Downingtown Header

My Hometown

When I was getting my airline ticket a few weeks back to visit my folks, I looked at my old hometown Downingtown from a google maps, eagle-eye view and realized that a small bit of me felt homesick and that maybe I should visit. All my buddies used to live in D-town. As kids, we used to ride bikes recklessly and pop wheelies on the curb in that neighborhood, but after 2002 we moved away.

The whole time I was down there I had the Boss’ song “My Hometown” running through my head.

I took a walk from my old house all the way across town to my high school. Here’s the photo trail of my journey. Starting off, here’s my house as I remembered it from 1999:

511house 579x395 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field

511 Thomas Road

Being the nerd I am, I made this house in Minecraft back when I ran a server. We had an hour long speed build and I decided to make this from memory. To keep the house from being infested with spiders and creepers I put torches up everywhere.

511house minecraft.png 579x325 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field

511 House Minecraft Style

Once you leave my old street, the Elementary School isn’t too far away. I remember being a kid and walking that path everyday. It’s nice when school’s not so far away.

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Road to East Ward Elementary

The school itself. That’s the field we used to have field days and halloween parades. We’d all do tug-of-war and then eat ice cream. Later, when we went to junior and senior high we always cut through it.

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East Ward Elementary

East Ward had a fundraiser called Pennies From Heaven to build a new playground for us. As kids, we were supposed to find every loose cent under the family’s sofa and gather them together and give them to the school. We also got to design parts of the playground. As kids, we wanted everything that was ridiculous and dangerous and the contractors provided. There are alcoves to hide in, tons of slides, things to climb over and on top of, towers, monkey bars, and the list goes on. It was built before I graduated from sixth grade so I definitely got to enjoy my lion’s share of it. I remember our recess teacher/gym teacher Mrs. Herzog was usually pissed when we climbed over all the parts that we shouldn’t have in our primitive form of grade school parkour. You can see more images of the playground in the gallery below.

Downingtown 33 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field Downingtown 29 579x864 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field Downingtown 27 579x864 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field Downingtown 30 579x864 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field My elementary school from the recess area. The red brick building on the left used to be a stone building back when I was in school. That would have been the old East Ward. It was a cold and drafty building and when I was in sixth grade we had class there. My sixth grade teacher, Mr. Jenkins, was cool. I remember the first day of class. I got in line and looked at the dude. He seemed like a mean old guy, a tough teacher to please, but he was one of the best and nicest teachers I ever had. Also, his first name is ‘Glenn’ too. How about that?

Downingtown 28 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field Once you finish playing you can cut through to Business Route 30 and try to cross that street without getting run down by a car. If you do, the next easiest way is to cut through the parking lot of St. James Church to get to Kardon Park. One time, in high school, we stood outside of St. James Church on a drizzly November election day morning doing our duty as Young Republicans to get people to come in and vote. Before you go off and think, “Oh no, you were a Young Republican??” I did it cause my buddy was in the club. Also, I don’t think it meant too much. We’d have our “Young Republican” club meeting and then we’d jaunt off next door to the Sailor Moon Fan Club and watch subtitled episodes on grainy VHS tapes. That’s how republican we were.

Downingtown 07 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field

St. James Place

Kardon Park leads to a bike/walk trail and winds all the way around Downingtown. It’s a nice nature trail if you want to get lost in the trees, which I did.

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Kardon Park Panorama

One thing I remember about Kardon Park was that when we were kids, my mom would take us there to feed the ducks. I guess we can’t do that anymore, although I didn’t notice any ducks, just some hissing geese. Probably a good idea not to feed them, since they’d just repackage it into sausage form all over the sidewalk and then walk around like they owned the place.

Downingtown 09 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field

Don't feed the ducks

This is new in Kardon Park. We definitely didn’t have it there 14 years ago. At first glance it looked like a nice little monument, but when I stepped closer, I noticed that parts of the monument looked like grave markers, and sure enough the entire thing — I don’t think it’s a graveyard — is a Victim’s memorial.

Downingtown 11 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field Don’t blink. Whatever you do, don’t blink.

Downingtown 12 579x864 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field Kardon Park follows along Pennsylvania Ave. Along the path are some other of the town’s parks and historic monuments. Kerr Park (below) is usually where we would go for fireworks during July 4th. There would be a town fair there that included various carnival rides, funnel cake, and booths set up that were selling crafts from local folks.

Downingtown 13 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field Near Kerr Park is this new monument to war veterans of Downingtown — at least new to me.

Downingtown 14 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field A gazebo in the park. I always liked taking pictures of it, but oddly, I never liked standing or sitting in it. Also, I never see anybody else enjoying it either. Still, nice gazebo.

Downingtown 15 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field My house:

Downingtown 16 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field Just kidding, it’s the historic Downingtown log cabin. 14 years later, it’s still there.

Downingtown 17 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field We’re in the heart of Downingtown here. The municipal building:

Downingtown 18 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field We finally get to Manor Avenue. Walking up that road gets us to my junior and senior high schools. Well, first a panorama of the little league field where I used to play baseball. I hated it. I much prefer playing ball in the street. If you can’t get hit by a car while running to second base (i.e. the manhole cover in the road), I don’t see what the point is.

Downingtown 371 579x225 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field My old junior high school:

Downingtown 20 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field Hmm, but what’s this? S.T.E.M. Academy? You know, I didn’t know what S.T.E.M. meant a few days back, but I got to hear Adam Savage talk at Maker Faire and he happened to mention it. Science. Technology. Engineering. Math. Academy. They turned my old junior high into a tech academy. I’m…cool with that. Adam also proposed we add a fifth letter to make S.T.E.A.M. The A is for ‘Art.’ I agree. It’s just as important and sometimes art transforms the essence of the other four letters into something more than what they are. A nerdy story from 9th grade bio class. I was studying C++ on my own back then, and I wrote a program that would do a Punnett Square given some inputs. BTW, I had to look that up on Wikipedia, because I have no idea what a Punnet Square is anymore. But luckily we live in an age where Wikipedia is our external brain.

Downingtown 19 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field Downingtown High School is right behind the junior high. This sign is new. There was no West or East high school for us back in 1995 when I started there. Everyone went to Downingtown High School. That was when I got to see people I hadn’t seen since elementary school again, but by then we had already all forgotten one another, so not that it mattered too much.

