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Mindless Pursuits


I’ve Been Declared ‘Cancer Free’ Again… Now What? 2

Posted on May 10, 2013 by Keith
This picture has nothing to do with this post, other than I'm as determined to succeed as she was to hit the ball (and she did)!

This picture has nothing to do with this post, other than I’m as determined to succeed as she was to hit the ball (and she did)!

Wednesday I receive my most recent PET scan results, which resulted in my being declared ‘Cancer Free’ (provisionally speaking, but we won’t get into that). As you can guess, there was, and still is, a flood of emotions that swelled up around the news. This post isn’t to discuss that. Instead, beating the big ‘C’ a second time beggars other questions. First and foremost among them: what comes next?

Well, first and foremost, I devote all of my daytime attention to my ‘Grand Endeavor.’ It’s not something I’m talking about in specifics right now as I need to keep it under wraps to avoid competitive scrutiny, and because I don’t want to create any preconceived notions about it. The final rounds of chemo and radiation really disrupted my work though, and starting Monday, I plan to devote a solid 8-10 hours a day to it and get it back on track. I also plan to spend time each evening and weekend on my art. My drawing skills have been developing nicely, my desire to paint with traditional mediums is back, and I’m quite enjoying my digital space and science fiction art projects. Maintaining a healthy balance between the Grand Endeavor, my art, and my time with my daughters is very important to me.

Additionally, I plan on furthering my exercise schedule. I have brought my 12-speed mountain bike back from storage, and have already ridden around town twice. I’m going to slowly introduce some weights into my daily routine. Of course, I’ve already started working on eating healthier, though I’m not going to follow any specific weight loss plan. I’ve even done well in ensuring I am not sitting still all day, despite being at the PC. Every half an hour I ensure I get up and walk around and enjoy a moment on the balcony.

Finally, I have a project that will be very much a sideline project for a while, but will be another step forward in my dreams of enabling creative souls to gain exposure and show their craft. In this case, it’s a project named ‘We All Dream,’ and the earliest incarnation will be a hub for webcomics creators, online graphic novelists, musicians and writers to share their works. Eventually I plan to expand it to be much, MUCH more, but every dream needs a starting point! I’ll provide more information on it here as I develop it further.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Digital Painting Progression – ‘Remote Space’ 0

Posted on May 08, 2013 by Keith

Yesterday I created my first full digital painting, a piece of space art I’m calling ‘Remote Space.’ It’s based upon a tutorial in Geoff Taylor’s How to Draw and Paint Science Fiction Art, though I added some elements that weren’t in the tutorial, such as a nebula and better color variation for the planet.

Remote Space

‘Remote Space’ – Digital Painting

For this painting, I used my Wacom tablet, the default pen, and Photoshop. It took me about 3 hours of total time to complete the painting. The biggest issue I had was tired eyes. After about an hour, my eyes were tired enough that I wasn’t seeing where I was missing detail. I was also foolish and worked entirely with the painting at 1/3 of full size because I wanted to keep it all on screen. I should have gone to 100% or larger to ensure my detail worked well. As a result of these issues, I had to perform some cleanup after I was done. Extra credit for noticing the differences between the video and the image above, as I did the cleanup after making the video.

I’m really looking forward to doing both more digital painting and more space art. I have ideas aplenty, and making them come to life is going to be a lot of fun!

On Art, Weight Loss, Books & Entertainment – VBlog 0

Posted on May 06, 2013 by Keith

Hey — I made it to a second week of Video Blogging! I really wasn’t certain that I would. Hopefully today’s VBlog is a bit tighter and less full of ‘ummmm’s. I filmed a quick take at the local park, but unless you like the vomit-inducing effect of ultra-shaky-cam, I realized I’d better re-record it! Today I thought I’d talk about a few things that are central to my daily life: art, weight loss, books and entertainment.

Sand Creek Park

At the park by my home.

