Friday, October 27, 2006

Finally finished!




... for three weeks, I've been whittling away at a home improvement project. Tools in hand, I began cleaning, scrubbing, and making repairs. Next, three gallons of off white semi gloss interior latex were rolled and brushed onto the walls. As the paint dried, I vaccummed and shampooed the carpet. Throughout this project, I repeatedly filled a large Rubbermaid trash container with mysterious junk that accumulated during my stay here. I made several trips to the dumpster, returning to fill it over and over. The more clutter and junk I got rid of, the more ruthless I became in doing so. Possessions abandoned by former roommates, knick knacks, souveniers, old toys, and cobweb collecting decorations were tossed with little regard. It felt good and looked even better!
... in the process of cleaning and organizing, a small art studio emerged, centered around my drawing table. All my art supplies, materials, and reference books are now in one place, easily accessible for when I work. The computer station underwent the same transformation and compliments the studio nicely. I can go from the drawing table to the computer with no problem now, giving me high hopes for increased productivity this winter.
... this weekend, our observation of daylight savings time ends as we turn back the clock an hour before retiring Saturday night. It will start getting dark earlier and earlier, and, toward the middle of December, the sunset will come before 5 p.m.. Long, cold, snowy nights lay ahead and having a comfortable attractive environment only helps in surviving the season.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Friday, October 13, 2006

There've been a few new DVD releases...

... in the past few months that, much to my surprise, have gone unnoticed by most of the "animation bloggers" I read. These releases include: "The Boondocks", "Curious George, and "Ed, Edd, N Eddy - The Complete First Season". A lot of these bloggers focus on either "classic" animation or promoting their own projects so it gets easier to understand why they would ignore these DVD's. With time, however, all of these titles are destined to become "classics".
... "The Boondocks" is based on a comic strip by Aaron McGruder and is a series that appears on Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim". It's a "Flash" cartoon, drawn anime or Manga style. It's hip and edgey. You won't see a lot of squash and stretch here as the show relies on "pose to pose" animation rather than "frame by frame" technique. The artwork is awesome though, and the storylines are hilarious social commentaries and observations. The three disc set is definitely adult content.
... "Curious George" is undoubtedly destined to become a "classic". It has suberb artwork, great animation, and a wonderful storyline. The movie just grabs ahold of a kid's attention and doesn't let go. James Baxter is listed in the credits and deserves recognition for this film.
...Ed, Edd, n Eddy are just plain fun! This is a cartoon I watch with my 85 year old father. A very serious man, I catch him smiling and chuckling over the trio's antics. At first, the show was a bit confusing for him as he asked, "Which one's Ed?" It doesn't help that we have family members named Ed and Eddy either, but he eventually figured it out. This show has style, it uses traditional animation techniques, and the stories are funny. It's no surprise that it is one of Cartoon Networks most popular shows.
... all of the DVD's mentioned contain "Special Features" in the tradition of "Backstage Disney" in which fans are shown how the cartoon was made. "The Boondocks" has downloadable storyboards - a priceless resource for aspiring animators and filmmakers. There's also an animatic segment included. "Curious George" is the most similiar to a Backstage Disney feature and includes a look at storyboards and a section called "Draw George". Likewise, Ed, Edd, n Eddy provides a drawing lesson about drawing Eddy and has a "How to make an Ed, Edd, n Eddy Cartoon" segment. Unfortunately, this is more of a comedy skit than the much more informative segment included on "The Mis-"Ed" Ventures" DVD.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

For the past month or so...

... blogging basically took a "back seat" while I enjoyed the dwindling days of late summer and early fall. People from "northern climates" are painfully aware that summer is a short season. They also know that it's essential to enjoy the good weather while it's here. Just a week after the "official" start of autumn, the first frost arrived last night, leaving windshields iced over as we headed out in the chilly morning air. It wasn't a severe frost, a few passes from the wipers quickly cleared away all the evidence, but many more, and much worse, mornings like this lay ahead.
... I transitioned from spring to summer with some specific goals in mind. First,I was intent on learning how to animate in Flash. The manuals I ordered on Amazon started arriving one by one. They kept coming until my mail carrier tired of climbing three flights of stairs to set each book neatly in front of my door and began tossing them from the landing of the second floor. I'd slip these books into my backpack and head downtown on my bike, reading them in the parks, outdoor cafes, coffeehouses, and restaurants. Back home, I'd stay up late, following the tutorials. It was a good strategy because I actually learned. Encouraged by the progress I ordered manuals for other programs that I own as well.
... another goal for summer was to improve my drawing skills, I carried a sketchbook and pencils in the backpack, sketching out many "gesture drawings" while downtown. These 30 second exercises helped me understand form, anatomy, figure drawing, and posture as I drew sketches of people crossing the street, window shopping, ordering a latte, or carrying an umbrella in the rain. I visited the art department of the local university, learning about the University of Michigan's nationally ranked "Communications" program in the process. I got copies of class syllabuses and lists of required textbooks, again searching Amazon to get copies of these books to study over the winter!
... before long, we'll be turning our clocks back for daylight savings time and sunset will come earlier and earlier. The holidays will arrive, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas and New Year. We'll be shivering, trying to keep warm beneath layers of quilts and blankets as the snow piles up outside. I intend to have a good book by my side the whole time.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Immersion