HighSchool 2 579x387 My Hometown young republicans club Thomas Road The Ponds St. James Place sony dslr alpha 200 Song slice of life sailor moon fan club Route 30 Pennslyvania pennies from heaven panoramas nostalgia my hometown Minecraft Mark Lane Manor Avenue Little League Kerr Park Karen Driven Kardon Park Glenn east ward elementary school east ward duck feeding Downingtown High School Downingtown community playground bruce springsteen Baseball Field This is usually how I would see my high school as I walked towards it with my friends in the morning.

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Downingtown High School

Even in high school we didn’t have to drive or take a bus. When we’re old we get to do the whole “back in my day, we had to walk to school in -30 degree weather in 12 feet of snow up a (slight) hill” schtick while waving a cane at a bunch of youngun’s. I can actually lament something along those lines, but looking back, I preferred that to taking a bus, which is what my brother had to do when he started middle school. After I graduated in 1998 the school system expanded and the lines changed and broke into an east and west. My brother had to take a bus to Lionville for junior high and high school. I feel lucky that things were simpler for me.

Gallery of photos below. Enjoy.

akemi_header

Nendoroid: Homura Akemi

It’s been a while since I did one of these, but usually miniature photography takes a bit of time for me to setup, pose the figures, and get images that I like. I’m getting better, but it still took the better of six hours, although I ended up with a few creative pieces out of it, including this blog post. BTW, if you hate spoilers, you can just go to the gallery of images at the bottom and ignore my ramblings, cause this is going to get spoiled like four month old milk.

Today’s anime figure is the Nendoroid of Homura Akemi from the anime series Puella Magi Madoka Magica. You try saying that five times fast. The show was a blockbuster back in Winter/Spring of 2011, but I actually didn’t pick up the show until later. If you want to watch it legitimately over the ‘tubes, Crunchyroll has the show. If you subscribe to them you can watch it at 1080p, which is fantastic.

I was planning to re-watch this series, but then around the time Crunchyroll announced it, I ended up reading another one of their blog posts and getting side tracked watching Futari wa Pretty Cure. Yeah that’s right, I watched that. Madoka and Pretty Cure are both magical girl shows. Neither of them fall into the Sailor Moon shoujo type of romcom/kill-monster-of-the-week type of show though. For me Sailor Moon was one of the gateway animes when DiC brought it out back in the mid 90s. I imagine for most people who are my age, they probably started there or somewhere within the vicinity of it and then began their exploration into things like Evangelion and what have you.

As for Pretty Cure (Precure as it’s called now), there’s actually a whole pantheon of magical girls and it’s been on the air since 2004. Crunchyroll also has the original Futari wa Pretty Cure (We are Pretty Cure) on their site, but you may be annoyed by the hissing from the VHS tape quality video they have. That’s the one I watched and I think of it as the “buddy-cop” magical girl show. There are only two characters (hence the “We are…” in the title), Nagisa and Honoka, and like a buddy cop movie, once they move out of their slice-of-life story mode to demon-battling-mode they usually cause a lot of stuff to explode. Every showdown is resolved with a battery of fisticuffs and punctuated with a thing called a Marble Screw that’s a magical beam the diameter of a house.

Madoka is akin to a deconstruction of the magical girl genre. Precure and Sailor Moon both have the magical creature. Honoka and Nagisa have Mipple and Mepple. Usagi has Luna. The critter imbues the girl with magical powers after choosing them, you know, it’s destiny and fate. In Madoka the girls are offered a choice. Kubey’s the show’s magical critter, a cuddly little guy that presents the girls a contract to become a Puella Magi. But, unlike Sailor Moon or Precure there’s a consequence. Once you start down that road, it leads to some pretty dark and disturbing things, and it makes the show fun to watch in its own way. It is also violent but this was built for a late night audience, not little girls. Also, the show might have Madoka in it, but for most of the show you’ll probably be interested in today’s Nendoroid: Homura Akemi.

homura02 Nendoroid: Homura Akemi sailor moon puella magi madoka magica pretty cure precure picture gallery nendoroid magical girl anime homura akemi good smile company anime figure Anime

Yes, that’s a rocket launcher. For me, she was an impulse buy because of that rocket launcher. Oh and the desert eagle and pipe bomb accessories. Here’s a shot of all the goodies you get when you purchase her:

homura04 Nendoroid: Homura Akemi sailor moon puella magi madoka magica pretty cure precure picture gallery nendoroid magical girl anime homura akemi good smile company anime figure Anime

I remember watching the show and thinking “why’s that girl got a shotgun?” Too bad her toy doesn’t come with one. Homura’s magical power is time travel and she’s been looping through trying to save her buddies from their miserable fate for many cycles. When she started out as a Magi, she was like this:

homura05 Nendoroid: Homura Akemi sailor moon puella magi madoka magica pretty cure precure picture gallery nendoroid magical girl anime homura akemi good smile company anime figure Anime

A nerd (minus the pipebomb). To help her fight the witches (that’s what the baddies are called) she freezes time, goes into a police department, and robs them of their weapons. She ditches the glasses and pigtails and becomes a badass time traveler with a ton of guns and grenades at her disposal. It’s nothing frilly either; it’s just ordinance to get the job done.

Some close up shots of her:

homura03 Nendoroid: Homura Akemi sailor moon puella magi madoka magica pretty cure precure picture gallery nendoroid magical girl anime homura akemi good smile company anime figure Anime

Check out her shield, a lot of detail. It looks fantastic. On her hand, she’s got her crystal from the contract she made with Kubey.

homura07 Nendoroid: Homura Akemi sailor moon puella magi madoka magica pretty cure precure picture gallery nendoroid magical girl anime homura akemi good smile company anime figure Anime

The paint job’s mostly nice, but you can see on her scarf it’s a bit messy. The ends of the pigtails come off as well. I was worried that the ends of her pigtails might snap easily, but since they come off I’m a little less worried about them.

If you own more than one Nendoroid, you can interchange the parts, which is why this is my favorite type of anime figurine to collect. Let’s borrow the body of Kuronuma Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke:

homura12 Nendoroid: Homura Akemi sailor moon puella magi madoka magica pretty cure precure picture gallery nendoroid magical girl anime homura akemi good smile company anime figure Anime

That’s for all the guys that like moe.

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And guns.

