Need Salt?

It must be great to be a chef, cooking up fresh ingredients, using all the skill and knowledge garnered over the years to produce a plate that, after a few minutes, is devoured by a hungry patron. What an amazing feedback loop! One would only need to look out over the pass and see the mass of satisfied faces to see that if was all worth it.

Feedback? Honestly!

Feedback is the lifeblood of the artist. They can live on beans and franks for weeks to save for their supplies, or work long into the wee hours of the morning after a bloody hard day, if only they know that, at the end of it all, someone, somewhere appreciated what they did.

After all, who does the artist work for? For whom do they paint? For whom do they write? For whom do they compose? You, silly! That’s who!

We don’t get to see you enjoying our work, unless we’re there behind you, looking over your shoulder, grinning creepily… No. No. We don’t do that. And if we did, surely you would not have the inclination to be as up-front and honest as you (and we) would like you to be.

Why honest? Why not just give 5 stars to the struggling artist and move on? Because it doesn’t help the artist to grow. It gives a false impression that the tripe they dished up was decent. It gives no indication of your true feelings so the next thing you’ll get will be more of the same.

On the flip side, if you drop a 1 star bomb and run off giggling, the artist is left wondering whether they have under-performed, if they even have talent, if they should bother pursuing their dreams.

No feedback is better than dishonest feedback. Honest feedback is best for everyone concerned.

I know that there will be people who argue against this, citing that the more feedback a work gets, good or bad, the better it is for marketing. Well, I’m not talking about marketing or sales or exposure, I’m talking about the artist, their work and their future.

Avoid 5 and 1 stars unless you’re willing to explain your reasoning. If you give something 5 stars, then you’d be in the mood to gush on about it, telling the world just why it’s so great. For one star (and I’ve never actually given a one star) you would have to be intellectually insulted by just how bad the artwork is, and would be more than happy to explain just why it was tosh.

Like it, Hate it, Indifferent about it?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You don’t have to like it. You don’t even have to appreciate it. In fact, many times, you will not have an opinion. Art is a personal thing, both for the artist and for the audience, but not the audience as a whole, oh no, each audience member as an individual.

I’m going to take a punt and say that you, reading this, at not a Reviewer. Do you get paid for your review? Do you need to write for the masses? Do you need to use your years of expert knowledge in the industry to spot the difference between a deus ex machina and a plot voucher? Do people criticise your criticisms?

I didn’t think so.

And this is where I think a crucial rule of feedback is founded: Since feedback is an opinion and an opinion is personal, then it is a reflection on you, the audience member, not the artist.

It’s about what you like and don’t like, how you see the world. It’s about your response to the work in question.

Here, let me explain:

  • “Adam Sandler is not funny” is stated as a fact. Since funniness is subjective, it cannot be a fact. He is funny to some people hence this statement is false and not useful.
  • “Adam Sandler does not make me laugh” can be a fact. Moreso, it’s not saying that Adam Sandler cannot make anyone laugh, only that he does not make the reviewer laugh. Note that it does not explain why he does not make the reviewer laugh.
  • “I don’t appreciate Adam Sandler’s puerile antics, bum, fart and gonad jokes” is getting down to the pointy end. See how it’s not a matter of Adam Sandler being funny or not, it’s whether the reviewer finds him funny.

If you are a fan of puerile humour, then you would be very happy to ignore this review and overlook the negativity. Or perhaps you might find “I love fart jokes, but Adam Sandler takes it too far in his latest…” to be useful.

Not everything is negative, of course. Compare the following:

  • “Adam Sandler rocks!” is impersonal and a waste of feedback.
  • “Adam Sandler’s slapstick style gets me every time” is personal, but not altogether helpful.
  • “Adam Sandler reaches deep into his bag of gags and pulls out some fresh side-splitting slapstick shiners. Oh, and watch out for the three minute farting compilation!” is personal, factual and helpful.

In general: Write feedback from a personal point of view.

Enjoyment

He slipped a note halfway through the song. Did your head stop bopping?

She used the word ‘belittle’ too many times on a page. Did you stop flipping pages?

Sometimes we can get hung up on correctness. The artist needs to know about these mistakes and hiccoughs because they do distract and detract from the enjoyment of the work. They can pop you out of the little world that the artist has drawn you into.

The reviewer has a responsibility to get over these things and move on. It’s a fine line. Too many mistakes, too much sloppiness and viewer simply can’t get back into that little bubble and continue to enjoy the work. Fair enough, criticise away, but keep it factual:

“I like the intricate, multi-faceted plot, but Ronson might do well to get an editor to help out with proof-reading.”

