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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Inspiration Doesn't Wear A Watch

I almost decided to wait until tomorrow to post this and just go to bed, especially since I have to get up at 5:30, but then I sat for another hour and some change and started a new design. So if I had time for that, I have time for this.

It's a short post tonight, but I wanted to throw the two designs I'm working on up here since I'm proud of my accomplishments today. I went to Amelie's this evening (incredible 24-hours bakery/coffee shop) and just sat and worked while some gentlemen played some haunting ambient music on their electric guitars behind me. I may go into a little bit of detail about the designs tomorrow if it seems like it would be worthwhile to my Having Slept A Bit brain.

First off, I got the terrible monster image to a point where I'm calling it done. Here!

Comments? Critiques? Suggestions? Keep 'em to yourself! But seriously though, keep them to yourself.

No, send them to me. I was only playing.

I started on this tonight too and I think it has some promise:
So now I will go to bed and read until I burn the coffee off. Goodnight.

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” -Vincent van Gogh

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Another Crabby Time In Charleston

I'm finally on my much-awaited trip to Charleston with Karl to see my fantastic friends Sean and Katie. After a week of full throttle work on a presentation for a client, things are finally cooling off a bit and I've had a little time to relax. So this is a brief update on both my current trip and NYC progress.

The weekend has been an hilarious romp, gallivanting around Charleston, playing games, watching movies, boating, devouring crustaceans, drinking, and making general fools of ourselves. We went out on Charleston Harbor with Sean and Katie on their sailboat today, yelling nautical terms and even having an instant of daring-do, where rudder control was lost and everyone scrambled to fix things with precision on par with that of Kevin Kostner's character (The Mariner) in Waterworld. We even attempted to raise the jib, which we ended up only completing halfway, but I now believe I would feel confident rigging and sailing any wind-powered vessel known to man. After docking the boat and tying some mind-boggling knots, we went on a crab hunt and returned home with a baker's baker's dozen of Delicious Bottom Feeders. I ended up downing something on the order of six crabs, a bratwurst, multiple beers, hella chips, and a cob of corn. It was amazing and I feel amazing. We watched Mystery Team too, by the brilliant minds behind Derrick Comedy. It was probably the hardest I've laughed in a movie in years.

As for New York news, I finally had time last week (between midnight and 4a.m. one night and brief spurts on following nights) to do a serious Craigslist apartment hunt. The place where I had a chance of staying after meeting people on my trip a month and a half ago to NYC is officially in the Fell Through category. I imagine there's still some kind of a chance, but I'm not counting on it. After the long night of flat hunting and a few short ones, I've come to learn some things about finding places to live in New York City.

1. People post and fill rooms in NYC in an ABSURDLY short period.of time. Every post on Craigslist at the very end of April was for a May 1st move-in, so I decided to wait until May before I did the real hunting. There ended up being a lot of things to take care of in the beginning of May and I didn't end up getting to do the serious hunting until, as I just mentioned, last week. I sent a good load of emails out to places I was interested in and also posted a "looking for room/roommates" post with a summary of myself, infused with the normal amount of hilarity. Most of the posts I saw were posted that day and seemed to fully expect to have filled the rooms within the week. The one person who's actually responded to my emails said that I could come look at the apartment this weekend. I told him I wouldn't be able to make a trip to NYC until the beginning of next week and he informed me that the room would likely already have a tenant by that time. I have year anything back from the other renters I emailed, or get any kind of response to my "ADVENTURE AND HILARITY" posting about myself.

2. People hate email. This is more of a re-affirmation, but people really do not even respond with a courtesy email if they're not interested or the room has been taken. Everyone else in the world seems to hate email too, so, in the end, I really didn't expect this to be any different. Brief one-sentence rant: people hate email so much in everyday life, even in a professional situation, that they don't bother to proofread, edit, or even punctuate their emails; I think it's because people hate having to write, hate to do things in a timely fashion, and, most of all, hate computers  - daaang.

