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It's been yonks since my last submission because it's been yonks since I put hand to paper! In the creative sense. Mostly this is because I've become more and more ambitious with my use of Maya, the very comprehensive 3D modelling and animating application.  I get these ideas in my head on how dramatic and insane I want my scenes to play out, and I just HAVE. TO. MAKE.

Again, it's all about LlamaLAN.  The vids I do are for the LAN events, played during and at the conclusion of said events, for the entertainment of our punters and to propel the storyline ever forwards.  I enjoy what I do, else they would just never happen.

I've also had a heck of a year.  Actually, two years, but most of it culminated in the last 12 months wherein all sorts of changes took place in my life, and some of those changes were hard, heart breaking, most of it necessary, all of it for the ultimate good.  I've moved to Blackpool in the North of England, living here since November 2012, and have yet to unload most of my stuff from storage.  My living arrangements are also short-term, so I doubt I'll be setting up my easel again any time REAL soon.  

I would love to get active again though (active for me is like, twice a year, but it's something).  I'm currently super busy on two sets of animation projects which must be complete before I even think about doing anything else creative, and after that point I'll post links and maybe, all being well, be in a better position to carry on using up my A3 boards! :D
  • Listening to: Webcasts
  • Reading: Status updates
  • Watching: Breaking Bad
  • Playing: Left 4 Dead 2
  • Eating: SANDVICH!!
  • Drinking: Tea
Well let's see.  It's been a while but that's because I haven't done anything worth shouting about.  Until YESTERDAY!

The latest one, Llamatopia, really is a rushed bit of work.  I'm not massively happy about all of the colouring (some of it was quite lazy) but I just needed to get it done.  Besides, it's more a bit of work I've used to practice on and refresh a few techniques before tackling the next one.  Which will actually be SOON.  And in my world, soon means maybe two months.

If you're reminded of a certain dystopian movie about a certain guy who forgot to take a certain pill one morning, then my work here is done.

I've finally done my homework and looked into dA groups, specifically ones that honour the magnificant Llama.  dA seems to be as obsessed about Llamas as my little bunch of LAN associates are and there are something like 250 llama-related groups out there.  I have no idea what's best for an artist who spends most of his artistic activity drawing the darn things, so I picked three which seemed to fit.  Hopefully they'll like what I do. :)
  • Listening to: TRON: Legacy OST
  • Watching: Fringe
  • Playing: Deus Ex 2
  • Eating: Pizza
  • Drinking: LIFE!1!!!!
We love utter destruction, when it's not real of course.  I guess there's an intrinsic relationship between terror and intrigue when it concerns some fictional characters, or in some fictional setup that concerns the things we love in real life.  For example, Independence Day was sold because something about our nature is captivated with the idea of our own devastation, and I wonder if the real drive behind it is the question of what happens next.

Anyway, LlamaLAN 13 is coming!  Our next LAN event is April 16th 2010 - see more details and sign up here: www.llamalan.co.uk/ ;)

This theme is the best yet.  We knew we were going down this road even when we were coming up with the whole Pirates vs Ninjas thing for the last one.  This is a great theme because we can do so much with it.  And when I'm doing the art, I can draw from so many scores of cultural icons of apocolypse.  

The LlamaLAN XIII: LLAMAGEDDON poster took AGES to do.  A good few days worth of hours, perhaps.  But worth it.  I couldn't do this and not stuff it with action and elements of all sorts.  I needed the vengeful AI, alien invaders (thank you Half Life and Jeff Wayne), natural disaster (asteroids!) and viral/zombie apocolypse.  Left 4 Dead's influence is perhaps the most obvious. :)

So now it is done.  It was tough, but I enjoyed it.

I thank GENZOMAN for his brief but highly influential tutorial which helped me to finally clinch how to acheive smoother more realistic shading and textures.  Find it here: genzoman.deviantart.com/art/Qu…
  • Listening to: District 9 OST
  • Watching: Heroes
  • Playing: Mass Effect 2
  • Eating: Haddock
  • Drinking: Chamomile
When it was proposed that we get a pirate theme going at the next LlamaLAN party, I hesitantly suggested that we hop aboard the endlessly flogged Pirates vs Ninja thing that seems to get so many people excited.  Before all this, I never really thought much of the meme, particularly why people screamed about the notion so much with such fervent joy.

