Old & New…Kinda

Dark_Umber_Hulk

Dark Umber Hulk – Tome of Magic, 2006

Is it Throwback Thursday yet? Eh, close enough.

I was searching through my hard drive today while I was uploading some files and I came across this Dark Umber Hulk I painted for D&D back in 2006 for the book Tome of Magic.

The good old D&D days, when my paintings were loose and fairly horrible. I’m really not sure how I got away with most of these paintings. At the time I thought they were incredibly detailed and refined. I was young, what did I know? Well, I guess I wasn’t that young.

Is that the sharpen filter I see? Yes, yes it is. How do you make a painting look cool? Add a sharpen filter; at least that was what I thought eight years ago. For some reason the year 2006 doesn’t sound that long ago, but when you say eight years you suddenly realize you are old.

This one actually isn’t as bad as some of the other old D&D paintings I found. I think I’ll keep those locked away in a dark well guarded by a green shark swimming in green acid with green acid coming out of his mouth.

Drow

Drow – Races of Eberron, 2006

I also painted a Drow for the Races of Eberron book. I think I needed that sharpen filter on this one. Everything is pretty soft and squishy. Now you know why I’m called Daarken, most of that painting is solid black.

One might think she is sitting on an invisible chair, but oh no, she is actually assuming her battle pose! Or I guess I should say post-battle pose since she just sliced that dude up. The lesson you should learn from this painting is that you should never linger in your awesome post-battle pose for too long, lest another tentacled beak monster sneak up behind you.

Little did I know, five years later I would paint another Umber Hulk and Drow for the game Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth. It’s always interesting to revisit and old idea or an old character.

The layout of the box cover went through several different iterations while I was working on the painting, so my first sketch was very different from the final.

Skirmish Drow 04

Sting of Lolth sketch, 2011

I think I actually liked the pose of the Umber Hulk better in this original sketch, but I had to change it to fit the new layout. I had to use a more upright pose in order to make him fit the tall triangle of the new composition. I still needed some parts to break the frame of the picture, which was why I raised his hands.

I believe in the original sketch I still had to have a character on each end because the illustration was going to wrap around the box and there would be a character on each side of the box.

dcdrow

Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth, 2011

The cover layout was changed to this square format and they wanted it in the shape of a triangle with various elements of the illustration breaking the picture frame. They still wanted the right side of the illustration to wrap around the box, so I had to make sure there was a character on that side that could be seen on the side of the box.

Looking back, there are a few things that really bug me about this painting, but I won’t mention them. As soon as you point something out, that is all anyone ever sees. You can’t unsee it!

The character designs aren’t mine. I was given various illustrations and pictures of the miniatures so that I could make my painting look like the figures included in the box.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little Throwback Thursday tribute, even though it isn’t Thursday yet.

Wacom Companion – Update

Photo Apr 06, 4 01 16 PM

I approve.

I’ve been using my Wacom Companion daily for all of my professional work for the past 6 months, so I figured it would be a good time to make an update.

My first written review can be found here and the video review can be found here. I might make an updated video review as a companion (no pun intended) to this written review, but I’m not sure.

I also want to take this time to go over some FAQs. I’ve answered these questions probably 10 times each on my YouTube channel, so hopefully more people will read these before asking the same exact questions over and over. If you want to know the specs, your best bet is to go take a look at the official Wacom Companion page. They list all of the specs there in great detail.

FAQs

Can you flip the Companion and use it left-handed?
Yes. This would actually solve the accidental pressing of the power button too because the button would be on the top, out of the way of your hand.

Can you attach the Companion to a desktop and use it like a Cintiq, using the desktop’s computing power?
No, only the Wacom Hybrid can be used this way. You can attach external monitors to the Companion, but you can’t attach it to another computer and use it like a Cintiq.

Does the Companion come with Photoshop?
No, you have to buy Photoshop separately.

Can you run other programs on the Companion? Can you watch movies and play music on it? Surf the net?
The Companion is a full standalone Windows computer. If the program in question is a Windows program and the Companion meets the required specs, then yes you can use it. Same with movies and music. I’m not sure why people don’t think of the Companion as a full standalone computer. It is no different from a laptop other than it doesn’t have an attached keyboard and it has a pressure-sensitive stylus.

Can you use a keyboard with the Companion?
Yes. Again, this is a full standalone computer. You can use either a USB or Bluetooth keyboard. In fact, Wacom even sells their own keyboard specifically for the Companion.

Can you pinch/zoom/rotate in Photoshop?
Not that I know of. I know you can pinch/zoom/rotate in other programs (like the Windows Photo Viewer) and on the web, but I have yet to figure out how to do it in Photoshop. Maybe if you create gestures those might work or maybe there is some other setting in Photoshop that I don’t know about.

What gloves are you wearing to prevent smudges?
My gloves actually aren’t for preventing smudges, I wear them because I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my wrists. They are the Handeze Flex-Fit gloves.