Feelings help. If you can describe how it made you feel, and why, all the better. We’re human beings. We look to art to give us sensations, emotions, thought provoking situations.

“This painting makes me uncomfortable, fearful even. Even so, I can’t stop looking at the pained expression of Man in White.”

As a guideline: State what you enjoyed, as well as what you did not and why.

A big note about Enjoyment: One does not need to be made happy to enjoy an artwork. I read the book “Slave” and it made me thoroughly angry, blood running cold. Was it a bad book because of this? Not in the slightest!

Horror books do the same. We don’t read them to be comforted, we read them to be confronted. Think about murder / mysteries. We don’t read them because we enjoy killing, we read them because it speaks to our intellectual mind. One does not listen to the blues for giggles, nor pop for meditation. We’re human, we are bursting with emotions and we’re more than happy for a piece of creativity to release them.

In short: If an artwork evokes a response in you, then it has to be doing something right.

We’re human, after all

Artists are a crazy, mixed up bunch, at the same time arrogant and humble, coming from all walks of life. Some are seasoned. Some have thick skin. Some profess that they couldn’t give two hoots what the world thinks. Phooey!

You know what? Each and every one dreams of being able to look out over the restaurant pass and see a hoard of hungry people happily eating their work. Each one would love to be able to fling their tea-towel over their shoulder and sit down with you while you munch away and ask what you think, good or bad.

If you’ve read a book, listened to a song, seen a video or perused a painting, then you’ve had an other worldly experience where the artist has reached out across space and time, broken geographic and temporal boundaries to share with you their mind.

The least you can do is pass on your compliments to the chef.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Thank you… You’re Wacom.

One of my biggest bugbears when it comes to digitizing pencil scratchings is that I have to do my sketching on paper, get my phone out, take a photo – with a black piece of paper underneath to hide the stuff on the other side – then transfer that via bluetooth to my machine, process it through Gimp to get rid of the noise and stuff, despeckle, desaturate and use the threshold command to get the ‘black and white’ levels, mask one over the over to retain the gradient of the pencil or pen, and, finally, use my clumsy mouse for shading and colouring.

Ouch.

I’ve been drawing with a mouse since the old 286, and it’s fine and fair enough for this and that but, really, what I’ve been after is a way to draw / sketch / paint directly into the machine.

Intuous Art by Wacom

There I was, at Officeworks, looking for a present, when I saw this little puppy looking at me with sad eyes:

cth490k_galleryimage_1_600x600_emea.jpgI thought, “Nah. Nahhhhh.”

I did a skip around the store, found the present and was about to leave. I looked back. It was still there. “Take me home,” it said, not forcefully, not appealingly, just sagely.

“Take me home. Use me. I’m what you’ve been looking for.”

I have an old (ooooold) Wacom pen and tablet thing. As a pointing device, it was great. As a drawing tool, no good. Naturally I was skeptical about this one. But times change, technology improves, things get better, kinks get ironed out.

I thought, “OK.”

The rest is history. And, I have to say, it’s awesome. It came with a Corel painting software with which it integrates perfectly. It responds to finger pinching, so I can move the virtual ‘paper’ around, or zoom in and out, without having to leave the pad.

But the really cool thing is that it’s pressure sensitive, so if I want to make light strokes, the corresponding lines are light. Push down and make darker, stronger strokes. The result is a very natural looking stroke for pens and pencils, even watercolours, oils and acrylics.

Blending and shading, as you can imagine, comes out tops. In Gimp, it’s not so great because it doesn’t respect the pressure sensitivity, but pop the picture into Corel and it’s like liquid. I can shade gently, I can shade hard, I can smear this bit, scratch that bit, and even layer it all.

Needless to say, I’m going to be spending some time with this little pooch to make the artwork for Grosvenor Lane Ghost. My pictures will have a lot of chiaroscuro, contrasting light and dark, so I’ll be working on shadows and shines a lot, lanterns, old fireplaces, that sort of thing.

What do you know? I haven’t been excited by technology for a while.

On a side note, I’ve found that this is pretty cool for my little Boy as well: I showed him how to paint with it, how to change the colours and make shapes and things. He’s still getting the hang of it, of course, he hasn’t actually mastered holding a pen properly, but he loves how Daddy can draw him a dragon or a car or a train or a tree or a face or a cat, and he can ‘colour them in’.

Bugger. Can’t stick it on the fridge.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Let’s Animate… something.

