New level of creativity: engage!

Wishes do come true!

Finances came around around and I went ahead with one of the dreams I’ve had for quite a while now.

A Wacom Cintiq 27HD.

WacomCintiq

 

Before splurging on one, I tried one out (specifically, the 24HD) and fell in love with the feel of it. I could already see the difference working on a Cintiq would make compared to my Intuos 3. It feels much more natural, for me, to be “working on” what I’m seeing rather than rely on staring at a screen while my hand works elsewhere.

The sheer size of it did introduce a new problem for me, as I’m used to having my left hand on a keyboard and the right holds the pen. Well, as you can see in the picture, for this version they included a little “remote” that can be snapped (it has a magnet in the back) to the side of the monitor and moved around, or taken off the tablet and placed on the table or your lap, as you wish. This remote holds programmable buttons that will make life easier when painting.

CintiqRemote

 

I’ve been doodling, drawing, painting and trying to figure out the best position to work in. I’m grateful I also invested in the ergonomic stand for this model, as I can move it around as I wish. Previously I thought an Ergotron arm could prove a solution, but in the store where I bought this Cintiq I was told those things tend to be wobbly. Which, seeing the massive size and knowing just how heavy this screen is, doesn’t surprise me. Props to the good service of tablet4u.nl! I really recommend popping by their showroom in Doetinchem if you’re looking to purchase any Wacom model, because they pretty much have it all for you to try out, not only the more expensive models but also Bamboos and Intuoses (Intuos’? Intuoses? Uhh. I have no idea.).

There are no words to describe how excited I am to be working on my spaceship designs now. Digitally, straight on screen – call me hooked!

Block C proceeds onwards like an oncoming train. The workload combined with my wedding preparations is a bit of a challenge, but I’m enjoying both, so it’ll all work out somehow. Now to get me a cup of tea and continue on my assignments! :)

On concepting and near future plans

We’re having a week of carnaval vacation, which in IGAD slang translates to “workation”. Granted, I was a little behind in my planning, so a chance to catch up and even play games for a tiny bit in between is much appreciated.

For the second course on Art Theory we have been tasked with the creation of a cool spaceship. Broad term as that is, the point of this exercise was to create a spaceship that didn’t look like standard, stereotypical spaceships. Bit of a vague description, but hey, sometimes clients are like that, like I know from the web design industry. Make it pop, they say. Well, pop you shall have, because my chosen themes for my spaceship are flowers, crystals and (floating) castles. I put together a moodboard for these:

TiiaVitikainen_MoodBoard

While not really a fan of sci-fi, it’s very refreshing to do something new. We even had to come up with a backstory for our shinies. Ready for it?

Not all wars are fought with weapons.

In an age where the humans joined the intergalactic community after achieving the means of long-distance space travel, they brought the age-old art of intrigue and court politics with them. To facilitate this, a single family, rich beyond measure – from illegal trade of goods, the jealous claimed – started building a great palace-like spaceship. The spaceship was designed to show off the wealth of the family as well as act as a memento for the humans who were far away from home. Surrounded at all times by an armada of heavily armed guard ships, the palace did not need a set of weaponry of its own. It was nevertheless built to withstand attacks for a longer amount of time, much like the sieges in the long-forgotten past of the humans.

Named Sissadora’s Pride, the ship would host balls, courts, duels, legal and illegal trade agreements and be the center stage of more than a few assassination plots. Being invited aboard was a great – and of course, costly – privilege and sneaking in was considered the ultimate challenge. For the ones wishing to partake in the great play, this palace is certainly the place to be seen.

I might tweak this story a little – especially the name of the ship, as it’s not very palace-y. It’s all still a bit vague but the main idea is there: castle-like palace being propelled through space filled with court drama and the occasional space murder. What’s not to like?

Turns out I love this assignment to bits.

There’s just something about combining stories with visuals, and this is where, I think, my abilities rise and shine. I’ve done a bunch of sketches to visualize what I have in mind, but so far nothing’s really amazing me yet. It was even the time for pulling out my new coloring pencils because I just couldn’t stop myself.

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Onwards to doing 50 iterations on this!

On a non-school related note, me and the better half have now begun the preparations for our wedding as the finances are coming around. As it stands we’ll be marrying either in July or August at the town hall with the closest family present, taking them to dinner afterwards and then heading out for at least 2-week trip to Japan.

