Sunday, June 5, 2011

Drawing and Painting Advice

Hi, I'm back with another trying-to-look-busy blog. The following is a collection of both epiphanies I've had about creating art and some of the best advice I've received on the subject.

There are No Lines in Real Life
- The first time my Drawing I professor said this to me, I was like "WTF are you talking about?" He pointed at the long crack, where the cork board wall met the cement floor.

"Is that a line?" He asked.

"No." I answered, after thinking about it a second or two.

There are no lines, only points where light and shadow meet. We use lines to draft and separate objects when we transfer it to paper, but those lines don't actually exist beyond our imaginations. In a formal still life drawing, you should not be able to see them once the piece is complete. Practicing your technique under this idea will help you develop your understanding of color and gray scale. You'll also learn the more shades you omit, the more stark your composition will be, if you want to make something really glow, like a candle in a dark room for example, or an illuminated window at night.

You should note that the key phrase here is "real life". Lines obviously aren't always taboo in 2-dimensional art, but they are when you're trying to draw or paint like the classical masters. Why would you want to do this? It's not a bad idea to learn the rules before you break them. Who knows, it may also help you develop your style.

Study Your Subject
- If you put an apple in front of a person and a pad and pencil in their hands, and tell them "Draw the apple," 9 times out of 10, they will produce a sketch of a heart-like shape with a stem and a perfect leaf. Some more creative types may even draw a worm with a smiley face poking out of the side. That's great, they drew an apple. The problem is, they didn't draw that apple. The one that I put in front of them that is more of an oblong oval with a dent in one side of it and a dark bruise on the other.

Have you ever seen an artist at an easel holding up their thumb or a pencil while painting a still life? What they're doing is called "angling and measuring". They're using the lines in their thumb, or markings of their pencil, to measure objects, how they rest in relation to everything else in the composition, and the angle they sit at. It's really a just means of studying the object. Understanding the subject is important if you want to be really successful in capturing it.

Dynamics; Learn to Use Them
- Small and large, dark and light, sharp and blurry, bright and dull; I cannot stress how much learning to pay attention to these things helped my drawings and paintings come to life. Being mindful of the fact that as things become more distant, they typically become smaller, darker and blurrier is something that will make even an abstract piece pop, and become more appealing to the eye.

If You Want to be Great at Anything, You Have to Become Obsessed - Half-assing it may keep you from getting fired at your menial job, but when it comes to art, it's harder to fool people than you think. For every person that can only play the main riff from "Come As You Are" and claims to be a musician, there is a person that has seen a Jackson Pollock painting, who thinks they can sell their paint spatters for thousands. There's always a hack that thinks they can sell a rotting recliner they found on the corner as-is, and call it art. A real artist is obsessed.

You can see it in the bloggers here, and how obsessive they are about grammar, and how quickly scorn is descended on those who type in 1337, or who would dare try to serve up the copy/pasta special. It's the same with artists, and any real buyer of art. You can't fake it. Anyone that has before was just a fluke, and you'd have a better chance at winning the lottery. You have to come original and really care. If you don't, it's going to show. It doesn't matter if you're working with realism or abstract. I didn't get this pale complexion by not sitting inside, drawing every leaf on the tree, and fussing about how the negative space interacts with the positive.

Organic Flow
- "In a Successful Composition, Everything Should Look Like it Fell Out of the Sky and Landed in the Perfect Spot" My 'Intro To Graphic Design' professor told me this, as I was trying to squeeze some text in a background picture that was too confined. It's also a concept I'd learned from my 2-dimensional design class. All through high school, my drawings were very central, meaning I tended to put the subject right smack-dab in the middle of the paper, with little to no consideration for the rest of the composition. Only later did I realize how important it was to consider how everything worked together, and how it made the viewer's eye travel around the picture, in a way that makes it appeal to them and they don't know why. If you understand how to make an interesting composition, you should be able to make a picture of a dried-up dog turd beautiful...Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea.

Abstract Art Actually Isn't a Total Crock
- I was very cynical about abstract art when I entered art school. I thought it was the work of grifters and those annoying hipster and trustafarian kids. Okay, often times it is, but there's so much more to it than I originally thought. When I'd see a crowd of admirers around an abstract painting at the MFA, I'd think "The Emperor has no clothes".

With the invention of the photograph, realism and classical painting was quickly on the way out. With new tools to capture scenes with perfect accuracy, the need and market for the classical painter sharply began to wane. This gave birth to movements such as pointillism and impressionism, a break from total realism. The art world quickly began evolving and brought in new genres like surrealism, cubism and dadaism. Pure abstract wasn't far behind, and paintings named "Untitled" and "Blue #5" soon flooded the art world.

