Wondercon Bound

First update of the new year, and the good news is I got my placement for my table at WonderCon this year. The bad news is, I got my placement for my table at WonderCon this year.

Layouts for Pages of Eight, I might be finished coloring the book in time for Anaheim but it will definitely be close.

I shouldn’t be surprised, placement in artist alley is kind of a crapshoot unless you are among the elite creative class. But it’s not as depressing as many would think. The first time I tabled at WonderCon I was in the second worst possible placement on the floor, all the way at the back of the hall, next to to loading exits. I have never had a better show than that one.

To explain, WonderCon has historically flowed attendees not through the lobby doors but through the side of the hall along the length of its shorter side. What I saw happen was that it forced attendees down the entire length of the hall. They would mostly follow the path they were on all the way to the end of the hall. Since artist alley is the the end of that path, they tend to mill around for a good long time before cycling back through the show.

So what I thought was one of the worst possible placements on the floor was filled with foot traffic for the entire length of the entire show. It was pretty impressive. I had a commission buyer at my table minutes before the show ended.

The Long Beach Comic Con layout puts artist alley in the middle of the action, but sends attendees through one narrow entryway and exits. The flow of people tends to dwindle dramatically on the last day’s waning hours. Not ideal. But I tend to do decently at Long Beach in no small part to the regular folks who always attend the show and make it a point to drop by and at least say hello.

The last time I tabled at WonderCon, I was sitting right across from Rob Linfield no less. It was a very high traffic day and Deadpool the movie had scarcely been announced yet. I might not be getting that kind of traffic this year, but it should be nice to get back to Anaheim instead of downtown Los Angeles.

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Back to some unbasics

What does that mean? I think 2016 got a bad wrap for obvious reasons. For me, personally, I will admit it was challenging, but so is every year. It was a perfect storm of morbidity – the popular stars of a very nostalgic period were succumbing to life’s demands, a fussy way to say life sucks, then you die.

I’ll even add that David Bowie passed away on my last day of vacation in January – I read that news right before I went to sleep.

Unbasics – for me this means trying something new as much as possible. Throwing out some old solutions or just using different means to different ends. 2016 was a very rushed year in terms of work,  both personal and professional and returning to things as simple as graphite on paper pleinair work.

For me that was a stretch – digital work is my bread and butter. But the pleinair work forced me to get some much needed fresh air and relaxation. I had a massively busy, though not very profitable, 2015, and 2016 needed to be different.

Gary Hutzel, my friend and employer for many years passed away in 2016. As did Ron Thornton, one of my first employers in the animation business. It was enough to me me look at my career in the light of “have I been doing this so long now that people around me are dying?” Sure felt like it.

For most of 2016 I just didn’t want to do things the same way – and not even do the same things. LinkedIn would give you the impression I am a character  animated but truth is I spent most of 2016 doing composting and matte painting. That was such an unexpected bonus and benefit 2016 brought that frankly I can’t hate the year any more than I could hate any number.

So 2017? All I want do do is make sure I get to Anaheim WonderCon with some new projects. Cheers.

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Does this drawing make my butt look big?

That’s a terrible joke. But inktober is coming and I feel like I’ve already started. 

The real purpose of the month as stated is to get people drawing every day for 30 days. It didnt hurt Jake Parker’s reputation either. As a matter of fact it helped him build a massive audience for his own work. At least massive in comparison to mine. I know, I’m not supposed to compare blah blah blah.

It happens.

I have struggled with drawing for years, mostly because it doesn’t have the same career focus and return on investment that my other skills have. But something worse is really the reason. I have relatively severe hand tremors and they are at times unavoidable during meticulous detail work.

Part of the ease I find in digital work is that I can undo and refine the result of these tremors and make polished work. I can’t easily do that in ink. What I CAN do is minimize them with scale. Since the tremors my hands cause very small jagged marks, why not increase the scale at which I draw. Then everything looks natural.

I’m not sure what these tremors are, sometimes they don’t bothet me at all. Caffeine, stress, lack of sleep. Might be any, all or none of these things, but as my doctor deems to think I’m normal I’ll find my way to make art.

Now go draw.

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Vendors and crowds

Two goals this week were met with mixed results.

I have been experimenting with some art on Instagram mostly to build an audience but also to get my drawings “muscles” back up to speed.

I also looked up quite a few outside vendors for laser cutting on a different project. In the mix were some molding services for my short production run on the Pencase. It all sounds very busy, but in truth I feel like I am living that proverbial 4 hour work week.

Most of these transactions leverage someone else’s time after all, leaving me with more of my own. Realizing you can’t do it all yourself, but can get close is pretty relaxing at the point you hand over the reins.

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Quick plug

Just a quick note, if you’d like to follow me on instagram, my username is zeustoves, same on twitter and deviantart. Is that already too many platforms? I think so but then I have too many guitars, too.

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What’s the holdup, Pencase guy?

Apparently, I am the only one overly concerned with a delay in Pencase production. Insert some witty remark here while I’m not looking.

I did meet with some interesting 3rd party 3d printing suppliers and makers at Siggraph. At least one of them offered to print one of my files at – get this – “no charge.”

My radar usually tells me quotes means no charge at all to rpint, but oh, you have to come get it yourself. OR, you have to do something else to get you into the showroom or sales floor etc.

I suppose I should be more open about this, but their printer lineup is two things: amazing in output, and totally out of my price range. I won’t mention names, but I honestly drool over their samples. They are consistently amazing.

