Going “George Lucas” on my comics

Or at least one of them. Redoing an entire issue the way I want it to look. On the left is the redux, on the right the original.

Snippet_Page06-compare

I did Trouble, Guts & Noir issue 4 years ago on a personal dare – can I make an issue in less than a month? That was the challenge – everything from writing, art and marketing were factored in and while I completed the task I was never really happy with the result.

It was also one of the first comics where I used substantial CGI aids in order to leverage my skills in that arena.

Up until this issue, those paths didn’t cross and it was a personal choice – the challenge used to be more about getting AWAY from CGI. I got a little precious about the process and it was an interesting change.

This was also a beginning to a broader storyline – I wanted to play with one of the tropes of noir in my own way. Ever hear of the “dead girl” trope? I am sure you have if you are a fan of noir.

But the redux is going well – considering I finished the original issue’s art in two weeks (I wrote it and did layouts in less than a week). I am sure it will be finished in time to upload to Comixology. And then I can wait six months for them to wade up to it. Sheesh. It takes them longer to approve single comics than it takes to make WHOLE comics.

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Small, Medium and Large Ultimakers

If you follow the news about Ultimaker you will know that they have released a line of 3d printers based on the Ultimaker 2 formula.

If you know my background and my experience with Ultimaker, you will understand this is good news. And that it is bad news for Makerbot which hasn’t released anything but some new materials you can get jammed in your smart extruder.

Yes, that’s me being bitter.

I fully intend to replace my now completely consistently and annoyingly failing Makerbot Mini. I have had enough. I recently suggested that Makerbot re-conceive the materials and user policies used in building the smart extruder in their recent online survey.

Gulanee-outside-sml

I would be willing to pay for a premium smart extruder which allows everything I have consistently asked the company to do. Make it user serviceable, make it from better materials, and make it easier to manage settings and regulate it’s temperature better.

Makerbot did a great job defining goals and specs which made sense to consumers and almost none of the ones important to me were ready at release or were disappointing when seen in action. The built in camera is not very good or useful, the reliability is woeful, the build quality gets progressively worse until the extruder fails entirely, and customer service has either no interest or ability to respond with customer history at hand and instead goes through robotic standard replies and suggestions.

But back to Ultimaker – I saw that they are using the 2 ft tall Gulanee model at their booth at CES which makes me divinely happy she has found a good home. If you see this model, you should know that I was up and running, printing tests and getting work done in under an hour – and that’s me taking what I thought was a LONG time to get acquainted with the printer.

This is also close to the first full year I have been on this 3d printing adventure and want to congratulate Ultimaker for thinking, acting and delivering on the promises of 3d printing.

Conversely I want to encourage Makerbot to consider some of the things I suggested. I truly did enjoy the Makerbot experience when it first arrived and I finished my first model.

Visit  #72024 at CES if you get a chance and say hello!

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Digital vs Traditional process snobs

I want to do more digital painting next year. Actually, just more painting period.
Medea_PROCESS

Since taking up 3d printing, nothing I’ve been doing in other areas of art have been resonating with enough people to make it worthwhile – BUT – that’s if you follow the numbers and the metrics. Metrics can’t be the only way to make art. These days they help.

I’ve never really followed trends unless they did one or more of a few things

  • I learned something new
  • I made extra money
  • I helped someone
  • I grew as an artist or person

There’s a difference between that first item and the last one and usually it’s just a personal emotional thing and not an achievement unlocked thing.

But I have never really painted the way I really want to paint – something is always on the edge and almost there. And it’s just been a function of time and effort.

I use Gimp – an open source app – which a lot of people give me heat about. It’s not this, it doesn’t have that, only amateurs use it blah, blah blah. I get it – I use Adobe’s stuff too. At work. But the last time I checked I used Gimp on every single Emmy nomination I have ever had, and on the two VES awards I have so chew on that for a second.