I am BEYOND EXCITED.

Visiting Japan has been a dream of mine for the longest time, and we’re planning on enjoying every moment. I’m looking forward to visiting the bustling cities, beautiful temples and amazing modern public transportation. And enjoying authentic Japanese food is also part of the experience!

While there are a lot of things I want to see or do (seeing Kinkakuji, feeding the deer at Nara, going to Akihabara, visiting Tokyo Sky Tree, totally losing it at the owl cafe, sleeping at a ryokan, admiring Mt. Fuji, eating REAL ramen, dipping in an authentic onsen), I’m still open for suggestions. If you’ve visited Japan and think you know a place in the vicinity of Tokyo (or even further away) you’d like to recommend, drop a comment!

Hurray for recognition! And please save me from NURBs.

Sorry for the recently sporadic updates. Block C has taken a chokehold on me and has proceeded to squeezing every bit of self control out of me. And the workload is as high as I ever remember it being. Whee!

You know, I thought we landed a pretty good grade with Chameleon Cancellation. We guesstimated among ourselves. Maybe an 8, because we had been told that getting higher scores would mean that the piece of work in question needed to be award-winning quality. Passing GL1 was certain though, so one less worry on our minds at that point.

And then we landed 3 awards at the game release party.

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I didn’t personally attend, because deadlines. Without knowing what the “game release party” was about, I also figured I’d better focus on other things.

Team lead sends in a WhatsApp:

We won best art, best design and best game award!

Cue appropriate, amazed “whoa“s from all corners of District 18-dom. Team lead continues:

I hear from a teacher that we got a 10!

Well, my day could not get better. To be honest, I was floating somewhere between island of disbelief and paradise of bliss at that point. Not that grades are everything, mind you, but it feels good that something I liked working on got so much appreciation!

I am going to frame these babies and put them on my wall.

Fast forward to week 2 of block C.

One of the bigger project in this block is what we’re told is one of the hardest projects in all of IGAD for visual artists.

The NURBS car.

It was recommended that we pick a vehicle we have physical access to, so I picked my darling, the Kia Picanto. It turns out that finding accurate blueprints for this
 is a pain in the backside, so I’ve spent 2 days trying to line up different views, compositing several different blueprint sources into one view, scaling, tweaking and cursing at my monitor.

This is my progress thus far.

Tapemodel Kia Picanto

Several hours of frustration and head-desking have been poured into this. Maybe you can tell?

Next time I’ll try to post a bit about my favorite project for this block. :)

Finished, not perfect.

Wait, what?

Wasn’t it just Christmas?

Jeez.

It’s funny how time seems to go very fast indeed these days. Not fast enough for me to get my hands on a copy of The Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf, but fast at any rate.

Lately I’ve been wandering YouTube a fair bit in search of artistic inspiration. I bumped into this video from Jake Parker, where he shares a new favorite quote of mine.

Finished, not perfect.

In the video he also talks about how important it is for artists to finish what they start, and also other advice for people thinking of doing art school or for those thinking of applying to one. I’d say the wisdom this guy pours out is worth a lot of praise, and definitely worth the time if you’re thinking of applying to IGAD.

Finished, not perfect.

We artists tend to be perfectionistic. That leads to kind of paralyzation, I think. We tend to move on from a piece that is not turning out as we wanted it to, or spending way too much time fussing about with tiny details when we could learn so much more from something else.

Inspired by this video of his, I finished the painting of my Dragon Age Inquisition character, Toene Lavellan!

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Finished, but certainly not perfect. I freely admit that! But hey, it’s finished, and that’s what matters for now. Perfection.. I’ll get there someday.

Finished, not perfect.

Block B: finished!

I am grateful I had no retakes from previous block. So, SO grateful (well, I only have myself to thank for that I suppose..).

Anyway, block B brough on animation, texturing, Python/MEL scripting as well as graphics theory fundamentals. For 3 of those 4 I had major deadlines last week and managed to come away with things worth being proud of.

Animation

There is something magical about discovering why animations work as they do, and learning the basic principles of it. Animation comes as a close second to texturing as a favorite subject for me, so we’ll see if I can do something else with it! :)

Here are the assignments I did for animation, compressed in one video for your convenience!