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Some more goofiness — I feel that these two make the perfect buddy-cop pair.

homura14 Nendoroid: Homura Akemi sailor moon puella magi madoka magica pretty cure precure picture gallery nendoroid magical girl anime homura akemi good smile company anime figure Anime

And a cross over from the two biggest blockbusters in recent anime history. Yui should probably not be holding that.

homura13 Nendoroid: Homura Akemi sailor moon puella magi madoka magica pretty cure precure picture gallery nendoroid magical girl anime homura akemi good smile company anime figure Anime

All pictures are in the gallery below along with a few others.

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Art: Red

I originally finished this on January 13th 2012. One of my first new pieces for the new year! Here’s the link to it on my deviantArt. I’ll show you the progression for this image as well as alternate sketches, an alternate final illustration, and share some background on this original character of mine.

red finished 579x325 Art: Red Red photoshop illustration hand drawings Desert Eagle Daniel Craig Damien Walters art progression anamorphic lens flare Akako

This one, as with many of my newer pieces are done completely digitally using a Cintiq tablet. I have the small 12wx tablet.

For this illustration, the character’s been around for a few years. She’s the star of a novel I started writing way back when. She’s got a name, but I’m not to fond of it, but it was practically Japanese for “Red.” So I’ll just call her “Red” for the time being. She’s named that way, well, cause she’s a red head. icon smile Art: Red Red photoshop illustration hand drawings Desert Eagle Daniel Craig Damien Walters art progression anamorphic lens flare Akako

Red started out as a skech, like so:

red roughsketch 579x325 Art: Red Red photoshop illustration hand drawings Desert Eagle Daniel Craig Damien Walters art progression anamorphic lens flare Akako

I tried so many different rough sketches for her. Here’s another version that I thought of doing, and maybe I’ll try and refine it again later.

red grenades sketch Art: Red Red photoshop illustration hand drawings Desert Eagle Daniel Craig Damien Walters art progression anamorphic lens flare Akako

The story I wrote with Red was more of an action packed, thriller/suspense type of story — she’s lithe, agile, and quick on her feet, hence the more action oriented version of the drawing. For reference I studied a bit of Damien Walter’s youtube showreel. In fact you can see a similar pose at about the 1:24 mark. I originally screen-capped it and traced it a few times to understand the foreshortening and then I tried the drawing you see above.

This would be a cool scene to draw, but the foreshortening is ultimately pretty difficult and crazy and I want to practice it a bit more and get the composition on a nice tumbling type of action shot for her. I ended up going for something easier just to draw her this time around and hence ended up with the image you see here:

red blueline sketch 579x325 Art: Red Red photoshop illustration hand drawings Desert Eagle Daniel Craig Damien Walters art progression anamorphic lens flare Akako

The focus, aside from her, was the gun (Desert Eagle) and her hand. I took some reference photos of myself holding a toy gun to try and get it right. I had also spent days before I did this illustration just drawing hands trying to get them right. I feel like I’ve gotten a bit better at drawing hands. The gun I tried to model as close as I could. I actually own a toy Desert Eagle and I used that as reference. It’s a 20 dollar airsoft gun — I chucked the BBs, I’ll never shoot the thing. But I basically figured out the proportions and tried to draw it in perspective. Just like Red might be 7-8 heads high, for the gun I based the dimensions on the handle and it’s about 4 handles long. If you look at my original sketch you can see some of the box lines that make it up. The barrel for a Desert Eagle’s kinda tricky to do since it’s curved and not quite flat or planar.

red ink 579x325 Art: Red Red photoshop illustration hand drawings Desert Eagle Daniel Craig Damien Walters art progression anamorphic lens flare Akako

This image (if you click on it) is the full size. I did this drawing at a smaller dimension than usual. It made it much easier to do the inking and the turn-around time for coloring is also much faster.

Also you might notice her lips changed. She had more of a frown in the rough drawing. I didn’t quite like it. I want to make her look menacing and realized I don’t quite have a good grasp of subtlety in facial expression to really make her look menacing without making her look overly cartoon-y. It’s something I’ll have to practice at if I want to do her justice, but for now this is about as menacing as she gets.

BTW, for reference for this image, I looked at images of Daniel Craig as James Bond. I imagine her as bit of a female version of his Bond. She’s more of a brutal killer type despite her looks.

red flats 579x325 Art: Red Red photoshop illustration hand drawings Desert Eagle Daniel Craig Damien Walters art progression anamorphic lens flare Akako  The flats. I tried a different coloring technique. Before I would just put the colors straight onto the layer, but with this image I tried to use solid color adjustment layers in Photoshop. I basically draw a mask of the region I want and the right flat color shows up there. The jury’s still out if that’s a good way to work. I end up drawing a lot of masks and blending them together and I’m not 100% if that’s better, but I’ve been trying this with the last few images I’ve been doing.

You’ve seen the final version above that I posted to deviantArt, but here’s an alternate version. I originally wanted to make it look more lens flare-y. Think of J.J. Abram’s version of Star Trek — that kind of lens flare-y. I looked into doing the anamorphic lens flare effect and tried it out and really beefed up the glows. This is how it would have originally looked as a final illustration:

red finished v0 579x325 Art: Red Red photoshop illustration hand drawings Desert Eagle Daniel Craig Damien Walters art progression anamorphic lens flare Akako

I didn’t think it felt right for the gun to glow like that. The idea was that it shined so brightly in the light that it practically was giving off light on its own. I choose to tone it down in the end.

Lots of different reference: Desert Eagle toy gun, photos of my hand holding a weapon, Damien Walters youtube video, Daniel Craig’s James Bond, and lens flares from J.J. Abrams.

So many of those ideas were discarded, but doing this progression allows me to explain my creative progress and what I went through to derive the final illustration.

If I had to guess, this image probably took about 20+ hours including all the other sketching sessions to draw hands and what not.

BTW, some of the hand sketches I did:

hands drawing 2 Art: Red Red photoshop illustration hand drawings Desert Eagle Daniel Craig Damien Walters art progression anamorphic lens flare Akako

hand drawing 1 Art: Red Red photoshop illustration hand drawings Desert Eagle Daniel Craig Damien Walters art progression anamorphic lens flare Akako

 

Catherine-Jumprope-header

Art: Jump Rope!

I painted this back in November 2011. It’s my original pin-up gal, Catherine dressed as a Dominatrix and playing jump rope with Albino Grimby (the stuffed rabbit looking thing). As you can see, she might be a Dom, but hardly a serious one.

