Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Riding Dino in the Races

As always, things have been incredibly busy and making time for creative ventures is difficult. Sometimes, it's just easier to revisit previous work. So: Remember this guy?

With your help, he may become a t-shirt!

For the last few weeks, he's been undergoing extensive critique over at the Threadless forums to become ready for submission. And now, he looks like this:

For the next 7 days (July 27 - August 3) this design is up for public scoring. Please take a look and leave a rating -- how he scores will help determine whether he moves on to be reviewed by The Powers that Be over at Threadless. No matter what, though, I'm so proud of how far he's come from his #dailysketch origins.


Riding Dino - Threadless T-shirts, Nude No More

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in Review

Happy New Year! 

It's hard to believe that 2010 is already over! With another year gone, it's time to look back and see what has been accomplished. 

Last January, I set one main goal: to remember to make art

At very least, it was important to remember to make time for art in my life. With my very broad personal definition of art (pretty much any form of creative expression), the odds of meeting this goal were strongly in my favor.

Shortly after setting this goal, I took up the #dailysketch project. The "daily" part was soon abandoned as I found flaws in the plan and other activities upon which to expend my energy and time.

In February, my new camera was given a trial-by-confetti-fire in Manhattan's Chinese New Year parade.


Through the winter to mid-summer, I took to crafting - picking up knitting for the first time in years and teaching myself to crochet. I indulged in some crafty geekery (documented in more detail here), joined Ravelry, and this blog started to see a trickle of regular visitors thanks to some very kind cross-blog promotion by the Pixelated Mushroom.

I also tried my hand at cake decoration, using colored marshmallow fondant. The Great Cake Decoration Experiment taught me three things:
  1. Kneading fondant, even marshmallow fondant, is HARD. (My arms and hands were quite sore for the days that followed)
  2. The people who decorate gorgeous cakes for a living must be incredibly patient as well as talented.
  3. I don't really like how marshmallow fondant tastes.

The Cake is [not] a lie

2010 was not a great year for my involvement in audio drama activities as I generally stayed behind the scenes and did not do much. However, I did cheer from the sidelines as I saw my friends over at the 4077th get themselves up and running. In October, they also released Two Sides to Every Story: Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, with me as Red Riding Hood. It's the biggest role I've ever recorded and very, very goofy - Red Riding Hood by way of a Hollywood celebutante. I had recorded the piece way back in 2008 as a joke to make the writer laugh, only to have the joke turned back on me when I was given the role. Oops! Still, it makes me smile to see it finally released after all this time.

Art appreciation was also high on my to-do list, in the form of visits to proper art venues, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Denver Art Museum....


The Denver Art Museum has one of the most vertigo-inducing 
architectures I have ever encountered.
And a horse on a giant chair.
Not actually from the Denver Museum of Art -
just a statue in Denver.

Other instances were merely exercises in thinly-veiled geekery combined with the opportunity to meet in person various artists and creative people I admire and enjoy.

I even got to thank Neil Gaiman for his part in inspiring this!

Perhaps appropriately, given that it was technology and the Internet that led me to the articles and quotes that got me thinking about creative endeavors, that technology has helped keep me engaged in discovering new outlets which are likely to keep this effort going into the next year and, hopefully, onward.

For instance, pointed towards the SketchbookX app on the iPhone by the guys at DarkMojo Productions, I learned that working on the #dailysketch project was only as difficult as pulling out the phone I have with me all the time.

 Drawn and colored on the subway using my fingers and a phone!
We truly live in the future.

 Twitter has also put me in contact with a new collaborator, Julio Angel Ortiz, whose writings are being released in e-book format. I am helping him with covers for his stories about Palequus and Peter, the ex-Reaper and cherub who go on paranormal, paratemporal adventures. The first story featuring a cover illustrated by me, Unnatural Time, was released a couple of weeks ago on Smashwords. It's fun and bizarre and a tiny bit Steampunky - great fun to draw!

In retrospect, 2010 has been an amazing year - I've created and indulged in more creative activity than I have in a long time. I am certain that part of it has been due to increased awareness, making the effort, making time. This coming year will be harder - in the next few months alone, I will need to finish and defend my dissertation proposal, get IRB clearance... Life will increasingly get in the way. 

I hope to keep the momentum going.

I hope to continue to find and make the time to make and appreciate things.

