date. Honestly, it could have been a lot worse than it was. A few suitcases with laundry got wet, which was perfect timing as the dryer quit working. :V

We ran a shop vac, hung things up to dry, relocated fans, put in a dehumidifier, collected and tossed loads of crap in the dumpster. Much like the road trip had been, it was a shared bonding experience we were all thankful to see the other side of together.

Revenge of Taco Tuesday

(Photo by Kevin Bidwell via Pexels)

Right as we were wrapping up our work on the basement I got hit hard by a foodborne illness. I’ll spare you the details, other than I proved to be the canary in the coal mine as it spread to everybody in the house over a few days. I also had the worst case due to dehydration.

Those have been some of the highlights over the last two months. Lots of changes, lots of getting used to new environments, lots of planning for the future. I plan to make smaller posts after this one. This started out simple and morphed into something almost too big to handle, sort of like the trip itself. I’ve been writing and editing this one for a while. I do need to start posting more again. I think the last few years have hit us all pretty hard in different ways we’re only now coming out from under. I need to find my work groove again. This is gonna be where I post about it. I hope you look forward to following along.

QAS Lockdown + Member Screening 2022 – Impossible Shapes Edition

  • On June 3, 2022 ·
  • By ·
Quickdraw Animation Society Animation Lockdown 2022 Impossible Shapes Edition Screening Header
Quickdraw Animation Society Animation Lockdown 2022 Impossible Shapes Edition Screening Header
(QAS Lockdown 2022 graphic via Quickdraw Animation Society’s Facebook Page)

Saturday, June 4th at the Contemporary Calgary dome (701 11 St SW, Calgary, AB T2P 2C4, Canada)

Come see Quickdraw Animation Society member films, Lockdown shorts, and their first ever Member Works Gallery! Featuring cels, stills, and artifacts from films made by community members.

2022 is the Impossible Shapes edition of the Lockdown. Come and vote for your faves to win the Audience Choice award! Check the Facebook Page for more info.

Entry by donation at the door

6:30 PM – Doors

7 PM – QAS Member screening

8 PM – Lockdown screening

(Screening Trailer via the QAS Vimeo)

This year is the first since 2017 I haven’t been able to participate in the QAS Animation Lockdown myself. But! There’s good reason for that:

*drum roll*

Line of drummers playing
(Photo by Pixabay via Pexels)

I’ve been moving to Canada.

Cat’s outta the bag. I’ll have more on this in a future dedicated post but right now I’d like to encourage everybody to come to the QAS screening if they can make it. Support wonderful artists in the community and get to see some sweet animated films! 😀

9 QAS Lockdown Shorts Screening at Camp Sled Island Aug 19-21

  • On August 19, 2021 ·
  • By ·
Featured Image

Hey everybody, how’re you holding up? First order of business, as per Camp Sled Island’s page:

Camp Sled Island is a three-day event taking place at Beltline’s High Park (340 10 Ave SW), running August 19 – 21! Throughout the year, we’ve been collecting video content from local and international artists, and now we are very excited to finally share them on the big screen. With three unique nights of programming, you can expect pre-recorded performances, film screenings, special guest video appearances, food from Via Convenience, beer service courtesy of Eighty-Eight Brewing, and even live music (if restrictions allow). See the schedule for each night below.

Still considering the safety of our patrons amongst the recent public health changes in Alberta, seating will be arranged by tables of four and can be purchased for $60 each. One person will be asked to purchase a ticket on behalf of their group, and will need to provide general information for contact tracing purposes. The purchaser will receive four individual tickets that can be dispersed amongst their group. See below for current COVID protocols

Please note there will no tickets available at the door. All tickets must be purchased in advance. 

DOORS: 6:00pm 

If you experience a technical difficulty while trying to purchase advance tickets, please contact our ticket provider, Showpass, at 1-844-307-SHOW.

