Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Nice little comic how-to...

And a nice strip as well. Check it out.

My uncle the columnist...

Last week, I gave my uncle who's taking care of my grandmother a call to chat and it so happened my other uncle was in town as well. This uncle lives in Colorado and is a reporter and columnist. Over the course of the conversation he told me that his column was now online every Wednesday so this morning I got up and checked it out. If you'd like a laugh on the proper rules concerning the picking up of dog "presents" at the city park, give it a shot - here. edit- Apparently the column is only available on Wednesdays...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

In the presence of masters...

Lost in a Monet

A friend of mine was in town this weekend and we had a great time hanging out and dreaming a bit about animation possibilities. Saturday we decided to do something special and headed down town to the Chicago Institute of the Art Museum. After locating some parking, slipping on the black ice in the parking lot and paying our entry fees, we stepped through the portal of the ordinary to that of the illuminating. I was unprepared for the breadth of the collection of the museum. I just had no idea they had so much amazing art. Apparently they have one of the largest collections of impressionism in the world here- how sweet is that? Here are a few pics that my friend was so kind enough to send. This is the first piece that really grabbed me. I don't recall the artist's name and I vaguely remember seeing it in one of my art books but the use of color is just passionately vibrant and I made my buddy take a picture of it. My friend admiring what I believe is a Rodin if I remember right. Yet another amazing Monet. This was my favorite of a series of studies of the same scene he did. His work feels so "soft" to me - if that be a usable descriptor. The palette sings the coming of dawn and the rising sun light bathes the ground in brushstrokes of warmth. Saving the best for last. Van Gogh is probably my favorite painter of all time. This was the first time I had ever seen one of his paintings in person (much less multiple ones). Everyone has their favorite artists, but Van Gogh, for me, paints in a way I don't see in other works. He paints not with pigment, but with colored passion etched on a canvas of deep reflection. Every brush stroke is alive with energy and the whole painting vibrates with purposeful gesture. This is a "still life" that is anything but still and is pregnant with life.

What a day.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

And the lion shall lay down with the lamb...

Ran across this story and had a chuckle. Click it, you know you want to:)

I'm a liar...and other stuff

A few weeks ago I wrote that there was gonna be an article in 3d World on The Potter. January's issue has come and gone and I actually was mailed a copy of February's issue which I thought would contain it. Alas it did not. I say I'm a liar because I made a statement based on bad "intelligence" that I believed to be true that turned out to be wrong. The story may turn up in time but for now but, according to the politics of the day, I am a liar. So for making statements I believed to be true, I must and shall be villified. Any takers? Enough satire. Edit 02/06 - A buddy emailed me this morning and informed me that the the article is in the March issue...sweet vindication:) Things are going along fine. I've been coming home and putting in 4-6 hours a night into this freelance gig I've been truckin on. I'm getting close to being done with blocking for the whole thing so I expect to really start moving this weekend. I took a break last night and did a little test render for the client of the set and modeled some flourishes as well and did another pass of polish on surfacing. Getting close on a final set. I received copies of the new Houdini book that used a Potter image over the weekend. The publisher was kind enough to send copies for the whole team so I gotta make a run to UPS. Some buddies got me to try site called last week. It seems pretty sweet for maintaining connections and broadening your industry connections. Give it a whirl.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A few more...

