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A Year in Pencil

January 8, 2014

sketch teaser

“Doing the work” has been a recurring idea for me over the past couple of years. It’s literally become a personal mantra at times. In that spirit, I set aside a few things last year and decided to work on expanding the skill set I use to make a living.

I don’t want to say I spent the last year teaching myself how to draw, because I’ve always doodled … poorly, but I did. What I can say is that I made myself sit down and sketch something everyday for a whole year. I’m still not “good,” but I’m better than I was 365 days ago (well, 374 at this point). According to Malcolm Gladwell, mastery is achieved after 10,000 hours. The following images represent 300-350 of those hours.

You’ll see tutorials, exercises, and blatant copies of artists such as Mark Crilley, Josiah Brooks, Paris Cristou, Evan Burse, SwiftySpade, Christopher Hart and more than likely a few whose names I can’t remember at the moment. There’s even a handful attempts to copy the work of Fiona Staples and Ben Templesmith. And of course, there are some of my own sprinkled throughout.

So for better or worse, click here if you’d like to see what I’ve been up to.

Nothing worth doing is easy (that doesn’t mean it’s not fun)

July 15, 2013

I won’t even bother to apologize for the extended gap between my last post and this one. Shit happens. This one shouldn’t bee too long either.

Almost a year a go I lucked into a dayjob that requires me to spend a lot of my time drawing in Illustrator. So in my off-time, when I could have been out at the bar with friends or playing xbox (and I’d be lying if i said those things don’t still happen … just less frequently) I’m a big nerd and have spent my “free time” reading books & articles and watching tutorials on how to be a better illustrator, and how further my Creative Suite wizardry.

For some reason I’ve always imagined Flash to be some unlearn-able thing that’s only for coders and HTML gurus. Well, once I finally got to take a look at someone working in it, it didn’t seem that hard. But as this first video will how, looks can be deceiving.

I studied up for almost a month, and then once I finally got my hands dirty, it took me about 12 hours or more to get to this point.

After a few fumbles last week and a couple of long sessions over the weekend, I was able to get the “finished” product you see below. It’s still rough, but you gotta start somewhere. I’ll reserve my gripes about conversion and compression for a later date.

Not to mention that in this process I’ve also had to teach myself how to draw on a graphics tablet. The image below will display the “skill” I showed during my first day with the tablet.

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I should say thank you to Josiah Brooks from Draw With Jazza. Without his flash tutorials, I wouldn’t be the amateur animator I am today. You can check out some of his tutorials on Youtube, or watch his short films and play his games over on Newgrounds.

New Music from The Silent Sounds

August 21, 2012

 

 

 

This is simply a copy/paste job I stole from the band’s site, but since I wrote it, I can do that. If you follow this blog, but haven’t checked out the music I’ve been doing with Chris Ahrens, then please spend some time on thesilentsounds.com.

 

———

 

It’s finally here!

We’re pretty excited for you all to finally hear what we’ve been working on for the past few months. A lot of time and energy went into this project, and we’re still having to move full steam ahead throughout the rest of this week.

Digital copies can be purchased from Bandcamp, but for the moment at least, we’re not shipping any physical copies. Our buddy Tim Bryant at The Runaway Mule downtown will be able to help you get your hands on a copy after tomorrow, and we’ll have some with us Friday night at The Pineknot. The Macbooks will start streaming audio at 8:45 p.m., but we’re sharing the bill with Carlos Lampkin & Kim Foli and Darren Kobetich, so be there by 8 p.m. and catch all three sets.

We’d like to thank our friend Christine Eddings for being kind enough to let us make an album cover out of her photograph, and as always, we’d like to chastise the inkjet printers we use for making the pressing of this record extra fun.

We’ve got some more Silent Shows in the works, but if anyone of you would like to host one, please drop a message to Chris or myself.

Over the past couple of months, this has really become one of our favorite records. We’re glad it now has the chance to be the same for you.

To quote Brody Stevens, “Enjoy it!”

Best thing I’ve seen this week 053012

May 30, 2012

Holiday weekends and recording the new Silent Sounds record has been keeping me busy, but I’m dropping in to give you another update.