Camp Sled Island

Check their page for info on each date and to buy tickets. Each day they’ll be screening highlights from Quickdraw Animation Society’s 2021 Animation Lockdown. My film, áaka’paisiiwa, “Time Will Pass” is one of them 😀

A cat making the same face I am most days
I’m right there with you, kitty.

Hope you’re all staying safe and taking care of yourselves. There’s a lot going on in the world right now. I’ve been trying to scale things back, myself. After one too many arguments on Facebook I decided I was done there for the month. Honestly so much of social media is doomscrolling, trying to find something to feel positive about, then seeing somebody else’s bad take on a situation. People seem so confrontational these days. It’s not enough to disagree, they want to destroy the other person and immediately celebrate their superiority. There’s so much toxicity online. It’s like there’s different realities depending on your world view. Misinformation perpetuates long after it has been debunked because the true believers don’t really care about facts, they only want to control the narrative. Or they’re simply contrarian trolls who don’t believe anything, they just want to stir the pot and wear you down. It’s an unhealthy environment and makes me think we need to turn back a few steps in communication. Remember when the web was fun to be on?

I’ve gone back to focusing on my daily routine. Dialing back my goals to one thing at a time, seeing if I can make headway with that. Intentionally drawing back from the world a bit and focusing my energy on projects. It’s been hard to get lost in my work for a while. I’m hoping to change that.

QAS Animation Lockdown 2021 – Spectrums Edition! RSVP for Online Screening on Tuesday, June 15th, 7PM MDT

  • On June 9, 2021 ·
  • By ·
Featured Image

Another Year Another QAS Animation Lockdown

Speed drawings of QAS’s mascot, Hammish D. Rat

Every year I participate in the Quickdraw Animation Society’s Animation Lockdown. This annual event is usually held over Victoria Day weekend in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 2020 was the first time it had to be held remotely with video chat replacing the normal shoulder to shoulder work environment. I still managed to end up pulling my regular all-nighter to see things over the finish line. This year we saw about 21 films submitted that didn’t exist before.

Members enter the Lockdown for various reasons. I joined QAS specifically for the opportunity. Once you finish school it can be difficult to complete projects, especially on your own time and on your own dime. Seeing a bunch of other artists all excited about animation, working towards the same goal of completing their films on time, while simultaneously creating very different pieces of art, is such an energizing experience. I really needed it when I first participated in 2016. There was a project I wanted to make but my recently-diagnosed ADHD was getting in the way of putting it together. So I brought it to QAS and, with the encouragement of others and looming threat of a deadline, I made Bottled Spirits, my first complete film. Was it perfect? No. Was it everything I wanted it to be? Again, no. But I got it in on time, realized how my own process works in a compressed timeframe, and came away feeling energized to deliver bigger and better on my next projects.

I made some good friends, relaxed away from home, and enjoyed browsing QAS’s library during my downtime. In the following years I’ve used Lockdown as an opportunity to meet up with my girlfriend, take a fun road trip together, and both of us would get away from our everyday lives for a bit. Every year is a little bit different and the challenges (both external and internal) change, but every year I seem to remind myself I can deliver. It’s very reassuring to realize you do actually know what you’re doing. You may be exhausted at the end and your finished film may look nothing like what you thought it was going to be in the beginning, but that’s ok.


One of the daily challenges was to make a quick meme based on Lockdown. As usual my commentary hits pretty close to home.

Each year Lockdown focuses around a theme to give contestants an idea to work around and to make sure nobody pulls a finished film out of their pocket. This year that theme was “spectrums”

It’s 2021, the world is no longer defined by opposites. Nuances and the beauty in the subtle variations is what makes living so worthwhile. So put your eye to the pyramid and gaze upon the SPECTRUM!

Working within dichotomies is too simplified. We get it; keyframe 1 and keyframe 2 are great, but in-betweens move us with the grace of (say it with me) ease-in and ease-out. There is so much life and story to be had between A and B, Life and Death, Black and White, Happy and Sad, Up and Down, Left and Right. To follow one direction completely is to arrive blind (said someone, sometime?)! So, bask in the in-between, show the journey, or break down the subtlety in the whip pan!

