Cats galore

Despite me swearing off the usage of the word “galore” previously, I realized it might be very appropriate sometimes.

We have 4 cats in the house right now (instead of the usual 2) due to our friends’ vacation and it remains a challenge to get them (cats) all get along. They can be quite skittish. BUT THEY’RE SO FLUFFY. I want to hug them!

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The Doctor knows what’s up. And no, I’m not a Whovian.

Regardless!

Yesterday I received my schedule for school and OH BOY AM I GOING TO BE SCREWED. I will have absolutely amazing subjects in the first semester (Art Theory! Modeling!  Drawing Skills! Game engines for artists!) but the schedule is fairly spread out and at least a few days will last until fairly late, which means that I will probably be at home closer to 10 in the evening due to my commute.

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My first week, ladies and gentlemen.

Since I have almost everything I need with me (laptop to pass the time playing FFXIV: ARR, or Guild Wars 2, and a sketchbook to draw away in!) so I can get comfortable as long as I have somewhere to sit.

Ahh, this is going to be interesting. Be sure to return next week for some first-week impressions and appraisal of whether I will stay sane the coming 4 years – as doubtful as that is. :)

Exhausting vacation

Oh, yes.

There are two kinds of vacations: one where you get to truly relax and kick back, and another one where you’re too busy doing Useful Things because man, this vacation is too short.

I’m in the middle of the latter.

To our credit, me and N have managed to do almost everything on our (my?) to-do list so far, and nothing calms my nerves like clearing out a mile-long to do list. I even managed to sneak in a lunch yesterday with another Finn who lives in the Netherlands for a few hours of relaxation (granted, the weather wasn’t on our side. But it was, as the Dutchies say, “gezellig”.)

Yesterday I also picked up my art supplies for this year from an art store in Breda.

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Oooh. What’s in here?

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… um, wow. Will I seriously need all of this?

 

Holy moly art supplies. It’s not very lightweight either, so I’m already dreading for my old back with the books (Animator’s Survival Kit says hi) and my beloved laptop.

Oh, yeah. I also bought new books. Yes, of course.

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Books and a furry arse.

“All’s well in the well” as Cynosure would say.

Now, a few more things to arrange, and maybe I can just relax the whole next week. And play FFXIV: A Realm Reborn. Maybe get my fishing class to 50. The simple things in life.

All good things come to an end…

… my FFXIV: A Realm Reborn subscription ran out.

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Dat ass. Why do all MMORPGS have this random-quest-gear-makes-me-look-like-a-clown syndrome?

*gets thrown with rocks”

Alright, alright! Sheesh, guys.

My last day at work felt a lot shorter than expected. We had a nice lunch with the folks, and the reality of cleaning my desk hit me like a truck! It’ll be weird thinking I’ll never (well, never say never, but still) drive to that office again. Bittersweet, that thought.

I commemorated that by doodling away most of the evening.

Environment

I don’t usually draw environments, EVER, but this right here was a lot of fun. Quite doodle-y-, but fun.

On that note… Have a nice weekend!

Stylin’ my school gear: Ogio Street Operative 17

So in addition to my spanking shiny laptop, the bag was something I had to think about long and hard. I’m fairly picky and my taste is very particular, so finding the perfect bag was difficult. Not just hard, but tiring!

But I found the bag of my dreams, and on a sale to boot – that word can make any woman’s heart a-flutter, right?!

So I snapped some photos while unpacking today’s delivery…

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The paperwork..

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My Ogio Street Operative is well-packaged!

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Pretty cool, huh?

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Outer pocket with room for pens, etc

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Inner pocket for a laptop/tablet and books. Very spacey!

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Storm also got curious…

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What’s in here, Storm asks.

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My 15,6 inch laptop fits in this bag beautifully!

