The Opposite Of Speed Painting

Digital Painting – The Danger of Painting Silhouettes from matt kohr on Vimeo.

There’s more to read, if you’d really like, at the article featuring the above video. My rebuttal is largely to the video itself, so there’s no need to read it all first.

Now, I realize it’s in bad form to debate a poor metaphor, but it applies to both: so what?

The English bit: nearly every sentence we write is an encoding of something or other. The English language itself is just a way of putting every conceivable thought we could possible have and putting it in the form of 26 squiggly lines and a few configurations of dots. Right? We’re encoding thoughts. That’s where their logic doesn’t make sense to me. If we’re encoding thoughts, both of his forms are entirely adequate and as such, you could learn to speak exclusively in abbreviated language just fine. It’d be strange, maybe, but entirely workable. In fact, it might even be better to learn such an abbreviated form because the rules become so much easier. The clauses of sentences become very simple and efficient. You could argue that it’s not English per se, but it is a way of expressing thought in the form of letters. That’s the goal, after all, though. Right?

Okay, so metaphorically, speed painting is this text speak. But then the argument is the equivalent of saying “it’s not real English. You’re not using real English rules!”

Well, no. That’s sort of the entire point.

There is a good point in there, however. Perspective and the fundamentals are important. They are, metaphorically, the letters in both the English and the text speak. They are the fundamental building blocks from which both are built. The important thing to note is that their argument against speed painting is about people ignoring fundamentals, and those are two completely separate arguments.

But yeah, I guess. Everyone! Don’t try text speak unless you know the 26 English letters. It’s a nonsensical point. You can’t English without the letters and you can’t text without the letters. You can’t paint without the fundamentals and you can’t speed paint without the fundamentals. That doesn’t make any of those things wrong or better or worse. It doesn’t make speed painting wrong or worse. The speed of the performance isn’t linked to the skill behind the art.

The ultimate kicker here is even that doesn’t really matter. Did Picasso use perspective? No. He was his own style. It’s harder to apply that to concept art, which is largely environmental and semi-photorealistic but there is in art this potential to be good without being by the book. Things will look silly if you’re truly awful, but there are good examples of ignoring stead-fast rules in order to make something even better.

So no, speed painting isn’t ruining anything. Skills will improve with practice and observation regardless of the style you choose or the speed you do it at.


OBLIVION GFX Montage from GMUNK on Vimeo.

I’ll keep this short, it’s less a review and more about what the movie is.

I had a chance to see the movie last week and was really impressed. The visuals are led by a director with a background in architecture and design and it shows. Like Tron, the movie is as much about it’s style and it’s world as anything else. I went into it with no real expectations and left pleasantly surprised but it’s depth and the little details that usually derail these sorts of movies. I really appreciated that they built the sets and the vehicles – the fact that they shot the cloudscapes and projected them just seems so caring to me. There was a video about Akira that talked about the sheer level of detail they put into it, that there’s a scene that’s only a few seconds long, but they matte painted an entire cityscape to parallax through the buildings behind them. That’s the sort of obsessive vision that I really appreciate. Even if the movie is terrible – and Oblivion isn’t – I appreciate the people who made it so much more.

The soundtrack is M83 and unlike Tron’s Daft Punk score, was actually pretty generic. Save for the credit song and a few of the ambient bits it was the traditional cinematic style found everywhere. It wasn’t bad, it’s just that I wish M83 had more reign to do something awesome.

So. Go see it. Notice that there’s dirt on the pedals of the flying machine from adventures previous. Notice that it feels lived in instead of being a greenscreen soundstage.

Red Bull F1 – Rhythm of the Factory

If anyone ever asks you what industrial design is – and they will – just show them this.

It’s sort of the epitome of our process, isn’t it? From drawing to prototyping to testing to building the final car or toaster or spoon or whatever. We build things. If we find something we can’t build, we invent a technology that can.

Shame about the livery though, the matte black air test model was gorgeous.

Dredd: Better than Batman?

