Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's On!

Old West Steampunk is back on!

As I thought of other ideas, I kept being drawn back to this one. It's what captured my imagination, and that's perhaps the most important ingredient in this thesis project. This is a cliché, but an apt one, considering the Old West influence: I'm sticking to my guns!

Vince's concern is that I could end up creating cookie-cutter Steampunk, which isn't my intention at all. I plan to do copious research on the Old West, some on Victorian England, and much on what has and hasn't been done in Steampunk. I'll add to that a heavy dose of my own creativity to create a truly unique project.

New Direction?

My instructor has suggested that Steampunk may be a bit overdone, unless I bring something really new to it. The Old West part may not be different enough. So, for now, Steampunk is still in, and Old West is out. I want this to be unique, with an original aesthetic, but still within this genre.

I suggested an idea that I think will work, and I'm going to put it in my initial proposal. I'm keeping it under my hat for the moment, until I get some feedback on it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Style, Tone, and Mood

Last week we looked at various film genres. I'm already very familiar with fiction genres, having been a writer for many years. Anyway, I really liked the approach in the class. We explored the conventions of various genres by looking at parodies of them. How better to understand what is common for westerns, science fiction, film noir, or action films than to see their traits exaggerated? It's like how you can really see the unique features of a person's face when an artist draws them in caricature.

This module, we're on to style, tone, and mood. Now, one important thing writers learn is that you don't have to describe everything in excruciating detail. Describe what is most important, with a few telling details, and then let the reader fill in the rest. So, each reader will get the same story, but it will look different in each mind.

That goes for screenplays as well, but it's the film maker interpreting the look and style of the script, translating it to screen. That's why the classic film, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" is so different from Tim Burton's version of the same book, "Charlie and the CHocolate Factory." It's even why the cg animated "Clone Wars" television series, the hand animated "Clone Wars" series, and "Revenge of the Sith" could have such different looks, but still work within the same Star Wars universe. They kept the tone and mood more or less the same, while the artistic styles were quite different.

Looks like I'll be working on the style, tone, and mood of my project soon. Dark, gritty, and real. That's what I'm thinking right now. I am a fan of "Star Wars," "Battlestar Galactica," and "Serenity," all science fiction employing what George Lucas calls the "used future."

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Needed Upgrade

I'm not a "starving" artist, but I am an artist on a budget. And I needed a tablet upgrade, badly. I was using a Wacom Graphire that I had for years. It was all right, but not all right enough.

It'll be awhile before I can afford a Cintiq. One of these days! So today, I decided to get as much bang for my buck, and bought a Wacom Bamboo Fun. It has about twice the drawing space of my old Graphire, plus it has touch and stylus input, and 4 programmable keys! No more reaching for the keyboard when I'm sculpting in zBrush and want to switch to smooth, or turn my model around!

I can hardly wait to really start working with this. It's going to be such a boon to my art in general, and to my school work and my thesis specifically.

Here it is at Amazon.Com:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Money Would Be Nice

Yes, this topic is relevant to my thesis project!

What I want to get is a new graphics tablet. What I have right now is a Wacom Graphire, which is Okay, but isn't exactly a high end tablet. What I really want is a Wacom Cintiq, which is a graphics tablet that also acts as a monitor, so that you can draw/sketch/sculpt right on the screen.

One of my buddies has one, and he raves about it. I know that using one would make a big quality difference in my art, and that means in my thesis as well.

The problem is, they range from about $1,000 to $2,500. The $2,000 model would be just right for me.

So, I'm trying to find ways to make that kind of money, while still keeping up with school and improving my art in general, as well as being a good dad! Throw me ideas if you have any.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thesis Team

My AAU Thesis Team group now has three members! It's up, though I wouldn't say it's "running" yet. If other thesis preparation classes are anything like Preproduction, then we're all still gathering ideas.

Vince gave me some clarification on why he suggested I come up with other ideas. He wants to make sure my thesis has a sense of continuity, of cohesiveness, of there being an organic story behind it. As such, I'll push for the Old West Steampunk idea. In my mind, it has all those things, plus wonderful artistry and detail that, I think, will look superb. I may need to share reference images, and I'm all for doing that.

On to homework! I do have three classes this semester, and I've got work to do!

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's All About Concepts

I really like my Steampunk idea, but Vince has encouraged me to come up with more concepts! Time to put on my thinking cap. The one with gears all over and steam coming out the top.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thesis Group

DeviantArt now has a Groups feature. So, I started a group for AAU students starting on their theses. I'm still waiting for it to pass review.

If you're an AAU student just starting your Masters thesis, you're welcome to join the group (once it's live!). Just let me know!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Research and Extrapolation

At AAU, classes are split up into fifteen modules. During Fall and Spring semesters, that means one module per week. Module 2 officially starts tomorrow, though I've read ahead for Preproduction.

This module is on doing the research for a project. We're learning about how preproduction helps in movies, television, and games, but of course the principals apply to our thesis projects as well.

So, I went to the library today, and checked out a handful of books on the Old West and on Nineteenth Century England. I just wish there were more pictures! That's one of the benefits of children's books over books for adults. They cover essential knowledge in an easy format, so if you're new to a topic, they're a great place to start.

Anyway, I also found this AboutBritain page on Victorian England. The direction of my thinking is this: What if the wild invention ideas of the nineteenth century were actually possible; what if steam power could actually provide the power for them? That's the basis of Steampunk, I know. But then, how would this affect the United States? So, I'm seeing where that takes me.

That AboutBritain page is already helping me fill in some broad strokes. It's fun reading through material and taking notes on what might have been.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Nice Advantage

Though I haven't received comments on my thesis ideas yet, I'm leaning heavily toward my initial idea. I want the theme/milieu of my project to be Steampunk in the American West. Think about it. Victorian times--Jules Verne, H.G. Wells--were in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. The American West was still going strong then. Think "Back to the Future III" only darker, with lots more Steampunk tech. In this sense, I'm taking the general Steampunk genre only moving the usual focus from Victorian England to the Western United States at the time.

I looked up Steampunk books at Borders, and found this one:

Yes, I bought it. I thought it might have some cool jewelry styles that would give me ideas, but it has so much more. There are guns, toys, gadgets, and many other ideas. They would make great costume pieces, and will also give me lots to draw from for my thesis models.

My dad called me today to let me know he got a new computer. He's giving me his old monitor, so that I can use two monitors! That'll be great for my art, giving me expanded screen real estate, though I need to make the room on my desk!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Idea Time!

There are several classes MFA students can take to kick off their thesis. For those of us doing 3D Modeling or Visual Effects, it's Preproduction. It helps us with the planning and development stage of a project, while teaching us what sort of planning goes into games and movies.

The first stage is coming up with a thesis idea. We have a few pdf files of past students' projects, as well as a good description from Vince on what makes a good project. For a 3D Modeling thesis, loosely described, this involves a series of models fitting a particular theme.

I've come up with two ideas so far. Both might be considered cross genre, but I think they're inventive, and each has the possibility of being a lot of fun.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The What and the Why

Getting a Masters degree involves serious work. It gets even more serious, if that's possible, when the student starts his or her thesis.

As an MFA student majoring in 3D Modeling at Academy of Art University, I'll be creating large art project, my Master's Thesis, very soon. This semester, I'm taking "Preproduction." That's the quintessential middle-of-degree class, where modeling and vfx students come up with a thesis concept and begin the long work of making it a reality.

Our instructor, Vince DeQuattro, has encouraged us to start a blog so that other artists can follow our progress. Well, here's mine!

I will share more as this project develops.