3. If you don't like what you see on Craigslist's housing section, WAIT ONE SINGLE DAY and there will be a surge of new posts, each promising new sights, locations, and adventures, with a surprisingly minimal amount of sketchiness.

4. Looking for a place is not nearly as scary as it first seemed. A lot of people are just fine with doing a month-to-month thing, which gives me hope that I could relocate after a few months if I realized the particular part of the city I lived in flat-out sucked or my roommates were Completely Bat Shit Crazy.  Fun new stuff springs up every day and Craigslist alone has more places available in the area I want than I need. Things are also really falling in to the area and price price range I'm seeking.

A good buffer in the stresses of the month is that not only have my parents offered to store my stuff in their basement across town, but they let me know that I could stay there in any overlap period I have between moving out of my Charlotte flat and finding a place in NYC. They're the greatest. If I do end up having to do that, I may be around for a couple more weeks than originally planned, but I'll be hitting the listings every day. I'm ready to make this shit happen.

This week I'll be trying to find a balance between the sacred Triforce of packing, working, and trolling Craigslist for more apartment options, and I may even shove a fourth item in: resuming the job hunt. I might as well keep my feelers out there for potential 9-5s and sign up with a couple more temp agencies so I have some good cash-money options rolling my way when I hit the city. I have savings and a few ongoing freelance gigs to support me well into a move, but it's never too early to pepper the city with  photocopies of my resume dropped from the space shuttle. I'll update about the apartment hunt as things progress.

Homer: What really burns me up is they didn't give us one word of warning.
Carl: What do you mean? They ran those TV commercials about it, and that big radio campaign.
Lenny: Don't forget the leaflets they dropped from the Space Shuttle, and the two weeks we all spent at area code camp.
Homer:Not a single word of warning.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Perfect Packing Progress

The last week has been full of Actual Paying Work that's distracted me a bit from the NYC design mission. But this was to be expected at some point. In lieu of design work, however, I've been ransacking and disassembling my apartment, focusing on the most significantly stuff-full part: my studio.

After two failed attempts at roommate-gathering when I first moved in four-ish years ago, I decided to keep the second bedroom of my apartment for myself for the foreseeable future and turn it into a sort of screenprinting/art studio area. I started by covering the floor in a thick layer of painting plastic, then some thick dropcloth, and finally some puzzle piece-style rubberized floor cover things for the main standing areas. Karl and I spent a couple of days in my parents' garage constructing a really nice and sturdy work table and we put enough forethought into it to make it modular and held together with bolts instead of screws, for easy disassembly should the need arise.

The rest of the studio was taken up by an old computer desk topped with a typewriter, metal shelves that held a ton of art supplies and art projects, two bookshelves containing my Decent collection of books, and an assortment of drawers, boxes, and containers that held other art supplies, costumes, computer parts, and general Hilarious Items.

After taking video and pictures of my entire flat last week, I went into the project face first and started tearing down the studio. Some late, coffee-fueled evenings, much like tonight as a matter of fact, resulted in five huge trash cans full of stuff that ended up in the dumpster. Given, a lot of it was made up of boxes, which take up a lot of space in a trash can, but still. Five is a lot. I honestly didn't know I had this much to throw away. And I'm really glad I'm going through it all too. I even played Hoarders on Netflix Instant while I was cleaning out some of the room and I like to think it helped me get rid of even more stuff.

Five of those. With more to come.

A lot of things that weren't thrown away were condensed into an unbelievably small amount of space. All of my Adobe Creative Suites and subsequent upgrades were in their own huge, heavy boxes. They are now all in one box. If I lose that box, I'm as good as fucked professionally. A huge surprise was that all of the art media that I wanted to keep fit into ONE cardboard box. Things in bags and boxes really do take up a lot more space than they need to. I took all of my oil pastels out of the fancy arranged-by-color box they came in and fit them into two small IKEA tins; every single pen I own, from Sharpies to Pilots to those smelly graphic design markers with the numbers on the tops fit into ONE large IKEA tin; all of my charcoal fit into another; all of my India Ink and ink-like materials into another; and all of my screenprinting inks, emulsions, and other art supplies fit into the cardboard box into which the aforementioned tins were placed. The organization and packing of that box may be the most surprising and greatest accomplishment of my life.

