London Lizard

A bit of nonsense I illustrated for no good reason…

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Rotten Apple

A friend of mine and I often reflect on the days when OS X first came out. No more fiddling with extensions. Everything worked solidly. And the interface and user experience was awesome. We all loved our Apple computers. Well those good ol’ days are gone.

I came across this video last night and I just have to share it because the guy shares all of my frustration about Apple. I can only assume everyone at Apple is using PCs because there’s no way they can actually enjoy using the junk they’re designing these days.

• They no longer support creative professionals which was a large part of their base in the past. It seems like everything they do serves their mobile platforms.

• Their design process appears to be entirely arbitrary, removing features that everyone likes and implementing useless features that only serve to complicate usage.

• They intentionally break older devices in order to force users to upgrade. Does anyone remember the little Airport that allowed you to play music on your stereo from any Apple device? Apple updated iTunes so that the Airport became a useless brick, trying to force users to buy the Apple TV.

• Apple monopolizes app purchasing and I’m convinced their iTunes updates serve only one purpose: to screw up people’s jailbroken devices so that they can’t purchase apps elsewhere.

• They intentionally remove optical drives and certain types of ports to force users to purchase adapters or to force them into the cloud.

Now, imagine you work at Apple and you’ve designed a product that works really well and the user interface experience is great. Now what do you do for the rest of your time? Either you keep improving the product or you lose your job because you’re no longer necessary. Well, if the product is already well-designed, the only changes you can make are likely to make it worse, not better. But not wanting to lose your job, you justify your existence by redesigning things. This of course angers everyone because, unless you’re improving things by making the computer do something entirely new, like shining your shoes or making you breakfast, you’re just complicating the user interface either in terms of usability or aesthetically (I’m so sick of industries telling consumers what is “hip” and what is “outdated”, as if our tastes must be dictated to us and we must fall into line. Mock me if you will, but I liked the Coverflow feature in iTunes and I’d like it back).

Anyway, Apple’s arbitrary design changes have led me to stop updating my Apple devices. I’m now several operating systems behind on both my iMac and my iPad. I definitely NEVER update iTunes for fear they’ll break something or remove a feature that I like. And not being a cell-phone user until recently (out of necessity), I was determined not to get an iPhone. About the only Apple product I’m excited about is the new 12″ iPad, and that’s only because Procreate is a great, affordable program.

But the worst thing of all, if my iMac breaks, it will be difficult to migrate to a PC because I’m so heavily invested in software made for Apple. I just can’t afford to purchase all of my professional software all over again. So I feel like I’m stuck. Thanks, Apple. You got me.

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Palomino Blackwing – A Pencil By Any Other Name…

I do most of my professional work on a Cintiq these days. Even when I was still on a drawing board, I stuck with technical pencils to avoid all of the sharpening required with wood-cased pencils. Still, there’s a certain charm about using wood-cased pencils, so that’s what I often use when doodling chicken-scratches.

Now, a pencil is a pencil is a pencil, and at the end of the day the quality of your drawing is going to come more from your mind and hands than from the pencil. Nevertheless, your frame of mind can be affected by the satisfaction of using a particular tool that inspires you or makes your job easier. One pencil that has been given lots of attention because of its widespread use (especially by animators, writers, and composers) is the original Blackwing 602.

Given the big hoopla about the “new” Palomino Blackwing which are made in Japan (and I realize that “new” is a relative term, since I’m late to this party), I thought I’d try them out, so I bought a box at the Stuart NG booth while at the Comic Con last month. (these Blackwings are really more like reproductions and not from the original production 602s which were discontinued in the late 90’s. You can check out more about the original Blackwing HERE.)

Off hand, It’s a beautiful design if tool aesthetics is your thing, what with its unique ferrule design and replaceable eraser. I also picked up a two-step, long-point sharpener, since an electric sharpener eats up pencils and wastes too much lead. Lots of these type of hand-held sharpeners have cheap blades that break your lead or don’t really sharpen well, but the German-made blades on this work quite well, though I’m not sure where to purchase new replacement blades.

These pencils come in a nicely designed box of twelve. I no longer go through pencils like I used to, so I gave one to each of my kids to try out as well since they do a lot of drawing.

I didn’t have time to do a nice drawing with this pencil for the purpose of this post, but I wanted to show a comparison between a couple other good drawing pencils: the Schwan Stabilo 8008 and an old Faber Castell 9000 4B pencil made in Germay.

All three of the following pencils are really smooth. The Stabilo 8008 is probably the smoothest, but it’s the lightest in tone as well, so if you want a darker lead, the other two are better.

The nice thing about the Blackwing is that it’s both firm and dark (though this one is softer than the “new” 602). Usually, I find dark leads are too soft or grainy.

Surprisingly, I found the Faber Castell 9000 which I had fumbling around my tool drawer to perform as well or better than the Blackwing. In fact, I liked it so much that I went online to try to find more of these older versions, but I could only find two, each for slightly more than what the new Blackwing costs. They’re still manufactured, but I never know whether to trust newer models because it seems everyone’s manufacturing is done so cheaply now in order to cut costs. I’m not suggesting the new Faber Castell 9000s under production are not good. I just don’t feel like spending the money to find out. In any case, if I ever come across more of these older 4B 9000s, I’m grabbing them as fast as I can. In the meantime, the Blackwing works quite well and offers lots of drawing satisfaction.

