Draw a box, part 1

I’ve been working on improving my artwork, which over the years has gotten what I personally consider marginally better. One of my goals for the year was to hopefully make large strides in my understanding of drawing, to the point where I’m fairly comfortable drawing from my mind instead of using a reference.

The main issue I’d been having is knowing what to do to improve, outside of just drawing a lot. You can see what sort of stuff I’ve been doing here. It’s very easy to go all over the place, and I personally haven’t felt that I’ve made very many strides over the last 21 days.

During this month of non-stop drawing I’ve read several books and attempted to work through them, only to get frustrated due to my own lack of understanding of how to apply what I’d read. I’ve played music for many, many,years, and the first thing you learn is the fundamentals. Scales, cords, etc. And you do them over and over and over until you can do them in your sleep. And then you work on different pieces to develop the skill. And somewhere along the way, you just get it. The music flows, you hear a song in your head and your fingers do their thing.

For people with talent, sometimes it happens right away. For most people, just doing the work and having a love for what you’re doing will get you there. Eventually you’ll hear it, and it will flow like water.

I want the same for my drawing. Except that I was never given any scales, or chords. I didn’t move on to pieces that would mold my skill into something useable, so I felt like I was banging away on the piano, able to hear music in my head but never able to get my fingers to express it in the way I wanted.

While I was googling around looking for a book or tutorials that might help I ran across  a website, http://www.drawabox.com that purports to teach in the way that I’m looking for. The basics, with exercises such as the one in my image, among other things drawing lines, circles, eclipses, boxes. The guy that runs it, Irshad Karim, also has a Patreon set up, if you donate anything a month he will do critiques plus there is bonus content. I’ve spent a good amount of time looking through the course on drawabox, and from what I can see its worth a lot more than he’s charging. He’s offering what is essentially a full blown art class for nothing, with art critiques for as low as $1 a month. 

So what does the course include?

First things first. 

Here’s how you hold the pen. Exercises.draw lines, boxes. Ghost lines. Cylinders. Plants. Textures. Organic forms. The human body. Anatomy. Perspective. The list goes on and its a long one, and I’m not sure how long it would take if someone decided to do the whole thing. Maybe a semester in college? Maybe longer. 

I am going to post updates here as I move through it. It should be fun, and I’m looking forward to it. If you ever wanted to learn how to draw, nows your chance. From the website: “Anyone can learn to draw. It’s not some magical talent a few people are born with. It’s a skill you can train.” Here goes.

The Samsung Note5 as a sketching tool 

I decided I was going to draw for at least 30 days straight, and I’m currently 2 weeks in to it. While I’m not afraid to utilize my trusty pencil and paper sketchbooks, I find myself in more situations that make it inconvenient to carry even a small sketchbook and favorite pencil.

Enter the Samsung Galaxy Note5. I have had it for almost a year now. I chose the phone specifically because it had a stylus. There are really only 2 phones on the market that have them, and the LG Stylo (I think it’s called) really isn’t an option. That phone only has a poking device, no sensitivity. 

The Note5, on the other hand, can do some pretty great things as far as art is concerned. The stylus is very precise, it is a bit small but since I primarily use if for sketching I don’t find it off putting, especially considering the lack of devices that include some sort of pen.

There’s a wide variety of apps that can be used for drawing. Samsung was nice enough to include a Sketchbook for Galaxy by auto desk, which is still my primary sketch app. I have tried others,but keep returning to this one.

The screen on the phone is a nice 5.7 inches, very large and bright, probably still one of the best on the market.

Battery life: I’m not thrilled with it, but that’s partially because of how I use the phone, and partially because Samsung didn’t put a large enough battery in it. 3000 mAh is kind of small for a phone this size. They fixed that issue in the note7, but since the recall I have not had a chance to test it.

Storage: for most people 32gb is probably be enough. For me it’s definitely not, and I’ve found myself in the position of needing more but having no way to get it. Samsung stupidly didn’t include an SD card slot. While some would argue that it isn’t needed in the age of cloud I beg to differ. I have filled my phone up multiple times with pictures and video (I have my first child), and I also like to load audio books and tutorials. Those take up a lot of space even at the lower resolution, and storage goes quick. This is an issue Samsung fixed with the Note7, but with the recall we are still waiting for it.