I really wish I could sleep later than 8:00am on a weekend. It seems my body just won't allow it anymore. Plenty to do today, lots of animation to block and plenty of tunes to jam to doing it. It's amazing how much reading old writings can bring you back to where you were when you wrote those words. Any art in which we must dip the brush into our very soul will surely bear that mark. We fix something of ourselves to that moment of creation - time does not dim its illumination even if those feelings are much changed upon reflection. And tracing from then to now, we see where we've been and hopefully if we turn around we catch a glimpse of where we're going. Continuing the look a old writings, I've got a varied collection today. Swimming in a Cynic's Sea - 1998 I drift and sink amidst the hypocrisy Of myself and of that which I carelessly say; Wishing there an end to this seekers road- Islands of peace on which to rest. I question you until there is no you That I see; For all of my inquiries Fill the void of my mind until I feel As if I will burst into a thousand shards Of a once stable son. All I desire is to know and follow you- You call and all I do is run Back to my cynic's sea and find comfort In the insanity of a void of concrete truth And an ocean of contemplation fills my gaping mouth Till all I taste is the salt of the faithless' sea And I wait to be thrown out And be trampled by men- For I fear I will never be salty again. Loss - 1997 Which way is up? Which way is down? They reach and surround me without a sound or whisper; Enveloping me with dark hands full of blood (It tastes like wine); Offering sensuous delights for Ecstasy for a night, no hidden cost, no sense of loss (until morning). The Son rises and finds me asleep in the light; clutching the fruit of the season's container, Oh, my beloved Sustainer! What has become of my steadfast heart? "My child, but open your eyes, look and perceive: surely it is more blessed to give than receive; Or did you not know...the wine you drank was the blood of infant saints made sweet by but a lie of generosity." Conformity - 1995 Standing in a masquerade; Keeping step in life's parade grows old and silly; Yet I see the mask I hold in my hands is just what conformity demands. They just wouldn't understand the me I want to be is not the me they daily see; So as they perceive, I become; God, that sounds awfully dumb.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Alienation - 1995ish

He sits, They move, He speaks, They go on in their conversations ignoring his petition, Signed by countless hands of alienation personified In the hands of Old Man friendship; The darkness illuminated by a dim candle of Truth That is snuffed time and time again by noses looking too high To see him, standing alone. He is every man or woman At some time or another; Searching for affirmation In accolades that never could nor would Come from a world that doesn't care Nor sees its own hand stabbing at the hearts of children Who just want to feel love. The piper of this world plays his fife And finds many who follow in blind obedience To where they know not and care not and would rather not know. And he sits She sits And waits until someone says, "Hello."

Old Thoughts...

When I was in the Marines and some in High School, I wrote a lot of poetry. I thought a hard drive crash a few years back had wiped out most of it. I found some old hand written journal portions of it recently and was thumbing through it today. Much of it is sappy and hopelessly romantic writing from the countless times I “fell in and out of love” and is pretty cheezy looking back at now. However, some of it still speaks to me. I thought I’d share a little at the request of a friend. I actually found one that was pertinent to this "looking back" - back when I was blogging before there were blogs. This is from 1997 or so.

"Write." What kind of command is that? But this is what I feel the Spirit of God telling me. I search the wrinkles of my mind for something worth writing, some insight, some new concept that would possibly be worth someone's time and effort to sit some quiet afternoon and delve into. Yet nothing comes to mind except a silent melody that has been written on the stanzas of my life and whose harmony finds its way every now and then to perceivable decibels of my heart's ear.

Everyone has a symphony of sorts etched into the fabric of their souls that God has been playing and writing since the dawn of time and even before our recognizable history. Each staccato cry of a newborn begins another symphony's opening night. The Psalms say, "All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be." Perhaps it isn't a book that God keeps of our lives, but a concerto. Maybe each experience, each moment in our existence is another measure being played on the strings of our hearts, the percussion of our thoughts, and the winds of our souls. We can learn lessons in the music if we listen close enough. Maybe you'll find some of the same harmonies in your life's song that you see in mine as I attempt to play some of the most important movements on an, often inadequate, instrument of written language.

Memories are funny things, as I'm sure you know, they came be clear as crystal one moment and the next be nothing more than a faint and diminishing dream. We're lucky to live in the age that we do that we can go back and jar the stubborn memories free with photos and diaries, home movies and even public, though hopefully not criminal, records. We all enjoy every now and then seeing an old yearbook or a drawing we made in school when our grips were not so refined and pencils were held more frequently as "swords" than as instruments of expression. To look back in our lives at the valleys of pain and learning, the mountains of joy and ecstasy, the woods of doubt, past crossroads of decision to where we find our selves makes the dim view we have of our futures seem not so bleak- but hopeful of a better day.

