It has been a while since I drew something, so I drew this image of a cute girl taking a nap! It was also a chance to try out some new techniques. What do you think?

The image was made completely in Paint Tools SAI using my Wacom Cintiq. I tried going for a more saturated look with the colors, compared to previous images, while still trying to keep it soft. There are some gradients in the image to help add depth. The lines were also colored to help keep it soft. The pillow and hair probably took me the longest time to color.


The sketch took me a little while. There are always aspects of an image I draw that I'm not perfectly happy with, but at some point you have to decide to move on or else you could be sketching forever.


As you can see I added the second hand after the sketch. It looked strange without seeing her other arm, but I didn't really realize that until I colored it. It's always good to make sure you account for things like that.

I think I'll use some of these techniques in future images.



Computer Upgrade

My computer received a much needed upgrade this week. Besides the graphics card, LCD monitor and speakers, most of the computer was about four years old. As someone that is as dependent on a decent working computer as I am, an upgrade was overdue.

Overall my computer was starting to feel sluggish and temperamental in recent months even after defragging the hard drives and cleaning the system. Time is very precious, even more-so than money (at least in my opinion). A slow computer can really cut into your time to get work done. Even something as simple as how long it takes your computer to boot or launch an application can really add up. So while getting an upgrade is exciting and fun, it also serves a practical purpose. If I can work faster I'll have more time to do other things (like play games!).

From a more technical perspective, between the old motherboard (Nvidia 790i Ultra) and CPU (Core 2 Duo 3GHz) my computer couldn't keep up with the demands I and newer programs placed on it. Up to this point I've been running with a 32-bit operating system. This, unfortunately, limits you to about 3.5GB of ram. I've been really feeling this limitation with recent games as well as some 3D and graphics programs I use. The low amount of free ram and only two core CPU really hurt its performance. In many of these newer games, which are a good test of your computer's power, I was getting a lot of load-lag and low frame rates. My Radeon 5870 graphics card, while powerful, was bottle-necked by the CPU, ram and motherboard. On top of that, my hard drives were also too small to hold everything I need (games are HUGE these days! XD).


For the upgrade I got an Intel i7 3.4GHz CPU (2600), a semi "future-proof" motherboard (Asus P8Z68-V Pro/Gen3), 8GB of 1600MHz Cas Latency 7 DDR3 Ram (Corsair Vengeance), a Western Digital 1.5TB 6GB/s Hard Drive (Caviar Black), a Zalman CPU fan, and a retail copy of Windows 7 Home Premium. Unfortunately, with the recent tsunami in Thailand, hard drive prices are nearly double what they were months ago. so I was only able to get one new drive for now.


I've been building my own computers for well over a decade now. This is probably my 6th or so computer build. Above was my old setup. It really held up well over the years. I certainly pushed it to its limits.


The new components running (above) while I installed Windows 7. With the blue motherboard, red ram and golden fan, I named the computer "Supergirl". I think it's fitting.


As with any new computer build, I was really worried there might be problems, but everything installed and booted up without issue. Here (above) is the first time I booted to Windows 7.

It took me several days to install my programs and move over files, but I quickly noticed how much faster the computer runs. It boots faster and programs launch quicker. 3D rendering is blazingly fast due to the 8 threads (4 cores) on the CPU. 3D animation might not be such an unrealistic idea for me now. And of course, (best of all) my games now run much better.


My latest gaming addiction, Tera (currently in beta), ran poorly before the upgrade. Now I am able to hit high framerates with maximum settings, as you can see in the top left of the above picture. Simply lovely! This is a great example showing that the graphics card is not always the primary factor in a game's performance.



BRS 2035 Figma

This is the BRS (Black Rock Shooter) 2035 Figma based on the PSP BRS game. She is my first pre-order item to come in this year that I previously mentioned in my New Years post. She is also the first "variant" figma of a figma character that I already have.

While I haven't actually played the PSP game this BRS version is based on, when I saw photos of it I really liked how it is a more aggressive version of the original BRS. I love her spiky hair, the blade added to her cannon, the tech wings on her back, and the more edgy style of her outfit.

