Relaxing With Time

Relaxing With Time

I feel that I am a very lucky person. I appreciate all things in life from the small such as the smell of coffee when you open the bag to make a pot to the large such as getting a job you always wanted. I do not know if it is inherently me or my experiences in life that have opened my mind to all of these essences.

I know that I am too empathetic. I used to get in trouble in school for reading when my work was all done. It would have helped if the teacher knew my work was done. I would hide my book inside the text book in order to read my newest story. Well, I would then be crying or laughing out loud and give myself away by “disturbing” the class. I have difficulty with reading and seeing cruelty. It is not so much violence; I have no trouble with action scenes or battles, it is one being cruel to another at the expense of making a victim. Yes, I was always one to challenge the bullies if they were picking on somebody. I didn’t often take my size into consideration during these situations. I would be into it and defending then wonder why I was spectacularly flying through the air. Just so you know, I am a little hardheaded. The bullies would not know what to do when I picked myself up and ran right back into them. We usually ended in a truce of some sort and sometimes even friends, including the victims. I guess with a strong sense of empathy; negotiation and liaisoning were my strong suits…..

I am telling you this as I now find myself as a retiree from my primary work with the public school system. My last position with the school system was as a special education supervisor which required enormous amounts of negotiation and liaisoning. As these are my strong suits you would think this would be a perfect position for me. On the surface that would be true; but as a member of a tax supported organization, the odds were stacked. My defendants were the students. My work was to make sure the system was doing the appropriate instructional programming for those students. You would think that this would be straight forward but the position was one of no real authority over any of the parties involved, students, staff, parents, or even my own office. Now, I can handle a lot of “gray”; however, the ability to empathize and see all sides with clarity was slowly eroding my equilibrium. I was not in it for the fight of just winning cases. I was in the job for the students. When I found myself not able to recover enough to balance one situation to another and to appreciate even the little things in life, I knew I needed to move on. So, I have retired retaining my firm belief that the public school system will be there for the students.

I am once again focusing on the little things in life, the smell of the coffee, the feel of the wind on my face, the beauty of a sunset…. I am remembering all the positives of my career in education which bring joy to my heart and rest to my mind. I am relaxing with time preparing to create another adventure to be appreciated in my life.

The Human Factor

The Human Factor

In order to draw a crowd, or more specifically sell a product/idea, the creator seems to need to link the product with some type of connection to people. In the creative world, we tend to go beyond to just appealing to our sense of “betterment”. Our sense of “betterment” would be something that makes us faster, smarter, stronger, or more gorgeous to others. This seems to be just the beginning, appeal to the self. To really reach an audience, we are reaching deep to connect on a more basic level. We need you to care, the human factor.

Advertisers are no longer satisfied with just comparing their product with others in similar capacities. They are taking that white smile and showing how it will affect your relationships, your work and your health. Beer is no longer just a cooling beverage. It is about the bond you have for your puppy and if you care for your puppy you will care for this beer.

How about if that puppy can talk and share how it is feeling? Mr. Ed, “The Talking Horse”, was released in 1958 with a well received audience. In my opinion, Mr. Ed was a human from a horse’s perspective as much as we humans could ascertain that perspective. He was very popular. Just think about some of your favorite characters over time. What about even King Kong hanging onto the Empire State Building. I was in the group who was worried about King Kong and wanted them to stop shooting at him, we cared.

Science Fiction and Fantasy have relied upon the human factor for ages. How else can they get their audiences to accept these alien cultures and characters as being worthwhile of our attention. Now, granted, the majority of them have many human physical features such as faces and limbs. We have characters such as Chewbacca who is a member of a culture that has a history of its own. And,even though the developers are replacing the story line, for those of us who have read all the stories, I still cried when Chewbacca died! Chewbacca is a more concrete example. More recently, human feelings were animated with human features and characteristics. The amazing part is that we, the audience, found ourselves caring for the “feeling” characters almost more than the humans they were representing. Who wouldn’t want Sadness to be better?

Where we seem to be ambivalent is in the area of technology. We are willing to accept many things for technology to assume human characteristics and emotions as well as humans caring for characters of technology. I do not believe the “Terminator” stories would have been so successful without the human factor. Interestingly enough, in order for more “successful” terminators to conquer, they had to be less human. We even have more positive responses to “Iron Man” because the more human like responses from the mechanical arms in Stark’s lab and his interactions with them. Of course we have all those robots we love such as “R2D2, C-3PO, Number 5 is alive, etc.”. Most of these robots were thinking on their own, problem solving and displaying feelings, just the characteristics to solicit our caring.

