Posts from Underground

– a zabel illustration production –

Maxfield and Me

Nothing too profound to say this week aside from always keep your eyes open.  During my travels last weekend, while contemplating some thoughts around a humble campfire, I beheld a blazing sunset unlike any I have ever personally experienced in nature.  After snapping a few photos of this brilliant display I continued to explore it visually, watching it change shape and color, going from adolescence to adulthood and finally sedately succumbing to the skulking twilight.  I half expected to turn around and witness the ghost of Maxfield Parrish feverishly mixing paint, attempting to capture the intensity before us.

Maxfield Parrish clouds in real life!

Maxfield Parrish clouds in real life!

More Maxfield Parrish clouds!

More Maxfield Parrish clouds!

Another unadulterated photo, straight from the camera.


Tao’s it goin’ ?

Last month I attended a presentation in which speaker Jim Krause, author of the ever useful index books, brought up an interesting ideology rooted to the ancient philosopher Laozi.  The basic notion is that your mind is like a clay pot and its most useful when the pot is empty.  The actual quote goes something like this:

We mold clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that makes the vessel useful.

— Laozi Tao Te Ching 11

This got me thinking about the different ways we as creatives go about emptying our own “clay pot” so that we can maximize our creative output and, more importantly, be open to the creation that naturally occurs around us.  As we hustle through our daily grind, it is equally important to decompress and reset so the brain is both prepared to take on the the next challenge and be susceptible to the ideas that will come to us.  An absence of meditative exercise will ultimately lead to burn-out and more than likely depression because you just won’t feel like using the energy you have left for creating anything.

There are many ways to go about clearing your head and the trick is to find what works for you.  For example, if I find myself dragging through a task, I like to go for a run outside for 30 minutes.  The physical exertion is a nice way to break up the monotony of sitting at a drawing table or computer for most of the day.  It also gives my head a quick power nap while I only have to move my legs and breathe.  Reading a book is also a great way to recharge.  Some well written fiction is never a bad choice, just make sure it’s enjoyable enough to get lost in for a little while.  Some people like to do yoga or actually meditate, others prefer taking a walk or a bike ride.  As I said before it’s up to you to find something that works for you.  Just try to stay away from things like drugs or alcohol as the idea is to empty your mind so you can fill it back up coherently, not to fog it up with substances that will obstruct efficiency and just make you forget.  Be responsible and save the craft brews for the weekend or celebrations!

This weekend I am actually taking a mini-vacation; a camping trip in foothills of Mt Rainier.  I’m looking forward to being surrounded by something other than city lights and city noises.  Putting some more miles on my hiking boots will be a great way to recharge for the upcoming weeks.  Until then I will leave you with one more thought (because you know how much I enjoy quotations):

“Be totally empty,
embrace the tranquility of peace.
Watch the workings of all creation,
observe how endings become beginnings.”

Dreaming in Code

Having spent the better part of last weekend and this week diving into the deep end of the JavaScript pond, my mind has begun to think in functions, variables, arrays, booleans and logical operators.  Yesterday, I continued my quest for JS fluency with a wonderful tutorial on   It only ran about three hours long, but with me furiously taking down notes and trying out some practice examples on my own, the course actually took up about four hours of my time.  Not bad for some fresh brain wrinkles.  My one mistake was wrapping up the training session so close to bed time that I actually didn’t take the time to decompress, resulting in a night of JavaScript syntax racing through my mind in an infinite loop capable of crashing any modern day web browser.  We’re talking full out conversations and simple tasks manifesting as JavaScript operations in dreamland.  Illustrated below are a couple instances that I could recall:

var kitchenSink = window.prompt ( "full, empty" );
if (kitchenSink == "full" )  {
          return ( 'load the dishwasher' ); 

}  else if  ( kitchenSink == "empty" )  {
          return ( 'unload the dishwasher' ); 

}  else  {
          return ( 'where the hell are all of my dishes?' ); 

document.write ( "rent check" );

