A little animation.

I’ve been dabbling in animation and learning much about the skill. It’s…wowzers. I think a lot of people underestimate just how much work would go into a simple animated scene. Even working with a lowered framerate, it’s a *lot* of images to create. Depending on your method (there are oddities in the process that can change the workload) and the framerate you’re working with, a simple on minute graphic can be comprised of thousands of images, and each of them drawn by somebody.

I made this;

Even with some cheeky frame recycling…this was surprisingly challenging and time consuming. It’s about six hours worth of work, three of which were cussing, two of which were drawing, and one of which was befuddlement. (The timeframe was not as regimented as it seems; the three component skills were scattered throughout the six hour working time.)

My future products will be much better. Stick figures are the training wheels of animation. It’s generally easier to map and move a stick figure that to manipulate a human form. Humans have musculature and that complicates matters. But, Stickies are a good starting point that lets you get your practice in with a safety net. Now that I’ve gotten my toes wet without drowning, I’ll start venturing out into deeper water. (Still, don’t expect to see a full-fledged cartoon anytime soon; I’ll likely be working in stick figures for a good long while.)

I like animation. It’s a genuine challenge, but it’s also rewarding in its own way. It’s not necessarily “fun” to do…but it’s fun to have an animation you can look at and realize is your creation. Much the same as a lot of craft skills, really. I don’t at all enjoy weaving chair seats, but I do enjoy getting praise for weaving chair seats.

I’m curious where this idea goes. I have tons of ideas for animations I look forward to trying out, just to see if they’ll work out and be even remotely funny. I suspect, moving forward, as I gain skill and confidence in the medium, that I’ll become much more adventurous.

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A rose Tattoo flash.

I figured following along with an online video would be a good effort to get the wheels turning. I followed along with Richard Shaw “The Broken Puppet” as he drew the piece in this video;

My result is this piece, created in Artrage 4;

I’ve drawn variations on this before, but I figure I should take a step beyond “where I was” to get a good running start. This is basically the most simple rose you’ll find, and in the past I’ve done far harder versions, but this is a good baseline starting point for me. I’m seeing dozens of errors I made and things I can correct moving forward. BTW, I didn’t do the yellow accent on the leaves just because…I don’t like that addition. No harm, no foul, I just don’t think they contribute in a way that I like, so I didn’t add them to my version.

That’s basically the point when you’re learning; make mistakes, identify them, and then don’t make them again on other pieces.

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Of seat time and experience.

(Note; yes, I know I touted something a while back that I was going to do that was going to be the next big thing involving fishing, and I posted it on this blog. You’ll note that the post is gone because the idea sucked. Now back to your irregularly unscheduled programming. Also, due to the way you have been programmed, it’s likely you that read wrong. You probably read that wrong too. It’s okay, not everybody can have a dig bick like I do when it comes to reading comprehension.) 😉

You probably read that wrong too… You’re not catching on to this very quickly, are you? Enough trickery with words; let’s dig into the meat of this (overdue) post. This blog is going to change a bit. Just a bit.

I’ve been into art and creating art for a long time. Visual art has always been on my mind and wanting to pursue those skills has always been an ambition of mine. To sit down and create something visually that is both interesting visually and somewhat artistic…it’s a very seductive concept.

Alas, it is a thing that grows in a garden which is fenced tall and strong. The fence? Well, the posts are made of a thing called “experience” and the barbed wire is made of a thing called “seat time”. You can get up and over that fence, but it’s a tall one that can only be climbed be considerable effort.

The thing is, it’s worth it. The problem is that it’s also easy to start like a house afire and then fizzle. I’m a proper fizzler in that regard, having done it several times. Start, then realize it’s not an easy hobby/skill to master and quit it. Then at some later time, start up again and quit it again. In the past 20 years, I’ve probably bought enough art supplies/equipment to keep a professional running hard for a month, and today my “creations” have been minimal. The only bright thing I’ve ever done on that front? I started looking after the stuff I bought so I don’t have to go out and buy new stuff because I can’t find the stuff I bought the last time I wanted to start. I’m kitted well on all fronts.

