Saturday, June 30, 2007

New RSS feed

As I mentioned earlier, this blog has now moved to Wordpress. Unfortunately I set up the wrong RSS feed at the new blog. If you had problems switching over, I apologize. The feed should now be fixed.

My new blog (along with my new RSS feed) can be found here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My Blog Has a New Home

It’s moving day. I’m in the process of transferring my blog from Blogger to Wordpress. The new blog is here. Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds. You can subscribe to the new feed at the new site.

I’m quite fond of Blogger, but the more I’ve learned about Wordpress the more I’ve found its just a better site with more options and features. For instance, with WordPress I can write several posts at once and then schedule them to show up one per day. That way, when I’m in a writing mood I can do more than just one entry….giving the illusion that I am more organized that I really am, and hopefully resulting in more frequent posts.

I apologize for any inconvenience, and I hope you will follow me over to my new home.

This and That

iPhone mania is coming this Friday. People are posting on Craig's List hoping to hire someone to stand in line for them (lines have already started at one New York store.) I smell a career opportunity here. Find a wealthy businessman and offer to stand in line for him at the post office, the grocery store, the DMV...yessir, big money!

Last week I finally bought the new CS3 suite. Kinda buggy, but overall I really like the new look and feel of the applications. The new menus and palettes are a bit disorienting at first but I'll adjust soon. So far my only complaints are that merging layers in Photoshop feels clumsy, Bridge keeps crashing, and Paris Hilton is still in the news.

Today I went to the book store and bought some new software reference books for CS3. I also bought Designing a Digital Portfolio by Cynthia Baron. I've been wanting to re-design my website for a while now. This book, combined with a workshop I attended at Flashbelt, has me convinced that my site doesn't just need a fresh look, it needs a major overhaul. I enjoy tinkering around in Dreamweaver, I may even try using CSS in the new design. If I can find the time (which will be tough if this standing-in-line thing works out.)

My sleep schedule has been off lately, thanks to insomnia and converging deadlines. When I was single I would often stay up all night working on freelance projects. One of the perks of working at home and living alone was that I could work, eat, and sleep whenever I felt like it. For several years I went through a strange cycle where I couldn't sleep until I had been awake for at least 20 hours, causing my waking hours to gradually shift around the clock from nights to days over about a 3 or 4 week period. Now that I've got a wife and baby that's not working out so well. I'm trying to get my body to adjust to a normal schedule, but every couple of weeks I still get attacked by insomnia. I wonder if being a night owl is something innate, like being left-handed, or if its something that can be unlearned?

Have you seen the new Geico commercials? ("There are better ways to spend 15 minutes on the internet"). The caveman thing was funny but is getting stale. It's great to see them trying something new. You've got to hand it to the Geico ad folks, their campaigns have consistently stood out amidst the cluttered advertising landscape.

Fianlly, my wife and I have joined Blockbuster Total Access. Not that we watch that many movies, but we have a Blockbuster just down the street so it will be nice to exchange movies immediately instead of waiting for tomorrow's mail. The no late fees thing will also be nice since movies sometimes sit on our shelf for quite a while before we finally get around to watching them. We rented "Pursuit of Happyness" twice and still haven't seen it. We're trying the cheapest Blockbuster plan (2 movies a month for 6 bucks) so we'll see how it goes. We're going to start with the classics we've never seen. Cassablanca is first, then it's Bonnie and Clyde, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and eventually Little House on the Prairie season 3.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Conferences and Networking

As a freelancer, working at home has a lot of benefits. But one drawback is that I spend most days holed up in my little cave and isolated from the outside world. (Weather...what's that?) The busier I am, the worse it gets. So when my time and budget permit, I go to as many conferences and art-related events as I possibly can. Its my only opportunity to network and hang out with other creative types.

The more I grow as a professional, the more important I find such networking becomes. Talent will only get you so far. Passion and personality are just as important, maybe even moreso.

Plus, since many of my friends and relatives struggle to understand exactly what I do for a living, its refreshing to chat with other creatives who "get it". It's great to make those personal connections with other people in the biz. And at every event I always pick up great tidbits and tricks that I can take home and use in my business. And if I'm lucky, I occassionally make a connection that leads to paying work down the road. The travel and registration costs aren't cheap, but the connections I make and the knowledge I gain almost always make the trips worthwhile.

I'm still pretty rusty at networking. Like many freelancers, I'm more comfortable by myself than I am around other people. I'm not great at small talk. But with every event I attend, I learn more and grow a little more confident. And I always walk away better for the experience.

In the last month I've attended two events, the Reubens and Flashbelt.



In May I traveled to Orlando for the Reuben Awards, a yearly event held by the National Cartoonists Society. Thanks to the kind sponsorship of illustrator Tom Richmond (pictured, left) I have the honor of being a member of the NCS. I've attended chapter events in the past but this was my first time at the Reuben's. For two days I walked among some of the world's greatest living cartoonists, which was a little intimidating but also exciting.

