Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Same As It Ever Was

Sunny and I have been considering getting another cat for a while and after hearing that my dog Jake had died at the grand old age of seventeen back in England, the time just seemed right. If you're wondering why I haven't posted about Jake's death, it's simply because it's really hard for me to think of him without seriously losing my shit. I'm not one of those people who treats their pets like their children…but let's just say that Jake was just as big a member of my family as I am.

Anyway, we visited the local animal shelter and I have to say that I honestly don't know how the staff members there manage it. Those places are run on donations and are seriously understaffed and underfunded. After walking through the dog cages to get to the cats, I was seriously close to tears. I'll admit, a lot of that emotion came from thinking about Jake, but to see so many gorgeous, healthy dogs living in concrete cages in a room that stunk to high heaven of ammonia was heart-breaking.

So, before I go any further, if you're thinking about getting a pet, visit your local animal shelter instead of going to a breeder.

Anyway we picked out a black and white cat, although I'm not sure if he picked us. Most of the cats there acted like cats…indifferent and uninterested. This one reached through the bars of his cage and grabbed me as I walked past and started trying to rub the sides of his head on me through the bars.

Now, Buddy has shared our house with five or more cats over the past six or so years as we've taken in strays. In fact, in many ways getting a cat was more for Buddy than for ourselves as he still starts whining and demands we open the front door every time he hears a cat on TV. However, we asked if they knew how the cat got on with dogs.

We were told that the cat was adopted by a member of staff who brought him back because the cats she already had were beating on him. However, he was apparently fine with dogs and all other kinds of animals. You know what? I totally believed her…especially when I carried the cat through the room with all the dogs barking and he just lay in my arms, purring without a care in the world.

The way I saw it, if I could carry this cat through a room filled with barking dogs, he'd be fine with one dog.

So, when I walked through the front door and introduced him to Buddy, I was expecting Buddy to treat the cat like a new toy like he usually does and the cat to be a little miffed, but relaxed.

Instead, the cat totally freaked out, turned into a whirlwind of teeth and claws, shredded the skin on my forearms and tore around the room like a firework, knocking over lamps and furniture in the process.

Luckily, this is exactly how Leonard reacted, and the two were the best of friends after a couple of days. The down side is that Leonard was a kitten when we got him and couldn't cause much property damage during the adjustment period.

The only thing I'm a little worried about is that Leonard could box Buddy's ears all day long without Buddy caring. The new cat is a lot bigger and has long, sharp claws (which my forearms can confirm), so if the cat attacks Buddy and forces him to retaliate and things escalate…things could get very nasty very quickly.

We haven't named him yet as we're waiting to see what his personality is like. Hopefully he'll settle in and tolerate Buddy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why do they do that?

I was intensely bored today, so I decided to swap out my 50x9 scope on my rifle for my red-dot reflector sight.

It's something I've been wanting to do for a while, but swapping them is a major pain in means removing the Weaver-style rail to fit the red-dot's dovetail mount.

Anyway, I swapped them out and zeroed the red dot.

Now, I absolutely adore my red-dot because it's turns my rifle into a whole new weapon. With a 9X scope, my rifle's all about setting up a target at a hundred yards, getting down in the prone position, controlling my breathing and firing that one perfect shot right through the center of a one inch target. With the red-dot mounted, it's about setting up a line of cans, slapping in the 30 round magazine and seeing how fast you can knock the cans over (or better yet, filling the cans with water and using hollow points so they leap into the air and explode when you hit them).

Sure, playing sniper is fun, but tin cans and a red dot have a sort of hi-tech shooting gallery feel. You see, shooting a .22 at a hundred yards with a powerful scope is like a math lesson. You have to calculate bullet drop, wind deflection and all kinds of things that affect the path of the bullet. With a red dot at 25 yards, you just look through the reflector, put the red dot where you want the bullet to go and pull the trigger.

If you're not sure what a red-dot sight is, think of it as a 'laserless laser sight'. You're basically looking through a piece of glass that has a red dot projected onto it. If you've ever played COD: Modern Warfare, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Now here's the thing, I adore my red-dot sight because it holds its zero well, and it was extremely cheap at about forty bucks (and you can get the same model now for $20 from Walmart). However, using it today reminded me of a user review of it that I read just before I bought it.

"This sight gives amazing accuracy! I'm talking about shooting bottle-caps at a hundred yards!!!!!"

Ummmm, no….it doesn't… and you can't.

You see, anyone who knows anything about shooting will tell you that a red-dot reflector sight isn't about pin-point accuracy, it's about fast target acquisition…it's why the army uses them on their assault rifles where the name of the game isn't pin-point accuracy but putting a bullet in a chest-sized target at less than a hundred yards as quickly as possible.

I don't understand why people feel the need to lie about the products they buy. If you like something, tell me you like it, but don't make shit up. This sight is awesome for short range plinking, but flat out useless for long range accuracy. You're reviewing a product and claiming it can do something that it not only can't do, but something it was never designed to do.

Ah, I can tell you're getting ready to comment already. Ah, but Paulius, maybe he can hit bottle-caps with that sight at a hundred yards! Just because you can't doesn't mean it's impossible!

