Sunday, 6 August 2017

So Adobe turned evil. Don't install Photoshop CC!

So I downloaded a trial for Adobe Photoshop CC, because nifty new features and what not. What a bloody mistake! It spammed my computer with a million files everywhere, tagged anything that said 'Adobe' including ancient installations of software no longer in use, linked me to their intrusive Adobe Creative Cloud thing and kept throwing pop ups and planting roots and files all over my computer. It took me two hours to manually delete the whole thing, and that required installing special software just to remove it, manually deleting thirty folders or so, a good few restarts and going to the registry edit to remove the fucking stubborn shortcuts it placed in various locations. Adobe, I loved you for twenty years; there were times I called Photoshop my best friend, but you just made sure I'll never install any of your infesting junk software on my machine ever again. Way to go.  .

A nun, a night elf, a troll witch doctor and a dwarf shaman walk into a bar

I didn't write for two months because someone did something which I perceive as unbelievably unkind, unfair and ungrateful and it took me this long to start fixing my head; and every time I try to write more about it I end up with a whiny entry, so I'll skip that and go to the nice stuff.

It's been weird with Blender. I was on a crazy roll; I spewed two commissions a day for two weeks and managed to get the gist of making hair quite easily; then doing regular Blender things got boring and I ended up pushing the limits, so now I'm happily neck-deep in challenges again and it's fun.

Out of the fifty or so pictures I made these past two months, though, there's only a few with something more personal to say about.



This is my character. I don't feel comfortable making art of my characters, but the roleplaying of the last few weeks - playing proper HMS Beagle type explorers who collect flora and fauna samples, not only do archaeology - made me really want to try and capture the feel of it. And my shy, ultra-modest nun ended up showing knees like a common harlot, which is lovely in terms of character development. And I really enjoyed trying to tell a story with the outfit - because I wanted it to feel like a classic Victorian explorer outfit - but it has to be black because my character is a grieving nun - and it was a fun challenge to try and get there with the limited (and considerably less realism oriented) dress styles Warcraft has to offer. I had to cheat a bit in Blender to nail the look, but the picture captured everything I wanted it to, and I'm happy with it. 


This picture took three weeks. The player's writing is excellent; immersive, self-aware, so convincing I forget this is a fictional character and not a real being; me wanting to make an image of this inspiring zealot character was inevitable, but doing her justice was something else entirely.

To begin with, her body shape is not that of your normal Warcraft night elf:


I tweaked her proportions and musculature to better go with her description and what I had in mind,  which is the fun part that worked well, I think. The rest, however, presented me with enough challenges to keep this picture out of the official gallery. 

She's supposed to have a viking-like hair style, with braids, and I spent five days bashing my head against that problem - good looking particle hair braids - and failed. Then there's the main in problem -  the fact that none of her outfit pieces match in terms of resolution and quality - and it hurts my eyes. Look at that: The ear jewel's shape is passable, but it direly needs texturing; the necklace is a disaster both in terms of shape and bump; the shoulder looks flat (because it is, duh), and the armour texture us low resolution, stretched and smudged. And the eyes look like mirrors, and not like glowy eyes.


Putting it like this sounds like self flogging, but it's really not the case. I'm very happy with this piece, I think the all in all feel and direction of it are good and I made great progress with learning stuff; and all the above problems, well, they go on the 'new awesome challenge to tackle' list.

And now for something completely different.

Somewhere around 2011 I got this idea to make a tarot deck featuring my friend's awesome witch doctor troll, Zul'fon. But even if I stick to major arcana only, painting the same character twenty two times is a tiring notion; so I made half a chard and gave up.

2011 


Then I discovered 3D, but I didn't know enough to make it work so I gave up:

2015


And last week I got a sudden urge to experiment with different styles, still in Blender, and got this:

2017

That's progress, but something about the design doesn't work; the composition doesn't quite nail it, the colours don't tell a decisive story, and the visual style of a cute children's book somehow doesn't hit the feel I had in mind. But I did have fun spending a whole day learning this cartoon style, and it's good to have it in my quiver for when I want to use it. Or when I figure out what I really want with the Zul'fon tarot.