... the past several weeks have been absolutely gorgeous here. The temperatures are comfortable, the sky is clear and blue, and most important, the sun is shining. It would be a sin to let these precious days go to waste so when I am not working, I am out on the new bicycle. When I go out riding during the day, I always have my backpack strapped on. It's sort of a "traveling studio" that I load with a sketchbook, a pencil pouch, a folder (containing a fresh legal pad), a digital camera, and something relevant to read.
... when I say "relevant reading material", I mean something related to the animation process. Usually, the subject matter is something tied to the "non-drawing" element of animation, such as storytelling or film making. I have several great reference books related to that subject and I'm devouring them in the cafes and parks along my route. It's not unusual for me, at some point during a ride, to end up on the campus of the University of Michigan to take advantage of the endless resources available there.
... The Museum of Natural History is a favorite destination and I visit often. Here is an interesting photo essay about a restoration project involving the Puma's that grace the museums entrance. In fact, I visit the museum so frequently that I was able to watch staff members put together a Mastadon skeleton on the first floor. Don't even try to get near the dinosaur exhibit on a weekday during the regular schoolyear. You will be fighting for a view with hoardes of schoolkids from all over the state! This is even more interesting because they recently uncovered another Mastadon skeleton in a field within walking distance of my childhood home.
... I also enjoy visiting the University of Michigan Museum of Art. It has become my habit to explore the exhibitions, become enamored and obsessed with the display and return to view it again. I discover something new on the next visit and it becomes my new obsession! There is enough inside this museum to keep me content while the Detroit Institute of the Arts undergoes a much needed renovation!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Craig's List Rulz...

... once again, I got a wonderful deal off of Craig's List. Back in March, I found a beautiful drawing/drafting table up for sale at an extraordinary price and I bought it. This weekend, it was my good fortune to find an equally exceptional deal on a mountain bike. I picked it up early this morning.
... the bike is about 10 years old, but in incredible shape. The owner told me that he only rode it a few times before it ended up hanging on a rack in the garage. The speedometer confirms this, with a grand total of 38 miles recorded! Other than needing some lubrication on the chain and sprockets, the bike appears to be brand new. I jumped on the bike when I got home and took a short ride to just to check things out. I'll adjust the seat, oil the chain, and start riding seriously again.
... now, notice that I said "riding seriously again". The fact is that this bicycle is actually the fourth one I've owned. I arrived in town with an old Raleigh "English Racer" 10 speed that had already seen better days when I got here. After replacing bent rims a couple of times, I sold the Raleigh and got a new "all terrain" bike. Late one November night, under very suspicious circumstances, all the bikes in the yard were stolen. We have ideas about the who, what, when, where, how, and why, but the bottom line is that those bikes were never seen again. Anticipating a similiar theft, I replaced the stolen bike with a cheap generic model that I never liked very much. A perfect example of the axiom, "You get what you pay for", the bike fell apart, rusted out, became unsafe, and was disposed of. At long last, it's replaced.
... I figure that I'll start out with some short jaunts around the neighborhood after my morning coffee. I'll do the nearby errands that I'd normally just jump in the truck for by bicycle. A week or two of that should build up some kind of endurance and leg strength. Don't get me wrong, I'm not an invalid by any means, but by the end of my little test ride this morning, I felt some burning in my legs and know better than to go at this full force all at once. I want to put more than 38 miles on the bike, after all! I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I found the previous animation...

... on "YouTube" when I entered "calarts animation" as the keyword. Of all the animations I watched, this one really grabbed my attention. I was looking for rough material, projects that would provide a deeper look into the process of producing an animated short. There are a number of elements in this one that I found interesting and helpful.
... first, the drawing grabbed my attention. While there were some complex drawings in the film, such as the tree in the beginning and the tree with the cicada, the rest of the drawings were relatively simple, clean lines. They showed what they needed to show to convey the message without being overly detailed. I loved seeing the way the girl moved, partly transparent at times, showing her motion and movements. Second, I loved the way the story flowed, a perfect example of graphic storytelling or visual narrative. The story didn't need dialogue to carry it. The viewer understands the idea and words aren't necessary to convey the idea.
... anyway, I hope I find more projects like this as I study and learn. They're not only educational and enlightening, they're inspirational as well!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

This is probably...

... the most spontaneous post I've ever made on Ten Megabytes! Please watch the animation I am posting here and I will be writing about why I am posting it later.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Going on 2...

... today, Ten Megabytes celebrates a one year anniversay. Visiting the archives would be the most natural and predictable way to the mark the occasion, much like my fellow blogger at The Iron Scythe did, upon reaching a one year anniversary earlier this week. I have to admit that after reading his entry, I did go back and read early posts published here, but the theme of this entry quickly changed as I did. I'll take advantage of today's opportunity to revisit the mission statement I began this blog with.

Ten Megabytes is intended to be a showcase for my creative ventures into essay, art, photography, video, and more.

... there is no time for looking back, my friends, only time for looking to the future and moving, forward. I feel like an adventurer of yore, Christopher Columbus perhaps, setting sail with a definite course in mind, yet uncertain exactly where the currents, waves, and tides will take me. What can readers expect to see here at Ten Megabytes in the future? I have some ideas.

1.) More links
I visit several blogs regularly and have them bookmarked. Although I mainly lurk, the insight, knowledge, and inspiration these artists and animators provide is absolutely invaluable. For example, such reading has firmly established the concept and importance of gesture drawing both in my mind and hand, thereby improving the quality of my work immeasurably and allowing my personal style to develop and come through.
2.) More drawings
I'm drawing and creating more than ever. That includes drawing traditionally, with pencil and paper at the drawing table, and digitally, on the computer with my Wacom tablet. Besides being more productive, I'm gaining confidence in my abilities. I like what I do more and am increasingly satisfied with the work. I'll be posting my drawings more frequently.
3.) More exploration
My strongest interest, being a bit more specific, is using art to create animations. I plan to learn as much as possible about the many components involved in this process and I will begin by exploring the art of storytelling. Again, this is a starting point and there's no way of determining where this exploration will lead.

