Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Illustration Friday - "Rain"

My plan was to do "cut paper" acid rain. Plans change.



The other day I tried out the free demo of "ArtRage 2" (link) and within the first ten minutes of playing around with it I decided to buy it. Not a huge investment – only $19.95 compared to $199 for "Autodesk (formerly Alias) Sketchbook Pro" – but one that I think will be well worth it. The interface is fantastic and easy to use and while it might not be as configurable as "Sketchbook", there's still a LOT you can do with it. And, while it's nice to have a tablet to use with it, it isn't necessary. It's not going to replace Photoshop for me, but it'll make a very nice addition for when I'm in a "natural" media mood.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Answering a comment.

I love to receive comments, mainly because I enjoy finding out what my viewers/readers think of what I'm doing or have done. That said, I don't actually get very many. I also used to be a lot better at answering each comment "back in the day." Not so much these days, but what can I say? My interest in blogging has been waning for some time now.

However, my previous post about the Dora plug-and-play video game generated a comment that I felt I really needed to respond to. My comments, for a change, are in blue. It's going to be pretty blue and I didn't want my normal red to be overwhelming. Take it away Don.

Don said...

*sigh*

Having kids, we are familiar with these characters as well as being aware of what is being implied.
I have kids as well, although I haven't watched Dora. My daughter watches daytime TV at her mom's apartment while I'm at work, therefor I've never actually seen the show. Since she is familiar with the Dora character, I assume that means she watches it, and she also seems to enjoy it. I'm not down on the show, I just feel that this particular product wasn't well thought out.
To answer the implied question, this whole "discussion"...
Actually, it wasn't a "discussion". It was an observation. Specifically "my" observation. Now that I'm replying to your comment it's a "discussion". Of sorts.
... is based on a combination of not knowing what things are ...
Which I admitted, when I asked "I really want to know if that stick is a character?". Although apparently not enough to hit Google. And, thanks to your comment, now I know.
... and seeing what you want.
I wouldn't say "want". I'm not one of those people that prowl the toy section looking for things to offend me. And, to be totally honest, I'm not offended. Merely shocked that nobody at any stage of the development realized how that might look to someone unfamiliar with the Dora "universe". I also admitted that "Maybe I just have a dirty mind", however I'm not the only person in the world who would see something potentially wrong with the presentation of this product. Heck, Amazon only has two pictures of it and both were taken either "straight on" or "high angle" in an apparent attempt to minimize the – no doubt – unintended aspect presented from a side on view. That's also just speculation on my part since I don't work for Amazon and don't know where the photos came from.
It has nothing to do with what things actually are or even look like to someone not looking for it.
Again, I wasn't "looking for it". I just "saw" it. I'm also really good at those Magic Eye pictures, and "Spot the Differences" puzzles. And I kick ass at tangrams. I like to look at things in ways that other people might not. This, this and this for instance. Some people find my observations funny, others might find them in bad taste – I might have a better idea of the ratio of "funny to not" if more people commented. Ahem. I do realize though that absolutely nothing will ever please everyone.

1. It's not 'fleshy pink.' It is a yellowish tan, the color of the character: a rolled up paper map.
You are correct. It's more of a yellowish tan than a pink. However, I still say that it is a color that could pass for a flesh tone on a toy. And I would never have guessed that was a map, given all the time in the world, since I have never seen the show. It's silly if they expect that everyone who sees this product will also have seen their show. It's even possible there are still people who have never seen an episode of 'The Simpsons'.

2. It is curved because the character's cartoon style has a curve no matter what angle it is drawn from. If you've ever tried to convert a 2-d character to 3-d, this would be more obvious.
You are right. Strange things can come about when converting from 2D to 3D. That still doesn't make deciding to go forward with that design when this point was reached a "smart thing". For starters, "joysticks" have been perceived as phallic since the days of the Atari 2600 (not a work-safe link). Making one that is yellowish tan and curved DOESN'T HELP allay that perception. Why go with a joystick at all? Why not use a directional pad? My daughter has been comfortable with using a Playstation controller to navigate simple games since she was three, well within the age range for this game and something tells me it's not that complex a game. Apart from "retro" Atari plug-n-play game collections and flight stick game controllers for the computer, where do you see joysticks used anymore? Small, analog thumbsticks, sure. But "full on" joysticks? I still feel that this was an ill conceived and poorly executed design.

