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Richard Conner Johnson - 1958-2015 - R.I.P.

I lost a dear long-time friend this week. We had known each other for nearly 40 years - all of our adult lives, if you start being an adult at 16 years old.

Richard was a genius. There was never any doubt about this. He was artistically talented - a natural with a pencil, with a pen, and later with the computer and Lightwave, he tackled 3D modeling. He did the primary modeling of the Star Trek chair that I offer for Poser, in fact. He inspired me when I was a teen - I was into comic art from about 9th grade, and his line work was beautiful. Later, he and I were roommates, and we set up a studio together where we were able to challenge each other, and we tackled sculpture together.

Richard was also a kitbasher extraordinaire. When I first met him, living literally in his parents' basement, he was using the globes from light fixtures to model the forward hull of Discovery from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and boy, he knew everything about that movie! I know I got a lot of my love for movie effects and production from the gems he shared. But he also created aliens, and lightsabers, and all kinds of vehicles and props, and background paintings. Back then, Star Wars clips were available on little Super8 viewers at G.C. Murphy - short clips of film in black and white - and Richard edited all of them that he could find into a pretty good amount of the whole movie. Silent, of course, but in black and white, that was appropriate!

Richard could have been anything in the art and movie world. He could have written comics, drawn them, inked them - his letterforms would have been unique and fantastic in comics. He could have built models for movies, designed special effects, and later, created CG models for at least high-quality fan films, if not professional films - the only thing holding him back was ambition. He just enjoyed doing what he was doing, and never really seemed much concerned with making any money. And yet, for the last 15 years, at least, he had always had some sort of idea cooking that he wanted to turn into a TV series, and I honestly would have loved to see each and every one of them.

Richard was a smooth talker - along with being so creative, he could cook up a story that was only half-truth, but tell it so convincingly that you willingly went along with it, and only later you wondered, "Was he just trying to bullshit me, or does he actually mean everything he said?" I learned in our adult life that lending him money was a bad idea - once I came to the conclusion that I was never going to see any of that money again, I accepted it and never thought about it. His brain stimulated mine, and that's worth more than any amount of money I ever shared.

Richard frustrated me. And the irony is that he frustrated me by doing things I knew that I also did: I always wanted to somehow corral and manage his talents, to find a way to force him to follow up on the dreams he told me and make them real - he could've been a very successful artist if he'd ever applied himself, and I know that the same could probably be said for me. Subjectively, I've always felt he was at least a couple levels more talented and much more creative than I will ever be. I would've been happy just helping him exploit those wonderful gifts. I always knew that if I ever won the lottery, I was going to hire him to be Richard, pay him an amazing amount of money so he never had to worry about anything, and just keep feeding him drawing paper. I would be his publisher, his executive producer, whatever he needed to unleash the creative monsters dwelling within him, because I wanted the world to see what a genius they had in their midst. And I'd have to carry a whip to make sure he kept spewing forth the wonders that he had lying about inside, unfulfilled and unmotivated.

Richard's life was a learning experience, and now, so is his death. I'm sorry he died so young, sad that I lost a friend and a fellow artist, sad that he never was the success that he could've been if only he had tried. It's a wake-up call for me, as well, and I hope I will be much more aware of my own gifts and won't waste them, as well. Richard's death inspired me to write these words of hope and warning on my Facebook page, because I don't want anyone else to ignore their gifts, either:

Do not waste your gifts, your talents, or your dreams. We not only have a finite time among the living, it is indefinite, as well. Tomorrow is always too late.
  • Listening to: Funeral For a Friend
  • Reading: The Martian
  • Watching: 24 inches of gleaming Cintiq
  • Playing: at being an artist
  • Eating: leftovers! What else??
  • Drinking: lots of lattés!
(Had to change the title - I was probably scaring off people with my strange sense of humor :D. This one is just boring enough ...)

Yup, I won the lottery! Well, at least, I feel like I have. If you've seen my latest post, you know I got extremely - one might say undeservedly - lucky this year for my birthday, when I received the biggest honkin' pen display I've ever seen, just because I put it on my wishlist; of course, I wanted it, but that's the sort of thing you put on your wishlist to be funny, mostly, even if it's true, and to make all the other stuff on the list seem pretty reasonable in comparison. I'm pretty well set, now, for the next few years - I really don't need anything else after this :).

Except for advice. I'm really out of practice with drawing, because I've spent the last few years doing everything on the computer, mostly in 3D, and even though I've had a couple different tablets, I've never done much of anything with them because I could never properly coordinate the movement of my hand down on the desk with the cursor up on the screen, even though I did that just fine with the mouse; the ironic thing is that I'm left-handed, and I use the mouse with my right hand - but I couldn't coordinate my left hand with a pen!

Now that's not an issue (or an excuse!) - the tip of my pen is right there where I'm drawing, the stroke keeps up with my hand, and I can work it pretty much full-size. And, strangely, I'm already finding out a lot of things about the software I already had, just because now I'm looking for ways it can use the pen, as opposed to a mouse - I had no idea I could do these kinds of strokes in CorelDraw! It's synergy, ah tellz ya!

So now, for those of you who use tablets on a regular basis, and especially for those fortunate enough to have something like a Cintiq, I'm looking for advice. What are the best programs, and maybe more importantly, what are the best learning resources, to make the most of my goals and desires?

Despite what one sees in my gallery, Star Trek is not my greatest artistic love - that would be split between cars and women ;). Over the years, I've been able to do some decent work with women in Poser, but now it's time to add back to my repertoire the ability to draw one (don't get me started on painting, yet - that wasn't even a skill I had before the computer ;). Although I have to say that Poser has built up more of an eye for lighting, form and color than I ever had before, since those are what you have left when you take lines out of the mix). And I'm hoping to flesh out (no pun intended) my body of work (another unintended pun ;)) with both realistic and cartoon-ish (not manga - more like folks like Dean Yeagle) styles. Maybe even comics, if I can come up with a decent story, and also get a feel for drawing multiple-figure poses from my head (as opposed to pin-ups, which is most of what I ever used to draw). To this last point, I also picked up Manga Studio EX 4 on the Black Friday sale for 90% off! And I'm especially intrigued by its ability to import and render 3D objects, including the filetypes I use in Poser - I don't know yet whether I want to use figures from Poser, at least not for more than just generating poses over which I can draw, but it ought to really help with backgrounds and props. Despite what I've said, who wants to bet the first comic isn't Trek-related? :D

Cars. Ahhh, cars - I love those big gleaming hunks of metal, glass and rubber! Always have! I wanted to be a car designer when I was younger, and now that I'm well over the threshold of my semicentennial, that still hasn't changed. This is where I probably need the most advice: what is the best program to use for this (within rea$on), and where are the best places to learn technique, style, and digital workflow?

