Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Recently did some freelance work for The Harvard Business School by creating a couple series of quick illustrations to accompany video lectures by Clay Christensen. This is just one illustration from a lecture about the theory of flight, and how it applies to business theories. Very interesting stuff actually...reminded me of my old days in business school in Florida.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Jay Cutler Emotions Guide

Something that came to mind as I was watching last night's Lions vs. Bears Monday Night Football game on ESPN (while simultaneously watching the presidential debate)...

Jay Cutler Illustration by Chris Hsu

Friday, October 19, 2012

"Three Cats and a Rat"

In this month's Appleseeds magazine I was given a fun opportunity to illustrate an old folktale where a swordsman and his friend try to employ cats to catch a pesky rat, though the first two cats turn out to be more high maintenance than they are skilled. The third cat, a plain tabby, uses patience rather than an aggressive approach to finally catch the rodent who upon release promises to never return.

The story mentions a swordsman and the art director suggested maybe a Spaniard, so right off the bat I channelled what I knew of old European painting as inspiration, especially in terms of using dramatic chiaroscuro, multiple figures in complex angled poses, and setting everything in a ambiguous, darkened, rural space. Then from there I tried to combine it all into a more modern palette and look. (AD and Layout: Joshua Banks)

In my first rough sketch for the big splash image, I thought it was important to focus on a high maintenance persian cat and emphasize that by showing the swordsman rushing over with a bowl of milk to appease it. The little blobs up top were supposed to be kittens holding a "Fight of the Century" sign as mentioned in the story, to build up the hype even more. After stepping back and looking at the sketch I felt it just showed a jerk of a cat but didn't tell anything about the relationship between the swordsman and the cat.

I decided I really needed to include a mouse hole to show the reason that the swordsman is cajoling the cat. But at the same time the mouse hole alone wasn't enough to show the gravity of the situation - that was where the friend from the story came in handy. I placed him waiting to pounce by the entrance, thereby suggesting that there was something actually pesky inside that hole that the cat wouldn't even attend to until fully fed. Perfect...except for the fact that the composition became incredibly left-heavy at that point.

With some tweaking of the figure I changed him to better fit my needs there, which were to 1) balance the composition and 2) support the narrative. This arrangement also had a unexpected benefit too, which was how the shape of the cat now looked like it was literally stepping on him, as if he was a slave to that cat. I thought it helped to subconsciously push that idea that this was really one high maintenance animal. Plus I already had a composition comprised of many "U" shapes in varying sizes and curves, so putting the friend in a big "U" helped to hold everything together and perpetuate the rhythm.

chris hsu illustration
Voila! Now I felt like I had a composition of dynamic implied lines and shapes that helped to tell the specific narrative, and I could finally move forward confidently with the rest of the character design, drawing, and painting. Below are the other two smaller illustrated spots that accompanied the story. I already decided early on that the rat was going to appear in both of those, which is why I never included it in the initial sketch for the splash image.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"The Spider Man"

For this month's issue of FACES magazine the assignment called for two spreads featuring a character named Anansi, a plucky spider from Caribbean folklore whose message in a nutshell is to never give up, even if you think you are small and insignificant. It's a suuuper trippy story that jumps from abstract scene to abstract scene so the concept for the illustration was very open ended. The only guideline I set for myself was to make sure to give it a hint of Caribbean characteristics in terms of character designs and palette. Below are the finals of the two spreads, plus a detail. I took a little inspiration for the ghost fight spread from Disney's Haunted Mansion in Orlando, which being a native Floridian I have ridden many many in my life. I always remembered that part in the ride where a swirl of transparent ghostly figures flies through the air in a big arch...if I remember correctly it's right before the ride car heads down into the cemetery? (AD and Layout: Joshua Banks)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Google "Tough Mudder" T-Shirts

In a fun little side project, a good friend of mine who is a Music Partner Manager at Google in Mountain View asked me if I could help them out with a little something for their upcoming Tough Mudder outing. If you're not familiar Tough Mudder is one of those obstacle-laden, guaranteed-to-get-you-muddy races held out in the countryside that tests your physical and mental abilities.

So they wanted to go with an Android theme based on a little image of the standard, frontal mascot icon dressed in running gear that another Google designer had done. My task was pretty open ended, so I decided to make it my goal to take that and "bring it to life" somehow in the spirit of the race using only three colors and white.