3. The 'ridge' is simply the rest of the rolled up map.
Okay, that convinced me that I needed to seek out a screenshot or something of "Map". Here's what I found. Seeing it reinforces what I've been thinking since you revealed that it was a map. Where's the seam? The end of the roll? As it turns out, on the actual Map it's even more than a seam. Judging from the pictures, he has an entire flap hanging open, which makes sense if he's meant to be rolled up paper. So, in the conversion from 2D to 3D they managed to keep the curve and the face, but not the flap. Of course, if the flap were there the joystick might not have been very comfortable to hold, however there could have been a slight seam down one side and something could have been done with the top to make it look more like rolled up paper. Basically, if it had to be made this way, it could have been done better.

4. You're reaching -most cartoon characters have 'happy' expressions.
I really don't think that it was reaching to imply that monkeys, real monkeys, enjoy self gratification. At least the ones at the zoo that my children have witnessed "spanking the monkey's monkey" certainly do. And I'm not the one that decided just where the monkey should be looking. He COULD have been looking out at the player, like Dora is, but he isn't.

5. The Map character has a face on the show.
Right. But I didn't know it was a map. I thought it was a pencil, to be honest. Or a pen. By having a face I was sure it was a character of some sort.

6. This is definately an interpret-the-way-you-want observation.
More like a "What else can I say about this thing? Why not make fun of the face on the character I don't understand?" observation. I will stick to my opinion that it looks different when viewed at an angle than when viewed straight on, and that difference isn't flattering. Again, a peril of going from tame and controllable 2D to wild and wooly 3D.

7. The 'bush' is made of giant green leaves -not very suggestive unless that already on the mind... even then it's a stretch.
That's why it's 7th on the list. Also, it WAS on the mind because of nearly everything I'd already mentioned. I never said it jumped right out at me. It was just something I thought of on further reflection. I thought, "It's coming out of a bush... why a bush? 'bush'... heh." and that's all it took. Ultimately, it wasn't my most compelling observation, nor was it the driving point behind the post.

Not trying to be "preachy", but there's not a child out there who would interpret this product the way it is descibed here.
I don't know if I agree with this. There may not be a child out there who watches Dora and is already familiar with the characters who would interpret it the way that I have, or a child under the age of nine or ten, however I'm reasonably sure that there are some children not "into" Dora that might make that connection, particularly boys. You need to remember that children generally find things of a biological nature to be most humorous. They are the kings and queens of ca-ca humor and they are always on the lookout for new material.
It's not a marketing issue, it's an interpretation issue.
You don't think that people marketing something need to consider how their product might be interpreted? Particularly if the one holding the money might not know the key players that are present on the product? Not the exact same thing – beyond odd design choice and parental interpretation – but do you recall hearing about the vibrating Harry Potter broomstick? If not, head here, here and here. Interpretation is very important, particularly at the parental level.

I've only responded because I get tired of inocent things being twisted in the name of humor.
That's just a part of humor. In fact, something almost HAS to be twisted to be funny, and if it is something normally perceived as "innocent" the comedy impact can be even greater. It's difficult to be funny about things that are intended to be shocking, because then you are just competing for attention. It's more effective if it catches the observer off guard. As for this being an "innocent thing", if they had considered their design a bit more and perhaps went with something more like this:



I never would have said a thing about it. I'm not out to get Dora, nor do I have any driving force behind posting what I did beyond sharing something I found to be strange and funny. I haven't written an angry, indignant letter to the manufacturer, nor would I. It just tickled me funny and it's my website. Like milage, humor varies and I understand why this wasn't amusing to you. So it goes.

I originally linked here to see some artwork, which I have always found to be quite inpressive, whether I agree with the subject matter or not. It just seems there is less and less of that recently.
Actually, there has been pretty much the same amount of artwork since you first visited. Since I started participating in Illustration Friday I've only missed two words, one which was recent. Admittedly, I've been posting fewer personal projects than I used to, but that's mainly because I haven't been doing any. If you had visited "back in the day" when the art was a rare event I imagine you would never have been back. Thanks for the compliment though.

Take care!
You too!

Delete away... ;-)
Mmmm. Not quite. ;)

4:02 PM

Friday, June 23, 2006

A "WTF?" Product Alert

I've never really watched "Dora" before, but after seeing this toy in the local toy palace, I really have to wonder just what she's exploring:



(click it... it grows bigger)

Apologies for the blur; this was done stealthy fast. I wish I could have gotten more angles without actually buying the thing.

It's apparently one of those "plug directly into the TV and play" game units, and I would assume that the game involves doing the things that a Dora does. No problem there.

But take a good long look at the "joystick"... I'll wait.

Doo dee dooo....

That has to be one of the most horribly suggestive designs I've ever seen on a toy for little girls. Big girl toys are a whole other ball game.

We rounded the corner at the store and even from 20 feet away I went, "Woah! Look at THAT!"