For some reason we do not think that those lovable robots are examples of artificial intelligence even though they are thinking and problem solving. They are still subject to the whims of the humans for being “wiped”. Not sure if that is it, but a possibility. After all, the robots do seem to care for their human counterparts as well as each other. I have no claim to have researched or read the developments of artificial intelligence. I just know in our products/ideas we struggle to define the lines of humanity and machine. We seem to want to make artificial intelligence characters the most humanlike yet depict them with the least emotions and connections. I think of these characters as sociopaths, humans without empathy or conscience. Sociopaths are depicted as our most feared criminals as they do not seem to be able to be influenced or redeemed. Often their own behavior is self destructive in the long run. They simply do not care, no or minimal human factor. This seems to be where we are mostly stuck with artificial intelligence characters which is often why they seem to be so frightening. We want them to care so that we can care to capitalize on the human factor.

Reassuring Smile: Applied Learning


Anyone who has spent any time studying art quickly learns one inevitable truth about the profession. You never, ever, stop practicing, learning and improving. From the tiny baby pasting their first piece of colored macaroni onto construction paper, to the master painter who has been practicing daily his whole life.

So you keep working, and keep working and hope that you are improving. You finish a piece and look at it… and you hate it. A few days later you come back to it and decide it’s the best piece you’ve ever done. 6 months later, it’s still not bad, but now you can see all the flaws you didn’t spend enough time working on. And so the process goes. But as your observing, studying and learning from others it’s helpful to take a step back, pick a few techniques and work on applying them to your next piece.


For this piece, “Reassuring Smile” I decided to apply some methods from one of my favorite artists, James Gurney. As well as some new techniques I’ve been learning from Aaron Blaise’s tutorials.


Specifically I’m applying James Gurney’s method of creating a simple model for reference, and lighting it to fit the scene your working on. I’m also using a palette I developed digitally based on his oil painting pallet techniques laid out in his book “Color and Light.” Which I highly suggest to painters just starting out.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 10.26.35 AM

As it turned out, my process is already very similar to Aaron Blaise’s. But I wanted to try out using some of his photographic texturing techniques and applying just a little bit of depth of field to give the piece a more photographic feel.

IMG_2241 ReasuringSmile_001-x01

I build out my model, and I cross light it with a candle from the bottom left and a blue light from the top right to give it the feel of fire in the room and moon light coming through a window.  I work on the sketch and model at the same time, trying to get my model to have the major parts defined but not worrying to much about the little details.


After I lay in my flats and build out the basic color and lighting I’m ready to start detailing and blending. I tend to get all my color laid in from my pallet and then pick the color from the image to paint in the final strokes.


I get everything cleaned up and it’s time to apply Aaron’s photographic texturing technique


With all the textures laid in and quite a few clean ups and shifts to improve the image. now it’s time for some final shadows and highlights.


Finally I use a bit of a grunge texture to create a vignette to the over all feeling of the image as well as using the smudge tool with a soft round brush to blur my back edges to add the depth of field.


I was hoping to have an idea of how long total I spent on this but unfortunately I was working on it while moving from Boston to Norther Virginia, so I’ll give you a timeline on the next one I do.


And finally a larger version of the finished Image.



Every Single Minute

Every Single Minute

My brother once said to me that he knew he was expendable by the time he was nine. My response to him was that he beat me; because, I made the discovery the summer I turned ten. I cried off and on for two weeks. Incredibly you grow up pretty fast under these circumstances. Life became more than precious to me; it resonated in finiteness. It was here where I began my crazy relationship with time.

It was with great frustration the first time I picked up an organization book. Stunned, I read that we should be multi-tasking. My first reaction was to burn the book. I have been multi-tasking since my age was in a single digit! What genius thought this up? I was hoping to be able to not have to multi-task all day long. Yet, I persevered learning a few tips on arranging things to be more efficient.

Then I got into all the goal setting books being driven by higher personal motivators. These systems are just so complex with so many different layers, I had to draw diagrams in order to know how to apply the systems’ diagrams. There were altitudes, guiding principles, levels, numbers, four squares……….one even had an elephant in it; one of my favorites. All of them accounting for time in a day, week, month, year and beyond while trying to link the higher internal human principles of actualization to time. Being highly creative and hyperactive might explain why I had some difficulties with this. I need structure to be productive but seem to fight against it at the same time. Hence, my ever seeking a system that will work for me. The strange part is I don’t seem to have a problem getting things done. Yes, I do procrastinate at times; but, it is usually because I am still working on the task in my head.