What form of visual art/drawing? Digital is what I have my eyes on, mostly because it’s more what I feel “the industry” is going toward and what would lead to being more simple to share with others. Traditional art is, and likely always will be viable but it’s a matter of going with what works. I figure if the internet would be the primary way I’d share it, I’d just be taking a picture of the creation and then posting that picture. Why not just cut out the middleman and keep it all digital from the start?

Ambitions? I have very few. I just want to become good at drawing and creating. How good? I guess I just want to be as good as I can learn to be. It’ll take experience, seat time, and my least favorite of all four letter words; work.

Seems like all that’s left…is just to jump in and do it. The way this blog may change? As I create works, I’ll post them here. So, there will be more pictures on The Picturist Blog. 🙂

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Rebirth and Growth?

I know I’ve been very quiet over the past few months, as the issues of life and complexities of existence wear on me…but that’s about to change.

I’m an ideas guy. I have ideas, I like ideas, and I tend to live by three little letters; ABT. Always BThinking. Well, I have been thinking and I’ve thought of something. So, at least for the current moment, I’m rolling with it. The blacksmith passion within me loves to keep a few irons in the fire, but this iron feels like something I can work with long-term.

When will the “big reveal” take place? I don’t know. For this I’d rather delay a bit and do it right than to set a firm deadline and do it wrong. IMO, Deadlines can motivate a procrastinator but it can also have a negative effect; done on time does not always mean done well. I’d rather have “done right but done later” rather than “done in the last two hours before deadline and looks like it was done in the last two hours”. Try to drive a nail at max speed, you might get it in the board faster, but you might mishit, bend the nail, dent the wood, break the hammer handle, or miss altogether. Better to use slow, consistent strikes and make each count methodically.

So, if anybody is still tuned…stay tuned. There’s a flurry of activity in the shadows, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to step into the light and be seen, and it will be seen on this blog before it’s seen anywhere else.

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Of growth, honesty, prosperity, and the future.

I’ve been hanging around youtube and trying to be more aware of how social media “works”. Not necessarily the pure function, but the psychological methods behind what happens. It’s intensely interesting because—speaking with total honesty—I’ve really been kicking the idea around of becoming very active in certain venues. No hard decisions, no major announcements today, but I have been studying.

What I see is very intriguing and telling. The beauty of social media is that, at least when you’re studying it, it’s really easy to see how well a technique worked because a lot of the data is right there for the viewing. This post has been up for a few days and was “liked” X-number of times, this video has been published for a couple days, already getting big views and big likes, etc. From a studying standpoint, it’s an open pit mine. It’s really easy to see what’s real and what isn’t, what’s working and what isn’t. Even if somebody has an autoclicker set to click and load this link again and again…if there are 100,000 views and not a single comment, that shows. If this video has 800 views and 930 likes, same deal. If this post is hugely liked and shared, but minimally commented, that’s visible too.

The reason so many projects/channels/pages fail? They get so busy “Playin’ da Game” that they forget that it all comes down to a simple maxim; content, like it or hate it, is king. It will always be king. Bread is cheap, steak is expensive, and if you’re all bread and no steak you’ll never generate the long-term interest that a sandwich made with bread and steak together would generate. Be the 72 ounce Porterhouse and one buttered dinner roll rather than the half a can of potted meat and a three pound loaf of plain white bread.

“But, but, but, I saw a vid and it was huge, but the content was weak!”

This is known as clickbait, and while it can work for a while, it’s always going to end up in the same place; Once and nevermore. Okay, you got me to click your link, and I sat through a whole 10 minute video, and the title I clicked had nothing to do with what I saw. Congratulations, I threw you one pageview…but you tricked me. You told me I’d see ____ and I never saw it. Well, you won, but I’ll win in the long run because now I know one content provider who won’t get the chance next time. A quick click unsubscribe and you get to join the voluminous pile of people who don’t get to be a waste of my time anymore.