I think I know why God told me to write, and that can be best wrapped in words that aren't mine but for the life of me, I can't place who said them at the moment: "You know best where you're going by looking back at where you've been."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Girl Scout Cookies...

Yesterday I walked into the lunch room with every intention of eating "right"- I had my Lean Cuisine (which are quite tasty by the way) and a thing of Jello-pudding. As I was setting my stuff on the table, I saw a pile of boxes - Girl Scout cookies and a pay-by-honor coffee can. I quickly scanned the pile and was both happy and sad to not find my personal box of vice in the pile. With a little sigh, I began to sit down when the guy selling these cookies for his daughter walks in and my friends and I make a joke about it and he says he'll go get some more. As he walks out the room, I asked him, "You wouldn't have any Thin Mints would you?" He did. My will power put up a valiant fight for all of, say, 3 seconds and my hand went for my wallet. They are in my opinion the greatest cookie currently being mass produced- coming second only to really great home made chocolate chip cookies. By the end of the day, I had 4 to take home to dip in some milk. The rest had succumbed to, in a minor extent, the appetites of fellow coworkers and mostly to my own crazy eyed cookie desire. I'm grateful that I only get the opportunity to purchase them once a year or so.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Commencement speech by one of my favorite Artists...

This is the 1990 commencement speech of Bill Watterson at Kenyon College. He is, in my opinion, the writer of the greatest comic strip yet written and I think this speech shows a little of why that was. I have no idea who to ask if I can reprint this, so I'm just gonna do it. If you know who would, by all means let me know.

Speech by Bill Watterson

Kenyon College, Gambier Ohio, to the 1990 graduating class.

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE REAL WORLD BY ONE WHO GLIMPSED IT AND FLED Bill Watterson Kenyon College Commencement May 20, 1990

I have a recurring dream about Kenyon. In it, I'm walking to the post office on the way to my first class at the start of the school year. Suddenly it occurs to me that I don't have my schedule memorized, and I'm not sure which classes I'm taking, or where exactly I'm supposed to be going. As I walk up the steps to the postoffice, I realize I don't have my box key, and in fact, I can't remember what my box number is. I'm certain that everyone I know has written me a letter, but I can't get them. I get more flustered and annoyed by the minute. I head back to Middle Path, racking my brains and asking myself, "How many more years until I graduate? ...Wait, didn't I graduate already?? How old AM I?" Then I wake up.

Experience is food for the brain. And four years at Kenyon is a rich meal. I suppose it should be no surprise that your brains will probably burp up Kenyon for a long time. And I think the reason I keep having the dream is because its central image is a metaphor for a good part of life: that is, not knowing where you're going or what you're doing.

I graduated exactly ten years ago. That doesn't give me a great deal of experience to speak from, but I'm emboldened by the fact that I can't remember a bit of MY commencement, and I trust that in half an hour, you won't remember of yours either.

In the middle of my sophomore year at Kenyon, I decided to paint a copy of Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" from the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling of my dorm room. By standing on a chair, I could reach the ceiling, and I taped off a section, made a grid, and started to copy the picture from my art history book.

Working with your arm over your head is hard work, so a few of my more ingenious friends rigged up a scaffold for me by stacking two chairs on my bed, and laying the table from the hall lounge across the chairs and over to the top of my closet. By climbing up onto my bed and up the chairs, I could hoist myself onto the table, and lie in relative comfort two feet under my painting. My roommate would then hand up my paints, and I could work for several hours at a stretch.