Texturing

It’s really cool when you get to delve into what make games so fascinating. This course revealed a lot of tips and tricks to the look and feel of the games I love, and I’m looking forward to texturing more in future projects.

Here are a few renders of my texture work.

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As I’m still learning, I see things that could be improved, but have to move on to other things. I might want to revisit a few of these, or experiment with the rigs we received for AN1 whenever I have the time just to practice. Fun times!

And that is pretty much it for the things I can show. I did create a few scripts for modeling workflow purposes during the AN2 (scripting) course, but that’s not really showcasing material. :)

I have this week fully off, finally. Planning on visiting a spa and spending a weekend in the middle of the forest with my darling and my camera. Who knows, there might be something worth uploading there…

Onwards to block C!

10 things I’m wishing for right now

And now for a round for something (almost) completely unrelated to IGAD.

Even though it’s still a moment until the next gift-giving occasion, I like looking at shiny new things. Life’s full of temptations. I drool at new gadgets, beautiful clothes and gorgeous, way-out-of-my-price-range furniture.

Then there are the “small” things I’d like to have, such as…

10thingsiwishfor

  1. The Crit Happens T-shirt. (Source: ThinkGeek)
    I am an avid reader of Forgotten Realms and always found the concept of a critical failure VERY amusing. I mean, who of us hasn’t once stumbled in the most comical way possible and broken something very precious? I do this all the time. Another shirt I wouldn’t mind wearing would be the one thats says “The dice are trying to kill me!“.
  2. Netherlands type map. (Source: Stoer in Style)
    I love good typography and this map is made of pure genius. I’d be quite excited to have one of these things hanging on the wall!
  3. A riding lesson / outdoor hack in the summer.
    Nothing quite like bright sunshine, wind blowing through the trees and a horse under you. This picture is from our trip to Greece, and that beach ride was quite something!
  4. One of these things, whatever they are.
  5. A Wacom Cintiq 22HD.
    I’ve been dreaming of this one for very long. Right now it’s out of my price range, but I’m considering splurging on one when I can. I’m still working on my Intuos 3, which still works fine, but could really use an upgrade (the word “upgrade” here is probably the understatement of the year, though..).
  6. A signed copy of Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf.
    I am a big fan of R.A. Salvatore and have been ever since my mom bought me a secondhand copy of the Starless Night from a flea market without knowing what it was. These books have, no kidding, changed my life (forgive the corniness, will ya?) and I wish that in one of these days I could meet Salvatore face-to-face and shake his hand. Because shake I would! 
  7. Such an organized pantry. (source: Shanty 2 Chic)
    Our food supplies are scattered throughout the kitchen and the small pantry/closet under our stairs. That closet also serves as a stashing place for a lot of other stuff like packing tape, toilet rolls and so on, and it never stays nice and organized. Sigh.
  8. A Silhouette Cameo.
    I’ve been drooling at this piece of gadgetry ever since I discovered that Jen from I heart organizing uses it to create labels and other pretty things. So far I haven’t been able to justify buying one. A Silhouette machine can be fed different materials, such as sticky vinyl or fabric, which it then can cut into shapes input by the user.
  9. This outfit.
    Because owls! THERE ARE NEVER ENOUGH OWLS.
  10. Time to play Witcher 3 when it finally gets released (in like May, but damnit, I am looking forward to it!).
    I know I will eventually make time for it. I was pretty patient for Dragon Age: Inquisition too, but I should NOT try playing that stuff unless I really have the time. I squeezed DAI into 53 hours of feverish gaming (not in one long marathon, mind you) but felt quite guilty afterwards..

What about you? What are the (some, or all) of the things you are wishing for right now?

A (Game Lab) day in the life of a VA student

You’d be surprised how much stuff can fit into one day. I manage to do a lot more than I expect, but sometimes it feels I don’t manage to do enough!

If you’re curious how an IGAD student’s day is, this should be quite descriptive of what an average game lab day looks like for me!

06:30 My alarm goes off and I slowly scrape my still-sleepy self out of bed and into the shower. After that I chomp down on a small breakfast I prepared the previous evening and quickly check that I stashed everything I needed in my backpack last night, including small lunch. Due to the day being a day during which I will need my drawing tablet as well as my laptop, a sketchbook, pencils, and lunch, the weight of my backpack is around 8-9 kilos. I could veritably smash someone’s face in with the thing, and I suspect I look ridiculous with so much stuff on me.