When I restarted this blog last week, my weight was 418.4 pounds. Today I am at 415. Woo! It actually wasn’t too difficult for a few reasons. First, I pretty much stuck with eating pre-made, frozen Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers meals when it was just a meal for myself. Second, when it was a meal with the entire family, I stuck with good portion control. Finally, I forced myself to get some exercise by going for extended walks a couple of times during the week and taking the girls to the park yesterday for some baseball, kickball and more walking. I even made my personal kryptonite: cookies. Despite the temptation of fresh cookies, I was able to keep the willpower to eat just one. I also made a ‘tracking sheet’ to keep myself accountable. All of that added up to a respectable 3.4 pounds of weight loss. I look forward to continuing the momentum this week.

For the rest, see the video, but here are links to some of the things I discussed:

Crunchyroll – A streaming anime service where you can watch some anime for free on your PC or subscribe and stream it to media devices like the Playstation 3 in order to watch it on a TV.

Funimation – An importer and dubber of anime for many years, Funimation is also responsible for the HORRIBLE dubbing of Ultraman Tiga that was shown on TV many years ago. While I like to watch some of the free streaming anime, I’m not a fan of their dubs at all.

A Certain Scientific Railgun S – Along with ‘A Certain Magical Index,’ Railgun involves the super-science ‘Academy City’ where conflicts between magic and Esper-users occur. This series revolves around the ‘Sisters’ story arc from the light novels / manga. It and ‘Index’ are currently our favorite anime series.

Nyarko-san: Another Crawling Chaos – A very random and energetic ‘harem’ anime involving human-looking personifications of elder deities from the Cthulhu mythos and the Earth teen they live with!

The Fletch Series of Books – Written by Gregory McDonald, the Fletch series of books are not comedy like the movie was. They are played straight, and are my favorite series of books. I highly recommend them for some light reading!

Shoujo Manga Techniques: Writing Stories – I bought this used for Alex, but read it myself as well. It’s a manga that talks about how to write manga! I wasn’t expecting much, but it’s actually quite useful and makes for an enjoyable read.

Comics Crash Course – I picked this up for all of six cents plus $3.99 shipping through a used seller on Amazon. Whiule it has the same ‘basic drawing skills’ that all these types of books seem to have, this one is nice because it speaks more to breaking down a sequence into panels, how to create dynamic layouts, how to use a scripts, and other non-drawing elements of creating a comic.

That’s it for this week’s VBlog post. Now I’m going to go try to relax on the deck and enjoy this beautiful day.  See you later!

Free Comic Book Day 2013! 0

Posted on May 04, 2013 by Keith
Awesome Star Wars Cosplay abounds at Free Comic Book Day

Awesome Star Wars Cosplay abounds at Free Comic Book Day

Today is Free Comic Book Day (FCBD), and the girls and I went to our favorite comic store to celebrate: The Source Comics & Games! This has been an annual tradition for us, interrupted only last year by me being very ill from my cancer. For those unfamiliar with FCBD, it’s an annual event wherein many comic book shops around the country give away free comics, have games, cosplayers and other events as a celebration of the medium and as a promotional tool. It’s a lot of fun!

Iron Fist and Elisabeth!

Iron Fist and Elisabeth!

Today we got there a little over an hour before the store was scheduled to open. It was unseasonably cold and rainy this morning, so there weren’t but a couple of cosplayers outside before the store opened, as there has been in the past. Santa Claus was there, which amused me. 🙂

Luffy from One Piece

Luffy from One Piece

They opened the store early and the line moved briskly inside as it could, and we received our free bags of comics. The girls received free mini-figurines of Iron Man in addition to their free comics. I was thrilled when I looked in my bag later and saw that I had gotten a free full copy of the Hellboy sourcebook and role-playing game, as I love Hellboy!

Me and Hellboy

Hellboy and Me in 2011

There were plenty of cosplayers and guest artists in the store. By the time we left, there were also a number of additional cosplayers plus the 501st Legion, a large Star Wars cosplaying contingent that is a staple of FCBD at the Source. While we didn’t get pictures with all that we wanted to, we saw the Alan Scott Green Lantern, Iron Patriot, Darth Maul, Emperor Palpatine, Luffy, Poison Ivy and more. It was a very fun morning, as always!