Go in with no expectations, walk out without the ability to form coherent sentences. That was, at least, what I did. Driving home in the rainy night I tried to think about what I’d write here and it all came forth at once, this tidal wave of opinions. Instead I just turned up the music and watched the coloured lights reflect in the inky road, letting it all come forward.

Possible spoilers ahead.

Batman’s third installment Dark Knight Rises was exactly what it needed to be. It featured a cast of the world’s loveliest people and was directed by one of the best making films today. It was predictable and took very few risks, closing the series nicely. It worked, don’t get me wrong. It fit and was successful. Good. But not… but not brilliant.

…a word one might use to describe Dredd. It was crafted brilliantly. It’s not a clever movie, it too is predictable and if you saw the trailer, you know exactly what it will be. It’s an 80’s movie made in 2012. It has cheesy one liners and ridiculous amounts of violence. The part that I’d describe as brilliant is the balance between it’s tongue-in-cheek cheese and it’s maintained gravity. It’s stylized but not silly. Judge Dredd delivers the same kind of lines as Batman does, but the former’s come out with a self aware over-the-top badass snark whereas the latter’s gravel always made me giggle. Batman just takes itself too seriously and it comes across as laughable.

The violence is abundant. It’s rated R for a reason. It’s based on a gritty, dark comic and the movie adaptation matches; it’s the nature of the beast. With that said, there’s a surprising lack of actual sexual content given it’s testosterone fueled ride. Alluded to a few times, it just doesn’t take center stage in a movie about a soulless justice system. He’s not really a human, he doesn’t really have a face, he’s just the embodiment of justice itself. Justice can’t get the girl. He shoots bad guys.

The slo mo drug, obviously, is a plot device created specifically so they can show neat things in slow motion. What I appreciated is that they didn’t over use it. It’s there and it’s a plot device, it gets shown a few times in the beginning to establish how it works and then the rest is left to simply be understood. Actually, one might say the same about the violence: it’s introduced in the beginning with rather disturbing homicides that the Judges investigate but the final death is almost poetically calm. The 3D too, is usually abused by directors but here it’s just a subtle effect to create depth, never deciding how something is shot that wouldn’t be otherwise. It’s a movie of cinematic balances – the choices of when and where to pull punches show surprising grace for a movie of such genre.

Soundtrack: wow. I’ll be getting that whenever it’s available. So perfect. Subtle 80’s tones in there match the hokey-retro styled motorcycles in a fitting homage to the past. The slow motion parts have this lovely Brian Eno feel and the Judge’s no-nonsense walking around hallways have a fantastic driving pulse to them. Dirty and alive.

Honestly? I think it’ll be an underrated cult classic. It was good. If given the choice, I’d see that again instead of Batman. It’s self aware enough to avoid the trap of cheesiness and knows how to balance thematic elements with surprising deftness.

Steam Greenlight

I’ve agreed with Campster before – his other videos and observations are spot on – but the above strikes me as a little black and white.

The problem with the completely open argument is, and using the mobile app stores as an example (both Apple and Android), they don’t really push good content in the happy “cream floats to the top” way described. There’s the top ten list, which is feedback loop of increased sales and… everyone else. I agree, sure, that Angry Birds was a phenomenon of games going viral, but that wasn’t really the app store’s doing, it was the fact that the game was addicting and charming and delightful and word spread “You’ve got to download this game!”

It would be a hard argument to suggest that Angry Birds wouldn’t exist if there were a $100 entry fee to get in the store. If this is even remotely accurate, they spent $140 000 on development. So $100 would be 0.07% of the total cost. A fraction of the drop in the bucket. Like any business, that’s part of development cost that (hopefully) gets regained when you start making the kind of money Angry Birds did. It’s a gamble.