Maybe I just have a dirty mind...

Then again:

1. It's a fleshy pink color.

2. It's curved slightly upward.

3. It has ridges running around the tip.

4. The monkey is very happy to see it, and if you've ever been to the zoo and seen a monkey with some time on his hands, you know why THAT'S significant.

5. Not pictured due to the quick shot nature of the photo, but IT HAS A FACE!*

6. I swear it's leeeeering! "Hey baby. I've got what you want."

7. And it's poking out of a bush.

Pretty much the only thing they could have done to make it any worse is if the tip was slightly darker and it vibrated when you touched it.

Now, as I said, I don't watch the show. However I really want to know if that stick is a character? If so, why? What does he do? Is he ever alone with Dora? Just where the hell are her parents?

Have a great weekend everyone!

* I found more pictures at Amazon. Click here. Notice how they avoided showing a side view? Two photos and no side view. And in both it looks pretty stubby. Finally, those two stars were hidden by the packaging, but they really add so much to the overall experience, especially if they are the "buttons" that make the whole thing "work".

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Illustration Friday: "Dance"

Wow. To think, I put off something as fertile for my brain as "Jungle" and wound up with "Dance" the following week. Well, at least my weekend was fantastic and Heather and I won Pat's "Top 11" contest.

Dance. Hmmm.

Okay. Here you go:



And the initial sketch:



It was fast and dirty, but it's done. Later in the week I'll be possibly dissecting some spam or writing about how I received a cease and desist letter from Hormell's lawyers a few weeks ago. Also, don't forget, Derek's and my next podcast will be up tomorrow. In it I confess to horrible, soul rending things I've done in the long gone past. It should be a hoot.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Oh yeah...

I almost forgot to mention that Derek and I have started a podcast and the first (really the 2nd, but the first is burning in Hell) episode is up at his site on this page... here.

In it you'll get to hear me admit to things that I've done in my distant past that I've never told anyone before (and it just gets worse* in later episodes). How fun can THAT be? Oodles, I'm sure. So check it out.

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* "Worse? Or better?" This Invader Zim Quote Moment is brought to you by my silly brain.

There will be no IF post this week.

At least not by me.

I don't know if I've ever felt less like drawing than I have this week. Although the potential awesomeness that could come from "Jungle" is something that has been missing from the last several topics, absolutely nothing is compelling me to do it. So, I'm sorry to anyone who might have been looking forward to it. Next week might be better.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"In praise of video games."

OpinionJournal - "The Brain Workout"

The above article is another take on gaming that feels right to me, a gamer for as long as I can remember. I'm also noticing the positive effects of gaming on my two kids who have both been playing video games since they've been able to manage the controllers. My six year old daughter amazes me with her skills at 'Guitar Hero'.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

This just in...

One of my coworkers passed along the news that they are opening "Europe's first detox clinic for game addicts"... In AMSTERDAM!

That's right. The home of legalized drugs and prostitution is now the place to send your game addicted child or mate.

I read that the doctor has already treated addicts aged 13 to 30. All I can say is that was one SMART 13 year-old.

"Gosh mom, I've been playing Halo 2 for 72 hours straight. I think I might have a problem. I hear that they can help me in Amsterdam. If you really love me, you'll send me. And let me use your VISA card."

That boy will come home with hair on his chest and hash in his pockets.

Here are my favorite bits of the article:

"It can start with a Game Boy, perhaps given by parents hoping to keep their children occupied but away from the television. From there it can progress to multilevel games that aren't made to be won."

Like... Frogger? Galaga? Space Invaders? Pac-Man? The list goes on. And giving a Gameboy to your child to distract him from TELEVISION? It has a 3" screen! When I was a kid my dad would smack me for sitting within two FEET of the TV! How could any parent think that looking at a teeny screen would be better than watching a big screen? "My child bumps into a lot more things now, but at least he's not watching Jeopardy as much as he used to."

"Many of these kids believe that when they sit down, they're going to play two games and then do their homework," he said.

And it goes on from there to make no relevant point whatsoever. So... they do what? Break out the bong and the hours slip away? And that paragraph led straight into this one:

However, unlike other addicts, most gamers received their first game from their parents. "Because it's so new, parents don't see that this is something that can be dangerous," Bakker said.

Wha? uh.. WHAT?! Are you INSANE? Video games were around when I was a kid, and I played the crap out of them! How can this be new to parents? Were they raised by the Amish? Now, I know that my dad didn't understand video games, but to be honest he didn't really understand board games. "Games" weren't his thing. Civil War books, battle information and guns were his thing. But I would imagine that most people who are parents of kids around the same ages as my own KNOW about video games! "New". Pfft. And how many alcoholics started by raiding their parent's bar? Or smokers who stole their parents cigs? It's absurd.