Battle of the Giants – A Work In Progress 0

Posted on May 02, 2013 by Keith

I started a new drawing at the beginning of last week called ‘Battle of the Giants.’ It’s the largest drawing I’ve started to date, and it’s mostly a learning exercise in perspective. I spent about three hours drawing the linework for the framework of the street and city. After that, I wasn’t entirely certain what I wanted, other than for a giant robot to be fighting some sort of ‘monster.’ I eventually decided that the ‘monster’ would be a dragon, as my daughter and I are also learning to draw those at the moment. It was then that I needed to take the next step, and start trying to draw the figures, but first I needed to determine a pose….

Battle of the Giants - Using Tracing Paper to Work on Pose

Using tracing paper to work on pose structure
(I apologize for how dark this is, but it’s the only way I could get the lines to show as they are so light)

Because I knew it would take me multiple tries to get the basic structure of the pose correct and interesting to me, and I didn’t want to draw and erase numerous times on my nice perspective framework. I don’t know how other artists handle this, but in my case, I opted to work on my forms by putting a piece of drawing paper over the perspective drawing so I could see the lines underneath, then sketched out various forms. By using the tracing paper, I didn’t have to touch my line drawing until I was satisfied. Surprisingly, the tracing paper held up better than I expected to constant erasing, so I only needed to use one sheet.

Battle of the Giants in Progress - Adding Figure Roughs

Adding Figure Roughs

Once I had the structure of a pose that I liked, I then started putting it into the actual drawing. My feeling right now is that I should have done the figure roughs on the tracing paper as well, then used my lightbox to transfer the roughs to the main drawing once they were more developed. I didn’t, but as this is a learning experience, I’m not sweating it. What I found once I started doing more work on the figures was that I was having problems visualizing how the legs would work in the pose. I could look in a mirror and use my cheap wooden pose mannequin to figure out the torso and arms, but that wasn’t working for the lower half of the robot. What I’ve decided to do is to set up some pillows against a wall to be the dragon’s lower half, and then have one of my daughters recreate the pose for me so that I can see how the legs and lower body would work.

I’m hoping to have this done next week. So far I’m happy with the progress, even with the flaws I need to work on, but it’s a long way from finished. I’m thinking after I get the figures done, I’ll actually scan it all into the PC and try to do the inking and coloring digitally. I’ll also try to do it using traditional media, just to improve my knowledge in both areas. I’ll do additional posts as things progress. Learning is fun!

Learning Experiment: Manga-Fusion Style 0

Posted on May 01, 2013 by Keith

Random Manga Fusion Girl

Isn’t she cutely deformed? This is my first experiment in attempting to drawing using the style referred to by some as anime-/manga-fusion. I admit that I didn’t put a lot of effort into it, as I did it just before going to bed Monday night, and I was already tired, but in keeping with my intent to draw something new every day, I wanted to get something done. My guide for this attempt was an example in Christopher Hart’s Drawing Cutting Edge Fusion: American Comics with a Manga Influence. I’m not actually a big Hart fan as I find his books to be bland and repetitive, but I found this book used and most of the examples aren’t drawn by Hart so I found it more compelling.

Another book I have that I like but haven’t followed any examples out of yet is Andy Smith’s Drawing American Manga Superheroes (Used bookstores can be your friend!). I find it to be a much better book for overall completeness, but started with the Hart book because it was still on my nightstand, having just gotten it.

My ultimate goal, like so many comic fans, is to eventually make my own comic. I already know the characters, the plots, have bits of dialogue written and even a universe guide as I’ve been developing these characters since high school. I just can’t decide what art style I want to focus on for them so am eagerly trying out multiple styles now that my drawing is improving. Sometime this week I’ll sit down and work on another manga-fusion example but spend more time on it. I look forward to seeing the difference between them!

Quick and Dirty Zentangle Time-Lapse Video 0

Posted on April 29, 2013 by Keith

 

I made a quick and dirty Zentangle today as I plan on recording the occasional time-lapse video of drawings or paintings or other artistic endeavors, and I wanted to test a setup for recording overhead while I’m drawing. I think it worked pretty well, even if the end cut off when my camera ran out of space!

