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Dusty Detours From my Studio

Layout for "A Little Space". Trying to get a feel for the story and what can be cut.

Layout for “A Little Space”. Trying to get a feel for the story and what can be cut.

worked hard this past weekend to get ahead on my book layout for A Little Space. My in progress work posted on the wall in my studio where I can study the flow of the story. Having worked until late into the night Saturday to get the work up, I knew that I would have to again divert efforts back to our flood damaged home.

I’ve spent the rest of this week setting up a new pump for our sprinkler system,building prototype fence sections, and doing some prep work on the barn to get it ready for it’s overhaul post flood.

Everest likes to help me think through problems. The problem with these pumps being they have to be "primed" which is shorthand for saying they need to be air tight, and filled with water down to the water source to get any suction.

Everest likes to help me think through problems. The problem with these pumps being they have to be “primed” which is shorthand for saying they need to be air tight, and filled with water down to the water source to get any suction.

Like many hit by the flood, our well is currently filled with silt and stone, it’s invisible, but the tube itself is still down there below the debris. I am pulling water temporarily from the creek just to get the system up and running. Mostly I haven’t drawn anything from the creek yet, it’s all about testing my fittings to make sure they are air and water tight to keep the suction, and to make sure the pump is working. My goal is to try and push some water through the old sprinkler system before my well is emptied of debris on Monday.

I don’t imagine any of the old sprinkler system will work, this is a last ditch effort to just see if anything pops up, but having had a lot of heavy equipment (the heaviest weighing in at 37,000 pounds) on our property and scraping away silt, I doubt there is much of anything worthwhile under the soil from the old system. It’s just about due diligence though and seeing what I can restore.

Asher plays in a makeshift treehouse while I work on the pump system.  A dusty area devoid of greenery now, I try to find ways for the boys to play or be involved while I'm working.

Asher plays in a makeshift treehouse while I work on the pump system. A dusty area devoid of greenery now, I try to find ways for the boys to play or be involved while I’m working.

In the meantime I’ve been designing my own flood fences, and flood gates for doorways should the creek jump it’s boundaries again. Everest joins me in designing making suggestions for how to make things easier to handle during any flood. I like that he takes an active role in helping me think through problems, that I have been obsessed with since I found myself in the rain and flood waters September 12th trying to save our house. With no warning, and no preparation, everything in the barn was lost, and it sustained heavy damage. My goal is to prevent a similar event from running through everything again.

So much of my time has been spent on the yard in the last weeks. The new tractor reports about 12 hours of use hauling dirt for two weeks work, but that doesn’t count the hours I’ve spent off the tractor which is easily four to five times that.

I’m hoping with solid work done on the pump and fence layout that by next week I’ll be able to start spending time in my studio again, although even then some of that will go into barn designs for permits, something I’m hoping to receive before full on summer hits with it’s promise of mosquitoes, more snow melt, and hot days hauling heavy stuff through a dusty yard.

I still try to get a little work done late at night, but usually a day in the sun doing work leaves me somewhat listless as I head back to work on my game work or illustrations.

It's not about the money

As tax day has come and gone this year, I have time to reflect on my earnings, and what I feel is some of the most honest money I’ve earned during my career. My income from publishing my first interactive book in 2013, was a very modest $36.00, or something close to that. I haven’t even added it up actually.

scooby-journey

I’m not ashamed of that salary for the year, I look at that as possibly the first honest money I’ve made. I’m not saying I’ve cheated or stolen. I’m saying that sometimes I feel my salary was for questionable causes. I worked for architects with questionable ethics, movies that are intended as crack for children and make hundreds of millions of dollars so that studio execs can get bigger homes and better cars. More than once that kind of work had me questioning what I was doing at the end of the day, and why I was dedicating so much energy to it. There were a string of furry creatures, car commercials, mediocre Arnold Schwartzenegger films, hyper active animated films.

I struggled with this idea at times. My value, my voice had been replaced with a monetary value. My paycheck and status at visual effects companies replacing my own personal ideas over the years. To me, a poor kid from New Jersey, the money was dependable and enticing and that felt good, that incentive superseded my own personal goals.

SixthDay-journey

Gradually over the years I’ve shifted out of visual effects, the last real work being for the Discovery channel in 2009 (thanks Joel!). It’s probably little coincidence that my last visual effects project happened when my wife was giving birth to my second son, Asher. As we shifted into a larger family, I was shifting more into a role of spending more time with my family.

