Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jeffrey Jones


Though Jeff's site may or may not be well-designed depending on who you ask, it has a cleanliness and consistency that is of vital importance. And, more importantly, this is the work of Jeffrey Jones.

Jeffrey has been very painful for me to talk about for a very long time. He was a hero, artistically, and now in many highly personal ways, which I have no intention of dealing with here. Though the key element is that Jeffrey had sex-reassignment surgery (and I've never been able to figure out what gender pronoun to use, and Jeff didn't seem to worried about it). The story of our meeting is also interesting, though long, and typical of what it is about him that is so endearing and enduring. That is too long a story to tell here.

Jeffrey is one of our greatest painters, a legend in the comics and fantasy world, and one of the precious few who have escaped the comics gutter to become a real artist and a real person.

He was of monumental importance to my development, moreso to my healing as a self-loathing artist. The short version of the story is that I do not value the opinions of many when it comes to my art, perhaps the opinions of one in a hundred people--it's easy to dazzle people who can't draw, or worse, people who think they can draw but can't--and his opinion I valued above all others, including my own. I had once shown Jeff a piece of mine that I had doubted, even going so far as to point out what about the piece bothered me, he looked at the drawing of the face in question and told me there was nothing wrong with it, and that it was good. At that moment I put away my self-doubts and said to myself, "If it's good enough for Jeff Jones, it's good enough for me." On my worst days as an artist that has become my motto.

Then, Jeff vanished.

Jeff just fucking vanished.

And I miss Jeffrey a lot. Jeff was a good friend, and a great mentor.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The End Is Near!

The semester is winding down, and it has not been a good one. It started out sleepless for weeks, then I found juggling 3 jobs and school, bankruptcy, my wife leaving for Abu Dhabi, and everything to be far too much to deal with. I've had no Xtra energy.

Unfortunately the winding down of the semester is not really providing any relief as I now have to face my return to the real world, and I am NOT ready. Never was. What's out there: A highly competitive job market, low pay, more and more rejection, digging and scraping? "People are scrambling, like dogs for a share," as the Waterboys sang. I ain't a dog and I ain't in any mood to scrape anymore.

Honestly, I see the coming summer as nothing more than an extension of the semester. I was hoping to be portfolio, web-site, and resume ready by now, but I am not even close. I'm probably going to have to spend the summer doing all that plus getting ready for my show. It's no disaster, I just have to create new goals on a new timeline. And add to all this that I will probably be working on finishing my MARA animation.

The thing that is probably most freaking me out is the fact that I will now be dealing with age discrimination. people are fucking idiots, and they get ideas in their heads that are total bullshit and there is no way of dislodging their preconceptions and predecisions. No doubt about it, it's going to be a long hard battle.

To sum up, I've learned to be productive in 5 programs in a year and half, which isn't bad considering that I had started with knowing NOTHING. It's a pretty sizable accomplishment, so I guess I can stop letting the fact that I haven't got the web-design/Dreamweaver stuff down. My brain is currently full. My plate is full.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Winding Down Winding Up Ever Winding

In life I tend to think, "When THIS is over, I'll be OK." Well, there's always another "THIS" out there somewhere, and usually overlapping whatever "THIS" I might be in the middle of muddling through. It's not all bad, many of the "THIS"'s are positive.

For example, the winding down of the semester is really going to be the winding up of my coming show. And I'm winding up to the first paying gig I've had in a very long time, the opening of the Summer market. And then after that I have to get Christine on a plane to Abu Dhabi, and I'll have to move into an apartment. Ever winding.

At this point, I quit waiting for "THIS" to be over and try instead to catch my breath and enjoy the process.

Design-wise, this blog has not dealt much with web-design, but it has occasionally dealt with animation issues. Speaking of which, my new video (a revamped version of my "Hanglide" video) is ever so close to being wrapped up.