I also gather from the stories of "Tim" and "Hyke", and their eventual turning to drugs to stay awake so they could play longer, that a key way for parents to combat gaming addiction is to limit their child's access to drugs, particularly pot which should be very easy to do since this is going to be located in AMSTERDAM.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Illustration Friday: Portrait

No, I wasn't terribly inspired by this topic, but I decided that I needed to treat it like a job and just get it done regardless of my lack of creative juices. Frickin' juices.

So, here's the first attempt:



clickable.

In my defense, it was a lot better in my head. Also, remember, I said I wasn't feeling very creative.

Then I started shape doodling and came up with this:



clickable.

The way I see it, if a teenager were able to set his head on fire and walk around like that all day, he would. I would have, and I'm not even named Bernie.

And the final one is from a couple years back. Iggy Pop:



not clickable.

In hindsight, it was stupid to stop his neck and hair above the level of his chin and that has been bothering me more each time I look at it. Oh well. If I ever really want to fix it at some point, I can.

I hope the next topic matches my interests a bit more. Then again, I didn't think "tea" would have worked worth a damn either.

Have a great weekend all.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New Product Alert

I was on my way in to work and I noticed the driver in front of me had a "Jesus Fish" on the back of his car. Nothing unusual there, of course, especially around Colorado Springs. But for some reason this one captured my interest. It was filled with lettering, similar to "JESUS", but it wasn't "JESUS". It took me a couple seconds to work it out, mostly because "it was small and I wasn't close" rather than "I'm slow in the head". At first I thought it might be "DARWIN", but the fish was legless. It turned out it was "BLOW ME".

Huh.

It made me wonder if the driver was a Christian that was tired of people reacting with hostility to his open display of religiosity*, or was he an atheist offering air conditioning advice to the multitude of Christians around him?

As I drove on it continued to tick over in my brain and I thought, if he was a Christian – rather than an atheist as I actually suspect – tired of his faith being attacked, what symbol would better convey at a distance "Don't mess with me and my brand of God!"?

I started thinking of various underwater critters that broadcast "DON'T TOUCH!" Apart from Aquaman.

"Jellyfish" was the first to pop into my head, however it would be a bit hard to symbolize and might get confused with the Flying Spaghetti Monster. One thing you don't want in a symbol is confusion.

The shark would be a good choice, but it's been done (about 3/4 down the page, and you can also see the "Blow Me" fish for sale there as well).

Then I thought of the puffer fish. Mild most of the time, but mess with him and he blows up in your face. That sounds just about perfect. So here it is, the "Jesus Puffer Fish":



Nothing says "Don't mess with me and my God" like the "Jesus Puffer Fish"! Many products are at this very moment sporting the "JPF" at my CafePress shop (direct link). All proceeds from the sale of "JPF" products goes to the "Getting my broke ass out of debt" fund.

In other news, I don't think I'll be participating in this week's Illustration Friday topic. But then again, who knows? In case I don't, have a great week everyone.


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* Holy crap! "Religiosity" is a real word! Here I was thinking I was being funny, making it up and not only is it real and the perfect word for the point I was making, I spelled it right straight off the bat! You have no idea how rare that is for me.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Illustration Friday: "Cake"

Here it is, with a few steps as well. Damn near too late.



-



Step 1: Sketch out the idea to see if it is more lame than I thought. Decide it's pretty lame, but I got nothing else. Well, I do, but don't have nearly the time needed. Press on.



Step 2: Start dropping in those vector shapes, leaving the pencil lines in a set as the top layer for a guide (40% opacity so they don't interfere much). All shapes built beneath the guide lines. Turn them off and on when needed.



Step 3: Move on to the cake. Get it close to the way I like it. Stop tracking what I'm doing. Go into text mode for the steps from this point on.

Steps 4-500: After I had the cake the way I liked it, I dropped in the orange background, made the word balloon and re-organized the type to fit better. Fiddled with the bottom text, dropped in my signature, moved on to the kid. Got his head mostly made when I realized that he is far too old/tall for the number of candles on the cake, so I doubled the number of candles on the cake by duplicating the set of existing candles, flipping it, rotating it and placing a grouped hue/saturation adjustment layer on the rearmost candles to make them a bit darker. Went back to the kid, finished his head, moved on to his body, added a chair, considered messing with it further, went "nah" and stopped.

There you go. Is that a tutorial or what?

Comments welcome, as always.
"Boring a hole in the patient’s head creates a door through which the demons can escape, and - viola! - out goes the crazy."