Catherine Jumprope full Art: Jump Rope! pin up photoshop jump rope illustration great seal dominatrix deviantArt Catherine art albino grimby

You can see a larger version on my deviantArt site. Below is the original sketch tinted blue so I could do the inks. I drew this in my sketchpad. BTW, if you’re looking for a good sketchbook to use, I really like the Robert Bateman sketchpads and I usually get the 11in. x 14in. ones. I like the paper quality — it’s pretty sturdy so it can hold up to a lot of erasing. The paper doesn’t warp and it doesn’t really bleed. Really nice sketchbook. Just google it and you can buy it online.

For this drawing, I remember a great deal of time was spent trying to get her high heel boots correct. I’m not 100% sure if I succeeded, but it looks correct. The legs seem like they’re in proportion. I didn’t jump rope much as a kid, and I’m absolutely terrible at it — I found that out when I did some jump roping in a cardio class — but I do know that jumping rope like that, with your legs kicked up behind you, is not really the way to go if you want to speedily jump over the rope. Also, probably not recommended that you do this all dolled up in leather dominatrix gear and stiletto boots, but that’s why it’s a pin-up. A goofy one at that.

Catherine Jumprope sketch Art: Jump Rope! pin up photoshop jump rope illustration great seal dominatrix deviantArt Catherine art albino grimby

This inking and sketch stayed pretty much the same. I went a bit thicker around the hat and the whip. I probably should have given it a bit more motion, but I’m not that adept at inking just yet. I’m still learning, but this was one of the milestones on my road to getting better. The emblem was the major thing that got touched up. For the sketch I phoned it in. To get all the minute details would be difficult, and since I knew I’d probably handle the final drawing on a computer, I could fudge it and fix it later. Also, I’ve done the Great Seal emblem before in other drawings of her so I actually have the whole thing done up in vectors that I can quickly rasterize. The tricky part was to angle and skew it to fit the perspective of her hat. Once again, not perfect, but I managed to get the job done and then I re-inked it since the line quality diminished as I skewed and squashed the thing.

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Here’s a close up of the Great Seal.

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In color:

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I did try to adjust it for a 3/4 view. It’s by no means perfect, but I’m fairly happy the way it turned out. Her hair though is another story. I actually don’t like it at all. The lines and the way it’s painted just don’t jive together. It looks more painted than it should for something that’s obviously drawn as a bunch of wispy clumps. I really should have shaded the tips and left out all the minute strides of highlight and shade. It could be done a lot simpler and take less time. With the drawings I did after this, that was how I began to shade hair.

Below is a close up of Albino Grimby, my mascot character:

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Just for fun, here’s an older version of her I did in 2010. Catherine dates back to something crazy like the year 2000. I didn’t conceive of her as a dominatrix. As with Jessica Rabbit, she’s not naughty, just drawn that way.

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Here’s a more comprehensive view of her history as a piece of art done by me throughout the years. In this odd way, because I repainted her time and time again, she’s become this milestone marker in the evolution of my art ability. When you look at them side by side you can see all of the little tweaks I made over the years. I didn’t like her cap before. I had reference of a military cap and vectorized the emblem from it. I didn’t even know it was called the Great Seal until later on. It just looked cool. I still like the 2006 version. This was back when I was trying to do more painterly style pieces, but it was time consuming and I fell out of doing art for a while after it. The main issue I have with the 2006 version is that her boobs look like a shelf, but that’s based on the original sketch. I also dropped the riding crop in her hand. When I went to redo it, it seemed cheesy, so out it went.

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I originally posted “Jump Rope” as a sketch on this blog. You can find “Jump Rope!” right here. Thanks for viewing!

 

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Art Work in Progress: Kamiko Christmas Dress

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Kamiko Winter Dress - Red version

I finished this painting about mid-December, but I wanted to share with you the steps I went through to create it.

I think a lot about how to build something form nothing. To me, it’s one of the coolest things you can possibly do. How do you take an idea in your mind, a vague notion and realize it with some technical ability and make it real? Everyone has a different way of going about it. There are many ways to the same end result, I’m learning more and more about it with each drawing I make, each program I write, and every story I’ve written (and shoved into a shoebox).

This blog post is about how this image got realized. It started pretty much as you might expect with an idea and a blank piece of paper — in this case digital paper. I wanted to draw something Christmas-y and decided I might draw the character from the comic/novel I wrote a while back called “This Mortal Coil.” I won’t go into the details there, but ultimately the main character is a girl god (Kamiko = “god child” in Japanese) who dresses in a classic Lolita fashion (or something close to that). There’s already a lot of ideas going on behind this: Christmastime, winter, Lolitia fashion, and my previous character design for Kamiko. In addition I wanted to paint her high contrast, black and white just like I did with the original comic I wrote.

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Base Sketch for Kamiko Christmas Dress

I started with an oval. That black oval you see replicated eight times, stacked on top of one another, because of course she’s eight heads high. I also drew a front view because I thought I might make a character sheet, but that didn’t really happen. On a separate layer I drew the rough sketch of a figure and on another layer I drew the rough idea of the dress over that. But, hold on, the dress doesn’t exist. It’s not based off of anything I found on the internet or any actual Lolita gown I’ve seen. Instead the dress actually has elements I’ve used a lot of in previous drawings.

So let’s rewind a bit. I had to figure out the dress. Here were some rough sketches I did and alternate fashions:

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alternate design for Christmas dress #1. Poofy underskirt, black Santa Claus boots, red overcoat.

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alternate design for Christmas dress #2. An off the shoulder type dress. As you can see this is the one I used without the staff.

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alternate design for Christmas dress #3. Some more drawings, but I had already decided to use the second one. These looked too much like her actual Lolita outfit.

As you can see I used version #2, the off-the-shoulder number. I’ve drawn plenty of 2D girls wearing that number, although much sexier (careful, the image is a bit ecchi/NSFW). Since she’s Lolitia, she would be dressed down a lot more, hence the blouse, stockings, gloves. For a headdress, I like the elegant look of a bow over a full out Lolita head-dress. The only skin showing is her face.

