Monday, March 27, 2017

Shadows and Gesture

As I watched my children playing outside in today's nice, springtime weather, I noticed my shadow laid out on the ground  in front of me. My mind wandering as it does, I began studying the contours of this naturally occurring silhouette and something about it struck me as interesting.

When drawing, artists resort to making an average of features in order to make simple, clear statements on their percieved rythm in forms. This is what we call gesture (which I hypothesize is ultimately the whole of drawing, that is, progressively smaller applications of gesture.) Surprisingly, I observed typical gestures of form in my shadow that I normally observe in drawings. Something about the slightly diffuse penumbra, the blurring of subtle disruptions in the contour of my shape had recreated the same types of lines I've witnessed in many man made artworks.

It occurred to me that this could be a great way to study rythm in form. In a sense it should be no surprise, as artists have long done something similar in drawing silhouettes to test the effectiveness of their drawn shapes. But to my knowledge, I don't know of anyone who has studied cast shadows of subjects in order to produce reference for averaged rythms of form.

By adjusting the size and sharpness of the cast shadow, it may be possible to obtain naturally produced averages in shape in order to better inform your drawings.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Defeating the Canvas

I've discovered a Japanese tv show called Urasawa Naoki no Manben in which the titular and excellent mangaka visits his comic making colleagues to discuss previously filmed footage of said colleagues doing their daily work. It's fascinating for anyone who is at all interested in art and comics. Among the many interesting things discussed by the stars of this show, one recurring concept is something I've also heard from many artists I've talked with over the years. That would be fear of the blank canvas.
When an artist stares into the blank stage upon which his work will later be revealed,  he can be struck with intimidation. The paper is meaningless, but has infinite potential for meaning. The variables that must be considered in filling that stage can be cosmicly astounding. It is Musashi's void, an emptiness where from answers may be drawn if only you resolutely dare to enter and begin searching. There is an unknown and possibly uncountable number of questions within yet to be answered. Not the least of which is this:
"Can I do this?"
Even these mangaka, some of which are possibly among the most prolific drawers to ever live, must still confront this question every time they sit down to do what they have done for years. I too, know this battle well.
I will offer you this advice in confronting the void in the canvas. First, obtain some direction in your mind, as clear as can be without wasting time. You merely need a direction to guide you and you can always decide to travel elsewhere once you are on the road.
After this, you should dive in.
Dive in boldly. Thrust about in the void, searching for answers. Embrace the emptiness and revel in the potential. If you are drawing, just start making marks. If you are writing, just start saying something. Even if you are utterly lost, just launch your attack. The only other options are to flee or delay the confrontation, the former being the better of alternatives. But, the most excellent way is to boldly cross the threshold and let yourself plummet freely into the abyss.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Vilppuian Symmetry

Having recently encountered On The Practice and Science of Drawing  (now one of my absolute favorite books,) I've been inspired to revisit other resources in light of what I've just read. In this pursuit I found myself observing the work of Glenn Vilpuu as he expounded on those ovoid and spherical forms so characteristic of his drawings.

As is so often the case when revisiting topics you supposedly already know well, I was suddenly struck with realization of why he favored these shapes. The sphere could not lend itself more perfectly to a sense of symmetry, while simultaneously being perfectly simple to sketch.

This impressed upon me to do some sketching with particular mind to the symmetry of primary shapes I use in my drawings, rather than leaving symmetry as something to be later considered in a refining stage. It is an excellent way to focus on the voluminous nature of your drawing. By constructing shapes with particular regard to parallel surfaces (given that all simple forms must have these) before perpendicular ones, you will find yourself more thoughtful of volume thoughout your drawing process.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

On Resident Evil 7

So, is it Resident Evil VII or 7? The logo says VII, but then the hashtag was RE7, and the others did not use roman numerals...anyway.

I estimate we are at least halfway through Resident Evil 7 and I am pleased to say that nearly every concern I had about the game has been assuaged. It is exceptional and probably the best horror game I have played in many, many years.

Of the essential aesthetic properties I previously discussed, only two seem to have failed to fully materialize during my time with the game thus far. These would be A) camp and B) the "spec ops vs bio-abominations" theme. Of these remaining essentials, A is very, very weakly still present and I am reliably informed via internet spoilers and certain in-game hints that B will indeed rise from the dead before the end of the game.

Interestingly enough about property A: although I think it is essential in maintaining the Resi Spirit, this game is written so well and the tone is so expertly crafted that I almost don't even miss it. In fact, when the player character Ethan eventually DOES punctuate a ghastly scenario with some gauche piece of dialogue it actually feels out of place instead of cathartic. For an RE sequel, this is truly bizarre!

Complaints not regarding it's proper conformation to the Resi Spirit are minor, entirely forgivable, and easily rectified should a similar title follow in it's footsteps. For instance, the admittedly horrifying fodder which accounts for all non-boss-type encounters are greatly lacking in variety. Even so, they are a welcome and cathartic relief to the high-stakes gameplay revolving around the more dangerous and well developed enemy characters. This is the only sort of half-complaint I can muster at this time.