And the Mara animation is coming along slowly but what I have sampled in After Effects looks promising. I have been trying to include as many of Frank and Ollie's 12 principles of animation as possible:


The little Mara animation loop is looking great but there are some specifics of timing and staging, as well as editing, that need to be addressed. The plan today is for me to sit down and work out some very specific storyboards. I need to have it all laid out. I'm with Tony Samangy (the teacher of my animation course) when it comes to storyboards for things like this. I am discovering how critical it is when the narrative is literal. But, I still have to admit that when it comes to making psychedelic videos (especially for my own pleasure) I prefer to work in a stream of consciousness chaos. Different methods for different results and projects. I can see myself storyboarding out some parts of even the most experimental psychedelic videos, though. Anyhow, the point here is really that with this Mara piece the storyboards will have to be specific almost from frame to frame. Everything will be important, the first hurdle will be staging the foot-twitching and background pan. The next will be timing out the cuts in the fall sequence, as well as working out her rate of speed, the grounds rate of speed, and when it stops moving, how fast she'll need to be going, and how it will all time out to give the sequence credibility.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Web Progress

Working on my site this weekend revealed some surprising results: I actually understood some of it! This is my second class on web-design, and so far the whole process is still a mystery to me. I have learned 5 programs in the last year and a half, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, and After Effects... plus Powerpoint, but Dreamweaver has remained my Waterloo.

The real problem, probably the root of the problem, is that I have absolute zero tolerance for computer geeks and self-involved and self-indulgent programmers who are so obliviously incapable of communicating and functioning in the real world that they can't even design a system usable by anyone outside of their twisted way of thinking. The whole internet and web-design thing is as senseless as algebra. Rules, rules, rules that don't hake any sense to rational people, and more rules. The shortest distance between two points is not even part of this world. Web-designers and programmers think like Dafy Duck did in that famous scene from "Duck Dodgers" where he outlined that insane route to planet X.

The other problem is that of all the things I have learned, this is the one area I just don't give a shit about, the one area I hope to god I don't have to toil in to make a living.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


March 22nd, my birthday.

They're usually depressing affairs, or usually were, but as of the past few years my birthdays have been marked by adventures and developments, like living and traveling overseas. This birthday had gone by more or less uneventfully until this potential new video client popped up in my messages box on YouTube.

The truth is that the only times my birthdays are depressing are when I concentrate on the social significance of the numbers attached to them. In other words, I seem to be getting older and poorer at the same time... but at least now I can look back and say I have done a lot of remarkable things. That helps take the sting out of the ever increasing numbers.

The lesson here is to focus more on living a life that will leave me content on my deathbed rather than focusing on the way the years seem to slip by. I try and keep up with my life, or as my Carnie buddy used to say... "Move at the speed of life." Each individual dictates their own speed, no matter how much adversity they experience. For me, drastic decisions have had to be made, intensely stressful, but decisions that have led to:

Living in South Korea
Eating dinner with monks in the mountains of South Korea
Performing music all over
Swimming with a dolphin
SCUBA diving
Enjoying girls in the Philippines
Traveling in Thailand
Being an illegal immigrant in Concepcion Chile
Making art
Getting Paul McCartney to talk about me
Doing art for DC Comics, LucasFilm, Dungeons and Dragons
Surviving cancer
Surviving crime
Watching friends die
Letting go
Becoming less selfish
Running away to join the carnival
Going bankrupt and losing our house
Doing things NOW!!!

This is all I have, might be all I get. There's no sense spending the whole time wondering where it all went, I'd rather wonder where I'm going next.

News From the Fireman

I got amazing news today...

First a bit of back story. I'm a big fan of McCartney's obscure and experimental stuff. He's been in this band with Youth (from Killing Joke) and they call themselves The Fireman. I've made a number of videos for McCartney and Fireman songs just for fun, somehow a friend of Youth's discovered my videos and wants me to work with him. This is exciting on a number of levels: It's gonna be a great professional sample for my digital portfolio, the music is gonna be great to work with, and it'll get me that much closer to Youth and McCartney.

You can find this stuff at:



look up Kuba Monk Dusk on YouTube.

