May 14, 2013 – My TCAF Treasures, Part 2: Artwork & Story by Kenan Rubenstein

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My TCAF Treasures, Part 2: Artwork & Story by Kenan Rubenstein …

Kenan’s illustration style and colour work in his book “Last Train To Old Town” is really wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that it got him a MoCCA Arts Festival Award of Excellence this year!

The book is really cool as each pair of pages has its own colour palette … where, while colour palette’s change through the book, they maintain harmonious tonality and transitions for the book as a whole.

It was great to chat with Kenan and talk Brooklyn (where he lives and where I try to visit to see friends there whenever I can).

I also really liked how he signed each book with a book plate on the inside cover, with my name and (roughly) what I do.

Kenan also had these great folded page mini-comics, that you unfolded from their compact form, revealing the next set of panels on each unfold.

Check out more of Kenan’s work on his website. And follow him on twitter at @BoyKenan


May 14, 2013 – My TCAF Treasures, Part 1: Artwork & Story by Renee Nault

[original tumblr post … WITH MORE PICS!]

My TCAF Treasures, Part 1: Artwork & Story by Renee Nault …

A graphic designer friend of mine, Jen, introduced me to Renee at this year’s TCAF and I got a chance to chat with her and see some of her absolutely gorgeous work first hand (including prints from work that Renee had in the “Curiouser: Contemporary Art Inspired By Alice In Wonderland” show in Victoria, B.C.)

Renee was wonderful to talk to and her work is stunning. I love her style.

I bought 2 prints from the show I mentioned above, and gave one (with Alice and the Cheshire Cat) to my niece for her birthday. And of course, ahem, I had to have a print for myself … and so I got the Queen of Hearts print (shown here).

I also picked up Renee’s wonderful book “Witchling”, which she signed for me!

Check out more of Renee’s work on her website. Also, follow her on twitter at @reneenault


May 14, 2013 – My TCAF Treasures – Preamble …

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My TCAF Treasures – Preamble …

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Sunday evening and yesterday (Monday) were both super busy for me, so I didn’t have a chance to blog about the awesome Toronto Comic Arts Festival this year. And I wanted to share the wonderful and gorgeously illustrated books and pieces that I spent … um … a whole bunch of money on (happily, of course).

It was a really amazing festival this year, and I’m extremely happy to see that all through TCAF’s continued growth that the festival is really continuing to keep its original independent spirit with the creators and artists that they brought in this year.

I want to comment on the different sets of things I bought at TCAF, so I’m going to do a separate blog post for each. Hopefully I can get to most of the items this morning before I have to rush off to a meeting!


April 24, 2013 – Toons On Tap: Venom (my drawings of)

[original tumblr post … WITH MORE PICS!]

Toons On Tap: Venom (my drawings of)

After a lot of heads-down focus on technology development over the last little while, I decided to take a break yesterday and do two non-software-development things at the end of the day.

First, I went and played pick-up volleyball, which was fun and energizing.

Then, I went directly from volleyball (on my in-line skates) over to another part of town for this week’s “Toons On Tap” (a twice monthly comic/cartoon themed life drawing session).

I went directly because “Toons On Tap” has become very popular and if you don’t get there early you won’t get a decent view of the model.

Anyway, here are some of my drawings from the session yesterday.

Check out the “Toons On Tap” tumblr for photos of the models from their sessions and snaps of some of the drawings that happen there.


April 23, 2013 – Hurray For Prototyping!

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Hurray For Prototyping!

My friend Tim, over at Rocket 5 Studios, tweeted late last night about figuring out some cool game play from a prototype he put together. That got me thinking about my development process on my digital visual storytelling platform, and how prototyping has always been such a big part of how I get things done.

Any piece of software these days that is really fun or feels great to use often ends up with a number of often-complex component systems that are intricately crafted together to make the final product.

Early on, when only a small part of the program has been built, it’s easy to add things or refine what is there. As you build your game or app the code base quickly evolves and things become difficult to “just try out a new idea”.

Prototyping is an fast and easy way to try out something new, where you build a small test program quickly and completely just focus on this new idea.