But, now we're on this path, it's turning into quite a bit of fun... :)

Beyond the basic concept that there are pirates and we have ninjas and neither of them get on very well, we also had the issue of whether or not we involve the number of the event in the theme as well.  We tried some calulations ("Eight pieces of gold plus four... points on a shuriken?") but the answer slowly resolved itself into shape after an incidental glance at a clock on the gym wall.  Eventually it became this idea for a mythology, one that we could exploit to parody several iconic works, including other tales about all-powerful potentially destructive golden rings... ;)

So now, we know why this is THE battle of battles between these two old enemies.  There are twelve llamas that, when combined, effectively give their masters control of the elements, of eternity.  And thus, a way for one side to finally bring the other to its end.  But is it that simple?  Thanks to the theme that finally emerged, it may not be...

Meanwhile, at the LAN itself in October, we have another reason to dress up, throw inflatable cannonballs and paper shurikens at eachother across the hall, and decorate the room with inflatable palm trees and dragons!

Planning for the next theme and associated artwork has already started, and meanwhile I have a picture draft provided by my 14 year old sister that she wants me to reimagine.  I will try, but time is never on my side...
  • Listening to: Depeche Mode's Sounds of the Universe
  • Playing: The Secret Of Monkey Island: Special Edition
  • Eating: Almighurt
  • Drinking: Water
Well... originally I posted a smaller full-view version with a link to the detailed view.  This is following tips to avoid image theft.  But, I've allowed a larger res full-view now because there are details being lost when it's only 600px wide.
  • Listening to: Martin Grech's Unholy
  • Watching: Heroes Vol. 4
  • Playing: F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin
  • Eating: Chicken and pasta
  • Drinking: Lemsip
Anyone who watches my account may have worked out I'm not a prolific artist.  This is pretty much down to time - I work fulltime, have a flat, two fat cats, have a fiancé I don't live with, have religious commitments, run a TF2 clan and have to be on hand to help my sister bring up two boys on her own.  It takes some will-power and determination not to fill my spare time with recreation - but I almost always do.

I'd taken the last two weeks off work to crack on with some overdue projects and entertain my youngest sister (not the one with kids), who usually lives 300 miles away in Blackpool.  I didn't achieve as much as I'd hoped, but I did finish the eleventh LlamaLAN poster.

I could have finished this sooner, had I resisted the draw of R&R.  But I remembered one of the most vital components for a successful art session is music!  I actually felt myself getting a bit bored while colouring the eighth character and only then realised it was because my speakers were sitting idle.  It's not like I didn't already know this!  The right music helps to both a) fill the gap between interest and monotony and b) inspire me to keep the overall vision in mind, to see the action before it actually exists on paper (or on screen).

Anyway, the gap-filling I actually intended to do was just mention what's next on my hit list.  I'm now working on concept artwork for a new independent (read as 'unpaid') sci-fi game called 'Type 3'.  The story looks good to shape itself into something magnificent and terrifying.  The aim is to present a game as a medium for artistic expression.  More importantly, we've have got a lot of work to do.  Always looking ahead, even with LlamaLAN XI two months away, I've got to crack on with LlamaLAN XII projects.  

Secretly (though not so much now as I'm saying so here), I would love to have some time to dwell on writing again, thanks to Xancsia's enthusiasm.  I've not forgotten!  Maybe in time...

I think I'll have no honest reason to be idle within the next thirty six years though.
  • Listening to: Martin Grech's Unholy
  • Watching: Heroes Vol. 4
  • Playing: F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin
  • Eating: Chicken and pasta
  • Drinking: Lemsip
Xancsia is newer member of deviantArt, a keen writer and a community spirited individual, judging by the number of comments she has left for other works on this site.  While I focus a lot on my digital art right now, Xancsia asked for some poetry to read through and comment on, seeking something above par.  I was a far busier writer years ago and have currently three poems in my gallery, and I was quite excited to see she enjoyed two of them enough to feature them in her journal!  :D  The entry in question is a neat one, collating some of her favourites in a very accessible, categorised structure.  Check out the rest of the favs she's collected and, before you leave, read through her own gallery.   Plenty of thought provoking material.