We ended up going with what we referred to as the "roaring guy" which we felt captured the "Yeahhh! Bring it on!!!!" feeling that people usually have when they first start these races before they find out how challenging "it" actually is. This is an actual photo of the printed product even though it kinda looks like it's photoshopped onto a random T.

The big day has arrived! Here's a contingent of NorCal Google employees sporting the shirts this past weekend. Man, those bright, yellow ochre mountains of California seem like a whole world away from the fall forests of New England...

Here's a great shot of the front and backs of the shirts. From what I heard, a good time was had by all and everyone returned home safe and sound in one very muddy piece.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan

Shad Khan illustration by Chris Hsu
Just started sketching around and experimenting today with some mark making using Shad Khan, the new owner of my hometown Jacksonville Jaguars, as the subject matter. I had just read the Forbes article about him, his background and his commitment and vision for the team moving forward. I can certainly admire someone who's life story is essentially based on not taking the easy way out and building up things from nothing, and the Jaguars are definitely the place to do that. Jacksonville has all the ingredients to be an internationally recognized city and sports franchise, but in terms of sports mediocre season after mediocre season has just deterred any of that from happening.

In the illustration I gave him an appearance of optimism - the same optimism I share about our team and what it can do for the progress of city that I grew up in.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Boston MFA Sketches: August

Here's a sketch dump of some stuff compiled from a few trips to the MFA. On the little reading baby statues I stuck my arm out to measure proportions with my pencil and a lout beep alarm went off...I hate when that happens because everyone in the room turns and looks at you on top of the guard already glaring at you from across the room.

I recently discovered the MFA's "Sketching in the Galleries" event which takes place every Wednesday and allows you to sketch in a supervised group in various locations in the ACTUAL galleries. It's not off in some random classroom, but in the galleries next to all the amazing works of art. There's something very cool about drawing from a model right in the middle of a museum while guests are walking around thinking they have just accidentally stumbled onto a class in session. This particular model did sessions ranging from one to twenty minutes mostly of pretty nice, arching poses.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Maroney Lisa Is Not Impressed

And here's my quick photoshop contribution to the "McKayla Maroney Is Not Impressed Meme"...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Boston MFA Sketches: July 4th Week

To the left are sketches done from some John Singer Sargent mural studies on view in the main Rotunda. Would love to see some more of them in person, so hopefully they'll rotate out some in the near future.

To the right are studies of pairs of hands from various John Singleton Copley paintings on view in the American Wing.

Monday, July 2, 2012

SIGGRAPH: New England Art Institute

Thank you to the New England AI chapter of SIGGRAPH for inviting me along with my colleague Jordan Barney to come give a presentation to its members about working in animation. We gave a talk to a group of 40+ students and alumni of various majors on topics including a day in the life of the industry and the general animation process/cycle, as well as showing still art and clips from some recent Clambake Animation pilots and series production. We forgot to show one particular Clambake short for RegenEnergy which I am posting below for anyone who didn't see it when I played it during some post-talk one on ones. It's by Jordan Barney and Chad Hanna, and in my opinion a good example to how 2D animation is still in many ways more visually appealing than 3D.

Thanks to everyone who came out...I hope you all took a little something away from the presentation!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Euro 2012 Spain Sketches

alonso iniesta pique fabregas casillas torres spanish soccer illustration chris hsu

Did some quick sketches of some of Spain's football/soccer players while watching the Euro 2012 game today vs. France. These are some of the more high profile guys (Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas, Iker Casillas, Fernando Torres) but it'd be fun to draw out the rest of the team and complete the set.

By the strangest and coolest coincidence ever, we saw these guys when they were staying in Providence in Spring 2011 while staying in the same hotel as them during RISD's graduation weekend. Of course they obliterated the US team in an exhibition in Foxboro, but we got all kinds of good pictures with the players in and around the Providence Mall during that week.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bejeweled Blitz

Woohoo!! Using only one boost too...the "scrambler."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

April Travels

Greetings from Taiwan! This picture was taken in 大溪 (Dashi Township) in Taoyuan county on April 28th, 2012.

Prior to that, we spent the first week of April back down south, including in Savannah Georgia where we attended the wedding of Eddie and Claire Konishi and had a blast reuniting with some of my ol' Cleveland and American Greetings pals. It was my first time being back down in Florida and Georgia since moving up to New England. The biggest difference I noticed? The speed of the pace of life.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Cobblestone Publishing: April Illustrations

Late posting! For the month of April I was happy to have produced illustrations for not just one, but two Cobblestone magazine titles - Odyssey and Faces. The Odyssey assignment called for a vintage-looking ad for geomedicine products by mail order. I like to think my general knowledge of science is pretty good, but I'll admit I had NO idea what "geomedicine" was; but I find learning something new is the beneficial side product of illustrating for a science magazine.