Sorry for the crazy image spree, but I’m lovin’ this bag, especially since I found it for 39 euros instead of the usual 69,95!  Go me! :)

On being an artist

As I’m slowly coming to terms with that I’m leaving my old web designer/developer/webmaster/copy-paste slave job behind and starting on what I always wanted to do, I find it hard to stand up to the demands that I have of myself in this new phase. Logically I know I’ll be okay, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t think I needed to be BETTER.

In short, I’m suffering from a hefty bout of impostor syndrome.

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This is something that will pass, but for now I’m trying to keep my chin up and keep on working on my drawings.

I read on DeviantART (read the whole journal entry here) that once a person decides to be something (artists/musician/dressmaker/whatever), it is so, even if they’re bad at it. Getting better is only a matter of practice. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

Now, I’m not saying you should declare yourself a doctor and go trying to diagnose sicknesses using Google and Wikipedia, but if you want to be a doctor, you have to do all you can to become one.

I think life is too short to be anything but true to yourself.

So, from now (this very second) on I’ll be a dedicated video game art student with aspirations towards environment and/or concept and/or illustration.

I feel like I should spend more time creating. This means I might have to move my workstation (table, chair, desk, laptop, monitor, drawing tablet, etc, etc) upstairs to our second bedroom, but I’m still pondering on that. This would make a great distraction-free environment unlike the living room downstairs with all its’ randomly placed items, reminders of laundry that needs to be done, kitchen messes to be cleaned and so on. The downside would be that the little time that I spend with my better half would be cut down to even less, as at least 3 nights a week he plays WoW with the guys.

I think I need to try this and see how it goes. :)

Applying to IGAD: intake assignments

IGAD intake assignments

Applying to IGAD: Intake assignments

The part that initially I worried about the least in this whole applying process was making the intake assignments. I was quite confident in my drawing skills in general as I had seen some of my competition from previous, and even current, year of applying and in some cases I went “wow!”  and in some cases “…huh.”.

In the end being accepted at IGAD is a sum of multiple factors, of which the intake assignments only play a medium-to-large-sized part. It’s not the whole selection criteria as far as I know, and similar care should be taken when crafting your motivation letter, CV and really making it clear what are the school’s benefits in taking you on board as a student. As an older student-to-be I could play this factor in my favor and display strong work ethics from the jobs I’ve had. It figures, that a person who actually gets to do what they always wanted to do but couldn’t, would probably work their backside off to get this programme done successfully. ;)

Anyway! Enough of my ramblings, and more hints, tips and tricks.

I will go ahead and list the intake assignments, show my final pieces, critique them with what I think their weak points are, and link to resources that helped grow from “I’ll never get this right”  to “Hey, this is pretty decent!”  in a few weeks.

IGAD intake assignments for Visual Artists

I’ll start off with a disclaimer: these were the intake assignments in 2014. They might change them, and you should always follow whatever documentation you get from NHTV regarding these assignments. However, it’s a great artistic exercise, so doing these on your own will allow you to try new things! Just be sure to read through the assignments PDF you get, and make sure to return the files exactly as requested (size, compression, file name).

Drawing a self-portrait

This, right here, was the bane of my existence.

To draw an accurate self-portrait with even an inch of resemblance to yourself, you need to look at yourself in the mirror for long periods of time and note the relationships of different elements of your face. You need to have the observational skills of an owl.. at night…. on steroids. For this one I could not find any articles online that helped me, so that would probably explain why it was one of the harder assignments for me.

Secret shame story time: I re-drew this portrait about 10 times before it actually looked like me. I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. I learned a big lesson about observation.

Self portrait

You probably notice that the placement of eyes is off-center vertically.  I could have probably also spent some time adding some shading to my hoodie. Nonetheless, I’m fairly pleased with the end result.

Drawing a landscape with building(s)

To draw an accurate environment, you have to consider the perspective in all things. I found an article on geometric perspective from For Dummies which helped me to realize that in order to start off well, I needed to define a horizon and the vanishing point(s) before putting in any detail.