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07:15 I head out to get my bicycle and spend about 15 minutes getting to the central station in Oss. Depending on the weather conditions I might look like a pile of clothing with a bulging backpack on a bicycle.

28 Station Oss

07:35 I squeeze my way into the train that is full of people going to work and school, having to stand until the train arrives at ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The whole trip with the train to Breda takes about 45 minutes, and I am fairly lucky to have a direct connection to Breda (not having to switch trains at any station). The train is quite comfortable once you get a decent seat and a good pair of in-ear earbuds. Ahhh… music.

08:20 Time for the bus! Since the 2 buses that drive by NHTV also pass other schools along its route, the thing is packed full of students. Long live personal space creator backpack?

08:45 Arriving at school, I make my way to the second floor and to the Game Lab room my group calls home this block. I plop down in my favorite spot in the corner and set up my laptop, drawing tablet, and other things. While waiting for my group to arrive I also update my files, check for updates, and review what needs to be done today.

NHTV_Gamelab2705_2014

09:15 Most team members will have arrived and started working on where we left off the previous week. On this particular day I’m dashing about, checking the current progress of a certain animation, popping by a designer to verify the control scheme, and setting to work with in game tutorial screens that needed to be redrawn.

11:45 Ravenously hungry, I chomp down on my lunch and spend a moment just checking in with my fellow artists and prodding them to take a break (newsflash, they are really bad at taking breaks!). I also run downstairs to get a cup of tea and after a brief chit chat get back to work.

15:05 Our team lead checks in on progress before heading off to the meeting with teachers. Yes, most things are progressing as planned, though a few bugs tend to appear right before crucial checkpoints. One bug gets fixed and 5 more take its place. Sigh. Time to make a build and test, test, and test.

16:30 Once the team leads & teachers heart-to-heart is over, our brave lead comes back with feedback. Feedback is discussed and fixes planned. Last round of bug fixing and polishing touches to something requiring a bit of work, and the day is a wrap!

17.10 Finally on the train to Oss, I resist the urge to nap. I would be home in another hour, and still have to do groceries and prepare dinner. I would also have to try and get at least 30 minutes of homework in before I ooze into bed. Time to squeeze out the last bits of energy for the day!

Chameleon Cancellation is finished!

The game is finally “out of the door”, if you will, and the whole team is satisfied!

We had everyone working strong but steady through the whole development and despite the switch in leadership halfway through, finished the game with flying colors. There is something supremely satisfying with rounding off a 14-week project and feeling good about it!

chameleonsplashscreen

Anyhow, without further ado, I present to you: the trailer.

I also put up a Behance project gallery, if you feel like having a look at some of the assets we produced for Chameleon Cancellation. Will work on adding more info on and off. :)

Now to have a glance at the overall success of Game Lab for me:

Game Lab 1 – The good, the bad and the ugly

Game lab is the most amazing thing I’ve experienced at IGAD, to be 100% honest.

No, seriously.

This is what game development is about: you’re thrown in a group with a bunch of people you don’t know and you work your darnest to make a game like Chameleon Cancellation out of it. Luck of the draw was on our side – we had a balanced group of a few utter newbies as well as someone who’d already made games before, and a few techy people who could make it all work. All in all, I could not have asked for a better totally random group.

It’s an authentic experience through and through, let me tell you that!

That said, there are downsides to being tossed in a pile, given a random theme and being told to go make a game.

It’s almost like playing sports in a team.

First off, Game Lab starts from the beginning of the year, meaning that you might have a tiny bit of education when it comes to SVN – version control – as well as Unity before you need to get started. However, it is not a lot of time that you get, and the group needs to be organized in their approach. If everyone is not committed to the success of the game, the group could be split into workers and slackers and the project will fail from the get-go.

Another thing of great importance, right after being organized, is the creative drive the different specializations bring to the table. The designers need to dream BIG, the artists need to stretch beyond their comfort zones (style as well as subject wise), the programmers need to be innovative and the indies.. well, they need to be all 3 of those.

All in all, Game Lab 1 has been rounded off and we’re already heading towards Game Lab 2 with a pre-made team. Let’s see what the next GL bring us, shall we? :)

Battling study stress

You know how it is.

It’s like a neverending story.