Are you affiliated with Wacom?
No, I just love Wacom products. I’ve been using Wacom tablets since 1999 and I’ve never had a single Wacom product break.

Photo Apr 05, 7 16 33 PMWear and Tear

I’m sure people are wondering how my Companion has held up over the past 6 months. I know several of my friends have had problems with theirs, so I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I haven’t had any problems with my computer. It seems like the cable is causing a lot of issues with people, but mine is fine.

I was a little worried about the screen getting scratched after repeated use, but so far I don’t have a single scratch on my screen. I am very careful though when I paint, so maybe that helps.

I actually wore off a little spot on my stylus where it touches my hand, which is kind of funny. My old Axiotron Studio Pen had that same problem. It had sort of a matte finish to it, but I had worn a completely smooth section in it.

The battery life still seems good. It lasts long enough that I’m never out in public long enough for me to need to charge it. I would say I still get 4+ hours or so working in Photoshop, but I haven’t actually let my computer drain down to 0. I read that completely draining your battery down to 0 can damage the battery, so I usually avoid doing that.

I’m still on the original nib, so I’m glad Wacom fixed the old Intuos 4 nib wear problem (which was due to the surface texture of the tablet). I remember when I first bought my Intuos 4 I had to change the nib after 1 week.

Now that I think about it, my Companion is still in perfect condition other than the little spot on the stylus. The screen is great, the unit itself is great, the cable is fine, and nothing else is broken.

gpuGames

People also want to know about gaming on the Companion. I usually don’t put games or other programs on my computer if they aren’t for work because I try and keep my work computer strictly about work. That being said, I installed some games for the purpose of this review.

Now the problem with gaming on a tablet PC or laptop usually isn’t the RAM, the processor, or the GPU, it is cooling. You can have good specs but if you can’t keep your computer cool, it will explode. Ok, maybe not literally, but it will die. Laptops and tablet PCs aren’t really known for their robust cooling systems, and neither are Macs for that matter. I tried playing Fallout 3 on my Mac desktop and it blew out the GPU. I don’t mean it blew it out after playing for days or weeks, I mean it blew it out after 30min to an hour.

Even though I tested some games, I only tested less graphic intensive games because I didn’t want to take any risks. This is my work computer, so I don’t want it to die.

I tried to record the process using several different programs (FFSplit, Open Broadcaster Software, Camtasia), but I couldn’t get an adequate result from any of them. OBS was the best out of the 3, but the playback was so choppy that you couldn’t actually see anything. As soon as the game started playing the video would freeze during playback or lag. Maybe the Companion can’t handle playing a game and recording it at the same time, who knows.

So far I’ve tested The Banner SagaShadowrun ReturnsBatman: Arkham Asylum, and Deponia. They all ran pretty well. Even after playing for several hours, the computer wasn’t hot at all. It wasn’t even warm. Back in the day I had an Alienware laptop and that thing would get so hot you could probably cook an egg on it. No really, a freaking egg.

If you want to try some more intensive games, I would recommend looking for some benchmark tests first and then try the game under the lowest settings before increasing them.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

  • Low - Avg FPS: 25.823 – Min: 12 – Max: 42
  • Medium - Avg FPS: 33.273 – Min: 18 – Max: 41

Shadowrun Returns

  • Avg FPS: 38.742 – Min: 26 – Max: 51

Deponia

  • Avg FPS: 43.226 – Min: 0 – Max: 53

The Banner Saga

  • Avg FPS: 44.127 – Min: 1 – Max: 54

Not too great, but not too shabby either. I believe some of the lows dropped to 0 because of loading screens. This isn’t a gaming rig, but you can still play games on it. I will probably avoid playing games on the Companion since this computer is supposed to be for work. I don’t need more distractions.

companion pie

Infinite pies!

Layout

I wanted to free up some real estate, so I got rid of the on-screen menus and went with radial menus instead. I just set one of the rocker buttons to open the radial menu.

The other cool thing about the radial menu is that you can have menus inside of menus! Infinite pies! You can also put actions inside of the radial menu, which saves a lot of time. I rarely have to go through any of the Photoshop menus anymore since most of my actions and commands can be found inside the radial menu.

Here is a video of the radial pies in action.

In conclusion, the Wacom Companion is still an awesome computer and I love it.

New Art Fo Yo Face!

Mortis Metalikus

Warhammer

Sorry for the long absence yet again. For the past 7-8 months I haven’t posted very many new paintings. I’ve been working with some different clients lately and it’s hard to tell when or if my new paintings have been released. I started thinking that maybe I didn’t do very many paintings in 2013, but I actually finished roughly 117 paintings. In 2012 I think I finished 126, so I wasn’t too far off.

I contacted my art director at Games Workshop and confirmed that a few of my paintings have been released, giving me the go ahead to post them online.