It promises to be an exciting and productive second year here!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Scribbles



... sketched with a Wacom in CorelDraw, imported to Toon Boom Studio and colored.

Friday, May 26, 2006

For whatever it's worth...




... there is a sketch accompanying this post today. This drawing is slowly evolving into its own scene as a part of a larger project that's to become a part of my online portfolio, and already in the first stages of development. This is something I've been mulling over in my mind for awhile, exploring and tweaking the idea by using some of the script and storyboard development techniques I've studied as of late. The story and message are getting clearer, and more solid, but they still need some work before they're ready.
... when I first signed up for my e-mail account on Yahoo, I also signed up for a "Geocities" webpage so that I could dabble in design arts. I tested my ideas and creations on that page, checking out how things looked and fit together. I practiced writing html code and utilized resources that I came across while surfing or researching. The page underwent many changes and updates until I finally stopped fiddling with it and forget about it altogether. Now, however, it is about to undergo a major overhaul.
... my intent is to produce a website that will serve as an online portfolio. It will be presentable to potential employers as I go searching for professional employment. My goal is to have everything in place by the end of August, giving me 3 months to put it all together - a project for the summer months. I want the site to have both "design" and "content" to showcase competence with software programs along with creative and artistic skills.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

... I've owned a copy of Preston Blair's "Animation 1" for several years and recently acquired a used copy of "Cartoon Animation". I love these books, Blair's style, and, I believe that they need to be in any aspiring animator's reference library. When I discovered these tutorials using the books to teach, I started drawing right along with the lessons. Although I am not sending my work into the professor, I love the idea of using Preston Blair's work to strengthen animation and drawing skills. Like John K., I really believe that (re)learning this "40's style" of drawing and animation could lead to a renewed interest in 2D cartooning. I must admit, however, I don't follow the tutorials to the letter. I mean, I don't superimpose the published image over my drawing in Photoshop to compare and contrast. Instead, I pay attention to the key idea and compare visually, making changes to improve and learn how to do something.
... there's a little dilemna here. I don't want to draw cute little characters that have already been done a million times. I am interested in the fundamental concepts behind the construction of characters though. I think this sentiment is behind some of the bizarre character design I've seen online when I look at other people's work. It appears as if an artist will push to get as far away from those "fluffy little rabbits" and "mischievous chipmunks" as possible. That response all too often compromises the quality of the work. I recently watched something made by a Brazilian animator and his characters lost all appeal when he pushed too hard.
... whenever I go into any version of a "Dollar Store", I can't help but to look at the animation DVD's they offer. The other day I bought one that featured "Superman and other Cartoon Treasures" and had a very modern looking "Man of Steel" on the case. Of course, I was more interested in the "other cartoon treasures", fully aware that the Superman episodes were going to be the Max Fleischer cartoons. I was pleasantly surprised by two Merry Melodies cartoons that will never be seen on television again. The most interesting was titled "Inki and the Minah Bird". Note the spelling of "minah bird". Of course, "Inki" is a (very) black, spear carrying, grass skirt wearing, bone-thru-the-nose, cannibal type character ("politically incorrect and racially insensitive" by today's standards). He lumbers thru the picture in several chase scenes with a hungry lion and a wise guy mynah bird that constantly outsmarts the hungry lion. With the John K./ Preston Blair lessons fresh in my mind, the lion got my attention and I took a screen capture to publish here.
I can clearly see the shapes that form the lion now!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Cheap Trick...

... there's a reason for the title of this post! I was using the Painter IX.5 program after reading the "How To Animate" e-book that Corel has on their coursework webpage. I used Painter to create a few frames which I then imported and vectorized into Toon Boom Studio. I made the animation and exported it as a Flash file. I am very pleased with the way the programs work together and think that they will only help improve the work I can produce. Click the link to watch the little animation!

Friday, May 05, 2006

It is a very good Friday!

... At last, all the books that I ordered on Amazon are here and, as I previously stated in a prior post, I am devouring them. Also, I got a new software program, Corel's Painter IX.5, for use in my art and animation obsession.
... the Flash books exceed my expectations and are of great assistance in teaching me the program. Most importantly, they are easier to understand than the manual that comes with the program and, with these books, I haven't hit that "frustration" point - the one that causes me to close out and exit the program for a "time out". Berate the "_____ for Dummies"
and "Teach Yourself Visually" series of books all you want, they really help! Once my understanding and competence with the Flash program increases, I can always read the official manual and hone my skills with it.
... I own a free version of Painter (I think it's "Painter Classic") that came bundled with my Wacom tablet. In almost all cases, the bundled version is a watered down version of the program. Think of Photoshop LE vs. Photoshop, for example. It worked well enough for earlier projects, but I researched the latest version of Painter and decided it was worth the investment. I like Corel products a lot. Several professional artists I talk with, swear by these products. So do the professors here at the "U". Corel software is even installed on the computers at the local public library. I opened the program and played with it for a few minutes and noticed a few differences right away. The program loads faster and is sleek, stylish, and modern looking. There are new brushes that really enhance your work and allow you to experiment. There is one feature that I am dying to play with. You can make an animation in Painter IX simply by opening a new document, selecting "movie", and choosing how many frames you want in the movie! Oh, brother, am I ever gonna leave the house again?
... while you might giggle at that last question, it has a serious side to it. The other day, after work, the "boys" sat down together for a beer and invited me to join them. It was tempting, but I found myself declining the invitation so I could race home to study. There are times when I stay up way too late either, reading or working on a drawing, because I lost track of time. Sometimes, I "forget" to eat or ignore the dishes, sitting dirty and unwashed in the sink. I actually began to wonder if this was a healthy thing and I decided to make some changes. Now, I buy paper plates.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The first Flash book arrived...