Back in my younger days, you were the cool kid on the block if you had one of these guitar hangers on your wall, and you were a baller if you had two or more. They’re dime-a-dozen online these days, but we didn’t even know about the “mail order” version of Musician’s Friend back then. We had to rely on the local music store to stay up-to-date, and if they didn’t have it, it didn’t exist. As great as these are, The best thing I’ve seen this week (if by “best” we mean “awesomely practical”) is the version sold on Stuart MacDonald that takes the “hanger” part a bit more literally.

I supposed there are a few of you out there who are less than impressed and just want something entertaining to watch. Well, I didn’t forget about you, and this shouldn’t disappoint … even though you’re dead inside.

Enjoy these monkeys playing with synthesizers.

Best thing I’ve seen this week 051212

May 12, 2012

While I’m sure that the best thing some of the folks at SFA are seeing this week is their diploma being placed in their hands, I will not be seeing any of the roads in town until sometime Sunday afternoon. Just like the other locals who are wise enough to practice their doomsday prep, I have already gathered all the necessary supplies needed to hide out in my house for a day or two. (maybe I’ll finally get more than ten pages read in “A Dance with Dragons” today) Congrats to all of you who just joined the ranks of SFA Alumni. I’m happy for you all, but I wish to share neither the restaurants nor the roads with you this weekend.

As always, anytime I get to watch Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero or any of the pros from the Bones Brigade days, it’s one of the better parts of my week. And in that spirit I bring you some footage from this year’s Pro-Tec Pool Party. Please enjoy thoroughly.

As awesome as that was, the best thing I’ve seen this week is a little more high tech. The how and why of the Augmented Reality Sandbox created at UC Davis makes my brain hurt, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. Just watch the video, and then you can read the article on Mashable.com if you want to know more about it.

If you can feel what I’m feelling then it’s a musical masterpiece

May 5, 2012

I’ve been pretty nocturnal this week. So by the time I got up and moving this morning (around 1 a.m.), there was no shortage of “RIP MCA” posts to greet me.

There have been other musicians from my early years who’ve passed away — Bradley Nowell, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, and Cliff Burton to name a few. This feels different though. Maybe it has something to do with the way I connected with The Beastie Boys’ music, maybe it’s just that I’m older, or maybe it’s a little of both.

If I think all the way back to 1992, I can remember at least three albums that I eagerly sank my young teeth into. There was “Dirt” by Alice in Chains, Dr. Dre’s first solo record and instant classic “The Chronic,” and “Check Your Head.” Besides being the first of those three albums to be released, CYH was the first time I’d ever heard live instruments used on a hip hop record. Modern groups like The Roots have made this more commonplace, but back in ’92 … not so much. You could point out that “Walk This Way” came out six years earlier, but that was more Rick Rubin just sampling an Aerosmith song than having Run DMC record backing tracks for and entire album. You could also bring up the “Judgement Night” soundtrack, but it wasn’t released until 1993.

To call CYH an eclectic album would be an understatement. In addition to the tracks the Beasties would rap over, it included a few extremely un-lyrical tracks like “Lighten Up,” “POW” and “Groove Holmes,” the Funkadelic-esque “Something’s Got To Give” and “Mark on the Bus” and even straight up punk rock songs like “Time For Livin.”

If, like myself, you’re less of a causal listener and more of a seeker of sounds, there’s a good chance that you experienced a simultaneous jolt of joy and curiosity when Money Mark dropped in the B3 at the beginning of “So What’cha Want.” I’d never heard an organ played like that before. That sound entranced me, and when the drums from “When the Levee Breaks” were dropped in, I wasn’t going anywhere. When people talk about how they freaked out back in 1968 when they first heard Tommy James singing through a tremlolo at the end of “Crimson and Clover,” that’s how I felt. I even bought a Hammond at one point, but I’ve yet to reproduce that sound in the ten years since I first heard it.

I should say that I’m not trying to take anything away from either “License to Ill” or “Paul’s Boutique.” They’re both great albums. The vibe on CYH just hooked me in a way that the previous two records never did. The Beasties continued that vibe through their next record as well — 1994′s “Ill Communication.” Both of these records have remained staples in my collection, as well as the lesser known “In Sounds From The Way Out(released in 1996), which contains instrumental tracks from the previous two albums, and a couple from the “Sure Shot” and “Jimmy James” singles.