<rant>Just so you know, I’m not great shakes at designing clothing (or, dare I say, drawing), but I try, and I keep trying and everytime I manage to make something I learn something new and get better. This drawing is the accumulation of 11 years of work and progress. It would definitely help if I took some design courses and art classes, but I have a feeling that doing so would sap my motivation. I like the idea of self-studying and improvement by doing. That is something I can do right now with my mind, two hands, a computer, and my secret weapon. Honestly, if you can’t ask someone, you can ask it. I don’t need to fork over money to do what I can easily set my mind too. Google, youtube, deviantArt are great teachers. Folks post tutorials, speed painting videos, and imaginative and beautiful art for you to view and study. I might make slow progress, maybe pick up bad habits, but sooner or later they’ll all be overcome. It really begins with asking a question: what am I doing wrong? What can I do better? How do they do that? I watch a lot of anime, so I’d like to paint in an anime cel-shaded style. I took screen caps of shows I was watching. I studied how they did backdrops, line work, shading. I’m getting there picture by picture. If there ever comes a time when I think I need a class, then at least I’ll know why I’m in that class, but as long as I can think and create with my own hands, I should be able to come up with something.</rant>

So with the dress down, that’s what I drew on my character sheet and I ended up with this rough image:

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Kamiko Winterdress rough sketch

Using another layer over this one, I drew the cleaner version of the drawing:

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Finished sketch of Kamiko in her winter dress outfit.

Looking back, it’s not totally perfect. I feel her arms are kinda stiff, but it originated from a three-quarter drawing of her. I was originally intending to do something more cinematic, but I wanted to show off the dress since I took a lot of effort to produce that. If I went with a mid-shot or a close-up, I wouldn’t need much detail. If I did a perspective angle, I wouldn’t get to show off the entire dress. I considered and cast all those options aside. I can do a perspective, cinematic angle type of shot later, which is something I still need to work on (i.e. foreshortening).

It’s a nice sketch. I really liked it ultimately despite the imperfections. I started on the high contrast version right away. The end result:

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Kamiko Winter Dress - High Contrast version

This is the original, final version. All of that detail I made. I experimented with different brushes to make the snow on the ground. I randomly made dots everywhere of all different sizes for snow — although it doesn’t look like it’s scattered everywhere. I painted those trees. I’ll admit, the trees are no more detailed than squibbles. I figured I could get away with it. Did I though? I’m not completely sure. When you have two colors, I feel like you can. I like the challenge and idea of creating depth and variation with just two colors. Without color, texture becomes important. I dotted the hem of her gown to make it look like it was fluffy, and looking at it now, I could make white wisps to further reinforce that idea. Peppermint stripes break up the monotony and give her stockings and blouse detail. Snowflake decals give her dress some added texture. Alternating white and black clumps create the illusion of piled up snow and also light and shadow where needed.

It seems like a lot of folks on deviantArt liked this one — I spammed submitted to a lot of groups to get my work out there. Yes, once you’re done making, you gotta “market” it (put it in front of people), which has been apart of my grand experiment with deviantArt: selling myself as an artist.

Even though I was done, I wasn’t completely satisfied with just leaving it the way things were. I wanted to ink and color her and actually cel-shade her. So one night I inked her and laid the flat colors down. The next night I went about shading her using my knowledge gained by studying actual anime screen captures. When I finished, I realized she needed a background. One Saturday morning, I decided to paint a snowy scene with some brush techniques I had learned a while back. And also…just fudging it until it looked decent enough.

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Background for colored version of Kamiko Winter dress

Since I painted it with Kamiko in the painting, there’s a Kamiko-shaped area that I didn’t have to really paint nicely. icon smile Art Work in Progress: Kamiko Christmas Dress work in progress winter this mortal coil photoshop lolita kamiko how to digital painting christmas As you can see, I’m not opposed to showing you everything going on behind-the-scenes. The trees, I have to admit, are a mess. I studied birch trees and did my best approximation of them. The pine trees behind use a fan-shape leaf brush I created. The snow sitting on them uses the same brush at a smaller size. As I put this backdrop together, I realized, I needed to use some composition — I’m not great shakes at this either, and this is one of the few times where I’ve gone into thinking about it at all. I had the tree trunks point from the edges of the image back down into her with the hope that your eye would just funneled back into her. I originally made her red (you saw that image above), but I did this alternate blue one:

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Kamiko Winter Dress - Blue version

I thought the red was too much red. Her blouse is pink and peppermint striped. and it was just too much of one colors. The blue I thought would break it up nicely, but turns out folks like the red one and definitely like the high contrast version. What can I say? Red it is!

There you have it, my thought process. From nothing to something. The time it took for the sketch was maybe a few hours. That’s cheap to design something and determine if you like it or not. The high contrast one took a few hours — one evening really. So that’s also relatively cheap to do. The painted one (red version) took around 20 hours. That’s with inking (1-2 hour), cel-shading (8 hours), and then later the background (8-10 hours). In total she probably took a good work week’s worth of work (40 hours) and then I went and pimped her on deviantArt to whoever would spare the 5 seconds to look — submitting to groups and acknowledging feedback. For me, the high-contrast image is now the most favorite’d image in my gallery. How much do favorites really mean at the end of the day? Who can say. I feel like progress has been made and I’m soldiering onwards.

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Minecraft and Minecon

I had to go and celebrate Minecraft. Of all the games I’ve played that one’s held my interest the longest. Fallout 3 and Final Fantasy 7 may be next in line but that’s by orders of magnitude less than Minecraft. I spent 200 hours in Fallout 3 over a month and that’s roughly 8.33 days of game. I don’t know my tally for hours spent in Minecraft, but since my friend Emmy introduced it to me last September, I’ve logged countless hours, took up running a Minecraft server, created a blog for it, posted timelapse builds on youtube, and made 3D renderings of our multiplayer world. I can sit down for a session and 10 hours will pass. If there was a pie chart of my time spent during the last year, frighteningly, Minecraft would probably be a sizable wedge.

Minecraft

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Minecraft Survival World

A lot of folks who see Minecraft without any context just think it’s dumb. Who wants to play a game where you move cubes from one place to another? Others lament that it looks ugly and who would want that when we have games like Uncharted 3 and Gears of War? I love that the first comment on any Minecraft post begins with “I don’t get this game at all.”

In a way, I have to agree. I think if I was introduced to the game from minecraft.net, I might have given it a cursory look and then forgotten about it. A screenshot won’t do it justice. Instead I was shown a 10 minute tutorial video on how Minecraft worked. It’s a bit long to sell the idea of the game, but I listened as the narrator carefully explained everything he was doing. Gathering resources, crafting tools, and making a house to survive the night. I could see the potential that he was revealing throughout his video and in my mind, I knew I had to grab a copy of this game right away and start playing it.