As I was sorting out the crap I no longer need, the little glimmer of hoarder mentality that lives inside each and every one of us kicked in and said, "Dang, Chase. Someone could probably use some of this. Maybe you and I shouldn't throw it all out." So I posted this lovely image on Facebook and labeled every single item in it:

Dibs were called on a lot of the most significant stuff and the rest is in, or on its way to, the dumpster. And a couple things went or are going to Goodwill, because who couldn't use a beat-up-ass skateboard or a bag of black feathers?

I went ahead and took apart my big metal studio shelves and the work table that Karl and I built too. My parents, who live across town, have been kind enough to let me store a bunch of my crap in their basement until I move, so the things I've packed are slowly making their way out of the apartment too.

I've worked on a few other things around the apartment too in a manic coffee-frenzy. I'm slowly scrubbing the HELL out of every room in the place, I've ripped out all of the screenprinting plastic from my upstairs bathroom with NO ink stains at all in the tub (hell yes!), and packed up all of the video games on my media shelves.
This is another example of a box that I'm completely fucked if I lose, but in a whole different way. Almost all of the non-PC video games of my life live in this box. I plan to protect it with my life. I'd also like to take this moment to thank Past Chase for keeping all of my cables and wires in one place. I wrapped them all up and am now more wire-organized than I have ever been. EVER.
That about covers the packing side of things. I'm working through more stuff every day, although I'm still resisting packing up my bookshelves because I like to look at them.

No promises, but I'll see about updating the blog a couple times a day in the next week to catch up and also force myself to keep trucking at 110% efficiency. This will be extra difficult because it defies physics, but if NASA can do it, I can do it!

"We are about to break the surly bonds of gravity and punch the face of God." -Homer Simpson

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Break It Down

It's a quick NYC moving update tonight! I had to photomerge a ton of raw photos today that I took of a restaurant and, since the images are hella full of datums, it took my computer quite a long time to crunch through everything. So during the waiting periods, and after about 7pm, I spent every spare hour I had sorting through and cleaning out my studio area of my apartment (the back bedroom). I now have two big trash bags full of garbage, a stack of old plastic and boxes bound for the dumpster, and a pile in the middle of the studio floor of all of the stuff that I plan to give/throw away. I've still got at least another half day of sorting to do before it's all done, but that'll probably end up happening tomorrow.

My plan for the stuff I'm giving away is, as I mentioned yesterday, beer-related. Instead of someone coming over and paying me for things, or even giving me beers, however, the idea behind my plan is a Shared Beers Requirement. The main idea is that if, for instance, an object is rated at 2 Beers, the interested party must come over and have two beers with me before they pick up their new item and split. And that's two beers each, mind you. If they cannot provide their own beers, beers will be provided for them. So if everybody comes over to collect things in one day, I'll probably be dead at the end of that day. But I've got a pretty good assortment of stuff for anyone interested, including big sheets of styrofoam, a lighter in the shape of a pig (the fire comes out its nostrils), an odd bejeweled monkey thing, somewhat jilapidated 4.1 Klipsch speakers and subwoofer that may be better off in the trash (unless you know how to fix a wire), big sheets of nice paper, a giant wooden fork and spoon, a container of gel medium, and a host of other treasures ripe for the picking. I'll have a note up on Facebook tomorrow with the complete List Of Crap You Might Want.

In other news there was a huge lightning storm that I stood at the open window (and outside for a little while) and watched for a pretty long time. It was gorgeous and almost completely silent. I plan to hop back into the monster in the doorway thing tomorrow, but now the sleep happens.