From my understanding in the BRS PSP game she is an android and the last hope of mankind. It's a little different than how you see her in the OVA. Either way, I think she looks pretty awesome.


In the box she comes with the standard figma assortment, stands, hands, different faces etc. She also comes with her cannon, a sword, a hair piece with her signature blue eye-flame. They were also nice enough to add a couple extra "grip" hands. I noticed that the grip hands seemed to be flexible and thin by the fingers. I had a hard time getting it to hold the gun. I assume these extras are in case you break one. Fortunately, I didn't need to use them, yet.


Like most figma, this one is fairly flexible. Her coat is made of rubber, so it gives you some room. The wings on the back can be removed and they also have little wings that can fold up and down. They did tend to get in the way a lot when posing, though. The arms seem to be slightly restricted in movement up and down. The hood around her neck blocks them a bit and they can't seem to go all the way down to the sides either. Those minor remarks aside, I think she's a great addition to my growing figma collection. I have her in an action pose with her cannon and it looks great.




Story Development

Today I want to talk about developing a story. During the process to create my next webcomic the biggest hurdle for me has been story development. For many months I've been stuck on the story, going through many ideas. I had a basic setting in mind and most of the primary characters were already created, I just needed a story.

My last couple of comics were weakest in the story department (among, probably, many other things). I was rushed to get them started and just went with the first thing that came to mind. This has proven to be a major oversight. It got to the point that I was developing the story page by page each week. This created a complete lack of consistency and plot development. Half the time "I" didn't even know where the story was going.

This time, however, I wanted to really plan things out and do it properly. But what started as, what was supposed to be, a simple and fun little story turned into a self-made trap. I became overly critical and for many months got stuck on the small details, keeping me from moving forward. New games didn't help me either. It's good to want to do something well and the "right way," but when it causes you to become overly-critical of the details you can lose the bigger picture and you won't be doing yourself any favors. You may become frustrated and give up.

GA_Sketches3Personally, I love to create characters. A lot of my ideas come from my sketches alone. I may have one thing in mind, but something else appears in a doodle that sparks a new idea. However, this can only get me so far. Eventually I need to sit down and actually plan out the whole thing.

So with a new year and the realization I wasn't making progress, I started to work on it again, but this time I tried a different approach. I took a step back and tried to look at the overall picture. I had a beginning in mind, something that I usually have an easy time with, but I needed an ending. So instead of trying to think really big for some grand ending, I tried to think smaller.

Taking the beginning that I had previously created, instead of starting over, I tried to think how the characters could have reached that point. What caused this event to begin? I erased some previous reasons and twisted things around. Whenever I ran into a dead-end I tried adding a new character to help move things forward. Characters or situations that try to stop a character from his/her goals is the core basis for a story plot. You need a character or event to start the "domino effect," so to speak.  Figuring out why that happened and how to change it or stop it can help you develop an ending. Before I knew it, by thinking of what triggered my beginning, I had a plot that could lead me to an ending.

This is a good way to come up with ideas for just about anything. Something as simple as adding a new element to the mix or looking at all your elements from other angles can surprise you with new ideas. Even just sketching on paper can help. I've been able to add small details to my story due to random sketches. Say, I draw a watch on a character -- then I might think about how the character got that watch and is there a story behind it.

Once there is a beginning and ending in mind you can move to filling in the details and add events that happen in the middle. To break things down into managable chunks, I started thinking of story ideas in terms of "episodes". Another thing you can do is put ideas on index cards. To make things simple I planned for a 13 "episode" "season." With that in mind I just started to jot down random ideas for "episodes." I didn't limit myself at first, I just wrote down any idea that came to me. I continued this process for a couple days until I had a nice list. If it's easier for you to think in chapters, episode, or use index cards then do so. Any method that helps you organize your thoughts is a step forward. The worst thing you can do is stifle your progress by trying to do things a certain way.

