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  Princess page 139; dodging space debrisJan 31, 2012 5:13 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Here's the latest page of my Princess and the Giant fairy tale webcomic that I did this past weekend:
 
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and I also took a photograph of it when it was just pencils:
 
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~~~~~~~~
 
Speaking of this past weekend, on Saturday the International Space Station had to fire its thrusters to dodge debris from the remains of a Chinese satellite that that country destroyed in a test in 2007, scattering some 3,000 pieces of debris into low Earth orbits. And earlier this month it had to dodge debris from a 2009 collision between American and Russian satellites.
 
Eep! The article says that there are currently about 6,000 tons of junk orbiting the Earth, 500,000 pieces of which are "tracked every day by NASA and the U.S. military's Space Surveillance Network."
 
 
 
 
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  Enceladus mosaic; 45 years from Apollo 1 fireJan 28, 2012 8:29 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Thought I'd leave you for the weekend with this nifty false color orthographic projection of Saturn's moon Enceladus, constructed from a photo mosaic captured by the Cassini probe in 2008, just after it had flown within 25 km (15.6 miles) of the icy moon's cryovolcanoes:
 
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image by NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute (source)
 
Enceladus is a pretty rad moon that I've discussed on a number of occasions; this post has some nifty photos and links to more, for instance.
 
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There's an extensive Scientific American article here about the Apollo 1 cockpit fire that killed three astronauts in 1967--exactly 45 years ago (to Friday). It has a lot of details I hadn't come across before. For instance:
 
- The engineers monitoring the fatal test were in a "White Room" module right next to the capsule--in fact, it was the hallway through which the astronauts entered the cockpit. So they could see the flames through the window in the portal of the capsule's inward-opening door, but were powerless to open it against the cabin pressure.
 
- The Soviet Union had experienced a very similar accident in 1961, when cosmonaut Valentin Bondarenko, after ten days in the "Chamber of Silence"--a sensory deprivation room used to train cosmonauts for the isolation of space missions--in removing the sensors attached to his body in preparation for leaving the chamber accidentally tossed the alcohol swab he had used to remove adhesive onto the coil of his hot plate. As with the Apollo 1 capsule, the room was pressurized with highly flammable pure oxygen, and the swab catching fire on the hot plate was enough to turn the room into an inferno that inflicted what would be fatal burns all over Bondarenko's body. The door to the chamber was opened quickly, and the normal atmosphere doused the pure oxygen fire, but it would prove too late to save Bondarenko, who was whispering apologies to the doctors as they pulled him from the room. The Soviet government hushed up his death until 1986.
 
- The US, even if it didn't know about Bondarenko's accident, had four oxygen fires of its own in the five years leading up to the Apollo 1 fire that could have served as warnings that a pure oxygen atmosphere was highly dangerous. Two of these incidents occurred in the Air Force, one in the Navy (dive unit testing), and one in the Apollo program itself--the two Navy divers were killed. But it took the deaths of the three Apollo 1 astronauts to teach the United States not to use pure oxygen environments.
 
 
 
 
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  Alliteration hurricane; Saturn's south poleJan 27, 2012 6:24 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:That alliteration was almost all unintentional. >_>
 
So hey if you're like me, the huge hexagonal storm around Saturn's north pole that I talked about yesterday might have got you wondering what's the planet's south pole is like. Well it's kind of like this:
 
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image by NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute (source)
 
According to the NASA/JPL page about it, that's a 8,000 kilometer (5,000 mile)-wide hurricane, its winds whipping 30 to 75 kilometer (20 to 45 mile)-high walls of clouds--those are "two to five times taller than the clouds of thunderstorms and hurricanes on Earth"--around at "550 kilometers (350 miles) per hour"--nearly twice the speed of the most powerful hurricanes recorded on Earth. You can even see a sorta movie of them (mpg format) on that page, compiled from a sequence of photos by the Cassini probe.
 
Oh, so just a hurricane 2/3rds of the Earth's diameter? Yep. :o Of course they don't really know what's causing it, and those dark clouds at the bottom of the eye are a mystery--they're about twice as deep into the atmosphere as we can usually see--but it could have something to do with the planet actually being "2 Kelvin (4 degrees Fahrenheit)" warmer at the pole. As some NASA dude put it, "the winds decrease with height, and the atmosphere is sinking, compressing and heating over the South Pole."
 