QAS Animation Lockdown 2021 Theme

During the premier screening awards and prizes are handed out. As production has had to adapt to current situations, so has the theme, which has expanded to include key requirements to insert into the shorts. The key expanded this year to match other film competitions going on in other locations. This all pushed the announcement of the official screening further out than usual.

The screening will be held Tuesday, June 15th online. RSVP for the event here. To quote the listing:

“Doors” will open at 6:45pm, with the screening starting at 7:00pm. Join us for brand-new films, vote for our audience choice awards, and see who our jury has selected for our prizes:

  • AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD: top-scoring film, weighted 1 (ok) to 5 (amazing)
  • AUDIENCE CHOICE RUNNER-UP: 2nd top-scoring film
  • DAVE RATZLAFF BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM AWARD (SPONSORED BY CAOS): $100 cash prize, selected by a jury of experienced animators and curators.

To attend this screening, you’ll need to register in advance to get your link to the online event. The link and additional login info will be sent out once you’ve registered for the event through Showpass. Registration is free for Quickdraw members and a suggested donation of $5 for non-members.

As a bonus, here’s another daily challenge image, a screencap of my entry out of context:

It’s not every day you see a walleyed dinosaur driving a finned hot rod. Nor do you see it in my finished short. This sequence ended up getting cut. A lot of what I boarded did. You don’t always end with the film you thought you would.

Lessons Learned from Lockdown

1. Step back, find some quiet, and re-center

I was in a production funk right before Lockdown started. Honestly I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The global situation for the last year+ has been very stressing, partly from all the unknown and partly from dealing with other people through everything. (Leave it to humans to take an already frustrating situation and make it worse) At the moment I’m not engaging with FB. There’s so much negativity there with people jumping to conclusions, airing grievances, not to mention the bad actors simply looking to stir up trouble.

So many different things had been pulling at me from various directions: Career, finances, living situation, plans for the future, constant changes, second-hand hostility — all ruining my ability to sleep, concentrate, or get anything done. At one point I got frustrated with the concept I was working on and gave myself most of the day to try starting over. Nothing new was coming to me so I stepped away, sealed myself into the podcast studio in the office, and let my mind quiet.

2. Stop thinking about what you can’t do. Figure out what you can

Once I accepted new ideas weren’t coming in time I focused on what options were available. I’d spent a good bit of time on a thumbnail storyboard. So I took that and enlarged it to full screen-sized panels. Once those were done I worked out the rough timing for each sequence. The next day I came in and cleaned up what I’d already drawn. I added details to background and repeating elements. I wrote out placeholder credits and a title card. I started animating.

3. Trust in your abilities and what you know

I’m not the best animator. Fortunately I don’t have to be. I only have to be me. Other people are going to see my short, yes, and I am competing for prizes. But here in my studio I’m responsible for me. You never know how any of the other films you’re going to screen with will do. Maybe they’re all masterpieces. Maybe they’re all train wrecks. It doesn’t really matter because the project you’re working on is the only one you can control. Your job is to complete something that you’re proud of. The more you do competently the more you try to do.

Years past I would animate in rough colored sketches before cleaning up my line art on another layer. This year, in an attempt to speed up, I stuck to animating in black. Tweening was handy for stylized and monotonous motion. There were a few cycles I had to check reference for then adjusted to fit the scenes. I often fix stuff blind, moving frames around, adding drawings, trusting my sense of what’s happening before I press play to see how it looks. Of course I try to keep this to limited areas at a time, making sure a sequence works before moving onto something else that could confuse me.

4. When it works, animating feels like what I was put on this earth to do

This universe has been around a long time. Our planet is considerably older than humanity. Even considering that, generations of artists have lived and died wishing they could see their creations move. When motion pictures were finally developed and animation started getting made it was time/labor intensive. Animators of the Golden Age had to contend with expensive and complicated equipment. Cartoons took small armies of people to make and were only possible if they could turn a profit. Filter down through the decades with digital advancements. I know I’m very fortunate to be living in a time and place where I can make my work happen. When I’m working on a film of my own design, making it how I want to make it, even though it can be an incredible amount of effort to achieve all the steps, it’s so very fulfilling.