Well, actually…you're wrong. Not because I can't do it, and I'm not saying it's impossible to get lucky, but you simply can't hit a bpttle-cap sized target consistently using this sight.

You see, the model sight this guy reviewed has a 5 MOA (Minute Of Angle) dot. In simplest terms this means that the projected dot you use to aim with covers a five inch circle at a hundred yards, meaning the dot is covering an area roughly five times the area of a bottle-cap.

Basically, set up a bottle cap at 100 yards and putting the dot on the target means you're completely covering it as the dot is over five times the size of the target.

So, the moral of the story, like the moral of so many of my stories is…

Don't lie, don't be a dick and make sure that if you're so full of shit it comes out of your mouth, don't burden me with it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Crystalix Portrait

This is what we got done in Gatlinburg, more on it tommorrow
video

Gatlinburg – Part One

Flickr Photostream of the trip here – Check out the black David Hasselhoff!

Well, Sunny and I got back from our long weekend in Gatlinburg yesterday and we had an absolute blast.

Gatlinburg is somewhere I can describe, with confidence, as a 'bit strange'. If you're a Brit, it's easy to describe, it's like the bastard offspring of Blackpool and Southport. A flashing-light adorned tourist trap that isn't afraid to be really tacky…but I mean that in a good way.

During our first walk down Gatlinburg's mile and a half long main strip I discovered something interesting. Apart from the five or six big attractions that you actually travel to Gatlinburg to see, like the awesome aquarium or the Guinness World Records museum, Gatlinburg is honestly made up of the same five or six shops over and over. The really weird thing is that one group of these cloned stores sells swords, knives, stun guns and air-soft guns.

Who goes on vacation and thinks "Hmm, you know what would be an awesome souvenir? A 300,000 watt stun gun and a three foot daichi!"

One thing that quickly became a running gag was just how many 'old time photo' places there were. These are places where you get dressed up in Wild West style clothes, stand in front of a saloon or jail set and get a sepia tone picture taken. Bear in mind that the main strip was only about a mile and a half long…I counted eighteen separate 'old time photo' places.

Seriously, is there that much demand for old time pictures?

The big highlights for me were the Ripley's Aquarium and the 'Star Car' museum. The aquarium was absolutely amazing and the only let down was shortly after getting inside I realized I'd only brought my still camera and not my video camera. As anyone who's tried to take pictures at an aquarium will tell you, it's incredibly tough. Camera flashes don't penetrate water worth a damn and reflect of the side of the tank meaning you get a lot of pictures of the reflection of your own flash…but turn it off and you get all that awesome light and color…with the fish looking like nothing but blurs.

The only other big problem is I think the Giant Chinese Spider Crabs will give me nightmares for as long as I live. Those things are absolutely huge (in the six-foot wide, three foot tall category) and they look exactly like gigantic, armored spiders.

The Star Car museum managed to be both awesome and hilarious. It was a very strange mix of awesome iconic cars, cheap presentation and obvious filler.

For example, the Back to the Future DeLorean, the Michael Keaton era Batmobile, Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters and KITT from Knight Rider made me feel like I was five years old again. I wasn't too impressed with the BMW from 'The World is Not Enough'…but I peed a little when I saw that in a display case next to it they had the golden gun from 'The Man With the Golden Gun' (obviously) and the wrist dart-gun from Thunderball. When I saw that Ecto-1 (which is essentially my childhood made corporeal) had been signed on the roof lining by the entire ghostbusters cast…I sqee'd and peed a little at the same time.

The funny thing was that the overall presentation was absolutely laughable. From the things only nerds like me would notice (They had a Val Kilmer batman Mannequin next to Michael Keaton's Batmobile), to the plain and downright ridiculous. For example, the David Hasselhoff mannequin was black and the Tom Cruise mannequin movies appeared to have Sarah Palin's hair.

The thing that really made me laugh, however, were some of the cars that didn't really have the 'star' part to go with it.

For example, you walk through the doors and right away there's Bumblebee from the new Transformers movie and then you see KITT and Ecto-1. Then you see…a Lamborghini that once belonged to Mike Tyson…but that's not so bad because it's still an awesome looking car…you can appreciate it as a machine. However, then you go upstairs, and right next to the Batmobile there's a 2003 cadillac that Dolly Parton was once driven to an airport in. Then, next to a 50's army jeep (signed by Alan Alda from MASH) there's…wait for it…Anna Nicole Smith's Jaguar!

I mean, come on! If I see a car in the street and someone says "Anna Nicole used to own that", I'd find that mildly interesting. However, put that car next to KITT and Ecto-1 and I've moved into a whole new dimension of not giving a shit.

The last thing I really want to mention, just because it's so cool, was the Crystalix picture we got made to commemorate our anniversary. However, this is getting long and I have a video to post with that, so I'll leave that for next time.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thinking won’t kill you, you know.

I was accused recently of 'not caring about the environment'. That's wrong. I do care about the environment…I'm just not incredibly stupid about it.

You see, most of these so-called 'green' things that have become so popular over the past few years just aren't all that green at all.

For example, the Toyota Prius. I hate these cars because they're slow and downright ugly, but that's just the start. These 'green' cars have actually done more damage to the environment before they're driven off the lot than a Landrover Discovery does over an average operational lifetime.

