Sunday, November 13, 2011

A bunch of updates at once

You thought I'd quit the drawing only two days deep. You were mistaken. Just haven't uploaded until now. I've missed a few days, mainly due to staying ridiculously late at work, but I'm keeping the drawing up. The last week or so has been spent on a single still life. I'm ready to finish it so I can get it off of my desk. Today's intro is drab, humorless, and self-critical.

10/26, 1/25, and 10/23
3.5 hrs total

10/23 quick sketches for an hour. I think I'm still pretty terrible at this. Gotta do it more.

10/20, for an hour. Lots of erasing happened, I suppose. Drawn from an action figure when I was hella tired.

The top of my Wacom stylus. I really like this one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Today: a cup.

Daily drawing - 10/17/11

Put in a solid hour and a half on this one. It got late, so I stopped.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Updates and Changes!

So I moved to NYC and it's super awesome and I love ever second of it. That's the quick summary of the last three and a half months. I might go into detail more at some point. The real reason I'm writing tonight is because I've vowed to start drawing for an hour every day in order to Level Up my drawing.

I plan to do this quietly, as it's really for me more than it's a big public thing. I don't plan to announce new updates and I'll post every drawing I do, no matter how shitty. Unless it's suuuper shitty. Then I'll think about it. But the main goal is to draw for an hour a day and only give myself two break days a month. You're welcome to comment, criticize constructively, start a flamewar, or be an absolute dick. As I mentioned above, I'm really just doing this as a drawing journal for myself. I'll draw a lot of different things, some from life and others from my head, and do my best to post them the day I do them. Expect things to start out crappy and stay crappy. Probably for years. Let's see if I can stick with it.

I drew for two hours today, one hour spent drawing my mouse in its dock, and the other drawing this alien beast thing using some anatomy and People Drawing skills I've picked up. This is for October 16th.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Collection of Bits

I wanted to do a quick post to show everybody what I've been up to in a professional capacity for the last month or two. I've had some amount of leftover Pixelfab work flowing in, so here are a few stills from some clients:

This one's a style mock-up for an animation of a blown-apart view of an appliance. I think I'll render an animation out like this in full even if I don't end up doing it for work, just because it looks cool and it would be a good portfolio piece. Click it to see it embiggened.

This one's a (still of a) seamlessly-looping background video for an interactive Flash overlay.

And another animated background video, complete with lens flares and Star Trek Generations-esque energy ribbons. Take THAT one to the Nexus, Shatner!

And here are some panoramas I took by myself and with Karl. I know I'm switching up my already-confusing top-bottom image labeling system, but deal with it. Again, click on the images to see them in their full web-sized glory.

The originals are photomerges of huge DNG files, so each file is something around a gig a pop. I'll send them to you if you really want them.

I worked up a bunch of weird stuff like this too for a proposal:

And my favorite:

Oh, and I worked on some Particulates again for the first time in over a year. Just so you know. Let me move and get a job, and probably prepare five or so comics in advance as a bugger, and then we'll see about doing a pretty serious restart of the comic. In case you don't know about Particulates, it lives in a temporary hiatus here:
My goal is to use it as a my cool-down design project, which I'd do with a glass of wine and some nachos on cool summer nights after all of the main tasks of the day (work, animation projects, socializing) were done. Maybe one a week? That seems like a pretty low goal. We'll see. I'm not going to make any promises I can't keep.

Hell, yes I am. I'll start Particulates again after I move and it will be awesome, just like everything else I do in life. You're gonna love it.

"That's a piecrust promise. Easily made, easily broken." -Mary Poppins

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Took A Trip And Have A Flat!