"Every end is a new beginning."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Everything Just Got Bigger And Better

I mentioned a couple posts ago that I'd finally started on a View Full Size button on my portfolio site. I've wanted to do this for a number of months and assumed that once I actually got started on it, the update would take at least a couple of weeks. My site updates tend to take an order of magnitude more time than I originally plan and I've finally accepted that. But it turns out that this update took an order of magnitude LESS time than I thought it would, which is really kind of throwing me off a bit. I mustn't let myself get used to this sort of thing because there's no way it'll happen on any regular basis.

The update to the site took three coding sessions total, with a good start early in the week, about a half hour of work yesterday evening, and tonight's late-night coffee-fueled stretch. The framework is now in place to edit a simple boolean (true/false) tag into the image database's XML that will let the site know that a full-size image exists for a particular item in the gallery. The site then spawns a "View Full Size" button and links it to the appropriate external full-size image in the database, which opens in a new tab.

The code for the button was based heavily on the code I'd written for the "Link to Site" button on the items in the web section of the design gallery, but with some pretty heavy alterations (like the library location of click listeners, the passing-along of file paths, etc). I actually started this project by having the site look for an entire URL in the XML for each image, but realized in a facepalm moment that I already knew the exact place I was looking in my database structure, so all I had to do was drop a "fullsize" folder into each section with the normal portfolio images and thumbnails folder and just have the code look for the correspondingly-numbered image each time. So if it knows image 03.jpeg has a full-sized image available, it simply looks for 03.jpeg in the /fullsize folder and links to it. Therefore, all I need in the XML is a true or a false to indicate that the code should look for the fullsize image, versus grabbing an entire unique URL for each image. Wewt.

So I'm going to pat myself on the back by letting myself go to bed and read until I burn off the rest of this caffeine. If you want to check out tonight's handywork, it's all uploaded and working smoothly in the first two subsections of the Design section of my site at (the Compositions squares). Look for the button on the bottom of some of the enlarged images that reads, "View Full Size." I plan to fill out the full-sized images for the rest of the site (when available and necessary) over the remainder of the week. Luckily I happened to code it so that a completely missing <fullSizeExists> tag just causes the code to assume there's no full image (rather than completely crashing). Thanks, XML and the Actionscript 3 libraries that read you!

In other quick NYC-related news, I finally videoed my apartment today and took some pretty nice photos in order to document its End State. It was sad times because I've got hella memories in this place, but as they say, every ending is a new beginning. So we'll see what fresh adventures this brings. After the documentation, I began the official teardown of the place, starting with the removal of the plastic I'd taped all over my upstairs tub to prevent screenprinting inks and emulsion from staining the tub. A little of said materials had gotten through, but they cleaned up perfectly and the tub looks like it just came out of the Tub Worm's fiberglass spinnerets (I assume this is where tubs come from). I sorted through some of my studio stuff too (art supplies, etc.) in preparation for giving some of it the hell away and throwing the rest in the garbage. Oh, and I threw some old clothes away and put the remaining undesired clothes in a bag to take to Goodwill. So progress is being made and you should see some postings on Facebook soon about the supplies I'll be offering up to anyone interested. I'll throw some of the details on here too, including the Beers Cost plan for each item (it's not what you'd expect).

So I'm going to burn that caffeine off now with some reading.

"Choose the quickest way between two points,
Don't waste your energy on bullshit interaction,
Don't be scared of anything except letting yourself down,
Outdo yourself, work harder than anyone else,
Now make very clear distinctions between parasites and creators,
Be a creator instead of a second-hand artificial flavor,
Do not concern yourself with anyone's opinions on your methods, save your own,
Be three steps ahead of everyone and I promise you'll make it home"
-MaxNormal.TV, Love Is...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Just A Little More Horrific

I worked the image up some more with some eyes and eye stalks. More progress will likely be made on Sunday after I get back from Bonfirecon in Polk County with some of my greatest friends in the whole wide world. I'm also putting some effort into making a "view full size" button on my portfolio website so the really nice images, and maybe even videos, can be seen in their full hi-res glory. I actually coded most of it up yesterday. The portfolio site lives here, for those of you who don't know:

"We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight." -H.P. Lovecraft

Friday, May 6, 2011

It Only Gets Grosser From Here

Here's an update to last night's project:

Only got to spend a few hours on it today, but we have eyes now! Their base is a red sphere made in C4D with hella reflectivity (you can see the soft box lights reflecting in their surfaces). The disgusting pupils and irises are from a photograph of clouds with a Spherize filter applied in Photoshop and then warped around with the Liquify tool for variation. Here's a screenshot of the eye stalks being modeled.
The stalks have only begun to make an appearance, but more stalks and eyes come the next time I work on this project (tomorrow? I've got a big weekend ahead of me...). The gross little wart growth things on the stalk were created by dropping a sphere mesh into a Cloner object in Cinema 4D and then adding a Random object to that, which spread the spheres out in a randomized 3-D array and varied their sizes. Then all I had to do was change the input seed until I had something that looked pretty (fucking horrific).

In NYC-related news, there was a pretty awesome flat I was looking at when I visited NYC last month that was the perfect storm of a good price, a good location, a good building, and hella rad roommates. I was under the impression that my renting the place was a pretty sure thing, but that fell apart last week with news from one of the potential roommates that there were other potential renters and that the person leaving may not be leaving as soon as he thought. My contact said we could talk in a week and she'd have a better idea of the situation. Today marked the aforementioned "next week" and she informed me that the only real thing preventing me from living there now was that the Guy Leaving's departure date is up in the air, with it likely falling sometime past the middle of June. I've already resigned myself to searching for other places, so this doesn't really impact my new plan much, save for the fact that the place still has some potential.

Anyway, the full apartment hunt begins next week, with a potential trip back to NYC to scope out my list of flats the following week. Departure date's still set firmly on June 1st, so let's see if I can swing it!

Go read about superfluids now. It'll inspire you...or at least make you think you've gone crazy.

"Brad? Have you ever known what it's like to feel the total exhilaration of really flying? Feel this."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I Guess I've Got A Thing For Tentacles

I mentioned yesterday that I was out taking pictures for a Cinema 4D project. C4D is a staple 3-D program in various parts of my field and I'm trying to learn it at a Fool's Pace (so fast that one stumbles over one's feet and crashes through objects with no regard for one's personal well being). I've learned over the years that the best way to learn a program by far is to dream up semi-difficult projects with a start, middle, and finish and then do the projects, figuring out the technical side along the way.

Let me back up a minute and explain the situation I'm in with C4D. Normally, Maxon Cinema 4D runs the purchaser between $1,000 and $3,700, depending on the package, with the former being the stripped-down base 3-D program and the latter being a combination of all of the in-between upgrades in one Giant Package (heh). The trial version, for people considering purchasing the software, is available as a free download on the Maxon website, in any form that's available for purchase. The trial period is unlimited, but the catch is that the user can't render anything bigger than 640x400 pixels and isn't able to save the 3-D file or any renders. A 42-day Saving Period can be activated so the user can save files, but once this ends the software reverts back to its non-save state until a full user license is purchased. I figured the best move was to download the full bells-and-whistles C4D Studio version, learn the hell out of its tools and interface, and then try the save thing if I start making anything really epic.

I used the software for a few days to start to get a feel for it and realized pretty quickly that what I had suspected all along was true: using 3D software is like driving a car. Once you've driven one car for a while, you can really get into anything else that's close to a car in function and pick it up pretty quickly because all of the basic functions are the same. The buttons are just in new places and the handling's a little different. I've had half a decade of experience with Blender (, the Open Source alternative to commercial 3-D software. It's free as in speech, not free as in beer, so it's awesome for the sake of being awesome and has a pretty badass development community. The base functions of Cinema 4D are all almost exactly the same as Blender's, which only a few slight differences; each has a few weaknesses and a few strong points when compared against one another. So if you're thinking of throwing down some Third-Dimension Nonsense, go with Blender and you're effectively getting a $1,000 piece of software for free.