I haven’t worked on very many sci-fi titles professionally, so working on 40k is a nice change. The first painting is of Mortis Metalikus from Crimson Slaughter: A Codex Supplement. I have a few process shots on my CGHub page if you want to take a look. I painted this roughly 6 months ago. I’ve been working on several other paintings for Games Workshop, so I’ll post them as soon as I can.

This next one is a Wood Elves painting. Painting huge battle scenes is always a challenge and it’s something that I really need to work on more. I  have a hard time coming up with compelling action scenes, so I’m always a little surprised when people commission me to paint battle scenes.

I actually had to make some fairly major changes with this painting. Originally there weren’t any big banners. I wasn’t sure if the painting would become too complicated and clustered if I added banners. The Wood Elves also weren’t originally wearing any helmets, so I had to add those. I also had to change Orion’s pose and a few other minor details.

Magic: The Gathering

Several of my God paintings for Journey into Nyx were posted today on the WotC site.

Kruphix was a pain in the butt to paint. He seems like he would be easy to paint, but the problem with Kruphix is that they wanted him to be a completely flat silhouetted shape. Not only that, but he had to be filled with Nyx. In order to make a flat shape read, I had to try and come up with poses that made all 4 of his arms read. It was also hard to make a flat hard-edged shape fit in with the surrounding environment. Yeah, he was just weird to paint in general.

I just realized that in the first painting I forgot to paint his bracelets…maybe no one will notice. Oops! I think I actually like him better without them.

Keranos, God of Storms

Keranos, God of Storms

Keranos, God of Storms was much more fun to paint, and a lot easier. I think out of all of my Theros cards, Keranos was one of my favorites. After Journey into Nyx comes out in May, I’ll offer prints of these three paintings on my inPRNT gallery.

I probably won’t have the proofs from Journey into Nyx until early May. As soon as I have those, I will add them to my shop. I’m a little behind with updating my shop, so I haven’t added the Born of the Gods proofs either.

Thanks for stopping by! Hopefully some more of my illustrations will be released soon.

Update – The cards have officially been spoiled on the WotC site. Here they are.

Kruphix, God of Horizons

Kruphix, God of Horizons

Dictate of Kruphix

Dictate of Kruphix

Keranos, God of Storms

Keranos, God of Storms

First Mentorship is Done!

Figure painting from ref. assignment (right) - Ben Liou

Figure painting from ref. assignment (right) – Ben Liou

After three short months, my first intro to digital painting class has come to an end. Technically the class ended several weeks ago, so I’m a little behind with this post. I thought it might be interesting to post some stats so that you can get an idea of what the class entails.

Paintovers – 1,462 minutes
Assignments turned in – 164 (6+ GB)
Portfolio reviews – 207 minutes
Skype calls – 1,241 minutes
Demos – 1,482 minutes (10 week course), 1,804 minutes (12 week course)

I also wanted to post a few more assignments from my students. As I’ve said before, I’m very happy with the progress everyone made. My assignments were pretty insane from time to time, so I really appreciate everyone’s hard work and dedication. I actually had to change a few of the assignments because they were a little too crazy. I think I probably broke everyone after the very first assignment. Pain is good right?

Portrait assignment - Jeff Obrien

Portrait assignment – Jeff Obrien

Several people have asked to see progress shots from the students, so I posted a few before and after images. To be fair, I’m not sure exactly how much time elapsed between the before and after shots. What I do know is that the before image for each student was included in the portfolio they submitted for review.

The progress is pretty impressive right? All of the credit goes to the individual student. They are the ones who put in the time and effort to improve, I simply guided them through that process. I’m really excited to see where they are in a year from now. Hopefully it won’t be that long before the advanced class starts!

The next intro to digital painting class starts on the 21st of this month. I still haven’t finished the advanced class, so I decided to go ahead and start another intro class. I still have 3 more demos to film for the advanced class, so I’m not sure when it will start.

Now that the holidays are over, my freelance schedule is back in full swing leaving me no time to work on the advanced demos.

The Waiting List

I have decided to change the way I handle the waiting list for the intro and advanced class. People already on the waiting list won’t be affected, so don’t worry.

As it is right now, most of the people on the waiting list have been on there for 4+ months. Many things change in that amount of time so a lot of people are canceling, which is perfectly fine. While that is good news for people at the end of the waiting list, it causes a lot of lost time when trying to nail down a final roster.

Week 2 (left) and week 4 (right) still life assignment - Felipe Gaona

Week 2 (left) and week 4 (right) still life assignment – Felipe Gaona

Over the past 3.5 weeks I’ve been trying to track down and e-mail people on the waiting list for the upcoming class. I usually then have to wait anywhere from a few days to a week before I receive a reply, and many times the reply is that they can no longer take the class. I then have to move to the next person on the list, e-mail them, and wait again for a reply.

So far 11 people have either canceled or simply not responded. This is causing things to get a little backed up since the class is starting soon, which means I have less time to record and upload portfolio reviews before the class starts. It is also giving people less time to make their payment.