I was animating one character whose motion didn’t originally have much to do with the scene. As I added drawings I stumbled on a pose that unlocked their state of mind for me. Suddenly I understood their motivation and their movement reflected that. I had an idea for an action they could do that felt a little over the top but I went for it. Next thing I knew I was nearing the end of their frames. I started to feel sad I wasn’t going to be drawing this little character any more. I’d just started to get to know them and our time together was already up. I’m not sure if viewers will pick up on the personality I put into them for the duration they’re on screen. For me it’s an experience I’m going to think back fondly over.

Do No Harm

  • On February 15, 2021 ·
  • By ·
Featured Image Do No Harm

As I’m writing this I’m taking today to organize my thoughts. This time last year there was a Twitter thread making the rounds about Internal Monologues. Similar to the one on astigmatism, many people were surprised to find where they sit on a subject they didn’t even realize existed. For those unfamiliar, an internal monologue is when your thoughts form clear sentences, as though you’re narrating your life in real time.

“Doesn’t everybody have that?” No, actually. Some folks don’t. This doesn’t mean they don’t think about things, rather they don’t interpret those thoughts as words until they need to communicate them to someone else. Likewise some visualize thoughts more clearly than others. Aphantasia as it’s called is the inability to form mental pictures.

I remember growing up I’d imagine stories out loud as it was easier to funnel those thoughts the way we share them with others. Eventually I got self-conscious about talking to myself, worried others would hear me and what they’d think. Internalizing took practice and felt like more work. There is a mental and emotional energy to it that’s very real. If you’ve ever sat in a class or office waiting down the clock until you don’t have to be alert anymore then you know what I’m saying. Just as we need to build up our abilities to think and process active thoughts, so too we need time to decompress.

Visualization is another mental skill I need to practice. It may come as a surprise to some that, though I decided to be an artist, I don’t tend to think in pictures. I also don’t doodle or draw as much as others or even as much as I’d like to. Like any form of exercise the problem comes down to the path of least resistance. Is it easier to do something you know is good for you but requires effort or is it easier to put off? Doodling is a constructive and experimental process. Usually I stress to know what I need to draw and then find under what conditions I need to draw it. Is it a single illustration? A comic? Show me some reference so I know I’m not making stuff up.

This is a long way of explaining I spend a lot of time in my own head and a lot of time aware with my mind switched “on” which can be problematic. It becomes an issue when I start dwelling on things due to stress. With nothing productive to focus on I whittle away at my assuredness, second and third guessing my decisions, craving validation when I’m the only one in the proper place to give it. We’re all stressed out these days. We all have expectations for ourselves, for others, and from others to deal with. Even people I enjoy being around can become a drain mentally and emotionally given enough time. For a while now life has been extremely out of the ordinary for all of us. There’s always talk of the “new normal,” how as humans we have to adapt to our situations to survive, how we settle into routine to keep going on.

2020 was an exhausting and frustrating year. 2021, though still being complicated, also shows signs of light at the end of the tunnel. We need to be able to empathize with each other as we never really know what all our neighbors put up with. At the same time we need to reinforce boundaries and expectations for our own lives. As the quote from Moïra Fowley-Doyle goes: Do no harm, but take no shit.

2021, Please Don’t Stuck

  • On January 18, 2021 ·
  • By ·
The number 2021 on a binder on a desk, highlighting the new year

Hey, so…

2020. What the hell was that, am I right?


I don’t really feel the need to recap much. Most people reading this were there and can share their own harrowing tales. It’s only January. Every new year still has some traces of the last lingering on until it comes into its own. I feel 2021 is going to be full of surprises. Here’s hoping they’re pleasant ones and not, you know, the kind we got last year.