... and I am devouring it! The title is The Art of Cartooning with Flash and I am finding the tutorials much easier to understand than the original manual. In attempting to complete the tutorials, I am finding that it is similiar to a puzzle. The author walks you thru a lesson, making you actually use the tools and components of the software to get there, and then leaves you in a "sticking point" which you must figure out how to get out of on your own. It makes you think. It makes you learn.
... the exercises in this book are better than the one's in the standard issue tutorial. They are not as dry and lacklustrer as the Macromedia tutorials. I really want to continue. More on this subject to come!

Monday, April 24, 2006

May's project

... last week I re-installed the Flash 5 program on my laptop. I bought it at the university's bookstore a few years back, intending to learn it and make a cool animated webpage. I quickly found out that my computer skills weren't as sharp as I believed they were. It turned out to be a frustrating learning experience when I attempted to complete the tutorial and I never ended up using the program.
... Flash was updated several times after that - versions 6, 7, MX, and 8 were released and Macromedia became a part of Adobe. My skills and comprehension of graphics programs improved and my love of animation deepened at the same time. Purchasing Toon Boom Studio inspired me to reinstall Flash 5 and I dug out the installation CD, found the original manual, and set the program up - again. Determined to succeed, I started the tutorial, beginning with the basic lessons in the manual, and continuing on to the tutorial. It was easier this time, I understood key concepts and devoted my energies to learning. There was, however, something missing - the "Aha!" moment, when you undeniably know that you've learned the material and can use the information. I needed help, something beyond the dry, boring manual.
... I went to the local bookstores and combed the shelves, hoping to find something beyond that manual. Finding many books written to augment the Flash manual and teach the program, I was dissappointed to learn that they were all for the latest version of the program. Undaunted, I visited the book "resellers" with high hopes that I would find something useful on their shelves. Dissappointed again, I went to the public library and found one book that, in all actuality, appeared to be a plagerized version of the manual.
... I am not the type of person who gives up without a fight, so I came home, logged on to "that gigantic online bookseller" and did a search, using the program name and version number as keywords. Seconds later, I found exactly what I was looking for at my fingertips, a mouse click away from being mine. Amazingly, the "used" editions were remarkably affordable, the price was often less than the shipping cost. I purchased four different books, all with instructional CD's. Two of these books teach the program in broad terms and two are more specific and focused. The books have all been shipped and will begin arriving shortly.
... May 2006 will be dedicated to learning Flash 5 and I have no doubt that I will become proficient in using this program. Having explored several professional, commercial websites which use Flash animation very effectively, I stepped back and looked at the art and design concept I came up with for my homepage. The idea is solid, it will work. It is also original and unique. While I wait for these books to come I will tweek the design and strengthen the plan.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I love surfing...

... the animation forums, websites, and blogs! I am reading and taking notes from artists and animators who display their projects and discuss topics that I can really learn from. In fact, on one blog, I learned about a valuable resource that I would never have known about if I had not read all the posts. Quite surprisingly, I had this valuable resource sitting within arms reach and rushed to utilize it.
... the resource was a platinum edition of the Disney movie "The Lady and the Tramp". I bought the movie when it was re-released recently and had not seen it since I was a child. I watched it several times analyzing the Disney method of animation. But the newly discovered blog informed me that there was something more valuable included in the DVD. Yes, the second disc in the set contained very valuable information about how the film was put together and developed way back in 1943. I watched Walt Disney show off the original drawings and the storyboard and talk about the process. I nearly fell out of my chair! I plan on watching the whole second disc again this afternoon - as many times as is necessary for the content to be committed to memory. Now my afternoon is planned.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It's April already...

... and May is on the way. I don't seem to be spending as much time online as I once did. It has something to do with the arrival of the new drafting table, I suspect. when I am online, it usually has something to do with my artwork or animation projects - generally something that is laid out on that table. I am learning to use the Toon Boom software program and am totally loving it! Click here to view a simple and silly little animation I did with Toon Boom.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The drafting table...

... I finally got a drafting table! Years ago, when I lived in a large old house on the old west side, I found an nice drafting table hidden under a pile of junk and a layer of dust in the basement. I cleaned that table and set it up, using it to create my artwork. When I moved out of that house, however, the table stayed there and I've missed it ever since. Over the past few years, I've searched the second hand stores and "Freebies and Bargains" section of the local newspaper for a table but always came up shorthanded. The tables I found were either way overpriced, in poor condition, or, already sold. Persistance pays off however, and this week I found a bargain that makes me incredibly happy!
... this table was listed on Craig's List, available locally, and seemed to be perfect for me. I sent off an e-mail, got a response from the seller, and made an appointment to go see the merchandise. I met the seller at her house and inspected the table. She had provided a picture but the table top was cloaked with a tablecloth that barely showed the frame. It was adjustable, she reassured me, adding that she hated to part with the table because it made such a nice computer station and that it was once her fathers'. While the table is adjustable, it doesn't tilt, a feature that would be nice, but isn't essential. The top, the drawing surface, concerned me more because a thick coat of white latex paint had been applied to it. There were some dark red stains on the paint, appearing as if someone had spilled strawberry ice cream and not cleaned up properly. Deciding to take it, I made a mental note to remove the paint and refinish the top if necessary. It loaded into the back of my truck easily, along with a nice chair, and I brought it home.
... someday, when time permits, I'll strip the frame of all the chipped white paint, apply a primer, and paint the frame a nice semi-gloss black and it will look brand new. It's fine for the time being however. As I set the table up, I saw bubbles that had formed on the drawing surface and cautiously began to peel away the blistering paint. To my amazement, there was a perfect lucite surface beneath the paint and a sharp, new razor blade quickly removed the white latex. The paint, it seems, had been wisely applied to protect the table! I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning and setting up my studio area again.
... it's nice to have everything in one organized area and handy again. All my pencils, pens, inks, paints, brushes, and papers are right there, ready to be used . The best part is that my computer desk is, convienently, right next to the drafting table, making the studio ready for producing internet quality work.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Imagination 2