Now, the immediate counterargument is correct: “It doesn’t cost $100 for Steam to provide this service, it’s an infinite shelf space.” But that actually isn’t the point. You’re not paying $100 to get shelf space, you’re paying $100 as a token of “I believe in this idea enough that I’m willing to invest in it” because anyone who’s put any sort of effort into something should be willing to say exactly that. I don’t want to sound callous but $100 is working a saturday at a cafe down the street; it’s not exactly an impossible sum to come up with. If you think your idea is good enough to pursue and develop it into a working game, you probably already believe in it enough to put some money down. If it is truly good, you’ll make it back in sales. On the other hand, if you’re some kid in his mom’s basement making games (and I was this kid, years ago) you probably shouldn’t be clogging up the shelves even if they are infinite. Back then we had the Gamemaker forums and you’d post your amateur games to that. It was awesome. The community made up of people using the same language and playing with the same ideas would give you feedback and there was no barrier between me making absolute rubbish (and I did!) and posting it. With that said, Steam should not pursue that as the goal. There’s a big difference between indie games and basement games. Call it a walled garden, but I see it more as a “wash your hands before you come inside from the sandbox” sort of measure.

The expansion of that is the ultimate open marketplace: distributing your product without Steam at all. A perfect example is Blendo Games who made the brilliant Gravity Bone and distributed it via their site for free. It was an .exe and picked up it’s own fantastic reviews for being awesome, passed on by word of mouth and eventually the bigger game news sites. There was no bar to fill up via likes but there was an entry fee: hosting his Blendo site. I’m just guessing based on my own hosting, but it’s probably around $100. Per year. Fast forward a bit and we see other crtically acclaimed success in the 3rd Humble Indie Bundle and eventually 30 Flights of Loving, the soul sequel to Gravity Bone (and, I should say, also fantastic) on Steam for $5. Outside the garden entirely was where Brendon Chung (the one-man studio) proved himself / his ability to make good games and demonstrate that they were worth paying money for.

Youtube is a wonderful thing, as is Vimeo and Society6 and Etsy and Ebay. These are places where you can do things for free because some way or other, they’re making money out of your dealings. That’s fine, we agree, because we get something out of that exchange as well. It’s symbiotic, but it’s not a direct comparison for the ecosystem of paid games. Even 99¢ apps create a sort of hesitation and weight that simply clicking on a Youtube link doesn’t have. Again we see the cream doesn’t float to the top; Errant Signal itself (who, despite this rebuttal, I do love and would describe as quality content) has just over half million combined views and yet the most inane, brain numbing crap on the frontpage gets millions per video. In a just ecosystem this wouldn’t be the case and I genuinely wish channels like Errant Signal got the respect deserved. But, that’s a side note as example of how Youtube shouldn’t be the gold standard model.

TL;DR Should there be an arbitrary like bar? No. If you pay the entrance fee, you’re in. Should there be an entrance fee? Yes, I think it’s a good way to keep the market honest with ideas truly believed in. If you want to make dumb little games there are more than enough channels already available for distribution.

Love the Beast

It showed up on Canadian Netflix a little while back which means, I can only assume, it’s available everywhere. Definitely this post put much more eloquently than I ever could have. It’s a topic that’s coming up more and more lately in not only my interactions with cars but also my observations of people’s interactions with their objects and even the introspective reasoning of who I am and why I design.

One of my favorite bits:

Just briefly:

It’s interesting to me, now that I’m writing for LTKMN and working in fiction more, how much of my writing tends towards objects and spacial relationships. Coinciding with my love for architecture, even when given unlimited range to create things I create spaces, not people. I’d never really thought about it in such a direct way before, but I truly am bored with mere people. It’s a terrible thing to admit aloud but it’s true – I simply don’t find any interest in the people themselves outside of their relationships both with other humans and with other things. I look back to all of my favorite movies and books and stories and music and they’re all about a shift in paradigm that breaks and reforms those relationships. Those are interesting, those are the ones worth watching for me. Because the characters themselves are just tropes, just patterns based on the equally boring and predictable humans in real life. It’s how they collide and spin that’s fascinating.