She favoured these two:
No ApologyThe train's pulled in
As the busiest train at the emptiest platform.
There's so many of them, most have to stand,
Although they can't stand the sight or smell of eachother.
It stops.
Standing patiently, the doors should open now.
I'm only waiting for the train behind me.
But I hear a pounding.
The doors aren't parting.  
Faces in the glass
Wanting to get past.
My hands are getting cold, as I watch
Intrigued.
Another train is coming, but its on the other line,
They have time.
There's no apology from the conductors.
Such a busy train full of faces.
And the pounding starts again,
A kicking to get free,
And now I've seen
The other train has moved;
It's on its way - it's going to collide!
And it's not trying to stop!
They don't know yet.  I stand hesitant before
The added pounding pushes my purpose.
I press the button - nothing.  It's not even lit -
Too easy.  I look inside
And now they know.
Not just the door,
Pounding starts to shake the windows.
I
A Blasphemy
As if they know, they've left me low.
Caved in to breathe dark air to show
   Though I insisted,
   They never desisted,
And now I feel the agent grow.
Like manmade lava, thought subdued,
It creeps and spreads, so slow and crude;
   Then burns every part of me,
   If I so much as sense it free.
To set it free is
A Blasphemy.
I never thought my life's so short
By trifling with their troubles brought.
   Though I acted,
   Though distracted,
I feel the glass stretched thin and taut.
Corrupt advice: my only guide.
Liquids, powders, gas collide.
   Intakes every part of me,
   If I so much as hear it free.
To set it free is
A Blasphemy.
My battered paws fight blood-stained claws.
Might no one else confront the cause?
   On hunting grounds
   I hunt the sound
Of breathing from my open pores.
The flash itself deskins my eyes,
Dust before my bod


I felt honoured that she made use of the same rhyming structure I built 'A Blasphemy' in her own excellent poem with a twist:
Should I look within?I've read many poets who all seem to say
"My life is so pointless in every way."
They sulk and they sigh
and pretend to cry.
But I let them carry on to do what they may.
I am not one of these depressing sorts.
If I go quiet I am probably in thought.
I study and smile,
And ignore the bile
Of the "deep philosophers" full of their haught.
When I really look deep inside my mind,
I see many thoughts coiled in a wind.
They twist and they turn,
but what does that earn?
I can't dissuade thinkers of an emotional kind.
I have the dignity to sit and wait
and let the others snatch the bait,
I watch them scramble
in life's pit of brambles
While they understand the point too late.
Does that mean I am a writer who can only watch?
As others live their lives, notch by notch?
Do I only sneer
At what other's fear?
Is my method nothing but a botch?
Perhaps I should wait until the refrain,
Before looking at others with pure disdain.
Will I understand?
Will it all go as planned?
Or must I return to these mu
  

You know how to make a guy feel special!

Following this, Blacklava featured two of my llama inspired digital art pieces in her news item The Animal Kingdom in Art, which was another reason to feel all glowy today.  This news feature showcases how animals have inspired all kinds of art, from makeup to gateaux! :)  Look through the collection she's made on that page for insight into some remarkable imaginations!

The two pieces she found the most apt were:
The Assimilator - Epic Version by recurring Se7en by recurring

Thanks to them both for the attention and for going to the effort of publishing such excellent collections.  You do the community a great service!

I really should spend more time reading journals and news items and spending serious time on other people's galleries.  I browse regularly and get updates on quite a few galleries... I should talk about them more often. :(
  • Watching: Heroes (finale tomorrow!)
  • Playing: Team Fortress 2
  • Eating: The low-fat tasty route
  • Drinking: Mateus Rose Shiraz
It was a desperate hour in LlamaLAN-land. With the populace practically entirely assimilated by the Cyberllama Queen, what hope was there?

