Designer Con: IP buys you cheap marketing

People who work comics conventions already know this. You are way more likely to sell something that someone already recognizes. It’s part of why the unspoken truth of conventions that stuff is sold there without the implied or express permission of the original copyright holders.

Oh yeah before I forget, here’s a dinosaur for #Dinovember.

dimetrodon cave

Got that out of the way.

Sure there are alterations, sure there are mashups. It’s satire, it’s parody blah blah blah. I know, ok. Go ahead and construct your legal defenses – I don’t care. There is no defense to the fact that the reason people do it is to make sure they can sell something without having to do the hard work of actually branding and marketing something beforehand. You’re selling something cold, you need to get past the customer’s defenses.

Go ahead and claim it’s because they loved something growing up – I don’t buy that entirely. It’s also because they know that if they love something it has a good chance of making sales because someone ELSE loved it, too. By the way, this is my way of giving you credit for NOT being a naive hippie and thinking it’s all peace, love and happiness.

But I truly loved that some people I spoke to at Designer Con WERE trying to make a break away from intellectual property sales and into their own content. That’s always what people will say by default, and lots of people hate their jobs and would rather do THIS.

I also have to say that people here have a WAAAAAY higher display game than any comics show I have ever been to. There are some people here who shouldn’t even try to sell stuff, they should professionally design OTHER people’s presence at shows. They are THAT good.

But there is something happening to the overall business of making – there is just so much STUFF being made by far more people than ever that I think some people will eventually make some prediction about the disruption of yet another industry. Yeah, even your lovey-dovey crochet crafted ugly dolls are part of aggressively disruptive tech grinding away at the prior hegemony of traditional manufacturing. That’s mostly an excuse to use the word hegemony – I try to do it at least once a year. Like a prostate checkup.

Think about what happens if there are enough breakout hits emerging from this designer crowd of DIY badasses. Think about the already built in aversion to that big word I mentioned before that started with the letter H. If enough of them don’t want that ToysRUs deal, that mainstream national and international endorsement, the fast food chain kids meal market position … what happens then?

But that makes ME naive. Of course they want that BIG deal, right?

Dinovember update

I haven’t really been keeping track of the days as I finished all of the compositions for Dinovember on the first day and planned to have all of them rendered by next week.


But the whole Inktober activity kind of brought out lots of old tools – stuff I haven’t used since college. I’ve even had at least one sumi brush I have’t used since junior high.

Tric and raptors

I had mentioned someone had asked me if I had abandoned digital art. I keep thinking about that from time to time since he asked. If anything I had abandoned traditional tools but over the last few years I have felt a real backlash against digital art.

I almost always depend on commissions to make money at conventions, the ratio is almost always 60/40 commissions to other sales, but I had been trying to get away from depending on them by making different products. 3D printed figures were some of those products, limited run figures which I designed. I did make digital prints of some of my digital art and some my comics’ covers.

Frankly I hadn’t done a good job of presenting the prints in particular as I had to share my table this year (and most years actually, and yes I already read Greg Pak’s article. I will tell him HI for YOU when next I see him before the con opens). But something which I have NEVER had in substantial amounts has been original art – basically inked images not previously commissioned and rendered traditionally. It’s par for the course for artists to post artwork and the cynic in me groans at the “This was fun to do” child-with-crayons mentality.

I honestly think a lot of that thinking is rubbish – I would call out artists who complain about going broke when speaking to me privately, but constantly post “I had fun making this” instagram and facebook status updates. Is it really fun going broke? Or are you using art to salve your impoverished circumstances? Sorry. That was mean. I will gladly tell you someday how much of a pain in the ass it was making certain pieces.

I took Inktober to focus on creating plenty original art, though. Dinovember is building up that as well. Compared to the amount of time and material involved in either 3d printing or digital prints, I am more capable of offering these at a comfortable price point for people at shows. I did manage to sell original art at both Anaheim and Long Beach which had never happened before.


Can you make a rocket out of carbon fiber PLA?

Sure you can. As long as you’re talking about a carbon fiber Rocket Racoon. All joking aside, I made this prior to the Long Beach Comic Con as a demonstration piece for the Ultimaker 2.

The first one came out very well for being printed in one pass – no parts, no orientation tricks. I think people always want to know – especially 3d modellers – how well a 3d printer will work with their models. The answer is always it depends, but so far the Ultimaker 2 has really dared me to do things that are more difficult.

The results of this test aren’t perfect, but they are impressive considering the level of “difficulty” of this model.

The basic figure was sculpted in Sculptris which thankfully is still free. The figure was posed and the gun was added with Lightwave 3d. I also made the model watertight – if you don’t know what that means, it’s made into one continuous polygon mesh – also in Lightwave. But the software is less relevant than the material – Carbon Fiber reinforced PLA.