I had a nice chat with Stephen Silver, from whom I'll be taking an online character design class this fall (check it out at schoolism.com). I also shook hands with C.F. Payne, Sam Viviano, Dave Coverly, Chris Browne, and many other talented folks from all over the country. Everyone was very friendly and it was an honor just to be there. As you migh imagine, cartoonists are a fun bunch to hang around.

By the way, congratulations to Tom Richmond on winning another Reuben Award for Magazine Illustration. This is his third, I think.



Earlier this week I attended Flashbelt here in Minneapolis. Flashbelt is a large conference for programmers, designers, and animators (like me) who use Adobe's Flash software. The seminars ran the gamut, but there were some good ones on promoting yourself as an artist and on being successful as a freelancer. Even though I've got ten years of freelancing under my belt, I still learned a few things about improving my self-promotion efforts and strengthening client relationships.

There were also some fun afterparties where I had the chance to chat with lots of fun artists and animators, many who live right here in the Twin Cities. It was fun to hang out, share tips/advice, and hear about what's going on at some of the local agencies.

I brought my camera but unfortunately didn't snap many photos. Above is Shad Petosky from PUNY Entertainment and Big Time Attic. Shad is a fun guy and he knows pretty much every single creative person in Minnesota by name. He and his team do some terrific work with Flash animated games for Cartoon Network.

Next up is Comic-Con in July. I attended again last year and had a blast. Unfortunately I probably won't be able to go this year. But I've heard great things about the HOW design conference later this year. If any of you readers have ever attended, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought.

Now get out there and network!

Friday, June 15, 2007

To iPhone Or Not To iPhone?


Unless you've been living in a cave you've heard about the upcoming release of Apple's new wonder-gadget, the iPhone. I'm a bit of a Machead, and I've been excited about the iPhone ever since Steve Jobs introduced the dazzling new product back in January. It's a truly amazing device...but also an expensive one. The "cheap" model is $500, and the more expensive model with twice as much memory is $600.

To use the phone you have to switch to Cingular/AT&T with a 2-year commitment. Fortunately I'm already a Cingular customer. However, the rumors are that Cingular will charge an additional fee of $30 or $40 per month to use the iPhone's internet capabilities. Add taxes and fees and you're looking at a minimum of $400 per year, times two years equals $800. Add in the $600 cost for the phone, and suddenly the iPhone has a total cost of $1,400.

But the iPhone is such an amazing device that for me it just might be worth it. Maybe. To learn about all of its incredible features, visit the official iPhone website or watch Steve Jobs give a snazzy demonstration. A quick Google search will also reveal that there are plenty of websites praising (and criticizing) the iPhone. Either way, its sure to revolutionize the cell phone industry.

Here's a list of some of the Pros and Cons that I am personally weighing as I consider whether or not to buy one:

PROS
(My current cell phone has some nice features, i.e. syncs with my computer's address book and calendar, so for me this is a fairly short list).

1. Virtual voice-mail is a smart feature. But I would rarely use it since I don't get that many voice mails at once.

2. Being able to browse the full internet and check my e-mails anywhere, anytime would be great. I would use that feature a lot. I mean a lot. Take shopping for example. If I'm in a bookstore and considering the purchase of a book or DVD, I could jump onto Amazon.com and see if someone is selling a used copy cheaper than what the bookstore is asking. If you can access the internet anywhere, anytime, that opens up a lot of possibilities.

3. I could listen to podcasts and other iTunes content even if I don't have my iPod along. However, it is unclear to me whether I could listen through the speakerphone or if I would have to carry headphones with me.

4. It would be great to easily enter new events into iCal.

5. The Google Maps application looks like a great feature. You can even save certain locations as favorites. For example, my sister moved earlier this year and I always had trouble figuring out how to get to her new place. It would have been nice to have it saved as a favorite so I didn't have to look it up every time.


CONS

1. Price. This phone ain't cheap. Can I really afford it? Are the convenient features really worth the cost?

2. A slow connection. The phone theoretically will let you surf the web and send an e-mail and talk on the phone all at the same time. If you are in a free wi-fi environment that should be no problem (although free wi-fi environments are rare). But if you are out and about, the only option is AT&T's Edge network, which I hear is disappointingly slow compared to their competitors. Maybe even as slow or slower than regular dial-up. (EDIT: According to this article, it takes half a minute for a web page to load on the Edge network.) Clients frequently send me e-mails with attachments, and I'm not sure I want to wait five minutes or more to download my latest e-mails. And if Apple ever does get around to supporting faster networks, could that be fixed with a software update or would I have to buy another iPhone?

3. A related problem with e-mail: How does that work with two devices (my computer and my iPhone) both checking the same e-mail? When my computer downloads e-mail, I can tell it to either delete the e-mail from the server or leave it there. If I have it set to delete, and then use my iPhone to check my e-mail, the message will then disappear from the server and my studio computer will never be able to retrieve it. On the other hand, if I have it set to NOT delete, then both devices will download the same messages each time they check for e-mail. Either option sounds inefficient to me. Or is there a way to work around this? (If you know of one, please leave me a comment.) (EDIT: Apparantly this problem is solved with something called "push e-mail".)