Seeing things in my head may indeed be the problem. That 3D space is just not converting to the 2D space of planning. I do not make lists well. Every time I sit down to make a list I can’t seem to remember what goes on it. I have to do a visualization exercise to bring the items to mind. I just seem to be maintaining a running record in my head of all the tasks or actions, as some systems call them, that I need to do over time. I do know that the systems’ objective is for you to get all the organizational outcomes out into a system to free your mind.

Being free would certainly be desirable. In the meantime, I will continue my exploration of organizing and managing time. Maybe, as the precious resource of time ticks away, I should be looking more into my own outcomes instead of trying to account for every single minute.

Seeing a new Perspective


One of my favorite sketch projects over on Instagram is a series I call “Forced Perspective Comics” (@Joshings if you’re curious)

BartMonsterThese vary in complexity from simple multipart comic stories


Series dedicated to a single character


or one off images created in a moment of inspiration.

 This series was inspired by films like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Cool World” and specifically by the work of Marty Cooper aka Hombre_McSteez

Making these images takes a few relatively easy steps.


1  –  Location Location Location


find a spot that inspires you to draw. Is there something entertaining that could be happening here?

2  –  Give yourself a little guidance


Do a quick guide sketch of the space where you character will stand/sit etc. Try to be accurate, but don’t sweat it too much

3  –  Sketch the character


use your guide sketch to check proportions, and hold the drawing up to eyeball how its fitting into the shot

4  –  Put finishing touches on the drawing, and cut/rip it out


this is much easier when you have scissors. I try to hide my hand, so I tend to use artfully cropped characters or word balloons against a border edge as an extended tab to grab on to

5  –  Take some pictures, choose the best one



it can be tricky to get the perfect shot. Wind Blows, people walk into your frame, you misalign the elements. Try moving your body forward if your character is too large and your arm is extended as far as it will go. If the character is too small and everything feels too blurry try taking a step back.

6  –  Filter!


Instagram’s built in filters give your food paintings that je ne sais quoi of analog flaws. It doesn’t really help us improve our drawings at all, but we can piggy back on the results. These look filters have a unifying effect on the over all color scheme, so black and white cartoon characters start to feel like they’re in the same lighting space as the actual photographed world. Its a subtle effect sometimes, but can help a lot. I spend a lot of time choosing the filter that creates the most harmonious relationship between background and foreground.

7  –  Crop


Crop out your hand and try to get the feet to sit nicely on the ground. It is often at this step that I find I need to make small adjustments to my drawing and re-shoot the photo

8  –  Adjustments

7---Adjustments 8---Adjustments_2 9---Vignette

Add any adjustments that help cement the relationship. This could mean nothing or fiddling with every slider in the app. I do tend to use the vignette pretty consistently at this stage.

9  –  Tilt Shift <- very important


Tilt shift is a photographic technique that makes objects look tiny by simulating an extremely narrow depth of field. It does this by blurring large sections of the image. You can accomplish this in the analog with extremely expensive lenses, painstaking hours in the dark room, or digitally using 3 clicks in instagram. We don’t use the filter to make things look small, we are trying to fight one of the biggest give aways that our character is not in the real world. The iphone (or android) camera adjusts its aperture automatically responding to the amount of light in the area. This can make it extremely difficult to control the depth of field. Ideally you would use a very high f.stop, aka tiny aperture and a lot of light so your little piece of paper and background would both be in crisp focus. Since this doesn’t usually happen I push for more blurriness selectively applied to help glue the images together. If you use the radial tilt shift filter you can keep the face/focal point of your drawing in focus and blur the contact point in a way that matches the blur of the background photo.



ButtonNode with enable

This is a follow-up to my previous ButtonNode post.  In this update I will be adding additional functionality to the button to allow the button to be enabled and disabled.

For this new functionality I want the ButtonNode to be able to do the following:

  • Maintain a boolean value indicating the current state of the button
  • Prevent the button from being clicked when it is disabled
  • Update the look of the button so that it appears to be disabled
  • Allow the button to toggled between the enabled and disabled state

To start we will simply add a new public property that represents the enable state of the button

@property (assign, nonatomic) BOOL enable;

Defining this property will automatically synthesize the getter and setter methods. But, since we want to change how the button looks and behaves when it is disabled we need to be able to execute code whenever the buttons’s enable property is set. The simplest way to do this is to create our own setter method which will be used instead of the auto-synthised setter.