If I were to choose my favorite assignment, this one would be it. Since I rarely ever drew environments before, my brain didn’t assume it knew what these buildings looked like, ultimately allowing me to observe the scenery better and ending up with a way more correct drawing than I would have even dared to hope for.

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To give myself a bit of critique: Some irrelevant lines are much bolder than need be, and for example the bush at the front wasn’t that well-observed as it looks more like a pile of leaves rather than anything else. I could have also drawn the bricks better by leaving space between them, instead of signifying the space with a line, because I made it look like the bricks were much closer to each other than they actually are! The perspective should be quite accurate however, as I was busy making sure all relevant things were pointing to the vanishing point. Also, a major minus point for myself would be drawing this landscape from a picture (that I took an hour before drawing, but still) instead of following instructions and drawing at the location. I wonder if it shows?

Drawing a clean line art of a vehicle

The most foreign of all subjects for me, this assignment took me plenty of practice to get right. I spent a bunch of lunch breaks sitting at our company’s parking lot just drawing away all the cars that I liked. I also found a great YouTube video for drawing cars in perspective and another one about drawing wheels in perspective which allowed me to get a glimpse of the technique that car fanatics use while drawing, so I used that to my advantage, creating sweeping curves and then blocking in the details.

Car sketches

Car sketches

I found that it was easier to draw from life than it was to draw from a picture, funnily enough! The result was still not 100% what I wanted to be, but I ran out of time (bad excuse, I know). My final assignment file looked like the following:

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As critique: This is probably the weakest of all the assignments. The perspective is off and it could be more detailed. There aren’t many redeeming qualities in this one, except that it does resemble a car, and fairly closely. Maybe a few more revisions would have helped. Better next time.

Building a 3D model of a bicycle

This assignment is where I started off as a total newbie to Maya (but not to 3D modeling in general, so I had that going for me, which is… nice.). I re-built my model once, mostly due to my dissatisfaction in my own work quality in the initial model. I went as far as to adding some textures as well, which made me feel like I spent a bit of extra effort on this one!

Resources that I would recommend for this assignment are:

  • YouTube video series on modeling a bicycle in Maya (without sound or instruction, but he goes through the process of figuring out creating the spokes, ie. the math involved, which you can use as a model to create yours!).
  • Maya Getting Started guide from AutoDesk. I used this to figure out how to set up a picture plane to use as a reference for my bicycle, and figured out extruding along curves (used this for creating curved bar parts of the bicycle)
  • Last but not least: creating a free demo account at DigitalTutors, and following their Beginner’s Guide to Maya series (make sure to select 3D and Maya as your interests when creating your demo account to have access to this series) is by FAR the best resource to learn Maya from scratch. You can follow this with any of their multiple, effective but a bit slow, series to learn modeling or animation in Maya. It’s amazing. Do it! I am planning on getting my hands on a subscription as soon as our money situation allows.

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Knowing what I know now, I can say that I could have built this model a lot more effectively. I just spent a lot of time making curves and extruding, tweaking, turning and cursing. But it was all a learning experience, and a very valuable one at that!

IGAD intake assignments are meant to test your artistic skills, and it’s a challenge that one should feel comfortable facing. I know I spent a  lot of time researching, practicing and ultimately, putting these things together. However, I could FEEL myself getting better after every attempt, and I think I have what it takes to survive this program. :)

If you’re planning on applying or have already applied, how did your IGAD intake assignments turn out?

Applying to IGAD: introduction

Applying to IGAD: Intro

Applying to IGAD: Introduction

I love a good informational blog post like the next teenager trying to figure out which caffeinated drink to buy at Starbucks.

As a short intro: International Game Architecture and Design (or, IGAD for short) is a university programme at NHTV in Breda. When I started my applying process in February, I had no idea how little information directly related to IGAD was available on the internet. If I were to exclude all Sudan-related “IGAD” topics from Google search results, I’d be left with a handful of articles of varying quality.