The thing about abstract art that entices the audience is use of color, dynamics, composition, and depth, without using a recognizable object to hook the viewer. It's harder to create a worthwhile abstract painting than you think, and being able to do so only makes you a better creator of realism, like lightsaber training with the blast shield down.

Reference: Use It - Reference is always useful. If you're drawing a city scape, find pictures of a city and search for elements to inspire you. It will always improve your composition, as opposed to drawing exclusively from your head. It's important when drawing people as well. Pictures of real individuals will help you give distinct features to your characters. If you work without reference consistently, all of your subjects, especially people, start to look the same. This is true for everyone.

Use Black VERY Sparingly
- I'm referring to color paintings here, not black and white compositions, obviously. I can't tell you how many pieces I've seen ruined by artists that don't know any better not to use black, whether it's mixing it with other paint to create a darker shade or just using straight black. The one exception to the mixing with black rule is some blues. Otherwise, avoid mixing with black all together.

One thing that black does is stick out like a sore thumb in a composition of color. If there's a large area of pure black, it looks tacked on and just takes away any subtlety you were trying to add. It deadens the image. If you want to paint a dark area, learn how to mix a nice black using other colors on your palette. I'm not sure why this works, but it just makes the painting a cohesive composition, which is what you typically want.

Work the Visual Magic
- As opposed to still life painting, where you try to be as true to reality as possible, as an illustrator, you should try to be as interesting as possible when you lay down your message on a canvas. The thing about being an 2-dimensional artist that isn't a photographer is that you have to power to show things in a fantastic way. You should always try to construct a scene in a fashion that you wouldn't be able to capture in a photograph. This could be achieved stylistically or through POV. Think about what you are going to draw or paint, and then think about the most innovative way to show it. Work the subject.

If you want to see some really great examples of what I'm talking about here, visit . He's the man.

Formal Education is the Silent Killer of Creativity
- With all this being said, heed the warning that once you learn the rules, you may forget how to break them if you're not careful. So many of the illustrators I graduated with seemed to forget how to just draw from their imagination. They were completely reliant on reference instead of using it as a tool. There were so many that just stopped painting, because it ceased to be fun for them. Something about working for deadlines all the time and being constantly critiqued made their obsessive drawing habits wane to a few times a year; Just enough to get their parents to quit bitching at them for paying for an education they seldom used. The things they'd loved about creating art were just trained right out of them.

Pablo Picasso said "It took me twelve years to learn to paint like a master. It took me a lifetime to learn how to draw like a child." For every classical landscape, for every formal still-life, for every tedious deadline exercise, do two of your own, no matter how quick. Never lose your joy or your own voice.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Top 10 NES BGMs

I could probably sum up my fondness of classic home console games by saying I built my senior illustration thesis around them.  For all their limitations, they inspired creativity and resourcefulness in designing some pretty timeless and fun video games.  However, most gamers of that era know for every one good game, there were five poorly programmed, thrown together crap games, designed to rip off kids at fifty bucks a pop, before the age of information helped cut back on such hack productions. 

Before the internet, your best way of finding out whether a game was worth buying was picking it up from your local rental place.  The first indication of a games worthiness wasn't always the graphics of the title screen, but the music.  Try to think of a good game with horribly composed, half-assed music.  Can't think of one, can you?  The following, in no particular order, is my top 10 Nintendo Entertainment System background music tunes. 

Mach Rider Course Theme

Mach Rider, a.k.a. Mad Max on a bike; According to Wikipedia, where I do
basically all of my research for blogs, this game was actually the
inspiration for the F-Zero series.  It's slightly different, as you're a
linebacker for the Miami Dolphins on a motorcycle that's equipped with
guns, but the futuristic setting and high speeds are the same.  With the
innovative gear-shift controls, and constant obstacles and enemies
attacking from all directions, this game was a non-stop test of
reflexes.  The music was catchy enough to keep you engaged to see the
later levels, which were just basically level one with more crap to
dodge and a switched-up color scheme.  Eventually I'd just get really
frustrated, and go to the time course to let the song loop play in the
background while I found something else to do.  Legos were never as
difficult, for example.

Saving the Dam - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

This was a great game, but many who have played it know that the music
is the only redeeming quality for this God damned dam level.  The
whirling bass line soothed my nerves enough to get through that full
screen tangle of seaweed one time without taking any damage...Swear
to God.  I still haven't managed to get through the level without that
heart attack-inducing music that plays when you've only got twenty
seconds left though.