// Setter for the enable property. Update the button based on the new state
– (void)setEnable:(BOOL)enable {

if (enable) {

self.userInteractionEnabled = YES;
self.alpha = 1.0;

} else {

self.userInteractionEnabled = NO;
self.alpha = 0.5;

_enable = enable;


In the setter method, when the button is being disabled, we set the userInteractionEnabled to NO and apply an alpha of 0.5 to dim the button. When the button is enable we simply reset the alpha to 1 and re-enable user interaction. Finally we update the underlying _enabled variable to track the state of the button.

The ButtonNode sample app, available on our github (ButtonNode) page, has been updated with this new functionality.

You can find me on twitter @mellowcoder


Click, click.
Click, click.
Click, click.
Click, click.
Click, click.
Wham! I smacked the pen out of the slim manicured hand. Aaaagh, crack! My head bounced off the tram car window as warm liquid spurted over my mouth.

Click, click, click, click,click, click………
“Run!” Darren whispered harshly.
Kids scattered everywhere as they heard Mrs. Drew’s high heels on the hard floor.

Above in the eaves of the attic ceiling the giant spiders lay waiting for their prey. A quiet shuffling of many feet came up the stairs.
”Quiet” whispered Lyle.
The group quickly found hiding places behind the furniture in the darkest corners of attic believing they were safe. Faintly a sound could be heard coming closer. Fast and faster it came as from many little nails.
Click, click, click. click, click, click, click, click ………….

Where do we go with each of these story events? Each passage uses the same sound for different reasons but moves the story forward in a simple way. Which direction can you take a simple click?

2015 Holiday Game Jam

What better gift can one receive than the experience and exhaustion that comes from a Game Jam. As if the holidays weren’t stressful enough with family, old friends, traditions, travel, of of course that last min party preparation. With less than 3 days to jam out a game before christmas eve, despite the warm weather in the northeast, we had a snow covered mountain to climb. We elected to use Unreal Engine 4, not because we were familiar but instead the opposite. Our goal was to gain as much knowledge as quickly as possible while still producing “a game”(using a loose definition).

Our goal: make a top down constant scrolling shooter e.g. Capcom’s “1942” and sequel “1943:Battle of Midway” targeted for portrait mode on mobile devices. At the end of the first day we laid out an outline; in retrospect our goals were pretty ambitions for 2 unreal 4 noobies.

First focusing on the good, I’m going to list some of the things we managed to achieve. In game flat textured models for both the hero ship and enemy towers. Projectiles that fire from the enemy towers. A scrolling level that constantly deletes passed sections while adding new sections.

We also had player death on collision with obstacles or projectiles, adding in explosions and sound effects using unreal mobile starter content. In addition the starter content also provided us with an obstacle mesh, as a rock, and textures for the environment.

In conclusion there was a lot more we wanted to accomplish; player shooting, life gauge, collectables, points, more animation, HUD with points, and some menus. It was a fun challenge to see what we could make with an unfamiliar tool. It was a success to help us learn Unreal Engine 4 and the Blueprint visual scripting language.


Through the Fog:

Billowing, cold, steamy, misty, thin, thick, echoing, hushed, fog comes with as many characteristics as necessary to describe the current mood, scene, setting, location or even a feeling. Which one often tells the story.

Panting, we continued to run over the terrain our hair dripping with the collecting dampness. They were catching up rapidly as we could hear the horses’ hoof beats on the ground. There were only humans chasing us but we would need a miracle to escape. Then then the fog rolled in.

The shapes of the cargo appeared out of the fog on the deck of the ship. Only the most seasoned sailors could manage the trek on deck in this thickness. “Breooooh”, the mournful cry of the fog horn rebounded through the air. Knowing we were near land was vital information and absolutely critical for our survival. We had the luck that our captain knew these shores and the underwater rock formations and fortunately our pursuers did not.

Trying to keep my footing as I rapidly walk through the park to my next appointment. Ugh, I stepped in the mud again. The thick mist keeps hiding the path which I thought I knew like the back of my hand. Focus. Focus. This meeting could change the rest of my life. The mist sure is billowing around the lights. Lights? What lights? There aren”t any lights in this part of the park, especially like those. Where am I……?

So, what does fog say to you?