Overall: I’m really impressed with the phone. It’s a high quality device, But does have some downsides. If you want a phone you can do art on this will definitely do the job, no question. With the new note7 (re)release the price of this one should drop considerably. If don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for the newest one and can see past the lack of sd card, I would definitely recommend it.

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4 Years Later…

It has been 4 Years since I posted anything in this space, and a lot has happened. 2 parents passed away (my dad and my wife’s dad). We had our first child after fifteen years of trying, hoping, and praying. 

He is almost 8 months now, an amazing ball of energy that keeps us smiling as we watch his progress with pride only parents could have for basic things like laughing, rolling over, and the very beginnings of an army crawl that keep us recording him with anticipation.

We moved, having decided that we needed to be closer to the only parent either of us had left(my wife’s mom), both for our child’s sake and for hers., to hopefully help ease the loss that we both feel.

I have written during the span of time I’ve been away from my blog, but I’ve done some other things as well. I’ve picked up the pencil in order to draw more, and I’ve formed a small media company with a good friend of mine to make games, both card/board games and video games, as well as publish books and some other assorted stuff. You can see the Facebook page here

Some things we have in the works:

  • An educational card game called Flipwords
  • Re-release of my novel, Confessor
  • A 2d space shooter game
  • An as yet named novel, that combines some scifi and fantasy elements. More on that later.

What can you expect to see in this space going forward?  More content, for one. Some reviews of games, more writing/book related stuff, tools of the trade, drawings etc. Stay tuned for more as things move forward, thanks for reading.

Lee Child’s Killing Floor

reach

So I’m sorry to say I have never read a Lee child book before. If I had, I would have devoured each book like a lion tearing through raw animal flesh. Sorry for the bloody imagery. I had no preconceived notions about this book. I’ve seen Lee Child pop up on Joe Konrath’s blog called A Newbies Guide to Publishing, although I can’t remember the post. He was battling with their group over something. Not sure if it was about sock puppets or what.

Anyway, I was at Walmart, that huge conglomeration of Chinese made fluff, and I was wandering through the only isle of American made stuff, (books!) that my eyes fell upon the book. No, it wasn’t the snarky cover with Tom Cruise on the front. The cover had a bloody hand on both the front and back covers. Rather amateurish, but hey, at that point I wasn’t judging the book by its cover. I read the description. It sounded interesting. Then I started reading the forward, written by the author. Believe it or not, that’s what hooked me. We have been in similar situation. He was unemployed at the time of its writing, it being his first published novel, so I could definitely relate. I put it in the shopping cart and intended to put it down somewhere between the coffee isle and the mixed nuts.

I some how made it to the car with it still in my bags. I got home, devoured it in a mere 4 hours. (Not all in one sitting of course, I’m a busy guy.)

The story starts out with this guy, Jack Reacher, getting arrested in some small town as he’s sitting down for some eggs and toast at a small diner. At this point I’m probably supposed to say something flowery, but I won’t. Lee’s sentences are clipped. Short, and too the point. Jack tells the story, and he doesn’t bother over describing anything. It felt almost as if, in reading, Jack was recounting a story over a ham and cheese sandwich. Or maybe a rare steak and a beer. One thing I found in the writing was how real everything felt. Jack doesn’t punch people in the face. He knows he might break his hands. Instead he head-butts them. The details Lee Child decides to include don’t feel overdone, like he’s feeding too much information to you just because he knows it. The book is visceral without being overly descriptive, in a way that some horror writers are. There’s my quote: “The book is visceral.”

The book had a great ending, which I won’t spoil for you. But if you like action in your books, some whodunit, and stories where the good guy wins, this is definitely for you. I’d give it an easy 4 1/2 stars.

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Trade Paperback Proofs

 

While I have a moment in between working on new chapters, hanging out with the inlaws for the holidays, and just general lounging, I thought I’d give you a preview of the upcoming paperback version of Confessor. The cover turned out nicer than I thought. There are just a couple of internal things I need to tweak but nothing major.

 

The photos aren’t as good as I would like, but you get the idea.