I tweeted this earlier this week:

When I say you should stop caring about digital vs. traditional it means there is no longer a distinction between the two to the audience at a basic level. Digital artists often print their stuff on textured paper to make it “painterly” – traditional artists are digitizing their works to make prints for sale and sell them online – it’s more complicated than that but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Give me a break already. There are no more Rembrandt’s being made nor should there be.

If you want to argue an original painting in time MIGHT be worth millions someday, I’ll show you a digitally designed asset I make that’s worth something RIGHT NOW. Show me a digital painting with millions of colors and infinite resolution, and I’ll show you someone who can paint on GLASS in FILM NEGATIVE COLORS. NOTHING about the tools matter any more.

What matters is that connection to the people who see it. The people who care. Bitch about popularity all you want – I’ve already heard enough college kids for DECADES (I am 44 right now) spew about this – IT DOES NOT MATTER.

It only matters if you grew, you learned, you connected or you got PAID. Pick something and run with it. I chose not to let the process dictate the goal. Ever.

Want to know something else? I’ve been a digital artist for 20 years. That’s long enough for a car, movie or song to be considered a classic. Know what that makes the first digital works of art? In a way it makes them … traditional.

That’s a stretch for some people – they’d argue it doesn’t make them traditional but commonplace. You aren’t taken very seriously unless you use this tool or that – just like the stone masons didn’t take you seriously unless you used certain tools. In case you were wondering, that’s called a creative tradition. “It’s the way things have always been done” and if you are one of those newly minted, millennial kids getting out of school, digital tools are the way thing shave been done YOUR WHOLE LIFE. It’s TRADITION.

Case closed, go paint something.

P.S. Now this all sounds very angry, but it’s book-ended by an interesting year. I spent a lot of time listening to people harp on digital artists for having no ability to use “traditional tools” again. And I also listened to others harp on the future of art and the fundamental requirement that artists adopt more digital techniques. It was ridiculous. So I spent a full two months doing almost nothing but working traditionally – even using coffee as ink at one point.

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Making the Steampunk XWing, Part 1

First of all, this project has some odd roots. I had never drawn anything remotely “steampunk” or much of anything very retro in style ever but noticed it’s rapidly growing popularity.

So the original concept for this was just an exercise in concept art. Beware, serious concept artist hopefuls – doing fan art like this is one of those things professionals tell you to stear clear of because you look like a fanboy.

Well screw that advice – I’m a 15 year working veteran in visual effects and I don’t think any of us would be here without Star Wars so “cut me some slack there ok bro?”

The original concept is still the most favorited thing I have ever posted online and judging by the number of people who have tumblr’d, re-grammed and otherwise copied and pasted it to various sites … you get the picture.

So the first part of this blog documenting the project is all about the concept.

XWing-12-13-11-SML

I did several Star Wars related steam/retro designs and the others were interesting as well in that I didn’t really know what I wanted out of these pieces other than to play with the retro and steampunk design tropes.

The T.I.E Fighter I did, actually, I preferred over the X-Wing because it seemed a little more flamboyant.

TIE Fighter 12-16-11 SML

But since the X-Wing resonated with so many more people, I think it was a clear choice for the build. Ordinarily, I tend to rail against fan art of any kind. Truth be told, I don’t really find doing fan art does much more than hinder your true artistic development but these days, it seems no one will take you the least bit seriously as an artist UNLESS you do it. Completely backwards, but I have had a really long career NOT doing fan art so I think an occasional piece is merited.

I didn’t design any of these things with 3d printing in mind – which I think is the takeaway from this project. Although it helps to have a vertical process in 3d printing – going from concept to final with the 3d pinted result in mind – it’s not a deal breaker.

Even though I never thought about even OWNING a 3d printer when I drew these images in 2011, I didn’t even consider making them in CGI back then. But the entire process can still be considered to be vertical in that I will be completing all areas of the production.

So in making your own 3d printed objects from old concepts keep this in mind – it’s very likely that you did not design something with 3d printing in mind. But you must consider the basic physics of the design WHEN you want to print something.

