Desk Diary 3-8-2011

I told myself I wouldn't buy another one, and yet, I just ordered my second BJD (ball-jointed doll). She's another Dream of Doll (like my first one), a DoT Calla. She has a bit more serious look about her. She just looks cool and blasé.

When I ordered my first BJD I thought that would be it. Why would I need another one? Better yet, how could I afford another one? However, the fun and yet evil part of the BJD hobby is looking at photos of them. After constantly seeing really nice pictures of other BJDs it wasn't long before I had thoughts of maybe getting another one. Even when looking for my first BJD, I had my eyes on the Dream of Doll - Dream of Teen Calla.

After the new year I decided to start saving for her. It only took a couple months and today I finally ordered her.


Her face gives off a certain attitude and a personality and style has already formed in my mine. I have the perfect outfit that I bought for my first BJD (Jaimee), but never used on her, so it's going to this new one. This one will get a blond wig, which I'll order along with some eyes before she gets here.

I'll be sure to post plenty of photos when she arrives.


In other news, last year turned out to be very much a "goal/soul seeking" year, but it set the stage for things to come. This year I hope put some of those plans into motion. I have another big purchase coming up that will be for the computer. It's another device that's all part of my goal to expand and advance my abilities and options. So stay tuned.



Black★Rock Shooter Figma

The Black★Rock Shooter characters have really great designs and when I first saw these figma figures I knew I had to get them. I got both Black★Rock Shooter and Dead Master. Oddly enough, Dead Master was harder to find than BRS. These are my first figma figures so I wasn't totally sure if I'd like them.

They are very poseable and well made. They are packed with optional faces, hands, a stand and other goodies. The BRS figma even came with a DVD of the OVA anime. It's even subtitled in English. They kinda remind me of the action figures I used to get as a kid, but these are collector quality. They are highly detailed and painted really well. They are even packaged really well. I'm sure I'll be getting more figma figures in the future.




iPad Get!

This device should not need any introduction. While I don't use a Mac, this iPad will be a great assistant in my workflow. With it I'll keep track of my projects and goals, write down story ideas, sketch out designs and of course have easy access to the internet.

I always had some kind of portable device to keep me organized and to do minor computer actives while not at my main computer. It started with the Sharp Wizard (if anyone even knows what that is) then a Palm PDA and eventually a couple Windows CE devices. In more recent years I've had laptops for this. They are also great to be able to check the internet from anywhere in the house over Wi-Fi. Since I pretty much live on the internet now (who doesn't) it's almost a necessity to always be connected.

A MacBook Pro was the first real laptop that I had, which was later replaced by an iBook, but a couple years ago the screen died. Recently the iBook was replaced with a Dell Netbook. It did the job and the smaller size was really convenient. However, when I found out about the iPad I knew it would be a perfect replacement. I don't need a full computer to just surf the internet. With the iPad the biggest thing for me was the "instant on" factor. Laptops need to be booted. Sure, sleep mode is a little faster, but not instant. It's one of those things you don't realize how useful it is until you have it or lose it.

If I need to check something real quick, I don't have to boot my main computer, just turn on the iPad. Bam! There it is. The simple interface and slew of apps really offer something for any activity I need.

I also bought a stylus. While I won't use it to draw final images, to use it as a sort of digital sketchbook will certainly lower the stacks of paper and sketchbooks I have all over. Who knows what else I may use it for when I dig through some of the apps out there.




Radeon 5870 Graphics Card

Received my new Asus Radeon Matrix 5870 Platnum (that's a mouthful) today! Total geek moment. Now maybe I can actually run Final Fantast XIV!

When building my current computer I bought two Nvidia 8800 GTS cards and set them up to run in SLI mode. This setup had some advantages, but also gave me a lot of trouble. A lot of game don't work with SLI, so I often had to turn it off. After a while I just gave up switching between the two settings and left it off. However, with Final Fantasy XIV around the corner I knew it was time to upgrade, but also I wanted to go back to a single card.

After some research the Radeon 5870 seemed a good fit, but which one? There are a ton of different versions of the same card! Some companies I never even heard of. Asus, however, is a brand I've dealt with a lot over the years. A lot of my past custom-built computers have Asus motherboards.