How? Well, the nickel for the batteries is pulled out of an open face mine in south America, then shipped all the way to Europe where it's refined, then put on big polluting trucks and trucked all the way to Japan where it's put in the batteries and into the cars…and then the cars are shipped all the way back around the world to America. Oh, and once the batteries need replacing, those toxic chemicals and non-biodegradable plastic spend eternity in a landfill.

Not so 'green' now, right?

This is the biggest part of the problem. People are jumping on the green bandwagon and not taking into account the damage these 'green' things have already done…or the things they do by proxy.

Sticking with cars for a moment, let's look at the purely electric cars like the Tesla. Firstly, these cars are ridiculously impractical. For example, the Tesla has a supposed range of 200 miles. Even if we forget that this 200 mile range is incredibly optimistic, this means that this is a car that you can never drive more than a hundred miles from your home.

You see, you can fill a regular car with fuel and carry on. Even if gas stations became electricity stations, the Tesla takes over eight hours to fully charge, meaning you need to stop overnight for every 200 miles you drive.

But that's not the most important point about electric cars. Sure, electric engines have zero emissions themselves, but where do you think all that electricity come from in the first place? That's right, the highly polluting coal-burning power station down the road. Claiming electric engines don't pollute is like claiming you're a vegetarian because you buy your meat at the grocery store where no animals are harmed. In many ways it's like nuclear power. Nuclear power stations don't pollute at all, no carbon, no nohing, no pollutants whatsoever…as long as you don't count the spent fuel rods that stay radioactive for millions of years.

It's not that I love gas-guzzlers. The problem is simply that you can get better mileage (and therefore do far less environmental damage) in a bog standard diesel car than you can in a Hybrid, and electric cars are ridiculously impractical. However, all we need to do is wait until Hydrogen cars are perfected, something we're well on the way to doing. Hydrogen cars have the same range and performance as gas cars, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and you can refuel just as quickly and easily as you can in a gas car.

The problem here is that all the money and research that could give us hydrogen powered cars in the next ten years is being wasted on electric cars because they're fashionable and all the Hollywood stars drive them. We're basically spending all our time and effort on working out more efficient ways to drag things along the ground while ignoring the guy who's trying to perfect the wheel.

Then we come to the things that really annoy me.

Take Britta and the 'Wottle'. Britta decided to release a whole line of refillable plastic water bottles, supposedly so people would reuse them and stop buying bottled water. When I heard people praising Britta and going on about what an awesome idea this was, I felt like I was the only sane person left in the nuthouse.

Think about it. In a world where there are already millions of perfectly reusable plastic bottles sitting on supermarket shelves with water in them, Britta 'combat waste' by manufacturing hundreds of thousands more non-biodegradable plastic bottles. Why didn't they just tell people to keep hold of and reuse the plastic bottles they already have?

Answer, because he 'Wottle' has nothing to do with saving the environment. It's about Britta making a profit by latching onto this popular 'green' trend.

It's the same with the reusable shopping bags that have become so popular now. Firstly, people own tote bags anyway, so manufacturing more just for shopping is already a waste. Secondly, they're not manufactured locally, meaning they're shipped halfway around the world on a nice big polluting cargo ship…and thirdly, regular, plain old plastic shopping bags are just as re-usable. I've been using the same Aldi freezer-bags for well over six months now, not because I want to save the environment, but just because I don't like throwing perfectly good things away for no reason.

Basically, all I'm asking of people is to think before they open their mouths. The people who champion the Prius are people who are getting their information from a business that wants to sell them cars. Britta just wants to make a profit and Wal-Mart wants to show how 'green' they are with their new bags because it's good for business.

Just think about it. The reality of the situation is that you can pull up at the traffic lights in your big 4X4, with plastic shopping bags in the back, drinking from a plastic water bottle and you are doing significantly less damage to the environment than the dude next to you sitting in his Prius, drinking water from a re-usable 'wottle' with the back of his car filled with those hemp shopping bags.

Well, not filled with bags, obviously…he'd never be able to pull away from the lights otherwise.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Greedy Fucking Bastards

You know what, I really am getting sick to death of this minority of assholes ruining everything.

You see, the internet is awesome, and do you know why it's awesome? Because it's a totally level playing field. Because the internet is a level playing field I can write a blog that's read all over the world, people can run businesses from their homes or start their own internet based TV shows, radio shows or art galleries.

But you know what? Those same greedy-assed motherfuckers want to kick over the game board, flat out ruin the internet…just so they can make themselves rich. In my opinion that's like patenting written language and refusing to let anyone read or write anything without lining your pockets.

In case you're wondering what I'm talking about, I'm talking about the bill Time Warner tried to sneak through a few days ago (that was luckily stopped in it's tracks thanks to freepress.net) and the 'telecoms package' that's getting decided in Europe today.

In a nutshell, here's what they're trying to do. Apparently paying around sixty bucks a month for internet access isn't enough. What the cable companies want to do is decide what you can and can't see on the internet and charge you extra for things that aren't basic web surfing and email.

So you'd get your usual sixty dollar bill, but if you want to use internet telephony like skype or vonage, that'll be an extra ten bucks please. Oh, you listen to streaming radio or want to watch streaming movies through a service like NetFlix? That's another ten dollars. What's that? You crochet quilts and sell them online? They you want the business package.

