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A Wee bit o Landscaping

Since I have been laid off from Universal, amongst other things We are trying to catch up on some of the things that need doing around the homestead. I posted earlier about our plan to build an additional Pool Lanai but at least for now thats on hold…

The current effort is to rearrange and organize our existing space for maximum benefit and fix any stuff we can to make this house look as good as possible in case we end up moving… For the last 5 years I have had my head down working for Uni and have let some things lapse here. Luckily the house itself is in good shape, our only problem areas being it needs an interior paint job and the carpets are in sore need of replacement. When we moved in the previous owner didn’t fix these things and took off money from the asking price to reflect that, We have done a good bit ourselves but to make it perfect these things need doing…

The First project is to get our landscaping under control, we had a bunch of hedges die off and Fanny and my attempts to fix and create growing areas have led to a sad state…

Thats a sweet potato vine growing out of a pot if you can believe it…
Why did you die Mr Hedge?

And don’t forget Florida is weed heaven and while its great that things grow so lush its also a bear if it gets out of control…

IMG_0057
Nice weeds ya got there…
Weed Garden

To make a long story short we looked in local forums and neighborhood groups for recommendations ” by we I mean Fanny 😛 ” and eventually found 3 people that seemed up for the task. We scheduled for them to come to walk the property and get back to us with their estimates. All 3 were nice and seemed knowledgeable I am pretty sure any of them could do it. We have a large yard just under half acre with not much in the way of trees.

a lotta grass

To complicate that is our neighborhood is on the high end ” we are almost certainly the cheapest house in this place “. With that comes restrictions and theres nothing more nosey than a rich neighbor :P.

Why would anyone plant that here?

The main point is to clean up the hedges and beds and create a new stone bed to surround what I affectionately call the Murder plants… These things are Giant Prehistoric un-killable monsters and the previous owners just planted them in the yard which makes for some real fun when it comes time to cut the grass. I have impaled myself a number of times…

Murder Plant Row

another goal is to create a place where we can grow vegetables. I am thinking this will be a raised bed where we can control the soil as whats present in the yard is basically sand

Fannys Test Garden 🙂

While waiting I decided to make up a schematic plan of what needed doing , probably should have done this first but… I based it on the site plan I have been using to design our proposed pool area. Heres what I came up with…

The Best Plans

Heres the interesting part and I think it speaks to the necessity of always getting multiple bids on large projects. These three guys all looking at the same plan and having discussed pretty much the exact same design features came back with a crazy spread cost. Lowest was $2,500 highest $9,600. I can’t speak to the reasons for this although its possible the highest guy was looking at my neighbors houses and decided to pad his expectations. We decided to whittle it down to the two lower estimates and then revise the plan to make sure both were looking at the same thing. I actually felt the lowest price guy’s was low balling it… After going back and forth with them a few times we have decided to go with the mid range guy as I think he is capable and also more realistic about what things cost.

Our deposit paid we now look forward to seeing this project move forward next week. I am optimistic that it will go well and address the curb appeal issue we have been dealing with. After that we can move onto other facets of making the most out of our little castle… Like dare I say it an artist studio 😛

So you want to be an artist part 3 What Now?

In the first 2 post I tried to put down some advice for a young person starting on their journey to become an artist / designer now let’s discuss what comes next…

You’ve taken the plunge and did the work to complete school or some form of training as an artist. Let’s assume you did really well, met some great people and learned a lot of skills. You’ve mastered the tools and techniques needed to be competitive in an incredibly wide range of subjects maybe even figured out what your passion is. Congratulations and welcome to the creative world.

Now that you’re ready it’s time to really get to work. School was your first step, it gives you the keys to unlock the door. But you’re going to need to do a lot more to make this the joyous fulfilling experience it can be. Remember that you are entering the real world now. There’s a lot of competition out there and many things your education missed. It’s simply impossible to prepare someone for everything that will come at them and most curriculums don’t even address a lot of it.