Man our planet's poles are pretty boring compared to Saturn's! Until we find the frozen ancient alien astronauts, anyway.
 
 
 
 
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  Space hexagons and backwardsy forwardsJan 26, 2012 4:44 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Now what do you suppose this is?
 
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image by NASA/JPL/University of Arizona (source)
 
If you said it's the 25,000-kilometer-wide hexagonal storm system at Saturn's north pole, as seen by Cassini in infrared in 2007, you'd be right! (Good work! :D) According to NASA/JPL's article on it, the storm is at least a semi-permanent feature of the gas giant, having been spotted by the Voyager spacecraft in their flybys of the planet in 1980 and 1981. The light areas are a depression that drops some 100 km into Saturn's atmosphere. Check that article for more pictures and an animated sequence of its rotation, compiled from Cassini images.
 
Wikipedia has a little more on the hexagonal storm:
The entire structure rotates with a period of 10h 39m 24s, the same period as that of the planet's radio emissions, which is assumed to be equal to the period of rotation of Saturn's interior. [...]
 
The pattern's origin is a matter of much speculation. Most astronomers believe it was caused by some standing-wave pattern in the atmosphere; but the hexagon might be a novel aurora. Polygonal shapes have been replicated in spinning buckets of fluid in a laboratory.

So yeah it's kind of a mystery, and just goes to show how little we really know of Saturn's inner workings.
 
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I'd been kind of wondering how I was going to do a space scene in this whole ink wash thing I've been using for the comic lately, and in this case at least the answer was to go wet-on-wet and let the ink sort of run itself across the page to get some nebula-type action going. There were a few surprises but overall it seemed to work okay. When I did those sorta dark tendrils above the back end of the ship (the one with the probably exaggerated flame coming out :P) I was thinking of the Pillars of Creation, an intricate star-forming region in the Eagle Nebula captured in a rather spectacular and famous photo by Hubble in 1995.
 
Oh! And I don't usually do this but the sequence of this ship will be somewhat broken up so I thought I might as well give it a shot: the ship is shown here in the correct braking attitude, ie it is facing backwards, firing its main thruster to decelerate as it approaches its destination, which may be somewhere in the region of the big star on the right. I don't usually draw braking ships the correct backward way because it's kind of hard to tell which way they're going when you do that. Hm so this will just confuse the issue even more since I'm being inconsistent now. Oh well!
 
 
 
 
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  Strongest solar storm since 2005...hum =pJan 25, 2012 6:07 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Did you know where in the middle of the strongest solar storm since 2005? Well it's true, according to that there article. But it isn't exactly causing telegraph stations to burst into flame as far as I know, so presumably we'll survive. Here's a video from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory of one of the flares that presumably shot some of the Sun-stuff our way:
 
video on Youtube
 
That's only an M8.7 flare, which is kinda biggish relatively speaking, but almost ten times weaker than the X6.9 flare we had last summer, for instance, and twenty times weaker than the X17 flare seen in last big storm, the one in 2005. And the biggest flare ever measured with modern instruments, according to Wikipedia, was a 2003 flare clocking in at a meaty X28--but that was actually just the maximum amount the monitoring instrument at the time could measure, and analysis of that flare's effects suggest it could have been up around an X45; still didn't burn down telegraph offices like the "Carrington Super Flare" in the Solar Superstorm of 1859, which could be seen by the naked eye (!) (and not that you should look at the Sun directly anyway!), so I guess maybe even the X-scale of solar flares isn't all that. Would they have needed a new scale (Z??) for the flare Carrington saw?
 
Still, with all the flares over the weekend or so this is the biggest sustained storm the SDO--which is only about two years old--has been able to watch (and film) with its mighty instruments, so you can't blame them for hyping it a bit!
 
 
 
 
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  Princess dreamin'Jan 24, 2012 2:43 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Here's the Princess and the Giant crazy dream page aka random-fantasy-art-I-feel-like-drawing from this past Sunday:
 
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This was what it looked like at the pencil stage:
 
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and what it looked like when I first uploaded it in ink:
 
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but then I had to fix some of the weaker parts. :P So it's a pretty straightforward process really! >_>
 
 
 
 
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  That's where I'm a Viking!Jan 21, 2012 9:27 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Pencils!
 