Initially, I attended NHTV’s open evening in February just to get a general idea of what the programme was about. This open evening was surprisingly nice, and the while the building could have been a tad bit newer and had working air conditioning, what I heard and saw in the introductions for the different specializations blew my mind. As starry-eyed as I was when we drove home that evening, I had no idea just how much work is needed when applying to IGAD.  Disclaimer; some of these steps are only applicable for “foreign students” (anyone with a non-Dutch diploma), and more specifically for those who have completed vocational school instead of higher education. Also, I applied for the Visual Arts specialization, but beyond the intake assignments, the steps shouldn’t differ. For urgent questions about the application process, please contact NHTV’s international student office – but I will do my best to answer any questions you might have. :)

The following posts are merely meant to serve as a guidepost of sorts. I’m also going to post links to all the sources that helped me with my intake assignments as well as see if I can help you with finding the supplies, software and hardware you need should you be selected.

Application process, and how not to panic

  1. Check the NHTV admission requirements page for IGAD to see if you qualify before you start running around gathering your paperwork! I almost made a mistake with this one and started the application process before I knew I needed to take an English test. Now is also a good time to review your finances: can you actually afford this course? Do you have a laptop or need to buy one? What about study financing from the government? Tuition fees? Do you need to move to Breda (and “rent a room” like the Dutchies would say) or do you intend to travel back and forth (between another Dutch city and Breda)? There are many things to think about, and you have to make sure that you’re not going into this process and realizing halfway that because of x or y something is not possible for you.
  2. Read the NHTV page for applying to IGAD carefully. This page contains the first few steps you need to take in order to apply, and is a kind of a portal to the rest of the pages related to this procedure, unfortunately some of them being in Dutch.  Google translate is your friend. Also, the self-assessment test has never seemingly worked, so don’t bother with it. You’ll have to trust your gut instinct here.
  3. Assuming you want more detailed explanations of the upcoming steps, there is another thorough step-by-step page available in English.  Do pay attention to the deadlines of assignments, and once you have applied via the Studielink service, you should soon receive your intake assignments. If you apply early enough, you can get “a second chance” in delivering your intake assignments, should the first batch be unsatisfactory to NHTV, so I urge you to apply before December!
  4. Carefully make sure that you are preparing everything they ask for in the digital application package.  Especially if you need to deliver English test results – keep in mind, that should you take the TOEFL test as I did, receiving your test results will take 4 to 6 weeks, or even longer.
  5. It’s probably a good idea to make an Excel file with the steps that you need to take, and before when. Mine looked like this:Step-by-step
    It’s so very important that YOU know exactly what you need to do, and before when you need to do it. This Google Docs sheet kept me sane throughout the process. It’s not pretty, but it did it’s job. I even kept an applying journal!
  6. When thinking of making official copies of your diplomas, know that you also need official translations. I circled back to a Finnish translator to have my documents officially translated into English (she did an excellent job!), and then took those official translations to a notary office to have official copies made.
  7. The hole the needed documents and hardware can blow in your wallet is not to be underestimated! I think I spent around 600 euros only on applying (copies, translations, English test, and an application fee that only foreign students have to pay). Meanwhile, I still have to cash out 1000 euros on a new laptop, more on software and books, art supplies and even such trivial thing as a travel card. This number climbs up very quickly!
    This is what my estimation of study-related costs for the next 4 years looks like…costsIt makes me want to sob a little.
  8. Take your time, but don’t let yourself slip when making the intake assignments. You might have to restart several times (like I did) if you’re not familiar with one or more of the subjects, or dislike them with the glowing passion of a hundred suns.
    Give yourself time to practice, and avoid stressing yourself out.

Well, these would probably be my main tips for applying to IGAD so far. In my next post I will talk about the different intake assignments, and point to some resources that saved me from hitting myself repeatedly with a blunt object.