In our last exciting episode, I'd recently moved in to my parents' place across town for the interim between leaving my apartment and finding a new one. The Craigslist apartment hunt began almost immediately after the move and I posted this ad in order to up my chances of finding an awesome roommate while I scoured the crazy places being offered by crazy people:

"Late 20s male graphic designer/vfx artist looking to live in a place with 1-3 other people. Interested in rooming with hilarious, creative types who like teaming up on awesome projects. I would not be against rigging up a switch in the place that activates Stealth Mode, making all of the light in the place red like on a submarine. I don't smoke or do drugs, but love to have drinks and discuss science, time travel, and which historical figure we'd eat and why. Looking to move into a place in Brooklyn, in or around Williamsburg, but can be convinced otherwise if an awesome place is found. Don't be stupid-messy or have hella obnoxious pets. Bonus points if you like making up mixed drinks like "I Have No Faith In Science" (vodka + warm water), "I Wasted My Youth And Am Paying For It Now" (gin + Sunny D + diet coke + sour patch kid), or "Sidesaddle Motorcycle" (hot chocolate + bailey's + enough marshmallows that it straddles the boundary between drink and food). We can always flip the couch over (for cover) and play Duck Hunt over it because I'm bringing my Nintendo."

I posted another one the following day:

"HERE is a Worthwhile Economy

Seeking to procure a room for let, as well as one to three co-tenants, in or around the Williamsburg area of the Brooklyn borough. In search of a well-plumbed flat with elec-tricity, near in location to the Interborough Rapid Transit lines as well as the automat. Would prefer a trustworthy, hygienic room-mate with good personal character and a predilection for joviality. No individuals prone to bigotry, brigandry, or bouts of fisticuffs need apply. The ideal room-mate would also be resistant to the lure of the Opium Den and would partake in tobacco-related excursions in the out-of-doors. I am a gentleman in the sunset years of my twenties with an admiration for cleanliness and a respect for the privacy of my potential co-habitators. I ply my trade of graphical-design both for stipend and for leisure and seek co-tenants similarly inclined in the creative arts. I like to enjoy an evening at the speakeasy or a night at home with the victrola and the snifter. I have been known to regularly take in the Talkies as well as the Vaudies.

You may respond to this circular via electronic-telegram at the address listed above. Thank you for you interest."

It turns out that posting ads for roommates was probably the best apartment-finding decision I made in this whole tiresome ordeal. After a day or so of the first ad's posting, I received an email from a potential roommate, which turned into twenty emails, shared beers, two days of apartment hunting, the signing of a lease, and a July 2nd move-in date. Every sign indicates that the new roommate, Ashley, is exactly the kind of person I was looking for in terms of hilarity, non-craziness, stability, potential adventuring, and worldliness.

The discovery of the place itself is a harrowing tale of daring-do. I made my way up to NYC early Monday morning and returned the following Sunday. The initial plan was to go by bus, but the bus I took last time, Sky Express, had recently been shut down by the government because of terrible safety standards, injuries, and deaths. I guess that's what you pay for when you buy a $30 bus ticket. I waited too long to buy tickets from the only competing bus line from Charlotte to NYC and discovered that tickets were sold out until Wednesday. I gave in and bought JetBlue tickets, which were about $200 more than the bus tickets, and $250 BELOW the other airlines, and resumed my Monday-to-Sunday plan. This turned out to be a fantastic decision, as it left me with a full night's sleep, extra leg room, two travel hours of relative comfort, all of the free soft drinks I could guzzle (zero, because I was sleeping), and virtually no fear that I would die sometime during the transportation leg of the trip. We, as a species, and as North Carolinians, invented flight for a reason, and that reason was to lessen the Probablility Of Dying on long voyages. By Air truly is the most godlike way to travel.

I saw a place soon after arriving in town that I considered pretty seriously for a while. The place is a loft in Bushwick, Brooklyn, inhabited by three motion designers. My subject line about render farms in my email instantly won them over. The place seemed like a good bohemian-style artist place, which I imagine would be fun for a good long while. I think I'd probably have taken the place and loved it if I hadn't met up with Ashley and realized that we could actually get our own place without worrying about fitting into someone else's already-existing (and probably-shitty) lifestyle. Honestly, though. There are people on Craigslist who have ads that say things like, "No guests can ever come over ever." What in the hell fun is that? Who am I supposed to drink made-up drinks with and who will eat the all the hot dogs I baked up? All of these nachos will go to waste in my stomach while I cry myself to sleep.