Enter the Super Llamas!

So, the next LlamaLAN, the tenth edition, takes place this August 15th - 17th.  LlamaLAN IX was such a massive success and it looks set that X will be no different.  Well, if it's different in any way it will be in a good way.  

Interested in a fun LAN party in Kent, England?  www.llamalan.co.uk

My latest two deviations are the artwork to promote LlamaLAN X - one with titles as the official poster, one without which I've posted only here.

While the latest bit of work took a lot of time and effort, it was worth it.  When I'd completed the inking work I thought a few of the lines looked far too heavy.  However I'm very happy with the final result.  You can read far more detail about it all on the works themselves, if you're at all interested.  There's a link in there to the uncoloured lineart as well.

The next project is something quite different, at last. ;)  I've been invited to join a games mod team called The Wolfpack.  My job will be to help with conceptual artwork on their Crysis mod 'The Creation'.  However, my first job is to provide them with a 2D logo.  Seems I'll be producing quite a bit more work more often in the coming months...

Oy.
  • Listening to: (Can't You) Trip Like I Do
  • Watching: Heroes
  • Playing: Team Fortress 2
  • Eating: Shreddies (they keep knitting more!!)
  • Drinking: Tea
Well, this made me go all warm and fuzzy inside!

news.deviantart.com/article/41…

Shcaradeus:iconshcaradeus: has made the effort to collect a gallery of what she considers great work by unnoticed artists.  The focus this time was on Adventure and Fantasy.  There's a lot of excellent work in her selection and I fully recommend viewing all of it.  Meanwhile, I'm chuffed to bits to say that my latest (our girl the Assimilator) is one of her selections.  Made my month, that has!

I thank Shcaradeus for the attention, but more importantly for the effort she's gone to promote so many different artists of different styles who deserve a bit more attention.  Nice job - I look forward to the next one. :)

Check the news item and spread it about yourselves.  Let's get these artists some attention.
  • Listening to: Jasmon - Kaito
  • Playing: Team Fortress 2
  • Eating: Alpen
  • Drinking: Water
The chicken has landed and the llamas have been assimilated!

I really needed a mental push to crack on with these projects.  The LlamaLAN IX series was a behemoth, and to be honest it would not have been such a slog had I organised my time properly.  But for both of these projects I just had to tell myself that I will never have enough time if I don't decide to just get on with things.

What was it Muse said?  "Don't waste your time or time will waste you."

The results are fantastic.  I rarely speak well of my own stuff but I am still very happy with the final part of the five piece LlamaLAN IX series.

Now let me share the advice I used to help me acheive it.  The techniques I studied and learnt from these guys were adapted to these projects, and I'm sure if you're a digital artist, you can make use of their methods.

Photoshop Colouring Techniques - An excellent colouring method: yuni.deviantart.com/art/Colori…
CGing Tutorial: messa.deviantart.com/art/CGing…

These links were originally picked up from Princess-Of-Shadow's report:
news.deviantart.com/article/38…

And the chap who inspired me to start this kind of work in the first place:
drcloud.deviantart.com/
  • Listening to: Groove Salad
  • Playing: Team Fortress 2
  • Eating: Eggs
  • Drinking: Chamomile, Honey, and Ginger
There's a project I really must get started on, concerning chickens naryana.deviantart.com/art/Chi… from the game known as Crysis adonihs.deviantart.com/art/Cry…

I shan't say more for now. ;)

Beyond that I have more llamas to crack on with.  The LlamaLAN www.llamalan.co.uk/ organisers have a date for LlamaLAN IX AND LlamaLAN X.  Jeepers.  The last poster recurring.deviantart.com/art/L… took me so long to do mostly because I was mad enough to draw an entire scene full of far too many details.  My plan for LLIX is to stick to characters because I'm going to be drawing rather a lot of them.  Nine, to be exact.