The Cintiq came with a software bundle that included Autodesk's Sketchbook Express. I've been looking at Sketchbook Pro 6, which is very reasonable - is it worth the additional cost over Express? Are there good places for tutorials online, especially relating to auto design and illustration? Another obvious question is: who here, on DeviantArt, would you recommend to watch and learn from (or hell, just admire for his or her talent and brilliance :))? My own mental references for technique and style are Syd Mead (of course!), Ralph McQuarrie, Scott Robertson, Chip Foose, Harald Belker, Daniel Simon - mostly technical and futuristic artists, not to mention cinematic concept artists - though in Foose's case, a hot rod guy (the other side of my automotive fixation - Chip's probably the most artistic of the hands-on car builders, with an Art Center background like the majority of my other role models).

I also want to try my hand at concept art - with my eye on folks like (again!) Ralph McQuarrie, Syd (again, too!), Doug Chiang, Feng Zhu, Steve Burg, Ryan Church - I find more reference for this, what with magazines like ImagineFX out there, which is a fantastic resource, IMHO. I have to develop more of an eye for scenes, for sure, rather than just the focal object, and I want to start out trying techniques like speed painting, something to loosen up my art - one of my best friends told me, not necessarily complimentarily but critically in the best sense, that I never sketch, that everything I do is a finished drawing, and he was right. Most of the work that I've done in Poser over the years has been the result of serendipity, rather than planning or a realized vision, and I need to cultivate that approach in drawing, as well, to allow myself to 'play' and to find things in the art that maybe aren't what I had planned, or are more emotional rather than technical. Again, any advice or experience is appreciated.

It's all coming together, I think - now, I just need to learn the best way to exploit it :D.

Thanks, all!
  • Listening to: Supertramp
  • Reading: many manuals and reference books
  • Watching: 24 inches of gleaming Cintiq
  • Playing: at being an artist
  • Eating: leftovers! What else??
  • Drinking: lots of lattés!
Okay, I am just about as pissed as I'm ever likely to get at software - I can't think of any other reason why I would be sitting here, typing this on a crappy tablet, when I should be in bed ...

I just spent something like 5 long, frustrating hours trying to accomplish something with DAZ|Studio, only to have it all wiped out for nothing. All over fucking semantics!

First off, this is D|S 4.5 (to borrow a term from a friend, I now think of it as "DIP/Shidiot"). I've heard many D|S users comment on it being a troubling interface, but coming from Poser, I find it downright arcane. Nothing about it is intuitive to me, nothing about it contains any decent visual cues to aid in either adding content to a scene or in doing anything with it once it's in. It's damned near impossible to figure out how to pose figures without getting shaping tools instead, or how to shape them without getting posing tools. Finding content is a fucking scavenger hunt that takes about 8 missile strikes in 3 different counties just to get close, and then if you do something else in the meantime, pack your passport because you're going on another cross-country trip.

Metadata. Well, let's just say, "Fuck that," and consider it complete; ironically, my day job entails 8 hours of working with metadata every day, and it's never this bad. Sure, it seems like a great idea to have metadata that make coordinating things simpler, but all it does here is screw them together so tightly that there's little room to do anything creative or even unique. You want to use a material that was intended for something else? Good luck - can't wait until that act of Congress goes through (especially with this Congress!). It's one thing for Daz to promote something by saying "It's square-mapped, too, so most textures will work with it," but they fail to say, " ... as long as you don't mind going into the editor and doing it all manually because those presets aren't intended for this object and they probably won't work."

I've had it with cameras that won't remain selected when I select a different part of a figure, with lights I can't even find, with a body that inflates everywhere when I move ANY part of it, so that the pose I just created is just guesswork, because when I stop moving the element, the figure deflates again and now there is a gap between the hand and the shoulder it was touching only moments before.

But most of all, I am pissed as hell because after all that time and frustration, I tried to add a figure to the scene and wiped out EVERYTHING I'd been working on! EVERYTHING!! See, in Poser, I'm used to having a choice between replacing a figure with the new one, or adding the new one to the scene, and I didn't want to replace the figure I had just sweated blood in trying to hone to something usable. So I selected the new figure in the rogue's gallery and decided, hey, maybe let's see what the options here are, first. And they appeared to be 'merge,' which is not even remotely like 'add to scene,' and 'open as new,' which, when looking at a figure in a library, makes sense as opposed to 'replace figure.' Only, as it turns out, it opens a NEW FUCKING SCENE ALTOGETHER, and what's worse, it does so with no warning that you may lose the existing scene! There's no prompt to save the scene before opening a new one with this new figure - it just dumps all your hard work, erases the buffers, cleans the clock and spits on your grandmother's grave - a complete DIP/Shidiot. No "Undo", just "F. You."

There is nothing about this that is how mature software is supposed to behave - if I had paid for this, I would be completely enraged! Oh, wait, I guess I am, anyway! I REALLY want to like this, I really want to use it, and I see some great stuff being done with it, but honestly, from working with Poser, I don't know how you people stand it; I've had quibbles with Poser, and I may never figure out a lot of its more advanced capabilities, but I've NEVER had any problems using its basic, primary functions - posing, lightimg, cameras, content; everything looks like what it does, and does what it looks like. There's no question that clicking on a FIGURE that says 'open as new' is going to OPEN A NEW FIGURE AND NOTHING MORE - it's not going to delete my entire project WITHOUT WARNING and open the figure in a big, empty space!!!