The picture took me months to do, and in fact, I didn't finish the work until very near the end of the school year. I wasn't much of a painter then, but what the work lacked in color sense and technical flourish, it gained in the incongruity of having a High Renaissance masterpiece in a college dorm that had the unmistakable odor of old beer cans and older laundry. The painting lent an air of cosmic grandeur to my room, and it seemed to put life into a larger perspective. Those boring, flowery English poets didn't seem quite so important, when right above my head God was transmitting the spark of life to man. My friends and I liked the finished painting so much in fact, that we decided I should ask permission to do it. As you might expect, the housing director was curious to know why I wanted to paint this elaborate picture on my ceiling a few weeks before school let out. Well, you don't get to be a sophomore at Kenyon without learning how to fabricate ideas you never had, but I guess it was obvious that my idea was being proposed retroactively. It ended up that I was allowed to paint the picture, so long as I painted over it and returned the ceiling to normal at the end of the year. And that's what I did.

Despite the futility of the whole episode, my fondest memories of college are times like these, where things were done out of some inexplicable inner imperative, rather than because the work was demanded. Clearly, I never spent as much time or work on any authorized art project, or any poli sci paper, as I spent on this one act of vandalism.

It's surprising how hard we'll work when the work is done just for ourselves. And with all due respect to John Stuart Mill, maybe utilitarianism is overrated. If I've learned one thing from being a cartoonist, it's how important playing is to creativity and happiness. My job is essentially to come up with 365 ideas a year. If you ever want to find out just how uninteresting you really are, get a job where the quality and frequency of your thoughts determine your livelihood. I've found that the only way I can keep writing every day, year after year, is to let my mind wander into new territories. To do that, I've had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness.

We're not really taught how to recreate constructively. We need to do more than find diversions; we need to restore and expand ourselves. Our idea of relaxing is all too often to plop down in front of the television set and let its pandering idiocy liquefy our brains. Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery-it recharges by running. You may be surprised to find how quickly daily routine and the demands of "just getting by: absorb your waking hours. You may be surprised to find how quickly you start to see your politics and religion become matters of habit rather than thought and inquiry. You may be surprised to find how quickly you start to see your life in terms of other people's expectations rather than issues. You may be surprised to find out how quickly reading a good book sounds like a luxury.

At school, new ideas are thrust at you every day. Out in the world, you'll have to find the inner motivation to search for new ideas on your own. With any luck at all, you'll never need to take an idea and squeeze a punchline out of it, but as bright, creative people, you'll be called upon to generate ideas and solutions all your lives. Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems. For me, it's been liberating to put myself in the mind of a fictitious six year-old each day, and rediscover my own curiosity. I've been amazed at how one ideas leads to others if I allow my mind to play and wander. I know a lot about dinosaurs now, and the information has helped me out of quite a few deadlines. A playful mind is inquisitive, and learning is fun. If you indulge your natural curiosity and retain a sense of fun in new experience, I think you'll find it functions as a sort of shock absorber for the bumpy road ahead.

So, what's it like in the real world? Well, the food is better, but beyond that, I don't recommend it.

I don't look back on my first few years out of school with much affection, and if I could have talked to you six months ago, I'd have encouraged you all to flunk some classes and postpone this moment as long as possible. But now it's too late. Unfortunately, that was all the advice I really had. When I was sitting where you are, I was one of the lucky few who had a cushy job waiting for me. I'd drawn political cartoons for the Collegian for four years, and the Cincinnati Post had hired me as an editorial cartoonist. All my friends were either dreading the infamous first year of law school, or despondent about their chances of convincing anyone that a history degree had any real application outside of academia.

Boy, was I smug.

As it turned out, my editor instantly regretted his decision to hire me. By the end of the summer, I'd been given notice; by the beginning of winter, I was in an unemployment line; and by the end of my first year away from Kenyon, I was broke and living with my parents again. You can imagine how upset my dad was when he learned that Kenyon doesn't give refunds. Watching my career explode on the lauchpad caused some soul searching. I eventually admitted that I didn't have what it takes to be a good political cartoonist, that is, an interest in politics, and I returned to my firs love, comic strips. For years I got nothing but rejection letters, and I was forced to accept a real job.