From now on I won’t be adding people to the waiting list. Once the current list has been exhausted, I will simply post about upcoming classes and the first 10 people to respond will be accepted. Hopefully this way I can avoid too many cancellations.

Since I have many international students, there might be an issue of when I post about openings due to the time difference. What I can do is post at two separate times. During the first post I will accept the first 5 people and then I’ll post again at night and accept the next 5 people. Hopefully that will give everyone a chance to apply.

There are still 26 people on the waiting list for the intro class, not including the 10 people currently enrolled for the class starting on the 21st. Given that 11 people have already canceled or not responded, we might get through the rest of the list fairly quickly. During the first intro class I think 4-5 people canceled.

I just want to thank all of my students one more time. I had a great 3 months and I’m blown away by everyone’s progress. I hope to see you again in the advanced class and I’ll see all of my new students in 10 days!

Born of the Gods

Kragma Butcher

Kragma Butcher

It’s been around four months since I posted any new art, so it’s way past due.

Back in August during the Oakland GP (at least I think it was the Oakland GP), someone came up to me and asked if I had painted a minotaur for Theros. Hardly any art had been spoiled for Theros and this was long before any of my art had been spoiled.

“I don’t really remember,” I lied. “I did those paintings so long ago that I’m not really sure what I painted for Theros. Usually it can take a year before my art comes out.”

“No,” replied the fan, “you painted a minotuar.”

How did he know?!? After that conversation I went online to see if anyone had spoiled my minotaur painting, but I couldn’t find anything. It was such an odd and specific statement that he had to have seen it somewhere. It was just weird because that card wasn’t spoiled until just last week.

Strange things are afoot at the Oakland GP.


I actually painted 7 more cards for the Theros block, so I guess they are saving them all for Journey into Nyx. Sometimes you paint cards for a certain set but then they never come out. One of them was painted for Theros, so I’m not sure what happened to it. Now the whole Born of the Gods set has been spoiled, but it isn’t in there either. Hopefully the rest of my cards will come out in May.

Mentorship Update

homework-comparison

Felipe Gaona after Tyler Jacobson – Master copy assignment

Hey everyone! It’s time for another mentorship update.

Next week is the 10th week of my first Intro to Digital Painting class. So far things have been great, even with the Dropbox problem.

We ended up having to scrap the BitTorrent Sync idea because, once again, my internet speed is too slow. It would have taken two weeks to sync the files with one person, and that is if the person left their computer on day and night and constantly synced. Plus that wouldn’t have included any of the video paintovers.

I went back to using Dropbox, but I am only allowing my 10 core students to use it. So far we haven’t had any problems. The video only tier students have been using Vimeo, which seems to work well now that I finished uploading all of the videos.

What is Next?

Week_5_Day_Night_Still_Life

Jarrad Lajeunesse – Day and night assignment

Of course everyone wants to know what is next. Like I mentioned before, I’m not going to be able to run both the intro and the advanced class at the same time. My problem now is that I have to figure out which class I am going to run after this one ends. Will I start another intro class or will I start the advanced class?

In order for me to start the advanced class, I have to finish recording the videos. So far I have 6 out of 12 weeks finished for the advanced class. The next class, regardless of which one it is, should be starting in February. That means I will need to finish a new video every week in order to start on time if I want to run the advanced class.

Either way, I feel bad because a lot of people have been on the waiting list for the past 3-4 months. If I don’t run their class next, they will have to wait another 3-4 months. I can’t really accept more than 10 students at a time because even with 10 students I still have trouble keeping up with the weekly paintovers.

Thank you so much for your patience, I really appreciate it. I wish I could accept more students and run both classes at the same time.

week 6 chenoa lindsey

Chenoa Lindsey after W. Bouguereau – Master copy assignment

Advanced Digital Painting

I’m kind of leaning toward starting the advanced class next, but I need to finish recording the videos first.

I also mentioned this before in another post, but I might not be able to demo entire illustrations each week for the advanced class.

A battle scene, for example, usually takes me 1-2 weeks to paint. I can’t really record a painting that could take 40-80 hours and then expect people to watch it. Even if I speed up the video by 10x, the demo would still be 4-8 hours long. I suppose I could speed it up and then also skip ahead, but I’m not sure that is a great idea. People will probably end up missing a lot of things because of the speed and then wonder how I went from point A to point B.

Thinking back to my time at the Academy of Art University, many of my teachers never did demos and none of them did demos of an entire illustration from start to finish. Usually if they did a demo it was a short 10-20 minute demo showing a certain technique or maybe a 20 minute figure drawing pose.

A few teachers would demo for a couple hours while we worked on our own paintings, but you couldn’t watch their entire demo because you had to work on your own painting at the same time. I guess since I’m recording these demos from home I feel obligated to show an entire illustration, although I know that isn’t entirely feasible.