SONUVVA FUCKING BITCH!!!!
  • Listening to: Devo - Freedom of Choice
  • Reading: Frozen Heat
  • Watching: Castle, TBBT
  • Playing: possum
  • Eating: tofurkey!
  • Drinking: mo' Turkey!
The future is here! Captain Picard could walk over to a replicator and ask for something - usually tea, Earl Grey, hot - and computers and fabrication systems would assemble it from base components and deliver it in a window roughly the size of a small microwave oven.

And now we can do it. And, hopefully soon, I will be able to do it, too. With a Replicator!

A few weeks ago, Makerbot (www.makerbot.com) announced their new 3D printer, the Replicator 2 - it's a far cry from the original Replicator, which was pretty much a kit, where the 'Deuce' is a fully-assembled and rather stylish box with a high-tech frame and components, capable of turning plastic filament into solid, three-dimensional objects that until that moment, exist only as computer files. It's not tea, but it's definitely hot! And when I saw the announcement, and especially the price, which is only about $2200, I thought, "You know, I could probably afford that!" And over the course of the next couple weeks, I started to think the universe wanted me to do this: my day job took on a project that threw a lot of information at me about high-end 3D printers, Wired magazine hit the stands with a cover story on the 'Deuce,' and Jeff Dunham's new Minding the Monsters DVD came out with not one but two extra features that showed him using his own 3D printer to create his dummies and set pieces used in this new special.

So now the queston is: what to print? It's a lot of money to spend without a plan, to be sure. Of course, I'd like to see what can be done with the sort of Poser-based 3D imagery I create on a regular basis; that would include making physical models of the sets I've made virtuallly, in the same scale as the original AMT Enterprise bridge, but also I'd like to create figure sculpts from Poser files. The 'Deuce' has a 6"x6"x11" print size, more than enough to print a 1:8 scale figure in one piece, or a larger figure in multiple pieces; the software allows you to print multiple pieces simultaneously. I have a friend who, along with myself, is into 1:25 scale model cars, and we already have some plans for potential accessory parts and kits; the 'Deuce' has a pretty fine resolution for the industry, being able to print layers about as thin as a sheet of paper, but I expect it will be better at making masters that are then cleaned up and cast 'the old-fashioned way' - besides, mass-production is probably not cost-effective on a 3D printer, which can take dozens or even hundreds of hours to print one job, depending on its complexity. Try doing that for 100 figures, or even 10! :)

And, of course, there's always the Crossbow-class starship - wouldn't that be cool as a plastic model kit? With a printer, it could be done as a full ship, or with only a little bit of redesign, a conversion kit for the Polar Lights/AMT Enterprise kit (kind of the way I created a virtual conversion to make a Crossbow out of Greywolf Starkiller's beautiful Constitution digital modular kit!).

2013 looks like a good time to take 3D into the real world. All I need is a plan. What would you do with a 3D printer (one you could afford - not one of these big industrial jobs that can print freakin' stainless steel :D) ?
  • Listening to: Yes -
  • Reading: Fuzzy Bones, yet again!
  • Watching: All the best SG-1 episodes
  • Playing: in 3/4 time
  • Eating: without breathing
  • Drinking: is YOUR job!
Well, here we are again, attempting to skirt the marketplace via the courtroom.

Hey, if Samsung stole Apple's actual technology, I'd be happy to throw the book at them, but the patent industry - and that's what it is, now - has gotten completely out of hand. When it comes to denying the consumer a choice on the thinnest of excuses - "Their tablet and phone look like our tablet and phone, Your Honor; please ban them from selling their product so we have an uncontested market" is complete and utter bullshit. I'm sorry, but Apple is so strong a brand that anyone who wants an iPad is going to buy an Apple iPad, not a Samsung Galaxy Tab! The price isn't going to be a big factor, nor is the operating system nor the app market - there's not going to be a significant number of people going to Best Buy with their hearts set on buying an iPad who look at the differences and say,  "You know, this Samsung does all that stuff, it's a little cheaper and it looks the same as the iPad, anyway." Pretty much anyone who goes looking for a tablet - or on a greater scale, a smart phone - has already decided whether they will buy Apple or something else, and that's the basic approach; differences and similarities are only going to affect whether they buy Samsung or Toshiba or Sony, but if they want an iPad or an iPhone, that's going to be pretty much it - they'll buy Apple, or they won't buy anything - that's the strength of the brand.

In a sense, Apple is attacking the wrong products - the only thing that someone might pick over an Apple, given a choice, is going to be something significantly different from the Apple product, not something significantly similar, either in form or function. The Samsung Note, with a larger screen and a stylus, is such a choice, and one I'd pick in a heartbeat over the iPhone, because it offers things the iPhone doesn't. But the Galaxy S phone, or the Galaxy Tab tablet over its Appleganger? Only if I went into the store looking for an Android phone or tablet in the first place - the design of these being similar or even identical to the Apple product is not a strong enough selling point, from my observation of the people who buy them and discuss them, to sway a buyer from an Apple if that was what they were looking for in the first place. In other words, Apple isn't losing any sales to Samsung based on Samsung 'stealing' a design that is, frankly, so basic and intuitive that no patent should ever have been granted on it in the first place. This isn't even a matter of it being obvious in hindsight - it was obvious in foresight - obvious enough that prior art describing its appearance and operation exists back several decades, especially in science fiction (2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek are just 2 immediate examples).

We're in a sorry state, as a society, when the marketing machine (and the political machine, too, frankly) believe and count on the fact that the general public is too stupid and too undiscerning to know the difference between one thing and another, whether it's an Apple phone and a Samsung, or political lies that can't stand up to 30 seconds' time on Google - or, in both cases, plain old common sense! "Gee, I thought I bought an Apple!" is probably something that no consumer has ever said when they got home from the store, and our courts shouldn't be allowing this sort of abuse to be happening in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
  • Listening to: Yes -
  • Reading: Fuzzy Bones, yet again!
  • Watching: All the best SG-1 episodes
  • Playing: in 3/4 time
  • Eating: without breathing
  • Drinking: is YOUR job!
Okay, I don't really have anything blue to discuss ... nor anything about Bob Dylan, either, although music is involved, in a way.