Since then we committed to home-schooling our sons. My wife and I both work at home, and split our time, neither of us putting in your standard work week. Our life looks much different than it could have, if I stayed the course in Los Angeles. It would have trapped us into one mode of life that didn’t agree with our life choices, and in the end the industry collapsed which would have left us few options.

Over the years, I’ve also shifted more into video game work, as well as teaching and writing again, at least I tried to do my own work while teaching, but teaching as many people know takes a lot of dedication for very little compensation.

aslan-journey

A little over a year ago I left my Head of Game Art position, to focus on family and my own illustrating, writing, and still tinkering with personal games. I enjoyed teaching students, but in the end the message I got from the college was that they wanted more, and still more of my time. I wasn’t valued for the expertise and dedication I brought to the college, but was seen as someone who needed to sit in an office, and at meetings for more hours.

I did something that I should have done many times before in my career, when working with the architect with questionable ethics, and on the movies sucking my life away, and now the college with questionable practices.

I quit.

Two months later, I published my first interactive book Ten Monkey Marbles on the iPad, and since then I have been working on game ideas, my own books, and spending more time with my family.

My earnings are small, modest, inconsequential I hear you say.

Laugh heartily, it’s okay. I feel proud of what I am doing, and spend much of my time on personal projects, which I hope to steadily release over time, on a time-table that agrees with living my life and being available to my family. The bottom line is that I’m feeling like life is more about the journey now, not the destination, not the paycheck. Yes there are definitely days I struggle. I often spend many hours still recovering from the Colorado flood, which is still exhausting work, but eventually that work will be over.

In the end I still believe that there is something valuable in what I’m creating, that isn’t reflected in how much it is or is not earning right now, and has more to do with the value of contributing art that is personal in some way.

The choice that many indie artists, indie game creators, and children’s book writers have is between despair, and perseverance. So many despair and give up. If we persevere, we can take time to enjoy the journey, keeping in mind that often the most important things we do in our lives, are not about making money.

Studies for: A Little Space

The first study is a replacement for the stuffed bear, which I sketched, then sculpted in sculpey, and use in various poses while i’m drawing. My bear drawings were looking too much like trademarked bears. So I decided to make the bear a raccoon.

racoon 1

I did more color studies on my print paper this week, not all shown here, my hand mixed pigments are working well and drying well. I’ll continue to improve my mixing technique to get rid of granules that come with certain colors, but I feel satisfied moving forward.

a-little-space

I did a study of one of the outer space scenes from the book, since much of the book occurs in space, I wanted to make sure my approach would carry throughout. I’m still not sure on all details, but feel good moving forward. I’ll make more decisions as I finish more drawings and pin them onto the wall in sequence like a storyboard to make sure it all flows well.

marsStudy

In the next weeks I’ll be focusing more on only drawings and layout all the pages before continuing on paintings.

struggles with paint

It’s strange to be an artist, who loves to paint and is allergic to paint. I find myself constantly battling the smell of chemicals that can overwhelm me and bring on an asthma attack, alternately I’ll paint with acrylic which I find give me the the worst results. I’m not saying acrylic is bad for everyone, but it doesn’t have the feel of painting with oils, that allow you to blend, take a break and mix a new color, and then come back and work more.

Today's oil study, made from hand mixed oil and Earth Pigments.  Non toxic - non-smelly. Non-Acryclic.

Today’s oil study, made from hand mixed oil and Earth Pigments. Non toxic – non-smelly. Non-Acryclic.

There is loss, knowing that my oil paints are gone, all of them destroyed by the flood (they were stored on the floor). Struggling against acrylic the last weeks, I went searching for my oils, like a crack addict I searched my entire studio trying to deny the fact, that I had thrown them all out after the flood swept through my studio.

In the end, I opened up my box of dry Earth Pigments again. I’ve mixed my own paints before, and talked about it, but I still haven’t been satisfied with the body of the paint, and sometimes various dry pigments don’t grind easily into paste. However I kept at it the last couple days mixing my own paints, so that I can make another stab with oils.

Hours of grinding and mixing to yield six colors of my Earth Pigments.  Will it be worth the trouble?

Hours of grinding and mixing to yield six colors of my Earth Pigments. Will it be worth the trouble?

The oils I’m speaking of course are chemical free, vegetable based oils. There is no chemical smell as I work, and my pigment is toxin free.

Today’s test is a modest test, and to the naked eye there may not be much of a difference between other small tests and this. The paint blends far better though, and gives me the spontaneity that is so lacking in acrylic, it’s fast food like plastic sensation, is so grating to work with.

In the end I am encouraged, and only have to wait for my new blend to dry, and see whether it bleeds, oozes, cracks or just dries well in the next week or so.