Category:Meta

100 Days of Artifacts: Update

Approaching the halfway point through my 100 Day Project, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on the process with a critical eye, to call out some of my unconscious sneakiness and correct for bad habits.

Steering around inadequacies

It has proven a double-edged sword to post each item online. On one hand, I’d feel a deep shame to publicly miss a day or give up altogether; keeping everything private would remove that incentive to continue. But on the other hand, the prospect of posting something truly shitty is embarrassing, and so it has proven difficult to select concepts or media that I’m not already confident in.

This of course is absurd: the whole idea is to improve and expand my skill set. If I work only within safe bounds, I’m basically wasting my time. So… no more of this sort of thing!

Time

Some of the pieces I’ve worked on have been more time-consuming to realise than others, and it’s hard to identify a clear pattern. I am probably homing in on a better understanding of which concepts/media have tight scope, and which might keep me up until 4am, but there are still surprises (in both directions, though usually for the worse).

This ties into my public posting issue, and the desire to not embarrass myself. (I am a shame-oriented individual.) One would probably consider it fair, in the spirit of the original project, after a taxing day at work and 3+ frustrating hours spent at a different computer, to down tools and admit defeat on that particular idea; sharing whatever I had to show for it at that point. Aside from the fear of public failure though, I get attached to the initial vision. If I stop and post a half-baked version, how can I revisit and finish it on a different day? That’s against the rules!

Ultimately, without being able to predict accurately how much “rabbit hole” there might be in a certain idea, I should at least be watchful for the emergent scope growth, and try to bend the concept back in a safer direction. After all, many interesting things have been discovered and created accidentally, or by taking an unplanned turn. Time is a force of resistance in my materials, so I should be working within that constraint, improvising if necessary.

Implicit motivations

I find it very interesting (and disconcerting), the degree of murkiness that can exist between behaviour and motivation. Quite often I’ll make decisions or form habits without first considering why, and if I then work backwards to the impetus, I might be surprised by the underlying reason, finding it lacking or foolish.

This exercise is certainly one of those murky examples, and I’m not yet sure whether it’s also rooted in “bad reasons”. Instead of a programmer, do I want to become an artist? An animator? Do I want to be be a fully independent game maker; a one-man, game-creating hermit, perhaps? I kind of do. But are any of those even feasible?

Maybe it’s nothing that significant, and more that I’ve felt inadequate about my artistic and design chops, needing to prove to myself I can match the more artistic of my developer peers (developeers). It’s most likely a mix of all these things, and whatever the case, if I take heed of these observations, I should come out the other side with a better skillset than I went in with, furthering most of those potential motivators to some degree.

Inspiration

There are a few notions that have been simmering in my brain since reading a fascinating article by a digital artist, about their decades-long progression from enthusiast to professional. The foremost concept that struck me was that the only thing that separates experts and amateurs is time and practice. It does seem obvious, but it’s never been intuitive to me. Being able to see this artist’s awkward, unconfident beginnings, and the evolution of their technique, to the point of producing beautifully crafted illustrations, really drove the point home.

The other, more technical item I took away from that article was the need to work from references while learning. This really opened things up for me, because I’ve always hated the prospect of making unoriginal content in any form. And yet, trying to be boundlessly creative while becoming familiar with a whole new medium is the perfect recipe for a gigantic fuck up. And I’ve cooked it up many times!

And so, for most of the illustrations I’ve made during this project, I’ve worked from photographs. It feels like cheating, still – and I am undoubtedly riding on the coattails of many photographers’ beautiful composition and planning work – but I have come to terms with it as a necessary part of the learning process. I would like to put together a basic gallery of everything I’ve made on the project, and when I do, I’ll be able to link to my references, easing my conscience in the process.

New Things

Oh… hi! Originally, my opening gag for this post was going to be something along the lines of: ‘Huh. This thing still works…?’ – however, the joke is firmly on me since the ‘kinetype.com’ domain has just reached its year anniversary, and without an up-to-date card on file to renew my ownership, expired unceremoniously. So, no; that thing does not still work. (If you go there now you’ll find a charming ad-laden placeholder and an invitation to step in and claim that red-hot goldmine. Feel free, entrepreneurial reader, to wreak havoc with my brand identity.) Though the option’s still open to renew, I realised that this inventory should now be at the center – rather than the kinetic typography generator to which this blog was first tacked-on. Et cello… a new domain!

So, post shake-up, said generator can be found at akt.akineticblog.com, the old Hope Park Square back-up is now at hps.akineticblog.com, while this guy is at the www subdomain, or just plain akineticblog.com. Why do I get the feeling it wasn’t many posts that ago I was just explaining the last domain set-up…? Enough meta-posting; content!:

I am employed as a Flash developer now. Sweet! This has exactly two benefits:
1) Career finally on track to Coolsville (definitely in an outer borough already), and
2) People asking what I do, unaware of the platform, just think I’m a developer, but a particularly fancy (and arrogant) one. Score.

