Saturday, December 17, 2011

Digital Painting -The Butterfly, and Oberon

 I started the first painting is from earlier this morning, and the second from earlier this week.  I did the work in paint tool SAI.  Working on the contrast and getting good texture—for example, in the clothing, in the skin, and particularly on the wings of the butterfly.  Just did it for fun—no real purpose in mind.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Poetry- "Looking Through a Half-Eaten Persimmon"

Looking Through a Half-Eaten Persimmon

Bluejays are eating fruit.
                                    My fruit.
They like to peck at the skin
until they reveal
     the rich
     red meat.
Here now I peek inside the hollow, where they’ve forgotten a seed.
Long and narrow, it’s the brown
     of old bruises and Valentine chocolates.
It’s still wet, with a caul. They don’t leave much
for the likes of you and me. The skin
is thin, barely a device for holding food, but look,
through the remains— a gift—

11/18, 11/23/11

When will mobile pen computing really catch on?

I wrote this in a post today and thought I'd bring it into the blog. Since I'm doing a lot of art on the computer this new batch of slates and IPad competitors is very interesting to me. Unfortunately, I don't find them really functional yet. Here's my thoughts on the subject:

It took the IPad to get tablets to catch on. Now everyone is producing them, but there's still not much you can really run on them. I imagine Win8 might change that, but then we'll still have to wait for programs to become Win8 ARM compatible. So if 8 comes out next year, I imagine tech will follow shortly after or in conjunction with it, and then we'll have to wait another year or two for software to follow. As it is, there's not much need for a pen on these new slates because you can't do much with it yet. Just look at the Samsung Note- its got a Wacom digitizer on what is essentially an Android phone, but pressure sensitive apps aren't available. That sure makes it less functional. We have a platform but nothing to run on it.

Look at how long it took software to catch up to dual core processors! The truth is that, for many programs, an older core2duo is far more useful and powerful now than it was 3 or 4 years ago because so many more programs are becoming multicore and 64- bit compatible. I can only say that, as an example, Artrage is much faster now with its recent multicore update just because of that. Same computer as before, just software thats better able to take advantage of its specs.

Perhaps the new 32 nm cpus will help battery life enough that we wont have to wait for ARM-versions of Windows programs to be developed, because new "mobile" Intel tech will catch up to the older windows 7 software. That would be nice. Otherwise, I think seeing real, productive, business focused slate computing more commonly used is another 3 years out or more, IMO, if its running on an ARM computer. Tech first, OS second, software third. Then we have a need for a pen on these newer slates. Of course, the IPad has tech and OS, but it doesn't seem to want to produce pen-focused programs as an option, so that sort of nips it in the bud.

The reason I think ARM computers are so important is that they're clearly reducing the price point for new slate purchases for everyone, even current tablet pc users. Until your average Joe can get a real ultravertible or functional slate for under $500 I just don't think we're really going to see them around all that much. Once the tech is there (even relatively underpowered tech), at the right price point, I think the floodgates will open. Until then, I think tablet pcs are still going to be a very niche product. Current tablet pcs do just about everything I want them to do, but they're too expensive, too buggy and non-user friendly (hello Wacom drivers and Win7 desktop setup!), and too heavy for your average user.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I did National Picture Book Idea Month!

Well, as some of you may well know, this last month I did the NaPiBoIdMo, the national picture book idea month, in which you have to try and create 30 picture book ideas in a month. This was actually quite difficult and fun! It’s very helpful to have a wife that can help generate ideas for you.  In the end, I got over thirty ideas for the month. Of course, for me the most difficult thing is often taking ideas and truly drafting them in to the beginnings of a story. What was nice, was that when you signed up for the challenge you also subscribed to a blog where they had guessed writers for each day of the month. So many of their posts are also hopeful and inspirational! In addition, for the first 10 days after the end of the contest there were more blog posts about what to do with the ideas that you made. As always, the big challenge is to actually do something on your own without having someone else cajole you into action.

Of course, one expects to make 30 ideas (or at least I did!), so that’s not much of a surprise. However, it’s probably all of the extra things that I’ve not expect to receive that made the experience so interesting and fun. Probably the most surprising thing was that there was a clear benefit to thinking about a subject each and every day. Duh! Like most things in life, the more you work on a subject or think about it the more in tune you become with it. I began to see all kinds of picture book ideas everywhere. That was cool, and unexpected. It was also nice to get to read a blog post written by a professional every day on the subject of picture books. It definitely makes you feel like you’re part of a community of like minded people, and that the possibility (or even likelihood!) of getting published is actually achievable. They even had special posts from previous participants who had gone on to you as one of their ideas generated in a previous year’s challenge.