And so, I write about spaces. I write about alternate histories and futures yet to come. It occurs to me that the few storylines I’ve written about people (or anthropomorphic robots) are all about the splitting and rebinding of relationships towards external things. Internal events, sure, that some might call character change, but that are inherently externally forced.

There’s that Debussy quote “Music is in the space between the notes” and it’s apparent: humans, like notes, simply smushed together is just a cacophony. Architecture, and that of a car’s space, is the physical separation required to generate story. My writing, then, is more a reflection on silence than anything, following the metaphor. Obsessed in the other direction.


You could watch the above with a rational heart and announce “what a load of crap”; I couldn’t argue with you in any logical sense. Still, I’m willing to admit I have cried watching Speed Racer in the past. There’s a scene in the end – and unfortunately not on Youtube – where the car dies and he needs to restart it, ignoring the Grand Prix around him and just listening. Feeling. There is something to these vehicles that transcends the mere logic of metal bits moving about and propelling us forward.

I never understood, having a younger sister, why girls liked horses so much. They are, to my mind, ugly plodding things that emit noxious fumes and are generally impossible to control. They are uncomfortable to be on or around and grossly underpowered compared to the vehicles in the stable’s parking lot. But there is something – and I haven’t experienced it myself – that I assume happens: you become one with the horse and it stops being two free-willed animals attached to each other and starts being one machine, one connection of control. I look at my car, at my seat that fits my back and the steering wheels that bears my thumb prints and I can’t help but think that sometimes it is an animal of it’s own. Somehow, these parts come together and create something better than a mere metal sculpture.

My car (above, photo taken by my father before I was born) is not impressive to most, boasting a whole 70 horse’s power when new (and surely many have run away in the meantime) coming from the ’88 E16s 1.6L engine. It was my parent’s car when they were first married and will be an antique next year. It was a car that I rode in the back seat of as a small child and the one I learned to drive standard in, eventually just buying it outright. I love her.

I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past my love for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I just started Shop Class as Soulcraft yesterday – two books that compliment each other really well both in terms of message and application. I don’t yet own a motorcycle, although the lessons transfer to not only other vehicles but life itself. That’s why they’re in the philosophy section of the bookstore, I suppose. The medium of machinery is a very good metaphor for the machines that are us, the being of human. I appreciate that in both cases the underlying text is that we as people have sort of detached, like a rider and horse, into separate beasts. Mind and body and white collar and blue collar and emotional states and our very perceptions of things are all in these broad divides. I think the case they’re trying to make is that we need to mount the horse or get in the driver’s seat and become one with ourselves again. That we almost look at the things around us with that same cold calculation that we look at cars as just hunks of metal when really, they are a thing to experience and identify with.

The scene at the end of Speed Racer is the perfect metaphor for our internal, personal divide. The protagonist asks of the car, “What do you need?” and although getting no explicit response, proceeds to listen and to know. To be intuitive about the smallest things. I think we ask ourselves this every day and find ourselves frustrated when we aren’t in tune enough to find the answers. We don’t trust the gut enough to act on those little, unspoken ideas and feelings that pour forth.

Is it silly that I treat my search for a new car much like I’d treat the search for a new stallion or a good German Shepard? Maybe. Is it silly that my eyes get a little watery over the course of a kid’s movie? Yeah. Will I sob violently when I have to say goodbye to my darling Pulsar? Definitely.

But I do think, and I say this as an extremely logical, meticulously practical person, that we need to simply feel and listen more and act on those gut instincts. That we can look at ourselves and know things are wrong much like a mechanic on a motorcycle can feel when the gas mixture is too lean or when a spark plug has build up. The sounds and smells and vibrations are all there, but we have to not only learn to identify with them but to act accordingly and fearlessly.

The Neil Gaiman Address


“You should enjoy it.” and I didn’t. Instead, I worried about it. … … I wished I’d enjoyed it more.

It’s a common thing, it seems. This is where, I think, I see the need for more enjoyment of transience instead of end goals for end goals’ sake. The journey can be the rewarding part instead of just the grind in between zero and one.