From my list not all ideas stood out, so I started to pick my favorite ones and then arrange them in an order that seemed to make sense. Like I said before, this method works as well with index cards. You can write an idea for an "episode" or chapter on a card and then when you have several you can move them around and see how they might connect. New ideas might spark from the arrangement alone. An idea for one might be combined with another to make an even more interesting idea. I'm going to keep my old ideas as well. You should never throw out an idea. Keep it for later or for another story. You never know when it can come in handy.

From here you can think about an overall story flow keeping in mind things like "Introduction," "Transition," "Turn," and "Conclusion." This is the Chinese method of making stories and poetry, Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu. You could also think of it as "Introduction," "Development," "Climax," and "Conclusion." For my story, that will span several "episodes," I needed to think of a flow for each "episode" and one for the overall story that leads to the ending. So when arranging my individual story ideas (episodes) I placed the ideas that seemed more introduction-based towards the beginning and ones that could be a climax that could lead into the ending towards the end of the list.

These are just the very basic steps I've taken to help me develop my story. There are many ways to go about it and there are other things to consider such as character personalities and desires, the world/setting and its rules, subplots, and many more. Don't let yourself get too bogged down in the details or methods. That can be a quick path to idea-block. And always be on the look out for ideas from any location like books, sketches, TV, news, and music etc.

As I begin to narrow down my story I'm slowly gaining focus on the characters in it. Like I said before, just from sketching random ideas can crop up.

Have you ever created a story? What methods helped you develop it? What did you feel worked and didn't work?




Desk Diary 1-21-2012

There are a couple small updates this time. Last week my dear set of computer speakers finally died on me. I've had them for well over a decade, but it was time to finally replace them.

I tried to hold on to my old Altec Lansing computer speakers for as long as I could. After several years of producing great sound and lasting through many computer upgrades, one of the bottom speakers in a satellite popped out. Eventually the bottom speaker of the second satellite also popped out. While they still worked they had some problems. Still, I continued to use them even after trying to replace them with another set of speakers that just sounded hollow and cheap.

However, last week the second speaker in the right satellite popped out. It was dead. This left me one half-working satellite speaker. It was finally time to replace them.

So I did what I always do... I searched online for a new set.

I decided on the highly regarded Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 set. As you can see in the first photo, the satellites are rather large. I had to move some things around on my desk just to fit them. But the important thing is the sound. While I'm no audiophile, I have to say the positive reviews are correct, for only $150 you really do get a high quality set of computer speakers that sound pretty amazing for their size.

They are 200 watts, which is insane for computer speakers. I haven't moved the volume dial above the 1/3 mark. So it gets plenty loud for me. The bass is also very solid with no distortion and it's nice that the subwoofer has its own volume control on the main satellite. They seem well built. The satellites are made of a thick plastic with metal feet and the subwoofer feels pretty solid with a large back-plate with real wire-based speaker connections. After making a couple adjustments on my soundcard, I'm fairly happy with them. I think they were a worthy upgrade.

Have you ever had something break on you that you didn't want to replace with something newer? Were you happy with the replacement?


The other item I want to mention is that this week the launch date for Tera was announced. After a series of closed beta tests and an open beta, the game will launch in NA on May 1st. As I stated in my last post, I'm really looking forward to this one.

I also recently found out that not only am I getting the new limited DDH-06 head that I also mentioned in my last post (pictured below), but also the limited Natsuki wig (also pictured below). Again, thanks to my close friend. So my third Dollfie Dream may look very much like this picture.


It looks like the next handful of months are shaping up to be pretty interesting. I also have another list of things I plan to post over the next month or so. So keep checking back.




Desk Diary 1-6-2012

Can you believe it's now 2012? This is a year marked with many expectations and there are several things I am looking forward to and have planned. There are a few incoming items from pre-orders I made last year. A couple MMOs are coming out that I'm looking forward to. And I hope to FINALLY get my new webcomic started! Oh, and the world is supposed to end or something...