Portfolio preparation – In school I had one class dealing with this it was an elective and to be blunt woefully inadequate. Your portfolio is your body of work. When you get started it’s literally the most vital things you have. Later in your career it will not be as important. But in the beginning this is the way potential employers will decide to give you a job or not. Back in olden times portfolios were big cases full of real artwork and paintings. By my time “ the dark ages “ they were usually medium sized cases full of prints of your work.

My Old Print Portfolio
More work…

Today websites and digital media can house your work to great affect and you should use them. In addition though people still respond well to a physical presentation. Something about being able to touch and manipulate the pages. I’m not even gonna mention what can be done with social media as I am a caveman, but you know what to do…

Thoughts on an Effective Portfolio

Break the work into projects and show a cross section of the design process. ideation, orthographic views, 3d massing, renderings etc…This shows that you understand the design process and it gives the reviewer an understanding of how you think and where you can fit into the team. Remember that in most instances you will be working with a group of other creatives and your ability to think and solve problems is as important as your skill as an artist

Be Strategic in your presentation.

  • Show your best work
  • Show the work you want to do…
  • Show work that fits the job you’re applying for
  • Utilize technology. I have started using my IPAD Pro as a portfolio. You can assign your work as a photo and group the work into an album. The IPAD displays your work beautifully and its very easy to pass around during a sit down meeting. Another positive aspect of this is that you can control who is seeing your work, very hard to do on a website…
IPAD as Portfolio

PERSONAL PRESENTATION

Present yourself well, this is one of those areas that can cause trouble for you and most people are reluctant to even bring it up. The art world is unique in that so many varied personalities come together. In reality your personal fashion taste are pretty much up to you. Long gone are the days of designers wearing full suit and tie. However use common sense, if you’re applying for a position at a company try and get an idea of the expected dress code ahead of time and reflect that during the interview. You can always relax and let your personal style shine through after you have the gig. As a side to this remember, the people who run the companies are usually quite a bit older than you and were raised in a more formal environment. It helps to show them you can adapt to their standard. This will make it more likely they take you seriously…

Physical Fitness

There’s an old saying healthy body healthy mind, I believe this to be true. As an artist your mind is what does the lions share of the work. It stands to reason keeping it healthy is a good idea. It’s a fact that exercise helps keep hormones in balance and an even releases natural chemicals like endorphins which help with your mental state.

I would suggest you add a physical fitness regimen of some type to your routine. It may seem an odd thing to say but I have important reasons for this.

  • Art / design is a somewhat sedentary occupation. You are going to be spending an enormous amount of time sitting in dark rooms staring at a computer screens. when you’re young this doesn’t present a problem usually, but your career is going to be long. Artist routinely work into their advanced years long after everyone else has retired to Miami. Keeping your fitness will help you enjoy that long career.
  • I believe vigorous training like weight lifting can actually protect you from the dreaded carpel tunnel and back issues. But I understand that’s just my thing. you find something that fits your personality and do it.
  • End result you will feel good and be more confident in yourself which other people will respond too. Perception is reality so use that to your advantage…

Enjoy yourself and stay calm.

don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not getting the job offers you want right away. Remember this is a long game. You will be turned down for jobs

It doesn’t mean your no good it just means that job was not for you…

Take it easy says Grendel 😛

If you stay positive and continue to push yourself to improve eventually people will notice. Don’t compare yourself too much with other artist, remember in the end you are competing with yourself, always striving to become the best artist / designer you can be.

Theres a lot more I could say but this is getting long…

“ Breaking news 2020 is a seriously messed up year ”

I really wish I had completed this post before the current situation we are all in. I wanted the post to be helpful and maybe even optimistic. I really did intend it to be for young aspiring artist like my beautiful lil niece and my friends daughter. That’s a bit tough when the world “ especially the USA “ is seemingly being driven off a cliff by circumstance and incompetence….