Both the retro designs had something in common in that they are still largely based on the basic designs of real world, kit bashed, old school visual effects models. The original design topologies of the two fighter craft are recognizable almost anywhere in the world and they make sense to world immediately in that they are mechanical, solid, and constructed from real materials.

Next time, I’ll go over the CGI design process.

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Gearing, working parts and 3d printing

I have only ever done a tiny bit of CAD. I had an old copy of TurboCAD for Windows which I barely used, but definitely should have kept using considering the project I have started this month.

I have as much experience calculating differentials as I do hang gliding, but it became absolutely necessary to at least configure the gearing mechanism required for the latest 3d printing project.

gearing

The first version of the mechanism showed me that I was thinking much to linearly and I eventually switched to something more complicated but definitely more elegant.

Essentially, the gearing mechanism rotates two planes away from each other – it operates a bit like a scissors.

gearing01
This is the first operational mechanism I have designed specifically for a 3d printing project and I am considering going to one or more of the open source CAD applications that are available. At least one of them however, is listed by Chrome as a piece of Malware – FreeCAD.

That’s sad – it looked pretty impressive. But I am sure I will settle on a CAD solution, but since I have learned well how to model at scale with fairly high precision, I might not need CAD immediately.

I think the more important issue is how CAD just isn’t as important in consumer level 3d printing – that it’s practically a non issue to many users who are remixing other models, projects etc. Why learn CAD, there are so many free 3d models of reasonably high quality you should be able to kitbash anything you want, right?

You could probably never run out of free things to print online. But just like I remember people using the first dot matrix printers to print out ascii versions of pictures, I think were still very much in that stage of 3d printing. There are definitely the differences between those times and now – some people are truly pushing the envelope but that entry level FFM user is still trying to wrap their head around making these things work reliably at all.

But like I said before, just being a decent 3d modeler is a huge advantage to 3d printing users. It’s pretty much the skeleton key to synthesizing any shape and therefore anything you want to print.

I’ll post more as this project develops.

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Headed to the bank. Sort of.

I literally spent the last week looking around my desk – not even my whole apartment – for thing I needed that could 3d print.

I came up with two things – a pencil and brush holder and a piggy bank. Since so much of my work is digital I don’t do a terribly good job of organizing my pencils and brushes.

Printed VERY clean, will make the next one larger and maybe modular #3dprinting #ultimaker #protopasta

A photo posted by Jesse Mesa Toves (@zeustoves) on

I do an even worse job of organizing loose change.

I spent some time in a previous post talking about the idea that 3d printing has different (not always better) economies of scale when compared to just going out and shopping or re-using something around the house.

In fact, if I am guilty of anything in this most recent exercise, it’s of particularly conspicuous consumption. But I have spent a lifetime designing so many things for other people, I should get a chance to do them for myself.

The largest single object to date that I have 3d printed is this piggy bank. I had originally thought it should be smaller but considering it kind of looks like a hand grenade, I changed my mind. It might be a good idea to print some ears as it is still sort of menacing in a way.

Almost there, will print the screw cap tonight. #3dprinting #ultimaker #protopasta

A photo posted by Jesse Mesa Toves (@zeustoves) on

The next big project might be settled – moving parts. Sound effects – I am sure the nerd rage regarding its design will cause overload. Hopefully it will be done by Christmas.

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Printing your own useful stuff

People constantly talk about the future where you will print the things you need or want.

Before I bought my first 3d printer, I watched a video of a young man who printed replacement parts for various things in his kitchen and bathroom.

While I thought these were interesting uses, the economies of scale in time and convenience are still WAY off of being compelling to consumers.

For instance, the inkwell I made – the larger one took six hours to print. That’s nowhere near as economical as shopping for one at a local art store.

One could say that the hours taken to design it, to print it and clean it so that it is usable costs a consumer far more than it would to simply buy one at retail.

But does it?

Pencil_Holder

My new pencil holder for the desk – designed, modeled and printed in less than 10 hours total time.

Consider some of the most basic aspects of manufacturing an object as simple as the inkwell I designed.

