Archive | May, 2011

Writing assignment # 2

29 May

Here is my second writing assignment, for this week (May 30 – June 3, 2011). It was not hard to come up with. If I would have a problem, I could always refer to Writing Excuses, an excellent podcast for creative writers, which is only 15 minutes long, because we have no more time, and they aren’t that smart (in their own words). I could also scour the web for a writing assignment someone else wrote, although this takes a lot of time (as scouring usually does).

Written Pages 2011 05 29 23 23 51

I wonder if you have good resources for writing assignments. If you do, please writing about it in the comments.

P.S. I you don’t know what “Takei lovers are”, watch this video by George Takei, of Star Trek fame, with the title: George Takei vs. Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill. I thinks it’s both funny and very serious.

Weekly writing assignment

29 May

The idea was to have a writing assignment, so I could write every day, well, work on storytelling every day. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but I did write several days of past week.

Here’s the assignment, handwritten on my iPad.


I wrote three versions. Version 1 I had already put on my blog, so I’ll put versions 2 and 3 in this post.

Version 2

Hank was fed up with always being the underdog. He knew Jim was stronger and Peter smarter, but still he wanted to win this round. When Jim did his snatching trick and was ready to pass the ball, Hank simply stayed very close to Peter. So he got the ball. But how was he supposed to reach the top of the hill? He passed the ball back to Jim.

“What’s up,” asked Peter. “I don’t like this game,” answered Hank, “I always play second fiddle.” Hank sat down and Peter joined him. Jim walked toward them and said: “This is no fun.” “No it isn’t. What do we do now,” asked Peter. “Let’s tell a story,” Hank said in excitement.

A dragon slayer was called in to save a princess, held captive by a ferocious dragon. When he met with the king, he saw a wizard already present. They would both try to save the princess, and whoever succeeded, got to marry her.

The dragon slayer attacked head on. He rushed towards the dragon, but couldn’t defeat it. “Keep the dragon busy and I will put a sleeping spell on it,” shouted the wizard from outside the dragon’s lair. “If he falls asleep he’ll block the passage and we’ll never get the princess out,” shouted the slayer back. “Well, then grab the princess, fight the dragon for as long as you can while I do my chanting,” shouted the wizard over the sound of the roaring dragon, which was clearly ready to strike the final blow and kill his opponent. “Alright,” the slayer shouted. He grabbed the girl and pushed her outside the cave.

“So long, suckers,” shouted Hank, while he held the princess-ball firmly in his hands.

He stood on top of the hill.

Version 3

A storm was brewing. “Shouldn’t we be going home,” Hank asked. “We’ll do fine,” said Peter, trying to reassure his friend. “Yeah, let’s play,” shouted Jim. They threw the ball in the air and… it didn’t return. It seemed like it had vanished.

“Where is the ball,” asked Jim, looking at Peter. “How would I know,” said Peter, “I’m as baffled as you are.” Hank shivered and said: “I don’t like this. Let’s go home.” “Not until I have my ball back,” said Peter. “What he said,” said Jim, “and I want to win this time. We stay!”

They heard a loud sharp noise, getting louder and sharper. They jumped away from where they stood. Suddenly there was a crash and mud sprayed on their faces. Something had fallen out of the sky and it surely wasn’t their ball.

There was a golden egg, with its pointed side clearly visible. When they slowly walked towards it, it started to crack. “What the…,” said Jim, but before he could end his sentence, the egg had cracked open and out crawled a pink animal. It looked like a …

“Dragon,” shouted Hank in excitement, “a baby dragon.” The dragon turned red in its face, then purple and started to make choking noises. “I go watched this on top of the hill, safe from that, that monster!”

While Jim walked away, Peter said to Hank: “I think it has to burp. You hold it and I pat it on it back.” So they did. The baby dragon burped, but not just a burp, but a small flame, like a cigarette lighter. It spread its wings and flew to Jim. As Jim was trying to catch it, it had turned into a ball.

Jim stood on top of the hill.

Now you can ask yourself why put this rough writing on your blog? Well, I do have a problem with keeping to a schedule. I should have gone to the dentist more than a year ago, but for some reason I keep finding excuses not to go. So I need something to trick my mind (for the dentist, put it on my calendar to make an appointment, with an alert 30 minutes before).

We keep finding excuses, so we need a way to hack around our mind’s limitations (the lizard brain hates changes and prefers a status quo). There are other reasons why it’s hard for me personally, but I won’t get into that, because it’s personal.

Once I’ve written the next assignment on my little iPad, I’ll create a new blog post. This will be later today, or early tomorrow, depending on how creative I feel. Point is that I have Monday through Friday to do something with storytelling, and for now use the weekends to somewhat recover.