I know it's not exactly timely, but I've just been rewatching Disney's Tangled, the tale of Rapunzel. What really strikes me about this movie is how different it is in feel from, let's say, a Pixar movie. As brilliant as Pixar's movies have been, up to and including Brave, I think that Tangled is in many ways better - at least technically - than even the benchmark of CGI filmmakers.

Two things really stand out: the scene composition and the lead character animation. And I believe both are the result of the same thing: Disney's history in traditional animation. Over the decades of compensating for the missing dimension, Disney's designers,  artists and animators have formed a synergy - one obviously handed down to the current generation - of superlative scene design and camerawork teamed with sophistication and subtlety of character movement and expression. Rapunzel herself, and Mother Gothel, are masterpieces of animation (especially when Mother Gothel delivers her songs, two of the most incredible scenes I've seen in CGI and as strong as anything Disney have ever done in cel animation; the lighting and color of these scenes are also outstanding). And I see many familiar names of Disney's traditional animators in the credits, not the least of whom is Glen Keane, one of the executive producers along with John Lasseter and also one of the animation supervisors.

Rapunzel herself is just beautiful, and I mean that from an animation standpoint (although she's definitely a cutie, too, and I admire the fact that they gave her a bit of an overbite, with 2 front teeth that are just slightly overlarge, giving her a unique and very appealing look). Her expressions, especially her eyes, are very subtle and realistic, and many times in the film she is reminiscent of Jasmine in Aladdin (Flynn even has some hints of Aladdin himself). I just love Rapunzel's dance, too, as much for the music and the scene editing as for her obvious enthusiasm. And the village is both beautiful and believable.

Flynn is at his best, and at the top of the animation game, during their escape and her healing of his wound (he seems to channel Justin Long a bit when he tries to comprehend the powers of her hair). But his introductory scene, a grand series of shots of him and the brothers navigating the kingdom's rooftops, evokes classic Disney, but with the new freedom that 3D modeling and camerawork affords the moviemakers.

One of the best scenes, though, is when Flynn and Rapunzel sit quietly and share their stories - their movements and their eyes are just perfect. I don't recall offhand any moment in a Pixar film that is quite this ... human.

I think Tangled is a far better film than its box office results suggested, as technically good as the best of Pixar and as stylistically accomplished as anything Disney ever did in 2D. Mother Gothel is as evil and cunning and appealing as any classic Disney villain, too, and even the music deserves credit. It's a great film to watch and, I hope, more an indication of Disney's continuing legacy than Wreck-It Ralph (??!) or even Bolt.
  • Listening to: Yes -
  • Reading: Fuzzy Bones, yet again!
  • Watching: All the best SG-1 episodes
  • Playing: in 3/4 time
  • Eating: without breathing
  • Drinking: is YOUR job!
Rob, this is your fault. Thanks! ;)

Fins Revisited by tundra-timmy Fins and Pinball by tundra-timmy RDY 2 FLY II by colts4us Fins by thatIam Lone Wolf by tundra-timmy 1955 Imperial 2 by 426maxwedgie

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Holy Octane, Batman by DetroitDemigod Fins of Old by colts4us Blown Lime Caddy Corner by colts4us LeSabre Concept Car by theCrow65 FOUR  FINS by finhead4ever Superbirds V by DetroitDemigod
  • Listening to: Yes -
  • Reading: Fuzzy Bones, yet again!
  • Watching: All the best SG-1 episodes
  • Playing: in 3/4 time
  • Eating: without breathing
  • Drinking: is YOUR job!
It's Tuesday! And you know what that means - it's not Monday any more! Well, at least not for almost another week ...

Some of you may have noticed a rather atypical (for me - it was pretty standard fare for dA ;)) journal entry yesterday. I was in a weird mood. No one hacked my account, I didn't 'drunk dial' it in - I just had a brain fart that tickled and I had to indulge my stoopid side.

That being said, I can't really disagree with what I said - I do truly admire the fulsome beauty of some young ladies whose roots extend back to the Far East. It's not a prerequisite, of course - I'm also quite taken with certain redheads, certain dusky maidens, a Drow or two, and the odd pop singer with blue hair. As for their measurements, the sort of thing I screamed my affection for is not really all that high on my list, but I have to admit that on some Asian ladies, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. :) I might not feel the same way if she were a black-haired European, or a blonde Scandinavian, or a silken-tressed Ethiopian. A flame-coiffed Irish gal, on the other hand ... and I also enjoy the beauty of a petite, more proportional Asian girl just as much (see Luana Lani, below). I really respond more to overall beauty than to the measurements of specific anatomy, or for that matter, to the color of one's skin or hair.

The point is, that's out of my system for now - I've calmed down a bit, had my fun, and hopefully haven't offended too many people - but if my exclamation of a purely personal observation is offensive to you, well, I blame you - I wasn't asking anyone else's opinion :). Thanks for responding, if you did - archangel72367, in particular, as that was exactly the sort of impact I was trying to create :D. Most of all, I hope it was unexpected!

One o' my favorite gals, Asian or otherwise:
savour II. by luanalani
  • Listening to: Yes -
  • Reading: Fuzzy Bones, yet again!
  • Watching: All the best SG-1 episodes
  • Playing: in 3/4 time
  • Eating: without breathing
  • Drinking: is YOUR job!
... just saying ...

Simple by VampBeauty elly tran by seoane40 :thumb314059426: Arkham City Catwoman Preview by yayacosplay
  • Reading: Fuzzy Bones, yet again!
  • Watching: All the best SG-1 episodes
  • Playing: in 3/4 time
  • Eating: without breathing
  • Drinking: is YOUR job!
Nuff said!
  • Listening to: TAAB2 by Ian Anderson
  • Reading: Fuzzy Bones, yet again!
  • Watching: the 2nd season premiere of "Sherlock" on
  • Playing: surely beats working!
  • Eating: surely beats walking!
  • Drinking: makes all of the above more challenging!
SPOILERS AHEAD - DO NOT READ IF YOU INTEND TO SEE JOHN CARTER!