I hope that the things that need to be done get done and the things I want to have done can be too.

I hope that everyone has a happy new year!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Doctor and I

Okay, so this isn't the epic blog-dump I had intended, which would have covered what I've been up to in these last nine (!) months. That post is coming... eventually.

Instead, this is the "short" version - mainly a post about knitting, crocheting, and crafting, prompted in part by the stream of new visitors visiting here via pixelatedmushroom. (Hello new visitors!)

It wasn't long after I started the #dailysketch project that I realized I'd overlooked a very important downside to my plan - coming up with new sketch ideas is hard. Not that the project was supposed to be easy, but spending more time each day trying to think up what to draw than actually drawing... that just wasn't going to work.

As an alternative, I decided to commit myself to one massive long-term project that (1) I could work on a little each day, (2) would end with tangible results and (3) most importantly, not require a lot of thinking. This was supposed to be therapeutic, gorramit!

The ideal project was obvious: A 12-foot Doctor Who Scarf. And after four months exactly, knitting ten minutes to an hour every day, it was complete!

Easy peasy.
real question is what to do with it now that it's done!

Following completion of this project, it was pretty clear I was now hooked on crafting. I'd gotten so into the habit of making something each night that it felt weird not having something to work on. Furthermore, after four months of the garter stitch, back-and-forth, back-and-forth...I felt ready for a challenge!

Browsing Etsy and the CraftyTARDIS Livejournal Group for ideas, I stumbled upon pixelatedmushroom's fantastic10th Doctor Plushie pattern. Being very much a fan of the 10th Doctor and finding the pictures of the finished product adorable, I decided to make my first foray into the world of crocheting.

Over the summer, I taught myself the basic stitches (via the magic of YouTube), fought through the hand cramps, leveled up by learning some basic amigurumi techniques and completed my first crochet project. 

I'd say it came out pretty darned well:

The Oncoming Storm

The Doctor loves his TARDIS
Ready for Adventure!

Working on these projects have been great experiences and I've not only learned new crafting skills but the quiet repetitive nature of the work has given me time and space (heh!) to think and draw analogies to process struggles in my "real" work. Therapy indeed!

Moving forward, I know I'm going to continue crafting (I've already started another, non-Who scarf and have been "commissioned" to do various projects by family and friends), and I'll be documenting the process here, on Twitter, and on my Ravelry account. A thought that lingers, however, is whether this is really in the same spirit that prompted the #dailysketch or if it's something else altogether.

A month or so ago, I posed to my hive mind on Twitter the question: "Is crafting the same as making art?" and received no real response. So far, I am certain they're very closely connected, but I have not yet decided if they're quite the same...or if that even matters.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

[P.S. To anyone who is familiar with my pet peeve about object-pronouns and is surprised by this post's title... Blame Barrowman]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2000 - 2010

So, it's been a while! A proper catch-up post is on the way. However, given that today is Earth Day, it seems appropriate to dig into the archives and recycle some old material. (Ha!)

Way back at the turn of the millennium, having successfully negotiated Y2K and the mass panic that technology would fail and civilization would fall, I was enrolled in my high school’s computer graphics class. Two sections of the class existed, using our “state of the art” computer graphics lab – one section focusing on CAD, the other focusing on Photoshop (5!). Identifying myself as more of an “artsy” type (I guess some things haven’t changed so much) I opted for the latter, which meant an hour and a half a week each week to mess around with whatever images we could unearth off of Lycos or Altavista Picture Search. (Sidebar: I can’t imagine kids today being given the same freedom to explore the Internet wilds – if I recall correctly, there were hardly any filters or rules!)

One of the few mandatory assignments in the class was to develop an entry for the Earth Day 2000 campaign. I’ve long since forgotten what the actual prize of the contest was, though I imagine it had something to do with advertising and posters and random merchandise. I was simply excited to enter a real art contest. I may have even created my first e-mail account to enter.

Below is what I submitted:

I was so proud of it. It had taken me the better part of a month to put together and really reflected my Photoshop philosophy at the time: blurry equals better (no crunchy pixilated edges). I loved how the dolphin and eagle traced the edge of the nebula and the way that the (very obvious) paint daub filters made the colors blend and glow…

I was even prouder when I learned that it had made it through the first round of competition.

For weeks I tracked the contest - only to learn that the entries that had made it through to the final round were all crayon drawings by elementary school children!