Basically, they want to turn internet access into a cable TV type of service where you pay a basic fee plus a lot more for any 'extras'…extras being the normal day to day things we take for granted like streaming music through iTunes etc.

In short, what this whole thing is about is a group of greedy motherfuckers who didn't have the foresight or vision to understand what the internet would mean and buried their heads in the sand when the internet was taking off, and now they've suddenly realized that a lot of people are making a lot of money…so they want to destroy everything the internet is so they can line their pockets. Oh, and just to be clear on that, they're already making billions, they just want more like the greedy fuckwits they are.

This honestly scares the shit out of me because at this point I'm really starting to understand just how bottomless human greed can be. How people will fuck anyone and everyone over to put a little more money in their own pockets.

The thing is, it's really easy to just shrug and say "Ah, it'll never happen."…but if that's your attitude, get ready to be telling your kids in ten years how you used to be able to send an email for free and could look at websites from all over the world instead of just the few hundred corporate sites that are available now.

Then again, why am I even bothering? 99% of the people who will read this will say something along the lines of "Well, I don't have an online store/use skype/listen to podcasts. It doesn't effect me!"…and then the greatest communication system ever created becomes another corporate controlled system for delivering advertisements. Fuck creativity, fuck competition and fuck the little guy. As long as some douchebag who doesn't even understand how the internet works gets a massive 'campaign contribution' and the head of Time Warner makes fifty million this year instead of forty.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blogging.

Sunny said in her latest post:

"I was much more interesting when I first started blogging.

No two ways about it- I had much more interesting things to write about then. I could somehow twist the mundane into some semblance of humor.

But as the years have passed, my world has changed....things have happened that brought my world crashing down about my ears and it shows in my writing."

You know what? I completely disagree.

As Evan said in his latest blog, people constantly change anyway, but reading your old blog posts isn't really a way to gauge how you've changed.

Blogging is a pretty strange activity. I remember back in the early 90's when someone told me about 'This website where people write diaries and then put them online'. Online diaries? Why would anyone put something so personal online? Well, the truth is, blogging really is nothing like a diary.

Everyone starts a blog for the same reason. We want people to read it. It's our own personal editorial column and we're going to write such awesome stuff that we're going to be famous. So, starting out, we all make a conscious decision to be entertaining and put a hell of a lot of effort into our posts. Like Sunny said, she would 'twist the mundane into some semblance of humor' and that's because when you start a blog you're constantly on the lookout for something interesting to write about.

Back when I first started blogging I actually carried a small notebook around with me to jot down ideas for posts as they arrived. When I wrote a blog post I'd go through four or five drafts to make sure each post was as punchy and polished as possible. Getting stuck behind a doddery old lady at the grocery store would become a thousand-word wonder about old ladies trying to draw money out of ATM's with their library card and trying to change the channel on the TV with their their glasses case.

Then, about a year or so later, one of two things happen. You get bored and quit or your blog becomes just another part of your routine and a way to communicate with a small group of people.

Basically, I blog today because it's become a habit. It's an outlet for when I have something I want to share or rant about. I don't write for the specific purpose of entertaining as many people as possible anymore. Basically, this is my blog, this is what *I* want to write about, and if you don't like it, don't read it.

If you go back to the very first post on this blog you'll find a satirical piece about Televangelists in which I try so desperately to be funny it's almost pathetic. Where I to write that post today, it would probably be a few short paragraphs on how I really dislike them for praying on people's gullibility.

Long story short, if you go back through your blog posts, don't be surprised to find a more happy-go-lucky and vibrant person wrote it. That person was trying to appeal to a new audience, today that person just jots some thoughts down on a blog.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

This one I quite like...

Well, The Great eBay Experiment was officially over right up until the moment I stumbled across a site where some talentless asshole was selling prints of his shitty art for six hundred dollars a piece.

I decided to have another go. This time, however, rather than sell on eBay, I decided to set up an Etsy store, simply because it only costs twenty cents to list something for four months.

Anyway, I decided to operate again under the 'sex sells' theory, but decided that if I was going to draw something purely designed to sell, I was at least going to think of something fun and interesting to draw instead of another 'hur hur, you can see her boobs and butt' drawing.

Then, a couple of days ago, Sunny and I were leaving the grocery store and I spotted a deck of cards next to the register and I had an idea. Here it is in all its glory:



Unfortunately it's a big piece so it wouldn't fit in my scanner, so I had to take a picture of it... and I can honestly say it looks a hundred times better in person than it does on the screen.

Don't get me wrong, I look at it and see a hundred things I could have done better, but usually I finish a drawing and like it less and less every time I look at it until I get to the point where I honestly hate it. This time, I only mildly dislike it.

Maybe I can sell it to a horny poker player.

It’s actually not a politics thing…

Well, the inevitable happened. After my short Fox News post yesterday, this appeared in the comments:

"Wow, and I guess you believe everything liberal NBC, CBS, ABC, etc tells you??"

No, I don't believe everything liberal NBC, CBS and ABC tells me. You see, I'm a completely rational adult and I'm capable of thinking for myself. I question everything I hear whether it's what I actually want to hear or not. It's for this exact reason that I hate Fox News.