Cabin Theme - Friday the 13th

I jumped every time Jason popped onto the screen unexpectedly while this
eerie music was playing.  I don't care what AVGN says, this was a fun
game.  However, we do agree that infamous "GAME OVER, you and your
friends are dead.  I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your
soul" screen is the best of all time.

Gum Ball Crash - Rad Racer 2

The most remembered music from the Rad Racer games was definitely from
the first game, but Gum Ball crash was my favorite.  It was the perfect
soundtrack for the pace of a car driving game where the most
catastrophic thing that could happen was a spin out or running out of

Title Theme - Metroid

The dark, droning opening was the perfectly eerie introduction to the
space epic that is the original Metroid.  Before you even knew the
protagonist was actually a woman, the opening conjured up thoughts of
acid blood and chest-bursting aliens.  Ironically, most people I knew
never really heard of the awesome intro music, because the title screen was always skipped.

Area 8 Theme - Bionic Commando

I really can't say enough about this game.  It's easily in my top 3
all-time favorite games, and it is so underrated.  The background music
in area 8 seems almost unimpressive when it starts, but then it takes a
hard right turn into awesome.

On a different note, here is an image I made for Cracked's "Undiscovered Video Game Easter Eggs" Photoplasty contest.  Apparently it was too awesome to make it into the batch of final entries...Or maybe it's that not nearly enough people checked out this game to understand the joke.  Seriously, go play Bionic Commando, if you haven't before.

Streets of Desolation - Batman

In 1989, Tim Burton finally set live-action Batman productions straight
by showing that the Dark Knight was supposed to be...well, dark, and a
record-breaking blockbuster movie was the result.  Inevitably, the NES game adaptation
was not far behind, but unlike most of its movie-based contemporaries,
it was actually a really well-designed game.  It was clearly worth renting from the
awesome opening, but when this theme kicked on, you knew this one was a

Airship Theme - SMB3

The Super Mario Brothers series is a gold mine of great game music, but I
had to single this one out.  It actually made the gameplay seem more
difficult.  As an 8-year-old, whenever this music played, I felt like I
was in for the fight of my life.

Wizards and Warriors

I really couldn't pick which one of these tunes I liked the best.  When
you put them together in a collection, the soundtrack sounds kinda all
over the place, but it worked for a game based around a knight in 300
lb. armor jumping from tree branch to tree branch and drinking magic potions.

Brawler Stages - Bayou Billy

Konami was no slouch when it came to releasing kick-ass games.  They had
tons of credibility, and were also as well-known for the degree of
difficulty in their games.  Bayou Billy, alongside Contra, had to be the
reason for the creation of the term "Nintendo hard".  You couldn't
get a more chill soundtrack though.  I had no idea my Nintendo could
bring the funk, until I played Bayou Billy.  It's how I imagine the
cantina band in Mos Eisely would sound, if they hired a funk guitar


That will round out my top 10.  I know I didn't include the Zelda theme or anything from Mega Man, but I assure you, they would've made the list if I had a better work ethic, and wrote a top twenty.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

5 Best and Worst Commercials

Everyone has those commercials that makes them wanna yack.  The ones that make you wonder how such a stupid idea got to the filming stages.  Someone thought this idea was good enough to fund and produce.  The following are my all-time least favorite, and I'm purposefully staying away from the obvious ones, like infomercials that make mindless tasks look like rocket surgery, or prescription drugs whose side effects are worse than the symptoms. Without further ado:

Dude, Get the Sunny D!

There were several different versions of this commercial that aired in the early to mid nineties, and they all followed the same formula:  32-year-old high school kid comes home with friends after some rad physical activity, like rollerblading or ultimate frisbee, and they search through the fridge for some refreshment.  "OJ, purple stuff, soda...FUCKIN' A, SUNNY D!"

9 times out of 10, mom would overhear one of her stupid kid's friends say "Hey, your mom's pretty cool!" That's shameless pandering to the most likely person to buy the sugary battery acid.  If they really wanted to
help out to tell mom how to be cool, they'd tell her to ditch the elastic waistband jeans.

Babe, What Are You Doing?

I could list a few Yoplait commercials that deserve to be on the list (The two chicks trying to one-up each other on describing how good their shitty yogurt cups are), but the following takes the cake:

the guy needs permission from his wife to look through the
refrigerator?  Yoplait knows its main demographic is women, and they
think they need to appeal to us by making us feel empowered, but this
shit is less empowerment and more dictatorship.  Also, giving the
husband the IQ of a golden retriever has been a popular advertising
technique for a while now.  It just needs to die already.

I Knew I Was Someone Special

Possibly the sappiest commercial everIt may give you diabetes faster than the actual candy.