While I wouldn't say that all my goals were met last year, I did accomplish many things. Most notable was my move to drawing digitally with my Wacom Cintiq, a tool that has improved my illustration work. I bought my second resin BJD that I named Alexis. Then I had the uncanny luck of winning both of the Shining Hearts Dollfie Dreams, which lead to spending a lot of money on doll related items. A couple new figma were added to my slowly growing collection. Later in the year I had to, unexpectedly, replace my old computer monitor with a new 25" LCD.

A couple friends sent gifts for the holidays, one of which you can see hanging on the wall in the above photo. It is the Danny Choo Mirai dakimakura (pillow case)! It was a nice surprise. So I have to thank my friend (again) for sending that to me.

I ended the year off by getting sucked into two new games, Skyrim and Star Wars: The Old Republic. This, of course, caused a large gap in updates to the blog and delayed starting on my webcomic.

Now we have a new year and a chance to try again with new and old goals!

To start the new year off I slowed down my gaming a little so that I could finally take some photos of my two Dollfie Dreams. Before taking photos of them, though, I had some remaining details that I wanted to add first—such as braiding a ribbon for Rika's hair and making little charms for Yuri's gun. Most importantly, though, I put together a setup that will hopefully allow me to take better photos. With several satin-like sheets, some PVC pipe, and many tripods, I've put together a little "photo studio".


I have several items coming in the first half of this year. There are two figmas that I pre-ordered last year still on the way. One is Black Rock Shooter from the the PSP game (which is coming to the US). The other is Black Rock Shooter Blade, which comes with an artbook by the BRS creator, Huke. These should be coming within the first couple months of 2012, but I expect some delays.


I also JUST recently learned that one of my friends has secretly entered and won the lottery for a limited Dollfie Dream head for me! It is the finished makup version of the new DDH-06 head. I wasn't planning to get another Dollfie Dream, but it seems I have an enabler helping me along. So I am now starting to think of items to buy for this new girl coming around April. I can't thank my friend enough.


Careful time management will also be needed this year. Last year was a slow year for games, which is probably why I was able to dedicate my attention to more personal goals and achievements, but this year has many possible gaming distractions. I currently already have Star Wars: The Old Republic on my plate and several single-player games (Skyrim, Arkham City), but later this year there are a couple MMOs coming out that I've been looking forward to.

One small possible gem for me is Tera. While this is likely not everyone's cup of tea, Tera appears to be the spiritual successor to Lineage 2, at least in style and open world environment, which is a game that sucked away many hours of my life. This is slated to come out "this spring".


Then there is The Secret World. I'm still up in the air about this one. I've played Funcom's other two MMOs with mixed feelings, so I'm still not sure what to think about this one, but it looks like it could have potential. This should come out around April.


And of course there is the possibility that Guild Wars 2 could be released this year, the only other game hyped up as much as SW:TOR. I did spend a lot of time in the first Guild Wars, and the things they are bringing with this new title do sound really interesting. And, of course, there is no subscription fee, which is a nice plus.


So as you can see there is already a LOT on my plate for this year. What are your goals for this year? Did you learn anything from last year? Will you do anything different this year? It's important to constantly try to improve your situation or to reach your goals. Keep a todo list and make it a point to check it and modify it. The iPad has become a great assistant for keeping track of my goals and ideas, a notepad could be just as good. Do what you can to keep moving closer to those goals, even if they are small steps. Just don't give up.

My primary personal goal is to get my new webcomic started this year. It has been too long since I've had a comic going and I feel that I need to get a new one started for myself. Keep checking back for updates on my progress.




Rika & Yuri

I finally put together all the pieces I ordered and took some photos of my two Dollfie Dreams to give them a proper introduction. So here is Rika (DD Neris) and Yuri (DD Airy). I think they came out rather nice.


They may be pretty and cute, but they are trained to "deal" with anything that comes their way. I drew an illustration of them as well!


I hope you like them. It's been a long time coming from the first time I learned that I won them in the lottery, to waiting months to get them, and finally to now all together with the things I ordered for them. I think the photos came out rather well. I hope to take more photos soon!