It honestly cracks me up that people automatically assume my hatred of Fox News is a political thing. As I said in the comments of my previous post, it's not a politics thing it's a 'made up sensationalist bullshit thing.'

Here is exactly what's wrong with Fox News.

Some kid put a website online about his 'experiments' with a new way to get high, which consisted of putting human feces into a jar, sealing it, letting it ferment for a few weeks and then opening the jar and inhaling the fumes.

Fox News ran with the story and they reported on how this 'technique' started in Africa as a way for crack addicts to get high when they couldn't afford crack. How doing this was incredibly dangerous, could result in death and was 'widespread among teenagers'…your kids are probably doing this right now, the story inferred. This wasn't one stupid kid, it was literally, and I quote "A nationwide epidemic".

Awesome, huh? Good reporting to tell parents what to look out for.

Except for one of two things.

Firstly, the whole damn thing was a hoax. The website the kid set up showed a jar he'd filled with water, yellow food dye and nutella. Secondly, there were literally zero…that's right, zero confirmed reports of anyone, teenagers or otherwise, getting high off fermented feces…and even the part about this coming from Africa was completely and totally false. In fact, the only other mention of this technique came from a sci-fi short story from the early 90's.

That is why Fox News sucks. Not because of my political views, but because it is a network that routinely makes shit up off the top of their head for ratings and almost everything they report on is designed to scare the gullible.

I mean, think about it. Someone at Fox became aware of a single teenager's website about huffing poop-fumes and reported it as a lethal nationwide epidemic.

If that doesn't offend you. If being fed complete and total lies doesn't make you angry. If you'll watch and believe everything a news network because it tells you what you want to hear, congratulations, you're beyond stupid.

I don't hate Fox News because I disagree with their politics. I hate Fox News because they present pure, unadulterated fiction as 'news'

Friday, April 17, 2009

A terrifying thought…

I was sitting at the computer this morning and suddenly realized something…

Some people watch Fox News and take it seriously.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A drawing process

I got the drawing itch today and realised I've never posted about my 'process'. Hopefully this will be helpful/interesting to someone.

Step One : The idea

The first thing to do, obviously, is decide what to draw. I've been on a bit of a D&D kick recently so I decided I was going to draw a nice piece of fantasy art. I decided on a sorceress, because boobies are fun to draw.

Of course 'a sorceress' could be almost anything. which brings me to:

Step Two : Concepts and gesture sketch.
Depending on the idea, I'll draw anywhere from one or two to twenty or thirty of these to come up with a basic idea to build on. Mostly at this stage I'm just trying to work out the basic composition and pose. This idea arrived almost fully formed in my head, so this was only about one of three quick concept sketches I came up with. . My sorceress was going to be standing in a heroic pose holding a magical staff. To add a lot more interest, I decided she was going to be a 'windswept heroine', with long hair and a costume that would billow in the wind.

Just to clear up a few questions I've been asked, a gesture sketch is simply to nail ideas down and see if the pose works etc. It's not supposed to be detailed or pretty. If this was a story I was writing instead of an image I was drawing, a gesture sketch is the equivalent of those few rough noes before the first draft. The goal is to get your idea down as quickly and in as few lines as possible. As rough as this is, if you look at the final image you see that all the main elements and features that make up the drawing are here in this sketch.

In case you're wondering, this sketch is barely a couple of inches high on a piece of plain old printer paper and took less than thirty seconds to draw.

Step Three : A Tighter Concept Sketch
Depending on what the drawing is and how detailed I'm being this step can vary by a hell of a lot. As this was just a fairly quick drawing I was doing for fun, this one stayed very loose and sketchy. However, depending on how much time I'm taking, this step can become almost as involved as rendering the final image. I may take a few pages of my sketchbook and work out exactly what the staff looks like, or what the design on the broach that holds her coat together looks like, etc

This is also where an idea evolves and some 'happy accidents' can happen. For example, in my original idea, she was going to be wearing a long, flowing dress/gown but I quickly realized that this meant 99% of her figure would be covered and I'd essentially be drawing a flag with hands and feet...so I decided on an open-fronted coat, which evolved into a half-dress half coat...and she was originally wearing trousers and boots, but as I put down the line to signify a crease where her legs meet her pelvis, it suddenly looked like she was wearing shorts...and as everyone knows, Fantasy Art females never wear anything even remotely practical (Fantasy art is the home of the female warrior in the chainmail bikini.)

Again, this sketch is only a couple of inches high and if you look closely you can see the basic shapes and 'stick figure' I used to build up the pose. This one I spent about two or three minutes on...any more than that and you're just wasting time.

Step Four : Tight Pencils
Ok, I have a confession to make, it was only after I got to this point that I decided to write this post, so I missed out a huge chunk of how I actually draw. However, my main drawing process is similar to what you see above at the concept stage in that this drawing started out as a lot of basic shapes. I generally start by blocking in the head, then the spine and ribcage, then the pelvis, before adding the limbs. Basically, you work out the structure with simple shapes and then build up the drawing from there.

In case you're wondering, at this point I'm working with a very hard 4h lead on 11x14 smooth surface Bristol board, a very thick, high-quality paper hat takes ink really well. I use a very hard lead and draw as lightly as possible because all of what you see here is going to be erased after I ink over it and as well as leftover pencil marks being ugly, the lead can actually dig into and crease the paper if you press oo hard.