There are only 3 lectures that are really going to cause a problem: battle scenes, book cover illustrations, and illustration from a client brief. I think if I give a lecture showing examples and then maybe do a quick demo showing some techniques or possibly just a quick painting, that might be enough.

Till Next Time

Thanks for tuning in! If you want more updates and you haven’t joined the public Facebook group yet, please join. I keep an updated list on there so you can see my progress with the advanced digital painting demos. I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated as I figure out which class is going to start in February. Thanks again!

Remembering Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

librarianToday marks the end of a long journey, the end of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

My time with Mythic Entertainment began back in 2007 when I was hired as a concept artist to work on the game Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. During my three years at Mythic I worked with a lot of talented artists to bring Warhammer Online to life. Much of the work I did there has never been seen before by the public. Even the concepts I show today are only a fraction of the work I did while employed by Mythic Entertainment.

I probably created hundreds of concepts during my time there. I also worked on a lot of textures and in-game assets, but they aren’t really worth showing. Please remember, these paintings are now 5-6 years old. It is interesting to see where my art has gone over the years.

Some of these concepts aren’t something I would normally show, but I figured it might be nice (and embarrassing) to show where I came from. My paintings were so much looser back then, and they were incredibly dark. I think I was Daaarken back then, I’m not as bad now. Most of these paintings I had to take into Photoshop and turn the levels up in order to see what was going on. I blame my computer.

I’ve never really been known for my environment work, and even less known for any architectural work. The funny thing is, half of the things I worked on at Mythic were environments and interiors/exteriors. It is good to finally be able to show some of my environment and architectural work, even though they are incredibly old now.

As a concept artist you usually need to be able to paint anything and everything. It is very rare that an in-house concept artist will specialize in only one thing. During my time at Mythic I had to paint characters, creatures, weapons, props, interiors, exteriors, environments, icons, textures, skydomes, marketing illustrations, loading screens, and probably some other things that I can’t think of right now. It isn’t always glamorous. Sometimes you have to paint a bottle or a ribbon or a rotting cake. It is all part of the job. Some of the concepts I have included in this post are from some of those not-so-exciting moments.

I also worked on several other projects while I was at Mythic. I probably won’t be able to ever show any of those either, but that is the life of a concept artist.

I’ll try to group these by race, but sometimes we moved things around or sometimes they were grouped by the expansion they were created for or we would create a concept for one thing and then decide to use it for another thing. Some of my other Warhammer Online concepts can be found on my website, although I’m sure many of you have already seen them. I think a few of these might already be on my site and some may have been posted in other places, so sorry for the repeats.

Dark Elves

I’m probably best known for my Dark Elf Sorceress, for better or worse. Boy oh boy did I catch a lot of flak for my Dark Elf Sorceress concepts. For some reason her headdress sparked the inner fanboy hatred in a large population of the fans. Some people hated it so much that they went so far as to say I should be killed, all because they didn’t like the hat on an a video game character. Sometimes you have to stick to the IP and listen to your boss.

Of course people also complained about her attire, but once again, you gotta stick to the IP. If you stray too far from the IP, people get mad because it doesn’t look like Warhammer. On the other hand, if you make it look too much like existing Warhammer designs, people get mad because you are unoriginal.

When the male sorcerer came out, people once again threw up their hands and ran around screaming. It is actually pretty funny because most of them said I shouldn’t have put him in robes and that I should have made him show more skin like his female counterpart. Some of them even drew their own concepts of what he should have looked like. The thing is, my original concept was very close to what the fans said I should have done. They didn’t realize that my original idea was shot down and that I was told to put him in robes. The concept artist always gets the blame.

Chaos

I think all of the character concepts I did for Chaos were released many years ago, so the only things I never posted were my interior and exterior work. I believe the Maw concept (the 4th one in the gallery) was the very first Chaos concept I did. I had a tough time working on the Inevitable City concepts. I wasn’t much of an architecture guy, so I think that was my biggest challenge. How do you make something look like Chaos? Use the chain brush, oooooooh yeah.

Dwarves

Not too much here that hasn’t been seen before. I think I probably even posted that Dwarf Slayer a long time ago, but I can’t remember. Usually people know the other Dwarf Slayer painting I did, not this one. That Rune Priest turnaround is absolutely ridiculous. I wonder how long that took me…

Empire

I didn’t do very many Empire concepts while I was at Mythic. I think Empire was pretty much nailed down by the time I was hired.

Greenskins

Same for the Greenskins, most of them  had already been concepted by the time I was hired. I really enjoyed working on the Greenskins, I wish I had been able to do more character concepts. The Choppa and Squig Herder were probably two of my favorites during my time at Mythic. Greenskins are just so cool.

High Elves

These docks were the first thing I painted when I was hired at Mythic back in 2007. Talking about throwing me in to see if I could swim, no pun intended. Before this, I had never really painted architecture from my imagination before. I had done some studies from photos a couple of years before I started working at Mythic, but I was still pretty unprepared. I remember constantly glancing behind me so that I could make sure no one was watching me fail at my first assignment. Curse you High Elf dock!