One group, whom I will not name, recently went on a big push to have a youtube career of sorts and they’ve already started making bad decisions. The first video was pretty good, explained the future plans, goals, etc. Very nice. The second was titled to indicate that a certain something happened during the filming and after watching the entire video it became obvious that the title was incorrect. The expectation did not match the experience. At no point in the video did anybody acknowledge that the title didn’t match. When commenters mentioned it was total clickbait, no response was made. Lots of kissass kids jumping in to get in good with the channel owner getting acknowledged, but nobody at least acknowledging or recognizing the comments that it was titled a bit incorrectly. He got 50,000 views in four days, but…that might be a peak. He’s basically going to be trying to make a living off one-time viewers. Yeah, his little army of kissass kids will probably stick around, but in time he might bait them a bit to hard and even they will quit hm.

Real talk? I have a very small list of email followers, a very small list of followers through wordpress. Small meaning less than 5. In the span of probably a month I could probably have ten thousand views per day on this blog. One month, ten thousand views per day. In all truth, that figure may be a bit low-ball. All I would have to do is jump in with five or ten posts with a few specific phrases in the title, a few specific phrases in the body, and the tags worked for all they’re worth. What words? I refuse to even put them up in passing for fear that they would bring somebody onto this post without this post being able to live up to them. A clickbait site, of which there are many on the worldwide web, would not let this stop them from doing that despite the fact that they also do not have the goods to fulfill those expectations.

How can I be so sure this would result in huge views? Because there are entire enterprises around the internet that have turned that kind of content into a fortune. You answer these questions, I give you X. Oh, you answered 39 of 40, but the 39th disqualifies you, too bad, so sad. But, this other thing over here, if you answer those questions, I’ll give you X as a consolation. You spend weeks answering the questions, offering opinions and insights with the best of intentions and you get nothing. You have to have X-number of dollars to qualify for a payout and the most patient and polite human on the planet will be using the F-word like a comma before they managed to get a tenth of the way to that figure.

I know these places exist because I’ve freakin’ tried ’em! I’ve played in that coliseum of pointless futility. I’ve also seen “companies” on the way up and almost all of them start up by simply using a few clickbait titles to get you to come in. Only when that stops working so well (once you’ve gone through all your “Once and nevermore” crowd) does it escalate. Add in a few simple tasks that tap into the human nature of “If I scratch their back, they’ll scratch mine, so I’ll answer their questions, or sign up for their stuff”, and the blatant clickbait site becomes a clickbait site under the guise of a “research organization”. Mostly, I suspect, because they can finally afford to dress it up a bit. Sort of like buying a single board to build a birdhouse, selling it to buy lumber to make a doghouse, selling it to buy lumber to make a gazebo, and selling it to buy lumber to build a house to sell. Reinvestment of profits to generate more profits in future. Clever.

Me? My stats are dismal, but there’s no theme here. This is, for lack of a better term, poor-man’s therapy. I ramble about various things and essentially speak into the void hoping to find an ear. I do not know what my next post will be because as of right now nothing has stood out as noteworthy and deserving of a post. That’s how most of my posts are “designed”. I see, I think, I write, I post. I’m pleased with that because I’d rather have low views and low interest, but know that if somebody is disappointed in the quality of my content, that it’s probably due to their expectations being a bit higher than perhaps is reasonable.

The problem I see is that many are after the quick fizzle. Get a few thousand views and cash in. For me, I like the idea of sustainability. The kind of content that might not be much, but that doesn’t try to sound like much. I’d rather perform small but honestly than to be big but dishonest. Once I go for a theme (and I **am** seriously looking at that!) I don’t see that changing.

In the end, content still matters, and honesty still holds value. It also has long-reaching consequences. If the guy who clickbaited me had a product, a program, a service, I’d be highly suspicious of it. The t-shirt that’s been screen printed, I might think of as being the physical version of his video; rather than being screen printed, it’s a t-shirt from walmart with a big ol’ home-printed sticker on it. The cooking “class” he’s teaching might be a class that’s legit, or it might be him reading the microwaving instructions on a TV dinner.

That’s how clickbait is bad. He might be getting okay views now, but in five years who will trust him? Even if he turns it around and straightens up, who will trust him not to waste their time and attention? There’s a car dealer in my town who made an error in the exact same way. He sold me a car a long time ago and it was the crappiest piece of crap that ever broke down a half-mile outside of Crapville…and to this day I don’t risk buying from him. Content is King, and that maxim holds value, as does another…

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

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A little restraint, please?