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I think I actually *improved* on the pencils with the ink today, so yay, progress or luck, I'll take it. :D And it's nice not to try drawing heads in weird perspectives now and then, I mean who do I think I am anyway, Neal Adams or something? Sheesh!
 
Have not been succeeding on the catching up on sleep thing though so I will go try some of that. Thanks everyone for reading and I hope you'll stop by again next week for more A* adventures in spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace~~!
 
 
 
 
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  Pencils, Klaus Jansen inks, SnowJan 20, 2012 7:23 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Here's the pencil stage:
 
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And then I went and inked it! Kinda wish I coulda kept the pilot's expression in the pencils, but he needed to be looking up, so nyah. (Also I thought the thick short parallel shading strokes on the faces had a sort of John Romita Jr. look to 'em, which I thought was keen.) But anyway before the inking I was going to walk to the snowy mile or so to the supermarket, 'cause we're still snowed in here in Seattle--as you can see here, certain things like math did not work out as the meteorologists had somehow figured:
 
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...
 
So yeah it didn't melt and I was finally all bundled up and ready for the arctic journey to resupply, and I open the front door and a package falls on me! That's funny, I think, I didn't order anything... Well it was Klaus Jansen's The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics from A*'s Amazon Wish List! Some really thoughtful and generous reader had ordered it for me! Gosh! Thanks! <3 <3
 
I haven't followed Jansen's inking work recently, but I really liked the work he did inking Frank Miller's pencils back in the Daredevil and "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" days. And he talks about working on B:TDKR with Miller a bit in this, which is quite interesting. But it's also filled with great illustrations by the two of them and other comic professionals (particularly lots of classic inked stuff by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, who produced a lot of the fantastic-looking DC stuff I wasn't buying back in the 80's-ish) showing the various aspects and techniques of comic book inking; not only that, but it's filled with really practical tips on working with ink; just to give one example, he mentions that part of the inker's job is to erase not only the pencils on the front of the page, but also any that might be on the back, because you don't want it rubbing off onto another page when they are stacked. And a few hours after I read that I realized...oh yeah I stack mine just like that. I'd better take care of those unused back pencils! So I did that. Whew! Thanks, Klaus! So it's a very helpful book for my A* work, and super thanks again to the reader who fulfilled that book wish of mine! :D
 
And then I went and successfully lived to bring groceries back home through the snow. I took some pictures too so later we Seattlites will remember what snow in the city looks like. Here's looking down my street (that'd be my "graphite" gray 2001 Camry posing boldly on the far right)
 
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and here's a shot of some striking street lighting (we got these new bright white econo-bulb street lights put in in the past year, but only south of me--immediately north you go back to the old amber ones, which normally I like more but I gotta admit the white ones make for some nice snow shots) on a Bug curled up rather picturesquely beneath a tidy round snow blanket:
 
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So that was fun! Then I came back and drew stuff and messed up my pencils as usual and made today's page! I'm going to be glad when we're done with this pilot guy because I can't seem to decide on a non-goofy way to draw him for some reason, dar. And we'll be done with him soon, mwah-hah-haaaa!
 
Oh! Erm I mean um... Yep.
 
 
 
 
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  Snow day!Jan 19, 2012 6:25 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:I accidentally discovered ink spatter today! See I've been working with a wetter brush lately, and eh sort of dropped it. But it looked kind of neat so then I tried doing more on purpose, which mostly worked, although mostly over the rest of my drawing table. Oh well, that must be why they make 'em so easy to wipe down!
 
We're sorta snowed in here in Seattle, which isn't hard since we have lots of hills and like two snow plows and no real idea what snow is. It's keeping me from wasting a couple hours each day pretending to work out at the gym, but if it keeps up I may have to slush my way over to the supermarket for supplies tomorrow, which will amount to about the same amount of exercise. :P In theory though it will help me catch up on sleep, which I have been needing to do for about five weeks. I think I'm starting to get a handle on this ink business though, so that should be helping too.
 
 
 
 
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  Catching up with Ebb, Flow, and Phobos-GruntJan 18, 2012 6:42 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Updates on some previous space stories!
 