Step Five : The Inks
No matter what anyone tells you, inking is NOT tracing, and it's jus as important and difficult to do as drawing in the first place. As you can tell from the above, if I'm a novice drawer, I'm an absolute beginner as an inker.

I use a crow-quill inking pen with a Hunt #102 nib for inking because it offers such an awesome amount of line variation. They're extremely tricky to use (for example, do anything other than pull the pen towards you and the nib digs into the paper and just vomits ink all over he page), but they add something you just can't get with PITT or Micron pens (fine-liners, essentially).

I have a really annoying habit of deciding to change elements of my drawing at this stage and this usually ends badly. I was always going to draw her with tattooed dots above her left eye, but for some reason I decided to add more as I was inking...and it was only after I put down the very permanent and indelible ink that I realised the dots on her chin make it look a lot like she has the beginnings of a goatee.

The inking process is one of those things that's easy in the same way chess is easy. You can grasp the basics in a matter of hours but it can take a lifetime to master...it's why I get really annoyed when I hear people talking about inking as if it's just tracing.

Basically, you start in the upper left and work your way down to the lower right, because unlike PITT or Micron pens, India Ink from a crow-quill can take a few minutes to dry and there's nothing like getting to the end of your drawing an accidentally dragging your hand through the ink. (I managed to do this once on this drawing, which is why I keep a supply of white-out handy.

I've found that 99% of inking comes down to practice and confidence. It's a real balancing act because inking a line too slowly and deliberately results in the line showing every slight shake of your hand...and while inking a line quickly and confidently results in a nice smooth line, it also increases the chances of you ending up with a perfectly smooth line in completely the wrong place.

Step Six : Learn!

This is the most important step that most people completely ignore. This is where I've finished my drawing, took a nice long break and then I go over it to see what worked, what didn't and what I'd do differently next time. To be completely honest I think at times I'm a little too self critical as I almost universally end up hating anything I've drawn!

For example, on this image I really didn't spend nearly enough time on the hair, the eyes are a little wonky and I'll certainly never do facial tattoos again without penciling them first. I also feel that the way her coat is billowing looks a little weak. With the way the wind is affecting her hair, the tail of the coat should be almost completely horizontal. This drawing also highlighted to me that I need to work on drawing fabric and realistic folds as the sleeves and where the boots 'crumple' at her knees just looks wonky.

Anyway, that's how I draw. If anyone's interested I may post another one of these showing everything I missed out between the gesture sketch and the final pencils.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Magic Paper

It's not very often I find myself with some actual expertise to share, but I saw something this afternoon that I just had to comment on.

I was looking for a tutorial on a particular inking technique which meant I was visiting a lot of art forums. As I jumped from forum to forum I noticed the same guy asking the same question over and over. He had a link to a tutorial video and was going nuts trying to find the specific make and model clutch-pencil that the tutorial artist was using. Plenty of people told him that the tutorial artist was just using a plain old 5mm clutch-pencil…but this guy wanted the make, model and fricking serial number.

Why?

Because, like most beginners, the guy had got it into his head that having the exact same type of pencil as the guy from his tutorial video would somehow magically make him a better artist.

It would be nice if more expensive equipment would make you a better artist, but unfortunately it doesn't work that way. In fact, as a beginner I'd recommend staying on the cheaper side. Speaking from experience, back when I first started I bought an expensive hard-bound sketchbook and never used it…the sketchbook looked so nice that I didn't want to 'waste' any of it with 'just a sketch'.

You know what happens to an artist who doesn't want to waste any pages of his sketchbook? He doesn't draw…and if you don't draw, you don't improve.

Basically, my advice is to only buy more equipment when you have a real need for it. I bought a clutch-pencil because I was drawing so much a pencil would only last me a couple of days… and once they're past halfway they're too small for me to control properly.

The truth is, if you're buying a new piece of equipment just because an artist you admire has one, it's going to go to waste. What it boils down to is that if you don't like the way your drawing looks when it's done with a plain old number 2 pencil on a sheet of printer paper, you won't like the way it looks in India ink on Bristol Board.

I don’t get it.

Well, the great eBay experiment is over…the drawing didn't sell the second time around either. Just like last time, there was a good amount of interest, around fifteen people 'watching' the auction…but no-one actually decided to bid.

I honestly feel like I'm missing something now. There's a hidden step or technique that I don't know or understand.

You see, part of my great eBay experiment was just looking at the 'direct from the artist' artwork that's available online, from eBay auctions to private websites… and after a lot of research I honestly see no correlation between talent and success.

For example, this afternoon I was looking through some 'Etsy' stores (Etsy is an online store-front service specifically for hand-made arts and crafts). There's a massive mix of talent and prices on their from awesome art dirt cheap to stuff that's just plain shit for literally thousands of dollars…and after looking at a few stores and the artist's feedback ratings I couldn't find a link between the artist's skill and the amount they sell.

Basically, unless you're famous, it appears your success comes down to a coin flip. I saw gorgeous pieces of art for reasonable prices that had been on sale for months with no interest…and on the other side of the coin, absolute crap selling for literally thousands of dollars. Like the title of this post says, I just don't get it.