On Widely Varied Interests 0

Posted on April 29, 2013 by Keith
Waterfall at the Japanese garden at Como Zoo

Waterfall at the Japanese garden at Como Zoo

I always have multiple projects going on at any one time that reflect my widely varied interests. If there’s anything that can be said with certainly about the way my mind works, it’s that when I spend much time focusing on just one interest, I fall into deeper depression than I do when I’m exploring a number of interests concurrently. Of course, I really suck at time management, so oftentimes, my various projects sit idle or with very little attention. It’s something I’m working on but still have a way to go.

What I am finding works for me is to dedicate one big block of time to the most important interest/activity — in this case a project I consider my ‘Grand Endeavor’ that draws upon my software architecture and development skills. I try to maintain two 3-5 hour blocks of time each day for working on it. I use two large blocks instead of one big block as I find I can stay focused more easily if I work in two mid-sized chunks than I do in one large block. Sometimes smaller blocks work, but I still work to maintain the same amount of time each day.

For my other interests and activities, they get splayed out as I have time. Some interests, like anime and drawing, I can explore with my daughters here, as they share the same interests and we do a lot of it together. Some, like painting, I dive further into when my daughters aren’t around because I need more focus and more uninterrupted space. Unfortunately, these interests tend to receive a lot less time and focus because I’m always hesitant to begin something if I think I’ll have to leave it in the way when the girls come over (like my easel and painting table, or my polymer clays and oven). I tried restructuring my time so that I’d use an evening for each activity when the girls weren’t around, but the creative muse doesn’t flow that way. What it’s caused me to do is to learn to relax a bit about my creative workflow.

For instance, I now leave one small table set up in front of my easy chair. It sits over the ottoman quite nicely so that it doesn’t really take up more tha a couple of inches that the ottoman wouldn’t use already. So I’m not wasting space, and I can leave some extended projects on it, such as a detailed drawing I’m trying to work on this month. I’m also trying to learn to shift some of my interests towards the digital realm. I have this wonderful Wacom tablet that I need to explore using more, and the software tools to support digital art workflows. It’s time to take advantage of that as well as my traditional mediums.

It’s also time to recognize that, with my varied interests, it’s okay to let some drop from time to time, because I know eventually I’ll return to them. I haven’t painted with oils or acrylics in six months. I’m feeling the urge again, and the ideas are flowing, whereas they weren’t when I felt I had to force it. Additionally, as my drawing skills increase, some other fun ideas have come up that I may want to explore, such as working on a periodic web comic. What I’m also starting to reinforce in myself is that these pauses and changes over time are fine, because while I like to show others what I’m working on and create, my desire to create is entirely for myself and as such, I’m okay with it changing, evolving and occasionally being cyclical. I think that as I learn to ‘go with the flow’ I’ll become an even better artist and more inspired in what I create.

The best part? Always being able to look forward to what new idea I’ll surprise myself with tomorrow!

Ready… Set… GO! 0

Posted on April 27, 2013 by Keith

Welcome to the revamp of Mindless Pursuits, my personal blog and playground. For those who remember this site from it’s days as a shop, or from it’s days as a geek blog, welcome back — this won’t be the site you remember. For those who are new — welcome aboard! I’m an individual with a number of different focuses in life, and I’m finding that I focus best and feel best when I blog about things. As a personal blog, this blog will be very self-centered and that’s just the reality of personal blogs as they’re about the lives and interests of the person writing them. In this case, it’s a blog pertaining to the interests and activities of an artist and software developer with two kids who is at the tail end of his second battle with cancer. So topics will vary widely from art to software to my kids to my health and to other areas like recipes, anime and gaming because all of those areas are of interest.

I’m also working on video blogging. I’m going to try to avoid a lot of overlap between the two, and use them to supplement each other. We’ll see how well that goes, but I look forward to trying it out. In the meantime, I hope those of you who check in find it interesting!

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