Quote of the Moment

Maybe you’re just imagining that you have a good imagination.
- from ConceptArt.Org forums

Monday, February 25, 2008

Golden Glory


Ever since I started painting drums, I've wanted to do something less mundane and more fantastic. Well, today, with a little help from my MP3 player (now loaded with 13 CDs total - I think I may be at the half-full mark) and a few hours without relatives bugging me, I actually managed to do it. I based him off a golden eagle image, with slightly tweaked colors and, of course, the gryphon ears. I also have metallic gold highlights, and I used metallic gold in mixing a few of the paints (which probably won't show in the end result, but I know it was there, at least.) He needs finishing - the feathers and the hanger and the tag - but other than that he's pretty much done. (See the back here.) Maybe two hours of actual painting, a little more for color picking and mixing and fixing, and he's done. Which proves, once again, that the only thing holding me back from cranking out hand-painted drum ornaments by the boxload is me.
Truth be told, I've been trying to come up with something else to paint. Not that I don't like the drums, of course, but I feel I ought to expand my inventory and my horizons. I've considered a "medicine shield" idea, but that's basically a canvas round stretched in a hoop, not substantially different than a drum. Possibly I could make them faster and cheaper, and I may not rip the heck out of my fingers like I do when I'm cinching up on the drumheads. I might make one or two up to see what the cost in time and materials would run, and if I could come up with a "gimmick" or look that sets them apart more significantly from the drums. The other day, I looked at the premade boxes at Michael's, but try as I might I don't think I could get them to look like anything other than premade boxes from Michael's; probably ought to try doing up a couple just to play with, though. A corner of my mind feels that, like the drums, I should be making what I'm painting on, while another corner says that I only have 24 hours in a day, and if I can find a cost-effective premade item to accessorize and sell, I ought to shut up and do it.
I'm also considering how I could create fake claws or teeth, maybe some arrowheads or charms, to vary my accessorizing more; if all I can manage, given my work situation, is drums and maybe shields, I really ought to start doing more with them, and frankly feathers can be a pain in the tail when it comes to gluing the suckers. Nothing grabs stray glue strands faster than feather fluff... Polymers would probably be the way to go there, but I might have cost issues, plus I'd have to use Mom's toaster oven because I don't want to cook clay in the kitchen oven and I have nowhere by my workbench for a toaster oven of my own.
This, of course, leads back to my persistent desire to create more 3D items, for sale or even personal use. I still keep tabs on the dragon ooaks on eBay to see what sells and what flops. (I've also determined that, if I could come up with a good, easily-repeatable basic gryphon design to make, I might well have a captive audience, as it seems almost nobody is catering to the gryph ooak crowd there even as movies like the Narnia series and The Spiderwick Chronicles make them more and more popular.) Since I have limited workbench space, though, I've had to put those plans on the back burner. There's a chance I may be able to take over a shed this summer, but it's a longshot, as it involves everyone in the house cooperating to get rid of junk, and I can count the number of times that's happened in the past on one hand and still have fingers left over.
Mingled in with this is the strong desire to get more Skyhaven templates ready. For a very long time, I've been contemplating doing template/painting crossover projects, using my Skyhaven designs to create Something in the Real World for sale. The advantage, of course, is that I know I own all rights to my own images, and they're already on my computer for resizing and whatnot. The disadvantage is figuring out just what to use them on... well, that and the fact that I do a lot of cleanup between inking and posting on those templates, and I don't know how well they'd survive if returned to the real world even in reduced format. And, of course, after a while the template that was wonderful when I drew it starts to look shabby and in need up upgrading, and if it's out there in the Real World I can't exactly hunt down the buyers and steal stuff back to redo. Not practically, at any rate. But still, as I work on Skyhaven templates for updates, applications in Real World projects like my drums are lingering in my mind, and vice versa.
So, whether it's the springlike turn in the weather lately, the butterflies I saw the other day (yes, in February), the lunar eclipse last week, the fact that I'm down to two drums in the store (having sold five out of seven I've made specifically for sale), or my own muses shaking off their collective layers of dust and complacency, I'm definitely feeling the urge to Create and Grow and Do More. Hopefully, I'll gain enough momentum to keep the creative ball rolling through the year.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Further Adventures in Tech Support

Ah, IPower... how I love and loathe thee at times...