But as my dad wisely says “ don’t focus too much on things you cannot control “. That doesn’t mean don’t pay attention but it does mean take care of what you can do yourself first. I have been let go with hundreds if not thousands of others from what was arguably the best “ job “ I ever had. Just this week Disney is letting go of 28,000 employees. Things are gonna get weird here for awhile, but I also know I’ll survive it. and so will you…

Always good advice

I now get to put in play the things I wrote here earlier and get ready for the shift. Currently I see this as a move back to freelance work. I will target my themed entertainment and TV / Film set design folks by getting back in touch. I have updated and launched the new portfolio site, djgooddesign.com. There’s still a few tweaks to be made, I will be moving some stuff around and adding more of my ideation sketch work as I know Art Directors’s like that… Also thinking to produce a few storyboards to show the style I developed for Universal since I can’t show any of that work right now…

I am also making an effort to put ecstatic pixel to work. The blog has been fun and it’s served a good purpose but going forward I intend to use “ EP “ to represent my non commercial side as well. Fanny is working on the website and I am preparing some other goodies. We will be finally launching some ideas that have been languishing for over a decade now… original art prints, unique graphics for clothing and accessories and some fine art pieces I’m challenging myself to produce. More to follow on all that

Back to the point. Wherever you’re at in your career you need a plan.

Here’s a rough outline of mine for now

  • Finish off my Universal work in good condition. “ your only as good as your last gig “
  • Resume and portfolio
  • Prepare the studio; computers, software, etc…
  • Reconnect with clients
  • Breath…

I need to get back in contact with my previous clients as for the last 5 years I’ve been unavailable to them. Out of sight out of mind is a real thing…

Networking. Your network is your biggest asset outside of your actual skill set. Over my career 99% of my work has come through people I know, people I’ve worked with before and people who get told about me by the first two groups. You should cultivate your relationships with clients and workmates as the precious commodity they are but do it naturally. You should be friendly and supportive of people because it’s the right way to be and most people will return the favor…

Being an artist / designer is a great career. You can make really good money and you will never stop growing and learning. It’s not easy and without hard work you cannot succeed; but if you do have it in ya, there is no more rewarding life… I wouldn’t want to be anything else…

Till next time…

Trials of Twin Motion

One of the things I have had to do most often for work is render out my designs.  This is predominately done using Sketchup as a modeler but I also use some Blender and MOI. The design is then rendered out using Thea render which works ok, but I’ve never really gotten it to do all it is capable of. This isn’t usually a problem as in the end I paint over the model anyway. That being said I would really like to get a better handle on the rendering side of things as it just makes it so much faster and time is money…

Back in the mid 2000’s I bought Luxllogies MODO specifically to do renderings. At the time Modo was reasonably priced and about the only program around that would do what was needed with a SU file exported as obj. I never got into its actual modeling features but for a few years it was how I did renderings.

Today there are numerous apps to do this. I’ve tried Vray to some success and a number of other stand alone render applications. They all have pros and cons. I am thinking that Blender’s Evie / Cycles may be my ultimate answer but I’m not that far in my immersion with the software yet…

Anyway recently I saw an opportunity to DL Twinmotion the real time rendering App. It’s owned by Epic Games and is basically a stripped down version of Unreal Engine. The deal was you could DL TM 2019 and just use it for free. The new version is a subscription model but this weekend I decided to break out the TM 2019 to see what it can do…

I would like to use it for the base renderings I need to produce for my final Universal work. I also think it could be very useful for future freelance projects as I’m gonna be heading into that world again very soon.

I figured the best way to learn and test would be using some old models I had laying around. I chose a speed form hover car I did a few years ago to test sub division modeling in sketchup and a piece of a set design I worked on last year…

One of the attractive features for TM is that you can import SU files directly into it. And supposedly updating the source file should update in TM. The files are easy enough to import and they appear on a base design space that looks like your outside of Vegas in the desert.

“ Bat Country “
Why is it way over there?