... when we were little kids, everyone in the neighborhood would gather under the big tree in Mr. Miller's yard to play. One day the tree would be the parking structure and the central point of an imaginary city and we would drive our tiny Matchbox cars around it. The next day the very same tree would be a jail where evil desparados were incarcerated. Later, it would become a spaceship, taking everyone to the furtherest realms of the galaxy. The games we played depended on who was there. Seeing kids playing in the shadow of that large oak was a common sight and no one paid much attention to us unless we were tormenting Cousin Lenny and he began to cry. Occasionally, however, someone, usually one of the local parents, came to check up on us. When the adult appeared, the play stopped and we responded to the questions or commands. As soon as the adult departed, the fantasy play would begin again, exactly where it had ended. This is the amazing power of imagination!
... last sumer, at the lake, I watched a young family romping playfully in the shallow water. At one point, the youngest son "became" a "superhero" and enticed his older siblings to form a Junior League of Justice. Brother and Sister assumed their roles as fellow crimefighters and began combatting evil. Amazingly, even Dad assumed his role as the villian, picking up the kids, one by one, and tossing them a few yards away into the water as they attacked. They joyfully bobbed to the surface and returned to attack again and again.
... several things enthralled me about the whole scene. First, it was the youngest son who initiated the game and it had characters, a plot, and a moral. Second, the kid engaged his siblings to play along and, although it took them a minute or two to join in, they did begin to play along with their younger brother's fantasy. Soon, they were as caught up in the fun as the younger one. The third thing that enthralled me was that an adult, Dad, suspended his grip on reality too, becoming the villian and a part of the whole scenario.
... Why does this excite me? The answer is simple. That whole scene proves to me that we don't lose our imagination as we grow older. The part of our brain, our personalities, that allows us to use our imagination stays with us forever. It is a resource to be tapped into whenever we need or choose to. The important point here is that our imagination is there for us to use when the occasion and opportunity arises.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Imagination 1

... over the past few days, the postman delivered several reference books that I bought. As I read, and re-read, these books, I'm absorbing the information they contain. The books make wonderful additions to my growing reference library and it's certain that I will be frequently looking to them for direction in the future. Likewise, the number of links to webpages saved in my Favorites folder is growing too. These books and webpages are great for the technical stuff, the "how to" information of animation, but they've also inspired another line of thought for me - IMAGINATION.
... any character one cares to draw, whether it is a frog, a fish, a deer, woodpecker, ghost, or a mouse, already exists, sometimes in several different forms. All one needs to do is to pop a copy of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" into the DVD player and a plethora of familiar characters grace the screen in every scene. We recognize Donald and Daffy, the WB frog, the dancing hippos, even the octopus bartender. And now, we recognize both Roger and Jessica Rabbit.
... there are a lot of technical components involved in animation. In virtually every reference book I own, The 12 Principles of Animation are repeated and stressed. These are the mechanics of animation, providing the foundation for bringing a character to life and for making that character move realistically. The "bouncing ball action" uses the principles of 1.) arcs 2.) squash and stretch and in the book Animation 1, Preston Blair demonstrates this action by showing a frog jumping. This is a basic action that every aspiring animator should learn to master and duplicate early on. Simply drawing a frog jumping, however, is rather mechanical and boring. It needs a healthy dose of imagination. The frog needs a scene, or a story, in which it can jump. This is where the technical and mechanical aspects merge with the creative and imaginative realm of possiblity.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Rambling on

... Sunrise: 7:04 a.m. Sunset: 6:29 p.m. Hours of visible light: 12 hours and 21 minutes Tomorrow, the length of day will increase by 2 minutes and 50 seconds.

... March is igniting "spring fever" already and the days grow longer and brighter. The bitter cold is gone until next winter and, with any luck, so is the snow. It's funny to think of 40 degrees as "nice weather", proving that all things are relative. I'm looking forward to the days when I can once again go outside to film and photograph.
... I've been working with my Wacom Graphire Tablet, an essential tool for any of the digital paint programs I use. It takes practice to develop the eye/hand coordination necessary to produce nice lines, strokes, and shapes on the screen, as opposed to paper, and to use the digitalized pen rather than a traditional pencil. I'm seeing improvement and that is encouraging.
... this week the UPS man is bringing me a book that I bought off of Amazon. The book is about, of course, cartooning and cost a whopping $1.75. It'll make a nice reference book for my growing library! Basically, I wanted it to learn a little more about "storyboarding". Speaking of books, I used a "30% off " coupon from Borders that my blogging buddy, Dave, over at Suds and Soliloquies so kindly provided. The book, again, an art instruction book about drawing "hip hop style". It interested me after seeing the numerous animated Ipod advertisements, especially the one featuring Eminem and could prove useful. Next up on my "to do" list - learning to read. Just kidding!
... I'm considering a possible field trip over to North Campus early this week. I would love to go visit the art school and check out the student work on display there. It's been a while since I've done this but it is always inspiring to do. At the same time, I would love to check out Property Disposition for a drawing table.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Hey, you look like Jim Morrison!