Just a little, that’s all I ask. I totally understand the socioeconomic structure, I totally understand the overarching motive, and I totally understand what’s at stake…but you really need to cool it off just a bit. This is not a boxing match for the WBC title; you don’t have to keep the pressure on to keep us from recuperating for a comeback. We’re down. We’re pretty much defenseless.

I have, since childhood, liked a radio on while I sleep. It helps cover up the innocuous background noises that permeate this area. I’ve got one neighbor who is, apparently, trying to teach themselves “how to tune your truck in 970 easy steps, one per day” or…they’re doing an everlasting tribute to Rudolf Diesel. That makes it difficult to fall asleep without something to help blot the noise out and the radio serves well for this.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and when I turned on my radio before sleep, I was greeted by 11 Christmas songs in a row. Eleven. 11. This means that whilst some individuals haven’t completed their Tryptophan comas, the brunt of Christmas began with a bang.

I got it. I really do. But…can we have one freakin’ day of non-holiday focus? Just one is all I ask. For one day during the “season”, just one day where everybody takes their holiday spirit, wraps it neatly with pretty paper, and **crams it** for 24 hours. Then, feel free to bingle jells and Kerry Mistress until your heart is all aglow, but give me one damn day where some holiday is not being shoved down my throat. One day when there’s not some consumer driven drivel being forced on me like a “special cigarette” at a party.

“If you don’t celebrate and enjoy Christmas, you’re just a scrooge!”

Yes! YES! Finally, someone understands me! In a world of unenlightened oafs, a glimmering star in human form has decoded me! Considering that I’m not a big fan of eating my weight in food I can’t really afford, and I’m not positioned to spend thousands on gifts…the holiday season sucks.

October leans toward Halloween. While the kids are still on a sugar high, we start hearing about turkey day. Before we’ve even digested the feast spread we’re already leaning toward another feast in less than a month, and another a week after that.

And let’s talk about that. Dang near everybody I know grumbles about “holiday weight” and how “It’s so hard to lose weight in the wintertime”…I’m no genius but I can do basic math. If you’ve got one holiday where candy is the main consumable and is consumed in bulk quantity, then less than a month later you serve a turkey dinner with all the trimmin’s, then less than a month later you serve a comparable spread, and then less than a week later you put out another spread… One could wonder if your difficulty comes from consuming a considerably higher volume of calories, and that’s not really winter’s fault.

According to my research, the average Thanksgiving spread will put 3,000 calories into a typical eater. If they go for dessert, drinks, and appetizers, the number jumps to 4,500 calories. In one meal. For one person. At one time. Not counting leftovers. Typical recommended daily intake is 2,000 for ladies, 2,500 for men. So, this raises the question if the “holiday spread” might have something to do with consuming a full day’s (almost two) worth of food in one sitting, followed by some leftovers a few hours later.

And, at least here in the south, a Christmas spread will often exceed the Thanksgiving meal because it’s a “bigger holiday”. New years isn’t quite so luxurious, but you’re still eating more than normally. So, excluding Halloween entirely, you’re still consuming a LOT more food than normally in the span of 6 weeks. While it varies person-to-person, I’ve heard the standard for a typical and relatively fit individual is that you’d basically need to run a 12-minute-mile pace for a mile to burn 100 calories. I suspect that you’d burn more as you ran, but with a 4,500 load to burn I suspect a marathon might be in order. Just to counter Thanksgiving. And another to counter Christmas. And a half-marathon for New Years. Might toss in a half-marathon for Halloween too.

In the end it only really serves to make people spend money. Buying more food than they need, buying more consumer products to give to others who don’t need them. The average family will spend almost $700 on gifts, and I know many who would see that $700 as a pretty good start, albeit slightly underachieving in preparation for really “spreading the holiday spirit”. Some of that, alas, will be spent on CDs of Christmas songs.