Ashley, who's a New York native, immediately helped me out in my "Between Zero And Five Bullets" rating system for the various parts of Brooklyn and I fear I may someday owe her a Wookie Life-Debt because of it. She borrowed a car and we drove all over Brooklyn on Thursday seeing potential apartments. We posted an ad on Craigs that morning to see if we could scrounge up a third roommate on short notice in case we found the perfect three-bedroom place. A gentleman by the name of Jamie, who was quickly renamed Boy Jamie, responded to my ad and we determined a meeting time/place between apartment viewings. Boy Jamie got lost, so we ended up picking him up off of a street corner in the sketchiest way possible (me leaning out of the car window at a red light and yelling, "Jamie!" and then waving him over to get into the car with two people he'd never met) and interviewing him as we drove to our next apartment viewing. Jamie seemed to have an air of Radness about him and I imagine he would have made a great roommate, but just before we dropped him off at the subway, Ashley and I viewed the second-to-last apartment of the day.

We loved it.

We called the gentleman who showed us the place and let him know we wanted to take it. He smiled (over the phone - I could tell) and told us we could come in and fill out applications in the morning. That's when everything started to go to hell. I called the gentleman early the next morning to confirm the 11:00 appointment and he informed me that he had bad news: someone had begun filling out an application for the place just before he showed it to us on Thursday and the office never called to tell him. Eff. You. See. Kay. Ashley and I kept our appointment at 11:00 and filled out applications with the fleeting hope that the person in front of us for the place would somehow fail to pass the application process or maybe die. We left the office feeling defeated, but hiked up our trousers, straightened our respective hats, and resumed the search in short order.

After checking out a few more lackluster places, the gentleman who showed us FailHouse the day before informed me that he had one other place that was comparable to the place we'd seen the day before. That's when everything stopped going to hell! The new place was great. A half a step from the green line, two big bedrooms, high-assed ceilings, two bathrooms, and a giant living room/kitchen area. Ashley and I exchanged stunned glances, looked around a bit more, and decided then and there to take the place.

With our hopes rising back up through the cloud cover of the day, the only thing that stood in our way was the singing of the lease. I won't go into too much detail, but I think I would definitely classify the lease signing as An Ordeal. My questionable employment status was cancelled out by my perfect credit and, after probably the single longest look of hesitation I've seen in all my twenty-eight years, the fellow at the leasing office said he'd let us have the place. A traipse to my bank in Manhattan for a cashier's cheque and a flick of the pen was all it took to seal the deal. Ashley celebrated by going back to work and I celebrated by eating food for the first time in more than twenty-four hours.

So the weekend ended on a high note. I got dinner with my chum Jimmy that night, where we hit on the ladies and, more importantly, discussed computer animation and visual effects. Saturday was an all-day Gaming Fiasco with Rym and Scott, et al., and Sunday was a leisurely day of Brooklyn wanderings and the plane ride home. The trip was fraught with other small adventures too numerous too mention, except for the one that stands out the most.

I was setting up flat-viewing appointments Thursday morning and called up a gentleman about his place. Below is transcribed our phone exchange:

Me: "Hi! I hear you're showing a place at [street name] and [street name]!"

The Gentleman in Question: "...." "What is this, an interrogation?! WHO IS THIS."

Me: "Er...I saw...that you're showing an apartment?...On Craigslist?"

The Gentleman in Question: "Oh! Well why didn't you say that to begin with? Jesus!"

So it looks like the adventure has already started. I saw a man pee in a subway station, I saw a rat in the street, another in the road, and I saw a crazy guy yelling the fuck word in the park over and over. I think I'm going to love this place.

"The beginning of the adventure of finding yourself is to lose your way." - Joseph Campbell

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Updates? Updates!

Last week I moved out of my apartment that I've lived in in NoDa for something like four years. My folks helped me move stuff to their basement in South Charlotte over a couple of days, my landlord's husband checked the place out and said I was a fantastic tenant, and then I spent one last official evening in NoDa. My shower curtains were gone, so I saw it as the perfect opportunity to take the first and only bath I've taken in that apartment (and probably in a decade), with The Swiss Army Romance blasting from my phone. I've vowed to take many, many more of these baths. I had eight Yueng-Lings and half a pony keg in my fridge left over from Sean's visit that I took, along with Josh, down to my friends Chris and Krista's place to watch the RiffTrax to The Room. I understand what people say about that movie now. I understand completely. Finished it all off with a couple hours' reading at Amelie's, and then I came back to the flat around 1:30am, packed up my computer and the data server, walked around a little, said goodbye to the place, turned off the lights, and left with A Favor House Atlantic blasting and NoDa fading away in the glow of my taillights.