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Let me say that John Carter had all the right ingredients - a director in Andrew Stanton who had two great character-driven movies under his belt that even adults could enjoy. Michael Chabon is no slouch when it comes to genre fiction that can cross over successfully into the mainstream. A budget to assure that the film was of the highest possible quality and not just a B-pic.

And yet, it's still a B-pic! Maybe even only a C+.

I think we may be seeing the Sky Captain-ing of Andrew Stanton - a digital director with great promise who creates a live-action movie wherein he appears totally out of his depth.

Let me state right off that I'm a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter novels - even though I'm not a fan of e-books, I have them all on my phone, and I have re-read them many times while taking a lunch break from work; in fact, I just finished Warlord of Mars again only a week ago.

For months, I've been anticipating this film, and only because it was Andrew Stanton who was directing - I know that the mantra at Pixar is "story first," and he's shown he knows how to stick to that vital concept. Before Stanton was named, I really didn't want anyone to make John Carter of Mars, because I had no doubt that they would do so in a way that served modern filmmaking attutudes more than it would the story. I knew that the visuals of Barsoom were too fantastic to be done justice by the technology available and after seeing Gollum, I feared for the green men looking silly. Truth be told, I had hoped that someone with much more money than myself would try to think outside the box and find a way to make the film in 2D animation, but with greater depth of frame than anything Disney has previously achieved - to use the digital technology to create awe-inspiring vistas while also lending a sort of "2.5D" aspect to cel- or cel-like character animation, where the simple act of not trying to create photorealistic characters and scenes allowed the mind to accept the unbelievable as real.

But, things have improved since Gollum, thankfully, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Then I started seeing the trailers, and little by little, my hope started dying. Not because it looked bad - it's a pretty good-looking film, overall, although I thought it overly 'muddy,' the elements of many scenes so congealing in their color and action that it was tough to distinguish what was supposed to be important. It's not the visuals that are a problem - it's the characters and their story.

In the books, John Carter was heroic, perhaps unbelievably so; he wasn't just a fighter - he was a warrior born, a man to whom Ares really did reign as the god of war. What he wasn't was a broken man who had lost his family tragically and carried that burden with him like Marley's chains.

In the books, the Therns weren't extra- what, -Barsoomials? - sucking civilizations dry and moving on to new worlds like ID4, with Earth already in their network and in their sights. It was bad enough in the books that they were a priesthood that controlled much of the world of Barsoom through theocratic law and lies - there was plenty of story in that alone! - so why change them into a handful of literal parasites manipulating cultures and kings (ok, jeddaks) - really! Isn't the world of Barsoom odd and extreme enough as written, that you would need to toss out human-level drama for alien melodrama?

Maybe Dejah Thoris was never a deeply-defined character in the books; she was more of a goal, really, and I can see wanting to flesh her out. But she's been turned into a stereotypical "rich girl with powerful, autocratic daddy, who's actaully very smart and headstrong and just wants to be able to show it." We've seen this character in countless movies; what is new here? Nothing.

And what's with the tattoos? Rather than make the 'red men of Mars,' let's just make them the "henna-tattoed men of Mars?" The very existence of the disparate races of Mars was what drove much of ERB's tales, but here, it was really only the green men who were unique, and John Carter was more distinct because of his unblemished skin than its actual color - it was hard to see any of the 'red men' as 'red.'

I could probably rant on for several hundred more words, but it's late, I'm tired, and I honestly don't want to relive this movie in my mind, just to review it. I went out and bought 4 used wheels and tires for my car today, at a cost of $225, only to get home and find that they don't fit my car and are actually from the next model up the line from what they appeared. That was my first mistake, with my second being the almost instantaneous misplacement of the receipt! And yet I feel more disappointed in the $10 I spent to sit through John Carter  than in the probable loss of the $225 because of my own carelessness.

Oh, and the humor in the film is largely unfunny, or at least unsophisticated, but did we really need to borrow a gag from Blazing Saddles??? "Nobody move or the Heliumite gets it?" I love Blazing Saddles, and this, Andrew, was not Blazing Saddles. :(
  • Listening to: the annoying geese flocking outside my windows
  • Reading: the REAL "John Carter of Mars" stories.
  • Watching: the season premiere of "Fairly Legal!"
  • Playing: a keyboard is one of my absent dreams.
  • Eating: more than I can apparently metabolize.
  • Drinking: nonfat lattés these days :(
Wake me when they create something new ...
  • Listening to: silence and whining A/C ducts
  • Reading: my own words and missing errors, probably
  • Watching: time go slowly by on my clock
  • Playing: at working
  • Eating: Crunchy Cheetos! Yum!
  • Drinking: leaves me with a funny feeling
I awoke this morning to an e-mail from a friend, informing me that Ralph McQuarrie, the legendary illustrator, had passed away.

The first time I ever saw one of McQ's images was in the old sci-fi tabloid Mediascene, a two-color affair that nevertheless managed to convey the power of his art and set the tone for the not-yet-released Star Wars - to this day, I wish the movies had looked like Ralph's paintings ;). I think that may have also been the first time I really became aware of the role of a 'concept artist' for film - and what a concept!

McQ's paintings were brilliant - mechanically adept and conveying a realism that went beyond any details that he may or may not have painted into them; they made any world he depicted come alive, a place where ordinary people and aliens did extraordinary things, and the history of that universe was obvious in its design, where not everything was shiny and new, but showed wear, abuse, repair - a patina of age and simple existence.

Star Wars may have set the stage for all visual science fiction that followed, but it was Ralph McQuarrie who built that stage - his vision and his skill inspired thousands of artists around the world, including myself; he will be greatly missed.