... from the totally silly department tonight, I went to the Fleetwood tonight after too many beers and shots at Banfield's (West). Kathy, Monica, and crew took care of me in splendid fashion and I reciprocated in a different way. Jim Morrison, Jr. came in with a few crinkled one dollar bills in his pocket and daddy's credit card -poised to pay for a couple of burgers. He was short three bucks and was willing to settle for one - till I paid for the second and the tip too. Jim, baby, ya owe me one. I laughed out loud hearing you say "thanks a lot, Sir!"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Much Ado about Cartoons Part II

... usually I'm last on the UPS delivery route, but the truck arrived before noon yesterday. I was playing with my new software until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and I absolutely had to rest. I downloaded and saved the tutorials from the Toon Boom website, along with an E Book they offer, and I began familiarizing myself with the program. Honestly, I think the tutorials are not as well done as they could, or should, be. That's a bit dissappointing. There are forums on the website, but they do not display properly on my PC. Reading them is a real chore. Fortunately however, experience with paint and graphic programs pays big dividends while learning this program. Having a collection of these paint programs at your disposal can only improve ones' work in Toon Boom Studio. Additionally, if you want to use this program, a tablet, like the Wacom Graphire, is essential. I'll continue working with the tutorials.
...I am providing a link to a very good animation, called "The Dead", that I discovered on the web recently. It is a QuickTime mpeg4 movie and will take some time to download if you have a slow internet connection, but it is definitely worth the wait. This animation inspires me. Too often, the Flash cartoons one finds on the internet are examples of "kitsch", as Marshall McLuhan would define the word. They are often little more than bawdy, off color jokes with little substance that everyone has already heard. "The Dead" is different. The foundation, a poem, is a dance with words, and simple, but truly artistic, line drawings illustrate it. The three core elements, the idea, the poem, and the drawings, seamlessly blend together and flow into a thoughtful narrative.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Much Ado about Cartoons

... one of my favorite uses of technology is the package tracking system used by UPS and other freight carriers. After entering a confirmation number and zip code on the appropriate page, the carrier provides information about your package's journey - arrivals and departure scans, locations and times, and an anticipated delivery date. I'm tracking a package sent from Mesquite, Texas and, when I last checked, the package was already in Missouri, heading north, to be delivered on Tuesday.
... the package I'm tracking contains software, specifically an animation program that I plan on learning and using. Remember the Jib Jab cartoon, "This Land Is My Land", featuring Bush and Kerry, that became so famous during the last presidential election? How about the game where you catch as many babies as you can as Micheal Jackson tosses them off a hotel balcony? Ever watch Animaniacs? These are the kind of animations one can animate with this software program.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sketchy Studios Presents,,

... alright, I did a few more drawings of the little goldfish from yesterday's post. I repeated the whole process of coloring them in Freehand and made workable frames in Photoshop. Next, I used Jasc's (now owned by Corel) Animation Shop to put those frames together and produce an AVI file. The final production step involved converting the AVI file to an MPeg and publishing it on the web. To see the short cartoon, click on the icon below.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sketch-book Thursday: A Doodle Transformed

... this drawing started as a doodle I scribbled on a sheet of ordinary printer paper while I was online, downloading a movie. After scanning it into my laptop, I cleaned it up in Photoshop, saved it, and took it to the Macromedia Freehand program to color. Once I was satisfied with it, I worked on it in Corel's Photo-Paint program.

... I've done some other artwork related to fishkeeping,including having simple black and white sketches published on the cover of a montly newsletter of a "fish club" in Denver, Colorado. I also won a logo design contest for The North American Discus Association's website. Click here if you want to view that logo.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wednesday Linkage

... Okay, I am adding a new link to The Sneeze to my blogroll today. I found the site through another blog I visit, and when I started to read, I found myself chuckling. I like the creativity at "The Sneeze" and hope you will too..

Sunday, January 22, 2006

$$ Money, Money, Money $$

... I found this link about credit cards on a site I visit frequently. After reading it, I immediately checked my phone and utility bills, making certain they were up to date. Visit the link and, I guarantee, you will too!
... a couple of weeks ago, I was watching an episode of Boston Legal and lawyer Alan Shore (James Spader) agreed to represent his legal assistant in a case against a credit card company. Shore was at the top of his game when he told a grinning, smarmy credit card company advocate, "We also have saying in Massachuesett's: maybe you'll get horribly sick and die." While millions of people probably wanted to say the same thing to those advocates, especially after receiving their January statement, there is a more practical and productive solution to the increased minimum payments and hiked interest rates. The first step is cutting up the cards. The second step is calling the credit card company, telling them to stop accepting new charges on the account. The third step is making a sound plan to rid yourself of the debt.
... Early on, before these increases became a reality, Michelle Singletary, in an NPR interview, provided some of the soundest and most useful financial advice I've ever heard. Speaking about the importance and wisdom of reducing consumer debt (ie: credit card debt),Singletary provided a strategy for doing it, with links to websites to assist with the implementation of this strategy. I listened carefully as Michelle spoke, taking notes and jotting down the website URL's in a notebook. Later on, I visited those, taking a lot of notes again. Sharpening a #2 pencil, I put fresh batteries in the calculator and gathered together my notes, credit card statements, receipts, and paycheck stubs and began to put my plan together. It was implemented with the very next round of bills.
... involving a lot of hard work and sacrifice, the plan allowed me to pay off three credit card balances and a car loan while substantially lowering the amount owed on a fourth card. I was able to minimalize the effect and impact of the increases that came in January by being proactive. The final balance will be paid off shortly and the money I earn will truly be mine. This link will help anyone get started. It's never too late. And Michelle Singletary is now on my Christmas Card list !!