This commercial came out when I was a child, and even then, I would roll my eyes and change the channel.  According to this ad, all these things are good for is making you feel like a good granddad or a special
grandson.  However, I have since discovered after my own research that they are also good for getting your money's worth at teeth cleanings.  Show up with a handful of those little suckers spot-welded to your molars, and you'll leave the dentist's chair knowing that you're someone special.

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight

The cast of this commercial is either a bunch of failed actors who can't find anything better, regular people who will make jackasses of themselves just to be on TV, or (probably) both.  In any case, it makes me a little embarrassed to be human.  Honorable mention in the same category would be the "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?" ads.

Sonic Earz

Are you a nosy, obnoxious bastard?  Do you have to resort to espionage tactics to hear a joke or a conversation, because nobody likes you?  Do you like to gloss over these facts by saying you're merely a bird enthusiast?  Well, have I got the product for you!

Does anyone else get the urge to kick that old man in the gonads?

The following represent my favorite commercials.  The ones that make me forget the fact that I detest advertising and all the cheap tricks that come along with it.  It just goes to show, if you can make someone laugh, you can make them forget they hate you and all that you stand for.

Too Much Kick

When I first saw this spot, I was thinking it was just another lame attempt at humor...Until the punchline.

Tootsie Rolls are Good and Old People are Funny

The first two of this montage are classic.  The Tootsie Roll clip just brings back some of the earliest memories I have.  The second is part of the classic Wendy's "Where's the Beef" campaign. Senility is funny.

Things That Make You Go WTF

Skittles has been coming out with some brilliantly bizarre commercials for a while now.  This one's my favorite.  My sense of humor isn't always derisive.  Sometimes it's just absurd.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Staples also has had a lot of successes in the comedy department.  I was actually looking for the commercial with the senile old lady that thinks the stapler is a camera, but I couldn't find the vid anywhere.  Instead, here's another gem.  It's a lot funnier now that I'm out of school.

Round Round Get Around I Get Around

Between Tom Cruise, the male nurse, and the old folks doing donuts in their Hoveround chairs, this commercial made me laugh harder than it was supposed to. 

That's ten entries, and that's all, folks!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Maiden Post

Hi.  My name is Erin, and sometimes I go by eMouse.  By "sometimes", I mean "on the internet only".  There's been a few times in my life when people have told me I'm a good writer.  Whether that's true, or as tragic as telling someone they're a good singer, and being ultimately responsible for them waiting in line for three days just to humiliate themselves in front of a panel of nail-spitting British judges on national television is up to you.

Here's a few personal facts, just to list a few things about myself, or perhaps give insight to any future, less-than-coherent entries:

- I was born in the eighties, and it shows in my frequent popular culture references.

- I was an average student in school.  I made it all the way through art school, graduating seven (damn!) years ago.

- I love music.  I play guitar and bass guitar.  Seeing how I usually like to bring in the funk, I usually choose bass.

- I love the New England professional sports scene, particularly the Red Sox and Patriots.  I don't really care about the Revolution, though.  Who does, really?

-  As I mentioned earlier I graduated from art school.  I majored in illustration, but have yet to hold a steady-paying job revolving around those skills.  I freelance here and there, but have needed a 9-5 job to pay the bills.  This doesn't mean I'm not living the dream, mind you.  It just means that on top of drawing you a kick ass picture, I could educate you on the finer points of deli meats, give you advice on reasonable rates for a hotel room on Cape Cod in the Summer, and help you get to the bottom of that weird smell coming from your chimney.

-  I love video games, particularly the classics.  My senior year illustration thesis was based upon creating more lucid, detailed depictions of the old-school games with primitive graphics.  This concept has gotten less original as years have gone by.

-  I was born and raised on Cape Cod, and live there now.  As a result, I hold a somewhat low opinion of tourists.  I find that a rather ugly aspect of going on a vacation myself...Becoming one myself...Ugh.

-  I only keep a few real friends.  I have a-hundred-and-something Facebook friends, but that's only because I'm the type of person who accepts friend requests from people who made me miserable in school.  I don't know why I do this.

-  My family is awesome.  I love them all.  We are the type of people that make fun of each other as a sign of affection, and plan our meetings around the schedules of favorite sports teams.  Despite this fact, I'm still one of those jerks that doesn't call or visit her parents enough.

That's really all I can think of now.  I guess all that comes next is typing up some new material, and maybe posting some older material I already uploaded to other sites to flesh things out a bit.  There's another fact:  I'm one of those arrogant people who will put together a greatest hits collection before anyone knows who the hell I am.