This Asus version of the 5870 is already over-clocked and tweaked beyond the standard card design. I don't tend to over-clock my computers, but I wanted to get something that was as powerful without spending a lot of money on it. So I got the Asus ROG Matrix 5870 Platinum. A long fancy title, but it has a lot of good modifications to the standard 5870.


Here are some shots of my two old cards.


This card has a nice light for the name on the side of the card. It changes color depending on the load, but since my case is closed I never see it.


Right out of the box the benchmark numbers were a lot higher than before. With some of the games I tested I was able to put the settings much higher. I think it was a good upgrade. For now...



Lazy Night

It was a quiet night and I got a couple new outfits for Jaimee, my BJD Dream of Doll E-an, so I thought I'd take some photos of her. This is my second time taking pictures with her. I'm still getting used to using the camera and posing a BJD. I didn't want to do any extreme posing, so I kept it simple. I hope you enjoy them.


Jaimee is relaxing in some nice jeans and a simple shirt.


She's being a little playful.


I like these close shots, it looks like she's day-dreaming about something.



Dream of Doll E-an

My first resin BJD (ball-jointed doll) came in the mail today! I could hardly sleep, yet the doorbell rang without waking me up. Her box was outside when I eventually did wake up. I couldn't wait to open it and finally see her in person!

It took me weeks to settle on which BJD to get. There are so many, but the Dream of Doll E-an really caught my attention. I didn't really want to spend so much, but it was better to get what I really wanted instead of something else.

It took four weeks for her to be made and shipped to me all the way from Korea. Since this was my first time ordering such an expensive item from a foreign company, I was pretty nervous the whole time. While waiting I bought a wig, eyes, and some clothes. It was kinda surprising to see how big the clothes are! E-an is a 60cm BJD, which makes her about two feet tall. It's hard to realize how big that is until you actually see them in person. It really gives her a presence, making her feel more alive.

As is tradition with most BJD owners, I took pictures during the box opening. She was so well packaged that it took a long while to get her out. She was wrapped in several layers of bubble wrap, pillows, and more bubble wrap! It made the anticipation of seeing her in person even greater.


The box was bigger than I expected.


Finally! There she is!


After the -many- layers of bubble wrap she was free. She is surprisingly heavy. The face-up (the paint on the face) is so detailed and well done. Here are a couple quick shots I took of her all together with the other things I bought while I waited for her to be shipped to me.


She's so amazing! I can't help but smile. I love her futuristic top and her huge boots! I've decided to name her Jaimee!


Supergirl and Dark Elf!

My new camera is still very novel to me, so I took some shots of two figures I have in an attempt to learn how to take better photos. Even though I took photography classes in high school, it's scary how much I've forgotten.

The first one up is a Supergirl statue made by Kotobukiya. I've always been a Supergirl fan and this statue shows her recent reboot costume designed by the late Michael Turner. I also recommend seeing her in the recent straight to video DC Universe animated movie Apocalypse. It's based on the comic reboot story and watching Supergirl kick some butt is always fun.


The second one is a Dark Elf statue from the Lineage 2 MMORPG. I spent many hours in that MMO. They ran a comic contest some time back and I entered. My entry won and they sent me this statue along with some other prizes. Oddly, in the game Dark Elves are blue, not tan. It's still a great statue.


This is the comic I drew that won the Lineage 2 comic contest.




Canon Rebel T1i / 500D

One thing I knew would be a necessity for this blog was a new digital camera. It was a goal of mine from the start to have really nice and large photos on the site. My small point and shoot wasn't going to cut it. A decent DSLR was always on my buy list and after weeks of research and pouring over review sites, I finally bought a Canon Rebel T1i / 500D!


I had an interest in photography since high school. They had a photography class and there I learned the basics and how to develop my own film. Many years later I bought an SLR film camera, a Canon Elan 7e. It was a great camera, and it cost me a lot of money, but it was not easy for my novice skills since I had no idea if my settings were right until the pictures were developed. Right around that time digital cameras were starting to become a competitive alternative for professionals and hobbyists. My film camera was neglected and eventually replaced by a cheap point and shoot digital camera.