The interface is very bare bones and in my opinion not super intuitive. It’s almost as if it’s so simple it’s confusing. This happens to me all the time now I guess I’m just getting old :P. Anyways the geometry comes in pretty well and since I applied colors and textures in SU it’s easy to swap these out for nicer TW materials.

A concrete box

One thing I am excited to try is the function to import a SU asset such as a light source and save it as a user preference. This will be huge if I can make it work… I saw the technique on  CG Essentials a youtube channel which I watch. The guy has a ton of very helpful reviews and tutorials for a number of architectural 3D design related subjects you should check him out…

This first test was fine until I decided to try and update the SU file. I have no idea what happened here, but all the materials are whacked and the file became unresponsive. In the end I force quit the program…

WTH…

I lost everything I had done and decided to try again with a simple scene using just the assets that come with TM.

Primitive shapes and a couch

These basic shapes and objects “ the red couch, Cyprus tree, etc “ come with the APP and as expected they work well. But my goal is to bring in original designs and render them. after playing with cubes, spheres and trees for a bit I brought the hover car in again to this scene.

Hover car on the grass

The model comes in fine and with some jiggling I maneuver it to a spot on the grass. TM doesn’t handle translation of imported models very well. I’m thinking at least for now the design models need to be complete and placed exactly where you need them because moving in the renderer is a pain.

I finally achieve a semblance of a car paint color. There is no preset for painted metals “ surprising “ and the method to achieve them is not clear. If I continue down this path will need to do a deep dive on materials.

Ok having shown some success with the previous test I decide to re import my concrete bunker which has now morphed into a small modern house because I can’t leave things alone… I’m am this time bringing in some terrain and a few SU trees and plants to see how well it plays with TM…

Doesn’t look like much in SU…
Looks much more fun inside TM
You can change the sky conditions as well
The built in environment materials and assets are quite nice…
The more extreme weather stuff is less impressive, at least at first glance…

Overall I’m reasonably impressed but have many questions and some doubts. The interface is just weird to me. I feel like it’s so busy trying to be intuitive it; at least for me,  is opaque. I tend to like to know exactly what a tool is doing, again this might just be because I need more time with it. My main gripe is related to what should be its best feature. The importing of my design model and ability to update the file in SU. It works, ……..sometimes… I ended up rebuilding this scene 4 times and reimporting it because I would get to a certain point and start getting weird behavior and this would eventually lead to a force quit.. Its a great idea but from what I see here now using version 2019 on my computer it’s pretty unstable. I think maybe the actual Unreal Engine would be preferable…

For a good portion of my career I have done most of my design work in SU, It’s industry standard now for television production because of is combo of accuracy ” if you know what youre doing ” and its speed. Since working for Universal I’ve actually returned to earlier techniques and been producing a lot of hand drawn design sketches. I’m really happy about that as I love to draw and for certain, clients like to see it… Since my end date with Universal is fast approaching I  know I need to get back into gear for freelance work again. I will be doing a lot more 3D again and this rendering engine could come in handy. That is Assuming I can ever get it to work reliably.

Maybe next post I will have more success to share…

😛

Spooky Hill

Okie………….

So like most people due to Covid 19 we have been spending a lot of time at home. I’m still working for now and we do our best to remain productive. I’m working on some new pieces and posting a lot of extra stuff we have lying around on my Etsy Stores; Box the Moon and Ecstatic Pixel , Fanny has been working to learn Divi a wordpress site builder we purchased.

Phoenix Rise

Sometimes though you just need to get out so we look for something easy and fun. This last Sun was such a day

Spooky Hill is a local “ attraction ?”

We found it online. An hour from Orlando near Bok Tower, it’s supposedly got some Native American history and sounded just weird enough. The idea is you go there and drive up this hill put the car over a line painted on the road in neutral and “ something “ happens.