When I last talked about the twin GRAIL satellites, at the end of December, they were getting ready to get down to business making a gravity map of the Moon. They were also sadly lacking cool names, just having the names "A" and "B," like cats in Dr. Seuss or something. Well NASA held a contest among schoolchildren across the country, and the winning classroom in Montana duly renamed the probes "Ebb" and "Flow." A little too clever for my taste (darn these smart kids these days), but I'm neither a student nor Stephen Colbert and thus have no say in such matters.
 
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And back in mid-November I mentioned that an ambitious Russian probe, Phobos-Grunt, intended to scoop up some dirt from the Martian moon Phobos and bring it back to Earth, malfunctioned after launch and got stuck in Earth orbit. It wasn't a stable orbit, and on Sunday Phobos-Grunt re-entered the atmosphere, burning up and scattering pieces across the southern part of the Pacific Ocean. The probe "was one of the heaviest and most toxic space junk ever to crash to Earth," but its flameout was claimed to pose "minimal" risk; only about 200 pounds of material from the 14.9 ton probe--11 tons of that being highly flammable rocket fuel--were supposed to survive to hit Earth's surface; the aluminum fuel tanks were predicted to burst and explode at about 100 km up.
 
The article says that the chief of the Russian Federal Space Agency, aka Roscosmos, acknowledged the probe wasn't really ready, and they'd rushed it to try to hit the narrow launch window for Mars. Their previous attempt at this, 1996's Mars-96, was built by the same company and also malfunctioned and crashed after launch; that one scattered 200 grams of plutonium over the Andes; Phobos-Grunt, on the other hand, only had a tiny bit of the slightly radioactive metal cobalt-57, and was thus much less dramatic.
 
There are some other interesting notes in that article:
- "about 100 metric tons of space junk fall on Earth every year" (that seems like a lot :o), and much bigger things have come down in the past without causing major damage, for instance the 85 ton Skylab space station in 1979, and the 143 ton Mir space station in 2001
- "The worst ever radiation spill from a derelict space vehicle came in January 1978 when the nuclear-powered Cosmos 954 satellite crashed over northwestern Canada. The Soviets claimed the craft completely burned up on re-entry, but a massive recovery effort by Canadian authorities recovered a dozen fragments, most of which were radioactive."
 
According to Wikipedia (my ad blocker seems to be blocking their 24-hour self-imposed blackout, neat! Don't tell Jimmy >_>), that recovery effort was called Operation Morning Light, and was a joint Canadian-American operation. Their eight-month recovery operation turned up 12 large pieces of the Russian satellite:
 
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image by US Federal Government (source)
 
All but two fragments recovered were radioactive. These pieces displayed radioactivity of up to 1.1 sieverts per hour, yet they only comprised an estimated 1% of the fuel. "One fragment had the (lethal) radiation of 500 R/h, which is 100 times higher than the maximum annual [per-person] radiation level of 5 rem." For these recovery efforts, the Canadian government billed the Soviet Union $6,041,174.70 for actual expenses and additional compensation for future unpredicted expenses; the U.S.S.R. eventually paid the sum of three million Canadian dollars.

Neat! And that is probably why we don't have many nuclear-powered Earth satellites anymore...that we know of. >_>
 
 
 
 
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  Ink PrincessJan 17, 2012 5:47 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Just a couple Sundays ago I switched my other regularly updated comic, The Princess and the Giant, from computer-drawn to brush and ink like A*. I haven't pimped the Princess here much lately but I think I'll start since these will basically be far-out weekly fantasy illustrations, probably similar in visual style to A* a lot of the time. Anyway here's this past Sunday's:
 
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  Alternate pencils, "Illustration" paper goodJan 14, 2012 8:52 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Here's a grainy photo of the initial pencils for today's page, now on the back side of the final version:
 
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Not sure why I was drawing it from that boring straight-on side perspective, since I never had it that way in my head. And I can hardly ever bear to draw anything that way, especially action, even though it would make things...a lot easier. =P
 
The Canson "Illustration" paper I've been using this week has been good, I think--makes for much cleaner scans than the Arches watercolor paper, for one thing. And I went over the background here twice and it came out amazingly black and smooth--whenever I tried that with the Arches paper, it warped, big time. And anyway Arches is just a brand of Canson, or something, I dunno; those French are tricky with their papier! But they make it nice. Anyway I'll have to order more of this Illustration stuff; my local art store doesn't have it--it's new-ish or something--so I'll probably just order it from here like I did before--the 18"x24" pad, each of whose pages I can cut into three A* pages.
 