I curious, what ways have you found around procrastination, other than what I’m doing (blogging about it)? Feel free to tell me about it in the comments, so we can learn more about strategies to keep going, despite lack of motivation.

Drawing from imagination

29 May

I wanted to draw a rhinoceros from imagination and here are some versions and what I’ve learned from it.

Rhino from imagination # 1

⇧ Here I was struggling with the image of a rhino. I mean, most of us have seen a photo of a rhino or a rhino in real life. Putting this “knowledge” on paper is not as easy as you might think.

Rhino from imagination # 2

⇧ After a short break, doing something completely different, I came back to the previous design and restated it. While the head is strong, the body is too much like a cat (yeah, I draw cats all the time).

Rhino from imagination # 3

⇧ I tried another viewing angle to get a better grip on the design. This is already looking much better!

Rhino from imagination # 4

⇧ Making the rhino stand up will give it a more human appearance and will probably be easier to draw and identify with. However, I know little of how to draw the human figure. Note how the features get better with every attempt.

Rhino from imagination # 5

⇧ The three-quarters view is by far the best way to present a character, because it has to be in three dimensions for this perspective. This is excellent to get a grip on the moving masses of your character.

Rhino from imagination # 6

⇧ Riffing on what other character designers have done can be useful as well. Here I based my rhino loosely on Maha Ganeshariff by Toru Nakayama (Megaman Zero video games). Sloppy drawing is key if you don’t want to just rip off someone else’s design.

Rhino from imagination # 7

⇧ Restating the Megaman Zero inspired design with my own take. If you’re a creative person, I don’t think you can plagiarize, even if you tried. There will always be something of yourself in a design. I’m not saying you couldn’t plagiarize, only that it’s more of an artisan thing, not as much of an artistic endeavor.

Rhino from imagination # 8

⇧ After reading a bit about how to do gesture drawings, I realized that every curve you put on paper has to be there for a reason. If you put intent in your lines, you will get a much clearer design. Before you can do that, you should think about what your character is doing.

That last bit was the big take-away, I think. Drawing with intent is so important. Also, if you want to breathe life into your character, an asymmetrical pose is important. If gives a dynamic appearance. I’m not there yet, but it’s getting better.

Another take-away is that you need to iterate your design, however laborious that may seem at first. After all, if you have drawn the best you can, that should be enough, right? Wrong! Even if you have the skill to draw a perfect character design, you should always explore alternatives. And if you don’t yet have that skill, drawing many iterations of a character design will give you this skill pretty soon, especially if you want it to be better.

Drawing with intent, not just for pleasure or passing the time, is what separates the amateur from the (aspiring) professional. Drawing from imagination is of course showing intent, but reducing the lines to the ones that you think best demonstrate your ideas (which you first should develop), and then in iteration pushing the design for more clarity, is where you want to go. Pushing your design should always be within limits, though. You still want believability, not something grotesque.

I will continue the design and probably share it on Flickr when done. I’ll probably write a new post on it.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found it useful. If you have any ideas or comments, feel free to add those in the comments section.

Only one year of portrait drawing

28 May

In their infinite wisdom, the Dutch government has decided to start raising value added tax on education for people over 20. Since I was just able to pay the lesson fee for a weekly portrait course, with the help of special social benefits (which are likely to be cut away as well), I can’t really justify such a high fee on what is essentially a hobby.

That’s just too bad. I thought the portrait course was really helpful. Now I have find other means to work on my life drawing skills, probably draw in public spaces.

I had plans to go the nude life figure drawing in my third year, but I guess that’s out of the question now. I’m sure I’ll be missed.

Portrait Course, lesson # 30

23 May

Portrait Course 20110523 # 1

This was the last drawing of the portrait drawing course at my local community college and everyone agreed it was my best drawing until now. I spent two lessons on it and needed only minimal help from my instructor. The model was very patient, even while some of us students were a bit rowdy because it was the last day in “school.” Marie, thank you!

I used 2H, H and HB leads to make the drawing, plus some smudging with my fingers.

King of the Hill 1

23 May

After yesterday’s assignment to write (on) a story every day, I wrote this little flash fiction. It isn’t high literature, but I think it is somewhat entertaining. There’s a hero, a sidekick and a villain. So to speak, of course, because Jim, Hank and Peter are best friends.

Here it is. Afterwards I tell some more about the process.