Detroit Rock-Bottom City (Apethetic Destruction)

Main Hall of the Detroit Institute of Arts

Main Hall of the Detroit Institute of Arts

Well I’m sorry to report that the apathy of Detroit city, in particular the Metro-Detroit area, has finally hit rock bottom.  On the forefront of many credible news sources this morning came a gut-punch to your humble narrator; numerous reports on how the Detroit Institute of Arts has been mandated by the newly appointed emergency manager to appraise artwork that might further be sold to relieve some of Detroit’s $15 billion debt.  Naturally, art museums will sell and acquire artwork quite regularly in their lifespan, however, the big difference in this instance is obviously the desperate fire-sale in which no new art will be coming to the DIA.  Not to mention, the artwork that will be potentially sold off are the gems of the collection; the paintings that draw in the everyday (well…apparently not everyday) suburban visitor.  As a “displaced Detroiter” myself I am truly saddened by the news of such a large piece of my heritage and culture valued monetarily with complete disregard to its absolute value to the community.  When I was in college, I literally had this museum in my backyard and I went there at least four days a week, sometimes multiple times in one day to study and learn from the masters, develop my own voice and find my bearings in the art world.  Melodramatics aside, a feeling of uncontrollable helplessness has befallen me today.  A feeling spawning from the years that I’ve spent telling everybody I knew of the beauty of this museum and doing everything short of physically dragging them to the city to show them the magnificence and grandeur of which I spoke of.  I only wish there was more that I could do but alas, I am seemingly but one in a small minority that really can appreciate the far too often overlooked treasure that is the Detroit Institute of Art.

Don’t forget your paintbrush…

English: City seal of Detroit, Michigan.

English: City seal of Detroit, Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tonight I embark on a trip to the Detroit, Michigan for a long weekend of memorial day festivities.  It’s always nice to visit with family and friends back home and my parents will undoubtedly will have their house full of various snacks, Bell’s and Founders beer, hundreds of DVDs (and cable TV), and a nice convertible sofa to lay my head down on at night.  Just the same, they most likely will not have any art supplies aside from the spray fixative and Super 77 that I had to leave behind five years ago when I moved.  Unfortunately, they don’t allow pressurized cans on airplanes or in the mail so they are indefinitely incarcerated in my old room-turned-storage area in the basement.  Getting back to the problem at hand, I have prepared a small package for the plane ride that is in full compliance with FAA standards (see below).  Just a quick note on paint:  Although they are heavy bodied, acrylic paints are still considered liquids.  Good news is, the tubes are only 2 fl. oz. coming in a full ounce less than the maximum allowance on airliners these days.  Just make sure you put them in a plastic baggie with your other toiletries when going through security – this will make things go much smoother.  Pencils, pens, paintbrushes, and the pencil sharpener shouldn’t cause any problems.  Looking forward to the whirlwind weekend of visiting with everyone – see you soon!

The Package

The Package



Head in the Cloud

Adobe has decided to abandon the development of good old fashioned software for it’s Creative Suite collection and in hindsight, I should have seen it coming.  Ever since the inception of the Creative Cloud, I have been relentlessly bombarded with emails and web banners pushing me to give it a try or subscribe to the monthly fee to get all the latest bells and whistles that only a Creative Cloud account will give you.  Now, it might seem as though I am a little peeved about this new development, but to be completely honest, I’m not sure how to react to this news.  For many of the negative reasons there was a positive rebuttal in favor of the new cloud service.  The biggest positive that I can see thus far is this will fix the limitations that an “in-the-box” software will naturally incur over its lifetime.  With the Creative Cloud, as long as you pay your monthly fee, you will never have to worry about having out-of-date software.  Pricing is comparable to what is already in place for the Creative Suite software (still offering a discounted rate for businesses, students & teachers, and to those of us who are just looking to upgrade) and single programs are available for around twenty bucks a month.  Personally, I’d like to see Adobe add a flat rate option in the future in which a discounted price is available for yearly subscriptions of Creative Cloud.  Another thing to keep in mind is that you will no longer have to choose between software bundles and the inherent limitations of programs each one offers  (i.e., Design & Web Premium, Design Standard, Web Premium, etc).  As far as I can tell the Creative Cloud will give you everything Adobe has to offer, much like the Master Collection of yore.