The differences between Blender and C4D, at least from what I can tell at this early stage, really lie in the extensions. The fancy bit of C4D that I've messed around with the most is the MoGraph toolset, which is included in the Broadcast version of the software (and, of course, the Studio version, which has everything). These tools assist the user with motion graphics projects, offering fun, visually-appealing ways to array, duplicate, move, and smash objects. The user can input formulas to control the movement, shape, etc of objects and easily implement randomization into scenes that give them a really healthy does of Kick Assedness. MoGraph even makes use of the Bullet physics library for physical simulations, both rigid body and softbody. Blender can do a basic version of a lot of these functions, and even has the Bullet engine built into it, but mainly relies on the user to extend the tools with drivers and Python scripts to get anything really complicated and gorgeous. If you don't know Python, you're stuck with the basics in Blender (but hey, you're saving THIRTY-SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS - maybe it's worth using a tiny fraction of that to buy a book on Python). C4D makes it really easy for the user to pump up some insanely badass shit. A lot of the awesome stuff you see in commercials these days is likely just the result of some asshole clicking a few default settings in C4D and pressing the go button.

So Cinema 4D has been a ton of fun to fux around with and I'd love to use it at whatever place I end up working. I'm not going to abandon Blender anytime soon, but C4D is another great tool for the toolbox. With all of that being said, let's get back to the current art project.

The main idea behind the Cinema 4D project 'pon which I'm embarking is using photos as a bottom layer and then putting fun/awesome 3-D digital stuff on top, resulting in a still image with some cool-assed design stuff worked in, looking photorealistic or stylized in some rad way. I'd love to do it all as animation on top of shot video, but I simply don't have time for that. I need to be spending a day or two on each design piece at most if I want to finish all of the thousand things I need to do before I split next month. Motion can come in the future, where there will somehow be a great surplus of free time. Other alternatives for this project were things like creating a fancy scene entirely in 3-D and rendering it all out, but the inability to save or export images above 640x400 pixels is a major impediment (like a champion skier getting her legs and arms blown off).

The real root behind this project lies in the "analog hole" that's present in C4D. The exportable renders may be limited to 640x400, but there exists in the software a "render viewport" function that renders the currently active viewport in all its final render glory, with ambient occlusion and raytracing and global illumination and everything else a body can dream up. If one full-screens the active Perspective viewport, perhaps after setting the view to a sexy angle or setting up a camera in the scene, the resulting render is whatever the resolution of the monitor happens to be. So a 1920x1200 monitor (my laptop screen), minus the program's menus and frame, yields something close to an HD image. The real magic of this "analog hole" (The Analog Hole: sexy 70s music-themed porno idea?) is the PrintScreen button on the keyboard, which as many of you may know dumps your screen's forward image buffer directly to the clipboard, ready to paste into Photoshop. There's no easy way to get any transparency or alpha channels from this method, so most 3-D items need to be cut out by hand in Photoshop, but it's a small price to pay for a potential Awesome Result and proof that I can use the software. It also yields a very fun collage nature to the project, letting me render out each component and scoot, stretch, and recolor it until it fits nicely into the photograph. The extremely temporal nature of the 3-D files is also thrilling in its own way, kind of like graffiti or something, all knowing that it will go away soon and you'll be left with only the things you initially rendered out.

So i started working on an image tonight, rendering the 3-D parts in C4D and working them up in Photoshop.
Here's the original photograph, extended and balanced a little bit in Photoshop:
The Cinema 4D additions I made are next. A lot of the time was spent learning the sweep NURBS tools to make the tentacles.
The tentacles were each rendered in C4D (in a file which has now been lost to the sands of time) and all of the shadows and a few of the highlights were either painted by hand in Photoshop or created with some clever (if I do say so myself (which I do)) blurring and stretching of the original tentacle layers.