Whenever a theme for each event is being conjured, one of the organisers suggests a ream of titles, cultural references, anything recognisable that relate to the numerical order of the next event.  For example, LlamaLAN VIII was inspired by Lost's Dharma Initiative carlos-teran.deviantart.com/ar… and its logo's references to the eight steps to enlightenment, hence the Lost references, the Llama Initiative, and that the next hyped up game was Crysis, set on an island not dissimilar to the one in the TV show.

I suspect using numbers as inspiration will become impossible eventually. :)

Still, an idea for LLIX was 'Seven of Nine' shanryan.deviantart.com/art/BO… , everyone's favourite Borg.  Another of the organisers and I rather like to maintain the sci-fi influence of the artwork.  Of all in the list, the borg idea had potential, and so the gears and cogs in my head started whirling and haven't stopped since.

I like to layer references upon references in these LlamaLAN pieces.  I noticed that many "Lord of The Rings" wannabes (Eragon anyone? blog.wired.com/photos/uncatego…) like to release character posters amidst large cinema complexes, so I'm going to parady this practice.  My plan is to draw characters that relate to all previous LAN parties www.llamalan.co.uk/index.php?S… , most of which had characters anyway.  They'll all be brought up to date and they'll all be assimilated into the borg collective.  At the same time, the latest gaming craze is the excellent Team Fortress 2 paranoidvin.deviantart.com/art… .  There are nine character classes in TF2 and this is coincidentally the ninth LlamaLAN, so each llama character will map to both a LAN party and a TF2 character.  Another fine coincidence is that the primary character for LlamaLAN VII recurring.deviantart.com/art/S… was the first female llama - hence, seven of nine will fittingly be female.  

I'm hoping that the release of each character poster, in chronological order, over the course of nine weeks, will create anticipation for which TF2 character will represent which LAN, and most of all what the final character will actually look like.

Sorry guys, I'm not going to say here either.  Wait and see. :)
  • Listening to: Cats eating newspaper
  • Reading: Chapter House Dune
  • Watching: Heroes
  • Playing: Half Life 2 Episode 2
  • Eating: Soon
  • Drinking: Chamomile
Art is a very contentious and subjective craft.  There are many talented artists who produce so many pieces daily.  What makes a piece of art trult great?

I'm no professional critic but I say artwork that speaks on wavelengths discordant with the general public, though viable, is less tenable.  The most captivating images shouldn't be judged by a matter of opinion or debate by experts.  How they speak to our humanity, their impact, weighs their value.  Standing before a sunset over the lakes of Cumbria, you see no hidden layers of significance are required for its striking yet warming allure.  So it should be with truly captivating art.

I've looked over a lot of art of different styles.  I can appreciate the artist's technical skill in most of it.  Some of what I've seen has been the result of impressive imagination and creativity that has inspired me personally to practice the art.

But I don't think I've yet seen an artistic image, anywhere, that has immediately sent sparks from the base of my neck down to the pit of my stomach.  Something that gives life to the cliche of taking my breath away.  Not until now.

Had she not explained, I may not have immediately been able to understand why this was so, not without serious thought.  Emotion is the fuel of passion and purpose.  Capturing it can stoke empathy.  Demonstrated in the deviantArt piece I saw about an hour ago is a profound ability to capture her own beauty, at its most expressive and at a peak.  

The focus is the humanity but the inclusion of the flower compounds the impact.  Absolutely no artificial material is expressed.  She's created dimension both physical and dramatic with the lighting, and it looks like the combination of the lighting and the flower have created a starry fire in the eyes, particularly strong because the left side is in shadow.  It's this detail that strikes the most deeply.

The powerful impact of this image, has left me in awe.  Every time I look back to make sure, it feels like it is arresting my soul with a warm arrow of inspiration.

I haven't gone waxing lyrical like this over any other artwork on deviantArt.  Inspiring just isn't the word.  When a piece has to be seen to be believed... well, THAT'S art.

princess-of-shadows.deviantart…

I'm sorry I cannot describe its impact more eloquently than this.

=====

In other news, I'll be working on a few projects in the coming months:

- A chicken wearing a futuristic military 'nanosuit' (by request!)
- A coloured drawing of my fiance, stylised on Manga
- A series of llama characters for the next LlamaLAN event.  My plan for this also means a time-consuming challenge, but I seem to like making rods for my back.