You see, the stock answer is that art is subjective, and that's true, but only to a certain point. There are some things you can justify with words like 'style' and 'taste' but some artwork is objectively bad. When someone is selling a realist painting and they've got the proportions wrong, the shading is inconsistent and disagrees with the light source…and the supposed 'beauty' is slightly cross-eyed with a wonky mouth…that's not 'style', that's someone attempting something and failing.

My question is why? Why does some amazing artwork just not sell while pieces of absolute crap fly off the shelves despite the ridiculous prices?

It's something I've noticed all over the internet. If you go to Thisisby.us you'll find the same handful of writers consistently have the highest number of readers and page views despite the fact their work is entirely mediocre, while some insanely talented writers never get more than a handful of readers. Deviantart has some of the most talented artists on the planet, yet most of them are ignored while a handful of talentless shmucks churn out bad anime and get ridiculous numbers of page views.

It really is the same everywhere. Popularity and success appear to have absolutely nothing to do with talent.

Does anyone have any idea what's going on with this, because I honestly can't work it out.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hmmmmm....

I found this on the internet today:



Obviously the joke is 'Hur, hur, that dog's in the fridge!"...but does anyone else think this dog looks almost scarily like a slightly annoyed Donald Sutherland?

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Great eBay Experiment – Part Deux

Well, unfortunately my awesome sexy artwork didn't sell, and I don't really understand why not. An hour before the auction ended I was showing no less than ten people watching the auction. I was expecting a last second bid from someone, but it never came.

So, I decided to do it again, but properly this time. Last time I had a quick scan, a few lines describing it and that was about it. This time I've included a scan, a photo of the framed picture and gone to a little bit of trouble to sell the piece in the description instead of just a few lines explaining what it is.

I think the biggest problem is coming up with a title. It's what people will search for and searching for any variation of 'Erotic Art' on eBay is like looking up 'porn' on google.

Anyway, I've relisted it, so if anyone who'd good at eBay feels like taking a look and giving me some pointers, I'd appreciate it. The biggest problem I'm having is the gallery pictures are way too small, and trying to link to a hosted image doesn't work…I've had to just put in the web address of the hosted pic, so does anyone know how to include a bigger picture?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

In defense of ‘Old Bond’

The other morning Sunny and I were sitting in the living room looking for something to watch on TV when I spotted 'Moonraker', a Roger Moore era Bond movie.

Sunny didn't even bother to verbalize her displeasure. She just made a strangled grunting noise and reached for her laptop.

Here's the thing. People who don't like the older bond movies always quote one thing: That the older Bond movies are stupidly unrealistic and are all about over the top gadgets.

Now, don't get me wrong, I loved Casino Royale, but to me it was just a really good action movie. It wasn't a Bond film. As a kid growing up in England in the 80's a Bond film means four things: Gadgets, cheesy one-liners, enough vodka martinis to float a cruise ship and Bond having sex with women he only met three seconds ago. It's okay that Bond movies are unrealistic and over the top…because they're Bond movies.

Today, however, I had an interesting thought.

It was only really the last two Pierce Brosnan movies where people started to get sick of the gadgets and I think I've figured out why.

The funny thing is that a lot of the gadgets from the 60's era Bond are actually real today. For example, I remember Sean Connery pressing a button on the dash of his Aston Martin, exposing a screen that had a map with a moving red spot on it representing the bad guy. In 2009, you can get a more sophisticated GPS system on a mobile phone.

Now, here's my point. In 1962 the idea of an in car GPS tracking system was absolutely unthinkable. At that time even something as simple as a pocket calculator was still a decade away.

So here's the thing. Even though an in-car GPS system was totally implausible for 1960's era technology, it still didn't seem all that over the top because all the audience was really seeing was a screen in a car. In the 60's, GPS was science fiction, but it didn't seem sci-fi, even to the audiences at the time.

However, if you want to show some futuristic gadgetry in 2009 you have to go really over the top otherwise you'd simply be showing Bond running around with an iPhone. That's why we ended up with things like Bond's infamous invisible car in 'Die Another Day'.

Now, the funny thing is, Bond's invisible car is actually based on research that's going on right now. Given that in the last fifty years we went from typewriters to laptops, who can say that active camouflage that we can make work in a lab today won't be standard-issue military equipment in 2059?

Basically, in 1962 you could show something in a Bond movie that was science-fiction for the time, but it could still appear plausible. In 2009, it's pretty hard to show a futuristic gadget without wandering into Star Trek territory.

What do you think?

…but I know what I like.

About a week ago, my head almost exploded when the stumble button took me to an 'artist's' website where the aforementioned 'artist' was attempting to sell what can only be described as 'phone-pad quality doodles' for ridiculous amounts of money.

My head actually exploded when I saw that someone had actually parted with seventy-five dollars for a 4" by "5" sketch card of a nude female figure that looked like the artist had created it by shoving a ballpoint up his asshole then squatting over the paper.

Just to be clear here, this wasn't a famous artist. This wasn't someone parting with seventy-five smackers to buy a napkin sketch by Picasso. This was someone parting with seventy-five smackers for a shit doodle drawn by a nobody (and I know it's a nobody, because I googled the crap out of him and found nothing except his website and an eBay auction).