Overall I’m completely happy with how it turned out. CreateSpace does an awesome job. The book is bound well, shouldn’t fall apart in your hands after several read throughs (I’ve read all the books I own multiple times, lol). Honestly, it feels great to actually have a physical book. Well, back to slaving away. Hope everyone has a good holiday.

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Formatting for CreateSpace

Using open source software for anything can, at times, be tricky. Mostly that stems from the fact that everyone follows Microsoft, even though not everyone can afford their programs. I won’t get too deep into the whole open versus closed software debate here, although I am clearly opinionated on the whole topic. Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to use open source software, ranging from hate of Microsoft, to just wanting an inexpensive way to do things. Anyone who knows me knows I both hate Microsoft, and hate paying bloated prices for software.

CreateSpace-5×8-template

Here’s the template I used for my book Confessor. Credit goes to its main author, http://blog.edwardmgrant.com/?p=872

This is only for CreateSpace use, I’ll go into Kindle formatting in a different post. While this template only says it’s for 5×8, I found it easy enough to change the page size and gutter. I matched the gutter to CreateSpace’s MS Word template (which doesn’t work well in LibreOffice, the main reason I went with this template) and had no issues. On Edward’s blog, he lists directions that have to be followed in order for it to work. It took me a little bit to figure out how it worked. Basically the template comes with styles, so here’s a walk through on how it works.

Here’s what the title page looks like. You just change the title to whatever you want, change the font, etc. Same with the stuff on the left.

For the first two chapters, you just copy your own text, highlight the “your text here” text, and paste over it. Easy enough. Again, change the chapter heading to whatever font you want, rename it to One, ONE, chapter 1, whatever.

At the end of your chapter 2 text, leave your cursor at the end of it and, at the top of the page, navigate to Insert>manual break>page break, then click OK.

This is where the page styles come in. On the new blank page, right-click and select Paragraph. This window will pop up. Select the Text Flow tab, then make sure the Insert and With Page Style are checked. Then in the drop box under the type, select First Page Of Chapter. Then commence copy and pasting your next chapter in.

Repeat this step with every chapter.

Stay tuned for my (hopefully) next post on formatting for Kindle. I also tried some specialty things, like using jpegs for chapter headers, but I’m still waiting for proofs to see how they turn out. I’ll keep you posted.

That’s all there is to it. Most of what I’ve read on formatting seems to either assume you’re a rocket scientist, or a programmer. This way, you don’t need to be either.  Feel free to check out the template and post your questions/comments below. Don’t forget to check out Edward’s blog as well. Happy formatting!

Books, Linux, and assorted news

My book giveaway went great. I wound up extending my free book giveaway through Saturday.  I had 251 downloads in the US, 35 in the UK, and 3 in Germany. I’m sure my numbers won’t stand up to many other writers, but for a first time out, I’m very happy with it. I don’t have anything to compare it to, so I’m interested in hearing from other indy authors t see if they have had similar results. I also finished proofing the paperback version of the book, so I will announce it when it goes live.

I’ve been planning on writing a series of posts on e-publishing on Linux, using only open source tools such as LibreOffice and gimp, among other things. Over the last few months I’ve (hopefully) learned everything I need to know about formatting. I also did some extensive work with gimp for covers, so I should have plenty to write about in the coming weeks, haha. Indy publishing has been a huge learning experience for me, and I’m still trying to figure out the ins and outs. Everything in its time, of course.

You will probably see some more posts unrelated to writing. While I love talking about writing, and will continue to share things as I learn them, I don’t want to get burned out just talking about that. So expect some deviations.

I have a Youtube channel in the works that I’m putting together with a good friend of mine. More on that as it gets formulated.

That’s all I have for now, hope everyone has a safe Thanksgiving and Black Friday🙂

 

Confessor: FREE on AMAZON

Update: It’s available now!

Yes, you heard right. Tomorrow morning  (12:00 am Pacific time to be exact), the kindle version of my thriller, Confessor, will be absolutely free. If you don’t have a kindle, don’t worry. You can get either the Kindle app for your phone or tablet or PC, or you can read via Amazon’s cloud reader. If you’re curious what kind of stuff I write, or just looking for something new to check out, now is the perfect time. I’d also be interested in hearing from anyone who’s read it or wants to review it. you can find it here:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A2VGD2Q

Enjoy!