The thing is, when a celebrity dies, if another celeb makes fun of them it’s often met by boos of “too soon”. When Bill Maher dressed up as Steve Irwin with a stingray handing off his chest shortly after Irwin died from a stingray strike to the chest, Maher got nuclear level heat for it. It was too much, too soon. Gilbert Gottfried got canned from being spokesman and voice artist for several companies because he made tasteless jokes about the Tuhoku earthquake while the crisis was still under way…Too much, too soon. Both might have had slightly better responses to their “humor” if they’d given the world time to recover from the “event” and could seen it in a different light. Admittedly, both were tasteless as hell, but lots of humor is tasteless…that’s what makes certain types of humor funny.

Christmas…too soon. Too much, too soon. I need a break. Actually, I need a valium the size of a hubcap, but a break would be a nice stall tactic in lieu of a valium the size of a dinner plate. The next 30 days will be long. I fear that by the time I’ve heard “Grandmaw got runned over by a reindeer” for the fiftieth time, I’ll go to Walmart and one of the bell ringers will dare to clang at me…a critical error at a crucial time. Poor guy’ll spend the rest of his life trying to get a typical 6-inch handbell dislodged from the upper third of his sigmoid colon. Fear not, it won’t impede any ordinary functions; the collection tub shoved down his throat will make eating impossible anyway.

Seriously though, those bells…they don’t need to be like a red-hot nail jammed in your ear to draw attention. You’re the only dude in a Santa suit standing by the front door of walmart with a big ass sign that says “Donate to ____”. Um…we know. We’re aware. You want and need donations, we get it. It’s not like you’re wearing a ghillie suit in a jungle. You don’t blend in. Piercing my eardrums with your bell, it really only serves to make me less likely to want to get close to you to put a buck in the tub.

Really, it’s like that person who is all cheerful and “Isn’t it a beautiful morning?” when you’re hung over and can’t even stand to open both eyes at the same time because the dwarf in your head picks up his hammer and loses his temper when you do. Just…holster it. Put it away. Check back later. Try to be half-chipper in two hours and judge the response. If you don’t find a typical smart phone being flung tomahawk-style at your head..well, there’s been some improvement but don’t push your luck. Try back in two more hours. Bring coffee and ibuprofen as a peace offering.

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Slaying the Dragon.

Admittedly, this article is largely an effort in both self-help and proselytizing. Sharing what I have learned, and learning what I haven’t learned about. Not so much “This is a map, I should know every part of it” but in terms of what “maps” exist that I haven’t even heard of, much less learned.

One thing I am slowly realizing, despite my best efforts otherwise is that confidence is one of my main weaknesses. The main problem with that? Without confidence, it is difficult to accomplish anything. At all.

Just imagine a painter, for instance, who is extremely timid. You’ve got someone who can get out his canvas, get out his paints, his brushes, his palette…and he stands there. Like a pimple on an elephant’s ass, he stands there. Depending on how extreme his timidity is, he might end up with either a very bland painting, like sky blue from top to bottom and very little else, or he might simply end up with a blank canvas.

Watch Bob Ross sometime. The guy will paint a gorgeous scene, prettier than real life, so quaint and serene, so beautiful. Then he’ll load up a fan brush with paint the color of tar, getting every bit of paint into the brush that it can hold, and blop it into the canvas. Right on top of the scene, he’ll scrawl an inch wide black line across it with what can only be called reckless abandon to create a couple trees. Ruthless. Reckless. Fearless. Confident.

As if he’s saying “I could think about it for hours and still not give a shit if I ruin this painting. If it is spoiled, screw it, I never liked it anyway, I can do better work, and tomorrow I will. I will. I…Will. This painting? One pre-stretched canvas worth twenty bucks, five bucks worth of paint, one hour worth of time. This very evening someone will go to a fancy restaurant and they’ll spend more money and more time feeding their face. Well, sparky, I aint hungry right now and I got pop tarts at home, so let’s do this.”

There is an element of confidence that is a crucial necessity. If you’re timid and holding back, trying to play it safe, it’s really tough to even end up with a decent painting, much less to risk ruining it all by scrawling a tree across it.