Immediate reception of Adobe’s big announcement this week has been polarizing to say the least.  Even after presenting the evidence in this post, I’m still not sure if I feel to strongly one way or the other.  If anything I’m impressed that Adobe made such a ballsy move (but I would too if people were ripping off my software).  I will say, however, that it seems only human to reject extremely progressive ideas when they first see the light of day.  My advice…if you’re not comfortable with subscribing to the Cloud right now, upgrade to CS6 and wait it out for a little while.  And while I’m not condoning the use of quotations,  I will leave you with two that have been running through my mind since Monday afternoon that I find appropriate:

“It’s not the tools but the craftsman that makes art.”

“You can’t expect to meet the challenges of today with yesterday’s tools and expect to be in business tomorrow.”    



Books on the Horizon

Books, while they still exist in tangible form, are arguably the best resource for learning.  Personally I find them to be the last bastion of self-education and having a good personal library at your disposal is as important as any paintbrush or software used in your daily workflow.   But enough of my waxing, here are a few palpable books in my near future:

Some books.

Some books I’m going to read soon…

The Breakdown

On the Map by Simon Garfield

On the Map by Simon Garfield

On the Map by Simon Garfield

This is a book I’ve been wanting to read and I’m finally getting around to it.  Simon Garfield peaked my interest with his previous title, Just My Type, which is about typography and it’s significance in society.  To be honest I was first drawn in by the cover of this book (yes, sometimes I do judge a book by it’s cover) and once I noticed that the author was Mr. Garfield, I put it on my list and the rest is history.  Note:  This is indeed a title that I borrowed from my local public library, so my previous statement about the importance of personal libraries need not apply to this one in particular.

The Freelancer's Bible

The Freelancer’s Bible by Sara Horowitz

The Freelancer’s Bible by Sara Horowitz

Tough times in the job market has spurred on a renewed trend in entrepreneurship in America.  With more and more people turning to careers as freelancers, it is important to know the details that will help somebody “taking the leap” transition a dream into a viable dream job.  The Freelancer’s Bible is written by the founder of Freelancer’s Union, Sara Horowitz.  In it she covers the particulars of running your own successful business.  Topics covered include getting insurance, taxes, managing your business, and even techniques for finding new clients (not always things at the top of the creative professionals “to-do” list).  Also be sure to check out the Freelancer’s Union website where you can become a member, set up a profile and be a part of one of the fastest growing professional communities for FREE.

Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4 by Stephen Laskevitch

Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4 by Stephen Laskevitch

Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 4 by Stephen Laskevitch

I had the opportunity to attend a workshop last week that was presented by Stephen Laskevitch himself.  At the end of the presentation a couple of his books were raffled off and I actually won!  I’m looking forward to reading this one regardless of it becoming a recent impromptu addition to my reading list.  Since it’s new, I made a promise to Stephen that I would indeed write a review of it when I’m finished (or send him an email complaining about it).  Learning techniques from other people using the same tools as you is a great way to learn and although I’m extremely proficient in Adobe CS6, by no means do I know everything that the vastness of Adobe Creative Suite has to offer (but that sure as hell won’t stop me from trying).  Thanks for the free book Steve!

Pricing & Ethical Guidelines

Graphic Artist’s Guild Pricing & Ethical Guidelines

Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook Pricing & Ethical Guidelines

The time for my annual run through this tome of invaluable information has finally come.  This will be my third time and I’ve got my hi-lighter and post-its ready to rock n’ roll for the next rainy weekend.  I’ve heard rumblings of a new 14th edition coming but until then I will rely on this one for reference.  This book is an essential piece of any creative professional’s personal library and if you haven’t at least scanned through it…you should.