Friday, April 23, 2010

Discipline and Punish

Almost immediately after you get married, you start outsourcing stuff to your spouse. For example, I am now the toilet-cleaning guy. I did it a few times in a row, and now I'll be doing it for the rest of my life. Another example: Jiyoung waters the plants. I used to know how to water plants, but now that she does it, I've completely shut down the plant-watering part of my brain. I don't even know how to get the water from the sink to the plant. It's a mystery. 

When Jiyoung went off to work a month ago, it was like half of my brain vanished. That half apparently included the machinery responsible for self-discipline. With her nearby all day, it was difficult to drift too far from the path. It's not like she was looking over my shoulder, but the house was filled with a general sense of focused productivity. With her gone, the house has quickly filled with a new sense of "let's play PS3, surf the web, take long lunches, and snack continuously."

Well, I figured out a way to not only recover my work ethic, but to increase my productivity. Frequent contributor Eagle has directed me to a streaming video site called Livestream, where several comic artists broadcast their desktops live while they work in Photoshop. That's a level of openness that I'm not ready to attempt, but the site also lets you broadcast from a webcam. Henceforth, from Monday through Friday between 9am and 6pm Pacific time, my little rat-fink webcam will tell the whole internet whether I'm shirking.

It works. I've been drawing my butt off. And the beauty of it is that it doesn't matter whether anybody actually watches the feed -- which is good, because I look sort of like a cross between Prince Charles and an ostrich. What matters is that somebody could be watching. The internet is now my Panopticon! If my mind starts to wander, all I have to do is look at that beady little electronic eye to the left of my monitor. It's like living with HAL.

Anyway, my Livestream feed is on the left toolbar. Livestream also supports chatting, but I keep the client minimized while I work. If you send me a message, please don't be sad if I don't respond. I don't let myself check the chat box until the end of the day.

In other news, my mom got me an Ergotron desk mount LCD arm for my birthday. Now my Cintiq is connected to the desk by a fully articulated steel armature. It looks like this:

Here's a video of another guy's setup. This thing is spectacular. It's great to be able to change your posture whenever your neck or back starts to complain. You can even hold the monitor in your lap like a sketchbook. The only problem is that I'm worried webcam/HAL will somehow commandeer the arm and bludgeon me to death with my own Cintiq.

Something else I got for my birthday: Viva il Ciclissimo, co-authored by Katsuhiro Otomo and Katsuya Terada. The two artists went to Europe to watch the Giro d'Italia bike race, and then drew one of the most beautiful illustrated books I've ever seen. I hadn't seen anything Otomo had drawn since Akira, but this book shows that he's been busy turning into some sort of art god. Click the image to see more.

Finally, a word of advice: if you're having trouble getting to the finish line (in my case, I'm staggering toward page 24 with a head-full of dehydration-induced hallucinations and a pantload of exhaustion-poop), listen to this song and imagine you're participating in one of the many studying montages from Real Genius. I admit that I did this. I'd like to suggest that I did it because I found it ironically humorous and not because it filled me with a sense of purpose that blazed with the majestic intensity of a thousand nerdy suns.


  1. Nate, if it's possible I think you're even cooler than before for referencing Real Genius, the greatest film of the 80's.

  2. I sort of had the same problem when working at Microsoft. When my coworker was sharing the office with me, productivity went straight up. I think it was because we actually had interesting conversations to break the monotony. Once she got her own office, not so productive.

    With MALDEN, its been a bit easier to pump stuff out since I'm on a (sort of) strict deadline to update at LEAST twice a week.

    Cintiq on a Swivel Arm. I've been debating whether to get a new Tablet PC (Lenovo X201 or 301) or a Cintiq. That swivel arm pushes that decision closer to the Cintiq for me (ergonomics) though I like sitting with the tablet in front of the TV (portability).

    Terada AND Otomo?! Holy BALLS! I NEED TO FIND A COPY!!

    On that note, give my best to Jiyoung.


  3. Very cool, Nate. Now I'll have something else to distract me throughout the week...! haha
    On the other hand, it might make a good incentive for me to keep working, knowing there's another artist a webcam away pushing forward on his own project.

    I've actually thought about doing this whole live webcam work thing, for the same reason you mentioned. I just don't have the resources to really make that possible at the moment. All the free screen-broadcasting software runs on a later OS than I have, and my webcam is built into my Mac—wouldn't be much fun for folks to just stare at my forehead, I don't think...

  4. That art book blog is awesome. Thanks for the link.

  5. AH! It's 98 dollars! Stupid Art Books being expensive.

    I can't wait spy on you, say an inappropriate comment and then leave. What great fun it will be.

  6. Hahaha I can relate to that.

    Its so hard to stay on track when you don't have some other presence around to make you want to work.

    And that wacom on the armature is seriously cool, makes me extremely jealous.

  7. Cool for referencing Real Genius? Cool for referencing Foucault!

    Unless Real Genius WAS referencing Foucault in the first place. And he's referencing Real Genius referencing Foucault. Then that's still cool. It just means one set of my nerd points outweighs another set by a significant amount.

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  9. Is that armature solid enough that you can put any weight on it? I lean pretty heavily on my drawing tablet. Do you have to be daity with it (or even with the regular Cintiq stand)? Which also leads me to wonder about the Cintiq in general -- LCD's generally produce a fair amount of heat, and I wonder if that's the case with the Cintiq, and if so, how it affects how you work.

    Sorry for the Newbie 101A questions. I found your blog via the mention in the April ImagineFX. The work is remarkable, and just a cursory hop through the entries has already taught me some valuable things.