Recently, I realized that IPower had migrated to a new, supposedly improved system in the fall. I was never notified, which I found odd, considering that they evidently needed to schedule migration times for all pre-existing domains. But, I knew now, so I could log in and schedule the migration time. Or so I thought. None of my passwords worked when I attempted to log in. When I used the "resend info" option, I never received anything. Finally, I broke down and e-mailed tech support. I was told that they were, in fact, dutifully sending out all my info... to my old e-mail address, which I haven't had for two or three years and which I had sworn I updated when I was updating all my various and sundry internet accounts. So I asked, since I've dealt with tech support a few times in the intervening years through my current addy, if I could have that little detail updated. Sure, they replied... if I faxed a copy of my photo ID, along with all my other info.

Hold the phone... a copy of my photo ID? You didn't need that when I signed up in 2003. What would my photo ID prove to you? Am I supposed to trust a random fax to who-knows-where, containing all the information required to steal my identity, to reach its intended destination in the labyrinthine bowels of IPower for its intended purpose? I could also send it as an image attachment on an e-mail, but that was merely an electronic version of the potential security nightmare of an open fax. The more I thought about it, the less happy I was with it. I decided to try another option. The phone.

Now, I don't like phone-in tech support. I have iffy luck with it, possibly due to a mild speech impediment and certainly due to my nonexistent social skills. But this was a case of identity security, here, and I wasn't sending in any info until I had it confirmed by a presumably-live voice on the end of a help line. Dutifully, I recorded the number and waited for a time when I would be free of distractions. Finally, today, when all the relatives were out of the house working the polls and all the animals were in their customary afternoon stupors (differentiated from their morning and evening stupors by choice of location), I opened up my e-mail correspondence, got out my original documentation for my domain, and, at long last, picked up the phone.

12:41 - I am informed by a disembodied voice that I need to dial 1 first. Oops.

12:42 - I learn that the phone number I wrote down is no longer valid, even with the 1. Back to the internet I go to find a valid one. (Thank goodness for cable modems - on dial-up, this would not be possible.)

12:44 - I finally have my valid phone number, so I dial up.

12:45 - After poking through the menu to tech support for older domains, I find myself on hold, where I am treated to the strains of the Synthesizer Suite remix. Every once in a while, a voice breaks in to say that they are still experiencing heavy phone volume, that I might check the online help database for help, and that they appreciate my patience. In order: no duh, if I could I wouldn't have called, and suuure ya do.

12:55 - For the umpteenth time, I'm told that they appreciate my patience. Does anyone really believe that? Back to the synthesizer.

12:57 - Once again, they appreciate my patience. So much so that they feel they must test it to its utmost. I appreciate them appreciating my patience, but I'd rather they didn't appreciate it so much. But I still refuse to give up. This is a matter of risk of ID theft, here, so I ain't goin' away until I hear it from someone other than the elusive, ever-name-shifting tech support e-mailers that I'm supposed to send in a copy of my photo ID. At this point, I start wondering if I'd be better off getting a brand-new account, cancelling the old one, and pointing my domain there. But, then, how can I cancel an account I can no longer log into? Ah, they have the perfect little trap, here, don't they? The definition of rock and a hard place, indeed.

1:00 - Time for my Airborne dose, and still nothing. But they still appreciate my patience.

1:06 - I finally get through to a live person. I am disturbed that they no longer appreciate my patience.

1:10 - I manage to track down my old credit card number as proof that I am who I say I am. Remarkably, it never got updated to the new card, which makes no sense as it was billed last fall.

1:12 - Off the phone, and finally it is done. Theoretically, I now have everything switched to my new e-mail address, and I never had to fax in anything. Next time I fail to log in properly, I'll hopefully get everything I need sent to me, not whoever now has my old addy. I feel so accomplished I decide to veg out on the computer writing a blog entry about my adventure in tech support.

If you made it this far, I apologize for a lack of synthesized background music. And I, at least, appreciate your patience.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Does this count as writing practice?

Eh, I'm feeling very neglectful of my fictional creations, but I'm not quite in a story-writing mindset yet. So, by way of practice, I'll take a swipe at a meme I was tagged for by reading another blog. (No, it is not wasting time - it's practice! Really!)

1. If your doctor told you TODAY that you were pregnant, what would you say?

First off, I'd say "Get the frell out of my room, you freak!" - I mean, come on, it's 9:30 PM! Then I'd seriously question their credentials, unless parthenogenesis has been proven in humans.


2. Do you trust all of your friends?

With what?


3. Would you move to another state or country to be with the one you love?

Depends on the state, the country, and of course the person.


4. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?

Overall, perhaps.


5. Can you make a dollar in change right now?

Not unless cat hair has monetary value.


6. Which one of your friends do you think would make the best doctor?

Would I really wish that kind of debt on anyone?


7. Are you afraid of falling in love?

Wouldn't know.


9. Is there someone who pops into your mind at random times?

Every once in a while. But, then, all sorts of random things pop into my mind at random times...

10. What’s your most favorite scar?

Don't have one - a favorite, I mean. I have more scars than I oughtta.


11. When was the last time you flew in a plane?

A few years back, coming back from a FarScape con in Burbank. (The takeoff from the Burbank airport ain't for the faint-hearted...)


12. What did the last text message you sent say?

I don't send text messages. Heck, I don't even own a cell phone.


13. What features do you find most attractive in the preferred sex?

I tend to avoid noticing people, and in return they tend to avoid noticing me. Win-win situation.


14. Fill in the blank. I love ________.…

In what context?


15. What is a goal you would like to accomplish in the near future?

My goals for the near (as in, before July) future: do my taxes, update my budget, update my websites, finish a story. Not necessarily in that order...


16. If you were to wake up from being in a coma for an extended time who would you call?

Family, if they were still around. Work, if not. ("I know I haven't been in for a while, but I can explain...")


17. How many kids do you want to have?

Now, where would I keep a goat? Oh - you mean children. None. I prefer furry mammals that use litter boxes with minimal prompting.


18. Would you make a good parent?

Doubtful.


19. Where was your favorite picture taken?

In the butterfly house at a local zoo. It's a great photo of a yellow butterfly on a yellow plant that came out way, way better than it ought to have given my cruddy equipment and eye. (If you mean photos of me, you're outta luck. Sorry.)


20. What’s your middle name?

Well, in Western tradition, a middle name is a name between the common, or "first," name and the family, or "last," name. Women used to use their maiden name as a middle name after they got married, but these days... Anyway, my middle initial is "B" and that's as close as I get to telling on the internet.


21. Honestly, what’s on your mind right now?

You don't want to know. It's boring enough to have it on my mind - why would you need it on yours?


22. If you could go back in time and change something, what would it be?

I think if I had to change one thing, I'd tell myself to bite the bullet, cash out my bonds, and go take that graphic arts voc tech program back when I could've afforded it, right after high school. I'd probably still be the lifeless loser I am now, but I might have a degree and there's a sliver of a chance I wouldn't be still living at home.


23. Who was or will be the maid of honor/ best man in your wedding?

I rank me getting married in the same probability scale as the discovery of thylacines living in my car.


24. What are you wearing right now?

Clothes.


25. Righty or Lefty?

Right.


26. Best place to eat?

Varies by mood.


27. Favorite jeans?

Blue. I don't tend to go by brand, but by what I fit.


28. Favorite Animal?

I like felines and raptors. And butterflies. And some reptiles can be fascinating, and birds. And fish. And dinosaurs and some of the more recently extinct animals (sabertooth tigers, thunderbirds, etc.) And canines and bats and horses and... Sorry. Guess it comes from too much time hybridizing critters for my cyberpet adoptions; I just find too many creatures fascinating, in whole or in part.


29. Favorite juice?

Right now, I'm on an orange juice kick.


30. Have you had the chicken pox?

If I did, nobody noticed. My sister had it, and most everyone in my class had it, but not me.


31. Have you had a sore throat?

Yes. (If anyone can honestly answer "no," I volunteer to lead the pitchfork-and-torch brigade to their door...)


32. Ever had a bar fight?

How does one make a bar fight, anyway? Beat them into aggression, like dogs, or are they naturally aggressive toward other bars? I'd think salad bars would be bad fighters, but a couple of crow bars... Okay, I'll shut up now.


33. Who knows you the best?

I don't even know me - why should anyone else?


34. Shoe size?

Depends on the maker - size 10 in my current shoes, I think. (It's the width that's the troublesome point - I have to go about a half-size bigger to get them wide enough, even in extra-wide.)


35. Do you wear contact lenses or glasses?

Yes.


36. Ever been in a fight with your pet?

Yep.


37. Been to Mexico?

No. Part of it looks fascinating, but I have an inherent fear of going anywhere where I don't speak the native language.


38. Did you buy something today?

Yes: mouthwash and ground beef. Not to be used together.