I’ve spent some time on the music. I’ll need to spend some more time on it, of course, but I’ve had my fun and I should get back to the animations and whatnot.

Looking at my plan, I’ve made a few of the assets that I wanted, like Miss Penelope and the assault at the Sanitation Facility, I’ve got a basic tune to put it to, so, really, there’s no excuse to open up Synfig and start poking about.

Scenes

With The Bullet animation, the scenes were mostly long running, which fit the slow pace of the book and music alright, but Adaptation is more action and adventure (mixed with some metaphysical introspection) so it wants shorter, dramatic shots.

Shorter shots, means a shorter run time which, in turn, means more shots per minute. Considering I’ve got the music, and the whole animation, to run for a minute, I’m going to need to up my asset count by… more than what I’ve got.

Still, the good news is that I can actually compose clips and shove them together to see what I’ve got and get a feel for where I’m going.

Composition in Synfig

I did The Bullet in Synfig Studio, I’ve gotten comfortable with it, so it makes sense to continue on with it.

All of my drawings are two dimensional, with shading and hashing to give an impression of depth, but that’s not all I can do to help. Backgrounds and foregrounds, for example, don’t have to be ‘in focus’. To give an impression of depth of field, I can use Synfig’s blurring layer over backgrounds or I can also simply blur them in Gimp, saving on rendering time in Synfig.

Crabman, an important element, gets a look-in, as will Henry and Lucas.

Now I’ve opted not to make Vectors this time, instead I’m aiming for a more ‘paper cutout’ look, with sketching, hashing, colouring and heavy light / shade. Because of this, I won’t have an opportunity to use the bones feature of Synfig Studio, but that’s OK because it wouldn’t fit the style, anyway, and I want to save that for Grosvenor Lane Ghost.

Edit: This post was supposed to be posted about a week ago. Don’t know what went wrong, guessing this fuzzy headed dude didn’t click the ‘publish’ button.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Darker Sketches

The first batch came up sweet. I’m still learning from my mistakes even from the last few drawings. For one, I really need to take the photo with a black backing sheet to get rid of the text showing through.

FallenVigil
A fallen Vigil sketch with colour.

Secondly, the book is more than heads and scenes. It contains a fair bit of action, violence and brutality. Hence I need to include some of the more disturbing scenes.

Warning: The next portion does contain images that might be confronting. I apologise in advance for any offense, although I do conjecture that it is within context of the book.

ACS Troopers and Pan’s Torture

ACS TrooperSketch
ACS Trooper Sketch.
ACS Trooper
ACS Trooper converted to colour.

Two of the defining portions of the book come are the assault on the Sanitation Facility and Pan’s torture by the Rags.

After toying with various perspectives and points within the scene, I’ve chosen to go for the ‘implied’ violence option. We don’t need to see someone being shot by a trooper dressed in dark armour, the implication of a trooper holding a gun, along with a body and some blood spattering is enough.

There is such a thing as gratuitous violence.

That’s not what Adaptation’s about so it shouldn’t be in the promo. Still, the assault took place, so a trooper, perhaps even a silhouette of troopers, and a fallen Vigil will suffice. Notice the shortened legs of the trooper. In the original sketch the legs are longer and wider, but I’ve got some perspective issues when taking the shot. No biggy, I’ll fix them up in Gimp.

Concept of the Assault on the Sanitation Facility.
Concept of the Assault on the Sanitation Facility.

And before you get all thingy, yes, I’m aiming for more troopers to be part of the assault and yes, I’m going to add shadows to the figures and the walls. This is a concept piece.

Pan’s torture is a turning point for Ottavio. Not only does it activate the Berserker module, it also reveals just what it is that he’s fighting for.

As such, I need to display the naked, brutalised, emaciated body of Pan, up against the drug-crazed yahooing crowd of steroid-using Rags. Rather than drawing every Rag there and having a very busy scene, I’ve decided to make a silhouette of the crowd, and have two or three Rags in detail accosting the poor boy.PanTortureSketch

So with the sketches in place, I scanned, coloured and converted them, so that I can make a composition in the order of:

Pan's torture and brutalisation
Concept of Pan’s torture at the hands of the Rags

Having the dark foreground blurred, the eye is naturally drawn to the centrepiece. Perhaps I’ll animate the red sheen falling over Ottavio’s eyes as Berserker takes hold and superimpose the hearts and livers of the assailants. Then again, maybe not. I don’t want to give the impression that the series is just a bloodbath.

Once I knock these off, I think I should be set to start putting some pieces together, maybe even get started on the music.Mini Jeztyr Logo