The Nature's Essence Series art View Project

Aug 1, 2014

After installing Arch Linux on my machine the other day, I decided I wanted to try Kubuntu instead. However, I didn't come to that conclusion before reading in the Arch Wikipedia that it's relatively easy to customize the bootloader GRUB. At least, it's easy to change some colors and put a background image on it.

In plain terms: I wanted to make it pretty just because.

As a result, I booted into Windows and spent several hours drawing this elk. After I got started, I realized the background, which I had taken from somewhere else, wasn't good enough. I went outside and took a picture of my balcony, adjusted the colors a bit, and there we go. 

Of course, credit where credit is due. I can't draw an elk that well-proportioned off the top of my head. This was my reference: 
Now, I'm planning a series in identical style and imagery with different animals. It's good practice for my reference drawing (copy) skills.

The design dilemma & feature creep web View Project

Jun 18, 2014

So, there's a problem I've been running into a lot while I continue my work on this new portfolio. I should probably mention that this current incarnation of the website is the third. The previous one is live while I write this, and full of terrible design choices because it's the first website I ever created. The one after that was actually started as a Python project, but I ran into problems when I realized I didn't actually know Python.

Of course, now that I've actually got somewhat of a handle on the Laravel version of this project, it now suffers from what developers call feature creep. This is why it's taken at least a year to get even to this - quite limited - point. Laziness is also a factor (working from home is not my strong point).

Then, yesterday I ran into a rather sudden realization. After changing the design of this website at least three times, not including the previous attempts I just mentioned, I still hate the design.

This is almost funny, because I thought I did like it for a while. Unfortunately, while I've gotten in some great practice with designing business websites, artistic websites are much more difficult. They are a whole other monster, because you get no guidelines to start with. Looking for a website design for a travel business? Yeah, sure, I can spit one out in a couple hours. Artistic websites? Heh, good luck.

Freedom is a curse, especially when it comes to web design. One the one hand, I have to try to show off what I can do. This is complicated by the fact that I'm a web designer and artist. Somehow I have to mesh those two together, and that's a lot harder than it sounds; I'm used to designing boring websites for traditional businesses. Designing for an artist requires thinking outside of the box, and for web design, that's something you get trained to stop doing after having such designs rejected. "Don't reinvent the wheel" is the first thing you learn as any type of designer, but you have to step outside your comfort zone just a few steps to make something awesome.

Then again, step too far and you'll end up with the pile of poo I had the first time around. That was just sad.

This has lead to the sad mixture that is my current website. 
Rather than redoing all of it, I'm trying my hardest to actually finish the thing so that I can at least present it to people. Anything is better than my live website.

Why 300dpi with a mouse is a bad plan art View Project

May 14, 2014

So my friend Kat on my roleplay forum made this awesome line art for one of my characters. I've drawn her before; she's a kitsune who can transform into a fox, a werefox, and a human. 

This is already awesome, and I decided, because I'm not always the brightest, to color it with a mouse at 300dpi.
This was a bad plan.

Now, most digital artists are experienced enough to realize that 300dpi is a good resolution to work in. If you don't want to put much detail in, then you don't have to if you're going to be shrinking it down anyway. However, most artists aren't me, and most of them don't use a mouse to do things. They all have tablets.

I'm a very detail-oriented artist. If you've looked at anything I've drawn that has fur on it, you'll notice that I have a tendency to draw as many of the actual fibers as possible. This is one of the reasons why until this point, I've been avoiding working with any resolution higher than 72dpi, the default in Photoshop. I drive anyone in the room completely nuts by the sheer number of clicks I make while drawing with my mouse.

So I got this far before basically giving up, which was in late December when I received a tablet for Christmas:

This is so outrageous I'm actually a little angry at myself, because the results are full of flaws despite the stupid amount of time spent on detail.
I tried. Oh how I tried. And it's not that the results aren't perfect and I'm a perfectionist; that's only slightly the problem. The real problem is that I started coloring this thing, not joking, almost a year ago.

And I really haven't gotten much further than these images show, because I gave up.

Thankfully, I now have a tablet and can just go back and try to fix the mistakes as well as, I don't know, finish.

I'll be posting more process photos if I do end up summoning the energy to go back and finish this project. I'd really like to because it's a great line art and I need the practice with clothing. Textiles are my bane, really. Also the amount of laces. Kat has a lace fetish.

Pulling next and previous records with Laravel: Update web View Project

Mar 1, 2014

Previously, I gave a solution for this problem which involved using the use keyword in a PHP closure.