The fact is they do resin and other materials that are honestly just so messy and prone to my constant fumbling and clumsiness. I really want to outsource to an American manufacturer if possible, and there were services that were on the floor at Siggraph that were within reach.

I hope to have a sample soon, if not a full fledged killer one of a kind METAL version of the Pencase. But evennthis would be a trick of sorts, since the most interesting samples were metal coated resins. REALLY high quality chrome and pewter finishes – luxurious to say the least.

That was exciting. Just imagining the Pencase with that fine a finish. Actually almost anything with that finish. Wow. As they say, stay tuned.

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Siggraphs shrinking act

So, this year was the first time in two years since I’d been to the annual event. Since it was in Anaheim, I couldn’t resist because it’s easy enough to pop into Dinseyland with my annual pass.

The first thing to notice is how small it is these days. It barely covers the two halls D and C. But its an interesting contrast when you consider how much tech and money depend on the research that is on display at the event.

It’s no surprise that 3d printing represented a smaller portion of the floor but it would be a mistake to say it’s no longer relevant. 3d printing companies have their own specific shows now, so Siggraph doesn’t represent the annual opportunity for exposure it once did.

Otherwise, I still found some new ideas, new software and valuable insight into the state of computer graphics and digital technologies.

Google demo’d their new mobile platform with built in motion, scanning and VR features. They are trying to make mobile content creation a viable platform based on their tech.

Amazon started offering free gaming development software and education in hopes of getting you to host the games with Amazon web services. They already host huge portions of the corporate world, you might be next.

One of my favorite offerings though was rather small and as yet less formal. Wolfram was offering new bridges between their raw mathematical powers and the real world. In particular was a great way to derive 3d printable models from pure mathematical models, molecular data and more.

So there, in a nutshell, is why I still like going to Siggraph. I always find something that goes a bit beyond the current. This year also marks the 15 years since my first Siggraph. I bought a backpack back then that I still use, though it’s a bit ragged nowadays. Just like me!

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Siggraph, VR and 3d printing

I hope I can make it to Siggraph this week. I rarely go unless it’s in town mostly because I’m usually working but since its also right next to Disneyland …

Just kidding. Sort of. I dont like going when Siggraph is held anywhere else because it actually becomes that much more expensive. I can always get free parking at the parks and I dont mind the walk.

This year, it looks like people have gone full VR or AR and are trying to pivot most visual effects work into pipelines that make these new projects and tech.

Its a pretty easy sell when there is that much money floating around the topics – the valley investors like to call it ‘stupid money.’ It’s the kind of investing where parties can lay down millions without knowing or caring since it’s basically gambling. Sometimes, the payoff makes whole new industries.

If I have anyhing nice to say about Pokemon Go, its that it has made some investors very happy, some companies very successful,  and hppefully led to more jobs for friends and myself.

And along the way, some people are figuring 3d printing might get a boost from the amount of gadgetry VR And AR espouse. I saw someone make a 3d peinted template to replace a phone case to help guide your finget acurately when playinh Go. Clever. Not groundbreaking but fast, useful, and most importantly paying attention.

Hope to habe a report soon.

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An unexpected emergency project

I broke my sunglasses case, which was actually the case for my last subscription pair. It was also the origins of the whole pencase journey.

I’ve said before I started designing the pencase after Inktober, but in reality I made a list of things I wanted to make when I ordered my first 3d printer.

I had all kinds of things skethed up, but one of them was a new case for my glasses. I even tried to design some new frames for my glasses at one point, but I needed more time to experiment. Everything looked kind of ‘oakley-esque’ so I put that aside.

While the pencase is totally practical for me, it’s nowhere near as everyday a requirement as my glasses case. I am pretty sure it will be a kitbash of some of the pencase elements, but I immediately had an idea for it’s design the second the sunglasses case lid snapped off.

I go to Disneyland a lot. I mean, a LOT. I’m a grown man, but I still love the place. It’s representative of a history that wasn’t mine, and it happens to have an ambient energy that is unmatched. But while I am there, going in and out of different areas, I switch my glasses on and off constantly.

It’s one of the behaviors which made the current snap, side hinge and belt clip design of the pencase so important. I usually keep my sunglasses in a side pocket of my backpack. But without my backpack, there is no easy way to carry my sunglasses.  Inhate dangling them from my neck. And no Ferris Bueller principal flip lenses for me, thanks.

So hopefully I can burn thru this latest project quickly. I bought a cheap store bought case which is terrible because of the way it opens lengthwise. Cases like this make it more likely I’ll drop my glasses. But, its also happens to be quite slim and fits my current backpack pocket.

So it’s off to Disneyland, and then back to the grind,.

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New design, hopefully a fresh start

So I am very close to a new printable design for the Pencase which addresses both users comments and my own qibbles with the first design.

I’ll be honest, the first design was ideal for me. It had everything I needed and wanted but it had little in the way refinement. While I am am a very skilled 3d modeller for entertainment projects, the demands of working on something which needed specific tolerances and durability required a lot of rewiring.

So with the new design, I think I have something I’d like to test with much more exotic materials – in particular, aluminum and stainlness steel. More 3d printing services are offering these materials and while a single print in either will likely cost into the hundreds of dollars I think it’s a worthwhile test.

But I would never ask a consumer to pay those kinds of prices for a pencase in said material. I already know that some of the parts I have designed are only achievable in the short term with 3d printing. The goal of the material test is exploration.

I won’t entirely rule out another round of design changes if it turns out I need to resort to cold casting, metal casting or other more common short run fabrication methods. But right now, I feel I have a good design and a decent schedule for this round of testing.

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