The three boys stared at the top of a small hill. “Let’s play King of the Hill here,” said Jim. “Are you sure it’s safe,” stammered Hank. “We’ll do fine. Nothing to fear,” said Peter trying to calm Hank down. “You sissy,” Jim said, “Let’s just see who reaches the top first!” Peter suggested they use the ball he took with him. “How are we going to use your ball,” Hank asked. “Simple,” answered Peter, “if you have the ball you stay put and pass the ball to someone else.” “Whatever,” said Jim impatiently, “Let’s play ball!” “But how do we start,” asked Hank. “Good question,” said Peter, “I suppose we throw it in the air and let fate decide.”

And so they did. Jim leaped high up in the air and snatched the ball. “Not fair,” cried Hank. “Don’t be such a crybaby. Start walking,” Jim shouted. Hank ran straight to the top, but Peter was smarter and stayed at the bottom. And indeed, Jim passed the ball to him. While Hank came running down in disappointment, he almost dropped the ball after it was thrown in his direction.

“Clever, clever,” said Jim, “you’re trying to confuse us.” Peter just ignored him. While Hank wasn’t sure what to do next, he heard the others shout in excitement: “Give it to me, give it to me!” Since Peter had been so nice to him, Hank threw the ball to Peter, who immediately passed it to Jim. “Finally,” Jim shouted in relief, “Don’t think I’ll give to you, silly doofus!” Jim launched the ball behind him, where Peter received it with a big smile.

He stood on top of the hill.

I based this story largely on conversations I can’t help but overhearing between playing children near the flat where I live. Kids are loud when they play together.

I decided to do the setup through conversation, since I had just listened to an episode of the “Writing Excuses” podcast, Writing Excuses 5.38: Dialog with John Scalzi and to Mur Lafferty’s excellent podcast “I Should Be Writing,” episode 202 – Being Smart/Howard Andrew Jones Interview. John Scalzi offered some solid insight on how to approach dialogue and Andrew offered some good writing tips, which he had learned through bitter experience. One of those tips was that before you write a scene, decide what each character is supposed to do (to accomplish) before you start writing. This way you know where to go, even if you get bogged down by storytelling tangents. And boy, if you’re creative, you go on quite some tangents.

Enough about that. I had some problems too.

The problem to tackle first was how to keep it entertaining. I decided to approach it as a sporting match, a game, which makes sense, since king of the hill is a game to begin with. There had to be cunning, but also logic and clarity, and it shouldn’t be too involved, because I wanted to use only a short time to do the writing.

I decided to use psychology as the strategy for the game. Jim wants to win by force and doesn’t think highly of Hank. Peter takes advantage of that and the situation, to get on Jim’s nerves. Effectively, Peter makes use of mistakes made by the other two.

The second problem to deal with was a language barrier. I imagine myself speaking English pretty well, but in reality I have little incentive to improve my English, not surrounded by English speakers and having to use English daily. Sometimes I only know a word in my native language (Dutch). Google Translate for iPhone and iPod Touch to the rescue. The iPhone app (2x on the iPad) even offers alternatives to the translation given. It also has a speech interface, which doesn’t always work.

It meant I had to work around my limitations by keeping the language more simple than a native speaker or even English-as-a-second-language (ESL) speaker probably would do. The reason I do my writing in English is because it’s the language of the Internet. I guess I should use what little vocabulary I have to the best of my ability. I’m sure I’ll get better at it over the years.

The text was written and edited in iA Writer on the iPad, which uses Dropbox syncing to store text documents. Since my iMac has Dropbox as well, I could easily drop the text into this blog post.

Thanks for reading and until next time. If you have any tips, tricks or other advice, feel free to add it as a comment. You can also tell me how awesome you think I am. Nothing wrong with stroking my ego and give it a boost. Hahaha!

Writing assignments

22 May


Here is a writing assignment I gave myself. It’s written in the iPad app Note Taker HD, by Software Garden Inc., the software company of Dan Bricklin. It is a deep application, which hides its complexity until you need it and has lots of help to make it easy to get to understand the functionality. I think it’s excellent for brain dumping, because you have as few constraints as possible. It requires that you have a somewhat legible handwriting, though. It doesn’t do handwriting recognition (which doesn’t really work all too well anyway).

About the writing assignment. Just like you should draw every day, as a cartoonist, you should write stories every day, or write on a story every day. I’m going to try and replicate the daily sketches in writing, by writing short stories of around 300 words. I’m not sure if I can write a flash fiction story every day, but I guess I can work on it every day, so I have a finished story by the end of the week.

I don’t think I’ll be doing the actual writing in Note Taker HD. For that I have a much better app, called iA Writer, by Information Architects, Inc. It has some good functionality for writing.