Archive for the ‘rants’ Category

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

I love Amazon. Wait, I mean I hate Amazon.
A friend of mine told me that she read all the reviews of Brownie & Pearl Step Out on Amazon and that it was both good and bad. Not being someone who is good at ignoring the press, I had to do the same. I laughed, I cried. Here is a selection of quotes, gleefully taken out of context.

…the book is well made with great drawings.

The print and illustrations are vivid with girl-like colors.

Judging a book by it’s cover I would say this book has a lot of potential. The illustrations are fun and colorful.

Nice cartoons, simple phrases.

…few, simple words and some beautiful fun illustrations.

Too much for the eye.

The pictures are cute…

…a really fun book that’s well-illustrated. It is visually appealing, with vibrant illustrations.

…the big, bright illustrations by Brian Biggs are digital images that, fortunately, don’t look digital…

The illustrations by Brian Biggs are the best part of this book. Brightly colored with attention to detail, including a flower on Pearl’s head and a hat on the bird in the tree, they will capture the attention of young children. I wonder how many kids will comment on Brownie mismatched socks, which are very chic.

The pictures are fun for small kids to look at, though.

The illustrations by Biggs are bright, cartoon, and friendly.

Brownie’s huge head conveys expressions that will entertain young children.

It does not have a lot of words which is perfect to me who has to read books over and over to my daughter. Illustrations are cute.

The illustrations, by Brian Biggs, have me torn. They’re cute and have some fun details (Brownie’s mis-matched socks, for example), but there’s a certain lack of colorfulness in half of them, with mint green, pink and brown the primary colors. It’s not bad, it’s just not a color set that appeals to me outside of ice cream.

The story contains bold and vibrant imaginative images of illustrator Brian Biggs, the art work is superbly done to ignite the imaginations of all.

Girls will like the colors and the kitty.

Nice, big, semi interesting illustrations.

The bold, solid colors in the illustrations are able to grab children’s attention.

the sentences are so simple and the pictures are bright and colorful–very girly in a very fun way!

And here’s the best one:

This is without a doubt a little girl’s book, a book dominated by cuteness an by the color pink. The book’s spine is trimmed in a flowery pink design. Brownie and Pearl wear pink flowers on their heads and Brownie carries a present wrapped in pink. On the book’s pages you’ll see pink tulips in a window box, pink balloons, pink straws, pink curtains, Brownie’s pink collar, pink hair bands, pink sweaters, and even lots of pink ice cream. It’s all very reminiscent of a Strawberry Shortcake story.

I guess he noticed the pink. This one continues:

The digital graphics done by Brian Biggs are a mix of realistic and cartoonish. Pearl looks more like a stuffed animal than a real cat, but maybe it’s the vague approximation of a cat that adds to the cuteness and charm of the character. Contrasting with the elementary drawings is the picture of the brownstone bedecked with balloons that’s notable for its detail.

“Vague approximation of a cat?” I just love that. I’ll never look at Charlie “vague approximation of a boy” Brown or Mickey “vague approximation of a mouse” Mouse the same way again.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Disney buys Marvel

Only makes sense if you’ve heard the news.

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

I hate ink jet printers (a rant)

A million years ago, like around 1997, I bought an Epson Stylus 740 so that I could make some nice little cards and booklets. All the cool illustrators in San Francisco had them and I thought that they made some pretty nice prints. As my first ink jet printer and while I was reasonably satisfied with several of the prints I made with it, it drove me crazy. It was my first dive into what we know now as color management, and it wasn’t pretty. I still have a lot of the prints I made then, and they look like crap. Too orange, fades, too magenta, over-saturdated, pixely, etc. I printed a lot of portfolio pages and cards with this thing and I spent the GDP of a small country on ink. In 2004 I finally replaced it with an Epson Stylus Photo 825. The software was an upgrade, for sure, but for the most part the results were the same. Will it print? Will it print well? Will the yellow clog? It seemed to need a deep-clean of the nozzles every other week and again, my kids went barefoot several winters while I invested in ink. In all, it was probably a worse experience than the 740, if for no other reason than I had higher expectations. But hey, what do you expect for a $100 printer, right?

So finally this last winter I started selling prints on Etsy, as well as wanting a way to create decent prints when I need them. My studio-partner Barbara had a Canon Pixma Pro9000, and I really liked the results. Other print geeks I know used the high-end Epsons, like the 3800. But I didn’t really want to invest $1200 into a printer. I found the step up from the 9000, the 9500 which uses pigment inks, on Craigslist and snapped it up. I bought some Hahnemuhle Photo Rag paper and made some fantTAStic prints. Really swell. Great. I was happy.

But then I noticed a couple of things. If I didn’t use the printer for a couple of weeks, which is all time, the printer went into a cleaning process when I turned it on that used a ton of ink. Second, as you can see above, while it’s effective at making prints on fancy-pants paper like the very expensive Hahnemuhle with it’s custom ICC profile, it seems to really suck at making good prints on Canon’s lower-end Matte Photo Paper. Thirdly, and related to the above, it’s nearly impossible to use from Adobe InDesign and Illustrator.