The game itself is a conduit for your imagination. You’re essentially Robinson Crusoe stranded in the “natural” world. You have your wits (your stubby fists) and the resources residing all around you. Once you get how it works: punch trees for wood, convert logs to wood planks, planks to sticks, sticks to tools, and then use those tools to mine faster and place those resources like virtual legos to construct a house, then the game really begins. You survive your first night against creepers and zombies. Fence an area to farm wheat for bread and trees for wood. Go underground for iron and diamond. Discovered a ravine? Go explore it. What’s down this dark tunnel? It goes on and on revealed one torch at a time. What’s amazing is when you sit back and realize everything you’ve built and done. It’s six am but you’re still lingering around this virtual block world just doing one more thing and it becomes your story. You own every aspect of the world like no other game allows you too. Games like Uncharted 3 have amazing sets, but how often do you linger to enjoy it? All of that content crafted by many talented artists flash by in mere seconds. This block world crafted by algorithms and random seeds gets more eyeball time from the players. Minecraft has a voxel beauty all of its own.

Once you take the Crusoe idea to the next level, a multiplayer server with other people, Minecraft becomes even more compelling. People are building their own things in random parts of the world, they’re sharing resources with one another, or helping each other to achieve monumental structures.

You can play Minecraft creatively and do pixel art or replicate real world structures, but I find it more compelling to play it for keeps. When you play to survive, everything you create in the game serves a purpose. There’s that sense of working together to build certain structures and accomplish little things here and there that make “life” a little easier. It’s a form of progression more akin to the rise of a civilization than beating a game. What’s even more interesting is if that game persists for a year. Newbs that join the server won’t understand why certain things exist as they do, but it becomes this self-contained history that only you and a select number of friends know. In our old multiplayer world there are rings in the landscape where one version of Minecraft started procedurally generating terrain differently. We have screen captures of our world from the days when it was a single farm acting as a safe haven against creepers and zombies and you can see step by step how it blossomed into a modern looking city complete with amusement park, grand central station, and subway lines going out to the furthest reaches of the world.

By playing Minecraft I feel that I can gain an understand for folks that like to study and piece together history. I feel as if I am participating in the creation of history when I play Minecraft with others and those become the funny stories to share with friends. Sometimes I think calling Minecraft a game might be a misnomer. It’s a virtual second world. I realized this when I was standing around with a friend (skody) and surveying a parcel of land to build a train station. We seemed to take on roles of city planners rather than just gamers, but Minecraft lets you don these other hats which makes much more interesting.

Minecon

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Mandalay Bay was where Minecon was held and the hotel that we stayed at. Very nice hotel, BTW.

When Minecon was announced, I toyed with the notion of going. It was my friends who wanted to go too and that solidified my plans. Rodrigo seemed more interested because it was in Vegas. Emmy wanted to go because she’s a die-hard fan. I’m in the middle. Vegas is fun for a weekend and nerding it up at a Minecraft convention seems like the best excuse possible to visit sin city. Even if the con sucked, we could enjoy the strip and all its offerings.

I assumed Minecon would be a big party to celebrate Minecraft and more or less it was just that.

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Minecon opening session. This was before the Mojang crew got on stage.

The opening ceremony of Minecon was around 1:30 PM. They went through the history of Minecraft and Mojang. Mega64 showed off a hilarious video of Notch and Minecraft, and at the end Notch threw the lever and they released Minecraft 1.0 to the world. I missed the developer panel that day, and maybe that was a mistake, but we wanted to walk around Vegas that afternoon. I did go to the Saturday developer panel and Jens talked about stronghold and village placement in Minecraft. The web guys gave us an idea of how the Minecraft login server and downloader works and related some stats. As an engineer and a guy in the games industry, these are the panels that are interesting to me. Of course, it might be a better venue if they were presented at GDC instead of a fan convention. I was hoping that Notch would actually talk about Minecraft and share his story. I know that we all know it all, but I’d love to hear it from him. He needs to overcome his stage fright and be able to give us a keynote (maybe for Minecon 2012). I got to watch John Carmack’s keynote on Gametrailers from Quakecon. They pretty much handed him a microphone, he sat down on stage and for two hours rambled on about getting Rage to work cross-platform, profiling code on the XBox 360, and the issues he faced with megatexturing. It was interesting and entertaining and I wish we could have gotten something similar from Notch. The convention isn’t just a celebration of Minecraft but of the game’s creator too.There’s many aspects of Minecraft he could talk about and I would love to hear about voxel engines and the procedural generation of the game world.

The exhibition hall seemed to only be a storefront for Jinx — and I bought my fair share just like everyone else. There was a section for the XBLA version of Minecraft, but I’m not sold on the game. It’s clunky with a game pad. Minecraft’s still played best on a PC and you don’t need a bleeding-edge one either. There were computers setup for playing Minecraft and doing build competitions but we didn’t sit down for that. Mojang showed off Cobalt and Scrolls but we couldn’t get hands on with either and we’re still waiting for the alpha codes.

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This giant unhappy creeper was all the security they needed at Minecon.

Cobalt seemed fun. There were other indie game developers there and I suppose it’s tangentially related to Minecraft in that they’re all indies and that’s where Notch started from. People played their games; I only glanced at them. I’m here for Minecraft after all, but I understand that any means to get your game in front of eyes isn’t a bad thing. I wonder if Mojang will continue to do this in the future now that they are an indie gone big (bigger than say, other indie devs). Maybe Minecon might mutate into an indepdent games faire or include more indies in future exhibition halls which might be a cool venue.

The smaller panels were picked last minute and it showed. I only went to the Bukkit panel. Bukkit is a third-party Minecraft server that allows you to easily add mods and do other cool things that the stock Mojang server doesn’t. It also crashes my Internet everytime I try it. Yes, my Internet connection dies when I try to use it so I haven’t bothered to try it again. A panel on Bukkit at Minecon? Why surely they’ll discuss how to set it up, the best plugins to use, and give us tips on how we could configure Bukkit. That would be a fantastic panel to go too.

It’s too bad that wasn’t the Bukkit panel at Minecon, but I don’t think I could have expected much since they were literally asking for panelists a week before the con. The only thing I gathered from the panel was that “Bukkit was awesome,” which I knew. After ten minutes they were ready for a Q&A session so we bailed. One thing I did learn about Bukkit: they haven’t really been in contact with Mojang. If Mojang decides to change anything they’ll always be playing catch up. It seems like it would make more sense of Notch just hired these guys and made Bukkit the official Minecraft server. I shouldn’t have to choose what Minecraft server to use. Just have one. A good one and be done with it.