====================

I can see McQ's influence in nearly every sci-fi image I've created and posted here, but these three, from "The Millennium Project," are the most direct homage to his works that I've ever created, and they were also among the most personally satisfying to do:

Millennium Project - Caves of Andor by Ptrope     Millennium Project - Stratos Stopover by Ptrope     Millennium Project - Hangar Surprise by Ptrope

====================

Thank you, Mr. McQ!
  • Listening to: silence and whining A/C ducts
  • Reading: my own words and missing errors, probably
  • Watching: time go slowly by on my clock
  • Playing: at working
  • Eating: Crunchy Cheetos! Yum!
  • Drinking: leaves me with a funny feeling
"PLEASE DO NOT POST POSER/DAZ or similar models that are not yours!!! If you do you will find yourself and your images removed. There are PLENTY of other groups that support this type of "artwork." (bold text by Ptrope, quotes by original author)

Update (6-2): I'm sorry if this offends some of you, but many people believe posing other peoples models on an ART site is both annoying and inappropriate. This group is for true 3D artwork that is ORIGINAL content.
"

Well, la-de-fucking-da!

Photographers: please get off DeviantArt - if you're posing other people's models (and I assume none of you own your models and most of you aren't their parents), then your "art" is annoying and inappropriate. How dare you! .... fucking hacks ...


Damn, Geoff, what's with you? Who peed in your Wheaties this morning?


Believe it or not, a 'fellow "artist" did. Although I guess that's not true, because Poser and DAZ|Studios users are not artists, right?

Yes, I found this on the front page of a dA group - a group that makes a specific point of rubbing in Poser and D|S users' faces that they are not only not welcome, but they are not considered artists at all, and in fact, are considered "annoying and inappropriate." You couldn't just state the group was for 3D modelers - you had to go and say something ignorant?

Again: Fuck you! And the horse you modeled!

It's the same old argument by ignorant hobbyists (I doubt that most professionals are this ignorant - at least, I hope so) who think that 3D begins and ends with pushing points and polys, and that that alone qualifies as "art." They think, in their arrogant ignorance, that all Poser/D|S users do is buy models, pose them like Barbie dolls and render them, pressing the magical "Make Art" button and never putting any thought, any of their own creativity into the results. They put those users in finger-quotes, along with their art, because they think they're so much more talented for having modeled every little thing in the images they render.

Sorry, asshole, it just isn't that black and white.

Yes, there are a lot of P/DS users who, frankly, wouldn't know art if he came to their door and handed them a check. But that doesn't mean there aren't just as many P/DS users as there are 3D modelers who create some truly original and meaningful art with the tools they choose to use - just as there are as many 3D modelers who can follow a blueprint and create a very accurate model that they couldn't build a piece of real art around to save their lives. Building a 3D model is not, in most cases, art - it's craft; it's not art until you do something creative with it, and at that point, there's absolutely no difference between whether you built it or bought it. So get off your high horse.

That's not to say there aren't 3D modelers whose 3D modeling itself is art - I've seen many for whom this is the case. They have creative minds, skill and talent with their chosen tools, original ideas and visionary results. But a 3D model is not, by its nature, "art." It's engineering. It's craftsmanship. I'm sure that many painters feel the same way about 3D modelers that some ignorant 3D modelers feel about P/DS users. Welcome to the ghetto!

I am happy to use Poser, and I also model in Lightwave - in fact, most of what I model goes out for other P/DS users to use in their own art. If you think that Poser is only about posing someone else's stuff and pressing "Make art," then I think - no, I know - that you have no fucking clue what you're talking about, so, frankly, STFU until you do it yourself. And if you can't create art with Poser, then I frankly doubt you can do it with any other 3D program, either. It's not the tools, asshole; it's the user.

I could go on, but this is an old argument, and one I don't have any interest in continuing. I just had to vent because some dick had to go and open his piehole again about something of which he has no clue, and sadly, that sort of ignorance never seems to know of its own existence.

====

Not art:
Bonaventure 2011 - 001 by Ptrope (I modeled this in Lightwave)

Art:
Lost Souls by Ptrope (My model, my render. Poser.)

Art:
Bon Voyage by RobCaswell (My model, Arcass's creativity. DAZ|Studio)

====

Not art:
Crossbow _ WIP 003 by Ptrope (My design, my Lightwave model)

Art:
Place of Honor 1.2 by Ptrope (All items modeled by me in Lightwave, my render. Poser.)

Art:
Fleet of Worlds by richmerk (Ship model by me, richmerk's creativity and asteroid modeling. Poser/Vue)
  • Listening to: silence and whining A/C ducts
  • Reading: my own words and missing errors, probably
  • Watching: time go slowly by on my clock
  • Playing: at working
  • Eating: Crunchy Cheetos! Yum!
  • Drinking: leaves me with a funny feeling
... that New Year's resolutions are pretty much as worthless as those made any other time of the year - the resolutions are only as strong as our own resolve to see them through.

That being said, there are some things I think I should resolve for 2012, in public, so that on Dec. 31, those who care about me can point to them, tap their feet on the floor in disgust, and ask me why I did nothing with any of them. Because that's usually how it works out.

And so, with the very best of intentions, here goes:

1. Draw. For my own sake, I need to step away from the computer and pick up a pencil (probably not the one I stabbed myself with last night - now that it's tasted blood, it'll never settle for anything less!) And I further resolve to post my feeble attempts at reclaiming what skills I once had here, on these hallowed grounds. Maybe if I practice, I'll be able to bring my stick figures back to life!

2. Expand my 3D modeling and rendering skills. I really want to get to the point where creating 3D clothing or modeling a complex car design aren't things I wish I could do. And based on this ...

3. Pursue selling my creations. One effort in 5 years isn't enough, and as much fun as the freebies are, they won't help me gain a measure of independence (although I'll still make freebies - they're too much fun not to ;) )

4. Animate something. Star Trek: Reanimated ain't a'gonna make itself, and until I can show at least something, it's going to be tough to get people interested in helping out who do know WTF they're doing! ;)

5. Get out of the house and see the world around me. There aren't too many women looking for someone who's constantly sitting behind the computer unless he's a day trader! A good one!

6. Day trading. Natch!

7. No tattoos. I don't have any now, so this, at least, will be one resolution I have a pretty good chance of keeping! :D

There will no doubt be more things I need to do, but it's only 1/3/12; I'm pacing myself ;).

