Project Pile up

So everyone experiences a few project pile ups, and making time for all of them usually means you have to start saying no, juggling, dancing around holidays, etc.

I made a commitment to a few things that took too long to finish which made things look like a bad day on the interstate. But visualizing my time and commitments using a calendar app of some kind makes things looks less intimidating.

I like visualizing data in certain ways, and time is one of those things that looks more intimidating when viewed WITHOUT tools of some kind. Producers, project leads, people of the accounting persuasion all use tools like these to manage large amounts of other people’s time. And it can get overwhelming when something has a lot of moving parts.

But a schedule – a good one, shouldn’t looks like it’s contents – it’s the global view of time and work being done.

I am reading a new book by Jordan Ellenberg which cautions against the linearity of certain problems – how some things appear to be lines when charted and sometimes they are actually curves. The time spent on certain tasks has some of those dimensions – tasks can take more or less time in your schedule, making them shrink or expand in weird ways.

Your plans can change, holidays or emergencies pop up – it can end up making your neat little schedule look like a Sig Alert on a Monday morning. When charted in actual time versus tasks, the chart starts to look pretty noisy.

But tracking things according to much simpler data – whether or not a task is done versus not done – that helps make tracking linear – at least when using an app.

Anyway, I am still reading it and can already safely recommend it.

My top NEIN

I like Instagram, but in terms of my top 9, I think I’d rather not even mention them let alone post them. I didn’t feel like I produced a lot of work that was … I don’t even want to label it. I might invent a new adjective or two that wraps up the feeling. But, oh well, “all the cool kids are doing it.”

Am I disappointed? Somewhat. If I am to be as rigorous as the data driven millennial lifestyle obsessed masses I would have to conclude from my best 9 that I should abandon comics and comic making entirely.

When people keep saying “take my Money” I tend to think they don’t have any to take. But I manage to sell my comics rather easily at shows I do – I’m just getting better at being a good salesman. People are still completely baffled by what they should pay for 3d printed objects or 3d in general.

The psychological effect of valuing your own work more than someone else – you’ve heard of that experiment, right? If you made a widget, you’d value it more than the person in a position to pay for it, typically.

Salespeople disconnected from the creation of a widget have an easier time with this phenomena – they know the value of a thing comes from what the market will support. And I’m still trying to find that part.

Armed and armed

Weapons. I know artists who have made their ENTIRE careers and reputations on the way they design and approach CGI weapons. I got around to adding more of Emma’s weapons – side note on the side arm – it might be a separate piece entirely when 3d printed so users can take it out.

I could fuse the hand weapon into the print, but I always like figurines where discreet parts are made separately – makes it tougher to manufacture and mass produce, but adds a touch of scale and realism.

Eventually, any weapon I make will be fitted to her exact proportions – I think I’ve worked in a few places where a character was modeled by one artist, the weapons by another and when the time came to “Arm” the character, there were issues in scale, fit, and proportion. To be honest, until you take the weapon and put it in your character’s hands, you won’t really know how thing’s will look or work.

Be sure to check out Emma in David Baron’s “Stained” on Comixology.

Or check him out on Twitter and Instagram @MyZombies.

Gray days, grayscale

So Emma is now feeling gray – just going back to simple materials as details begin to take shape.

One of the things I have always been particular about are shoes. I think I see a lot of character models that kind of ignore them – they are after all somewhat tedious to model. Laces in particular are a study in contradictions – they repeat but are unique at a very granular level.

Laces across a shoe have to follow some rules in the way they repeat (if you have ever been in the military you know what I mean) and lace up. But when you look a them very closely, they have a unique shape as they follow the contours of the shoe’s leather and form.

Picky, picky. Haha!

Be sure to check out Stained on Comixology!

Plans within Plans

Other than wanting to quote Dune … just kidding. November and December are always reflective times, planning stuff and sometimes more importantly – abandoning stuff.

This has been a tough couple of years as an indie comics self publisher.  The market, if there ever was one, feels smaller for work like mine. Other friends of mine have been feeling the pinch as well.

We used to do all the local shows, and sometimes travel to nearby states for others. Most of us are in our 40s now and feel that most of those shows simply don’t need our ilk as much as they did when they started out.

If we haven’t already chosen not to do certain shows, they have certainly not noticed as it’s often said ” someone always wants YOUR spot.” If you leave it for a second, you lose it.

So yeah, I’m on more waiting lists now. But hey, I’ve been this patient. Every once in a while I walk past a table in artist alley and can see the same thousand yard stares on some people and you can often hear it in their voices and I say to myself, “that kid ain’t gonna make it without a serious attitude change.”

I have no evidence for it, but it’s a gut feeling. Sometimes, you push people away from your table with that look of sad desperation that says “I just paid hundreds maybe thousands of dollars this year to come to this convention and be ignored by thousands of people.”

And some kid, having barely published one book, is proclaiming that the world is so unfair. My reptilian tears have barely dried.

Kidding.

Independent comics are supposed to be tough. If it was easy money, there would be a lot more crooks, scum and douche-y middlemen scouring the market and plying indie comics to the rafters.

I have been reading a lot of Michael Lewis books lately but one aspect of “The Big Short” really sticks with me. That in order to spot any sort of financial bubble, you really only need to look at a few things and one of them is the amount of criminal activity associated with the sector accompanying that market.

I don’t imagine many independent comics completely rip off, fake, or otherwise otherwise graft their way to success. There just isn’t any money in it UNTIL you do things right.

That’s weirdly comforting.