The above prints are all from the 9500 on the 4×6 inch Canon Matte Photo Paper. The cards with the words are from InDesign with a placed Photoshop PSD file (Adobe RGB). The illustration is the closing illustration from the just-completed book three of Brownie & Pearl, written by Cynthia Rylant. The cards without the words are that same exact file printed straight out of Photoshop. I have ten more cards, which all look various degrees of different from those pictured, but you get the idea. The differences come from little variations in the print dialog boxes, such as arcane choices like “ColorSync” vs “Vendor Matching” and whether Photoshop/InDesign manages colors or the printer does. Now if you know anything about printing, I know you have a path That You Think Works Best. And I hope that you gather from the above screed that you know that I know something about color and printing. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through this kind of crap, but it’s the first time in a while that I’ve had such a ridiculous range of color off-ness, with not a single one of the prints being even close. The one that comes the “closest,” in fact, was printed with the “let the printer choose the colors” option selected, which is basically the one thing that all the information I can find online agrees that should not be done. Go figure.

In this particular case, after conferring with one of the friends that uses the Epson 3800, my friend Jon, and for whom a good day is spent with eighty different papers and sixty different ICC profiles and printing various combinations, keeping track of which and which. That’s not a good day for me. But we think it comes down to the ICC profiles that Canon provides — in particular the one labeled MP1, which stands for Matte Photo Paper. Jon suggested I try some of Canon’s other ICC profiles and just find out what works. His other suggestion was to sell this printer and get an Epson 3800, or at least the 2880 for a little less. I might, but I have a feeling that everyone has pretty much the same complaints. I just can’t believe that the technology is such that one can’t just press “print,” select which printer, tell it what paper you’re using, and it prints. Prints nice.

The image below is how the image looks on my screen, and what I’m aiming for. My last caveat is that I don’t have a color-calibrated monitor and don’t need one. I make my illustrations on my 21″ Cinema Display in Adobe RGB and when they go to print, whether it be in children’s books from Simon & Schuster (as this one is) or in Nickelodeon Magazine or to Snapfish for prints, they’re spot on. I don’t worry about that. This is an ink-jet problem through and through.
Any thoughts?


Monday, April 6th, 2009

Googling me

Ok, well, here’s a nice boring post.

Google searches are something I’ve taken for granted since they were invented. I’ve figured that there aren’t many other illustrators out there whose names are Brian Biggs, so I assumed that a Google search for something like “Brian Biggs illustration” would likely bring up my site. Now, since I know where to find me, I’ve never really bothered to give it a try. However, the other day I got a comment on one of my images on Flickr that said something about this, that they searched my name and that Flickr image came up. That got me thinking. Thinking leads to trouble, and that trouble started when I went and Googled the previously stated term (“Brian Biggs illustration” for those of you with short attention spans). What to my wondering eyes did appear but about twenty five other links before my site appears. And when a link to MrBiggs dot com does come up, it’s to a random blog entry here in the News section.

I was shocked and more than a little annoyed.

Worse, when one removes the “Brian” part of the query, Google asks whether I’m sure it’s “Biggs” I’m asking for, and not “Briggs?” and then gives me the two top “Briggs” results which are to the lovely work of Alice Briggs. In this case, I got eight pages into the results without a single link to MrBiggs dot com coming up.

Now, not to say I don’t exist. Yes, Google grants me that at least. Plenty of the results are to my work or mentions or reviews or complaints or things like that. My entry in the Directory of Illustration, some mention of me on, lovely comments on Flickr, pages on Random House and HarperCollins’ websites. But in regards to MrBiggs dot com itself, nada.

In this difficult time of recession and hardship, I think we all need to make it as easy to find ourselves as possible. And I’m no exception. Like you probably do, I get several spam emails a week telling me that I can enlarge my raise up my search engine rankings if I just hire such-and-such company. And also like you, I’ve ignored such advice, relying on the fact that my name is Brian Biggs, what I do is illustration, and clearly my website is set up so that this is quite obvious. But when a small entry at Strand Books for one of my books I’ve illustrated is the number one result in a search, I need to rethink my thinking.
Therefore, I ask you, my dear reader, to tell me your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) secrets and send me your linkages. My truck posting last week was a wonderful success (thank you thank you all who took the time to comment), so I’m hoping you come through for me here. The limited knowledge I have comes from a Google search last week in which I realized that pithy title tags and all-graphics homepages don’t help anything. I’m not yet interested in doing away with the all-graphics homepage, but I did change my title tags. I’m also working on a site realignment that will probably make WordPress the backbone of my site, which might help things somewhat.
But what I really would like is some method that when you search for me, my website is what you find.

Any thoughts?

Update 7 April: I discovered that if I Google only my name without including the “illustration” part, the front page of MrBiggs dot com is the top result. So among all Brian Biggseses, I am number one. Among Brian Biggs illustrationers, I am elsewhere. Also, I discovered today that if I Google “Brian Biggs illustration” as I did in the above post, ten hours after posting it, it is now the number one result. I have no idea how this thing works…

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

solidarity head shave
solidarity head shave

In preparation for her hopefully-cancer-removing surgery on Monday, and because it was falling out in clumps due to chemo, Mom had a head-shaving party tonight at my sister’s house in Arkansas. In solidarity, i decided to shave mine as well.
We set up the cameras and the video chat, I showed the kids how to use the clippers, and we went a-buzzin’.

Monday, March 10th, 2008

I'm 40 today.

And I’m going to Hawaii in two weeks.