We went, we found it eventually in a kind of run down neighborhood complete with signage and even a public school who’s mascot is apparently Casper the ghost…

Casper University

Here’s what you eventually find…

It’s All About Presentation

I can only imagine how tired the people on this street get watching morons like us drive slowly by looking for spooktasticness… Believe it or not there were people already there so we had to wait…We did the thing twice and were unable to discover the Spooky,.

3 possible reasons for this

* Our car is impervious to spookiness, if so Chrysler is to be applauded…

* We are just not doing it right. Always a possibility.

* The car rolls backwards because we are on a steep hill and what people perceive as flat is not.

# 3 seems reasonable to me as the road is at a pretty steep incline and I don’t believe our van is defying the laws of Physics

The story goes; Long ago Yaddah yaddah, Indian village, ” where did the Indians go? “, pesky giant gator, chief fights gator to the death creating the swampy area at base of hill, “ wouldn’t the gator already be in a swamp”? Later on dudes on horses find their horses get tired walking up this really quite impressive hill for Florida and the “ legend “ is born.

If you’re wondering why this is a thing your obviously a sarcastic bastard like me 😛

Up ahead in the distance you see a signpost…

Ok. Not that signpost…
The Line Of Spookieness

Fanny presents the Spooky

The Terror Begins…

Spooked

And like I said that’s basically it. Our car rolled backwards… Our car in neutral on a hill rolled backwards…

I suppose you could freeze in terror and reverse into the swamp, possibly angering the giant Indian gator ghost… honestly I don’t get it, if anyone knows what we are missing feel free to share. After the fact I looked online for videos here’s one YouTube video.

These people were obviously impressed by something we in our jaded Los Angeleno mindset must not be able to appreciate.

The whole thing is on a hill. Newsflash gravity exist…

I suppose in the current social political environment I shouldn’t be shocked that people don’t understand gravity. after all it is 2020, 3.5 years into a Donald Trump presidency… Yeah you heard me right, Donald John Trump, the mail order steak guy that bankrupted casinos and paints his face orange is the president…

Leader of The Free World

This guys the president so anything is possible.

In closing; Spook Hill, it’s a real place with a hill and gravity and everything 😛

“MORAL OF THE STORY”

WEAR YOU’RE FREAKING MASK PEOPLE!!!

Gravity is real, cars roll downhill and 4 months cooped up in a house ” even with someone you love ” is beginning to make us all a bit crazy. Wear the damn mask, observe social distancing, wash your hands And maybe just maybe we can get through this mess and see something cool in 2021…

The only thing constant is change

For four and a half years now I have been happily working full time for Universal Creative. I was hired to be part of the new Creative Core. The idea being to have an in-house design dept along the lines of Disney’s Imagineering.

Needless to say I was excited and very happy to be part of something like that. From 2016 to late in 2018 that’s exactly what it was. The studio was rapidly expanding and I got to work on tons of projects, most of which I cannot even mention here for obvious reasons.

I can say that I worked on the effort for Nintendo world producing key art, design sketches and some of the marketing art that’s been released.

I am also very proud that I did quite a lot of work for the recently released ” Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

Official poster for the ride, not sure who did it…

I was actually put on this when I first came aboard. I worked alone for about a month and then a small team was created. At that time the effort was to come up with options for replacing the aging ” Dueling Dragons ” coaster. This was a challenge as that coaster was incredibly popular!

Old entrance to Dragons…

This effort eventually led to the current ride But by that time I was on other projects. I still produced a lot of design work for the ride. Some of which you can see below.

Working for the Core was kind of a dream gig, we were involved with every project Universal has in development. We even got to design the bluesky pre Concept for the future “ Epic Universe “. During this period I worked literally 5 minutes from home and really felt a sense of belonging. Great co workers great projects and a great environment!