All this amounts to quite a lot of things in the 'study this' list, and yesterday I finally did something about it, because I noticed that our shaman's outfit had this harness that is painfully low-resolution. Look at this. Oww, my eyes!


And this was all it took to make me nuts so I pally-tanked my way through my first texture painting (and a bit of modeling) and made this:


It's not great, and I'm looking forward to studying more and getting better at it; but it's as fun a breakthrough as my first venture into 3D was, and if I get this right I'll be able to do so much more than I have so far; so I'm pleased. 

And here's Khadrun now - let's ignore, for a moment, the fact that Wow Model Viewer butchers the skirt texture; let's also ignore the fact that to actually show this harness shirt I had to remove Khadrun's beard, and boy, does he look derpy; We can even ignore (or can we?) the horror of the low resolution glove and bracer textures, or on my sloppy volume on the blue thing; Just like before - it doesn't look great - but it's an improvement. And at least I won't have to grit my teeth every time I make a picture with that texture harness ever again.


So my plate is full; I need to get better (aka stop bullshitting my way through) texture painting, modeling, and weight painting; I need to learn how to make particle braids that look good; and with all this, I hope one day to no longer be limited to existing wow models, and just be able to make pictures of whatever I want. This is just like what drove me to draw at the age of five; here we go again. 


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

From Diamonds to Real Stuff

Today I woke up on the down side of the mood curve. I lay in bed with my eyes closed and thought - I shouldn't remain in bed and read, even though it feels like there's little out there to get out of bed for; I should get up and force myself out.

(There's nothing wrong with my life. There's nothing wrong with me, or mine, or my health; I don't know why I was feeling down).

But then daddy called. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" was on the radio, he said, "and I thought of you. And thank you for all the effort you put into my birthday, it was wonderful; I have the card you attached to your present right here on the table and it makes me smile."

And just like that, the day became awesome.


I hopped out of bed and went to work on my Blender commissions and was so engaged I forgot to eat all day; Then I finally did the thorough checking of those classes Noogie linked me to and spent a gross amount of money on purchasing twenty (twenty!) classes; then I skipped going to jam with the gang because I was too deep in work and enjoying it and there will be another jam next week, which is closer to my birthday and I thought I'd come over with a cake and not tell them, but it will be my secret birthday party doing what I love best, singing with Zivsky and the gang and the guitar; and then - well. Then I got an offer to make graphics for someone. For real money. Not another Warcraft player, but an actual grown up who saw my little amateur Blender things and thought to hire me for this project.

Me. For someone real. My tiny fun (and also fan) art caught someone's eye. I can't believe it.

So... it was a very good day. 
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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Artifact research: The Bayonet


Daddy's birthday was two days ago, but we'll be celebrating at the weekend. Finding perfect presents is always hard, and rarely conforms to the calendar - so usually we settle for 'I'll get you something perfect when I find it', but this year I really wanted to make a fuss over his birthday; perhaps to express the love, perhaps because I really yearn to see him happy.

Background: A couple of months ago I randomly entered one of them 60s type shops for cleaning agents, where you feel as if you'll be shot upon entry, and all the walls are covered with bottles and dust, and the owner guy knows more about chlorine than he does about humans. But I gasped and pointed at something on the wall, and he said 'yeah, I collect them', and we had a lovely talk about knives and world wars weapons, because my daddy collects those too.

Long story short: I went back to that shop today and asked the guy if he'll sell me that bayonet, right there at the bottom, under the three swords and the four antique pistols.

Now, the guy - Dimitri - in in his early fifties, and he collects those with true passion shared by none in his family, and alien though the Russian mentality is to me, we bridged it by being excited about the same thing. So I explained: Dad, birthday, I'll understand if you're not selling, but if you'd be willing to consider, I'd love to pay you what you think is fair.

I came back home all giddy, because I think dad would love this a lot; then there was the research to do.

So Dimitri told me that it's a WWI bayonet, which was a good start. Luckily, it had quite a lot of detail on it to help me proceed.