Pretending you know what you’re doing is pretty much the same as knowing what you are doing, so even if you aren’t sure, just go for it anyway.

– The Holstee Manifesto, if I’m not mistaken. Actually, and I just quoted that from my head, so I’m probably both a terrible source of information and a lazy liar.

Be good.


Chris Franklin on Gamification

I’m a big fan of Errant Signal because it’s such a transcendent platform – game reviews are there, yes, but even those are so much more than about just the game itself. Then, there are works like the above, which tackle the bigger topics without the immediate proxy that the specific game would provide.

It’s a cool topic, gamification, and one that I always meant to write about myself. Honestly, though, I’m not sure I have any further commentary to provide – he nails it dead on. I could put the industrial design spin on it and talk about the psychology of using a physical product instead of a virtual one, but when it boils down the metaphors stand: using something for the sake of itself is different than using it for some arbitrary reward. I might add, actually, that the physical product market does add another logically pointless reward: this concept of coolness.

While you could argue for and against the coolness of using Foursquare, the virtual gamification doesn’t immediately care about what others think. You’re getting rewarded for the things you do. Sometimes it’s a public thing – you want others to see your achievements or point score or whatever, but it’s not nearly as open as, say, driving a nice car or wearing that expensive watch. The reward mechanism for physical product usage is available much more directly to strangers on the street. As such, choices are made to maximize that, often in spite of more practical and reasonable concerns. This would be a prime example for using a system (or product) more for the reward than for the inherent joy of the product itself. This would the real-life equivalent of grinding for GP.

Coolness – if I may go off now on a complete tangent – is a bizarre thing. It’s only acceptable if it’s seemingly effortless. People who try too hard to be cool are even less cool than where they started because true coolness would be apathetic to being cool. The truly cool people are those who just are, while the people who want to be seen as cool cannot be. It’s actually one of the few status related actions in humanity that I really appreciate. It’s hilarious and ironic and much like golf rewards those who are able to relax and let it be. If you try too hard to be good at golf you will tend to do miserably. Then there’s the downward spiral: if you slice a ball terribly the mulligan has to be better, so you try harder, and it gets worse. Repeat. The more you fail trying to be cool the more you want to be cool and the harder you try, the more you’ll fail.

In summation, golf and coolness are Chinese finger traps, and both Chris Hecker and Chris Franklin are awesome.

Leap Spacial Interface

By now you’ve probably all seen this: the new $70 Kinect-like interface for your computer.

And by now you’ve probably already figured out what I’m going to say.

The problem with spacial interfaces isn’t accuracy, it’s the fact you’re going to have to hold one or both of your hands up for extended periods of time. This is why touchscreens, when presented as direct replacements for monitors, are almost never used after the initial gee-whiz factor wears off. Mice are actually pretty fantastic. I can very accurately point to anything on my screen quickly and by moving maybe a few centimeters at most. Muscles used: just whatever’s required for my first two fingers and thumb. You want to sell your product on the basis of efficiency when you have to move an entire arm (or two) (which are slower appendages in that context) farther and then move the wrists and fingers to work the interface? I just, it doesn’t make any sense.

Now, are they inherently useless? For now, maybe, but I look at the touchscreen example: would I ever want a touchscreen monitor? Nope. Never. Would I want a mouse to control my iPad when I’m curled around it reading emails / ebooks or browsing Flipboard in bed? That’s just silly. Or when using your phone on the train: your thumb’s scrolling up and down is ideal for that size and position (unless you have the Mammoth LTE X4 G6 911 Slim Xtreme Android Envy Prime, in which case your thumb can’t actually reach that far).

We changed our posture to fit the technology better and it works.

Can I think of any posture where a spacial interface would be ideal? Not at the moment, but hey, that’s where the touchscreen started too.

So with the technology becoming smaller, cheaper and more accurate (and hopefully non-laggy, which even Wacom struggles with) I am excited to see where this goes. Until then, I won’t be buying one.

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