Tuesday, July 31, 2012

ukiyo-e heroes

Jed Henry just started his Kickstarter project and it has already been funded in an hour! That should tell you that it's pretty awesome. Jed has turned classic video game characters into traditional Ukiyo-e style prints.

He has also joined up with printmaker Dave Bull to print some as traditional woodblock prints. So far they have Mario cart ready to buy. The more orders, the more woodblock prints they can do.

Jed has done an amazing job. Go get yourself a print, I got mine!

day 30: the logbook

Nothing to do with the 30 day challenge. Just some puppets I made when I was 12.

30 Day Challenge Complete!

My self-appointed challenge to blog everyday for 30 days is done. It flew by! It ended up not being too tough to sit and spend a few minutes posting some photos and links and a bit of rambling text. I maybe had to reach a bit for content, but the habit wasn't hard to set. So what did I learn from this?

1. I don't really have much to say. :) I think it didn't help that nearly everything I was spending my time doing I couldn't post. Plus, I leave all my deep thinking to the TED speakers.

2. Although I did not end up doing any personal projects over the last 30 days, having to think about what to post every day was a helpful break from deadline deadline deadline. Gathering inspiration or putting together a tutorial helped me keep invigorated for the projects I was working on.

3. I learned how to make a screen recording. That was cool.

4. Keeping a logbook is a good idea. One of the suggestions in the Steal Like an Artist book is to keep a logbook and I decided to do this as an offline companion to the daily blog post. Before trying the logbook, I just had a simple calendar to keep track of deadline. But after keeping the logbook for 30 days, I definitely think I've done better with my time management and general awareness of what I do every day.

This was the first logbook. I picked up a day planner from Target and wrote bullet points about the day. The bottom section I used to keep track of exercise and what I ate. I used the top of the page to write down the one best thing about each day.

It became clear pretty quickly that I was writing the same sorts of things every day, and since I love a good checkbox, I decided to make a new logbook that was totally personalized. (Hooray for Kinkos!)

This is what I came up with. I've got sections to keep track of diet, sleep, exercise, how much time spent on project, a place to prioritize my daily To Do list. I kept the idea of writing the Best Thing for each day, plus added a spot to write down what I could have done to improve. The column that has been the biggest eye opener is writing down every penny I spend each day. D'oh.

I wasn't perfect, and didn't fill in every slot every day, but the overall concept has been really informative. It will be interesting to see if there are any trends to analyze once I've done this for a lengthy amount of time. 

5. Ultimately I'd say the 30 day blog post was a success. Nothing massive happened or changed because of it, but it's been good to step outside my little box and share some of what I know and what I enjoy. It probably won't be every day, but I'm planning to keep posting fairly regularly.

Thanks all who have been following me for the past 30 days!

Monday, July 30, 2012

post 29: pajaro valley encaustic show

Earlier this year I got two pieces into a juried show at the Pajaro Valley Arts Council.  I decided to head home to California for the weekend to go to the opening show. It was a lovely weekend spent driving down to Santa Cruz with my mom, going to the show, seeing old friends, and melting in a very very warm gallery.

I'd taken a lot of what turned out to be terrible photos of the party, and thought I'd accidentally deleted them when I uploaded them to the computer. Couldn't find them anywhere! But when I was looking for those needle felting photos the other day, I stumbled across the photos I took. They'd been filed into 2008. Crazy computer. So here are my photos of the show as well as some taken by my mom. Hers are the ones in focus.

Me and my little paintings.

This is Daniella Woolf, one of the curators of the show. I've taken a few workshops from her. She is the most fabulous teacher and a delightful person. Someday I want to be in California long enough to take a class at their studio Wax Works West.

A quick primer on encaustic.
The place was packed all afternoon, and about 100 degrees...inside.

Apologies for such dreadful photographs. I think I would have been better off using my phone camera than the thing I was using. Oh well. Hope you enjoyed seeing some of the different things people are doing with encaustic. I'm getting myself inspired for my next 30 day challenge. I'll give you a hint. It has to do with encaustic painting. :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

day 28: my brushes

I've been working on some big poem illustrations. When I started one of a big English garden, I thought maybe if I go back to good old-fashioned drawing with real pencil, this will go faster. I got as far as drawing the big violet when I realized that was a dumb idea. It was messier, it was going to take extra time to scan everything, piece it all together, deal with the multiple layers, clean it up, etc. etc. So I went back to my tried and true Photoshop brushes.