"F.G.G.Y." was the best lead, and it turns out to be the manufacturer: A Hungarian company located in Budapest, which at the time made bayonets for the Royal Hungarian Army. Those bayonets were typically attached to Steyr Mannilcher rifles, commonly used by the Austro-Hungarian army during WWI.

Some googling gave me a variety of bayonets used in that era, and I compared hilts, scabbards, emblems, sheath-shapes and even rivets to finally find what the bayonet I have is. The emblem on the other side of the hilt's base required a magnifying glass, and turned out to be a one-headed eagle. The one head is a dating jackpot; it means this bayonet was made between 1918-1934, because after that - at 1934-1938 - the emblem used had two heads. Bingo.

The number on the clasp is what I couldn't nail - it's 1568.X., and as far as I got it, it represents who this was made for; but I don't know which one this represents. What I do know, by checking the  rivets on the cross-guard, is that this bayonet was re-purposed for use in WWII (how cool is that?) - because the larger rivets were only used years after WWI, when the guard was starting to fall off due to the original riveting being too small to withstand time.

But I do know that it wasn't used in the 60s - because the bayonets that the Bulgarian army re-purposed were marked with an electro-pencil serial number on the cross-guard, which this one wasn't - which makes it less common.

So now I have a bit of history to go with the gift, and I think I can only top it off by asking Dimitri where he got it and try to track it back. Still, fun! I did proper artifact research!

Monday, 8 May 2017

Good deeds go punished, and a bit of Blender

Yesterday I tried to call someone who suffers physical pain like I used to, wishing to tell them I learnt of a way that could ease that. Seeing as said way involves weight loss as a nice, effortless side effect, the person accused me with 'how dare you think I'm not happy with the way I look' and - amazingly enough - that I was trying to sell something. Faith in the human race: plummeting. Astonishment at how an act of pure caring and kindness could be shot down with accusations before I manage to speak two sentences: sky-high.

Since when did offering possible solutions become something which is not good? Something that means you deserve to be called horrible names? I swear there's no more, no subtext; I called, I said 'hey, this helped me, I'd like to tell -' and was shot down with yelling and aggression befitting a - I don't even know what. It didn't feel very sane.

And as usual there's nothing I can do about it, because people who scream at you 'you are a Nazi' when you say 'hello' aren't people I understand, or changing whose minds is cost effective - it's like trying to pour constant care and walk on eggshells and be soft and understanding and containing - and it's a black hole. It never ends. What can you do against someone who decides what you did and meant, before you even got to speak? And then acts on it, aggressively and unfairly and very hurtfully? Imagine you said 'good morning!' to someone, and their reaction was 'how DARE you insult my career?! You selfish, blind, opportunist pig!'. That's pretty much what happened to me yesterday.

So it will take me a couple of days to bob up to the surface again. At least I know said person is dead weight - aka the kind of person you can let go of, and I did. It is relieving; I just wish I could process all those feelings of hurt and unfairness and anger at them, but there's no point.

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But hey, on to nicer things. I've opened commissions for really cheap because I want an excuse to practice Blender, and this one commission - oh, boy. Did it challenge me or what. Test render incoming, 'cause it's not done yet.


To begin with, the description was... well, I don't know. They just say 'here's my char, they're standing in a cool place, looking cool, and their expression is cool'. I get that that's what people want, but it's very hard to make an interesting image with that; even an interesting portrait. So that was hard, but I think the camera angle and lighting might have made it less of an informative portrait and a tiny bit more closer to something with a story. A very tiny bit.

But I started working on this one at nine in the morning, and by four I was still on it - and you could think - dude, there's not even a background, the fuck took you so long - so what took me so long was the blood armour, because it's got bits in it which weren't easily accessible in Wow Model Viewer, and required some very serious digging; then what I found wasn't textured right, so I sifted through many textures to find the right one, then it was all the wrong colours and then Wow Model Viewer went bonkers on me and I had to reinstall and had an hour of 'oh shit I need to remake all my models'.

But.

It was an awesome challenge, and I got through it because I'm stubborn, and it's been a while since I felt proud and accomplished at having managed to beat all the bumpers limited technology put in my way. And I'm all puffy-chested and giving it the finger now, because screw you, bitch, I managed to make what I wanted even if I had to go thrice unorthodox and out of the box thinking for it.