It turns out that the “youth” category included everyone under the age of 18, and, really, who was going to vote down the little kids? Oh well.

Ten years on, I’m fairly amazed that I still have a copy of this piece (saved through progression from floppy to ZIP disc to email and USB). I know it’s not that great - it’s actually pretty cheesy and kind of screams "high school girl," but the fact that it was one of the first pieces I ever made on a computer, that it “nearly” won a contest, and the sheer earnestness of it all... I can’t help but have a certain affection for it.

Happy Earth Day Everyone!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

#dailysketch: Remembering to Make Art

The Internet is awesome.

I learn something new from it every day. I encounter new artists, authors, books, shows, media, movies, music... and seeing what other people are writing, making, and thinking gets me excited to learn and try things out for myself.

On New Year's Eve, Neil Gaiman posted a beautifully stated set of wishes on his blog, which included the following:

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books... don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."
It got me thinking. How often do I "forget" to make art? How often does my impulse to draw, write, photograph, or sculpt get pushed aside and lost because I'm distracted or overwhelmed or simply too busy with everything else I have to do?

I realized that if I wanted to do creative things, I needed to force it into my schedule -- make a "want-to" into a "have-to". This is a model I'd seen work for people before, my favorite example being Jonathan Coulton's "Thing a Week" project, and he's even written about how forcing himself to work made the music happen...and how the desperate frenzy to make-it-happen had a role in the inspired insanity.

Around this time last year, Cory Doctorow noted the importance of maintaining a routine in an article that explained how he manages to write as much as he does, despite all the distractions. Since reading the article, the part that has stuck with me the most was his comment that "It's not plausible or desirable to try to get the world to go away for hours at a time, but it's entirely possible to make it all shut up for 20 minutes." I've since learned that this is absolutely true. Using this approach has helped me power through things I've had to do for work and school... why not apply it to doing something I want do do?

As a result, #dailysketch was born.

The goal is simple: set aside (at least) 10 minutes every day to sketch, doodle, or draw something, anything. It doesn't have to be good, but it has to happen.

It's easy enough to find 10 minutes of time each day that would be wasted otherwise. And anything I draw, even if it's terrible, only serves to hone my abilities. Chuck Jones used to tell his students, "All of you have one hundred thousand bad drawings in you. The sooner you get rid of them, the better it will be for everyone." If nothing else, this would help me get rid of my hundred thousand bad drawings.

Beyond this, #dailysketch is about getting things onto the page. It's too easy to avoid doing things out of fear that they won't come out right. In response, I've decided to steal Wil Wheaton's mantra:"It's okay to suck. Don't be afraid to suck. It's easier to fix a lame scene than fill up a blank page."

So that's it. 10 minutes, every day (or as close to every day as possible): The good, the bad, and the downright awful.

One week in and I think it's going well.

On Sunday, as a warm up, I did practice sketches using poses from a Doctor Who magazine.

On Monday, I drew a mad scientist riding a dinosaur down the street. The mad scientists would turn out to become a recurring theme, partially because they're fun and they amuse me, and partially because they're surprisingly easy to draw.

Tuesday brought a mad scientist girl greeting her robot minions. Note that all the robots are copies of "Eh" from the Robots of the Company prologue I illustrated. He's become my default for whenever I need to draw a robot.

Wednesday was a tribute to the domestic applications of mad science. I especially like the jar of olives/eyeballs in the background.

Thursday, I decided to expand my theme to superheroes, and wound up with a silly piece about Superman's inability to dress appropriately for a night out on the town. Not one of my better ones in concept or execution, I'll admit...

On Friday, I revisited the main character from "Bottom of the Barrel," who has always been my go-to character whenever I'm not sure what else to draw. Hopefully the use of two default characters in one piece aren't a sign of early fatigue!

And on Saturday, I attempted a 3-panel piece. Again, not one of my better efforts, but I think the first two panels came out much better than they had any right to be.

So, that's it so far.

With the new semester starting up in a few days, I can only hope that I'll be able to continue at this pace. But even if I don't, that's okay too.

So long this continues on a fairly regular basis, I'll be happy. Perhaps I'll change the parameters to once a week. Maybe I'll expand it to include writing, photos, or other projects... The rules don't
really matter because at least I'll have remembered to make some art.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions, and requests are all welcome!