Let’s Talk Goals

I want to draw and animate more, sharing it online for you kind folks to enjoy. What I make and where exactly I share it, however, is still being determined. I’ve spent the last few years dealing with analysis paralysis. When I made webcomics I struggled with building an audience. I’d focus all my energy on making the comics and spend almost nothing on promoting them. Not saying this was intentional, as I fell down the rabbit hole of researching everything I was bad at, feeling like I could come out swinging if only I knew how to properly go about putting my work out there.

The reality is the web constantly changes. My last webcomic, Billy Badass, ran on Tumblr where I could make use of tagging, posting YouTube videos and relevant links in the accompanying blog to enhance the nostalgia trip. It was designed to play to 80s and 90s kids, tying retro pop culture events in with the story. (Surprisingly similar in a number of ways to Little Billy) That was 2015. In August that year Maker Studios closed, a competitor to YouTube. 2017 saw the first YouTube Adpocalypse. 2018 Tumblr purged NSFW material from their site. 2020 saw COPPA sweep over YouTube and the official end of life for Adobe Flash. Not to go into politics with this post but Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the policy which protects websites from repercussions on user-posted content, has been targeted from both sides of the aisle and would radically change how we use the web. Here’s a video on the history and consequences of getting rid of it:

Posting Places


Obviously I’ve considered posting on my YouTube channel. The problem is the all-mighty algorithm. Animators used to do well on there until the Reply Girl saga of 2012. Monetization went from favoring views to watch time. This effectively killed short format content on the site as animators moved on to producing Let’s Plays and vlogs. Storytime videos eventually brought animation back with creators like TheOdd1sOut, Jaiden Animations, and sWooZie. Arguably these types of films are more animatic than full animations, though to me that’s akin to complaining about the limited animation in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. It’s a cost-saving choice that facilitates the limitations of the medium while still allowing for new original material.

There have also been some impressive collaborative productions. Vivienne “Vivziepop” Medrano and her studio Spindlehorse made pilots for Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss with Hazbin Hotel being picked up by A24. Knights of the Light Table has produced music videos for Night Runner, TWRP, Starbomb, and Ninja Sex Party. Explosm got together with Octopie to create The Stockholms.

As far as individual creators go, there are a few like Felix Colgrave or Jae55555, drawing the toons they want, making it work with a blend of Patreon and/or commissions. Basically for anything I post to be successful would require either a large existing audience or big frequent updates with enough time to grow a following.

YouTube Shorts

YouTube Shorts is essentially their answer to TikTok with vertical clips up to 60 seconds. This is problematic to me because it corrals videos into a beta feature nobody’s looking for, it’s a copycat move when they have a legit history with short content to build on, and I expect most content creators are going to repost from other similar platforms until they know how long Shorts will be sticking around.


Not a lot of people talk about Vimeo these days. That’s because in 2017 they changed their business model from being a high-end alternative to YouTube to being a software provider for video makers. It’s a good example of knowing what you want to be and working towards that goal as opposed to people’s expectations. I’ve seen a number of folks recommend hosting demo reels on there saying it looks more professional, you don’t have to worry about ads, and if you need to replace/update a popular video it can keep the same URL. I recommend checking out the Plymptoons account from Bill Plympton. He has a wealth of behind the scenes and production blogs.


I’ve used my Instagram account for work in progress material and Inktober drawings. I’m going to be honest, I find the dimension options confusing and regularly check to see what they currently are. Lots of great artists there, though I’ve heard it can be difficult to stand out these days. Best advice I’ve seen is to find specific tags that are less crowded. (i.e. instead of #art maybe try #socalpainters) I remember back when Twitter decided to start using photos and quit showing previews from links in their feeds. :V


First hyped as an alternative to YouTube, IGTV is for videos from one to sixty minutes long. Originally they needed to be vertical but now they accept horizontal as well. It has a dedicated app though on the web you need to go to the Instagram profile of a specific creator to find their videos. A lot of artists I follow post speed paints. (an easy thing to do with the record feature in Procreate or Clip Studio Paint) Mythical use it to share bonus content with their followers. I considered doing shorts for it, though the vertical requirement at launch was a bit of a creative hurdle. It didn’t seem worth designing content I couldn’t fit anywhere else, in an usual aspect ratio. Also a lip sync test I posted got removed due to copyright a year after I shared it.