As an example, I recently wanted to try out adding a different curve type (to use in path following animations) and looked at how easy it would be to try out directly in my main code base. Just to try things out there I would need to add support for it in a number of places, muddle through all the bugs that would inevitably arise from forgetting to add support in one thing or another, and then have to rip it all out (and try to do that cleanly) if I decided it wasn’t what I wanted. The overhead is high, working with your full code base, when an idea is not so clear and you still need to work out how it needs to work.

Another issue with working with your full code base is that you will come across other things that still need work and you start thinking about those issues as well, which distracts you from focusing on your new idea.

So, instead, I created a very simple prototype program from scratch to see how this different curve works, how it needs to be implemented, and what I need to do to refine it to suit my needs. All the prototype did was take some hand coded data of a curve, do the appropriate math to evaluate points along the curve, and draw it on screen.

I was able to just focus on the curve and iterate on the code for it to build it into what I needed for my story engine.

Once I got it working I just cleaned it up and integrated it into the full code base which, with the “idea” being all worked out, was straight forward and didn’t take much time.

The cool thing is that I ended up getting a couple other great things out of the prototype (and this happens a lot with prototyping). Since I wanted to be able to manipulate the curve to really figure it out, I needed to have code to be able to select and move the curve’s control points and tangent vectors … and to do that I also needed some easy to use draw code for little icons representing those things.

I not only got the new curve code that I wanted, I also got the ability to select (with a mouse click) small parts of objects I’m working with, and got a nice, reusable mechanism to draw simple symbols for things an artist/creator would need to manipulate.

All of that for just a couple days work. Hurray for prototyping!


April 4, 2013 – Being Tired But In The Flow & The Importance Of Fresh Eyes

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Being Tired But In The Flow & The Importance Of Fresh Eyes …

Funny thing … I hadn’t realized that I was actually already finished with my big code refactoring project last week, until this morning as I took a moment to step back and look at things at a higher level.

In the throws of my recent refactoring work I had started to implement some new, yet small, features as the underlying software architecture was actually getting immensely easier to work with and since I needed some things to really test the reworked bits.

Over the past 5 days I implemented two important new features in the underlying architecture of my code base: (1) consolidated multi-platform touch/mouse-click handling, and (2) touch/mouse-click selection of things in a “scene”.

So, this morning I’m, like, “Wow, I am so beyond refactoring now!”

But, the real topic of this post is about the work I was doing last night and how I wrapped it up this morning.

I put in a 15 hour day of coding yesterday (while, of course, taking all the needed breaks and the appropriate intake of food and coffee) because I was (a) determined to get things done, and (b) very much in the Flow.

I had built a separate, simplified, and very targeted prototype (through yesterday and the day before) for selecting objects in a scene based on user input (touch/tap or mouse-click). With a cleaned up and fully working prototype that supported accurate selection across platforms (had to make sure things also worked with OpenGL ES for iOS and Android), I could have just finished up my day in the afternoon, patted myself on the back, and then relaxed for the evening.

But nooooo. I was “in the Flow” (or “the Zone” or whatever term you might use for this kind of state-of-mind/feeling) and, maybe more importantly, I was having fun (which is probably a key part in getting you there).

By the way, here is a nice blog post about being “in the Flow” (a.k.a. being “wired in”), from Olivet Institute Of Technology.

So, I decided to dive in and integrate the work from my “selection” prototype into the code base for my digital storytelling platform, which I knew would still take some work. The prototype was simple and not complicated by any other functionality besides the isolated task that it was designed for. The full code base for my platform, on the other hand, has been built over the past several months and has a number of somewhat complex and inter-related systems (which are nicely cleaned up and shiny from my recent refactoring).

Adding a new mechanism is definitely not just “a few hours of work” sort of thing any more. But, even knowing I was in for a pretty long day in continuing on, I still dove right in.

The time flew by and I worked straight for a number of hours (although I did take a dinner break and got out on my inline skates to enjoy the sunny late afternoon and get a tasty bento box), and got it fully integrated!

But there was crash bug … and it was 1:30 AM.

The conundrum: I was still in the flow, but I was very tired at that point … should I keep going?

Thankfully, experience prevailed and I remembered all the times when a fresh set of eyes found a bug in short order. So, I made a few notes, checked the code in and went to bed.