Faces Magazine is Cobblestone's world cultures topics publication for kids and was a new venue for me this month to my delight. The gig called for a series of narrative illustrations showcasing three ancient and witty Arabic folktales told from the point of view of a wise old man named Mullah, who also stars in each story as a character. The settings range from a restaurant, a lavish party, and the open desert. When you think about it, it's funny how so many ancient folktales around the world are based on either food or social statuses...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RISD Portfolio Review 2012

Took part in the RISD portfolio review today on behalf of Clambake Animation with my boss. Really enjoyed what I saw of the students and the campus, and thanks to everyone who stopped by the Clambake table to show their illustration and animation work!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Odyssey Magazine: "The Perfect Storm"

For this month's Odyssey magazine I took on two illustrated stories as part of their "Perfect Storm" theme that ran through their entire magazine lineup.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"My Table" Magazine Spot Illustrations

To give an update on my regular My Table Magazine food spot illustrations, I wanted to post the most recent on in tearsheet form. The chocolate items featured in the article range from cocoa tarts to salt cupcakes, but for the illustration we decided to do a general assortment of lively chocolate products. Robin Barr Sussman writes the regular column, entitled "Tasting the Town." The closeup of the chocolate spot illustration is posted blow, along with last month's deliciously featured item - beef short ribs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Odyssey Magazine: "A Road Map of Taste"

New illustration in this month's Odyssey Magazine - a cute little spot to accompany an article about how the brain determines tastes and splits them into the five main categories. Reminds me of being little and going to EPCOT's "Wonders of Life" pavilion (which sadly closed in 2007.)

chris hsu illustration

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dog Portrait Commission: Miles Davis

Just finished this portrait commission of a great dane from Pensacola, Florida named Miles Davis. Based on the reference pictures he seemed to be a combination of stoic, chill, and slightly goofy humorous - all of which I tried to simultaneously translate over into the illustrated portrait. The features that stood out the most to me were the nice gray markings (especially the patch around the gleaming blue-greenish eye and the big triangle on his back), the spotty pink nose, and the stark, simple black collar that seemed to be a really nice punctuation mark on his overall appearance. The Notre Dame football prop is a reference to his owners, who I am told are ND alumni.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Football Sketch

Just for fun while watching the NFL playoffs this weekend, did this quick sketch. Saints and 49ers...crazy game!! Tebow Time over for now, but man what a run this season. And the Giants once again toppling a giant.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"What an Irritating Gift!"

New illustration appearing in this month's Odyssey Magazine for an article entitled "What an Irritating Gift! Thank You, Dear!" The story, by Nick D'Alto, talks about the birth of pearls through a process of irritation and layering. The setting for the story called for a charming dinner setting where a young marine biologist uses a chocolate covered cherry to explain the process that a oyster goes through once an irritant is introduced within its shell.

chris hsu illustration

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Hoover Dam

During my very first visit to the Hoover Dam I quickly learned that the structure is one of those things you'll see from afar and think, "Ok, so it's a big wall of concrete holding up a river," but once you go in for a close up and learn about it's history, construction, and influence on the development of the untamed landscape of the West you'll truly appreciate it's place in American history. The concept of humans having the technology to divert and control a powerful river is impressive in itself, but when reminded that this thing was built out in the middle of nowhere under the ridiculously harsh Nevada climate without the use of computers it's really amazing. It was fascinating learning about the types of workers (puddlers, scalers, etc.) and to think about how these Depression-era men were motivated to migrate out to this unforgiving landscape for the opportunity to be a part of something big.

What would it have been like to be a rural settler in the '30s out in the middle of Arizona, Nevada, California or anywhere in the Southwest really and to even hear that a massive dam was going to be built into the mighty Colorado River? And then what if they told you that very dam was going to also eventually deliver electricity to you from hundreds of miles away? Would you even believe it to be possible??

On a side note, one thing you have to get close to the Dam to appreciate is the streamlined, simple, and beautiful Art Deco details of it's architecture; from afar you wouldn't even know the designed in such a style. It's unusual because Art Deco is a look that we usually associate with the big city, so to see it out isolated in this pristine valley of vivid red rock makes for really bold contrast. There's also nice works of art and reliefs all about, including the bronze winged statues and some cool mural illustrations by John Rush.