Although this came out better than I expected, I should have increased the wall thickness of the print.

As a result the legs broke when I cleaned the model. But, I am used to cleaning and polishing plastic models. What red blooded teen-aged boy didn’t spend hours making plastic models seamless?

Some Tamiya modeling putty and 2 grains of sandpaper (60-120 grain) will make this raccoon whole again, but since the test was meant to see how the untouched surface would hold up – well I think it’s still successful as the finish is actually very good by default.

Chances are you have everything you need around the house when you first get a 3d printer – especially if you are already a hobbyist of some skill level. The only thing I really didn’t have lying around which made this much easier was the Tamiya putty – which is terribly expensive by volume. I think I would DIY an alternative since basically it is a quick drying semi-polymer based, molding putty. Time to break out the chemistry set.

Even printed at only 100 microns (mostly for speed), the model printed well for something with an enormous amount of overhang issues. People constantly tell those who do 3d printing to try and avoid overhangs by orienting parts in certain ways. And that’s still true but I like to torture test materials and equipment with tough situations and this guy has every DON’T DO THAT issue related to 3d printing there is.

For more information on the ultimaker 2 and Carbon fiber reinforced filament, visit and

And sign up for important private invites and announcements. I want to offer something to the courageous soon.



Sister Marda Tsai

I went to a catholic junior high school and took sumi painting from Sister Marda.

She could be very tough in class but joked with me one day after critiquing one of my studies “are you sure you’re not Chinese?” Followed by a big laugh.

The kids used to joke about her all the time. They didn’t like that she forced you to hold up your work, and take your crit on the chin. That was the first time I ever did that with my work – hold it up in front of the class.

I used to get literally KICKED because of it. Not because it was bad. But because other kids didn’t care. I hear tons of stuff about kids getting beat down in life into some less creative versions of their preschool selves. We were no angels by junior high.

Sister Marda ran a tight ship, no one was ever allowed into then storage room. My friend and fellow artist Ji Jae Sang were the first to be allowed to get supplies directly from this room.

Hanging in an honored portion of this thin back room/studio was a ceremonial Chinese sword. It was ornate, clean and SHARP. Imagine a 40 odd year old NUN wielding a deadly Chinese BLADE. Likely wouldn’t be allowed today.

I can’t tell you what her guidance meant to me, but I am showing you. Every chance I get.

Makerbot removed from iMakr stores

The following is a link to something everyone who has followed my printing experience with the Makerbot Mini has known for most of the year:

Customers of the bots they got at iMakr are not happy with the 5th gen Makerbots. I’m not happy with mine. And it’s been another week of waiting on support.

The 5th gen machines only need two improvements to make them credible and reliable. Unfortunately both of those changes are expensive because they involve all the things that make it a 3d printer – the extruder, and the stepper motors.

It’s loud as hell and jams too easily. That’s it. If Makerbot as a company can resolve these two things they’d really have it made because they spent so much effort lining up deals to get the products into every possible space they could, if they actually had a KILLER product they’d be running the world (or at least a small part of it).

It doesn’t help that the company gets accused of actually stealing ideas and patents from their users, it’s bad enough they how bad they look now. I honestly chose a Makerbot because of their previous reputation with the cupcake and rep 2’s, and because they were backed by enough money to ensure they wouldn’t disappear overnight which is the fear I have for 90 percent of the 3d printer gold rush companies flooding Kickstarter with stuff.

Even the venerable Form 1, the SLA printer I initially wanted and seriously considered has struggled with it’s fair share of FULL machine replacements. If you think a failed print on Makerbot looks bad you should see some of the fails from a Form 1 or other SLA printer. It’s something which makes the 5th gens so hard to swallow – the ideas in them are actually REALLY good – just poorly executed. Make it quiet, reliable and easy to get back up an running again. PLEASE!

Even if they do get this settled, the accusations by users of idea theft still bugs me. It was the biggest reason I’ve never contributed anything to their so called ecosystem that isn’t an ecosystem. If anyone in tech is going to use that term it better include better ways for users and not just filament re-sellers to make some coin.

I want Makerbot to succeed for two reasons – the first being so I can actually make back the money I blew on the Mini by making something worth buying, and two so they can repay the users they allegedly stole from should that ever become a thing they need to do. THEN. Then, I can feel comfortable buying something other than filament from them again.


Pareto principle in action, sort of

This could be the biggest mistake I ever make in my life online but I just can’t stand the lack of engagement for the amount of effort I have put into facebook.

I bought into a lot of internet guru hoopla about it being so good for marketing and it’s been a complete loss. So it’s obvious I bought the snake oil, drank it and died. Figuratively speaking. It took five years but hey, I have a thick skull and a high tolerance for pain.