 And here's the Photoshop mock-up of what's to come.

Tomorrow's work is mainly going to be about using sweep NURBS some more, getting the flow of HDRI reflections, and creating some nice gross materials for the eyeball stalks. I'd like to end up lining the eyes and stalks up like some kind of horrific all-seeing flower blossom. I may even have some cruddy pollen-like shit flying/floating out to go with the Terrible Flower theme and add to the overall horrificness of the piece (which is becoming a well-set theme in my life). It should be fun to see how this piece evolves.

"There will never be a dearth of places for skilled people, but we have to recognize that the will to be skilled is not general. And even if the will be present, then the courage to go through with the training is absent. One cannot become skilled by mere wishing." -Henry Ford, My Life and Work

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tracking the Storm

I drove out to Karl's place tonight to return a computer and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made this week. I knew there were going to be thunderstorms tonight, but nobody told me the sky would be on fire. Heat lightning blasted across the sky every couple of seconds and it all eventually culminated in a downpour. I ended up driving to Midtown Target and parking on the roof of the deck to watch the storm. Some low-hanging clouds covered Uptown while I was there and the Duke Energy building, glowing an awesome orange and red, looked like it was slowly burning as its light reflected off of the moisture around it. The windows are open now and everything smells amazing.

So color me inspired.

I went out into NoDa earlier to take some pictures for a jumping-off point for some short Cinema 4D art projects I want to work up. I've got this idea called One-Day Designs, wherein I only spend a day on a design piece, from start to finish, sometimes overlapping a night, with half a day's work over two days, so I have time to sleep on it. While I was out, I took these beuts:

Re-realization of the day: if you shoot on a 7D (or about a billion other cameras) and need to open your raw files in Photoshop CS3 on Windows XP, get the Adobe DNG Converter to dump all of your files to digital negatives so Photoshop can read them.

Aside from those shots, I now have some good ammo to work some Cinema 4D magic with. I'll put a thing up tomorrow about my experiences with C4D and how it compares to the 3-D stuff I already know, in case you happened to be wondering about that sort of thing.

Here's a music video posted recently on Facebook by someone incredible I know. I can't stop listening to the song and adoring the video.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." - Robert Heinlein

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hello, world.

I'd like to extend you my hand and assist you in climbing aboard my Moving To New York blog. I'll likely be typing this blog at my desk, hunched sweaty and shirtless over the keyboard in the midday Charlotte heat as I fight the losing battle of seeing how deep into summer I can go without turning on the air conditioning. But you can, for your own peace of mind, picture me typing from a bubbly, candle-lit bathtub with Lady in Red playing on loop, a fantasy of mine of which until now only an elite few are aware. I have my laptop in one of those giant Zip-Loc bags to prevent electrocution and, more importantly, data loss. A bottle of wine drifts in a bucket of ice, listing to starboard and drifting the calm tubwaters like a derelict who has abandoned her crew to the eternal waters of the unforgiving North Atlantic. All of the candles are holiday candles, so I'm surrounded by the deranged gaze of half-melted snowmen, pumpkins, and Santas Claus. A washcloth is placed strategically over my genitals. Decadence is the main theme here.

Like marriage, the main reason for this blog is to keep me honest. If I have to show off some cool designs or Plans Of Action™ every day, I'm a lot more likely to complete them (I'd like to think). So expect late night coffee-fueled tirades and a general theme of frantic creativity. With fingers tightly crossed behind my back, I hereby vow to post an entry at least six times a week until I move. The main ideas will be my moving plans and job/apartment-hunt progress, 3D and art software I'm learning, links to things that inspire the HELL out of me, and general things I discover about NYC.

So, as my first Inspiration link, I leave you with a song that has never failed to get me pumped - I've used it to get ready for interviews, first dates, art projects, and grocery shopping.

To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor. -Oliver Wendell Holmes