Here are a few pics from the move. The first is probably the saddest picture. It's the magnets left on the fridge after I took down all sorts of postcards, pictures, and a whole lot of other shit that really means a lot to me.

Yes, I took the magnets off and packed them right after I took the picture. I didn't leave them there.

This is what I was left with at the end:

My laptop sitting atop my company's data server. How incredibly representative of a large percentage of my life in Charlotte since graduating. Next up is the moments-before-final-carry-out-of-things shot.

I don't really miss the apartment, since it and I had good years and it was our time. But the pics of it empty like this sure as hell make me miss the times I had with people here. So One Long Infinite High-Five for everybody who made this The Place To Be.

Next up: a Roast Beef sandwich signed by Chris Onstad in Austin, Texas. Thanks to Scott and Cara from Austin and My Life for this wonderful treasure. There was no place for it and it really has to stay in a freezer, so I said a long goodbye to it, caressed it a bit, and tossed it in the trash like any decent sandwich. In hindsight, I probably should have thrown it onto a roof or at a train or something. Ah, well. I plan to keep this photograph of it in my next freezer and then hopefully get Onstad to sign that someday. Maybe I'll even put it between the layers of a NEW sandwich!

This last picture has become pretty representative of my life at home. It's one of my mom's old coffee mugs that I've now claimed as my own.

I use it for my breakfast coffees and my stay-up-too-late coffees. It is wonderful. My folks are great too and I'm forever indebted to them for giving me a place to stay in these uncertain times. I wish my sister was here right now to complete the picture, but we'll work that out in due time.

In less sentimental news, I've officially resumed the Craigslist apartment hunt, the job hunt (submitted a NOTABLE application yesterday), and I'm heading up to NYC sometime around Sunday or Monday to stay with a friend for a week and see as many apartments as humanly possible. Perhaps I can somehow line up last-second job interviews for that week too, eh? I started a couple of new design things recently too, so I'll stick those on the 'Nets soon when they're finished. I'm getting beers with some dudes tonight, so it'll have to wait.

"The family - that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to." -Dodie Smith

Friday, May 27, 2011

Break It Down

So I've got a new tag/label I've been wanting to try out. It's "breakdown" and that's what I'm going to do right now with a thing I recently finished. I take for granted that I know all these ridiculous little techniques to make things look a certain way that other people out there in YouTube Land may not have figured out yet. If you have any questions you want me to answer or you'd like me to go in-depth on any particular parts of a piece, just let me know and I will. Here's the design I started a couple nights ago and just finished:

This is actually part of a series wherein I'm taking cool scifi-sounding words and doing some kind of design/illustration using them. This one actually happened in reverse, where I dropped in some stand-in text until I figured out what would go well with the city. STRUCTUR seemed to be a fun, brandless word and looked better with no E and a flipped R. Here are the other two I've done so far in the series:

Incidentally, the first one, Dropship, ends up being a really good test of your monitor's color calibration. The yellows on it are a full pixel yellow (proven by eyedroppering it in CMYK), but on some monitors, like my laptop screen, it shows up as this horrible orange. Some monitors with bad contrast tend to blow out the middle of the image instead of showing a decent transition between the yellow and white of the background. So if it looks terrible on your screen, it probably isn't my fault for once.

But anyway, on to the breakdown. Adobe Illustrator CS3 was used for the entirety of the piece. The first thing I did was start making the buildings in the middle. Blue, white, and brown is one of my favorite color combinations ever. I think this may be rooted in me seeing a fine lady in a bathing suit with the same color combination, but we're not here to dissect my id. Picking a color scheme at the beginning is a really good idea because it gives you guidance throughout the rest of the piece. I imagine it's sort of like picking a key when composing a song, but I wouldn't really know because I don't understand a single rotten thing about music.

