exploring art and design, one day at a time

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Stop Motion Prep

Bishop/Tuzin Cloud Test

I’m preparing for a short stop motion film for my friends’ website. They are starting a new brand for screen writing and filmmaking together and we need some imagery. The idea is to create several short videos that are classically cinematic and then use them super-sized, running in the background of their content. One image they’ve created is the well-used flying through stormy clouds, lightning flashing, and coming across the logo floating in the air. I decided to “Michel Gondry” the idea by creating a stop motion video of the idea. I started with the paper letters that I’ve already created and am now creating and test shooting the clouds (seen above). The clouds will keep me busy for a while, then on to the foil lightning bolts.


Mary and Max, Strange Pals

Mary and Max

Last night I watched a dark claymation film called Mary and Max. It’s a story of two unlikely friends, an obese, middle-aged New Yorker and a young outcast from Australia, Mary. I had never heard of it before, but I can’t resist anything claymation and I noticed the voice actors were the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, and Eric Bana. Also, it won a ton of awards when it hit the festival circuit a few years ago.

The imagery was super fun and dark and I kept getting little surprises from the scenes. I love the fish smoking underwater, the bubble bath design, and all the small details throughout. Beware of death by embalming fluid, hard psychiatric emotions, disgusting-looking characters, and ground up goldfish.

Watch it now on Netflix. Also, definitely check out their website if you’re into that kind of stuff.


The Lighted Bridge, Episode 2, In Progress

The Lighted Bridge, Initial Sketch

The Lighted Bridge, First Layout

I’m working on another illustration for The Lighted Bridge. Episode Two is under way and now being edited. For this episode we are going for a darker theme than the first, with German Expressionism as our main inspiration. I’m trying to portray lots of strange angles, shadows, and a giant deconstructed clock. There are a lot of death and love themes and clock faces and face gears. The whole episode is filled with themes and amazing imagery, it’s definitely a challenge putting it all together and making it work. I went through a lot of iterations before sending this first round, adding and subtracting to find a good balance of imagery. We have still to add and subtract, but I am happy with the main shell of the image so far.


Smitten, New Portfolio Piece

Smitten Final Image

Smitten Close Up

Smitten About Page

I just posted my final images of this project on Behance, but I wanted to follow up with a blog post (since I haven’t done one in a while). These are the final images used for the Smitten website. The background image was a hard one to get perfect, but fortunately we found an amazing image that looks its actual 3-dimensional style that it is. The last image I used was a little too glowing and not casting enough hard shadows.

This turned out quite nice, I’m not sure how much time this would have taken if I had just built the whole thing in photoshop rather than making custom paper art. Either way, I’d happily spend all of the hours cutting paper than creating fancy brushes hunched over a computer, even if it takes more time.

This website was worth it in so many ways—an awesome portfolio piece and I was paid in private yoga lessons. Portfolio and a new yoga practice? Thank you very much.


WITHOUT, A Short Film for Purchase

WITHOUT, Short Film Imagery

WITHOUT, Movie Titles Close Up

The holidays have slowed up my posts and my projects, everyone is on vacation or working half-time right now. Luckily, we received some great news today! A short indie film I worked on a couple years ago is now available on iTunes. The film is called Without and was written and directed by Gregory F. Tuzin and Brent Bishop. These two collaborators were excellent clients—they usually tell me their concept and then say, “Go for it!”. They give me free reign on design and let me explore as much as I want.

For Without, I worked with water colorist Beverly Tuzin to create the promotional poster. We selected a few screen shots and asked Beverly to water color the characters and background. The idea was to recreate the scene to really show the dry, arid, and sparse landscape the characters inhabited. After Beverly delivered, I incorporated a logo that I created using india ink and a cut out potato. I also used typefaces that I had printed out, redrawn, and scanned to create brand new typefaces that were now extremely distressed.

You can view the poster on the top left of the above images. The rest of the images are screen shots from the film and title sequence. The inked logo and the newly distressed fonts also appear in the horizontally moving title sequence of the film.

Support our artistic endeavors and purchase the film on iTunes! We are so excited to have the film at a convenient place to purchase and to share, so please direct your friends and family to the film as well.


Prepping a New Brand

A Common Name, Typeface Arrangement

A Common Name, 3D Typeface

The above two images are raw shots of a typeface I’m building for my new design brand called, A Common Name. I’ve been physically building two different typefaces into 3-dimensional paper type. The plan is to place the letters onto complex surfaces to photograph. The end result would only feature one of the typefaces set in different locations—on grass, on a brick wall, in a river (oh yes, we’re going large scale too). I had so many typefaces in mind for this, even extremely round letters. Somehow these square/rectangle shapes appeal to me, when I lay them in any which way on a surface, they create amazing patterns and shapes (see above). I’m also happy with the possible juxtaposition of placing such rigid letters in natural settings.