 
 
 
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  The thrice-sunk tale of the H. L. HunleyJan 13, 2012 6:12 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Here's a photo I took of the pencil stage of today's page:
 
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And for the sake of comparison, one of the finished ink version:
 
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I came across a slideshow of Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley, "the first clear view of the sub since it sank in 1864 off the South Carolina coast." A submarine in the Civil War? Why yes, in fact the Hunley was the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel, and the Wikipedia article certainly makes for some interesting reading. In its day, the Hunley looked something like this 1902 sepia wash done after a contemporary painting:
 
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image by U.S. Naval Historical Center (source)
 
and was powered by its crew, like so:
 
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image by U.S. Naval Historical Center (source)
 
If that looks a bit unsafe, it was: the Hunley sank three times, killing 21 out of 24 of her three eight-man crew members. The first sinking came as the ship prepared for a test dive in the summer of 1863, "when Lieutenant Payne accidentally stepped on the lever controlling the sub's diving planes while the boat was running. This caused Hunley to dive with her hatches still open, flooding the submarine"; the tragically accident-prone Payne and two other crew members escaped the sinking. And that was only a couple weeks after the Confederate army had seized the submarine from her civilian owners, after seeing it in a successful test run against a coal flatboat; the Confederacy never official conscripted the vessel, so it didn't get a "CSS" prefix.
 
The "H. L." that remained at the front of the ship's name, then, came from the first and middle name of its inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley--who unfortunately was a member of the crew lost in the Hunley's second sinking six weeks later, when it failed to resurface after a mock attack. At the time, the submarine attacked its prey by spearing their hull with a barbed keg of black powder mounted on a 22-foot spar projecting off the prow, as represented on this modern miniature model:
 
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image by U.S. Naval Historical Center (source)
 
The sub would embed the keg in the enemy's hull, then back away, with a 150-foot rope attached to the keg pulling taught to trigger its detonation. After the accident that killed Hunley, the supervising Confederate general decreed that the Hunley would only attack while surfaced, so the spar was adjusted to angle downward and strike the enemy vessel below the waterline as the Hunley cruised along the surface, and it was in this configuration, four months later, in which it made its only attack against a live target: the USS Housatonic, a 205-foot steam-powered Union sloop-of-war engaged in blockading Charleston's harbor:
 
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image by US Military (source)
 
The Hunley succeed in attaching its barb to the Housatonic, which duly detonated and sank. The Hunley, however, failed to return to port. Theories vary on what caused it to go down: one has a pistol shot from the Housatonic striking the detonator box on the Hunley as they fought the waves in making their getaway, causing a premature detonation when the Hunley was only 100 feet away from the keg, rather than the designated 150; but the submarine's pump had not been engaged, nor did it show evidence of explosive damage, so another, perhaps more likely theory has it that the crew simply ran out of air in the sealed vessel.
 
The wreck wasn't found until the 1970's, and was only raised in 2000; in the year prior, there was a TV movie about it, The Hunley, starring Armand Assante and Donald Sutherland--as Confederate and Union officers, respectively, to judge by the movie poster. I have not seen this production!
 
 
 
 
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  Virgil Finlay's rocket of sadnessJan 12, 2012 7:09 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Hm, I tried doing the grays before the blacks on this page, which is the opposite of the way I've been doing it, and I'm not sure how well it worked. Doh well, here's a real sci-fi illustration: a piece by Virgil Finlay. I don't know what it means, but it is pretty boss. Not that I'm tempted to try dot shading like that any time soon, phew!
 
 
 
 
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  Only shiny hats can save usJan 11, 2012 2:56 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Something I did instead of sleeping over the weekend:
 
video on Youtube
 
I dunno why, exactly; it was just a weird idea that popped into my head as I was driving home, and I was like "hey I should just do that" and stopped by the store to get some aluminum foil for the proper sound effect. And actually this was going to be my practice run--I was just kind of ad-libbing and didn't know exactly how the dialogue was going to go--but it came out pretty well so I just kept it, even though I think I was kind of losing it by the end: Neo is starting to sound like Rick Moranis, and Morpheus is starting to sound like...uh...well me I suppose.
 