Musically, I was in a completely different place by the time “Hello Nasty” was released in 1998, so I never ended up getting into it as much, but I ain’t ever mad at it if it comes on. To be honest, I haven’t really listened to “To the 5 Boroughs,” “The Mix Up,” or “Hot Sauce Committee Part 2,” but I’d be extremely surprised if I didn’t enjoy them. I did listen to “Some Old Bullshit” once in ’94, but I wasn’t really feeling the whole hardcore punk thing at the the time.

CYH is one of the albums that I’ve purchased a few times. Sometimes you lose a CD, or it gets scratched or stolen. Sometimes you get broke and need to sell CDs, and sometimes you get a little too religious and break them. What ever the reason, I’ve purchased CYH more than once on CD, and also on cassette, on vinyl and more recently from iTunes.

These days, most of my music lives in digital form on a couple of external hardrives, but I still enjoy a physical copy or two. I have fond memories of hours spent flipping through used CDs and vinyl. I know it’s an outdated medium, but all the “art” people are making out of vinyl records hurts my heart a little bit. “Digging” was one of my favorite pastimes in high school and college. Moondance used to have a “dollar box” of all the promos bands and labels would send them, and don’t even get me started on Cheapo in Austin. I could literally spend a week or more in there from open ’till close and never get bored. I’ve bought more than a few records based on their cover art alone, but I also copped many a  maxi-single and import in my day. For all you youngsters out there who’ve never known a world without the internet, we used to have to spend $30 -$50 for a copy of a record that was sold overseas. It was the same record as the $15 version sold in the US, but it would have one or two extra songs that weren’t available on any US releases. Sometimes you’d get lucky and there would be a US released maxi-single, which would have the radio and album versions of the song, and then a handful remixes. Sometimes they were cool, and then sometimes, you didn’t really need seven different versions of Ice T’s “New Jack Hustler.”

One day while digging, I came across copy of the “So What’cha Want” maxi-single. Three tracks in I saw something I couldn’t live without, and When I put it in my stereo, it didn’t disappoint. This gem was a Soul Assassins remix by DJ Muggs featuring B-Real at the end of the track. Muggs had already gotten my attention by producing most (if not all) of Cypress Hill’s 1991 debut and eight tracks on House of Pain’s debut in ’92. Muggs sat the Beasties original vocals on top of a sativaed version of the bassline from Lowell Fulsom’s “Tramp,” which he’d also used a year earlier in “How I Could Just Kill A Man.” He did get rid of the organ for this version, but the result still leaves this as one my favorite tracks from The Beastie Boys.

I’ll leave you this morning with that track, and I’ll sign off by saying thank you to Adam Yauch, Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz for the music you’ve given us over the years, for making me more aware of the global community through your work with the Milarepa Fund. Thank you for years of memories (both good and bad) made while listening to your records. And thank you for this little trip down musical memory lane I got to take this morning. But mostly I like to say thank you for improving the quality of my life, three minutes and thirty seven seconds at a time.

Rest in Peace MCA.

Best Thing I’ve Seen This Week 042412

April 24, 2012

This is gonna be a short one (and it’s late), but the quality more than makes up for the quantity.

The only runner-up this week is a complete novelty, but if you were born before 1990, you’ll appreciate this modern take on a classic. People were pirating music way before Napster, and the mixtape was was of the main uses. There’s absolutely no point in owning one of these, but it still makes me smile just knowing it exists. If you can’t live without one, you can snag it over on Suck.uk.com.

The best thing I’ve seen this week was a movie I expected to be a complete piece of shit. In fact, the only reason I watched it was because the week before, I sat through “Ghostrider 2,” and I didn’t think it was that bad. I’m still not sure if that says more about me or the state of Hollywood in general. But I digress. After watching the trailer for “Cabin in the Woods,” I decided that it was just another dime-a-dozen slasher-kills-5-teenagers B movie. It even looked a little like they were trying to remake “Evil Dead.” I decided to give it a chance, and I’m extremely glad I did. It’s not going to win an oscar, but this was hands down one of the funnest movies I’ve seen in a while. Probably because Joss Whedon is one of the writers. Had I know that earlier, I wouldn’t have been hesitant about watching it. And now I’ll give the obligatory BRING BACK FIREFLY plug.

That’s all until next week, and I’ll try to keep that post on time. But before I sign off, I’ll invite you to come experience the best thing you’ve seen this week, and just leave this here.

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