Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Game of Life

There are a lot of Artists on FaceBook... at least where I hang out. As an Artist, I looked into some of the very popular games on FaceBook like Pirates! and Castle Age, at first for the artwork, and then for the fun. And along the way I've made friends with other Artists who are also checking out the art and having fun! These games are very addictive, as you may know if you've tried them. But why?

First of all, the games reward you! Depending on the game, you perform quests to achieve certain goals, and when those goals are reached, you get Favor Points that you can spend on cool exclusive stuff that you can then use back in the game. There are random events that occur, where you might get cool stuff 'dropped' at random, and there are different layers of 'quests'. In Castle Age you can battle other players, battle monsters, perform heroic quests, and Demi-quests, and more, with each coming with their own requirements and rewards. That's right, you need to EARN the right to do certain quests, and by finishing a certain number of quests you can unlock monster fights and other stuff.

What's my point? Well, my point is that the games are fun, but also addictive. When you sit back to actually analyze the game, what are you actually accomplishing? Well, honestly, you're pushing a button and getting a treat. Just like a rat in a cage, or some poor monkey in an experiment. Yes, here we are, some may argue the pinnacle of evolution, and we're voluntarily acting like rats in a cage... and enjoying it!

But the game is fun, right, and there are levels of strategy, you argue, so for those two points we can say that gaming is good. But what have you got when the power is off, or your internet connection is gone? You're guessing 'nothing', right?

Wrong. You've got a pretty good business model for success!

Yes, you heard me. By taking what we learn from these games and applying them to real life, you might actually become more successful, and more fulfilled, for real!

Of course, the games are great because you know that as long as the program works, you will get a certain reward for certain behaviour, where as in real life, we don't get those guarantees. Still, what rewards we do get in life can't be taken away from us, and can lead to some rather awesome random events. :0)

So what the heck am I talking about? Suppose you want to be an Illustrator of Children's Books someday. To make that dream come true, you have to set yourself some goals, and pursue those goals until you earn some achievements, and eventually some rewards.

Goals should be something like, "Create 5 illustrations in 5 different styles", and "Create 10 illustrations in the same style". Aim for Achievements like "Send 25 submissions to 25 different Publishers" and go for the big ones like "Receive 5 replies from Publishers that are not photocopied rejections".

This last one has a great reward. You need to figure out why you are getting photocopied rejections in the first place. Did you follow the submission guideloines of the Publisher? No? Now you've earned a reward! Wisdom! Wisdom allows the bearer to submit at the very least professional looking submissions to publishers! Now you have levelled up! Your chances of getting a photocopied rejection letter have now dropped 20% or more.

Carry out this logic and you'll see that by setting goals and accomplishing them in a reasonable amount of time you will improve as an illustrator and become professional in the process. Extend your goals and achievements to running a business or getting an agent, and your chances of becoming successful have increased significantly. Of course, you still need talent, but if you can apply the discipline you have towards gaming to your art, well then! Good for you!

Of course, in a game, the computer automatically sets the clock, and doles out energy and tells you when to take the next step, so you sit there watching the clock, eager to take the next step.

To be a successful Artist, you've got to set the goals yourself, and watch the clock yourself, and make sure you take steps every day to achieve your goals. Heck, why not make that your New Year's resolution?

Hope 2010 is a great one! JOHN :0)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Pepper's Ghost Done Right!

I hope none of you remembers my last attempt at showing you the Pepper's Ghost effect... the technique used in Disney's Haunted Mansion to show many of its ghosts, in particular the stunning scene of the Ballroom Ghosts dancing.

The technique is fairly simple, although care must be taken in set-up. Now, fortunately I have a real workshop in which to work... something between the Weta workshop and your Uncle's basement Ah, but it's not the size of the workshop, but what you do with it! In the Haunted Mansion, you ride above the ballroom in your DoomBuggy,and watch breathlessly as ghostly dancers glide across the floor below you. In reality, you are looking down into the ballroom through a very large clean piece of glass and the dancers are quite solid and dancing below you. With the right lighting, the dancers are reflected off of the glass in such a way so that they appear to be in the ballroom, and quite transparent!

Watch the video to see how I demonstrate this phenomenon, and then I will show you how it was done! Faint of heart, beware!

Catch your breath and remember, this was just a demonstration! No actual little plastic girls in pink coats were injured or even scared silly!

See in the photo at top how the 'ghost train' appears to come out of the tunnel through solid foam rock and straight through the little girl? Pan back (second photo) and the magic is revealed. High tech gadgetry and a steady nerve were required to reproduce this wonderful effect! But remember, I accomplish so much because I stand on the shoulders of Giants. ( Meaning, others did it first, I copied, but with my own twist)

Now, below is a quick photo of the workshop itself. Once the Imagineers at Disney see this video, I'll be sure to be snapped up into their inner circle, but don't worry, dear readers... I will always be here to entertain you.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Rush

Artwork from my 2004 Holiday Card

It's that time of year again, and I'm hard at work... trying to get out my Holiday Cards! I thought writing and illustrating my own cards was tough, but now I have to sit down and write them out, put those little return address labels on, and address them.. sheesh! What a lot of work!

So why do I do it? A few years back it occurred to me that I was an Illustrator, and that creating my own card was something I should really do. THis was back when people actually sent cards to one another, via the US Postal Service, and not something that you clicked and forgot about.

I know... technology, customs... the world is changing, and it is exciting, but still... there's something to be said for receiving a bunch of cards in the mail, and finding creative ways to decorate your studio with them. And a good card is something you can keep for a long time, either in a scrap book, or as a bookmark, and you can enjoy it long past the time when the Holiday bills are just a memory.

And a good card, whether created by you, or hand chosen in a store, should mean a lot to the receiver; especially in this day and age. Yeah, we're oh so busy, and tired, so actually taking the time to write a card out, hopefully with a personal note ,or a family newsletter, should be truly appreciated!

Oddly enough, I really wanted to be the first one to send cards out this year, and surprise people by how early my cards were done. Honestly, I shouldn't have worried! Apparently, Holiday cards(okay, Christmas cards) have apparently gone out of vogue, and rather quickly. I can understand... honestly, I'm exhausted by the whole process each year. But I will miss this Holiday tradition when it is gone. I can remember my Mom grousing about how many cards she had to write each year, and I'm sure she can remember her own Mother kvetching about writing out cards. :0)

Still, I am a Cartoonist. That's what I do, and when I see cards from Walt Disney or Walt Kelly or other Cartoonists from days of yore, I love being part of that unique tradition of Artists sharing their art. I create these cards as a thank you to my audience, whether they realise that or not. (You should... I've reminded you guys enough!) It does fill me with pride to see a job well done, even though I've probably cursed during the last few days of creation. And I always get a few compliments on the cards... not a lot, but every comment is greatly appreciated!

This year, I've actually sold out of my excess stock, before I even finished sending them out! That's a good feeling, I can tell you, when people see something and immediately say "I have to have this!".

I just hope I have enough left over to send!

Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas! JOHN :0)

PS For more on my Holiday Cards, please read this old blog of mine:

PSS if you would like one of this year's cards, if i have any left, that is, please sign up for our newsletter here, or send me a request with your address via email.