Deus Ex: Human Revolution Concept Art

As I continue learning speed painting I continue to be humbled by the masters.

Painting in colour, as I’ve now found out, is much more difficult than originally thought. So even more respect for works like those above.


In Gaming news: Portal 2 DLC and Reset

As we know, Portal 2 is awesome. It’s been a little over a year since it’s release and next week Valve is laying down the community driven map system with editor and I have to say, the UI looks slick. I was worried – there’s a lot of complexity in a test chamber and 3D editor interfaces are generally sort of terrible at intuition. My fears have been quelled, replaced by sheer excitement for the release. May 8th. Ask Siri to mark your calendars.

In other gaming news, a trailer that caught my attention:

A trailer of enigma no doubt. But gah! That’s in game footage. They wrote the graphics engine because they didn’t like any of the existing ones. It’s first person puzzle single player co-op (whatever that is). The teaser art (also in game footage) looks like this. You can find that trailer song here. They’re writing a blog and making notes about all of the development. This is the sentence structure of Brennan Letkeman swooning. Consider me a fan of this indie studio and all that they’ve done so far. Even if the game release itself is utter rubbish, that trailer is something to be proud of.

So good, you guys. So good.


Works In Progress

Some things that I’ve been playing around with. May or may not ever finish them, but the ideas are there and people keep telling me to share the intermediate things.

I feel like the loft is off to a good start, but that back wall needs some love. Not sure yet. The external scene is, well, I’m terrible at them. I mean, that’s the point of practice, but still. I started a speed paint of almost that exact idea but realized half way through that doing the shading for each of those chimney stones is an ugly process.

The MK2 Stealth Chairs are the design we were originally going to make after we did the cardboard versions, but we got distracted and it never fully materialized. Someday, perhaps.

Funnily enough, not counting the render times themselves, making these takes about the same amount of time as my “speed” painting does. I’m both a pretty fast modeler and a pretty slow drawer, it seems. It is getting faster though. I was painting this morning and went to take a break only to realize it wasn’t as late as I thought it should have been. So that’s good. Improvement!

White Rapids

I was riding the train back home today following a gorgeous longboard ride and couldn’t help but be drawn to this comic over some guy’s shoulder. It’s astounding!

Now, I can’t comment on the story having not actually read it, but the pictures review very highly on the Acrylo cool-o-meter.

It’s called White Rapids and was done up by a Pascal Blanchet five years ago. Also: it’s Canadian. Fortunately for us it’s a comic and not a film. The word comic is used – there is text and visuals on every page together – but there are no real panels, no grid, which makes it read more like a Dr. Suess picture book than anything. I’m entirely fine with that, actually, given that it’s more about the visual history of the town than a dialogue-based plot. It works.

It’s $25 on Amazon and just over 150 pages which makes it a pretty thin book for that price. Shame. If it were, say, $10 I’d be on that like white on rice.

Images via (and a review, it seems)

Patterned by Nature

So. Cool.

I do think it’d almost be better without the bird chirp soundtrack though, because the visual metaphor is so strong by itself. The absence of sound would allow you to add your own but also contemplate that what you’re seeing isn’t a mere illusion trying to fool you; it’s that your brain is so easily manipulated.

What would be awesome is this sort of thing in like, 2cm square glass pieces that drizzle down like rain falling against the glass. I would totally use that for all the exterior windows in my house. Perpetual sunny rain, with perpetual shadows falling across the walls opposite.

Via Vimeo’s frontpage

Best Movie Idea Ever

I was watching Thor last night while drawing and realized that it’s actually one of the worst movies ever made. So I drew what I assume to be much better: Aliens in the Tron universe.

There should be some reasons for my above statements, as an objective critic it’s unfair to throw out such slander without backing it up but overall it boils down to the root problem with all the recent Marvel movies:

It’s a recipe structure which I can’t really fault them for immediately, but we see it again and again. Iron Man and Thor are, for all intents and purposes, the same movie – the difference being that Tony Stark is likable and we actually start to enjoy his smarm after a while. Thor captured the female vote for his shirtless scenes, but is a flat character otherwise; he’s just relentless in his running around trying to do whatever he wants. Tony learns discipline and humility (at least, relatively speaking) when his actions start to hurt the people around him. They both had lame boss fights. It seems to be something that never translated over well from comics (and I say this to the Marvel movies as a whole) – there is no engagement. Like, you could stop the movie the moment just after the giant beast erupts from it’s hiding place and be entirely content already with the conclusion. You know what’s going to happen. I’m not saying the comics weren’t predictable, but they were clever enough to make it seem like the hero had a chance of danger. It’s not really the script itself, but the execution. I liked in the first Spider-Man the choice presented to save MJ (the love object) or the tramway (the pile of innocent civilians) and we see this stressful choice again in The Dark Knight. It stretches the hero too thin, the tension comes from the choice itself because it directly relates to the hero and what he’s learned throughout the movie but also how each choice is a small action towards a bigger outcome. Batman touches on this much better than Marvel has: reputation. Bruce Wayne’s and Batman’s reputation flux and flow throughout his actions and his emotions. Thor and friends are just people wearing ridiculous plastic cosplay armor and no one seems to care or notice. There’s no immersion into the universe.