We didn’t bother with the other little sessions at Minecon after that.

Yogscast. Emmy’s a big fan of these guys, and every now and then she feeds me a video from their Youtube channel. Yogscast is a video podcast of Minecraft mods and it’s run by two British guys: Simon and Lewis. We went to their panel and they showed videos that were on their Youtube channel (I assume) and talked about the Yogbox (a collection of mods), and then showed a video of a story they’re telling via Minecraft.

In the end, now that Minecon is done, the big news with Yogscast is the fallout with Notch. There are rumors and gossip flying about. They’ve been called divas. They’ve been said to demand their airfare paid by Mojang and they dropped the f-bomb on a six year old — I don’t know how true any of this is. But, if you’ve watched an episode of their podcast, they seem to say and do as they please, and for a live show, what do you expect to change? They wouldn’t be Yogscast if they didn’t act like themselves. If you fire up one of their videos and listen to them for a few seconds, they’ll disarm whatever negative notions you have about them. Hopefully Yogscast and Notch can make amends because that could only be good for the game and community. We all want a Minecon 2012,right? Looks like they’ve responded to Notch’s tweets on Reddit.

The convention ended at the Wynn’s club XS for us. All the 21+ Minecon attendees were invited to hang out and at midnight Deadmau5 gave us a concert starting with a remixed version of C418′s Haggstrom — which I really liked. I don’t think everyone at the shindig were Minecon attendees. There was plenty of eye-candy (for us guys, duh) and the music was great. When we entered they were even playing a remix of Angry Birds. How awesome is that?

I don’t listen to Deadmau5 and I didn’t actually know who he was until Minecon, but apparently he’s a very big celeb in the likes of <name your favorite big name celebrity here>. I started to read up on him. He has a public Minecraft server and he’s Youtube’d about the game. It’s nerdy, awesome, and I respect him for that. The video above was taken with my iPhone 4 and I certainly wasn’t the only one filming. There were plenty of people with their smartphones out capturing the moment.

Do I think they could hold another Minecon? It all depends on how Minecraft develops over the next year. Notch says he’s back to work on it after his vacation. If there is another con, I hope that Notch makes an actual keynote presentation and that they’ve learned their lessons from this con about how to vet panels and create convention content.

Now that I’m home, Minecraft has shifted back as the main game to play. I watched/played the 9 hour epic of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and I’ll probably play a lot more of the co-op in the coming months, but I rebooted the Minecraft server and opted to start a new world so we could play Minecraft the way it was meant to be played: survival mode and hopefully that will carry me (and the rest of the guys on the server) through the chilly winter months.

Gallery of my Minecon images below.

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Anime Figure: Tainaka Ritsu

Instead of an anime figure this week, I thought I’d take some time and talk about a new drumset I got: a yellow Yamaha Hipgig, Cocktail and Jr. drumset.

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Alright, I’m not kidding anyone. I’m not even sure what a Yamaha Higpig is — it sounds more like an animal than a drumset. I just copy and pasted it from a wiki page about Tainaka Ritsu, who is this week’s anime figure.

I can’t play the drums. Not even Rockband drums. There’s just too many things going on at once and I don’t think I have that level of pre-emptive multitasking going on in my head to make my individual arms strike two different things at two different tempos while hitting a third thing using my foot on a mallet pedal at yet another interval. It seems incomprehensible to me that anyone can possibly do that, but I’m not musically inclined. Also, the drum kit above is at 1/6 scale, but for a musical miniature it’s quite detailed and I don’t think those pictures do it justice. I feel that if I owned a hamster or rat, he might be able to use these drums for some late night jam sessions.

The interesting thing about owning some of these K-ON figures is that you’re getting two models in one — an anime character and an instrument both crafted to the highest standard. If you think the drums are impressive, wait till you see Tsumugi’s Korg. It seems like it should have come with an AC Adapter and MIDI cable.

Ritsu comes with many parts and of the K-ON gals she was the most expensive. In the box you’ll find her yellow drumset, a pair of sticks, a seat with butt-indent so you know how to sit her down, and Ritsu herself. There’s a base plate, but I actually display her without it mainly because it takes up a lot of unnecessary s[ace so I'm glad it's optional. She's seated before her drumset and everything is modular and movable I can nicely squeeze her into the top shelf of my Detolf along with her friends (yes, I have all five of them).

And here's Ritsu herself:

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I don’t have too much to say about the sculpt. It looks like Ritsu in case you were worried that it might not. The wrinkles on the backside of her coat are nicely done (there are photos of that in the gallery). The pose looks silly without her drums in front of her but Rit-chan and her drum kit are meant to be displayed together. I suppose you can display the drums on their own if you just like having models of instruments adorning the shelves in your house, but if you display Rit-chan its with the drums. I found her a bit difficult to photograph. I want to snap her with the drum set but sometimes the cymbals and drums get in the way, but other times they framed her face nicely.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to purchasing the K-ON figures: Do you just get the characters you like, or, if you buy one does that mean you buy the rest of the band? I’m of the latter school of thought. I started out with a pre-order of one of the K-ON figures, Hirasawa Yui, and I was simply pleased that I would get to own a bit of Japanese plastic. The realization dawned on me soon after. There would be four more. In fact the statue for Mio was also in pre-order status and I decided then and there, if I was going to do this, as ridiculous as it sounds, I was going to go all in. That means all five and because of the rarity of anime figures and the popularity of K-ON, I’d have to be there on day one to pre-order each one. It did give me something to chase after, which was for a while fun (for me, not so much for my wallet). Later I picked up the Nendoroids, which are infinitely more fun, and a set of Mobip figures when I hunted through Akiba for something to blow wads of cash on. The moral of this story is: I own a lot of K-ON figures and they are the center piece of my collection.

So, as you can imagine, being a fan, the sculpt quality comes second to the primary point of just owning all five of them. I know there are other figures with the gals in swimsuits, lolita outfits, waitress outfits, and school festival type clothing, but honestly none of those appeal to me. The blue blazer and gray skirt — that’s iconic for K-ON. It’s boring, yes, but I wasn’t ever into the show for the titillation factor, which is what the manga seemed to sell on. On the show, the five girls worked great together as an ensemble and so do the figures. In the coming weeks I’ll be posting pictures of those figures as well.