The buildings were an Alt-duplicated rectangle that I edited as I dragged it along. Since the buildings were all the same color, they look like a solid mass. A wide rectangle along the bottom tied the buildings together and gave them that uniform lower roof line. I did the same thing for the background row of buildings along with a third row that I ended up getting rid of. The slight hint of a texture on the buildings was achieved by putting a high-resolution image of a texture (a dirty wall, graph paper, etc) into a layer and then masking that layer off with a copy of the corresponding building layer. The blending mode of the masked texture was then set to a mode that showed the texture, but let the color and brightness of the building layer through, usually Overlay or Multiply, but in this case Soft Light. It's always a nice touch to adjust color and contrast of textures like this in Photoshop to really fine-tune them before dropping them into Illustrator. Photoshop's also good for using the clone stamp or healing brush to get rid of pesky things like pebbles or scratches that distract from the even texture look you might be trying to achieve. Opacity of the texture layers was also adjusted to taste.

The trees were made in two steps. I created a scatter brush that duplicated, scattered, and scaled a circle shape for the treetops. A few different line widths of this and some overlapping drop-shadowed layers helped to set the treetops apart from one another. The second step was to make the trunks, which are just a simple two-point line shape that I alt-duplicated wherever it seemed pleasing to the eye. I then altered their heights accordingly.

A slight drop shadow was added to the building and tree layers to give them that cutout, slightly 3D look that I apparently love and integrate into basically everything I do. It really pushes things off the paper,or into it in the case of the inner shadow on the word "Dropship" in the above piece.

I hopped through fonts for the text and found one pretty quickly. My stand-in text ("TEXTTEXT") can be seen in the previous post. I wanted something big and blocky with some slight curves that repeated both the hard look of the buildings and the roundness of the trees. This particular font is called Earth Normal and I probably got it off of, knowing me. I added the little lines up top to emphasize the curves and lines in the letters and they started looking like antennae, so I'm pretty happy with how they fit the theme. They consist of three line types: short lines, long lines, and diagonal lines. I alt-duplicated the lines around wherever they seemed to fit and broke up any symmetry between two diagonal lines with offset-from-center vertical lines. I then put a gradient layer mask on the different line layers to make them fade off at the top like they do.

The pipes were an addition at the end. I tried doing a cross-section of the ground, with a subway tunnel, strata, and pipes, but it got too busy and distracting and I cut it all out except for the pipes. I really like how they ended up mirroring the idea of the antenna lines up top. The pipes themselves made me feel really clever. I drew them with the pen tool and gave them rounded corners. I then duplicated the pipe layer and upped its line width (from 2 to 5), made it all transparent, and then revealed only the joint areas in the layer mask. So you get thin little pipes everywhere and thick pipes revealed only on the corner sections, making it look like joints.

I made the ground and sky textures in the same way I did for the buildings. A really great place to find free high-res textures online is You can download something like 10MB of textures a day and the subject matter is all across the board, from grungy concrete to fine wood. It's a goldmine. Another awesome place is Or just go out with a camera and shoot things yourself at as high resolution as your camera will let you. If you have any weird lighting in the things you shoot, use the High Pass filter on them in Photoshop to even everything out.

I put a vignette over the whole thing too to give it that dark edge/bright center kind of look that just makes it look nicer somehow and pulls your eye to the middle of the piece.

As one last note, I want to bring up the Recolor Artwork tool. This feature started in Illustrator CS3 and has proven an invaluable time saver for my designs. You can select any artwork in your composition with more than one color, and even everything in the entire piece if you want to, and hit the little circular Recolor Artwork icon on your top toolbar. The tool basically lets you recolor everything at once. If you immediately click the "Edit" button at the top of the tool, it takes you to a big HSB color wheel. Press the chain link button at the bottom right under the wheel and you can then move the HSB sliders or points on the color wheel around all over the place to recolor everything in the composition at the same time with the colors still staying the same relative to one another on the color wheel. So you can take a composition that's yellow and orange and see what it would look like if it were shifted to red and blue with the same contrast, brightness, and saturation. It's the closest thing Illustrator has to a Hue/Saturation tool. Both the edit and assign sections of this tool are perfect for minor little adjustments to colors and gradients too.

So that's the breakdown! Let me know if you like it and I'll keep it up. In brief NYC news, I'm still packing boxes and looking for a place to live in Brooklyn.

"Why are you doing this?" "The same reason I do everything, Jen. To have sex with a lady." -Roy, The IT Crowd