See you soon. :)
  • Listening to: Dee being given work
  • Eating: Not enough
  • Drinking: Too little
It's been a long while since I attempted a decent picture (the last one being Se7en.)  I'm quite happy to announce I've finished work on my latest effort, now available for viewing in the gallery: Mad Jack's Hawaiian Retreat.  

This one is full of intense action, with a complex background scene making as much of the picture as the main character himself.  Hence, it took me several weeks until I considered it finished.

Hope you like.  And if you like it enough, I've made it available for purchase through the deviantArt Print Shop. :)
  • Listening to: Justin R. Durban (justindurban.com)
  • Eating: Muller Corner
  • Drinking: John Smiths
Se7en is up for offer!  Her print's been accepted and I've loaded up three aspect ratio versions of the original: 1:1.5, 1:1.25, and 1:1.33.

Se7en by recurring
www.deviantart.com/print/36923…



I found a photo on my hard drive which I'd totally forgotten about.  It's a fantastic shot of a bee on an interesting flower.  There's a contrast of colour and shape between the two of them I like.  I've done a little bit of post-production balancing on it and this is also available as a deviation and as a print.

Sleeping Bee by recurring
www.deviantart.com/print/36921…
The print account is active and I'm trying to load up the first two of what I hope will be some quality offerings, should anyone want them.  I can't seem to find the links to carry over deviations into the prints selection, but I hope to figure this out soon as I've got plenty more to get on with today.

In other news, I'm finally trying to get a place of my own and it's not easy.  In the UK, and in particular the South East, the stupidly high cost of property prices most first-time buyers out of the market.  For most people, the options are
a) go somewhere you don't really like
b) go somewhere with a friend/co-lodger
c) go half rent, half mortgage with the council

Even then, first time buyers may need to take up a 40 year mortgage just to afford the monthly payments.  This is a crazy situation.

I had my eye on a place in Wateringbury, a place where I would have room to breathe and a fantastic broadband connection.  The current occupier is taking his sweet time doing nothing about finding somewhere else to live so I've all but given up on that one.  

There's only so much you can control in transactions like this.  When you've done your best to do all the right things at the right time and someone else gaily screws it all up, it's very very frustrating.

Don't own a property? Get one, now. Today. Their costs are increasing faster than your earnings.
Yah!  The most worrying parts are over with.  I switched it on and there was no explosion or whiff of white smoke.  However, the power LED is not illuminated.  I always get that bit wrong, every time...

Anyway, I am now the chuffed owner of some ninja equipment inside my PC.  There's one last step to take and that's installing the fan controller, so the cooling fans may be even quieter when I'm completely finished.

It took me through the whole of Friday night.  I'm way too stubborn with my plans.
Okay, I'm upgrading my computer to become ninja once again.  If I'm not back in 24 hours... you won't see me.
I've finally got a background/setting for the second, and far better, llama: Se7en.  I'm pondering over whether or not to make this particular image available as a print...  perhaps. :)

Once again, I've worked well into the night on this one (I've done this many times during work on Se7en).  Enjoy.  I'm thinking of trying a pencil art image of my cat soon.  My better half also wants me to draw her in the 'manga' style.  Whichever mood I'm in will dictate which way I go first, but I fancy a brief change...
I've written a fair bit in the past and I'll be posting up my various scraps of poetry over the next few weeks.  I've also got a couple of short stories I'm quite happy with, so I'll share those with the uninterested world at some stage, I'm sure.

Probably of more interest is the next artwork I'll be submitting to my gallery very soon.  A friend runs LAN parties in the nearby area and I've always done his advertising and web artwork for him... though do I get a free seat for it?  Like heck!  Anyway, one of the characters is a pseudo-manga kick-butt female llama I've named Se7en - named after this LAN event's own subtitle.  The LAN poster work is completed, but for the purposes of this gallery I'm working on a background for this character, and when complete I'll lob it up onto here.