For a manufacturer to produce a similar inkwell for retail, commonly they would have to:

  • Acquire design services
  • Solicit retail
  • Secure credit and financing
  • Purchase manufacturing capacity
  • Arrange shipping and customs agreements if made abroad
  • Marketing and advertising budgets including package design

For myself I needed:

  • A weekend to design the object
  • Design software
  • 3d printer and filament to cover prototypes and the final
  • a few days to print prototypes and the final versions

Obviously I am leaving out a LOT of detail. But at a glance what do you think really means more to users of the things 3d printing is actually capable of making right now?

I have some obvious advantages over everyday users. Even with the emergence of 3d ecosystems with thousands and even millions of objects available for printing, I can design and prototype my own objects without ever incurring anything but the time to design anything.

I also have some experience in computer aided design, drafting and product and packaging design – not to mention nearly 2 decades of computer modeling experience.

It’s really easy for me to fire up a modeling program and synthesize nearly anything I want.

The learning curve behind really making new things is still pretty steep. And I remember when people used to talk about how long it would take for 3d modeling software would take before it became commonplace – a household thing. It’s been almost 20 years since I remember people talking about that and there are only recently some useful 3d programs on mobile devices. That took an awfully long time.

Even I am still looking for that 3d printing “killer app” – that thing that will make 3d printing a real game changer for other people because I have to be honest.

I hate the thought of not having one in my house and being able to make nearly any object I want – especially after making a living for years making monsters.

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Proto Pasta and printing metallic PLA

So I am hoping to get my hands on some of this material soon and try it out.

It’s the new stainless steel PLA from Proto Pasta – it is among the new filaments for Fused Filament Manufacturing (FFM) 3d printers they just released.

The carbon fiber PLA they also make is easily the best looking black material I have used – stock PLA from many sources has a really bright sheen even at higher resolutions which is tough to light and sometimes tough to sand.

The new material from Proto Plant looks really interesting for several reasons.

There are lots of model painting tricks to make something look like metal, and often the results just look painted anyway on plastic models. But there are some blends of industrial plastics that look like brushed metal and let’s face it – I like robots. Robots. Metal. It’s a REALLY good fit.

The other reason is sanding – it looks like this material was made with the intentions of actually looking good even when only partially sanded. I have to say that ALL stock PLA material when sanded looks like just that – partially sanded material.

I hope to get some of this stuff for the next large scale project.

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Interstellar and escaping a rock

When I was 16, I met Ellison Onizuka – a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle, Challenger.

He and two other crew members were on a goodwill tour throughout the Pacific Rim and they stopped at Father Duenas Memorial School when I was in my junior year. They spoke to the upperclassmen about college, military academies and of course – heading into space.

On the morning the news came in, I turned the radio on in my room and every station was carrying the same story. The Challenger had exploded after liftoff, the crew was feared dead.

When we got to school that morning, we literally got nothing done. The understanding of what just happened was going to be allowed to run it’s course. We were “Duenas men” – we could handle this.

That day, time stopped. We barely spoke.

All of us who were readying for college admissions and selecting schools were more than a little shocked that the men we had just met were all dead. In particular, Ellison, a man who had been born and raised just like us – on an island. But people at least know about Hawaii – there was a time when people would consistently ask or joke ‘Guam?’ It wasn’t a place; it was a question. “It’s a rock.”

As much as we loved our island, there wasn’t a soul in that class who didn’t aspire to leave it at some point and seek their fortune. Father Duenas, after all, was a college preparatory school and its mission was – pardon the phrase – to launch us into our careers, lives and more.

Seeing someone like Ellison suffer such a terrible end, so publicly, so completely gone – you think it would have made us all feel afraid, that the world was an island and daring to leave it had a cost.

But the effects were different in the long run. I know that many of us went on to be pilots, businessmen, soldiers, lawyers, architects, engineers and myself – an animator (bare with me). We ended up in quite diverse fields, the 100 or so of us that met with Ellison and the other crew.