This left only one course of action… I had to try to sell some artwork of my own.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I want to prove to myself that I haven't actually gone batshit insane. I know art is subjective, but the only way I would have paid for any of the art from that website is if I'd been caught short in a public bathroom and it was offered to me under the stall door.

Secondly, if people are willing to spend Seventy-Five Smackers
for a sketch card that looks like it's been drawn by a 'special' four year old, I gotta get me some of that sweet, sweet moolah.

So I decided to play it clever, come up with a plan… and I think I covered all the bases.

Two kinds of art sell really well on eBay. Comic art and erotic art. So I drew a Venn Diagram and put myself right in the overlap.

You see, men like pictures of butts 'n' boobs, but what they really like is pictures of boobs and butts that they don't have to feel ashamed about buying. So I wanted to draw something kinda sexy that would allow the buyer to look at his wife/girlfriend/mom and say:

"No Dear, this isn't porn this is art! It represents how women can be powerful yet remain feminine, how a woman can be totally in control in a patriarchal society."

Or completely lie and say:

"Yeah, Mom, I know it's inappropriate and I know it nearly gave Nana a heart attack but it's by this totally famous comicbook artist and it's going to be worth thousands! Don't think of it as a dirty picture, think of it as an investment for college."

Or if they don't care, say:

"Dude, check it out! You can totally see that chick's butt!"

So I pulled out my sketchbook and went for it. I decided to draw something that in internet terms would be considered very mildly 'not safe for work', with a touch of fetishism to help sell the 'arty' side of it. (It's like photography. Put a woman in a leather bustier and take a brightly lit color picture of her waving her boobs at the camera and you have porn…have her reclining on a chaise longue and make the photo slightly too dark, black and white and taken from a weird angle and you have 'art').

A couple hours later I'd come up with this. (I've linked to the pic just in case you are reading this at work and your boss frowns on employees looking at drawing that includes a female butt in a thong…you see worse on cable TV in the middle of the afternoon, but I don't wanna get anyone fired.)

Anyway, once the ink had dried I slapped the drawing in a frame, took a photo and put it on eBay.

That was a week ago. The auction ends the day after tomorrow and while there are no bids yet, there are currently five people watching the auction…so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a last minute bidding war (No one bids until there's less than an hour left anyway).

The only thing I'm starting to regret is setting the starting price so low (comparatively speaking). After checking out the competition on eBay, it appears that quality doesn't have much to do with whether a piece sells or not. The critical price appears to be somewhere between fifty and a hundred dollars… less and people assume it's not 'good art' because it's cheap, and more than a hundred appears to be overpriced if you're not already a famous artist.

The auction ends on Monday…I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Let Me Clear This Up…

Kelly posted a comment about the 'Fat Bastard' post I wrote a few days ago, and I found my response was a whole new post in itself…so here goes.

Let me start by saying I think Kelly made my point for me.

The problem with writing about weight is that it's a real hot-button topic for a lot of people and most people automatically jump to he conclusion that I'm saying that losing weight is easy and that ANYONE who is overweight is greedy or lazy. I've got to be honest here, me calling someone else fat would be like a fat-assed pot calling the kettle black

No, what I have a problem with are the people who eat literally ridiculous types and quantities of food (The guy on Oprah ate ten whole fried chickens every single day), get zero exercise…and then refuse to take any responsibility for the way they end up.

Yes, I understand how difficult it is to eat healthy and get regular exercise, and that's why I'm overweight and why we don't all look like models...but I have a VERY hard time looking at the extreme cases like this guy and his enabler mother and seeing 'victims'. Like I said in the post, this guy cries into the camera about how he doesn't want to die and how hard life is for him…and he eats ten whole fried chickens every day.

Forget the 'Go eat a salad' thing, but are you telling me it would be impossible or even unreasonable for this guy to make an effort by eating nine fried chickens a day, or swapping fried chicken for broiled or grilled instead?

Kelly asked in her comment whether I'd tell someone suffering from depression to just 'cheer the fuck up'. The answer is no, I wouldn't. However, I also wouldn't offer any sympathy to someone complaining of terrible headaches while they continually bang their head against a wall.

Let me end by asking an honest question.

Exactly how much sympathy do you think would I get if I went on TV and cried into the camera about how terrified I was of getting lung cancer and dying if I chain smoked through the whole interview? If I was on TV sobbing about how I wanted to see my kids grow up while smoking five cigarettes at once?

The answer is very little.

That's my point. Just because diet and exercise is difficult does not automatically absolve you from responsibility and make you a victim. You choose what you put into your mouth and, therefore, that guy chose to be 800lbs. I'm not saying he should have the self control to only eat green salads and water, but he should have the self control not to eat ten whole fried chickens every single day.

To close, let me clear something up:

People take offense when I talk like this because, as I said earlier, they assume that I'm calling anyone who's overweight greedy or lazy. I know how hard it is to lose weight. I know how hard it is to exercise and eat right…but the thing those people miss is that they're complaining about what I say because they've made the effort themselves and know how hard it is. Here's the bit you need to understand: The people I'm actually talking about and have a problem with are the people who refuse to make any effort at all.