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A project to break your heart

Heck, it’s been a while.

I’ve been all-in on a great animation gig over the last few months which is why the blog posts have been happening with such irregularity. Awesome project though; I was bought on to provide illustration and animation skills and ended up with my head buried in research and writing voice over narration and animation scripts as well.

I probably can’t talk about the project for some months, but it’s a documentary that explores the lives of young Kiwi soldiers during WWI. It was such a crazy experience for those boys. And so many of them were boys, not just young, but literally teenagers who were so hopped up to enlist that they literally ran away from home and lied about their age to go.

It was a hard thing to research. The production company and I had to read a lot of harrowing letters home, and interviews with people who made it back. Some of it was heart-breaking.

For people of my generation it’s easy to dismiss the experiences of long-ago soldiers. We haven’t had to fight for anything. Sure, battles are fought everyday, murder is done and friends are lost, but me and mine are completely untouched. I think I would have gone on quite happily ignorant of the personal experiences of those young soldiers if I hadn’t *had* to do this research. I really had to bury myself in it, and some of the stuff they went through just destroyed you.

Hopefully we’ve captured some of that and presented it in a concise way that’ll get to people.

Storytelling is hard like that. All this stuff, all these emotions, all that research, and it needs to be funnelled though the creators (adding their personality, whether planned or not) to the audience. There’s so much to get across; the situation, the emotions and the characters. I’ve developed a few tricks for shorthand from producing Moth City, and especially the latest addition to the series – ‘The Reservoir’. Some parts of stories need to be sketched in to emphasise the parts that require more attention – not just from the creator but for the viewer.

In design terms it’s called a visual hierarchy. To emphasise one thing you often need to pull back on everything else. What is most important. One of the big frustrations that designers have with clients comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of this concept. “Just make it bigger” is a common client-solution. It works, but it’s often followed up a day or so later with, “Now the logo looks too small, can you bump that up 200%” and shortly thereafter with “Marketing would like you to make more of the social media accounts, can you scaled them up to match the logo?”

The animation I’ve just finished (just-just) didn’t have any of those frustrations. I wanted to keep the focus on our young boys, not elaborate tactics, camera movements or vast vistas of stuff. The result is remarkably touching and effective (in my opinion, obviously). Thank god for good clients.

It’ll be a while till the show is released, but I’ll be sure to post up interesting tid-bits here when I can.


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Bonus Vid II: Modeling a Comic Book Character

Last time you watched me refine Dr. Boyes in Photoshop, this time we’re going to see the 3D Modeling process at approx 1000000000000x the original speed.

I actually spent most of my hours (and educational dollars) siting in a dark lab working on Animation rather than Illustration. There’s a good (drunken story) reason for this, but I won’t go into it here. Suffice it to say that it was my Animation reel and my facial hair that got me into Weta. Then I just worked really long hours and absorbed (read: Steal) everyone’s illustration techniques for a few years before they let me get paid for it.


As you can probably tell, I never really left 3D animation behind, and I often employ it in my illustrative work. I seemed like a good idea to use it for my Moth City comic, which you should be reading (weekly) here. I’m not so sure, but it did mean that I got to relearn rigging 10 times over.




Coming up next time we’re going to purge ourselves of the grey-scale world of Maya, and get to inking and colouring Dr. Boyes. Ahh…. much better.


Don’t forget to check out Moth City’s latest comics at the main page (or just click the MC logo at the top of the page). And if you want to see more of my animation work, you can check out the original launch teaser for Moth City.


Thanks for stopping by,


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About Moth City

“A fresh take on the murder mystery that lives at the intersection of detective fiction, noir-horror and manhua comics.”

Moth City is a compact manufacturing island given to the American tycoon, Governor McCaw, by the Chinese Nationalist government. In exchange McCaw is to outfit the movement’s vast army as it attempts to destroy the communists and unite the worlds greatest nation. New high-rise weapons plants are built, crushing the ruins of oriental temples beneath their foundations, while the local populace fairs no better under McCaw’s rule.

Now, after a brazen and bizarre murder, McCaw must reveal the island’s secrets before his city’s inhabitants, and everything he has built, is wiped out by the warring factions.

About Tim

Tim spent three years illustrating worlds, characters and monsters for Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, with film credits including Tintin, District 9 and Avatar to his name. ‘Moth City’ is the project he’s been secretly working on along the way. He has convinced a New Zealand government arts funder (Creative New Zealand) to partially fund ‘Moth City’ as an online comic, which allows him to do strange things like post it online for free. Tim lives with his fiancée in Wellington, NZ. When he’s not writing or drawing, he spends his time reading Elmore Leonard, Stephen King and Agatha Christie, and ogling the art of David Mazzucchelli.