A REAL job is a job you hate. I designed car ads and grocery ads in the windowless basement of a convenience store, and I hated every single minute of the 4-1/2 million minutes I worked there. My fellow prisoners at work were basically concerned about how to punch the time clock at the perfect second where they would earn another 20 cents without doing any work for it. It was incredible: after every break, the entire staff would stand around in the garage where the time clock was, and wait for that last click. And after my used car needed the head gasket replaced twice, I waited in the garage too.

It's funny how at Kenyon, you take for granted that the people around you think about more than the last episode of Dynasty. I guess that's what it means to be in an ivory tower.

Anyway, after a few months at this job, I was starved for some life of the mind that, during my lunch break, I used to read those poli sci books that I'd somehow never quite finished when I was here. Some of those books were actually kind of interesting. It was a rude shock to see just how empty and robotic life can be when you don't care about what you're doing, and the only reason you're there is to pay the bills. Thoreau said,

"the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."
That's one of those dumb cocktail quotations that will strike fear in your heart as you get older. Actually, I was leading a life of loud desperation.

When it seemed I would be writing about "Midnite Madness Sale-abrations" for the rest of my life, a friend used to console me that cream always rises to the top. I used to think, so do people who throw themselves into the sea.

I tell you all this because it's worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It's a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you'll probably take a few.

I still haven't drawn the strip as long as it took me to get the job. To endure five years of rejection to get a job requires either a faith in oneself that borders on delusion, or a love of the work. I loved the work. Drawing comic strips for five years without pay drove home the point that the fun of cartooning wasn't in the money; it was in the work. This turned out to be an important realization when my break finally came.

Like many people, I found that what I was chasing wasn't what I caught. I've wanted to be a cartoonist since I was old enough to read cartoons, and I never really thought about cartoons as being a business. It never occurred to me that a comic strip I created would be at the mercy of a bloodsucking corporate parasite called a syndicate, and that I'd be faced with countless ethical decisions masquerading as simple business decisions. To make a business decision, you don't need much philosophy; all you need is greed, and maybe a little knowledge of how the game works.

As my comic strip became popular, the pressure to capitalize on that popularity increased to the point where I was spending almost as much time screaming at executives as drawing. Cartoon merchandising is a $12 billion dollar a year industry and the syndicate understandably wanted a piece of that pie. But the more I though about what they wanted to do with my creation, the more inconsistent it seemed with the reasons I draw cartoons. Selling out is usually more a matter of buying in. Sell out, and you're really buying into someone else's system of values, rules and rewards. The so-called "opportunity" I faced would have meant giving up my individual voice for that of a money-grubbing corporation. It would have meant my purpose in writing was to sell things, not say things. My pride in craft would be sacrificed to the efficiency of mass production and the work of assistants. Authorship would become committee decision. Creativity would become work for pay. Art would turn into commerce. In short, money was supposed to supply all the meaning I'd need. What the syndicate wanted to do, in other words, was turn my comic strip into everything calculated, empty and robotic that I hated about my old job. They would turn my characters into television hucksters and T-shirt sloganeers and deprive me of characters that actually expressed my own thoughts.

On those terms, I found the offer easy to refuse. Unfortunately, the syndicate also found my refusal easy to refuse, and we've been fighting for over three years now. Such is American business, I guess, where the desire for obscene profit mutes any discussion of conscience.

You will find your own ethical dilemmas in all parts of your lives, both personal and professional. We all have different desires and needs, but if we don't discover what we want from ourselves and what we stand for, we will live passively and unfulfilled. Sooner or later, we are all asked to compromise ourselves and the things we care about. We define ourselves by our actions. With each decision, we tell ourselves and the world who we are. Think about what you want out of this life, and recognize that there are many kinds of success. Many of you will be going on to law school, business school, medical school, or other graduate work, and you can expect the kind of starting salary that, with luck, will allow you to pay off your own tuition debts within your own lifetime.