Lizardmen

I think by now everyone has seen my Temple Guard. Heck, I think at least 8 different people have stolen my painting and claimed it as their own. This is the turnaround I did for the Temple Guard.

Skaven

I’ve always loved Skaven. I used to paint the miniatures when I was a kid. Back then I remember thinking “man, I’m really good at painting these.” I found them the last time I went home a few years ago and they looked horrible!

Vampire Counts

Remember when I said I hadn’t really painted buildings from my imagination before when I painted those High Elf docks? That all changed when I had to concept the Vampire Count expansion. Not only did I have to paint a ton of buildings, but they needed to have a gothic feel to them. Gothic castles are probably the most complicated castles to paint. It was definitely good practice, but I’m not sure I ever want to do that again, haha.

Yup, I used some 3D on the Crypt. I didn’t know any 3D, so I learned how to use SketchUp while I was at Mythic. It made it much faster and easier for me to knock out some of these concepts.

Tomb Kings

Other than my Liche Priest and a few other Tomb Kings concepts, I didn’t do very many paintings that I would consider showing to the public. Many of them weren’t very pretty. They got the idea across to the modelers and environment artists, but they definitely weren’t “pretty pieces of art.”

I used SketchUp again for a few of the concepts.

Mounts

Exploring different mounts was fun, but I don’t think any of these ideas ever came to fruition. I think that tends to happen with a large chunk of concepts, they are just ideas that never go any further than that.

Well, that about does it. I think those are the only concepts worth showing. It was a fun ride while it lasted and working at Mythic opened up so many opportunities for me. I probably wouldn’t have done any of the Warhammer covers for Fantasy Flight Games if I hadn’t worked at Mythic.

Working around so many talented artists pushed me harder than I ever thought possible. Some days I wondered how I was going to make it through the day because I felt like I was on the bottom of the totem pole in terms of ability, but somehow I survived.

Thank you Mythic for teaching me a thing or two and trusting me to help bring the vision of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning to life.

Blood for the Blood God!

 

GP ABQ

Photo Nov 25, 10 36 35 AMAfter our flight was delayed 4 times, we finally made it to Albuquerque! Luckily we were only about an hour and a half late.

Going to Albuquerque also meant that I was going to inevitably make Breaking Bad references the entire. I thought about printing out a “Save Walter White” sign for my tip jar, but the locals would probably roll their eyes and think I’m just another noob tourist going through the motions of making Breaking Bad references whenever the opportunity presented itself. I dunno, I think it would have been awesome.

Photo Nov 22, 6 55 42 AMAt breakfast I knew I had to get some bacon. Good thing they had a breakfast buffet!

There was no one in the dining room so when I went up to the buffet, the cook was just standing there staring at me the entire time. I didn’t want him to think I was crazy by grabbing a bunch of bacon, so I only took 3 pieces and hoped it would be enough. It wasn’t my birthday, but when in Rome…

With seven artists on the list and a GP in the middle of the desert (a desert which was going to receive snow during the weekend) I didn’t have very high expectations. I think for the most part this was one of the smallest GPs I’ve been to, at least in terms of traffic to my table. It actually felt more like a prerelease. The large number of artists thinned out the numbers even further, so much of my time was spent sitting and admiring the drink suspended 20 feet in the air on a window ledge.

Photo Nov 24, 11 54 59 AMDon’t get me wrong, it was still a great show. Unfortunately I had to leave a bit early on Saturday due to a medical emergency. Of course it was the weekend and we couldn’t find any dentists. Even the ones who were supposed to be open on the weekends 24/7 weren’t around or refused. Uh, if your site says you are open during the weekend aren’t you kind of required to accept a patient, especially when it is an emergency? Apparently not.  We had to wait until Monday before my wife could have surgery.

It was probably better that this GP was slower considering I had to leave early on Saturday, plus it always helps my wrists when I don’t have as many people in my line.

We ended up missing dinner with the other artists because of my wife’s medical problem. Sorry we couldn’t be there!

Hotel of Awesome…and Science

yeah scienceThe best thing about the hotel was that it had free wifi. Not just free wifi, but free wifi of lightning fast awesomeness. Actually, their upload speed was only .9Mbps, but they had a consistent signal. My upload speed at home is around .3Mbps and my signal is intermittent like crazy.

It was weird clicking on a link and having the page actually load. This is what the real internet must feel like! Usually when I’m at home I have to click on a link and hit refresh 4-5 times and sit for 2 minutes before I can get a single page to load.

Good news for my mentorship program, I was actually able to upload the rest of my Intro to Digital Painting videos to my Vimeo account using the hotel wifi. It was glorious.

“Yeah, science!”

Maybe next time I should go to the hotel that is 2 blocks away and sit in their lobby and upload my videos. They won’t notice right? Right??