When making plans for this blog I wanted to be able to take good, high-quality, photos. Especially with my BJD on the way. So with that the journey began to find a new digital camera. At first I was going to get one of those mid-range cameras that look like a DSLR, but with the lens permanently attached. However, they typically use a CCD imaging sensor, which tend to have problems with glow effects and low light.

As I read more reviews I kept going up the price range to the more expensive models. Eventually, I finally settled on the mid-range true DSLR cameras that have removable lenes and use CMOS imaging sensors. I eventually narrowed it down to the Canon T1i or the Nikon D5000. The Nikon had a nice flip out screen, but the Canon had a bigger screen with a higher resolution. The Nikon was better in lower light, but the Canon had a wider tonal range. The choice was tough and it took me a while to decide.

Due to my Canon Elan 7e, I already had a flash head and a lens that could be used with the Canon DSLR. So the choice seemed pretty clear.

I bought the camera off of Amazon (thanks to a new store card). Now that I've had the camera in my hands, I can say it feels well built. It's such a large difference from my old point and shoot. The lens it came with is a fairly standard 18-55mm "kit lens." While not the best, it does the job for someone that has to relearn how to use a camera with so many options. I would like to pick up a better lens down the road, especially a 50mm lens—the old standard lens for taking sharp portraits.


The kit lens has a built in stabilizer for camera shake.


The 3 inch screen on the back has a very high resolution, which is great when you use Live View. Live View allows you to see what you're shooting so you don't have to use the viewfinder.


I also bought a high speed memory card. This camera can also shoot HD video, but you need a fast memory card to save the large video files. To top it off I picked up a book to help me learn to use the camera (hopefully) and a small reflector.


The new Canon T1i next to my old Canon Elan 7e. The Elan has the optional grip added on the bottom, which is why it's taller. The grip doesn't fit the new camera, unfortunately.


With a simple test you can tell the difference between the old point and shoot digital camera (left) and the new Canon DSLR (right). From here on out the pictures on the site should look better and more professional!



Desk Diary 5-18-2010

I just ordered something I never thought I would, a two foot doll. Yup, you read that right, a two foot doll. (Yes, that's Strike Witches on the TV.)

In my last desk diary I wrote about a some of the things that have rekindled my creativity recently. One such thing was BJDs, which stands for ball-jointed dolls. These are a class of doll mostly made in Asia and greatly range in style and size and are typically made to order or sold as limited editions.

Many collect BJDs because they can be completely customized and they like to take and share photos of them. Some BJDs can truly be considered works of art. Some also buy them for companionship or for many other reasons. There is a huge worldwide community built around this hobby.

To me some are amazingly beautiful and I love that they can be customized—from simple things like the hair and eyes, to more complex changes like the painted face. It is like an inspiring canvas for creating your own character or just a way to express yourself with fashion and/or taking photos. I love creating characters all the time on paper or just in my head. The idea of having a beautiful -physical- character that I can customize and that can sit next to me on my desk is rather inspiring.

It was a big decision as they are fairly expensive and there are literally dozens to choose from from many different companies. Besides price and style, the doll size is another thing to consider. There are mainly two "standard" sizes, SD and MSD. They stand for Super Dollfie and Mini Super Dollfie, which are actually two brands of dolls from Volks—the company that pretty much put modern BJDs on the map.

SD is about two feet tall and MSD is maybe a foot and a half, so these are big dolls. BJDs are generally made out of several separate hard resin plastic parts—like the head, torso, etcetera—that are stung together with thick elastic string. The ball-joints between the parts along with the elastic string allow them to move and be posed. Some can even stand on their own.

There are other BJD type dolls made of other materials. Most notable are the Dollfie Dream dolls, which are also produced by Volks. They look like anime/manga characters and come in the two standard sizes as well, but they are made with soft vinyl parts and a plastic poseable skeleton.

As for the one I ordered, it took weeks of searching through BJD sites and photos to decide. I agonized over which one to get. Eventually, the Dream of Doll - Dream of Teen E-an seemed to be exactly what I wanted. She is an SD sized BJD made of resin plastic. She is also one of the more expensive ones. So it took me a little longer to save up. However, I ordered her today and I'm rather excited!