Also, particle hair still annoying, but immeasurably better since I got the gist.

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Must learn to not bother with venomous people. Must learn not to be so naive. Must learn that sometimes kindness will get you shat in the face because people are dicks (hello, lesson-plagiarizing bitch). And must learn to find an outlet; this really isn't good for my complexion.

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But now - the air condition finally made the house less hot, and my brain is starting to function again; and it's time for dinner, and games, and friends, and relaxing; I feel better.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

It's such a lovely day!

After over a week of struggling to rearrange the sleep cycle so I'm actually awake when there's daylight - and doing that involves a lot of coffee, a touch of sleeping pills and mainly being very tired and grumpy - last night I ended up going to bed at 17:30 and sleeping pretty much like a log until 08:00 this morning. All I remember is a chain of very immersive dreams, although fuck if I can tell what they were.

And now I'm well rested, and all wakeful and relaxed, for the first time in a while. And it's great to be up when there's sunshine; and the house is nice and clean, and there's fresh flowers, and we did some cool trick over the holiday - we're only two people in the household, after all; it occurred to me that having more than one plate, one set of cutlery and one glass for each of us serves no purpose but delaying dishwashing. So we packed everything aside from that, and now the sink is nice and empty even when all our dishes are in it. This makes me very happy.

What also makes me happy is reading Pratchett, which I haven't done in years. It's not very immersive, or serious, but it's always witty and entertaining and fun to read; a safe bet.

I spent the day working on a commission for some pirate character, which is perfectly timed since I watched Black Sails and felt like playing with that beautiful ship insides lighting. It was a fun challenge, and I'll gush over it once it's done and I can post it here.

There was some bumping into cooking this week (I'm a terrible, terrible cook) and I ended up making millet and having roasted aubergines and not knowing how to combine them - and here's the best part: I remembered how Srulu made me like aubergines, in 2002 - so I called him for tips. The food came out nicely, but the best part is, of course, the ease of being able to just call him and discuss cooking; him, the guy after messing with I ended up bonkers for two years, worst time of my life, yada yada. So normal. So nice.

The food was lovely too, and it always feels nice to have a healthy meal. That is - I have very little 'unhealthy' since the awesome diet of awesome started, but anything with less fat and more vegetables is a win in my book.

And last - there's this student who kind of knifed me in the back, over which I agonized quite a lot - but I researched ways of putting people on ignore on various platforms, and now this person is as good as nonexistent and much easier to forget about. I still wish them horrible digestion problems, though.

And I have just enough commissions and inspiration to keep me busy with Blender - which means there's never a dull moment, I always have something fun to do, some challenge to tackle. So much so that I don't really play much, either Warcraft or Lotro - but, hopefully, those aren't going anywhere.

And now... to just wait for this render to finish.
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Monday, 1 May 2017

Spring!

Spring in Israel is painfully short, but it's by far my favourite season. It's as if the hunter-gatherer animal that humans were a couple of million years ago rears its head, going 'omg! omg! look! there's, like, flowers! and sunshine! and ooh, birds, look, look! and the air feels so nice on your skin! and oooooh, breeze! omg, omg! must skip and jump and breathe and smell and glee!'.

My mood automatically lifts in spring, and it's stretching out after the winter's hibernation. I want to open all the windows and go on a crazy spree of throwing away half the stuff in the house, and vacuum my skin or something, and wash everything with fresh clean water. Of course, opening the windows also means flies and cockroaches, and a mere glimpse at the amount of junk I've accumulated over the years is enough to dishearten me from started my dream spring cleaning, but the urge is certainly there.

And because I'm lucky, this spring (or right now at least) I'm also all creativity; and it feels great to sit here, in my spring-sun lit room, with fresh roses in the vase and sweet oranges winking at me from the kitchen, and do my Blendering and listen to music and feel happy and relaxed and alive; Now I just have to find the courage to storm the toss-junk-away project and make this spring into something more tangible than breath and words.
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