I also have to say that letting others know I was participating in the event helped make the fact that I am writing picture books seem very real—it was as if I was now responsible to others in order to live up to my own image of myself. Ha! It reminds me a little bit of the experience I’ve been having with Tasha, where she wants to wish on a star every night. When we begin to wish on the same thing each and every night, we begin to believe that it just might become real, because you begin to really make.

Anyways, I mostly want to let others, who might considering doing this challenge, know that it’s a lot of fun and well worth your time. I am definitely looking forward to the picture book marathon challenge that comes in February or March, where you’re supposed to write a draft of a picture book each day for a month straight. I figure there’s no better way to move forward than to just gets down to it… And get all those crappy picture book ideas out of the way early in the game! : P

Hey, btw, want to know something cool? I dictated this entire post to my computer. How easy was it? LOL. Eh,it's a work in progress. But it was fun to try out!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chasing Chickens Illustrations

I've been working on some new kid's book ideas. One of them is "Chasing Chickens". These are two rough sketches for that. Both done in Paint Tool Sai . The line work for the second was done in SBP. Chickens are fun! :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Poetry- "A Mattress Lies Half-Buried in the Field"

First, the poem-

A Mattress Lies Half-Buried in the Field

It is the forgotten pieces that will teach us,
the derelict
and abandoned.
The garbage. Failure.
It is from weeds crushed underfoot, and from rust that we will draw our dreams.

For there is a kind of joy
that can rise
even from sorrow,
when you have let go and been
unacquainted with truth.

And this thing, here,
in front of me—
it is not a mattress, mildew, it is not
forgetfulness. It is not old— it is dead. It is
a companion, an angel, a still forgotten wish.

And you might think, having said that,
that this will be
the sort of poem that ought to end with lines like
“This is not the smell of death,
but of harvest.”

But it won’t.

For this is the smell of death.
And this is the smell of harvest.

November 18 and 19th, 2011

Now, thoughts.

I'm coming out of the Thanksgiving fog. Kat's off in D.C. for a few days, and Tasha is at her grandmas. Thus, 3 blog posts in one night! :D

Recently, I happened to have the opportunity to listen to Mary Oliver on NPR. She spoke and read for an hour at SF City Arts and Lectures. This was a wonderful thing to listen to. I've always been a passing fan of Oliver's work, but I just loved this reading. I was ready, I think.

I haven't really written poetry regularly in atleast 2 years. I wrote a few last fall/winter for my manuscript, "The Seed". But even before that, I'd not written much of anything for atleast another year. The joy had just sort of seeped out of it. I hadn't gotten much pleasure out of getting work published in magazines; I felt very isolated; there wasn't a great deal of joy in my work; and poets never seemed the types who would want to open up and share their work with you/actually connect. It had been a lonely, hermetic experience. That was part of why I let it go and started working on the children's lit. Anything that makes you laugh outloud while creating it is something you should be doing more of. And that's what I've been getting from writing and drawing.

Whatever the case, these poems came to me, and it's been a pleasure. I have a few more, and should be posting them over the next few days or so.

My first digital sketch, from a year ago...

In memory of my first le1600 slate, which was just so magical to me at the time... it really blew my mind that you could draw right on the screen. Here's the first sketch I did digitally. In Sketchbook Pro 2010. While Tasha was taking a bath and Kat was watching her, I stole some time to try it out. Took me about 20 minutes or so.

Motion le1600 slate- Why I'm trying it out for art again

Pardon me while I gush....

I feel like Michael J. Fox when Doc says, "Marty, we're going to go ....back to the future!" Why?

Because I recently had the opportunity to test out (or re-test) the original 1600 that I owned a year ago and sold off. It was actually the first tablet pc I ever owned, and I sold it to a local friend when I moved on to an le1700 last December. Well, I was so impressed by the experience the other day that I picked one up on ebay. I got a pretty good deal for a View Anywhere screen, battery, stylus, charger, etc. for 200$ with free shipping. For the 1600's that's not bad. I grabbed 2gb ram for another 30$.