Desk Diary 9-18-11

This has been a busy month for me, and it is far from over. There are still several things coming up that will be keeping me busy. However, as far as my room and other goals go, I have started to make some changes and progress.

Since I got my Wacom tablet I don't really draw on paper anymore, and thus, I also don't really need my scanner anymore. On top of that, with the recent addition of my girls (dolls), I wanted to change my room around a bit to accommodate them. These two things worked out well for me.

First I packed up the scanner/printer. This freed up space on my desk for my girls. I then removed my little drawing table and added in my second matching bookcase. Yes, I actually have more furniture than can fit in my current little room.


Now I have a lot more shelf space, which quickly filled up with books, manga, games, and DVDs/Blu-Rays. A large chunk of shelf space is now being used for my two resin BJD girls. Overall I think it looks a bit nicer, though I hate all the brown. I still plan to "upgrade" all my furniture little by little, but for now this will do.

I'm still collecting items for the girls. I've been putting the new items in a little bucket as I've been getting them. With all the additional items the bucket is now too full to even close, as you can see.


And I STILL have another small order incoming. Lastly, to finish things off for them (for a while), I plan to order two stands next week that will be used on the now cleared off space on my desk.

I'm pretty happy about these changes. Next month, after all the busy things I have to do this month are over, I hope to really start moving forward with a webcomic. I want to get a webcomic started before the end of this year. I'll keep you posted.




Miku Append Figma

I finally received my Miku Hatsune -Append Version- Figma. I've been waiting to get this one for a couple months now. She is one of the most well known Vocaloids out there and I'm even listening to some of her music as I write this!

Vocaloid is the singing synthesizer program by Yamaha made popular by the set of anime inspired characters from Crypton Future Media. Combined they are used to make electronic/dance music with anime-sounding voices (in Japanese). Miku's music can be found all over the net and on iTunes. Her digital concert actually made its way here, to the US, at the 2011 Anime Expo. She has become very popular among anime / jpop fans. I missed out on her original figma version, and even her second release as well.  However, I managed to pick up this new design of her.

The Append Version actually represents a software expansion for the original Miku software. The updated design is a more futuristic and really clean style with softer color tones. It matches the electronic/syth style of music that I tend to listen to with her voice. I almost like the Append Version more than her original design.

There are a couple examples of Miku Hatsune music using the Append Version found here.

This figma also represents Max Factory / Good Smile Company's 100th figma, which is a really great testament to how popular she has become -- a true virtual idol. The figma comes with all sorts of options, such as: three faces, optional arm parts, options waist parts, an optional torso section, several hand poses, and, of course,a figma stand. Her hair is also clear at the tips, which is a nice touch. Other details include her signature "01" number on her arm and in the reds dots on her waist attachments.


Like all figma, she is really posable and with the optional faces can show off various expressions. However, my favorite pose is the one inspired by the original illustration of the Miku Append Version, which shows her floating in a sort of peaceful, almost timeless, state.


So far I think this is my favorite figma. Not only because I like Miku Hatsune's music (voice?), but it's also a really "stand out" design. The floating pose I have her in is really unique. I think she makes a great addition to my slowly growing figma collection.



Dollfie Dream Airy!

Only a couple days ago I received my first limited Dollfie Dream, Neris. Today I got my second limited Dollfie Dream, Shining Hearts Airy! They are from the same game and were both sculpted by the same artist, so they go together.

I'm so glad I was fortunate enough to get both Neris and Airy. I won Airy through Kerbey Lane Doll Shop, which is why she took a little longer to arrive, but they shipped her out really fast - faster than I expected.

Here are some photos from the box opening.


This time it was a simple brown box, but a little bigger than the last one.



She has a cute "cat-like" smile. :3


She's finally out of the box and bag. Her eyes have a bit of a "pearl" effect to them.


She comes with a lot of items. A basket (like Neris), a book with real (blank) pages, boots, a white dress with a lovely coat and hat, and a nice blonde wig. Volks really puts a lot of attention to detail. The book is fully stitched with a working buckle/strap. The basket is real, not plastic.

Here are a couple quick shots!