Photo Nov 24, 6 31 36 AMSnow!

It snowed over the weekend! I was walking by the hotel window and I glanced outside and saw a blanket of white. I screamed to my wife “it snowed!” Ok, maybe I didn’t scream, but I definitely exclaimed.

I love snow. I like the crunching sound it makes when you walk on it. I wanted to take more pictures while I was walking around outside, but I forgot my camera in the room.

The one bad thing about the cold is that it seems to drain my phone battery even faster than normal. My battery already sucks after I upgraded to iOS7, so the cold weather didn’t help. In the time it took me to walk from the bed to the bathroom, my battery had drained from 20% to 7%. It lost 13% in literally 5 seconds. I wasn’t even playing games on it or watching a movie. To be fair I have heard that the battery indicator isn’t very accurate and that you can only truly trust the reading when it is at 100% or at 0%.

Photo Nov 23, 3 01 19 PMOn Friday I was walking around outside trying to find Starbucks when I saw Rob Alexander walking around wearing a T-shirt.

Let me set the scene; it was about 33 degrees and extremely windy. Wolves howled in the distance and the clouds blotted out the sun. Ok, there were no wolves but it was very cold and windy. It was so windy that every time I tried to put on my hood the wind blew it off my head. I was wearing a shirt, a hoody, and a jacket and I was still cold. Those crazy Canadians.

Future GPs? 

Several people asked me about future GPs, but right now I don’t have any plans. I was interested in GP Sacramento, but I never heard back about it. GP ABQ may have been my last GP for the foreseeable future, but I’m not really sure.

We had fun and I would like to thank everyone for braving the weather to come out to the show. I would like to especially thank Bo King. He was a real trooper when it came to helping out the artists with whatever they needed. I’m sure I can speak for everyone and say that we greatly appreciated it.

Thanks!

Mentorship News and Future

jeff_obrien_week2-3The Good

We are now halfway through the Intro to Digital Painting class! So far things are going great and I’ve had a lot of fun talking to the students and seeing their work. Already I have seen a lot of improvement from the students, so it’s really exciting to see them grow.

Here are two assignments by Jeff Obrien. Just from week 2 to 3 I think he made a huge leap. I am very proud of his progress thus far, as I am with everybody else’s progress. I’m really looking forward to see where people are at week 10 and 12!

The Bad

Of course there is bad news too. Initially I had planned on running the intro class at the same time as the advanced class, but the chances of me being able to run both classes simultaneously is looking rather grim.

The first obstacle is recording the demos. The intro class demos took me two months to film, which means the advanced demos will probably take even longer since they are more complicated. Once I have the videos filmed, I only have to worry about the weekly paintovers and chat.

Recording new demos while teaching the intro class and working on my freelance paintings is proving to be a little difficult. Right now I only have two weeks out of twelve finished for the advanced class.

Even after all of the demos are finished, I’m still not sure I’ll have enough time to do weekly paintovers for two classes and hold four live chats per week and still have time to work on my freelance paintings. Unfortunately I don’t make enough from the mentorship to pay all of my bills, so I will have to continue to freelance while I teach. Right now it looks like I will only be able to run one class at a time.

I had planned on starting another intro class after this one ends, but if I can only run one at a time, should I start another intro class or try and finish the advanced class? Once the advanced demos are finished, do I alternate between teaching the intro class one semester and the advanced class the next?

The Ugly

If you are a part of the group FB page, you will know that the mentorship faced a huge problem this week.

The mentorship has been running perfectly for the past 5 weeks, but last Wednesday I received an e-mail from Dropbox saying that my public links have been banned because of excess traffic. If you don’t know, Dropbox has a 200GB/day bandwidth limit. That means in one day people tried to access more than 200GB of information. I was really surprised considering we went 5 weeks with no problems.

I contacted Dropbox and they were nice enough to remove the ban. I contacted all of my students and all of the “video only” tier students and let them know to stagger their downloads and not try and download all 10 weeks of information at once. Actually, only the “video only” tier students have access to all 10 weeks, the full-time students only have access to one week at a time.

I thought the problem would be solved. It wasn’t. Almost exactly 24 hours after Dropbox lifted the ban, I received another e-mail saying my links were banned for a second time because I hit the bandwidth limit again. That means in two days people tried to access 400GB of information.

That seems insane, especially because that week I hadn’t even given any of my 10 students the video for that week, which means they weren’t even using any bandwidth. I am almost certain someone somewhere shared the links with others. It just seems weird that we went 5 weeks with no problems but then in two consecutive days my account was banned two times.

I fully expected that somewhere down the line my links/videos would be shared with others, it is inevitable when it comes to posting or sharing anything online. Every paid tutorial I have done has been pirated, even my printed book has been pirated. Even though I expected it, it still sucks.