Last week of lessons before stress and panic runs amok – also known as deadline crunch! I’m trying to rein in my stress, but it’s hard when the air reeks of tears and sweat (totally mostly sweat though). It can be really hard to stay focused when you realize that you’re not quite as far along with your projects as you initially thought. Or maybe you forgot an assignment. Or maybe you were given last-second homework that screwed up your planning. Or maybe you are a procrastinator (with a heavy side serving of denial), like this guy.

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I have a few trustworthy ways of lowering my stress levels, though! Maybe these will help you too:

  1. Writing deadlines down and prioritizing. This works especially well if I get overwhelmed and can’t really see the forest for the trees anymore. I also tend to write down the amount of work I have done (hours or percentages, whichever floats my boat at that point) and also the amount of work I still need to do. This might seem like procrastinating but it helps me put things in perspective and not lose the track of importance of the different assignments anymore. The document gets revisited every time I make progress, and it makes it feel like I’m getting somewhere with all this running around!
  2. Taking a break and listening to music. Turns out there are hours upon hours of relaxation and meditation music on YouTube. Instrumental, classical, nature, chill, lounge, whatever suits you. Make a cup of tea, close your eyes and just breathe. This is one of the tracks that I like to listen to..
  3. Talking about assignments with someone when stuck. Don’t understand something? Awesome, go talk to someone (a classmate, sibling, parent, whoever has the time to listen) about it. You get a different perspective to the challenge when you say it out loud (sometimes I solved something by just saying what I needed to do out loud!). I like to do this especially with the scripting assignments we get. Luckily I have someone who has a good understanding of technical issues and some Python knowledge.

When it’s all said and done, the last resort question would be “What’s the worst thing that could happen?“. Sometimes we need to put things in perspective and realize that usually (like when someone’s life isn’t on the line) the struggles we’re facing today are actually quite small in the big scale of things.

In other words, what doesn’t break you, makes you stronger!

On another note, I’ve been really enjoying painting stuff for my texturing assignment. Pity all of the other assignments take time away from this one. :<

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painting

 

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So.. wish me luck! Time to turn on turbo mode and finish some assignments. :)

New year’s visitors and deadlines

Happy 2015 to one and to all! Hope your 2014 was as amazing as mine was. :)

My 2-week vacation has been, in one word, rad.

I indulged in gaming (Dragon Age Inquisition, to be exact), enjoyed family company and great food. I also got my little fingers on a bigger hard drive for my laptop – a 1 terabyte SSD that boots faster than you can say “cat. Oh, yes.

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Thank you, N. <3

So besides that, I’ve been working on a DAI tarot-esque card for my Dalish inquisitor – Toene Lavellan. Sorry for cross-posting with Tumblr, but I’m starting to adore this piece and I hope I won’t screw it up. :D

WIP

Drawing has been SO much fun lately. I can’t get enough of it because of DAI. I’m brimming with ideas right now. Artistic goals for this year: draw more. Experiment with color. Draw more non-humanoid things (more landscapes, vehicles, animals etc).

With the end of the vacation in sight, I managed to finish the robot rig (I’m not religious, but this elicited a hearty “HALLELUJAH” from me) and now proceed onto polishing my animations and texturing. Time to turn on turbo and finish them off with honor before block C shows me what’s what.

Besides the usual Christmas shenanigans, a few of my friends decided to pop by for a few days. We watched The Penguins of Madagascar at the movie theater at Bijlmer ArenA and had a great night filled with sushi at Ichi-e Ichi-go (if you want a modern sushi experience with contemporary versions of traditional Japanese dishes such as miso soup, go check this place out!) and Finnish banter.

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Insert crazy eyes here.

With them the ladies brought a pile of Finnish candy I must do my best to resist devouring RIGHT NOW.

Now to turn my gaze to next week – the last lesson week of this block, and the week after that which will be a study week dedicated to rounding off my assignments and studying for the written exam of Graphics Theory Fundamentals. Not my favorite subject, but I’ll do my best to do well in the exam.

2015 has started well for me. We’re pretty much halfway to the end of my first year at IGAD – scary thought indeed if you look at it this way! – and I have a fairly good feeling about the rest of it. I keep on finding ways to improve my workflow and making it all easier for myself, which is good. Learning new things is challenging but fun! Getting my propedeutics will be a worthwhile battle indeed.