The problem is that I'm so damn distracted I won't be able to focus all day.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Animation Research




OK, I've looked and I can't seem to find the same pics I had used when I was researching landing and impact sequences for my animation sequence, but the above are fairly close to what I had found. Though internet research was only a small part of the resources I used. I was more interested in watching video one frame at a time.

Here's the dilemma... I want the sequence and action to be somewhat stylized and a little more balletic, yet natural enough to be believable. I'm not sure that's possible with the drawing style I have chosen. I am afraid I am going to have to be something of a slave to reality. This will require some rethinking, redrawing, and restoryboarding... but only AFTER I create a few demo animations to see what looks right and what doesn't.

I have become obsessed with the final product as an artist, creating ONLY images that will be in print or showable. Unfortunately a lot of learning to animate is going to require a ton of behind the scenes work and redrawing that will be "thankless." Perhaps this is an impatience on my part.

Another issue is my expectations, I expect my freshman effort as an animator to be as strong as the best of Disney... you know, that company that at one time had hundreds of the best artists in the world who had devoted their lives to mastering the art of animation, a company that had unlimited resources, live-action studies, and unlimited budget. Yeah, I expect the first animation sequence I ever created... all by myself... to be that good.

That's not healthy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Semester Progress

So far this semester the real progress has happened in the animation process. Learning to animate has been something of a life-dream. I am hoping that within my animation demo to hit upon all 12 of the principles of animation.

So far I have learned that, perhaps, the most important principle is "Anticipation." I had originally had the anticipation cell wrong. Of course, I was able to use the "cell," but what we discovered was that it was not the right cell to really deliver the proper anticipation, the pose was not extreme enough to be the critical anticipation cell. The solution was to create a new anticipation cell that was far more extreme than what I had initially imagined. The other key element was not only the pose itself, but timing.

The relation between the anticipation cell and the action itself is also important. Big actions require big anticipations, at least, to my knowledge so far.

Timing has also been of critical importance. Timing alone can also make or break the believability of an action... even if the drawings are all spot-on.

Research as also been terribly important. Making shit up just doesn't work. It never has and never will, and when trying to create believable motion, it is of major importance. Research should be the 13th principle.

The research I have used so far has been:

1) Viewing all the falling, jumping, and landing sequences I could in normal and slow motion speed, in live-action films as well as animated movies of various qualities.

2) Practicing the action itself in the physical world.

3) Looking for still images of the motion I am trying to recreate.

4) Creating test-loops to study my animation.

5) Getting a second opinion.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Web-Design Schmeb-Design

Originally this blog was supposed to be about web-design, but thus far it has been a meditation on how boring the web has become. So, let's talk about things that actually are interesting, for a start, Flash and/or animation.

The West Virginia Flash Animation Festival is coming. Google that if you want to see the crummy entries from last year. I had considered entering, the problem is they want "original music" or music to which I can get permission from the copyright holder. Well... I don't have that, but I did notice that one of the winners from last year used a friggin' Monkee's song--besides the fact that the piece was not terribly strong in my opinion.

So, yes, it would be possible for me to clean up in Flash festivals, but I suspect they will all be looking for music that I own or can get permission to use.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jackass Of All Trades

The last semesters have taught me that it is impossible, even for an older student with a good work-ethic and the proper attitude, to be enthusiastic and hard-working in every class and program. Frankly, the whole world of web design, Css, and Dreamweaver leaves me not only baffled but utterly disinterested. Web-design is algebra... I hated algebra. It's all rules, formulas, and not a damn one of them makes sense. We're talking RANDOM! Memorization, chaos, misery. Frankly, web-design is everything I hated (all along) about computers wrapped up in one big shit-stinky package.

I want to know enough about Dreamweaver to put it on my resume, get a job, and then like learning Karate, I hope I never have to use it.

On a personal note, I think juggling 3 jobs and taking classes (and looking into a 4th job) has probably worn me out more than I would like.