So planning for the next year, I surf for deals on software I want to upgrade or try, ditch projects or finish them to a degree I can be comfortable with, and try to imagine what my fricking parachute color is. But I hate that metaphor.

I think it’s better to figure out what color your WINGS are. I don’t want to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, I want to be the airplane. But enough metaphor butchering.

SO I got my approval on being an Amazon influencer – I kind of don’t know what that’s going to entail other than me recommending things. Before I get accused of shilling, which it indeed is, I don’t plan on recommending anything I wouldn’t get myself – or that I don’t already own or have used. I simply don’t have the reputation to get paid for a recommendation like some less scrupulous social media butterflies.

I settled on finally digging into Substance Painter, getting a new graphics card and CPU, a bit more memory, and even – for the first time – raising funds to hire a colorist and maybe even a letterer for my books.

Don’t everyone jump up at once.

Hope to see some of you at shows next year (if I get off some of those waiting lists).

Emma’s Progress

That headline sounds suspiciously like a medical emergency, but since I don’t know anyone named Emma – other than the comic Stained’s main character – it’s a benign headline.

So while this doesn’t look like a lot of progress, a lot of what happened at this stage was planning and reference gathering. And another simple process – organizing the model.

In the previous post, the parts that were broken out in the Xpose view were only organized as they were imported. The latest version organizes the Zbrush subtools by name and discreet parts in a cleaner and more logical way.

I had mentioned colors would happen later, but it didn’t cost anything to apply some standard materials as I save some reference image links. Boots, jackets, shirts etc – I think Google now thinks I am shopping for women’s clothes.

Be sure to check out Stained on Comixology.  Or, you can follow David’s work on instagram or twitter @myzomibes or @451official.

Emma from Stained

Not too long ago I met David Baron, the creator of the mini series “Stained,” published by 451 Media.

I volunteered to 3d model and possibly 3d print a figure prototype of the main Character Emma, an technologically enhanced bounty hunter.

So my first step is always digging through my personal model library looking for similar models just to block in the figure and possible props. Some of Emma started with a model I had made of another comic book character for an animation test. Female, same basic proportions and clothing.

But I would need fingerless gloves, weapons, a holster, a different hairstyle and lots of custom cybernetic details later. These were the base elements I cobbled together to plan out the figure. Dig the floating eyeballs:

Zbrush has a feature I don’t often see used other than to show that it’s a feature. In most default interface setups of the current versions, the XPose button hides at the bottom right of the model window.

What it does is temporarily transpose all the subtools into an exploded view so that you get the above layout or something similar.

Useful? Well, since I have not seen too many people use it, I guess people don’t find it very useful. But in my case, it’s useful for picturing at least in a very early way, the discreet parts which will require different treatments for 3d printing. Sometimes, it’s good at showing me parts that need special attention because some of their geometry has been hidden. It can also tell me I am using too many subtools.

If you’d like to read more about Emma’s adventures, check out Stained on Comixology. Follow David’s work on instagram or twitter @myzomibes or @451official.

Trying to get organized and …

Still trying to get the new hosting setup to work smoothly. I should have most of the old posts online but since my old webservice simply refused to backup my old wordpress install properly, I mostly have given up trying to reconstruct it. Maybe save that for later.

More PLA quality issues

Getting good prints from PLA (Polylactic Acid based filament) is usually pretty easy – as long as you have a well calibrated extruder and good quality filament.

I once ran into quality issues with filament on the SAME filament reel. On the first limited test run of my Pencase, I started with a pale blue Matterhackers spool that went well, but then turned into total garbage by the end of the reel.

Since it was a new reel, or at least a newly ordered reel, I thought it was a material issue given the printer itself was also freshly calibrated, cleaned and maintained.

Hey, it happens. But the relative youth of a consumer or even pro-sumer 3d printing marketplace is going to have these kinds of hickups.

It’s one of the reasons I have always enjoyed using Protopasta filaments – the consistency of a material throughout it’s usage and lifetime in your shop is really important. And it’s clear from a sampling of materials that pricing might not reflect quality, but when there is consistent correlation between price and quality – you build some loyalty.

This sounds like more of a marketing blog than a 3d printing rant, but it cn be really tiresome trying to salvage a bad roll of remaining filament with different settings to compensate for brittleness, adhesion, clogging or other difficulties that come wwith inconsistent filament properties.

For instance, I actually sat next to my printer once with my finger on the temperature dial adjusting the filament temperature AS it was printing. If I saw or heard strain in the extruder I would adjust pressure slightly, or if I saw under extrusion I would briefly increase temperature, or even adjust speed. JUST to save on buying new filament.

I’m likely not going to do that again. It’s beside the point of having a robot in your living room, right?

Switching off and on

I had a bunch of web hosting stupidity happen over the last few weeks. Going to switch web hosting soon and I don’t think it will interrupt anything, but I realized how long I have had a website when it’s just not as cool or common a thing any more. I don’t want to give up my url ever and was considering it in the light of how easy it is to not have one any more.

Host my demo reel? Just go to online video free services.

Host my artwork? Choose a platform?

One stop for all your content? Yeah, that’s still a harder proposition but hey, hyperlinks still connect everything so why keep my own url?

I’m damned stubborn, but the I have become kind of fond of the wordpress platform and less impressed with other web platforms. I’m still a feature guy, and things like twitter and Instagram are dumbed down they kind of make me anrgy by default at how little they offer in terms of features and control.

Thankfully, platforms like wordpress seem to be holding strong and other blogging and CMS platforms still have something to offer.