A background on the name:

A Common Name comes from months of searching for a new business name and finding that nothing that pertains to me in the design world hasn’t already been used. Smith is THE most common name in the U.S. I cannot use it in any way, shape, or form because it’s already been done and used. I landed on A Common Name because of this problem. Many names have become common and so many design firms have “common” and regular used phrases. It’s hard to feel original, especially in the web world.

A Common Name will be a title for myself, for original design work, for a design firm. Everything has a common name, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t amazing.


Practice Makes Perfect

Smitten Paper Cut Detail

Paper Cut Photo Setup

Smitten Paper Cut

The top three images are parts of our my process for the final round of design for Smitten.

The first image is a detail image of the cut paper. After the prototype design, I decided I needed to change a few things. The paper needed to be thicker (which took longer to cut), the thin lines of the logo needed to be thicker, and I needed to hit the black ink on the paper twice. This all helped to make a darker, more precise image to use.

The second image shows the set up of my favorite in-house photographer, Greg. He used a soft light box partially covered by a black board to emit less light and some running lights laid around the piece to create ambient light from the sides. Also, I had to increase the distance of the top cut piece with the bottom piece to help more light float around in between.

Because of Greg‘s excellent skills, I find myself with this last image that took about 5 minutes to retouch. Pretty fantastic. I really am working hard on these hand made pieces to make them as perfect as possible so that I barely have to touch them in post production. A success this time.


“Smitten” Paper Design

I’m in the beginning design stages of a website for a new book called “Smitten”. My friends Ariel Kiley and Simone Kornfeld have written an insightful book about the “way of the brilliant flirt”. They had a few wonderful inspirations of places in New York that they loved and felt represented the feeling of their book. The Gramercy Park Hotel and the Kiki de Montparnasse New York store set the mood for me to hit the ground running with creativity.

The Kiki de Montparnasse store inspired me to create something luscious, with some dark, elegant, and rosy hues. I decided to hand-cut some paper into the lace effect. This is my first time doing this, so I chose a slightly simpler design than I’ve seen before for this treatment. When I started cutting it out, my filmmaker boyfriend walked by and exclaimed, “You’re going to cut all of that out?! I’m doing a time lapse.” And so he did…

The following is the silly video we came up with. The time lapse wasn’t the greatest for what I was doing (we plan on trying again on the next design I do) so we added some silly elements to help beef up the interest.

The final image is the effect used for the initial round of design on the website. I doubled the design over a rose colored sheet of paper and photographed it to create natural shadows.

“Smitten” Cut Paper Time Lapse from Julian Paige Smith on Vimeo.

"Smitten" Paper Cut Design


Arcade Fire’s Presents to You

The Wilderness Downtown, Home Page

The Wilderness Downtown, Home Page

The Wilderness Downtown, Initial Screen Shot

The Wilderness Downtown, Initial Screen Shot

The Wilderness Downtown, Broken Screen Shot

The Wilderness Downtown, Broken Screen Shot

The Wilderness Downtown, Final Broken Screen Shots

The Wilderness Downtown, Final Broken Screen Shots

Arcade Fire has been making a scene lately. Their new album, “The Suburbs”, is jam-packed with prizes—5 album covers, a plethora of posters, 12″ vinyl, CD, and digital files. Not only that, Chris Milk has created an amazing film to a new track “We Used to Wait”. Created in HTML5, this browser experiment asks you for your home address and calculates a custom video using google earth. The images above are some screen shots of my screen. It takes you from a single shot of a person running to many broken up frames of your home, birds flying, and the person seemingly running through your neighborhood. It’s kind of inspirational, especially if you used to take runs down your old streets.

Try it out here.


Painful New Steps

Episode I Screen Shot

The books are flying, the flag is waving, Paris is now a city! This project has been long and difficult. How will that flag wave? How will those books flying properly? And how, oh how, will I ever get the episode to play, stop, pause and scrub the way I want?? All these burning questions I tried to avoid because of un-tread water.

I am not a talented programmer or a skilled animator, these are things I am working on slowly and painfully. I’m so happy with the way the flag turned out, a pseudo stop motion animation. I drew 20 different flags to get the flag to curl in the wind, placing a new image every 5 or so frames in flash. For this file, the pace is set to 24 frames per second, so by placing them frames apart, the flag will move more slowly than if I placed them right next to each other, frame to frame. With 20 flag images, the whole animation would have gone the full cycle in less than a second.