If you are a Resident Evil fan, rejoice; The future is suddenly grim again.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Twitch Drawing: Noctis and Celes

Noctis and Celes, as voted for by followers on twitter.

If you'd like to hang out with me as I make drawings like these, you can join me on Twitch every Tuesday and Thursday nights at 10:00pm PST.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dead Rising 4

Dead Rising is one of my favorite games and I've been keeping up with the series since it's inception. I remember seeing early screenshots of the game prior to obtaining an xbox 360 and imagining what a game like that could possibly be like. I still remember fondly the days of playing it for the first time, in my first apartment, with whom would later become my wife. We instantly fell for the charisma of the Frank West character and enjoyed the game thoroughly. It really showed off what was capable with the gaming hardware of the time and I greatly admired it's unique and interesting game design, so much so that I remain more than willing to overlook whatever execution related flaws the game had.

I begin to think Dead Rising was surely well...dead, but lo and behold a sequel came down to us courtesy of a Canadian studio that would later become known as Capcom Vancouver. I had my concerns about what might happen with such a unique game design when put into the hands of western developers after having waded through the deluge of ignorant criticisms laid at the feet of the first game by many gamers on this side of the ocean. Would they give into these stupid complaints about the time limit and about saving survivors? Would they remove the tongue and cheek humor and ridicule?

No! They nailed it! They really, really nailed it!

Dead Rising 2 remains perhaps the most objectively polished game in the series, in fact, It's difficult for me to identify a single element from the first Dead Rising that was not objectively superior in the second. Sure, there are things I consider better as a matter of sheer preference; I happen to find Frank more charismatic than Chuck, but I really liked Chuck too, and it's only those sorts of very subjective claims to superiority on behalf of Dead Rising one that I can make.

Well, except for the jump kick. If I remember correctly, I recall that being far more effective in the first game.

Then, along came Dead Rising 3. Surely this is where things go wrong. Look at the colors! Look at the marketing! They've gone too serious!

...Nope! Dead Rising 3 was good too! No, it wasn't on par with the first two, but it did manage to open up the game to a much larger environment with out completely sacrificing what makes a Dead Rising game work. There were even some improvements; This one handled survivors the best by far. I chalked up some of the decisions made here as concessions, perhaps to Microsoft, to make the game as palatable to as many as possible.

Then along comes Dead Rising 4, featuring none other than Frank himself, back in Willamette even. With a proven track record under their belt, CapVan left me feeling confident walking into DR4. I barely even paid attention to the game prior to release, despite being set on an early purchase (I reserve this behavior for only very, very special games. I really like Dead Rising.)

And, well...I'm having fun with it so far. It's good. It even has some improvements none of the previous titles could lay claim to. But, it also seems that CapVan has finally taken that brutal axe swing at the foundation of the Dead Rising design I have been fearing since the second game was announced.

DR4 has omitted two absolutely vital elements to the DR design and weakened or confusingly altered some of the tertiary elements. The exceedingly important timer mechanic is finally removed and people everywhere who dislike Dead Rising 1, 2, and 3, and probably aren't interested in buying Dead Rising 4, can finally rejoice. Additionally, survivors have been completely removed as a dynamic game mechanic and have been relegated to a collectible upgrade for the game's new vendor system, which in itself is of dubious desirability in a game that ostensibly challenges you to make due with whatever you happen to find.

Less critically, the challenge has been significantly lessened. This is the easiest Dead Rising by far and although there is some cleverness to the way items are now handled, some functionality has been lost. Frank West himself looks very different, inexplicably so, and the new voice actor increasingly distances the new Frank from the one you'll remember. He's written a little differently too; oftentimes I enjoy the writing here, but he also makes some decisions that seem a little out of character to me. Frank was always kind of an asshole, but an asshole with a heart of gold...or at least silver. Frank actually straight up leaves a guy to his potential death and I couldn't quite tell if they were playing it up for humor or if Frank genuinely didn't care if this guy died.

I could go on for some time, but this is starting to get pretty lengthy. All in all, these sorts of decisions have arguably taken Dead Rising 4 out of the survival horror category. This is starting to sound pretty negative, but like I mentioned previously, I am enjoying it and I continue to play. I just find it striking because 1) I love Dead Rising 2) CapVan has consistently impressed me and 3) I've been worried about these sorts of changes since the second game was announced. As things stand currently, it may be my least favorite in the series and I'm a little worried about what this might mean for a potential Dead Rising 5, but it's still fun to see Frank back at it again and it's fun seeing some actual "investigation" mechanics. I'll keep going and we'll see how this one turns out.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas, 2016

Our Christmas morning was wonderful. The kids had a blast and we loved watching their little imaginations run wild. We had incredible food, lots of laughs, and lots of love.

Thank you to everyone who helped make our 2016 Christmas special.

2016 was a wild year of ups and downs. But on this day, we remember the insurmountable "light that shines in the darkness." Whatever 2017 may bring, God is good and there is no darkness that can swallow up the hope he gives. God bless us all as we pivot from this time and begin to look on toward the new year.