This morning, after a good night’s sleep and in the awesome brightness of a sunny day streaming into my kitchen, I booted up my laptop, made some coffee, then looked into the bug.

5 minutes. That was it. And most of that was me drinking my coffee and looking out the window. Bug found and fixed. Sweet.

The big take-away here: Take advantage of being in the flow, but listen to your body, and call it a night when you are too tired … fresh eyes the next day are your best friend!


April 2, 2013 – Watching Netflix, Found Great Doc On Bill Cunningham (NY)

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LINK: Watching Netflix, Found Great Doc On Bill Cunningham (NY)

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On Sunday evening I found that my throat was really scratchy and sore, and I was feeling exhausted and head-achey. Crap, I thought, I hate being sick!

My sore throat was a little better, and I felt better, yesterday morning and so I got to work and put in a pretty productive morning. But, by noon, I was feeling wiped out and felt that I better take a break.

So, I curled up in bed with some hot tea and snacks and launched Netflix on my iPad. I wasn’t sure what I really felt like watching, but after a bit of scanning through the recommended (“Because you watched …”) categories for me the thumbnail for the “Bill Cunningham New York” documentary in the new releases caught my eye. And all the description of the film needed to mention, for me to press play, were these two things: “photographer” and “New York”.

The film was really great. I found Bill’s story fascinating and I think that he is just an amazing human being. Beyond his excellent work (driven by his passion, knowledge, and sheer relentlessness), it moved me that everything he does is infused with a love of what he does and a kindness & care for others.

After watching the film, I looked for more on Bill on the interwebs (as I, surprisingly, didn’t really know about him before watching the doc) and came across this write-up from that really shows what an awesome human being Bill Cunningham is.

If you haven’t seen this documentary, definitely watch it. Highly recommended!


March 30, 2013 – A Historic Diner, A Canadian Hero, And The Naming Of A Sandwich

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A Historic Diner, A Canadian Hero, And The Naming Of A Sandwich

[ edited 2013-04-28, correcting bits I hadn’t remembered quite so well ]

The most interesting thing about going to the Captain Canuck Indiegogo campaign launch party on Thursday night was the story about how the project came to be.

On entering the front entrance of The Great Hall for the event, I bumped into a fellow putting up Captain Canuck posters to let people know to enter through those doors for the launch party. As he was struggling a bit to hold up the poster and tear off some tape I offered to help and held the poster for him.

We chatted and I found out his name is Dean and that he is one of the founders of Captain Canuck INC., which is the group of folks behind this effort to breathe new life into the Canadian comic book character.

I asked how the project to do an animated web-series for Captain Canuck got started, and I loved the story he told me …

Dean started the story by mentioning that this whole thing began with the current owners of the historic Lakeview Restaurant (they did a fantastic job in restoring the place and making it a really great place to go for food, especially on late night excursions) wanting to name a sandwich on their menu after Captain Canuck.

The Lakeview owners made some calls to work on getting permission for using the name and the image of the character on their menu, and from conversations with the original creator, Richard Comely, they found out that the full rights to Captain Canuck were actually available!

And so they decided to grab those rights and start up Captain Canuck INC. (involving Richard Comely as well), and a project to bring the Captain back to life in an animated web series was born.

It’s really fascinating sometimes learning how a cool project finds its way into being.


March 30, 2013 – Snaps From Captain Canuck Indiegogo Launch Party

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Snaps From Captain Canuck Indiegogo Launch Party

A bit delayed in posting these … I was distracted by a ridiculously gorgeous, sunny day outside yesterday.

The launch party for the Captain Canuck animated web-series Indiegogo fund-raising campaign was great!

I got to chat with the original creator, Richard Comely, of Captain Canuck — it was really cool getting to hear, first hand, how he came to do the comic and to hear some of the interesting little stories that happened during the run of the series.

Also got to meet a couple of the people involved in helping to bring back the Captain through a new animated web series that’s in the works (which this fund-raiser is for) — super nice folks with a great story about how this project came about (more on that in my next post!).

I’ve already made my contribution to their Indiegogo campaign … check out their campaign page here and help out as well! I think it’s a great project and I’m really looking forward to the web series!

For news and updates on the Captain Canuck web-series, be sure to follow @CaptainCanuck on Twitter, and keep tabs on their official web-site.