The bad part? It’s not just a dragon to slay in painting. I’ve noticed it a lot in music. For the longest time my strumming on guitar was weak and didn’t sound good. It was also really tough to imagine how some players can just go at it at a fever pitch. Impossible…except I’d seen it done and knew it was possible. Then I made a startling realization…

I watched a musician play and…I knew for a fact he didn’t have 100% control over that strum. He did four that I really watched closely and he didn’t have full control over any of them. Maybe 60% control, approaching 70%, but certainly not full and complete control on all four….and it didn’t matter at all.

Seriously. Listening closely, not listening closely, watching closely, not watching closely, it didn’t matter. At all. If he accidentally tapped that bottom E on the way by, it’s irrelevant because I didn’t hear it on any of his strums.

And what difference would it make if it had rung loudly? With the drums, the bass, the keyboards, the crowd, his own vocals, the lead guitarist, who would hear or care if he accidentally hit a bad note? Think of the sheer volume of entire CDs that suck and contrast that against four bad notes in one song during one concert. Microscopic scratch on a Maserati. One bad brush stroke on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. A completely naked supermodel with a small pimple on her instep. It’s sincerely such a small blemish that it really doesn’t really warrant mention. Four bad notes is nothing.

My own playing was basically stifled because I was worrying about accidentally hitting a missed note from time to time. Trying to hold such fine and precise control that…I managed to keep the aircraft perfectly aligned in straight and level flight, but only at speeds too slow for the wings to generate lift. I was afraid to strum fluidly because I was afraid of making a “bad” noise. Then I had a realization;

If I picked up my guitar, grabbed a chord, and butchered it in the worst possible way, having screwed it up better than anybody ever had before…with the highest quality guitar capable of sustaining the notes for the longest time…the “evidence” of my blunder would be around for maybe 30 seconds. Considering that the universe is more then four and a half BILLION years old…dammit, I can screw up thirty seconds and survive it. Should I make a bad noise for 30 seconds and some mob find it so offensive that they wish to come and assault me, this sounds like an ideal reason to offer other “bad noises” that are much louder, but last less time. All men are created almost equally; Louisville sluggers and Samuel Colt puts them all on a level playing field.

The “risk” of making a mistake was greatly outweighed by the possible gains of succeeding. And, in full truth, the “risk” was all self-imposed. I had convinced myself that a bad noise was a lot worse than it really was. In all truth, once I became willing to fly…I stopped falling out of the sky so much. Yeah, I’ll admit, early on I made a hellacious racket but that didn’t last long. Once I got comfortable making full power strums I discovered something interesting: the sound of the good notes usually overpowered and “drowned out” the bad ones. Yeah, you could still hear them, but they didn’t stand up on top of the chord and scream “Hey, I don’t belong here but I’m here because this idiot sucks!” They were there, and you could hear them, but they were soon forgotten. Nothing bad happened when there were unexpected and unwanted sounds. In time, thousands and thousands of strums later, the “right” notes started outnumbering the “wrong” ones. Without the confidence not to care if I made a bad noise, I’d never have gained the experience to learn not to care.

Now that I’ve moved on to composing my own pieces…same basic reset. I’ve let my inexperience breed pugnacious timidity. Though I have made it a personal goal to write at minimum ten measures of 4/4 per day, I still find the dragon in the corner is there, and he still needs a good smack every now and then so he never forgets who’s really in charge ’round here in the musical composition department.

Falling back on the “standard” rule of thumb works: if it sounds right, it is right. If it sounds wrong, it is wrong. 50% of trust goes to good judgment, 50% of trust goes to knowledge of theory. The rest is a matter of time and experience.

I suppose in all creative endeavors, that’s basically the rule to follow. Looks good/is good. Sounds good/is good. Feels good/is good. There will be bumps in the road, but really that’s the whole point of creative journeys; to find and smooth the bumps. To find and slay that Timidity Dragon that sits in the corner and whispers doubts and derision in your ear when you are vulnerable.

I find it more fun to keep him around. In a way, things might go smoother to just hack off his head and be done with him…but it’s more fun to stumble upon a really awesome riff by luck and dogged determination, play through it a few times to make sure I have it down pat, then turn the volume knob all the way up on the amp or keyboard and play it right in his face.

Small wars breed small victories, and I’ll take ’em where I can get ’em.

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