( listen to Michelle Singletary every Tuesday on NPR's "Day To Day" )

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tank Update

... I spend more time involved with my fishkeeping hobby in the winter than in the warmer months. Inclement weather forces me to spend more time indoors and tinkering with my aquariums is a great alternative to stupid sitcoms and ridiculous reality shows. Last November, as the mercury began to fall and snowflakes started to fly, I began a project, turning the 90 gallon aquarium in my office into a show/display tank for fancy goldfish varieties.

... I chose fancy goldfish for several reasons, including their interesting shapes, bright colors, and peaceful dispositions. I learned from experience that a beautiful aquarium full of fish, grabs a visitor's attention faster, and hold it longer, than any television program. As this project progressed, I found my skills, abilities, and knowledge being challenged in multiple ways. This was a surprise since the prevailing view seemed to be that goldfish "are just carp". I spent some time and energy "fine tuning" the system in order to get to the point where minimal intervention and maintenance is required.
... Mechanically, things were "give and take". I had hoped to be able to keep from installing a heater, but the winter cold caused the water temperature to flucuate and stress the fish. Among my supplies, I had a brand new 250 watt submersible Ebo Jager heater, completely capable of maintaining a constant 74 degree water temperature at minimal expense. It will control this variable until the cold weather passes. The filtration requirements changed next. I was able to completely eliminate the Millenium 1000 power filter I was running. This filter created a strong current in the water that, again, stressed the fish as they constantly fought the current or sought out hiding places where they could rest. As soon as the goldfish realized the water was no longer a raging whitewater river, they came out of hiding and floated around the tank, visible for a change. I kept the HOT Magnum micron filter to polish the water and remove floating debris. It is a filter that, while very effective, requires more frequent maintenance. Fortunately, the maintenance is easy and doesn't require much time to do. The final mechanical change is the most dramatic and involves the bio-filter. I noticed a white cloudiness to the water, indicative of increased ammonia levels. Several of the fish were developing fin rot and two of the telescope eye Black Moors had a white fungal coating on their eyes. I didn't need to do any water tests to know what was wrong. I immediately changed about 50% of the water and exchanged one of the sponge filters for a larger version. This sponge, although dry, had once been used in another tank and contained the necessary cysts (shells) of aerobic bacteria. It would "revive" in days, repopulating its porous surface with ammonia converting, beneficial bacteria. At the same time, I repositioned the air pump, hanging it on the wall behind the tank in order to maximize the amount of air being pumped through the two sponges. A totally reactionary response, I lost a couple of nice fish that were weakened from the stress and ammonia spike. Almost immediately after these changes, the eyes of the afflicted Black Moor began to clear and all the fish are showing improvement. I am changing about 10 to 15 gallons of water a day to control water quality as the new sponge renews itself.
... amazingly, throughout the entire episode of "new tank syndrome" only one fish, a common orange fantail, showed no sign of stress at all. I will go as far as to say that this fish thrived and continued to grow while the inbred, genetically altered pearlscales, black moors, and orandas either suffered or died. Extend these findings into the natural world and one could possibly make a case for either evolutionists or intelligent design advocates.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Fat Bastard Syndrome

... I seem to have lost my inspiration. I believe it has something to do with the horrible cold I've been battling all week. There's just something about blowing your nose every 2 minutes and flushing away green mucous that resemembles gelatin, that kills creativity. During the trip up north last week, we stopped at one of those one stop,tourist trap gas stations to refuel. The place was probably one of the major employers in town. There was a huge gift shop that even included a clothing department. Fighting the urge to buy a "Bear Skin Rug" for just $29.99, I wondered how many of the local yokels received a ceramic Indian head sculpture (made in China, of course) or a "World's Best Grandpa" sweatshirt purchased there, for Christmas. The best part, however, were the two (knock-off) fast food franchise concessions in the back. My friend ordered a turkey sub from "Sub Central", but seeing the greasey haired employee sneeze and cough into her elbow, I headed over to "Papa Italy's" for a personal lunch size cheese and pepperoni. Imagine my surprise when the very same sniffling girl switched hats and rang up my order.
... I can never understand why sick people don't just stay at home and recuperate. Why do they insist on going out in public to expose everyone they come in contact with to the illness? If the "Bird Flu" gets to North America, this is how it will spread. Last January, I was working one night and approached a table of four, a family, that came in to eat. I set down the waters and asked if anyone would care for something besides water. Dad wanted a beer, the kids wanted 7-Up, and Mom, in a very raspy voice, sniffling, congested, and hacking as she wiped her nose, ordered hot tea, with lemon and honey . And more paper napkins.
"You're sick," I said. "You sound like you should be home in bed, resting,"
"I'll be fine," she said, mustering up that self pitying, I'm sick tone of voice.
I wanted to whack her on the head with my cocktail tray. Just one good, hard thump - not hard enough to knock her out, just hard enough to make her see stars for a minute or two. This woman obviously did not think, or care, about spreading her illness to the people she came in contact with and deserved the whack. Imagine her in the grocery store, the office, the mall, or car pool, spraying those germs all over the place with every sneeze, or, leaving her nose drippings on the U-Scan. And you are next in line, right behind her.
... I don't know of any employer who wants a sick employee working and infecting the rest of the staff. Even my boss will forego a doctor's note if he's certain you are truly ill. If it's about losing money while you're out sick, you have bigger problems than that cold, and, you should probably address them while you're at home getting well. Usually, however, it's about something else - a self-centered, selfish, lack of consideration for other people, otherwise known as Fat Bastard Syndrome.
... when the family with the sick Mom left the restaurant, I gingerly picked up the charge slip, noting that this woman carelessly left at least 5 wadded up napkins on the table, unconcerned that someone else had to clean up the biohazard she left. Maybe she deserved two good whacks.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ya Think?