Oh yeah and here's the hat you hear me making during the recording:
 
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Not quite as smooth and shiny as say an Andiran Robotics guard helmet, but hey. :P
 
 
 
 
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  Art show food & flowers, & fine photo-prints!Jan 10, 2012 5:04 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Okay, I got some photos from the opening of my January art show in Seattle that took place on Friday. This is at Frame Up Studios, 3515 Fremont Ave. N, Seattle, and my art will be on display (and for sale!) there through the end of January. They've got a lot of neat art around the store, but as this month's featured artist I've got the prime wall space people see as they come in. Here's my stuff:
 
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Side-ish view (that is art by other people to either side):
 
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The spread for Friday night's reception, with flowers (=o !) sent from a very thoughtful dreamer (thank you! :D <3) (hm *now* I notice I was so excited about them it didn't even occur to me to take them in their vase out of the box o:; I don't get flowers very often, okay? "o"):
 
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Thanks to everyone who came! I met someone who follows my stuff on deviantART, which was super-cool! Lots of friends and family came by to make me feel popular, and I also got to chat with a lot of folks just walking in, since this show was part of the Fremont neighborhood's monthly "Art Walk"--a lot more foot traffic there than at my show last year in Ballard, even though it was raining!
 
Among the walk-ins were a group of student reporters working for my neighborhood's paper, the "Ballard News-Tribune," and they decided to feature my stuff in the BNT's art blog--at one point the studio manager had to give them a bit of a frowning as they moved their large camera really close to one of my original paintings. ;) But they were cool! And the Ballard News-Tribune art blog folks work fast, too, 'cause they've already got the piece covering my stuff on their blog, complete with a video, even! Which I am embedding here--my stuff is in the first ~0:38 seconds:
 
video on Youtube
 
Keen! And one of my prints even sold *during* the opening! Double-keen! And I didn't get so loopy that I started hugging strangers again, which...was probably good. :p But with all the cool people to hang with, and the flowers, and tasty cookies, well it was a darn fine evening as far as I'm concerned. Thanks again to everyone! **\o/** Ooh and a special thanks to mom and dad for supporting me, and dad for pimping out my stuff to land the show in the first place, and then doing the hard work with the matting and framing! :o
 
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Also today was pretty rad because I got to ship off *two* prints sold from the web site over the past week. I dunno if I've ever had two to do at once, so I'm just going to assume it's a first and celebrate. :) So that was neat but what was even neater was that I found a more reliable way to get really nice prints from my local print shop. See, I've been having them print uh prints on their big industrial printers, but for some reason only one guy there can actually get nice results from them--and today he wasn't there! So some other guy was trying but they were coming out with a little streakiness here and there, which...well that's not too cool. But then I remembered that he had mentioned something when I came in about photo prints, so I thought maybe I'd try those as a backup--they have these little self-service Sony "Photo Station" or something stands where you go and stick in your memory stick and credit card and punch the touch-screen a few times and then the built-in printer spits out a nice glossy print of your selected images on photo-paper.
 
Only according to the guy who couldn't print my prints, they only take .jpg images, and mine were lossless .png (which you'd think you'd want to be able to use, seeing as how it doesn't get compression artifacts like jpg hrrrr), and they tend to fail on really large files, so I had to run home and re-export the images for the prints, and I was on the verge of just saying hang it I'm tired of print-place runarounds I'll just buy a printer except then the printer I was looking at wasn't in stock at the local Best Buy, and anyway there was no way to tell if any of the printers I was looking at online were really any good, especially for black and white printing. Gar. So I figured I might as well try the photo print thing and went back and my 600 dpi images were kind of big (4 MB, whereas non-printing print guy had said maybe they shouldn't be over 3 MB), but the Print Station thingy handled them, and they came out super-nice! So nice I had to take a photo:
 
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Ooh. They're somehow smoother than the prints I've been used to, and yet very sharp, and the blacks have a greenish tint which somehow makes them even sexier, I dunno if it's just like a Matrix thing or what. As I was signing them I actually found myself thinking gosh these are nice I should get some for myself...but they're kind of expensive to have done so I guess I'll just have to settle for lusting after them as I sign and ship them off to other people.
 