Since Dropbox was no longer a viable option, I had to figure out a way to give my students the videos. The main hurdle with any option is my internet connection. My upload speed is around .32Mbps. I’ve even seen my speed drop to .05Mbps. We are also in the middle of a class, so I can’t expect the students to sit around for 2-3 weeks while I upload the videos using some other method.

Options like Dropbox, Google Drive, Sugarsync, etc. all have some sort of bandwidth limitation. Google Drive says there is no bandwidth limit, but after a few seconds of checking around online, I found people saying that repeated downloads of a file will cause Google Drive to give people an error message.

I can’t upload the files to my own server because I have a 100GB/month limit. I looked at other plans but some of them are several thousand dollars. I can’t start my own home server because again, I have an extremely horrible internet connection.

I can’t use services like YouSendIt because there is a file limit and/or a weekly sending limit. Again, this still requires me to spend weeks sending videos.

I thought of using private Vimeo or YouTube videos. Vimeo has a weekly upload limit. YouTube has no limit, but again I have to spend weeks uploading.

Private YouTube videos seemed like the best option. It is free and there is no file size limit or bandwidth limit. I started uploading the videos. To give you an idea of how slow my internet is, it took me 14.5 hours to upload one video to YouTube. The intro class has 29 videos and it took me 14.5 hours to upload 1.

After I uploaded a few videos I had some people test it out. Some people couldn’t access them because YouTube now requires you to link your Google+ account. People with no Google+ account couldn’t access the videos. Another problem is that you can’t download the videos without an extension, but even then you can’t download the full 1080p version, you can only download a 720p version. Maybe there is a different extension that will allow you to download the full res.

One of my students had the idea of using BitTorrent Sync. I had never used it before, so I had no idea if it would be a good option.

While BitTorrent Sync doesn’t require an initial upload phase, the files still have to be fed through my internet connection. While other students can help seed each other, it still seems to be an incredibly slow option. I’ve been syncing with my friend for almost 2 days straight and he has only synced 4GB out of 34GB. Some people are also having problems with nothing downloading. Once again, it seems that this option has several problems.

Half of these problems would be solved if I didn’t have a horrible internet connection. Unfortunately AT&T has a virtual monopoly over internet service in my area, so there aren’t any other options for me. I am moving soon, but the class will be over before I move.

I could burn the videos on DVDs and send them, but that would require buying and burning 4 DVDs per person and then shipping them. International shipping would be around $30 per person and it could take weeks before they arrive.

Bah, this is why we can never have nice stuff. I’m really not sure what to do now, especially because the “video only” tier people are supposed to get access to all 10 weeks at one time. I might have to end up canceling the “video only” tier and just stick with a 10 student limit per class, although I suppose the problem might be solved after I move and get a better internet connection. Only time will tell.

Beautiful Grim 2

Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 9.48.04 PMAs some of you may already know, almost two months ago my wife started a Fundly to help pay for her two most recent surgeries.

After we left EA we had to get a different health insurance plan and unfortunately, even with health insurance, our out-of-pocket bills have been extremely high. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Here is a little more information about the Fundly:

My name is Midori. In 2009 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through a lumpectomy, CT port insertion, Dose dense AC/T chemotherapy, bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction with tissue expanders and CT port removal. Over the course of a few months I expanded up until my exchange surgery in 2010, followed by nipple reconstruction.

Four years have passed and I’m still in remission! However, my prior reconstruction began to fail. One of the implant pockets was botched and had dropped down towards my stomach. After several visits to the oncologist and surgeon, it became apparent that we needed to start from scratch to fix my situation.

In February of 2013 I had a bilateral removal of my implants, insertion of surgical drains, and a hospital stay. Over the next several months I expanded yet again until my exchange surgery in August where my new permanent implants were placed. I have one more surgery to go to finish the process of reconstruction (version 2 of me).

In addition to the above, I’ve been diagnosed with PSVT, a heart condition, and have also been going through blackouts and having mini seizures. I’ve been seeing two cardiologists, Dr. Smith and Dr. Cao who have been working together using medication to settle my heart so I do not need to have a heart procedure done, hopefully. This has also been trying on our expenses as I’ve had to go through several tests to find out what my condition was.

This has been a very trying experience both physically and financially. The reason I am calling this Beautiful Grim 2 is because it’s an extension of the first fundraiser Beautiful Grim my husband and best friend held to fund my initial cancer experience. This time around we’re unable to gather artwork to sell but hopefully still raise enough money to cover my medical expenses. I appreciate all your love, help, and support.

So why “beautiful grim”? Overall, my cancer experience seems nothing but grim but the beautiful comes from learning to see things differently every day.

I always try to think of the beautiful before the grim.

My best to you,
Midori

I would like to take this time to thank everyone for all of your contributions and comments, we really appreciate it. Hopefully these past two surgeries will be the last for a long time. Unfortunately Midori is still having blackouts and mini seizures almost daily, but it looks like at this point in time she won’t need a cardiac ablation.

Thanks again!