Instagram Reels

Another response to TikTok, Reels is for 15-30 second videos. Like IGTV you have to hunt to find them. Considering regular videos are up to a minute long it makes technical sense to highlight shorter ones, I suppose. Now they have options for 15-30, ≤60, and 60-3600 seconds. It just feels inorganic to me. Instagram is one app that rolled out these features as afterthoughts, much like their website. They’re intended to keep existing users onboard, not bring new ones in.


TikTok is an app for videos up to a minute in length that came to the US after merging with, a similar Chinese app popular for dance and lip sync acts. I’ve posted a few. A big part of the appeal is using popular songs, either clips they provide or ones you’ve made yourself. The audience skews young but older folks go where the young people are. There was fear it’d get banned after a prank during the election of reserving tickets for a Trump rally and not going, though that’s probably not happening.

I mainly have two issues with the platform:

  1. The vertical aspect ratio. It impacts design choices and makes using elsewhere look cheap.
  2. It’s really geared toward vlogging and sharing quick vids from your phone. Animators can make content but laboring over a project gets frustrating when others can bang out 10 clips at a time.


Remember Vine? The 6-second loop service? One of the original developers announced V2 after Twitter shut it down. Following a few years in beta it finally launched as Byte. Originally sticking to the 6-second formula they’ve expanded to 15 and now offer sounds to work with. I’ve posted once so far.

It’s a different community and different vibe from TikTok. They’re smaller, more interested in being experimental and creative, and I respect that. My question is whether my stuff could gain traction on there or not.


One of the original Flash portals, (who, like Homestar Runner, are now looking to Ruffle to keep their archives going) Newgrounds is a dedicated place for artists. If they like or hate your stuff, they’ll let you know. They’ve supported non-Flash videos for some time now. I’ve shared some of my QAS shorts but haven’t made anything specifically for the site yet. I’ve had some more mature ideas that might not fly on YouTube I may host there. My concern is would original content work better there as opposed to elsewhere.

Fiyah TV

Fiyah TV is a streaming site for online animators. Creators can sign up and publish their own shows in a variety of genres. I first heard of it when the developers posted on Newgrounds. It’s an admirable goal, though I wonder how many new eyes the site actually brings.


Dribbble is a popular site for designers that was invite-only for a long time. I personally know very little about it as I don’t really travel in design circles but it seems a useful place to display and promote projects.


Bēhance is a similar yet different site to Dribbble. I’ve seen a number of articles comparing which one’s better for which purpose. I figure I’ll spend some time checking out both until I get a better feel for how they work.


Did you know you can apply for an Artist Channel on GIPHY? I didn’t either. How about the fact that Facebook bought them for $400 million even though they haven’t made any revenue yet? Here’s a podcast interview with Annie Wong, AKA Headexplodie, about finding clients with gifs.

My Own Site

I’ve actually been working on this last option a bit, off and on. For a while now I’ve felt like the current web has gone stale. The article Why the ‘Weird Internet’ of the GeoCities Era Had to Die explains how things got standardized and uniform. Experimental sites break on different devices. If you’re a big serious corporation you want your site to work every time somebody visits and you expect it to look the same on every screen. It all makes logical sense. Of course, artists aren’t necessarily known for their logic.

Currently I’m playing around with Grav as a CMS and Wick Editor for animating the HTML5 canvas. It has the ease and the energy of making things in early Flash with modern web standards. The problem now is what do I build with it? An homage to Homestar Runner? Something akin to the Space Jam website? I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel as I’ll spend all my time trying to make it perfect and never actually launch.

So I guess I’m relaunching this blog as a chronicle of my steps forward in the animation business. Building up my portfolio, demo reel, and seeing where I land finding work and/or building an audience.