Uh so if you were ever thinking of getting yourself a signed A* art print, now's a good time! :D The ones you see in the photo above are from here and here, in case you were wondering. Also you can see there the little cardboard and fancy French paper holders I made to protect them from the depredations of the postal service! With hand-written instructions, even. :D
 
 
 
 
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  A* "movie poster," art show opening, etcJan 07, 2012 10:33 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:My Seattle art show opening was tonight! It went well! Thanks to everyone who came by and had cheese and crackers with me. :) I will probably get some photos and stuff posted early next week.
 
Here's this thingy I did over the weekend for the Weekly Art Challenge on ComicFury, which I should probably stop doing since it seems to involve me staying up all night--but anyway I thought this came out okay, the idea was to put one of your characters in a kind of movie poster thing:
 
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*** Paper nerding-out alert! *** Like the other Weekly Art Challenge piece I did recently, this ink wash was on Canson's new 150 lb Illustration paper, which I am liking more the more I use it. It probably can't take a heavy wash like the 140 lb Arches watercolor paper I've been using for the A* pages--and particularly not like the 300 lb Arches paper I've been thinking of upgrading to--but it is brighter, scans much more cleanly, and has a zippier surface, which maybe has been giving those pieces more energy; that, and since I suspect it can't take a heavy wash, I've been keeping the washes simpler, which I think leads to a sharper look that's more along the lines of the way I want to go.
 
Hm. Maybe next week I'll try some actual A* pages on the Canson paper. And come to think of it, I'm definitely going to be doing something different with it over the weekend.
 
Oh, and the fancy "ALL SHE WANTS" font I used there is a free font called "Helveticrap"; an ugly name, but I like the font! Goes well with the ink on the Canson paper's treated, slightly greasy surface.
 
And here are some neat photos of the International Space Station crossing the Moon.
 
 
 
 
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  A* art show opens in Seattle in a few hours!Jan 06, 2012 9:01 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Just a reminder that my art show here in Seattle featuring a lot of A* art (framed original A* paintings, oooh =o) opens tomorrow--or technically today...Friday, anyway! So if you're in the area with nothing better to do, run by between 6-9 pm and chat me up. Here's the graphic thingy I made for it a week or so ago with more info:
 
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And there's even more info, should you need it, back here.
 
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Back in May I mentioned there was one of three minerals discovered in Moon rocks brought back by the Apollo missions, tranquillityite (man I hope that's in a spelling bee =p), that hadn't been found on Earth. Until now, that is! Because tranquillityite has just been found in billion-year-old rocks in Australia. So it's no longer Moon exclusive! And there goes the bottom of the tranquillityite market. :P
 
 
 
 
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  Pre-Peanuts Schulz; crazy drawing tablesJan 05, 2012 7:14 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:Yesterday I was talking about Bill Watterson and his pre-Calvin and Hobbes work, and as it happens, today I was looking up Charles Schulz, and found a neat link to some pages from his pre-Peanuts strip, "Li'l Folks," like this one. That is some gorgeous brush work, gosh!
 
Speaking of syndicated cartoonists, a week or two ago, I found "The Cartoonist Studio," which has biography pages for the cartoonists of one of the syndicates, along with a fancy page background made from a big photo of their work desk, and then more photos of their work space, etc; I came across this because I was trying to figure out how to position my own drawing table, angle-wise (I had it at way too high an angle--neck and elbow pain--much better now! :), so I thought it would be helpful to see how real cartoonists have theirs positioned.
 
Actually they have them in all kinds of positions, although a lot of them have them at a very low angle--or even completely flat, which seems to me like a bad way to draw since either you really need to crank your back/neck over the drawing, or you'll be looking at it at an angle and probably get the drawing distorted because your perspective is skewed--but then again, people who've drawn that way for decades have probably learned to compensate for that automatically.
 
Anyway there were a few that were particularly interesting--Jeff Keane of "The Family Circus" for instance has a sort of really scarred up Two Face thing going on with his drawing table...maybe some issues to work out there. :o Jerry Scott of "Baby Blues" has what I think is the neatest one though, a real antique-looking wooden drawing table with like gears and cast-iron cranks; oh hm the mouseover text says he got it from customdraftingtables.com. Man, those probably cost an arm and a leg. Neat-looking, though!
 
 
 
 
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  Rare Bill Watterson art...and tableJan 04, 2012 8:59 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:I was looking through the images on the Rare Bill Watterson Art page, and I noticed something in Watterson's cartoon self-portraits--aside from that he draws himself pretty darn similarly to how he drew Calvin's dad. No, what I noticed was his drawing table, or at least his cartoon version--like in this one: translated from cartoon, it looks *nearly exactly like my drawing table, which is a Berkeley Drafting Table. Hm although now that I look at his drawing again, it's slightly different 'cause the rear leg bar is at the bottom, rather than midway up the legs.
 