====

Happy New Year, fellow deviants! Let's rock this place in 2012!
  • Listening to: Alan Parsons Project
  • Reading: my Palm ... Pre!
  • Watching: the last vestiges of my self-esteem disappear
  • Playing: Halo causes cancer ... really!
  • Eating: my words
  • Drinking: leaves me with a funny feeling
"For your convenience ..."

How often is my convenience the real motivating factor to such a statement from a retailer or other vendor? Not very bloody often!

I just have to rant because this is fresh. I just bought an MP3 album on Amazon ("Ho! Ho! Hoey! The Complete Collection" - Christmas music by guitar great Gary Hoey); it has 39 songs on the 2-disc set. For "my convenience," I can download and install Amazon's MP3 Downloader to make it easier for me (really, for Amazon, I'm sure) to download my purchase. Only I'm at work and my company has blocked this content. I can download just fine - I can't download their 'convenient software to install along with every other proprietary downloader out there."

Here's how they make it 'more convenient' - if you don't (or can't) download their software, your only option is to go to the 'Cloud Player' and download all 39 songs individually! This is bull***t.

I know people who can write a script that will take a set of files, zip it, and put it in a download queue. Why can't Amazon do something like this? Why put all the onus on the user to download and install software they may not want (for instance, I don't really want the download to target iTunes or Windows Media Player when I download music! I want to save the files where I can manage them, not my computer - I don't use either of those players, anyway). And when their software is something that is considered 'blockable' by corporate IT managers, it's just one more damn hoop to jump through.

Or, in this particular case, 39 hoops.

Thanks for nothin', Amazon.

And the same goes for your Kindle Fire - nothing but a personal storefront and cash register. Remember all those promises about the Internet, back in 1994 when it opened up? Fuggedaboudit. It's now little more than a constant shopping mall, especially thanks to iPhones, iPads, Kindles and all the other crap designed to make buying easier. Sure, an iPad may make other things easier, but in the end, its main purpose is to sell apps; we only have the app creators to thank if something there actually does something useful.

<youtube>www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhrFau…</youtube>
  • Listening to: Gary Hoey belting out Christmas on an axe
  • Reading: Railroad is my favorite!
  • Watching: the clock. Tick. Tick. Tiiiicccckkk.
  • Playing: beats working
  • Eating: beats starving
  • Drinking: beats driving
Okay, I fell for it - I bought the new Ultimate Spider-man. The one that starts over at #1 (like, apparently, the whole Ultimates line). The one that changes Spider-man's ethnicity. And I have to say, I"m really disappointed in Marvel - not because they killed off Peter Parker and replaced him with an African-American/Hispanic youth, but because they've done it so badly! They haven't gone nearly far enough!

What the hell is wrong with comics these days? More to the point, what the hell is wrong with the companies that produce them? They seem to have an OCD about rebooting their characters (when they're not tying their entire inventory into one giant, vapid marketing crossover that, to me at least, makes it less compelling to buy their books - I sure as hell don't want to feel like I'm being coerced to buy every damn book they have just so I can get one - in the end - badly-written story!). The Marvel "Ultimates" line seems to be constantly in the throes of rebooting - not the stories and characters, so much, as the physical appearance of the books themselves. How many different cover themes has Marvel used on these books in the last 5 years? I used to buy Ultimate Spider-man, but then it looked like a completely different book when they went to the white banner and new layout (not to mention some really bad art!). Why bother, said I?

So anyway, here I am with the new new Ultimate Spider-man, and I'm frankly disappointed in their lack of vision. All they seemd to do was check the boxes:

1. Youthful, promising student? Check! (although he looks like he's about 10, by his size, in the opening of the book - somehow he seems to grow considerably by the end ... )
2. Alliterative name? (Peter Parker = Miles Morales)? Check!
3. Bitten by a mutated spider from Oscorp? Check!
4. Paternal relationship with an uncle who wants more for the yong man than what he's had? Check!

I wasn't looking forward to the new Spider-man, and now I'm even less looking forward to his continuing adventures, because for all the hype, for all the platitudes, it looks to me like nothing less than Marvel copping out. They had a chance to really re-invent Spider-man, but he doesn't look all that re-invented to me - just renamed and a bit darker skinned. It just doesn't seem worth the hype.

Here's hoping there was one more Parker clone out there that Doc Ock didn't kill ... if we're not going to get an all-new Spider-man, I want the one back who was fun. After all, one of the greatest things about Spider-man has always been the quips, the banter, and if they make those words come out of Miles Morales' mouth, too, then that's really a cop-out.
  • Listening to: the Aqua Velvets - smooth instrumental surf
  • Reading: is FUN-da-MENTAL
  • Watching: out for my fellow man, especially that one there!
  • Playing: fast and loose with the truth
  • Eating: my words
  • Drinking: about Thacula
Yes, I realize that technology does not create the art, but many of us need decent technology in order to properly realize the artist within us. There's little that's more frustrating than having a vision that can't be realized because your technical resources aren't up to snuff. Sadly, the last time I bought a PC, I though it just might be up to the task, but that just hasn't been the case - especially frustrating is the fact that the previous PC, with a slower chip and less RAM, performed much better, usually succeeding in keeping up with my creative processes. As it is now, I can barely get a real-time response from Poser Pro 2010, my primary creative tool, and it's been that way pretty much from the beginning.

So now, I have an opportunity to buy a new (well, refurbed) HP PC with an AMD quad-core chip (I currently have only 1 core), 8 Gb of RAM (compared to the 3 my current one uses), and a Radeon graphics card with its own dedicated 1 Gb of RAM for all that fun live previewing. It's going to have Win 7 on it, unless someone can tell me that WinXP 64-bit might be a better choice, given both the hardware and the software to be running on it. This PC is also going to be strictly off-the-Net; I'm going to restrict it to graphics applications only, and use the current machine for my non-art-related stuff, like e-mail, Web surfing, writing, media streaming, etc.