If you would fast forward to 28 or so years later, I’m sitting in a nearly empty theater watching a movie thinking about how people rationalize one thing or another – is it worth it, should we be spending money on something else, the internalization of how big our problems are and how wasteful something like space travel is when our roads need paving and our bridges need mending.

But all those bridges and roads lead to somewhere where once there was no building, no job to go to, not even a place to park your car. It’s really easy to cut exploration when you think you’ve been everywhere and seen everything. There’s nothing in outer space, right? Why go?.

It made everything more expensive – traveling, goods an services, communications and therefore the internet. It made everything more complicated, building, travelling and even watching movies. You were sometimes never sure whether or not a movie you heard about would ever have a chance of playing because the possible audience for it was so small.

It was a different set of movies that inspired me to leave Guam. They were in order that I saw them, Toy Story and The Shawshank Redemption. You can say they are as completely unrelated as humanly possible but look at the themes and popular phrases that emerged from them both – “To infinity and beyond” and “Get busy living, or get busy dying” and watching them in quick succession turned into my refrain for planning my departure.

I say planning, but I think I caught some people off guard. Particularly the people I knew who were more than happy living the rest of their lives there. Why leave?

Why? Why did I listen to a man who said “nothing is impossible” when months later he’d be dead. Why believe him. He failed? Why leave an island that you know, that sustains you, that gave you everything?

Because I got sick of being isolated. Afraid of never dipping my oar into chance, to be more poetic, and being happy about it. People visit the island and call it paradise but I promise you that the ocean surrounding it has swallowed more wishes, dreams and lives than space ever has. I simultaneously respect, love, and fear the ocean. But it was a barrier to everything I wanted in many ways.

You know what scares some people? It’s not dying in space. It’s drowning in an ocean because they never learned  to swim. My sister has been teaching grown men and women to swim – adults who have been putting it off because they never had the time, felt ashamed, or just didn’t know it was even a choice. It’s a bit of a stretch, but as a metaphor for why we should learn out way about space it’s a decent one.

If it sounds like I may have disliked “Interstellar”, nothing could be further from the truth. But I was caught off guard by the people who hated it so much for any reason we reach for when hating a big budget, sometimes sentimental and serious look at science fiction. I loved the movie. If, for no other reason, than I had actually met someone who faced the real terrors and rigors of space travel and perished.

I repeat this phrase from an editor’s speech on stories a lot. Stories have such common themes on this planet that there must be a deeper reason and one of his comments was that many of our stories are our way of rehearsing our fears. It’s a petty criticism of any movie, a dismissive audience that walks away and comments merely “that sucked,” snaps a bunch of selfies then gets drunk and boards a plane. What is there to fear any longer for humans?

We need the sheer terror of space. We need that inky, cold, deadly black oblivion stare to motivate us and fucking dare us to leave. ust like I needed to look across an ocean when I had barely graduated from college and say I am leaving, I think the human race owes itself some new stories. New terrifying and crushing terror from the reaches of space.

After just a few generations, the human race has become pretty skilled at flying itself around the planet. We take it so for granted that you can’t go too many weeks without hearing about loud, drunk morons making even short trips a complaint filled torture. Flying went from exploration, to utility and recreation pretty fast, but space travel gives another challenge.

I can’t quite imagine I’ll be making spaceflights soon but I applaud the courage of people trying to pave the way. It’s funny to think that if we ever get REALLY good at travelling across space, people might complain of how big our other problems are and how wasteful something else is when our spaceport driveways need paving and our wormhole bridges need mending.

And some part of me will think that early space travelers don’t really want to advance the species or save it, they just want to get away from all the complaining.

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Ending Dinovember soon

So it was something people say NOT to do but I don’t care. They said don’t post unrelated images in your blog posts.

Coffee-raptor Jump attack Skull dino 02a

I didn’t care. I was happy with the art, I want this website to be my forum for all things and I friggin love dinosaurs dammit.

But I had finished all of my dinovember piece sketches a while ago and just needed some excuse to post them

Now I need to concentrate on a new 3d printing project – one which has mechanical engineering requirements which I hope will result in a functioning … thing. Secret for now.

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