...this one is for all my friends over at AAiO. In my opinion, it ranks right up there with Pope Benedict XVI's statement about Christmas and commercial pollution...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Road Trip !

Q: what does a "true northerner" do when he is sick of the gray, dismal days of winter?
A: a "true northerner" heads even further north into the land of snow and cold. Maybe there will even be some sunshine up there!

Sketchy is heading out of town and taking a road trip with a very dear friend today. He leaves you with this for a little fun and entertainment. Have fun!


P.S. yes, I am taking along a digital camera and a digital video recorder to document the journey!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Pomme du Terre

...somebody inspired Sketchy to post about food, virgin (yet familiar) territory for this blog.


... if we lighten our load in 2006 and leave anything back in 2005, Sketchy hopes it is the "low carb/high protien" diet fads like Atkins and South Beach. For one thing, I'm tired of typing "no pot/add veggies" into the computer, under "special prep", with 90% of my orders. I'm also tired of being asked if the restaurant carries "Splenda" besides the regular sugar, Sweet 'n Lo, and Equal . And filling water glasses 3 and 4 times, just so an old man can wash down a hefty portion of blanched vegetables he is obviously not enjoying, is simply annoying and time consuming. Like the commercial says, a baked potato contains no fat and a measly 100 calories, as long as you don't dress it with 3 tablespoons of butter and smother it with sour cream. Top that potato with a mild salsa if you want nice flavor! I have more bad news for you, that barbeque sauce that pulled pork is swimming in contains enough sugar to sweeten the Olympic size pool at the new YMCA. You might as well stop worrying about scaping it off the bun. And stop picking those croutons off your salad too, the low fat dressing is loaded with sugar too. How do you think the manufacturer makes it taste good and gets you to eat it, while using an overprocessed oil? They add lots and lots of super-concentrated sugar. Sketchy should work for the Idaho Potato Advisory Council.
... Sketchy often preheats his tiny oven to 350 F and tosses in a nice sized Idaho Russet to bake. Besides making a nice dinner, the oven heats the apartment, negating the need to turn up the thermostat. Once soft, he cuts it open, fluffs it, and adds some cooked chicken, ham, or roast beef. Topping it with about two tablespoons of grated colby/jack cheese, it goes back into the oven until the cheese melts and the meat is warmed sufficiently. Crowned with a nice salsa, it is a tasty and filling dinner.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Meetup

... surfing the blogs late at night, Sketchy came across this announcement.

Ann Arbor blogger meetup
Tuesday, January 10, 2006 (7:00 PM)
Leopold Brothers
523 S. Main St. Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
Ann Arbor area bloggers will be getting together to drink beer, find out who is behind what domain name, and talk about politics, urban planning, tech, music & everything else people blog about.

By the time I finished jotting the pertinent information in my day planner, the notice, and accompanying editorial comment, dissappeared, leaving Sketchy scratching his head in wonder and uttering an audible, "Huh, what the ....?" Tonight the announcement resurfaced. And again, there was an editorial comment carrying the same basic message, however the rant was toned down - considerably. Sketchy didn't/doesn't have a problem with the post, either in its original or modified form, it's simply someone else's opinion. Sketch will form his own opinions after attending the meetup. Sketchy does, however, feel like he has something for the author to consider, or perhaps, reconsider.
...although I've never set foot inside Leopold Brothers, I did sample a bottle of their beer once. It was good too, and getting a fresh drawn draft is reason enough to make the trip. As for meeting the other bloggers, this will be my first "meetup". It makes me a "wildcard". But, I can think of at least two or three bloggers that I really enjoy reading on a regular basis, and not being the shy type, I won't hesitate to tell them that I like their content. Generally speaking, a positive and sincere compliment is usually a pretty good way to start a worthwhile conversation. I can talk tech and politics and I'm quite confident that my musical preferences will be a whole lot different than others in attendence. And I certainly know Ann Arbor well enough. In fact, I know Ann Arbor well enough to know that The Eight Ball Saloon is a rat's nest. I know that the bartenders there could benefit from a Techniques of Alcohol Management Seminar, and, that the bouncers seem to take special glee in bouncing an intoxicated patron's head off the pavement after their bartenders overserve them. I also know that nasty smelling beer soaked carpet sticks to the soles of your shoes as you walk, that there's a very good chance the idiot next to you at the horse trough urinal is going to miss the blue cookie by the drain and pee all over your shoes, and that "getting lucky" at The 8 Ball means going home alone. The place is like the continuation of the high school "basement" party your friend had when his parents went away on vacation. The pool room is a sausage festival, the blasting jukebox convienently overrules any hope of talking to any female, and if you're over 30 years old, you seriously need to examine the reasons why you enjoy the place and what you are getting out of that type of atmosphere.
... so on Tuesday, I'll leave my $1,500 laptop at home but I will bring my nifty little 5 megapixel, mpeg4 video camera to record soused bloggers trying to pronounce the mayor's name correctly. If I listen, I might learn something about urban planning. Maybe I'll just find another nice spot to enjoy a cold pint of beer, or meet another neighbor and make a new friend, enjoy a conversation, or walk out feeling a little bit more "at home" and more a part of the community that is Ann Arbor. After all, this is what I left "The Hills" of Oakland County for. To me, it's worth the effort.