I thought I  had to do another stop motion for the books, which I unsuccessfully tried. 15 new drawings of one book flap into the trash.  Then, I went ahead and adjusted what I already had, pushing the motion further and making the book flap all the way down instead of stopping halfway. A million times better—at least my sister isn’t laughing at it anymore.

The longest, most painful thing was the programming of the episode player. Like I said, I’m not a skilled programmer, so I was consulting a flash book and the world wide web for the right kind of mp3 player. Hours and hours later, about 10 sound flash files in the can, I got this one working. Unfortunately, the compression settings are still a bit of a problem and the sound is not as crisp as we want yet; so hopefully we’ll figure that out today so we can post this thing! Also, check out the new music notes on the home page to stop and start the music.

The Lighted Bridge Test Site


Programming “The Lighted Bridge”

The Lighted Bridge Programming

I’ve been working hard with my client to finish the Episode I page for The Lighted Bridge. The design hasn’t changed too much, just a few details. I’ve finally decided that I didn’t like the off perspective on the diamond floor, so  I created a perspective with photoshop (instead of correctly drawing it again). Instead of using text for the links at the bottom of the site, we’ve decided to go with little icons that are and will be visible throughout the site. The rollover with the text on those icons will help direct people to the right place without them having to recall exactly where those icons are in the site.

I spent a long time creating a custom skin to play the episode. I’m pretty happy with how it’s turned out and the functionality of it. Still not sure about the decorative edging above and below it, but I think I’m getting closer. Using something art deco like the rest of the pages seems to meld the best.

Now the books. My sister and I spent a long time laughing at this animation the other day. It really doesn’t work right—she says the books look like they’re breaking wrong and we started flying books in front of each other to make examples. Good times. My client also thinks the flag should be doing something because it looks unfinished (originally we thought the white “surrender” flag was great). I’m thinking that I should animate the flag as well. These two items might look awesome and much better if I did a sort of stop animation style. The style would be drawing each phase of the item and simply switching out the images per frame. We’ll see how this actually turns out.

The link to the animation so far.


Slow Progress

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted, I was happily visiting my family in Texas. I haven’t seen most of them in two years and it was great to be able to have time to relax with them all this summer.

A small portion of my time was spent working on a new page for The Lighted Bridge. This is a website I’ve been developing with Kristin Cato, a theatre major who works at Berkeley Rep. The project is an episodic radio drama that will be released as podcasts, a new way to use our new technology in a clever/different approach.

We started with two pages to introduce the radio drama—a home page to give a synopsis and information about the director and a bio/informational page to introduce the cast and crew. Neither page has very obvious links, something most people enjoy and some people are annoyed with. Due to the nature of the story, we both agree that these hidden “easter eggs” (as they call them in the film industry, hint: put Big Fish in your DVD drive and arrow all around the opening page where you start the movie) are the best way to have people navigate for now.

Episode I is going to be released by the middle of July, so we are working together to create another atmosphere for this episode to be played. After talking with Kristin, I was left with some piecey ideas of how she would like it to look. “Art deco, rainbows, French flags, frame for the player, black and white photos, and the title”. Kristin also did an image search and found quite a few art deco images she was attracted to. This was what really helped me. She was very interested in architecture and the photography of the time, so I drew an image that was very heavy on art deco line-work and architecture.

Episode 1, Rough Sketch

Thankfully, with Kristin’s and my history, she doesn’t mind that my quick sketch looks like chicken scratch. She gets it.

She loved and agreed on this layout with a few changes and additions. One important idea was to take the obvious rainbows out of the sky and replace them with the colors of the French flag. I decided to leave the flag white completely because of this, which delighted Kristin because it seems like a surrender flag. The whole image is completely out of perspective on purpose, I was testing the waters with this idea, hoping that it works, so far no comment on that. I got this idea from a restaurant in Venice, called Casablanca (my favorite Mexican food in the city!). It’s a very strange place, Mexican food with a Casablanca theme. Someone was obsessed with the movie. Anyways, one wall has a scene from the movie painted on it and the whole perspective is totally out of whack but I can’t stop staring at it, I love the painting for the “mistake” (?).

Episode I, Halfway Point in Round 1

This first round still has a little ways to go, but I had a deadline to make for Kristin so she could show her work-in-progress group. So far so good, I’ll keep updating this project as it moves along.