Then everything changed, in one motion the entire studio was re organized and everyone was moved out to work on individual projects. It was a massive restructuring and now the core is just a shadow of itself. Don’t get me wrong I was happy to go join a team for The new park as it’s a chance to be part of something truly amazing! I can’t say much about it but rest assured it will be phenomenal, a real game changer…

Conceptual birdseye of the new park, pretty sure this was done by Pat Vogtli

BUT THEN ANOTHER SOMETHING SOMETHING…

Along came the Covid…

We’re still here, I’m still on the project, working from home since March. And I know how blessed we are to be able to do that… but the end date is fast approaching. It is obvious Universal along with everyone else in the world has been hard hit by this pandemic. People are sick and tired of feeling isolated and many of us desperately need to work to survive. This virus is pointing out serious flaws in our system. Our current federal leaderships incompetence has done nothing to solve the problem and people are scared. Our parks have opened up here in Florida a bit pre maturely IMO . But hey it’s Florida home of alligators on meth and ” Florida Man “.

The folks down the street ” Disney ” are being more cautious. Who’s correct remains to be seen, These are really challenging times and until we get a vaccine every move is a risk. At the end of the day they must do what’s best for the company to ensure its future and for now that means letting people go…

I am truly thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the Universal family. I’ve enjoyed working alongside some of the most talented creatives in the world on projects that have and will bring joy to so many people. I am looking forward to working for them again when things are better…

Working as a designer is a great job but you must remain flexible and ready to move with the flow because trust me these things move in cycles, Even if the Covid 19 had not thrown everything off kilter we were most likely headed to a downturn… who knows maybe once we get past this virus things will come roaring back. hopefully in November, America will have a change in leadership and we can get back to producing great work around the world…

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who’s maybe a bit scared of what’s happening right now it would be this. Fear and worry will do you no good. It’s natural to be concerned in uncertain circumstances but you must try and remain positive. Take this down time and use it to your advantage if you can. Do some new paintings or designs, work on a personal project, take online courses, learn a new software etc etc… it doesn’t really matter what you do so long as it’s productive. This will help keep you in a good place mentally and spiritually. Then, when opportunity comes ” and it will ” you’ll be ready to act.

This is the third time I’ve seen the economy tank, 2000, 2008, and now 2020, it seems to be built into the system, what goes up must come down.

For my own sanity I am going to focus on preparation now. Update the portfolio, Re-organize the workspace, prepare my studio for efficient freelance and Begin to reach out to old and potential clients. I’m learning Blender 3D and have begun to explore VR on the Occulus. We are even planting a vegetable garden 🙂

Like I said, change is the only constant…

I hope whoever reads this is well and safe.

Talk soon

Short days trip…

With the Covid lock down everybody’s experiencing we have decided to try and finally see some of the many outdoor parks and such here in central Florida.

Today’s plan was to go to Wekiwa Springs to walk or ride our bikes and get some sun. it’s about 30 min drive from our house and after making a fabulous “ if I do say so myself “ Ham and bacon sandwich for our lunch, we hit the road. Traffics not too bad and soon we found ourselves outside the park greeted by signs declaring full to capacity.

I guess everybody else had the same idea 😛

We then decided to alter and go check out Kelly park another outdoor recreation area.

At 3 bucks for both of us to get in how can you wrong…

There were only a few other people there but I imagine at normal times this place would be packed…

No body here

After parking and unloading our bikes we set out to explore. 2 things of note, we are both now assured of the sad state of our physical condition and that even though you may never forget how to ride a bike that doesn’t mean you will do it well… gonna need to work on this 🙂

The van is useful

Altogether we rode for about an hour and then had lunch, sandwich was excellent! . The park is quite nice and I can see returning especially when you can swim… only wildlife we saw was an otter a shy trash panda and some cranes, supposedly deer, bear, panthers and gators are possible… we did hang out with some squirrels during lunch who very much liked pieces from my excellent sandwich…

Florida has a lot to see I intend to get to know more of it over the next few years… that is of course if we don’t get shut in again because of this damn virus…

Stay well, stay creative 😛

A New Start for Ecstatic Pixel

May 20 2020

Thats a lotta 20

Read more

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