4. The phone may not have voice dialing, a feature I use a lot on my current phone (especially while driving). Apple has not said whether it does or doesn't. Since Apple has repeatedly drawn attention to all the other features, I worry that no news is bad news.

5. The iPhone's memory is pretty small. The only options are 4GB and 8GB. Add in all the software and you won't have much room for storing video (i.e. TV shows or movies). I wouldn't be a bit surprised if a year from now Apple releases new models that are 10GB or 20GB in size (that's the strategy they've used to get people to keep buying bigger and better iPods). Maybe I should wait until a bigger model comes out before plopping down my hard earned-cash?

6. The truth is I don't really NEED an iPhone. It's pretty much just a luxury item that would make certain aspects of my life a little easier. And as a Christian I'm not supposed to covet. So I really should only buy it if I truly believe it would be a worthwhile purchase from a practical standpoint. Which it might be. Maybe.


Either way, I know I won't be buying an iPhone when they are released on June 29 since my local Apple store will be a madhouse. I'd rather wait a couple of weeks and read what iPhone users have to say online. Maybe the product will have some as-of-yet unknown flaws. Or maybe it will be more amazing than expected. Who knows? Besides, Apple will probably sell out on June 29, forcing me to wait a couple of months before more arrive in stores.

Is anyone else planning to buy one? Let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Amazing Color Card Trick

Watch this magic trick.....carefully. You may not be as observant as you think you are.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New Art Blog: Sherwin Schwartzrock


Introducing a new art blog by the amazing and talented Sherwin Schwartzrock. He's not only a terrific artist, but he can play the Star Spangled Banner with his armpit. Okay, I made that part up. But he really is a stellar designer, illustrator, and comic book artist. Check it out.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

You Owe the Government $516,348

Allow me to veer off the artistic path for a moment...

According to this USA Today article, if we wanted to pay off the Federal Government's debts right now that's how much every American household would have to pay. If you don't happen to have half a million in spare change lying around, how about an installment plan? You could pay $31,000 a year (or $2,580 per month) for 75 years and that would do it.

If you've got a lot of credit card debt, you might find some comfort here. You're spending peanuts compared to the debts the government is racking up for you.

Does this concern anyone else? The next time you hear a politician complain that we aren't spending enough on this or that program, ask yourself...Isn't the government spending more than enough already?

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

From the Archives


Last year I used Apple's iPhoto printing services to print a small paperback version of my portfolio. The prices are reasonable, the printing looks very professional, and it's been a great way for me to promote my work in person or target desired clients through the mail. I'm down to one copy left so its time to order a new batch. I thought I'd update some of the artwork, and in the process I came across these sketches that somehow never made it onto my blog or website.

I was approached by a manufacturing supply company whose mascot is a cartoon pig. They were looking for ideas for a new sidekick character to partner with the current mascot. They wanted someone who was stupid and/or mischevous. The idea was that he would always be breaking safety rules (either intentionally or not, that part hadn't been decided). His humorous mishaps were intended to teach employees and customers about product safety.

Unfortunately the project never got past the early sketch phase. But these are some of the designs I had submitted.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Update

Greetings, faithful blog reader. Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I'm in a bit of a time crunch. I've taken on a large project that I'm super excited about. I can't say too much, but thanks to a referral by the guys at FunnyPages Productions I've been hired as a character designer for a new animated tv show that will be airing soon (this fall I think) on one of the major networks. The show is funny, the concept is clever, and it's produced by a company that I've always wanted to work for. In many ways it's my dream job.

There's only one catch. The gig will likely only last a couple of months and then its back to regular freelancing. Which means if I turn away my regular clients now to focus on the show, they won't be there when my involvement with the show is over. By then they'll have found other artists. That would not be good. So, I'm essentially trying to work two full-time jobs for a couple of months. Fortunately I have a very understanding and supportive wife, and because I work at home I can take short breaks throughout the day to spend time with her and our baby girl. But for now I won't be posting as often as I have been. But there are plenty of great art blogs listed to the right to tide you over. Give them a looksee!

In other news, I'll be down in Orlando next weekend (May 24-27) for the Reubens, the annual get-together of the National Cartoonist's Society. It's a weekend conference on cartooning capped off by an awards banquet. The awards (Reubens) are named after one of the NCS founders, I think. I've been an NCS member for several years but this will be my first time attending a Reubens weekend. From what I hear its a ton of fun, and the event is attended by some pretty big names in the fields of cartooning, illustration, and animation. Personally I don't put too much stock in awards when it comes to the arts (Oscars, anyone?). When you reach a certain level of excellence, there's no real way to single out one excellent artist as "more excellent" than all the others. But it should be a fun weekend nonetheless.



Finally, I've discovered a new website called Illosaurus that seems to be a great collection of resources for illustrators. A lot of it is UK-centric, but the site is helpful nonetheless. Check it out.