I work for the wonderful Thought Den <3 – check them out, yo!: http://www.thoughtden.co.uk/

Thought Den, or: Ed('s) Thong Hut

I’ve been made to feel more than at home by Ben and Dan, awesome director-fellows and Kings of Thought Den. They even made a hugely awkward and dorky (completely unfair and impromptu) film of me screwing around with an iPhone-OSC-Flash thing I put together, partly based on the learnings of my previous post on OSC-to-Flash music visualisation. If you can stomach it, read and watch here.

This job move has also meant a spatial move; 302 miles south (woo!) and 70 to the east (boo!). Let’s see, that puts me in … oh, Bristol! Neat! I couldn’t find my camera while I was packing to move (four hours before my flight…), so forgive the sub-par photography, but the Bristol adventure has so far resembled this:

Not Bristol but Troon, in the bleary small hours, packing unfinished - 'Time I took a picture!'

At the airport, in a PA deadzone, obliviously writing an email and missing the boarding call (but only a little bit)

I think I might live along here one day.

Some, uh- scaffolding. It was very, very blue.

Convinced I'd dreamt this, yet there the picture was, in my phone. My clothes and hair were also filthy, and I found a bloodied half-brick, bundled up in my jacket.

What lovely colour sense the engineers and forsakers of this bridge had!

Ah, lucky cats: quintessential Bristol

An economy religion

I might've known it would be a seagull, captaining the shellfish-restaurant-boat

And if thou gaze long into a spiralmonkeyface, the spiralmonkeyface will gaze also into thee.

A more opulent, cobwebbed religion

This isn't actually a photograph but a screencap from when I was wandering through a VR simulation from the 90s. Shortly after, green teapots whizzed past me to collide with a man made entirely of chrome. The shattered pieces then morphed into the word 'cool!' in Comic Sans. Terrifying.

No, naughty cat! Stop it! This isn't your house. But help yourself to Crazy Landlady's frozen food (somehow kept outside during summer...).

*sigh* Doesn't it just make you want to pedal an old bicycle, go buy some bread maybe?



In other Flash-activity / Flactivity, here is a little …Flupdate: I made a desktop clock (a deskclock, if you will) gadget, deploying through Air. It runs like this:

Note: displayed time correct only occasionally; click for greater accuracy

It needs polishing up and some customisation options, since it’s hardcoded to suit my desktop (above the cat), so I’ll add a nice menu and post it here with the source and everything – like a real community-oriented developer! ALSO: The mouse-position wobble thing was a late and non-final addition. The new Flash Player 10.1 and Air 2 runtimes yielded some bizarre corruption, with Sprites seemingly masking-out each other in places they shouldn’t, and at irregular intervals. Bug report en route – but for now I’m having to update all TextFields each second, and ensure the clock is redrawn every frame (not the sveltest of overheads), so I decided to do at least something with the spent processor time, useless as it may be.

Pledge: next update in less than a month.

The Kinetype Family

While this endeavour is still in its infancy, I thought it’d make sense to itemise the facets of my substantial (for which, read: insubstantial) web presence, and the plans I have for each.

  • blogFirstly, there is this thing you are reading: the blog; blog-dot-kinetype-dot-com; http://blog.kinetype.com/ Here, I’ll try to keep things mostly (if not strictly) business. You, gentle reader, probably don’t need to know of the peculiarities of my digestive tract, nor read my ideas for Harry Potter / Twilight crossover fiction. I have a twitter account for that. Posts will mostly be split across Flash projects, recorded music, photography, graphic design and maybe some writing – the things I like to do in spite of all the evidence and death threats.
  • blogNext, there’s the WWW subdomain, http://www.kinetype.com/ This is where I stuck the prickly fruits of my undergrad dissertation, submitted earlier this year. It’s for autonomously animating English text, à la human-authored kinetic typography, built in Flash, Python and Flex. It’s somewhat unpolished, but half of the planned improvements are coded up and ready to go, so it’ll be shiny in no time. Yeah.
  • blogLastly, I’ve re-uploaded an old site of mine, Hope Park Square, to the HPS subdomain, http://hps.kinetype.com/ Back only for posterity, this train wreck lasted just six months during 2005, before the card I paid the hosting fees with expired. While I’d put up with them passively, I couldn’t bring myself to register my new details and voluntarily give skanky hosts Angelfire more money. Plus, I had a girlfriend by that point; my need to charm internet babes had been quelled.

And those are the things of mine on THE INTERNET.

Hello

I'm Adam Vernon: front-end developer, free-time photographer, small-hours musician and general-purpose humanoid.