Thor felt like, and this something that came to mind a few times throughout the movie, a fan film. Like some people found these costumes somewhere and decided to make their own. The townsfolk don’t want to interact with them because they look weird and they notice one of them is holding a camera. It’s like Super 8, except the whole movie is the kid’s version.

So anyway. That’s why I drew an Alien on a lightcycle.


The video, first off, is fantastic. Product and everything else aside, it’s great. Clear, simple message. Story. Compelling enough to make you sit through over three minutes (which I would consider the average attention span cutoff).

The product, that is, the site / service leaves me somewhat dumbfounded. I won’t say disappointed yet because other than the three minute video and the time spent typing these words here I haven’t given them anything. It’s Habbo Hotel. That’s the thing people liked before Facebook was invented. That’s the thing that died when Facebook was invented.

Now now, I wish them the best of luck and all – it’s cool seeing non-North American startups dive in and try to take NA markets – but I look at the patterns and wonder why they’re trying to repeat what we already know: bringing the virtual abstraction that is avatars for people into isometric doesn’t really change the social ‘etiquette’ that the 2D FB already (and unfortunately) creates. That awkwardness he describes in the video is entirely true, but outside of MMORPGs where trading and interaction is a necessity to continue on your quests, wandering up to people is still weird in virtual environments. The alternative is the opposite: a chat room. A free-for-all of text conversation. Talking across a noisy bar. If we use the real life analogy, this isn’t exactly ideal for everyone. I personally, and most of the people I hang out with (and by extrapolation, would like to meet), are more of the quiet pub type. Personal conversation. That works in real life because the physics of sound allow for conversations to change dynamically as groups grow and sub-conversations take over amongst themselves.

But, I’m interested. I’ll certainly give it a try if I can. I’d rather see a digitally aided social device for real life instead of a real life aided virtual social device, but hey, let’s experiment and see.

Feng Zhu School of Design

I remember when they announced these and I watched the first few (because that’s all there were at the time) and was really inspired and excited.

Jump forward a few years and I’d all but completely forgotten about them, stumbling back on the path just recently.

With my recent forays into speed painting and concept art this seems like the perfect refresher course. Feng Zhu is, and I say this without hesitation, the master at so many different aspects of this medium. Characters and landscapes and robots and the subtleties of emotion and scene drama. It’s more than just drawing something, he knows and has a mind for creating an impacting image, which is that bridge between marks on a page and art.

Definitely inspiring and definitely a lot to learn. Exciting!

On Fame and Ubiquity

Donald Glover is a talented man. His ability to change personas at a whim is remarkable, leading to a career that goes from witty writer to rap star to actor. He isn’t even thirty yet.

And I ask myself, how do people gain such widespread fame so fast? How do these candles burn so bright and so hard that it’s impossible to ignore them?

When I was young I believed deeply in meritocracy. To be famous you had to be good at what you did. I say fame here not in the celebrity sense, but in the leader in your field sense. Do most people know who Donald Glover is by name? Maybe quite a few. Do many know who Jony Ive is by name? Probably not many. Still, I consider that fame in that field.

When I found out about Snooki, that worldview sort of shattered.

My theory could be summed up “If you build it, they will come” as if people just had a talent detector and they would somehow magically find you if you were good enough.

Now, it’s a sort of false dichotomy to compare an entertainer – a person who’s job it is, literally, to sell themselves as fun, likeable people – and a professional whose job it is to make things and otherwise stay out of limelights. There’s also a cultural divide when we look at design specifically. The Scandinavian designer philosophy is very different than the American one.

It isn’t my explicit goal to become famous (it’s been pointed out that prestige is often just another way to get you to do something you don’t like for free) but I do wonder how we can, as people who devote our time into our work and not into our personal marketing, try and sync those up into a resonance that burns bright as tribute to both.

In the meantime, since I don’t have an answer yet, keep burning.

Johnny Five

And with that the year is over!

We had two presentations of our J5 robot – one open house trade show style and one stand up presentation to leaders of industry for direct feedback. Both were really good and I speak on behalf of the group when I say we’re proud of the end result. The crowd response was really encouraging and I daresay we impressed even the professionals.

The robot itself is one of the ASNT projects (ASNT being SAIT’s robot division) and we were commissioned to design and build the panels to cover pinch points and generally look good. We used magnets on the panels and body so they’re removable and allow for the ongoing robot construction which will happen after we move on. The panels themselves are made of Sintra, which is a 3mm PVC foam that we hand formed to curve using a heat gun (it has a soft point of like, ~65 degrees C) and then painted on the outside with mica pearl and clear coats while black Rocker Guard protects the inside (and fades it out of notice). The grey and red bits are vinyl that we did up in Illustrator and plotted out. It worked out, actually, that instead of doing a bunch of difference random shapes we could just reuse the J5 logo over and over in it’s various pieces.

The group is (and this was chosen by random and just happened to work out) familiar: Alex Forrest and Duncan Carmichael, who you’ll recognize for our Stealth Chair. We’re an awesome group and a good spread of talents to combine into an awesome outcome. It’s been really good working with them again.

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