Now, over the last year I've run through lots of art programs and computer usage evolutions- slate to convertible (to slate?), SBP to Artrage to Painter to SBP and Sai. It's been quite a whirlwhind! What I've settled on for my work flow, for now, is SBP and Paint Tool Sai for my 2d artwork. Artrage for some of my color work too. For that, the 1600 worked really, really well.

What most impressed me was that...
a) The screen is really very good. I was rather surprised by this because it's only 200 nits. I remembered it being better than the 1700's I had owned, but I'd forgotten just how much better the older Boe Hydis screens really were. Rich color, really bright enough, and rather readable outdoors. I was sort of blown away. Yes, it's a fingerprint magnet, but they don't matter once the screen is lit up.
b) It has quite a nice hard, lightly textured writing surface. I don't know what Motion did, but there's just a bit of texture to it, and I like it. The screen is also very hard. There's little to no flex- even compared to the t5010 which is rather firm (the Superbright Outdoor x200t, however, has quite a lot of flex to the screen). So I somehow feel like I'm practically writing right on the screen (not above the bezel like with most convertibles), and yet it's still as hard (or harder) then the typical harder outer plastic casing. It's quite a nice experience.
c) It ran pretty cool and quiet. The fan ran at a higher pitch that I didn't like, but I think that's because it was just old. We'll see what the one I just bought sounds like, then I'll get back to you.
d) With the right programs it was surprisingly responsive. I've been going bigger and faster all year long with my various tablet pc explorations, so I was really blown away by how well the le1600 performed. The unit I tested had only 1.5 gb ram, so we'll see if the one I bought with 2 GB ram runs better, but even so, the tester was quick enough. Artrage and SKP ran fine, and Paint Tool Sai ran like a dream. This is where I think a year's experience will help me out, because now I've got a tablet pc appropriate program like Sai under my belt- it's just so lightweight and fast that a solo processor or only 2 gb ram won't matter. I was running a 6000 x 3600 canvas with 300 pixel brushes and it was just a breeze, a walk in the park. Sai on the tablet pc really hit it out of the park. Partly because....
d) There are buttons, Buttons, BUTTONS! God damn I didn't know what I was missing last year when I had this model. Of course, last year I didn't know about Key Manager either, so the buttons really didn't matter as much. I couldn't reprogram them all in the Wacom interface, but with Key Manager I got the 4-way directional keys plus the inner button. Each gets a press, plus a press-hold command, so that's.... math...10 keys, and I haven't even gotten to using the Fn Function. So I could easily get up to 20 keys right there. For digital art done portably, this was just.... awesome. It reminded me a bit of when, earlier this year, I bought the Lenovo and remembered how useful a keyboard could be. In the same way, I'd forgotten how d*mn useful hardware buttons can be. During the testing, I was able to work... I dunno... 80% or more in Full Screen mode, which was wonderful.
e) Hot swappable batteries that get reasonable battery life- I was often dissapointed by the le1700, which got terrible battery life, ran hot, and had bad viewing angles. The 1600 is comparatively underpowered, but it always ran better- the internal hardware just seemed a better fit for the tech at the time. As such, the battery life was always much better. Of course, even 3 hours isn't great, but one learns from things like the ep121 (which also only gets about 3 hours or so of battery life) that battery life often suffers in slates, even in new tech (although the Samsung 7 is sort of popping that bubble). As such, I'm willing to forgive the 1600 in this. Plus, they're swappable, which is awesome.
f) It's erognomics are very good- It's light (3.25 lbs- a little lighter than the x200t, about .75 lbs heavier than the ep121), and very thin (.75-.9"- just about the same as the ep121). This makes a difference when in the hand. The Lenovos are still very carriable, no doubt, but the 1600 was .... well, much easier to hold because you can better grip it. Also, putting (when in portrait orientation) the weight of the batter actually in the hand makes the computer feel even lighter.
g) 4:3 ratio still kicks *ss. It's a wonderful thing to really be able to use the slate in portrait mode- particularly when drawing figures. It's wide enough now to really work this way. Even 16:10 has issues in portrait.

Anyways, who knows when the honeymoon period will be over, but right now I'm eagerly anticipating getting my 6 year old, used, 200$ art tablet, that I may now be stealing from my daughter. LOL. We'll see.

I'm sure better things are going to come along (that 12.1" Wacom slate with detachable keyboard in the sky), but in some ways this older tech still has the new stuff beat- when used for the right function (hardware keys=art), with the right programs (Sai and SBP), and with the right mods (like Key Manager).