Here is my Brush palette. I use the basic default brushes that come in Photoshop with a little adjustment. I've never been very fancy with experimenting with lots of brushes.

A good tip: use the bracket keys [ ] to increase/decrease brush size. Also, you can right+click on the screen for the brush palette to pop up. Both efficient space saving tips I never use because I am stuck in my ways.

These are the spatter brushes that come in Photoshop. They are my favorite. I use them with their default setting to do a lot of shading. It adds a little more texture than just using the smooth airbrush brushes. I usually set them at 20% or 30% opacity (you can use the numbers on your keyboard to change brush opacity). Then I use the eyedropper tool (ALT to toggle from the brush tool) and pick neighboring colors constantly to blend them together.

To draw my lines, I still use the spatter brushes, I just adjust the angle. In the Brush palette, click on Shape Dynamics and drag the Angle Jitter all the way to 100%. It gives you a nice more pencilly-textured brush. All those yellow-highlighted brushes above are just variations of this same brush in different sizes or with variation of spacing and angle jitter.

Here is where you adjust the spacing. More spacing makes a rougher brush. (Above is pre-angles adjustment.)

This is maybe too much spacing. But if you grab a normal round brush and increase the spacing like that, you've got yourself a lovely dotted line to draw with. Fun to use that with the Paths trick I explain below.

Here is the actual pencil drawing from the photo at the top. I was using a cheap mechanical pencil because I couldn't find anything else. It looks fine, and I'm sure if I had more time it would be a better more organic looking illustration if I kept with the draw and scan it method. But time is always limited, and the Photoshop version will work for what I need.

Here is the sketch done with one of my modified spatter brushes. Looks pretty close to the pencil drawing above.

But I get all control freakish and have to have tidy lines. Here is the cleaned up line drawn in Photoshop.

Once I've got the flat colors filled in, I do a quick shade with a big airbrush to start getting the colors set.

One the right flower petals, I did a little shading with the default spatter brush. There is a little more texture to the brush strokes.

Here's the finished shading and cleaned up lines. Sometimes if I want to smooth the shading some more without using the airbrush tool, I will use the finger smear tool with a spatter brush selected and smooth out some streaks.

Because this is for a poster, it's pretty huge. So here is a close-up so you can see there is still some texture to the lines. There are also some texture layers to lessen the air brushiness, but I left them off for the sake of the tutorial.

And finally, a cool little trick with Paths if you are drawing straight lines.

First step, make sure you have the brush and color you want already chosen. Also, make sure the fill is turned off. I don't know what those icons in the top toolbar are called. Just look at the picture. :)
Then draw your shape with the pen tool. Go to the Paths menu and choose Stroke Path... I usually do not use the simulate pressure option, click OK.

Et viola! Your pen tool drawing has your brush texture applied. Makes drawing straight lines and smooth curves so much easier.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

day 27: leverage & pixar

What an interesting book you have there Mr. Jimmy Fallon.
Here's another installment of things I've been listening to. I go through phases, most of the time it's music, but sometimes I'll get on a talk show kick and listen to Jon Stewart or Letterman or Conan or Jimmy Fallon while working. I can't generally listen to plot-driven shows. I will just stop working and watch. But talk shows are great.

Flavia de Luce. Great illustration by Brigette Barrager.
Sometimes I will listen to audio books or podcasts. All time best are the Ricky Gervais podcasts. Right now I've been listening to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the first of the Flavia de Luce books. Set in England in a big old estate in the 1950s, 11-year old Flavia loves chemistry, her passion is poisons. And of course there's a murder and she has to investigate. It's a fun book. I once saw it described as Lemony Snicket meets Nancy Drew, which is pretty accurate. I'm about halfway through, but taking a break for:

Leverage! Okay, so I geeky love this show. If you've not seen it, it's a higher-tech classier version of the A-Team. Former bad guys help the little guy by taking down The Man. I just got the Season 4 DVD yesterday, so I'll be listening to the audio commentaries this weekend. Audio Commentaries in general are hit and miss, but the Leverage commentaries have been universally interesting and entertaining. John Rogers, the head writer, show runner, co-creator, guy in charge, is a great story teller, offers interesting insight into their process and keeps the pace going. Looking forward to getting a lot of work done.