I failed to realize that none of this logic should be in the controller anyway until later. Here is a quick update of my code, which I moved to the Eloquent model. I created two methods; one to pull the previous record, and one to pull the next record.

public function get_next_by_date(){
	return Artwork::select('id', 'title', 'created_at')
		->where('created_at', '>', $this->created_at) //where the art is newer
		->orWhere(function($query) //or, if the art was made on the same day and the id is greater
			$query->where('created_at', '=', $this->created_at)
				->where('id', '>', $this->id);
		->orderBy('created_at')->orderBy('id') //order by oldest first and smallest id first
		->first(); //get just one record
By using a model's method to grab the next/previous records, it's more clear to the reader and eliminates the need for the use keyword.

Pulling next and previous records with Laravel web View Project

Feb 27, 2014

During my journey to create the greatest portfolio of all time, I came across many design flaws in my own software. These things tend to happen a lot whenever you're trying something new, or exploring domains that you're not completely familiar with.

I've worked with Laravel before, but I'm still considered a newbie or maybe a novice when it comes to web programming. I've always been more focused on visual aspects and user experience. In other words, I'm not a PHP expert. I know how to make animated boxes and columned layouts with CSS3 and HTML5. I pay attention to Bootstrap's Github. But whenever I try to read blog posts by Laravel creators, I tend to end up confused and read it twice for good measure.

Most of these problems are things I encounter from lack of experience with them. Just like in order to solve IE compatibility problems requires direct experience, solving these issues also requires such experience. This is why StackOverflow is a good thing.

The problem was almost verbatim the above question.

I wanted to pull the next and previous records by their dates. The problem was of course that some records had the same dates. This meant that my attempted next and previous buttons encountered infinite loops whenever the next record was the same date as the current.

The solution above works out perfectly. All I did was add a couple parenthesis to the OR WHERE statement, and transcribed all of it to Laravel 4.

$next_record = Artwork::select('id')
   ->where('created_at', '>', $artwork->created_at) //where the art is newer
   ->orWhere(function($query) use ($artwork) //or, if the art was made on the same day and the id is greater
      $query->where('created_at', '=', $artwork->created_at)
         ->where('id', '>', $artwork->id);
   ->orderBy('created_at')->orderBy('id') //order by oldest first and smallest id first
   ->first(); //get just one record
$prev_record = Artwork::select('id')
   ->where('created_at', '<', $artwork->created_at) //where the art is older
   ->orWhere(function($query) use ($artwork) //or, if the art was made on the same day and the id is lesser
      $query->where('created_at', '=', $artwork->created_at)
         ->where('id', '<', $artwork->id);
   ->orderBy('created_at', 'desc')->orderBy('id', 'desc')  //order by newest first and largest id first
   ->first(); //get just one record

Note the funny bit in the orWhere method. Those functions are known as anonymous functions, closures, or lambda functions. They're the sexy new kid on the block in PHP.

In order to use my $artwork object I had created earlier in my closures, which is an Eloquent model, I had to add the "use" keyword. If you have never seen the use keyword, read about it here:

As Erik Dubbelboer writes, there are three ways to pass variables to your closures. In my case, the use keyword did just the trick I needed, allowing me to use my local variable in the scope of the closure.

First Tablet Experience art

Dec 28, 2013

For Christmas I got a drawing tablet, which was a welcome surprise. It's a Wacom Intuos, which is the successor to the Bamboo tablet. I have the medium version, the basic. It's all I needed for what I do.

I was always told that using a tablet takes some getting used to, but I really didn't experience that at all. I opened it up, plugged it in, and started drawing away. I did change a few configuration options for Photoshop, mostly the pressure sensitivity. Drawing with it was almost immediate.

For those of you who don't know, prior to this I've always drawn with a mouse. It's not a special mouse, just a mouse like any other. Patience is virtue when your tools are limited, but over time I started getting annoyed that I couldn't get the texture exactly right when drawing. I like to draw long, thin lines very repetitively when I use pens and pencils. That's something that's much more difficult to do with a mouse. I got around it for years by using the smudge tool in Photoshop to extend my lines and make them thinner.
Behold! The unfinished process!

The subject and anatomical errors are not important. The important thing is the amount of detail I was able to get in the face, because working in 300dpi is no longer the most pain-staking thing on earth!

Needless to say (well, not completely needless), I'm pretty happy with my tablet and hopefully will be using it more and more. In fact, the tablet was a large part of the reason why I started redoing my portfolio! This way I can post process pictures like this one!