But having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another.

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth. You'll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you're doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you'll hear about them.

To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble. Reading those turgid philosophers here in these remote stone buildings may not get you a job, but if those books have forced you to ask yourself questions about what makes life truthful, purposeful, meaningful, and redeeming, you have the Swiss Army Knife of mental tools, and it's going to come in handy all the time.

I think you'll find that Kenyon touched a deep part of you. These have been formative years. Chances are, at least of your roommates has taught you everything ugly about human nature you ever wanted to know. With luck, you've also had a class that transmitted a spark of insight or interest you'd never had before. Cultivate that interest, and you may find a deeper meaning in your life that feeds your soul and spirit. Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you've learned, but in the questions you've learned how to ask yourself. Graduating from Kenyon, I suspect you'll find yourselves quite well prepared indeed.

I wish you all fulfillment and happiness. Congratulations on your achievement.

Bill Watterson

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Yahoo Music... baby!! This is one of the sweetest things I've seen in a long time. A buddy at work was listening to this little personal internet radio and enlightened me to the power of expressing preference. In about 20 minutes, the thing is playing all of my favorite bands and folks I like on the radio but didn't have a clue who they were. You can even listen to your friend's stations. Mine is here. However, it's not quite fully trained yet, so I don't wanna here any complaints if you get some funky polka. It's doing a pretty amazing job on picking for the short time I've been training it. Good internet radio, good boy. No more do I have to get tired of my measely itunes music collection...if only I could get this in my car...

Minor Updateage

  • Discovered this blog by accident that happens to be written by a guy that went to my brother's church halfway across the country...small world.
  • Making progress on my never quite done freelance gig, I gotta thank my client for being so cool with all the schtuff that's been going on to keep progress back. Finally got the disappearing remote set driven rig setup. I also came up with a ball rig that I've not seen used before that I think is gonna be fun to play with. I'm hoping to have the 3d animatic done Friday and get a shot or two animated this weekend.
  • I've been on a classics reading kick, or some mighty say girly reading kick...I read two Jane Austin's - namely Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Call me a sucker for witty humor and chivalry but I thought they were great. The book of Sense and Sensibility was much better than the movie. They left a bit too much out for my taste. Pride and Prejudice was pretty spot on in both the BBC version and the more recent one. I think I'm gonna stay on the classics bent for my fiction reading for a bit though I think a change of authors is due.
  • Found out Andrew Peterson is gonna be putting on a concert within driving distance. He's my current fav musician. If you dig Rich Mullins, you owe it to yourself to at least check him out. The Far Country is my favorite album so far and the artwork for the jacket was done by some friends to boot. I'm gonna try my darnedest to go though I don't know any other fans around...need to find some fast, otherwise, it'll be just Jesus and me (though that's not a bad idea).
Time to hit the rack...

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

The smell of East meets West

Tonight I got home and dutifully climbed my three flights of stairs and as I opened the door to my floor and was greeted to the smell I've come to expect. Now, my building happens to contain a lot folk from India and this is the first time I've lived near a lot of people of that particular ethnicity. It's also interesting that if I come in one door, it's this smell and if I use the other, it's another altogether. All that being said, I'm really struggling to figure out what blend of spices could cause this smell every day. It is even more puzzling because the smell (at least to my nose) is so thoroughly American... Fritos. Completely-overpowering-stick-your-head-in-the-bag frito smell. If I could bottle it, I'd bet there'd be a market for it- Junk food perfume! It's a heck of a lot nicer smell to come home to than Pine Sol. The fact that I've not had a frito since I can't remember may perhaps be causing some of my nostalgic euphoria here, but that's okay with me.

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