January 1—This painting is an attempt to shed pretense and look at myself freshly and objectively, as if observing another person. It's a form of art therapy—an exercise in seeing clearly what is there rather than what one wants to be there or believes is or should be there.
My illustration and drawing classes usually included a self-portrait assignment. Critiques of final work were entertaining and revealing for everyone despite scattered groans when the assignment was given.
This cartoon is an impression left with me after watching the recent inauguration day events.
The new Apple Campus under construction (photo: Reuters/ Noah Berger) is impressive and ambitious, but a geodesic dome clad with light-responsive panels would create a world of new possibilities for the inner courtyard.
Journal entry, 6March2017:
12:37 a.m.—A half-moon is muted by an overcast sky. I'm sitting in the loft bed on this mild night while the mind streams thoughts of the stark contrast between a calm, inner world and an outer world fraught with division and delusion.
There seems to be no resolution to that outer battle—so many people are committed to a train of thought without awareness that it is an illustion— what is accepted as real is actually a mental concoction, especially the self-image so fiercely defended.
But there is peace in an individual life when there is peace within—the peace that comes from recognizing and detaching from collected ideas of who we are. Real freedom exists then—real contentment, real ease, real confidence abide when the imaginary self loses the power given by one's identification with it.
This is an example of the creative process triggered by random colors and forms. On the left is a composition of quickly painted colors done late one night with my tablet. On the left is an enlarged section where I saw the suggestion of a face that had formed completely by accident.
That section was greatly enlarged in Photoshop and refined to reveal this portrait of the "Flame Princess".
The character in this animation was also suggested by unintended, accidental imagery in the corner of a photo that I was processessing. I don't remember which photo it was, but the image took off in my imagination and, after much playful revision, became the creature in the video.
This project places 2D components in 3D space to give the scene more depth (note how the character reveals its flatness when it turns). It is also the first time I've used the Adobe AfterEffectsCC program to make a complete production that includes title, captions and credits without using another video editing program to add those components.
Reviving the Studio Exterior
The exterior paint on my studio was looking a bit untidy after 25 years or so. this was the condition of the south wall.
In May, I went to Gersons in Tucson for their Eco-Paint, an inexpensive, recycled exterior paint. Color selection is limited, so I used left-over paints from past projects for the stripe and to tone down their "red" to a dusty rose.
The west side includes a wall section and a front porch with a small deck and bench made from old fence posts.
The old deck lumber was deteriorating, so I removed it all and built a new bench using small pieces of scrap lumber topped with a 2x12x8' board purchased from Home Depot.
The paint theme on the south wall continues on the west wall section.
The art piece in the old window and the 18-year-old porch mural are also in need of repair and revitalization, but those will wait until cooler weather in the fall. The front of the studio, the north side, may also get a new paint job then.
Another Trump Cartoon
A news article mentioned that there have been complaints from some club members that a certain President was driving his golf cart onto the greens. That inspired this image of a President who ignores rules and traditions to do things his way.
I Try The Ugee tablet
In April, there was a flash sale on Gear Best that offerred a 16" Ugee HK1560 display tablet for under $300US. It is similar to the Wacom pen display tablets and has the same sensitivity level as the Intuous Pro I got over a year ago. The Ugee works quite well and seems a tremendous bargain compared to pricey Wacom products.
Update: After several months of alternating and comparing the Ugee with the Wacom Intuous Pro pen tablet, I find that I don't use the Ugee screen to draw on. I keep it turned off and use the pen as I would with the Intuous tablet.The bigger main screen is preferable for me--more space, better color accuracy, and I'm accustomed to using a pen tablet that way. For me, drawing directly on a screen makes more sense on my mobile tablet.
While in the last stages of the exterior work In May, I was contacted by Marjorie Gettys, one of the first authors I'd worked with when I began my internet-based illustration & design service in 2003. After three years with no book projects, this was quite a surprise.
Initially, she just wanted to increase the size of the type in the original book to make it easier for children to read. Since I stll had those files, I thought it would be a relatively simple job that would only take a few days and bring in a few hundred dollars, so I agreed. However, as work proceeded, Marjorie kept expanding the project until it became a complete transformation to a larger book with a revised storyline and more, larger illustrations. I wasn't expecting that and found myself committed to a much more time-consuming job that would stretch through June and into July.
The story was inspired by a personal, mystical experience the author had. This is one of the simpler 2-page spreads in the new 40-page, 8"x10" booklet, but may be my favorite. It somewhat captures the mood of a spiritual revelation.