    -Jim Francis

  10. Livestream looks interesting. I may have to give it a try while I'm working on 'El Cuervo.'

  11. Jer - It's a great film, isn't it? I always felt like the screenwriters never got enough credit for making laser research feel like some kind of professional sport.

    Your blog shows off the kind of serious pursuit of craft that I was never able to manage. I like the methodical way you're studying human proportions and facial features. You're already getting some great results -- if you keep this up, you're going to be doing some unbelievably cool stuff in the very near future. Keep up the great work! All of that study will pay off in a big way.

  12. Peter - Yeah, that Terada/Otomo book is pretty sweet. If you come to TAG on Tuesday (which you should), I'll try to remember to bring it with me. It's some very inspiring stuff! Congratulations on your new job, by the way! Are you going to try to keep the Malden strip going on a two-per-week schedule?

  13. Michael - The new stuff you've been posting for Bonnie Lass is spectacular, as always. I get this feeling like you're about to be some kind of huge art-star. Can I say I knew you back when you were just a normal guy?

    As for the webcam experiment -- the jury's still out. The software is a bit of a resource hog, and it blue-screened on me once at the cost of about three hours of work (even though I'd been saving, it somehow corrupted the open file!). That, and broadcasting your face on the internet seems a little douchey. Still, as long as it keeps me just a little more motivated, it's probably worth it. I've had people post snarky comments when they see me talking on the phone. That's exactly the kind of taskmaster I need!

    Keep up the great work, man!

  14. Sam - Yeah, I'm still digging through that blog, too. It's dangerous stuff, because most of those books aren't cheap, but I want all of them. In particular, there's a collection of Macross Valkyrie paintings that makes me quiver all over. Maybe I'll reward myself with that book once I finish the first issue of Project Waldo. Yeah, that's what I'll do.

  15. Michael Pfeffer - If you dig around a little on the internet, you should be able to find a copy for less that 60 bucks. Still not cheap, but probably worth it. I've gotten a lot of inspiration out of it so far.

    As for stalking me on my webcam -- please do! I will in turn hang out outside your living room window and shout at you any time you're not drawing comics.

  16. Torkyn - Yeah, this armature is my new favorite thing. It looks cool, too. Really impresses the ladies. Or anyway, the one lady who has seen it. Who is my wife. Who probably is acting like it's cool because she doesn't want to disrupt the childlike enthusiasm I feel for the thing.

    Oh, and also -- start that comic, man! Your art is already way too good to be a barrier to getting underway. Plus, the best way to improve is to just roll up your sleeves and get to it! When you've got a few pages done, toss some links up here so we can all go see how it's going! It's going to be great!

  17. lunabird - My liberal arts education finally pays off! If only I could remember anything about the actual book, I'd be even cooler! From now on, I'll just start every blog post with a random book title. If book name-dropping can work for Good Will Hunting, it can work for me! Next up -- Derrida!

  18. arioch - The armature lets you adjust resistance, and you can crank it up so tightly that it not only pushes back, but poses a risk to your face (there's a warning in the instructions that has a hilarious graphic showing a guy getting knocked out by his monitor). There's a little bit of give in the assembly, but I'm able to rest my arm on the monitor without having it run away from me. I'm quite happy with it so far.

    As for Cintiq heat issues -- I notice them much more during the summer months. On a couple of days, it's gotten hot enough to be uncomfortable to my hand, but in general the only problem is sweat residue. Again, this is a bigger annoyance in summer than in winter (in fact, when the house gets cold, the screen's warmth is quite welcome). All in all, I'm very happy with my Cintiq, and I imagine the more recent models handle these issues even better (mine is coming up on four years old).

    If you want to try one out, I've noticed that Wacom have been showing up at comic conventions with demo models. Perhaps you can give one a test drive there?

  19. Drezz - I love the harsh contrast you're using in El Cuervo. Very noir. Your stuff passes the squint test with flying colors! Well, no colors. Flying black and whites, I guess.

    Regardless, you should set up a livestream thingy. It's starting to feel like we're setting up some kind of virtual studio. Are we unwittingly doing some technological trailblazing here? I think we might be!

  20. I don't know if I can make TAG. The new job sounds like they hired me on for emergency crunch for the big sell off.

    MALDEN should be all right on a 2 a week schedule. I just did a strip today, and I can probably get another strip done tomorrow or by monday. The hardest part is figuring out what's gonna happen next in the layouts/story. Writer's block writer's block.

  21. Nate, the Cintiq arm is exactly what I need. I'll ask my mom for one when my birthday comes in July. Thanks for posting about it, and in general for being a source of inspiration for other aspiring comic book artists like myself!

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  23. Wow man, that is courageous to sit in front of a camera like that. I would feel so self conscious that I'd never get any work done. It's great that it helps you stay focused though.

    That Cintiq arm looks great. I think I'm going to have to look into that. I looked online before but couldn't figure out what they were called so I never found anything I new worked.

    To answer you question from posts back, no, I didn't work on that film but I'm glad you liked it. I think it's the best one they made so far.

    Keep up the great work man! Can't wait to see more.

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  25. Peter - You should definitely come next month -- I think you'd really like some of the folks who show up at TAG. They're pretty rad in general.

    Mark - After about a month of use, I can confirm that the Ergotron arm is the cat's meow. It's one of those things (like the Cintiq itself) that makes you wonder how you managed to get anything done in the old days.

    Jason - My webcam experience has been fairly mixed so far. It occasionally blue-screens my computer, so I only turn it on sporadically (usually only when I'm working on smaller Photoshop files). It may be time for me to upgrade my computer. Stuff's been getting pretty slow.

    As always, ReMIND is looking spectacular. Congratulations on all the success you've been having!

  26. haha...the ps3 comment was too much...good to see you get over that hurdle!