I scrawled out a few swatches of each for comparison.

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Comic Con 2017 – THE LOOT

I acquire a lot of art books. I mean, a LOT. Most of them serve as inspiration when I just feel like getting into a certain mood before tackling a project. Others provide ideas for color palettes, lighting, or anatomy reference for animals and people, and still others help with period costuming (unfortunately, I have no access to a theatre company’s costume or prop department, so I make due with period films or period artwork for reference).

So my trek to the Comic Con is really to see what’s new in pop art and to hunt for new and inspiring art books (as I’ve stated elsewhere, Comic Con these days is less about comics and more about pop art, gaming, films, toys, with some comic stuff thrown in there to appease the die-hard comic fans).

In the past I made a beeline to Bud Plant‘s booth, which was a great booth for art books. Unfortunately, Amazon has killed small book dealers and Bud Plant, after surviving going completely out of business, has been reduced to a small table in the back, near the food area. It’s really sad, because I’ve purchased some hard-to-find art books from them in the past.

The other book-seller I make sure to peruse is Stuart NG, who seems to have a healthy business due to his plentiful offering of imported books (usually from France) which aren’t something you usually find on Amazon or in your average bookstore.

And then I may purchase a sketchbook or something from the many artists who are there to show their stuff.

So here are some very poor iPad pics of the stuff I hauled back home…

The two books on top are children’s picture books in that unspeakable language, French. I’m a sucker for a charming children’s picture book. It doesn’t matter that I can’t read them, because I really only enjoy them for the art. The Dean Cornwell book is something I’ve wanted for years because I really admire his art. He’s simply a fantastic Golden Age illustrator.

The books in this unforgivably blurry photo were all free. The top two are James Bama books which were given away by Flesk publications. I suspect they had quite an inventory they couldn’t move and it would be cheaper to get a tax write-off by giving them away than to let them collect dust in a warehouse. I already own a Bama book with his DocSavage illustrations. These two are more personal western art, art which is well done, but not really of much interest to me. Still, who am I to turn down free art books, right? The bottom left item is a Heritage Auction House catalog featuring a lot of Disney and other animation art for sale.

Oh, and I didn’t shoot a pic of it, but in case you were wondering, I got DC’s The Flash pin with the Con bag (for those of you who know to what I refer).

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Guitar Break #7

Never miss a chance to take a break and make some noise…

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Comic Con 2017 Badge

So my Comic Con badge arrived in the mail today. Here’s a video of the package opening.

I’m not sure why they’re mailing it in a box when an envelope would have been more than enough room and would have probably been less expensive to ship. Maybe they’re trying to counter the ticket-price sticker-shock with a somewhat pleasant badge package.

I wonder if people are already selling the box, pin, and and ephemera on ebay. I’ll probably save mine since this is the first year they’re doing this. I suspect as ticket prices increase, the fanciness of this package will get even more, er, um, “fancy-schmancy”?

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Procreate Quick-Sketch

I had a chance to try the Procreate on the iPad Pro 12″ all week during a business work-trip (the iPad isn’t mine, but my client provided it for my use on the road). I didn’t know Procreate exported videos, but when I was told about that feature, I just had to share this quick doodle I did on the airplane flight. Had I known that I was going to share it, I would have done a better job. In any case, here’s my first test with the iPad Pro and Procreate… I want one of my own!!!

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Wacom/Cintiq 24 HD Stylus Woes

So last night, the nib on my Cintiq 24 HD stylus seemed to submerge into the pen so that the tip was barely visible. I tried to pull it out a bit when suddenly the barrel of the pen separated a bit. I then grabbed the rubber grip and tried to push it back together and the rubber slid up the barrel, after which the lever button on the side of the pen popped out and onto the desk. When I tried sliding the rubber grip back into place, the entire pen came apart and tiny metal bits fell off that printed-circut board that you can barely see in this cruddy photo. So basically, my pen exploded all in the course of about a minute and there’s no way on earth I can get it back together. It’s toast.

Well, this happened around ten o’clock last night, so it was too late to call any stores. Early this morning, I found that no store on this planet sells these, or at least don’t keep them stocked in the store. Finally, I just ordered another online and it should be here when I return from my business trip. But this is just another reason technology can stink. We grow dependent on these fragile toys and are crippled without them. It’s a good thing I didn’t have any projects immediately due.

The lesson here is: Always use a timer when boiling an egg… or something like that.

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A quick doodle…

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Ruined Art

Frames cost a lot of money, especially when you have to have a custom sized frame made for an odd-shaped painting. This is why most of my paintings remain unframed. Consequently, I’ve stored a lot of them by simply stacking them against one another.

This raises a problem with oil paintings, because for some reason they seem to retain a certain tackiness — at least mine seem to have done so. Consequently, the oil paintings I did on canvas paper, which is essentially a coated paper with a canvas texture, haven’t fared so well. One of them in particular (which I painted for our kitchen but never got around to framing) I found to be completely ruined when pulling it out recently. Parts of the painting’s surface had stuck to the boards against which it rested and pulled away from the paper stock, which ripped large chunks from the painting. So now, maybe, some day, I’ll get around to recreating this painting… But I doubt it.

Before and after images. Thankfully I took a photo of the oil painting before it was ruined.

The lesson to be learned is, carefully store your art so that this doesn’t happen to you.

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