39. Did you get sick today?

I'm skirting the edge of the family stomach flu - successfully thus far, but my gut's still not entirely pleased.


40. Do you miss someone today?

All of 'em, dang it...


41. Did you get in a fight with someone today?

Does fighting with myself count?


42. When is the last time you had a massage?

Never had one.


43. Last person to lie in your bed?

Me.


44. Last person to see you cry?

Do cats count?


45. Who made you cry?

Let me put it this way: Hyperactive cat, bare skin, sharp claws. Ouchie...


46. What was the last TV show you watched?

House Hunters on HGTV. Time-killer, plain and simple.


47. What are your plans for the weekend?

Well, I thought I'd start off with a Saturday, then follow it up with a nice shot of Sunday, and play it by ear after that.


48. Who do you think will repost this?

I don't think I have that many readers.


49. Who was the last person you hung out with?

I spent some quality time with Malarkey earlier today. Does he count?


50. If your significant other asked you to marry them TODAY, what would you say?

The same thing I said to the doctor in Question 1. Since I don't have a significant other, I'd be highly disturbed by the random stranger who popped up to ask me to marry them.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Forgotten Art of Finishing

First off, it's February now, and things are looking up, at least relative to January. One week with no major disaster, at least... My car had a coolant leak and the heater died for the coldest snap of the season, but it got fixed without major engine or budget damage. The stitches came out of my foot - at no charge, which I found surprising, as they usually charge you through the nose if a doctor so much as deigns to glance in your direction - and the cut's pretty much healed. And, despite inexplicably sucking burnt toast in the speed department this year, we finally finished throwing a load at work in a day again; we impressed the tourists mightily that day. (We get tours through now and again, from other library systems. This time it was Las Vegas. We really need to get a souvenir shack up and running for these people...) I finally got my tax stuff, so I can get started on filling out forms and getting all that fun stuff over with ASAP. And I told the person who inquired that I'd take a stab at doing art for them. Thus, then, I get to the title (and theoretical topic) of this entry.

In preparation for this matter, I hit the internet and found many reference images of big cats (mostly lions) and raptors, as I anticipate a griffin-heavy workload here. (Not that I don't have plenty of refs already, but, hey, I can always use more.) I love griffins. I've drawn them before. The avatar I use here and on most message boards these days is one of my doodles, inked in Pitt brush pens and colored in Paint Shop Pro. So, I sat myself down and told myself I ought to warm up the ol' brain and draw up a few practice griffins... and nothing. I've filled many sketchbook pages. I've worked on thumbnails. I've doodled studies of wings and talons and paws and tails. But nothing, not one solitary thing, has resulted in a sketch worth finishing up.

It's not just the inked art that's suffering from my temporary inspirational drought. I still have yet to sit down at my workbench and rebuild my painted drum inventory after Xmas. The best I can manage is to dust and rearrange and gather more potential templates, but somehow touching brush to paint and canvas never occurs.

My stories are sinking into stagnation, too. Not for lack of ideas necessarily - I still have about four or five major stories lurking in my head, chattering away at various inopportune times when I'm slinging books or making dinner or operating a motorized vehicle (not something you want to hear from someone with a driver's license, I'm sure.) I just don't seem to actually be writing any of it down. My brain finds ways of stopping me from continuing, from even beginning.

Then, of course, there's Skyhaven. Shamefully, it hasn't seen an update since August. Further shame, I haven't managed to complete a single, solitary template to add, either to the main site or the Hunt. And, once again, I know what species I most want to revise or add to the lineup, but once again I can't seem to get past thumbnails, if I manage that much. I was also going to finally do some original graphics to spruce up Brightdreamer Books this year... none of which have moved beyond rough doodles.

I think it boils down to a fear of finishing. I think I've forgotten how to finish things. Maybe I never really knew. Maybe the stuff I've done and thought I finished wasn't really finished, but was somehow merely fluked into a state of done-ness that resembled finishing. Maybe those drums I sold and those ornaments I did and the pictures I've drawn previously really weren't fit to see the light of day. Or maybe I'm still gunshy about the potential destruction of everything I attempt by 2008, which, you have to admit, didn't exactly arrive on an auspicious note. Whatever the cause, I'm reasonably certain that there's only one solution: sit down, shut up, and - regardless of whether or not it was worth starting to begin with, regardless of whether or not completely starting over from scratch seems preferrable to slogging ahead, regardless of whatever heck or high water the year hurls at me - just finish something.

I think I'll start with this blog entry...