And finally a couple Pixar-related things I listened to this week. The first was a Google interview with Brave's director Mark Andrews. It's always interesting to hear how these guys got to where they are, plus what they were thinking when they were making the movie.

Here's Andrew Stanton's Ted talk about story. And finally since I'm at the Ted site, if you haven't listened to Elizabeth Gilbert's talk about the creative genius, please do. Here, I'll embed it for your convenience!

Friday, July 27, 2012

day 26: the baroness

The Balinaka Baroness
Story time! Are you wondering why this blog is called Blog o' the Baroness? The easy answer is that I am a Baroness. But how did that happen? Regardless of your sincerity of interest, I am going to tell you. Also, this will wrap up the little walk down Lucas Learning memory lane.

Back in 2002, life was a little crazy. We (at Lucas Learning) were still reeling from the economic fallout of September 11. The CD-Rom market had dried up; we were exploring what sort of business models would work online for educational software. We discovered we couldn't use our ace-in-the-hole: the Star Wars property. That was the domain of starwarskids.com. So where did that leave us? Nowhere, actually. After going from a 65+ employee company down to 30ish and then to 14, we finally got the word in the spring of 2002 that Lucas Learning would go into "hibernation." Those that still remained were laid off. This actually left me in a great position to barrel full-steam into pursuing a freelance career, which I did.

I jumped into working on a children's book portfolio since all I really had was game art and concept art. But sitting at home alone all day, I kind of started to go into Star Wars and co-worker withdrawal. So I signed up on one of the Star Wars Fan Forums. But first, I needed a name. I'm terrible at names.

Backtrack to Anakin's Speedway, my first project. We had three planets for the podraces. I had been looking through any and all Star Wars reference books looking for characters for the planets. It was in some obscure Star Wars role playing book that I found these crazy polar bear people things that lived in the snow called the Balinaka. We put them on our ice planet. They would pop out of the snow when you flew by and do a Snoopy dance. They were one of my favorite things in the game.

Dance Balinaka, Dance!
So I thought a name with Balinaka would be good. And cool character Lando Calrissian was a Baron, so The Balinaka Baroness was born. See image at the top of this post.

That was all well and good, and I enjoyed hanging out on the boards and meeting people and chatting Star Wars. After a while I was referred to as just Baroness. I don't think anyone else had a clue what a Balinaka was, plus that was maybe a mouthful and a pain to type.  (Remember: bad at names.) Then one day I stumbled across (no idea how other than I spent way too much time online) one of those Buy a Real British Title sites. I immediately needed to buy one. But I held off, cause really, what a super silly thing to waste money on. But the idea wouldn't leave me alone, and late in the middle of the night, like all good impulse buys, I bought myself the title of Baroness. Now I was officially a fake Baroness instead of just a fake fake Baroness!

All hail the Baroness!

This certificate currently sits in a lovely velvet-matted gilded frame on my fireplace mantle. It came with a booklet of how to use the Title to my advantage: better seats at restaurants and other perks of fine living. I think there even was a card I could keep in my wallet. Because that would surely convince people I was part of the gentry. heh. I choose to use it to claim my little Barony of a blog, my tiny little corner of the internet: the Blog o' the Baroness.

Very sincerely yours,
The Baroness.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

day 25: podracer popsicles

I mentioned yesterday that I used to work at Lucas Learning. I started there in the fall of 1998 when everyone was in the thick of working on Episode One. I was the Lead Artist for the 4-6 year old podracing game that ended up being called Anakin's Speedway (working title was LLLCoolJ).

One of the things we did early on was a lot of kid testing. I made these puppets and we took them to a school to let the kids play with them. All the kids liked Anakin the best, mostly because he was the only human. They didn't love Ben Quadrinaros as much as I thought they would. They did like Sebulba as he was obviously a bad guy and cool. I thought they'd like Mawhonic. He was super friendly waving "Hi." But the kids all hated him. Like really really hated him. We finally worked it out that they found it super creepy that he had three eyes.

And since I know you're dying of curiosity, we picked Anakin, Sebulba, Gasgano and Ben Quadrinaros as the main characters for our game. I think Ratts Tyerell and Teemto Pagalies were runners up but cut for time. Btw, Boles Roor is a big fan of the karaoke. No lie.