I have spent so much money and time just keeping my anemic website live that I finally said screw it, I better do something here.

To tell you the truth, the tools now are so much better I wish I had done it sooner.

I had coded my own website before. Done the whole fancy Flash based thing, too. I even went full stripped down for mobile when that was the thing. Now comes WordPress and the real rabbit hole opens up.

Truth is I spent a week or two in it and finally thought, I might be able to make this work and provide some value to people who are just too worried about their own projects and work to get into the game.

So watch me screw up all kinds of crap so you don’t have to. Or not. But at least I won’t be making Mark Zuckerbeg any richer than I have to anymore.


A Carbon Fiber Inkwell?

So while Inktober is over, I had some ideas and developed a few prototypes for a new inkwell while working on my daily pieces.

One of the posts caught the attention of a filament company – it was my coffee drawing of Superman.

A few weeks later we agreed to trade wares – a drawing for some filament samples.

I think I owe Alex at Proto Pasta some money! This stuff is the most interesting filament I have used. A spool of 2.85 mm gauge filament for the Ultimaker in 750 gram spool is $60 US. By comparison, a 900 g spool of basic blue from Makerbot cost $56. Both of these prices do not include shipping.

Carbon fiber filament sounds like something out of science fiction. To be fair, it is not exactly like making carbon fiber parts for cars where sheets of fibrous material are layered together to make something stronger than steel. This is basically thermoplastic which has been made with small amounts of carbon fiber to reinforce the final melted product.

Since carbon fiber derives its strength from linear fibers being layered together I am not sure this aaccomplishes the same strength effects. But what it DOES do is something pretty close.

One of the problems I have with almost every FFM filament type is that it is very difficult to photograph with simpler cameras. There is an linear sheen from the build lines which causes strange hot spots and highlights and can obscure details without a better lighting setup.

The carbon fiber reinforced filament Alex sent me is beautiful up close. The finish is just matte enough to diffuse light evenly across the surface and even the courser 100 micron resolution I printed this sample at produced an even and diffuse surface.

Truth be told, the final product feels like wood – this can be said of various filaments usually but in particular the carbon fiber reinforced filament has the feel of stained wood. Cleaning up the brim – part of the printing support settings puts a small “skirt” around the base of the print – with a sharp knife confirms the woodlike feel and even the sound of wood while carving. It’s subtle but it’s something I noticed right away.

There are some caveats on the label to using this filament because it does contain elements which can be a bit abrasive on printing equipment. My tests for now are rather small in scale but given the comparative reliability of the Ultimaker so far I will continue the tests.

For more information:


Value proposition

I have never really had good metrics on the usefulness of this website. It serves as a backup plan for the most part – a place where I can point people when yet another social network eventually fails or just stagnates.

But it’s been a creature with two heads for an awfully long time – part portfolio website for various visual effects purposes and part comics shilling porthole.

There are any number of solutions available – just add another blog with tools that are free which would effectively cut the two headed beast in half.

Either way, it still feels like starting over again … again. So far I like the manner in which the WordPress version enables the two headed thing to at least be somewhat cleaner and organized. I have to face the fact that I do an awful lot of stuff lately – and personally I like people with tons of different interests and the ability to manage all of them.

With WordPress in the guts of all of this, it makes it easy for people to dive in wherever they want – kind of like the menu at a good deli, hehe. It’s a giant menu, but everyone can drill down to where they want to without being overwhelmed because you always know where they keep the meat.

Age of Ultron leak release party

Yeah there was a generally funny sort of leak immediate release kind of thing that happened today. Sometimes it makes you wonder, right? Should make for a great story because it’s obvious the youtube version was just ready to go seemingly moments after
the leaked version started to gain steam.


Inktober was started by an artist and it’s really become quite a new animal. I started using coffee for various reasons, but the biggest surprise is that I have never liked drawing cars and preferred depicting them in cgi or more precise mediums.

The coffee mixture is very simple – a teaspoon of both water and whatever blend is in the pantry and then adding more coffee to darken things up. It behaves very much like regular watercolor pigment with the added bonus of there being a lovely aroma as you ink. Paint. Draw.

I can’t guarantee other blends will have the same coloration – I am actually using instant coffee crystals from Stater Bros. It’s decaf if that matters to anyone, but the bigger issue is that it is far cheaper than ANY pigment I have ever used. I think I can get many times the volume of usable ink out of it than I could ever afford for the same volume of actual ink.

Of course I doubt it can ever go completely black unless I started using a darker blend, a mixture of coffee and real black ink, or combine it with other household pigments to add up to black.

All I know is I really enjoy the final color it leaves and of course the aroma while drawing.