Running for office … space

People talk about the movie Office Space a lot in the context of their jobs. It makes sense that the themes cross over no mater where you happen  to work.

Wrestling some future projects, why is this so hard?

I work in a visual effects studio with custom made furniture, polished concrete floors and, too often, too little light. But the atmosphere couldn’t be less like the movie if it tried. That doesn’t mean it’s any more glamorous. I joke all the time that it’s demo reels that glamorise the work because we look like a bunch of telemarketers or accountants at our desks.

I’ve been thinking that I am kind of running out of space for the projects I want to tackle in the future. Which is odd because I have been using my Surface Pro more often and can be anywhere with it. But the scale of some upcoming architecture and design ideas means I might need actual fabrication space.

Router tables, bandsaw, maybe a CNC machine – I can’t afford any of that, but it’s goal right? One of the most exciting products I’ve seen lately is a handheld computer assisted router that could really help with some larger constructions I want to tackle. Think the ultimate transforming desk. Or outdoor portable studio.

I’d want there to be an engineering element to more of my work this year – real structures, great spaces, something grand. Does this sound like a new year’s resolution? Not really, that would be too formal.

What is formal is trying to get my latest book done. Almost all of my engineering ideas take less actual time and energy to finish than a single issue of my comics.

Well, we’ll see.

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Is there life on Mars

The song, not the question, was on my mind yesterday so I looked up some lessons for it. There are plenty but one stood out.

People have now pretty much annotated my entire musical vocabulary in some way. In fact, almost anything you could want to look up online … you get the picture.

People say it makes finding anything new really difficult. That’s not true. Finding something new that you LIKE is hard, unless you have no  taste and like anything anyone sticks in front of you. Obvious, right?

What they usually mean is its hard to make something new POPULAR or successful. Even the hottest stars in any field flop eventually. That part is easy. It’s downhill racing.

Back to the song, it’s mostly regarded as existential crisis, what does it all mean kind of stuff. Like a lot of creators, David Bowie found some kind of creative energy and angst in the constant grind to find outlets for his music. I heard him comment in an interview about how hard it was to play to audiences who just didn’t understand what he was doing.

Here’s  the picture he painted  – working  class London in the seventies, broke down and tired office workers heading to a pub for a drink with coworkers, neighbors and friends are met with Ziggy Stardust. You really couldn’t have asked for a bigger mismatch of audience and perfomer. But I am betting  some people  who saw Bowie in those early days secretly thought he was the most interesting, new, and awesome new act in their short and boring lives.

And now he’s  been gone just over a year – so if you STILL don’t get it, as the song says, you’re “beating up the wrong guy.”

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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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