More images of Ritsu below.

Anime Figure: Diabolus Inclinatus

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Painting: It’s Dangerous Tonight!

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I haven’t done colored art in a long bit, but that’s mainly because it’s really time consuming to do, but since I’ve been slowly getting back into the habit of drawing again, I started to draw with my Cintiq. Here’s the result.

She’s my original character, Catherine. You’ve seen her tons of times on this dA site dressed as a kitty cat or a dominatrix and in other scandalous attire.

You can see a whole gallery of imagery related to her and her friends.

This painting took me about 7 hours. This all started when I wanted to play with alternate ways of inking. I sketched something out really quick and then set to work inking it the only way I know that works best, and I gotta say, when I was done I was pretty damn pleased with the result, so I painted it too. Once I finished her, I didn’t want to leave her floating in space, so I set her in a grassy, midnight field infested with zombie albinos (a.k.a. zombinos).

BTW, I’m still up for art trades. They won’t look this polished. icon smile Painting: Its Dangerous Tonight! photoshop painting its dangerous tonight halloween Catherine But if you want to swap art, I’m looking for stuff to draw. Please see my deviantArt journal entry for more info on art swapping.

Update: Fixed parts of the image. Which parts!? You’ll never know!

Aishiteru, Natsume Yujin-cho ED

I love this Japanese song from the end of Natsume’s Book of Friends (Natsume Yuujin-cho season 2) called Aishiteru. Here’s a youtube video of the ending:

I can’t claim to understand the song, since it’s in Japanese, but I love it nonetheless. Sure, I’ve read the lyrics and the translation, but it’s still Greek to me.

Usually I’d like to find out more about the artist if I like a song or I like to find the original music video, but for some reason this artist, Kourin, eluded me. I actually always thought it was one woman, but they’re a duo. Her singing is haunting and achingly beautiful, especially in this song.

It’s been three years, but the song is still on my mind (and in my playlist), and I was looking around Youtube for various music videos and I searched for Aishiteru and came across the PV:

Kourin’s blog. There are a bunch of other live performance videos on there so I can get a sample of more of their work. I’ll have to pick up the CDs.

Also, if you’re looking for an anime to watch, I recommend Natsume’s Book of Friends. I found it on Crunchyroll years ago and immensely enjoyed it. The stories are a nice mixture of light humor and melancholy. They’re ghost stories without resorting to scares to elicit an emotional response from you. There was recently two more seasons. They’re not what I remember the show to be, but there are a few gems in the newer seasons. Regardless, it’s good to see one of my favorite animes return, although now it’s done and over.

SuperHappy Block Party

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I went to SuperHappy Block Party on Saturday. If you don’t know what it is check out the link:

www.superhappy.be

It’s a gathering of hackers and artists — people who enjoy doing technical or creative work coming together for 12 hours to meet people, work on projects, or just hang out and party. I think Super Happy Block Party grows out of the hacker culture/ethic that sprang up around Silicon Valley, and it’s a good reminder to me that this is why I’d want to be here. I tend to hack code on my own — so it was a good excuse to spent the afternoon teaching myself some new things about old tricks, more about that later.

It rained like hell that Saturday morning, but I was committed to going. I got into Palo Alto around 2 pm after it stopped raining. The sun peeked through the clouds for a bit. High Street was entirely closed off to car traffic making it a small pedestrian’s paradise. After grabbing a name badge and a chicken sandwich from the Chicken Champion truck, I went around and checked out the place. In the High Street parking garage there were all sorts of booths for artists and tech companies. On the third floor of the garage there was a “VC office hours” thing where you could pitch or talk to a Venture Capitalist if that’s your thing. Next door was Talenthouse and the Silent Disco. I didn’t really stick around to figure out what the disco was all about, but I assume everyone walking around with headphones had something to do with it. I ended up meeting plenty of folks I knew — co-workers, folks that used to work at my company, and a fellow Drawing Meats buddy, whom I knew was coming. I also got to meet plenty of interesting people. One of them was the guy who worked on Word Lens. Another dude was showing off Bastion running in native code through the Chrome browser. A met a third guy who ran a startup company out of Canada.

I ended up hanging out in the building at the end of High Street and worked on my Mac. My pet project? I purchased myself a new web domain for This Mortal Coil and I wanted to build a website for it. I want something more than a WordPress site and there’s plenty of new web technology out there to learn. I’ve been looking at HTML5′s <canvas> tag. I’d like to make WordPress plugins that’ll enhance the site’s interactivity. I also want to make my own comic page plugin to display the graphic novel. I have plenty of other ideas too. I spent my time at SuperHappy learning more about HTML5, Javascript, jQuery, and a host of new tech, and also getting distracted from doing that about every 10 minutes, but that’s SuperHappy for you. I learned enough to setup an IDE, found a decent way to debug Javascript code, and managed to write a bit of code for a simple project.

I can’t say it’s anything amazing. A lot of my time was spent reading and bashing my head against broken code and trying to figure out what I was doing wrong or what libraries I needed to include to get the page to work. Things got pretty exciting when I learned that you could do gestures and touch callbacks and practically make iOS apps without having to through Objective-C or the App Store. Here’s a sample of the work I did get done. As a bonus, if you have an iPhone, you can add these to your home screen and play them without a web browser bar taking on the screen.

HTML5 Play. This uses the HTML5 canvas. I drew a red ball. It’s not much, but you can use this with your iPhone. Just touch the red ball and you can move it around the screen by dragging your finger.

HTML5 Image Manip. You can also use this with your iPhone/iPad. It’s basically the same as HTMl5 Play, but I loaded an image and you can drag it around. I know you can do rotating and scaling but after a lot of head-bashing I couldn’t figure it out. This was meant to be a prototype for handling high resolution artwork in a gallery display. It obviously needs a lot more work.

The’re small steps, but I’m pretty excited for the possibility of what I can do in building an interactive website. I’ll be talking more about this and This Mortal Coil in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Art: Captain J Beautybeard

This is my friend Randy’s original character, Captain J Beautybeard. I drew this character for the Original Character Project we have on Drawing Meats.

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You can follow this link and see everyone’s rendition of Captain J Beautybeard.

I also posted this image to my deviantArt gallery.

I also wrote an article on Drawing Meats about how I put the illustration together. 

As you can see Captain Beautybeard is something very different than my other artwrok. Nice for a change of pace.