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Monday, March 23rd, 2009 - 2:31 AM

"Stations of the Cross Construction"

Another of the stations our SW Hills Community Group took on to design for the Stations of the Cross event involves building a cross. I came up with this simple beveled cross design that I'm hoping to construct soon with the help of a craftsman in our church.

I decided to illustrate the design by modeling it in Ray Dream Studio and rendering it in Bryce. Of course I added some scene elements to make it interesting (and make it take WAY longer to render).

3D Cross Design

3D Cross Design

3D Cross Design

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Thursday, March 12th, 2009 - 12:26 PM

"Ethnos Web Site and Stations of the Cross"

OK, I'm seriously behind on writing in my blog. I've been feeling fairly busy lately - which for me is generally OK nowadays. I'd rather be doing something than nothing, though nothing every once in a while is good too.

Last week the core Ethnos web team - currently Matt, Wes and I - transferred the Ethnos Church web site to a new host (namely mine, to save money). Since it's on my host, I'm kind of the technical contact, though historically Wes serves more in that capacity. Wes worked to transfer the forum and some domain level stuff. Matt went all out and redesigned the entire web site from scratch, updating all the pages and adding new ones where applicable. He contacted all the necessary heads of ministry and feverishly produced content at an insanely rapid pace. Hats off to his efforts, the site looks great à mon avis.

Ethnos Church puts on a pretty cool Good Friday program, and we are attempting to improve and expand it this year. It's called "Stations of the Cross". It involves walking through a course, encountering 14 artistic and tactile stations designed to allow the participant to be contemplative about the various final acts of Jesus' earthly life. I haven't myself attended or helped with this event before because I wasn't really around or involved at the right times in the past. This year I'm trying to be helpful and get somehow artistically inspired. Our Thursday night community group is going to take on a couple of the stations (speaking of SW Hills, you are welcome to join us on Thursdays for a casual dinner and hang out time... though for the next few weeks we'll be busy working on Stations stuff).

Speaking of that: Everyone's invited to come to Stations of the Cross! It's on Good Friday, April 10th at Beaverton Christian Church. Please RSVP if possible. Earlier times during the day are likely less "busy". See the microsite for more information: http://stations.ethnoschurch.org

I designed a little microsite for the event two nights ago. Just last night I came up with a simple graphic to spruce up the appearance a bit. I wasn't sure exactly what to make, so I just started scribbling in Inkscape, one of my favorite graphics programs. I discovered a pretty cool set of secret actions that transformed my random scribbles into a pretty interesting ornate set of shapes. I started out with a single vector shape that had something like 20,000 nodes on it. Phew, talk about tasking my computer! Almost like the "good ole days" of doing one simple graphical task and waiting 10 minutes for it to apply or refresh.

Stations of the Cross Design

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Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 - 1:22 AM

"Fun With Cubes"

I decided to spend a bit more time than usual creating an image for today's ad. Every once in a while I am inspired by a random idea and decide to just go for it. So often I feel lacking in the inspiration department, so when creativity or motivation comes, I try to take advantage of it.

The product in the ad I was to work on was a square pad of paper (or rather 2 pads). An image of a cube came to mind, so I jumped on it like spatulas on a wind chime.

I wanted the cube to have a fairly convincing 3D look. I remembered that Inkscape has a pseudo 3D tool. I've not been overly impressed with this particular tool's implementation and was reminded why when I tried it today. The angles simply don't look right to me. It's like viewing the rectangular solids through a fish-eye lens or something - too exaggerated and hard to correct.

It was then that my mind turned to Bryce. It's easily the 3D graphics tool I'm most familiar with. I am somewhat familiar with Blender and a couple other products but haven't streamlined my productivity for producing quick results with them. Bryce is stinking easy and there are so many wonderful presets to work with. A simple scene usually only requires a few minutes to produce, something that might take hours using comparable software. At the same time, Bryce has some severe limitations, especially in the object modeling department. Basic 3D primitives are easy though, and fortunately a cube was all I needed today. A few clicks, and there I had it - a box, water, sky, and light.

Bryce cube rendering

Next I imported the Bryce rendering into Inkscape. I quickly outlined the four cubes with purposefully sloppy strokes, to work the beginnings of a sketched look.

Inkscape calligraphy lines

Here's the Inkscape paths back on top of the rendered Bryce image.

Inkscape paths over Bryce rendering

I was recently impressed with the latest build to the GIMP open source project. Until yesterday I had not been overly impressed with the software. It has a lot to offer as far as features go - most everything that is expected in a bitmap creation / photo editing application. However, the user interface leaves much to be desired in comparison to industry standard tools. Maintaining efficient workflow in graphics is very important, and the GIMP is simply not up to speed in this key area. Even so, version 2.6.3 that I downloaded last night corrected a major foul. It used to be that, in order to access the tools and property panes, pressing ALT+TAB was necessary. They didn't remain on top of the drawing window (BAD!). This recent version finally keeps the tools on top where they belong. Giant leap forward, with still a long way to go.

Yesterday in my fiddling with The GIMP, I found a filter to my liking: Line Nova. It produces a radial pattern of tapered lines that come to a central focus - much like can be seen in Manga style comic books to indicate zoom, forward movement or emotional emphasis on a character. I added a couple of these novas to my drawing and warped them with several tool swipes and filters to produce this image.

GIMP warped line nova

To give the lines a tad more rough, grungy or sketched look, I used Adobe Photoshop's displacement map filter to distort the line layers a bit.

Photoshop displacement map

A couple additional Photoshop filters brought it all together. I rotated the hue to a bit more purple and blue range, and voila.

final rendering

As you can see, I have very little brand loyalty. I use each tool for what they are best, often combining them on single projects as seen here. I have been using graphics programs for almost 20 years and know my way around getting them to do what I want. My problem is usually the imagination and inspiration to get started. Here's the "final image" for the most part how it will appear in the ad. I know, why bother, when I just cover it up anyway? Sometimes I want to make the product photos really small so as to show off my cool backgrounds... but I have to resist such temptation, since the purpose of the ads is to feature the products, not my artwork! :)

Pentalic square sketch pads

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Sunday, November 16th, 2008 - 9:17 PM

"Microsoft is Kinda Old, Lame, Behind the Times"

Vent: I'm sick of Hotmail. I've had it since I started emailing. I've had the same address forever. Lately the entire rich text capability has dropped to the floor for no apparent reason. So I can't send anything but plain text. Plus, all the email headers appear in the body when replying, so I have to delete them. DUMB! JUNK! Windows Live Mail, the updated email client that sort of replaces Outlook Express SUCKS! It's a piece of crapola! 1) Windows Live Mail doesn't allow multiple users with separate passworded logins - as Outlook Express did, 2) Sometimes when you click on a local folder in the left pane to interace with what's in the folder, it doesn't do anything at all - the contents don't appear in the main pane. 3) I've seen it crash quite often. Every time it has crashed, I've not even been doing it. It's minimized. 4) There are many other email clients that put Live Mail to shame, so why use it? It really sucks. Hotmail is a stone age product compared to similar services like Gmail, Yahoo, etc. I could go on and on about how lame and slow the interface is. It's totally old school junk compared with what is possible with AJAXian technologies - such as those Google applications utilize. It's not easy to configure an email client to connect with Hotmail. Microsoft purposely makes it difficult and forces you to only be able to do it properly with their Windows Live Mail client - which SUCKS! Sayonara Microsoft products. I'm going to use Mozilla Thunderbird as my email client, and I'll have an email address through my own web site.

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