Since all the old artwork had to be re-done to fit the new format, the project allowed direct comparison of my current knowledge and skills with what they were 14 years ago. Needlless to say, a lot has been learned since then, and equipment and software are also much better. The resulting artwork has noticeably improved while being produced more efficiently.
Although extra income is needed and welcome, this kind of work can be taxing. I missed the freedom of waking up each day to dive into my own projects rather than dealing with the needs of a client.
Studio Exterior, cont.
After finishing the book project, I got back to the studio exterior. A brutally hot June into early July took a heavy toll on the ivy that had covered the front wall. In the middle of that heat wave was a stretch of several days when the daytime high was 110 or higher! The late p.m. sun baked the leaves.
This is the front, street-facing wall of Sala Grande before the heat wave.
After the heat wave, leaves died and fell off
The vines were removed and the wall scraped and patched
It's the same colors as the other walls now, except the stripe is a bit more vivid. The ivy will eventually grow back, unless super-hot summers are the new normal as the climate changes.
R.I.P. Polla the Cat
Polla, my roomie for the past 9 years, fell asleep for the last time on the night of Septermber 11. He was 19 years old.
He was the inspiration for a kid's book, "Must Be A Cat!", and generally kept life interesting. It will certainly be different around the casita without him.
Mobile tablet upgrade
By the summer, the battery in my first mobile tablet (Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, 2012 model) was having difficulty holding a charge after nearly five years of daily use.
An iPad Pro or Surface Pro would be ideal, but they are expensive, the stuff of dreams. After much research, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S-pen seemed like a reasonable upgrade, especially since it was available for $300–not only $150 less than the Note 10.1 cost in 2012, but with improved technology. It's a much nicer tablet and a joy to use.
The on-board S-pen is fine, just too small and skinny for daily journal writing. Wacom lists a stylus for current Samsung devices, but it seems to be indefinately out of stock. Staedtler, however, makes a pencil-like stylus for the Tab A that looks and feels much like the real thing and works very well.
A welcome bonus was compatibility with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard purchased for the first tablet. They worked too erratically with the Note 10.1, so were set aside. The Tab A recognized and connected with them immediately and they work as they should. It's a complete mobile set-up for use at the kitchen counter in the Casita or elsewhere away from the studio..
Goodbye Adobe CC
Adobe recently increased their subscription prices. No shock there, but the single app monthly rate jumped a staggering 270% from $20 to $54! That means I won't be renewing my AfterEffects CC subscription when it expires in January, 2018.
Correction: Today, 19Dec2017, I received a routine notice from Adobe that my single app subscription was about to expire. Upon checking my account page there was no sign of a rate increase. Either they changed that policy, it was some kind of mistake, or I was hallucinating the 2-3 times I saw it a few weeks ago. I will still be cancelling in favor of comparable, free software...don't really care for their 'subscription only' business model.
Correction update: Today, 12Jan2018, I noticed an ad for Adobe CC that again had price increases. I checked their site and the increases are less dramatic and only for a new "business" catagory of subscribers. Rates for "individuals" remain the same.
Even before that news, I had intensified training with Blender, the free, open-source 3D animation program. The goal was to see if the same quality results could be produced with Blender that I'd learned to achieve with AfterEffects. By November, after several weeks of trail and error, that goal was reached.
The video below, is the first of these efforts. Although Blender is geared towards 3D modeling and animation, it is a capable platform for the 2.5D work (flat, 2D elements in a 3D setting) that I'd focused on in AfterEffects. Thanks goes to the community of Blender users who provide tutorials on YouTube that deal with every quiestion I had and every obstacle encountered on that quest.
But, that's not the entire story. Although Blender is a deep and powerful program, its video sequence editor is not as robust as I'd like. One of the biggest issues for me is a limited ability to easily create titles.
That led to a search for a more full-featured video production option. I could use the Magix video editor I've had for years, but it was beginning to feel dated and less than what I wanted. I searched and found HitFilm Express, another free program that is comparable to Adobe Premiere Pro. My previous experience with Premiere allowed quick immersion into the functions of HitFilm, and the above video was soon assembled with titles and audio tracks.
A month earlier, she had requested a logo design, and a major part of her visit was sitting with me at the computer to work together modifying the preliminary designs I had prepared until she was satisfied. Although it's fun to have a business graphic design project, this one may or may not be used. There remains discussion among the partners about the name of the café and none of them were involved with this design.
Update: I was informed on 1 January 2018, that the logo will not be used, but the invoice I had submitted will be paid when funds are available.