Thank God

Thank god there are still some people out there who are not going with the 3-column same-font-as-everyone-else sites. This has remained a site I find inspiring... and hopeful.


I don't know much about the artist or the work, and while it is beautiful to look at, I don't know how happy I would be if I were an A.D. and wanted to hire this guy. As a commercial venture, whether or not the site is easily navigable or effective is questionable.

Regardless, it is refreshing to see that some people are not letting themselves be castrated by current trends, expectations, and "rules."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What's Up With All This Web Rigidity???

OK, when the whole web-site thing first happened I was pretty excited about the internet and the design opportunities.

Well, that's gone and done, and now we are stuck with all these rules, conventions, and expectations that have, in my opinion, created an environment where every web-site looks like they belong in the same magazine or have been overseen by the same Art Director. Now, I understand the need to create order out of chaos, but I think these conventions have suffocated the flexible design possibilities the web originally offered, creating a homogenized look.

The first sites I saw, way back when, were a little like a treasure hunt, and while that was intolerable so far as usability goes, it was a lot more fun. Clever people with a first-rate design staff were able to play effectively on that playground while still maintaining easy usability and navigation. Unfortunately even those artists and designers eventually submitted and started publishing rigid boring designs. "You will be assimilated!" And, YES, we have all assimilated.

For me this has taken a lot of the thrill out of the internet, and has in many ways burned out my desire to design web pages.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Positively Bubbling With Girlish Enthusiasm!

If you know me at all, you know I never come close to "bubbling," and as for "girlish enthusiasm," that's just pushing the irony beyond good taste.

Speaking of good taste, I hope not to show much of that here. If I do, please, call me on it.

And now, a little about me:

In fourth grade I announced I was either going to be a "dolphin trainer" or a "comic book artist." By seventh grade, I realized that neither of those were really proper job descriptions, at least not ones I could find in the books we looked at on career days. That should have been enough to push me into law or banking.

Life didn't begin for me until I had achieved that dream (not the dolphin trainer bit) and worked for DC Comics, Image, then WOTC on the D & D books, as well as doing some work for Lucasfilm.

I soon realized why I should have gone with "dolphin trainer," there just wasn't much dough in the comic artist gig. So, the logical choice: buy a tent (and a trailer) and become a Rennie. This literally meant living on campgrounds for months... sometimes in elaborate "tarpitechtures" I called home, and other times in a trailer. The highlight: spending 7 weeks in a trailer on a fairground in Connecticut... alone. Amazing. If you get the chance to live alone on a fairground in Connecticut in the fall for 7 weeks, go for it.

And once that little business failed, I was off to South Korea. And, for two years, where I enjoyed chronic sinus infections, cancer, a robbery in the Philippines, and death (though not my own.) Korean food sucked, but it was worth all the kimchi, squid, and red-hot twigs just to get to Thailand and the Philippines. There (in the Philippines) I accomplished 3 life dreams (one unmentionable here), and the other being getting my SCUBA diving license, and the third being swimming with a dolphin.

A little fact: never dive with Germans.

From there we travelled on to South America where we worked as illegal immigrants for the charlatans at the "Thomas Jefferson School" in Concepcion Chile. I won't name any names besides Magda and Gregory Trebz--something long and Polish--ski.

Then, back to America, land of Rye whiskey, boneheads, and far less opportunity than we found in second-world countries... oh, and NO freaking healthcare. I don't get how a person can be "pro-life" and anti national health in the same breath... and don't bother trying to justify it to me, because it's all bullshit. Unless you've had cancer here in the US as well as in a country with national health, I'm not going to have a lot of patience for whatever it is you've read or heard on Fox "News." In other words, if your anti-healthcare... blow me.

To get by, since being home, I have worked as a tutor for a kid with cerebral palsey, a carnie, and a toilet scrubber. Carnie-work being the shortest lived and most incredible of the experiences... and I may end up back out there over the summer.

Now, I am in school at the University of Akron, hoping that in 17 weeks I will no longer be obsolete.

Now that we're all up to date, I can pick things up from here...