Dream of Doll is a Korean doll company. Their dolls have a great style and design to them. While I'm excited to get her I must say I'm pretty nervous about it as well. It's the first time I've ordered something this big and expensive overseas and when she does get here I don't know exactly what to expect. Also, as I said above, this is a made to order doll, so I have to wait several weeks for her to be shipped. It will be a long wait.

I'll be sure to post photos when she arrives. In the meantime, I need to save up again so I can order some hair, eyes and clothes!




Desk Diary 5-7-2010

Have you ever awoken one day and asked yourself "what the hell am I doing?" and then had the question linger in your mind for several days? Well, I did, but let me go back a little bit so you can see why I asked myself this question and what my hopes are now going forward.

During high school I was determined to become a comic book artist, then it was a cartoon animator, and then a 3D animator, but somewhere in the mid-90s I started to veer off in another direction. The internet was becoming a major part of everyday life, Netscape 2.0 came out that year, Windows 95 was everywhere, and we had Sailor Moon hit the airwaves. All these things seemed to have collided just at the right time to change my path. I became very aware of anime, manga and Japan, thanks to Sailor Moon, even though I grew up watching classic anime like Robotech and Voltron. The obsession began and I started to search for all things anime on the internet. Ever the creative sort, it didn't take long for the idea to make my own anime fan website to be sparked. This was the trigger-event that defined much of life for the next decade.

I started with printing out a tutorial on HTML coding. I still remember sitting on my bed reading over this thick stack of paper on how to code a website. From there I made my own anime fansite called Anime Domain, drew my own anime-styled mascot, and even started on a little webcomic called Rei's Angel. Soon after I graduated from high school and a year after that I started college at Full Sail University. Not completely ready to give up my dreams of being a 3D animator, I went to college to learn more about 3D animation and hopefully make a career out of it. Even during college I continued to draw and work on my websites.


After graduating college I ended up working in the web industry. Honestly, I got very little out of college since I took the general media course. Since my knowledge in web development at the time was more complete than my 3D animation skills, working in web development seemed the sensible thing to do till I could get to where I wanted to be. However, I ended up working in the web industry for several years. I continued to expand my skillset. One important skill was learning PHP programing, which opened a whole new world of possibilities for website development.

When the internet development industry "imploded" in on itself, I was one of many to be "let go." Unable to pay the rent, I had to move back home. There I got a job at a very small web firm, which I hated. So on the side I tried to work on my own projects again. I needed something, anything, to get me out of the web development industry. Eventually, a webcomic subscription site called ModernTales caught my attention. Immediately I knew it was something I wanted to be involved with. After a couple weeks of planning I submitted a comic called TokyoHigh and was accepted.

TokyoHigh was my first "real" webcomic and I was so excited to be on a site where a lot of people could read my work. The idea of a webcomic subscription site inspired me so much that I set out to create my own. Three months and many lines of PHP code later was launched. For WirePop I started another webcomic called Xamra, which was an re-imagined version of an older webcomic I started working on years before. At this point I was updating two webcomics a week, maintaining WirePop, and still working at my regular day-job. It was a lot to deal with.

Eventually, TokyoHigh was finished, and a year or so later Xamra ended. Then, I just stopped. Around that time I was dealing with a lot of depression—my mother passed away, I found myself without a job... again, I lost my car... Life was pretty rough. MMORPGs became my escape and most of my free time was spent playing them. I almost stopped drawing and pretty much gave up on 3D animation.

This went on for years. I lost myself in my MMOs (as you can see from the bookcase above). That is until 2009 when I got my first HDTV. Playing console games in HD was a great new joy. When I later bought my first Blu-ray anime this seemed to spark my love again for creating characters and worlds. The fog has started to lift.

Since then I've kicked myself in the behind and started making plans to get back "out there," to make a new blog, to start drawing again, to get up to date and involved with all these social sites, and most importantly to start a new webcomic.

This blog is the first step. I don't know how long it will take, but I have a goal. Let's see what happens.