The new box is going to have the following software on it:

Poser Pro 2012 (probably the first thing going on it, in fact!)
Lightwave 9.0
Lightwave 7.5 (have discovered this is really needed for my Poser content creation workflow - some things it actually does better than the newer version, and I have some vital plug-ins for it that simply won't work in v.9)
Adobe CS5 suite
Hexagon 2.5
Bryce 7 Pro
Corel Suite X4
UVMapper Pro
CrossDresser 4
Painter 11

I might install DAZ|Studio, but since I never use it, and haven't seen what results come from PP2012, which I've already purchased, that's going to be a low priority. I also want this machine to be robust enough to handle HD animation, both in Poser and in Lightwave.

Anyone with any insights, hard- or software-related, regarding the best configuration for a truly productive workstation, under $500, given the kind of art (if you want to call it that) that I create?
  • Listening to: the Aqua Velvets - smooth instrumental surf
  • Reading: is FUN-da-MENTAL
  • Watching: out for my fellow man, especially that one there!
  • Playing: fast and loose with the truth
  • Eating: my words
  • Drinking: about Thacula
Maybe not "Art," per se, but the iPad has certainly become a phenomenon that has crossed over into the art world, with several painting apps available for it.

I, however, have not bought an iPad. When they came out, I figured they'd be Apple's new "Newton," their spectacular failure in the PDA market that suffered more from bad press and glitchy handwriting recognition than actually being a crappy piece of hardware. Palm just did it better, with the Pilot, and then Palm also pretty much pioneered the smartphone market. But even with Apple jumping into that fray relatively late, they kicked Palm right in the Treo (wow, that's gotta be painful!) and took over the market that Palm had created. And then they came out with the iPad, and for some unknown reason, it too was a success, after years of everyone else who tried it failing spectacularly - and the iPad really isn't any better than any of those, just like the Newton wasn't really any worse than the Pilot.

But, like I said, I couldn't think of a good reason to own one. I really still can't. The human finger is a terrible stylus, and an onscreen keyboard is an ergonomic nightmare no matter how you do it, so a tablet fulfills neither an artistic nor a productive need, at least not for me. I can see them in a corporate or industrial or medical environment - something with a touchscreen and an easy interface has got to be a huge boon to doctors, nurses, foremen, managers, even order-takers in the food service industry. A tablet is perfect for business. But for a consumer? An artist? Not me, folks. I can't model in 3D on one, I can't use something like CorelDraw on it, and it's pretty horrible for writing. And the $600 price point is the real dealbreaker - why would I spend more than the price of a PC that I can use for something that is essentially, for me, a shiny paperweight for the coffee table?

Now, I've been a Palm fan since, well, since Handspring spun off of them and created the Visor, a Pilot clone that had one advantage: the ability to plug in modules to make it something else - something like -  gasp -a smartphone. That was my first cell phone, because until then, I could use a PDA and I didn't want to carry 2 pieces of hardware. With the Visor, I didn't have to! And then they came out with the Treo, then Handspring became the new Palm, then they created webOS and came out with the Pre, then HP bought them and spectacularly blundered on the introduction of the TouchPad - too late, too slow, and, at the same price as an iPad, way too expensive. On Aug.18, only 48 days after they introduced it, HP "drowned the webOS line of devices in the bathtub," to quote an article on Wired today; they killed them all, with 250,000 of them sitting just in Best Buy's back rooms and warehouses, not to mention Staples, Amazon, and Wal-Mart.

Then, Saturday,  HP announced the "fire sale," dropping the $400 16Gb version to $99 and the now-$500 32 Gb version to only $149. Suddenly, the tablet that I couldn't afford, and for which I have no use, became something I literally could not afford not to buy! And I learned about it only Sunday morning, when an entire day had gone by at the new price. I didn't even know that anyone was interested in them, and asked a friend if he could 'pick one up if you happen to be near a Best Buy.' It just so happened it was early enough - before the stores even opened - and he 'just happened to stop by Best Buy' around the time they were to open, and there was a line for the damn things! Something they couldn't give away for a month and half had people lining up to get the last one! He bought one for himself, too - we got 2 of the last 3 the store had. And it's nice - for $150, it's nicely built, well-stocked with software, easy to use, and I have no idea what good it is ;).

So this morning I found out that Barnes & Noble might have them still on its website, and I bought another one, just as a backup! For $250, I got 2 things I really don't need, still half the price of only one tablet I didn't need! And I've already got someone working on creating a teleprompter app for it, because it immediately occurred to me that with such an app, these would be great for small-time documentary filmmakers - like I want to be :D. Just find a way to mount it to the tripod under or next to the camera, and it's the perfect size. Plus it's shiny enough to check your hair before the camera rolls :D.

But I still maintain that as a graphics tablet, it's pointless, and as a serious writing implement, it's nearly useless; that's not to say that some people, even members here, aren't using their iPads for exactly those things, and even successfully. It ain't no Wacom Cintiq, though - that's something I think we can all agree on. Nor is it a laptop with a real keyboard.

And at $150, none of that really seems to matter any more :D.

:thumb254452837:
  • Listening to: Pandora on my Pre - NO COMMERCIALS!
  • Reading: &quot;Lone Star Planet&quot; by H. Beam Piper. Aga
  • Watching: and waiting
  • Playing: second fiddle AND third base
  • Eating: is the happiest my mouth will ever be
  • Drinking: is the root (beer) of all my problems
It's coming!

It's stupid!

It's pointless!

It's shiny!

It's got nothing to do with Firefly :O.

It's inexcusable in the extreme!

You'll know if when you see it! Please forgive me! I just couldn't help myself :O.

====

UPDATE:

07/26/2011

It's hhhheeeerrrreeee ... :O

It's HORRIFYING by Ptrope
  • Listening to: Pandora on my Pre - NO COMMERCIALS!
  • Reading: &quot;Lone Star Planet&quot; by H. Beam Piper. Aga
  • Watching: and waiting
  • Playing: second fiddle AND third base
  • Eating: is the happiest my mouth will ever be
  • Drinking: is the root (beer) of all my problems