Archive for the ‘thinking out loud’ Category

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

My little movie “Playground” got featured on a terrific blog called PlayGroundology. It’s all about, yes, playgrounds. LIke it you will.

PlayGroundology screenshot

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.

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

rubber stamps

I used to use rubber stamps all the time. There was a terrific little shop near where I worked near San Francisco that did custom stamps. So I’d hand-letter my address and use it for envelopes and business cards. However since living in Philadelphia (for more than ten years) I’ve never got around to it.
I recently moved into a studio where I hope and plan to work for a long time. In addition, I need to send stuff out more than I once did (posters and things), so I finally got some new stamps made. I use these for lots of stuff. I can stamp cards, the backs of promo materials, your upper arm, any kind of correspondence, and so on.
Now here’s the kicker. This place I found fairly randomly, Simonstamps, got this order from me on Tuesday. Two days ago. They produced and shipped it yesterday, and I just received it. Two days! And the most expensive stamp here was $12. All together the order for these nine stamps was around $70. Need I say I recommend Simonstamps?
I ordered the “Traditional Wood Handle Rubber Stamps.”

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Get a good look. I’m shaving today for a good cause.
See, last month I ran a few miles for brain cancer and raised $750. Now I’m doing something much more difficult. Just as I did last year, I’ve signed up to grow a dorky mustache for a month. This has its benefits, of course, as I’m raising money for schools in doing so. Please visit my Mustaches for Kids: Donors Choose page and do what you can do.
Here’s info about M4K Philly.
So today I shave the mess that is my pretty face and will photograph the slow growth each day for a month. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 25th, 2009

I totally forgot about this. I wrapped up work on the Roscoe Riley series last Spring and book seven was just published a couple of weeks ago. So now you can get the whole series and read it as you would Harry Potter. Kind of.
Seven Roscoe Rileys
Also, since it’s Friday and I have lots of other work I should be doing, I decided to procrastinate spend some time making this little movie to commemorate the completion of the series.

I shot it with my iPhone clamped to a tripod. This works quite well and I’m afraid I’m seeing the end of my affinity for using tape-based video cameras. Anyone want a barely-used HiDef Sony HV20?

The music was made in Ableton Live with the Synplant synthesizer, which I can’t get enough of.

Seven Roscoe Rileys from Brian Biggs on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

Photographer Jon Barkat dropped by the studio last night with his guitar. By chance, I happen to have some things in to which we can plug his guitar and record what he plays. Also by chance, I had one of my ukuleles at the studio and a new microphone into which I could record it. So we started noodling around, recording said noodling into Ableton Live, and made us a little song.
090918: ukulele & guitar by dance robot dance
So as you listen, you can hear me on the ukulele picking notes, then thumping on the uke like drums, then at about :32, strumming a simple little C-F chord change. At :50 Jon kicks in with his guitar, then at 1:06 it’s Jon again with the same guitar but playing a bass line.
Things get repetitive around 2:20 so Jon suggested adding drama. Listen and see if you can identify the dramatic elements.
Normally, I’m known to not stray far beyond music of the electronic synthesizer variety so this was a departure. Hope you like.

Friday, September 4th, 2009

I’ve been working on this book for Little Golden Books called “I’m a T-Rex,” you know. I spent a considerable amount of time on Wednesday working on one of the spreads, finishing it late Wednesday evening. Thursday morning I come in to the studio and want to open it to save the TIFFs and whatnot, and the file won’t open. I got an error saying something like “there was a problem reading layer data. read composite date instead?” I figure, you know, sure why not. So when I click “read composite data” it tells me that the file isn’t compatible with my version of Photoshop. Hm. Ok. Well, that’s dumb.
What this means in real-life terms is that the file got corrupted. What it also means in real life terms is I’ve got six hours of work in front of me that I already did if I don’t find a can-opener that will open this can.
Searching around the internets I found an open-source plug-in thingy called, melodically, Photoshop File (PSD) Extract/Recover Tool. I downloaded it, installed it, followed the directions, and it proceeded of course to crash Photoshop and make me restart. I’m an optimist, so I opened Photoshop and tried it again. The fourth time (!!) it didn’t crash, and instead opened a nice dialog box asking me if I want separate layers (this file had sixteen of them) or a flattened version. I tried flattened first (I figure I might as well get a workable 600ppi T-Rex, even if I would maybe later have to go in and surgically extract the layers). What I got was a nice big empty file. Well, see, I’m an optimist (did you know this about me?), so I tried it again this time asking for individual layers. I got excited when layer one, a shadow of the T-Rex on the ground, opened all fine. Yay! But then, this is where it got fun, I tried the other major layers (I have lots and lots of small texture layers that would be as easy to redo as going through this process) and got just the loveliest abstract colorful images. Here, I saved them and posted them for you.




The funny and amazing thing is that the colors and textures have absolutely nothing to do with the base layer/image that I lost. Photoshop completely made this up! I saved these (obviously) and don’t be surprised if they get used in the future. Maybe as album covers for my electronic music projects. Who knows?

Update: using a lower-res-but-high-enough-to-use layout test file that was also corrupted, I rescued a composite version of the T-Rex that I’d plopped on top of a background Wednesday night before closing up. This is not ideal, as it has no layers and is just big enough for the book (I like my files big enough to stick on a bus), but at least I have a usable image at 300ppi. See, optimism is a good thing. Here’s that original image from where these abstracts were born.

click the T-Rex to see it bigger

click the T-Rex to see it bigger

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Disney buys Marvel

Only makes sense if you’ve heard the news.

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

My sister found these books today at a yard sale. She says she got them because she thought maybe I could use the help. Maybe she’s right. In any case I love these books. The best of all, of course, is Ed Emberley’s Drawing Books. They actually did me a lot of good when I was just starting out (when I was like seven). The best one here is the Hoofed Animals one. For those times when you need to draw mountain goats, giraffes and zebras.
yard sale find
yard sale find
yard sale find
I have several more pictures up on Flickr here.

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?