Drat, so close! Oh well anyway I took an updated photo of my table (I even cleaned it yesterday, so this is good timing :P), with a half-inked version of today's page on it:
 
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  Alt versions of t'day's page; weekend artJan 03, 2012 11:02 AM PST | url
 
Added 1 new A* page:I did this over the weekend:
 
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It was for this art challenge on the ComicFury forums, namely to draw a character of yours as the embodiment of one of the seasons. Guess which I picked!
 
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*spoiler* Okay it was winter. Hey 'tis the season, etc. I was thinking I'd even have stars in the space background there and they'd kind of look like snowflakes, but in the end I didn't want to crowd out the interesting ink wash patterns I'd gotten there--this was also a test of some new paper I got a while back: Canson "Illustration" paper, which is apparently kind of a new formulation of theirs that's supposed to be good for pencil and ink, and comes in a nice heavy 150 lb. paper weight. And it's not bad--feels nicer than the cheap Strathmore Bristol boards I was using originally--but the clay or whatever it is imperceptibly coated with to absorb ink better seems to cause sort of greasy patches in ink wash that can prevent the wash from attaching to the paper in spots. I think that actually came out in a kind of neat way here but it would drive me buggy if I was trying to get a really smooth black.
 
While I'm paper nerding out on you, let me just share that I tried actually "stretching" the Arches watercolor paper I've been using--for the page 21 you see here. Stretching really just consists of saturating the paper with water all the way through--I left it submerged in a tub of water for a few minutes--then taking it out, taping the edges down, and letting it dry; as it dries, it contracts very slightly, pulling against the fastening and supposedly stretching the fibers so they won't expand and shrink irregularly and cause the paper to buckle and rumple up when you use ink washes on it. This 140 lb watercolor paper doesn't buckle up that much anyway, but it sometimes does enough that there are unpainted areas that raise a bit off the scanner glass (even though I have extra weight pressing the paper down on the scanner tray) and come out looking like very slightly darker elliptical areas in the scanned image; I found a pretty easy way to eliminate those artifacts fairly well and reasonably non-destructively in Photoshop, but it would be nice if they didn't happen!
 
So anyway I tried stretching the paper, and it did sorta flatten it a bit and make it feel a little limpish, but also left it with some buckles in it, before I even started painting on it! And it took hours and hours to dry and was sort of bothersome to do. So I probably won't bother with that again; I think next time I need more paper I'll just upgrade to the 300 lb Arches paper, which is so heavy and thick that--according to everyone on the Internet--it shouldn't need any stretching or anything, because it's strong enough to resist buckling from even the wettest ink washes. It's a bit over twice as expensive as the 140 lb paper, so that'll run me about $2 per A* page just for paper, but man if it works as advertised it'll be pretty nice.
 
And secret! This was the second version of the page. For the first version I second-guessed my original script (which just called for a close-up of Selenis' eyes open, as you see in the second version) and went with a different shot, which...well when I look at the end result of it, it seems to show Selenis, having grown a mustache, doing "jazz hands" while dislocating her jaw, boa constrictor style. And that sounds cool in a bizarre way maybe, but this was...not, and the only reason I haven't destroyed it is so that I can use it to remind myself why I shouldn't stay up all night doing art challenges. No other mortal eyes shall ever be exposed to it, though, if I have my way.
 
Update:
 
Okay actually the page you saw for today was the *third* version; here was the second, which I ended up deciding (after I'd written all that stuff above) was eh just too plain and unfocused:
 
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Way better than the first one, though. >_>
 
Man, long day (come to think of it, it got so wild around the second version of the page that I accidentally planted a black ink brush stroke on my white wall :o; don't tell the landlord!)--especially since I had to get up (sadly relatively) early to help my dad take the pieces for my art show (opens Friday here in Seattle! Stop by and say hi! :) over to the gallery, which was kind of cool really. And then he took me to breakfast (a prince of a man, my father! :) where I had cinnamon French toast, so actually it was pretty much a rad day from that point onward no matter what.
 
 
 
 
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