May 16, 2008

All Things Art and Good V

(The reasons behind the series of articles titled All Things Art and Good and the format followed in each article is explained here, in the first post in the series.)

I first came across Dan Phyillaier‘s artwork on the CGTalk forums. It was a painting called Meeting of Land and Water. As I’ve mentioned before, I love paintings with neat lighting techniques. And of course, I love paintings with nature scenery and then if that wasn’t enough, this also includes angelic/cherubic kids, fairy tales, and lighthouses! My cup ran over and filled a few others too when I saw this one 😀 It is a wonderful piece of artwork which manages to freeze a dynamic and magical moment of time forever. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I simply adore the lighting effects – the rays of light from the lighthouse tinging the clouds with a sparkling bit of gold, the tiny pinpricks of light on the bridge connecting the lighthouse to the mainland, the rosy golden hue cast by the lantern on the boy’s face, the blue-greyish cast to the entire scene indicating that it might be dusk; it’s all so wonderful and moody.

And to show how addicted to lighting effects I am, there’s also In the Beginning. I have no idea of the history behind the painting but it has a religion meets science, Noah’s Ark meets Gene Roddenberry, kind of feel to it 🙂 I’m left wondering as to the events leading up to that image. What happened there? What is the story? It almost tempts me to start writing the story myself and when that happens, it’s a good image, at least as far as I’m concerned 🙂

Then there’s Dan’s landscapes, like Genesis I, or Genesis II, or Homestead which fill you with longing for wide open spaces; land unsullied by the hand of man; crystal clear water that is icy cold to the touch and refreshing to drink; and vast tracts of land which make you realize just how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. It’s the kind of wonderful imagery which makes you long for a different time, a simpler time, and lets you escape, at least for a little time, from the world we live in. Powerful stuff 🙂

There’s plenty of other wonderful digital artwork on Dan’s site. So go, explore lands untouched by humanity and feel the wonder and joy that explorers must feel, at least virtually 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:29 am  |  3 Comments

May 13, 2008

All Things Art and Good IV

(The reasons behind the series of articles titled All Things Art and Good and the format followed in each article is explained here, in the first post in the series.)

The first digital artwork of Erwin Madrid‘s that I ever saw was Amends. For some reason, the painting reminds me of a dark, Disney vision. The girl and the slight sense of light playing around her gives the feel of a classic Disney heroine while the crows somehow manage to evoke all the dark and evil step-motherly feelings from all the classic fairy tales. I also like how the crows are almost like leaves on the tree and how all the lines in the painting, the bark on the trees, the way the branches are laid out, the angular lines created by the crows, the girl’s dress and even the stripes on her socks, create a world of lines. It might not be very colourful but it sure as heck is an interesting painting that I can stare at for hours!

Then there’s Erwin’s Umbrella on Balcony. This is another one of those classic play-of-light paintings. I love paintings where the light becomes almost an entity by itself. Here, the light does just that. There’s hint of sunlight coming off from somewhere behind the roof of the building at the left edge of the painting. The light turns the church spire golden, limns the laundry hanging on the lines so that it’s transformed from common laundry into something ethereal and then burnishes the edge of the umbrella on the balcomny with gold. You can also see a hint of the gold on the climbing plant on the balcony. It might not be a very detailed painting but what I love about the composition is the fact that the light does most of the work for you. The light is the central player and it gives you visions of hazy golden afternoons, idle Sundays where you just soak up the sun, and of warm sunlight playing gently on your skin. Sometimes, less is more 🙂

Erwin has quite a few other paintings which evoke various feelings of awe, wonder, and joy in me. And I’m sure you’ll find your own favourites too if you explore his site. However, I feel that I must mention Factory, if not for anything then because it is so different from the other two paintings that I mention here 🙂 This one is so dark, foreboding and damp that I can only imagine that it’s from a far future when the world is bereft of sunlight because everything is smothered in smog. Sure there is a golden haze through the murk but it seems to be more of a promise of sunshine (perhaps if the world got rid of the dirty smoke from the factories) rather than any actual sunshine. While it is a bit of a downer after the brightness and gold of the previous images, Factory is an image which still manages to transpose me and think of far future worlds where factories will sit by bleak coastlines like some fat, bulbous insect and belch smoke and dirt into the air, covering up the last bits of golden sunshine.

When you have such powerful imagery, what else would you need? 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:30 am  |  1 Comment

May 5, 2008

All Things Art and Good III

(The reasons behind the series of articles titled All Things Art and Good and the format followed in each article is explained here, in the first post in the series.)

I first came across Philip Straub‘s artwork, as I do a lot of digital artists I like, on the CGTalk forums. The painting was Llanowar Reborn and I thought that looked absolutely wonderful, what with all the greenery and me being a sucker for anything that’s got lots of foliage 🙂 But that was before I saw Infinite OZ – I was in awe the moment I saw Infinite Oz! One of the few things which trumps abundant greenery in my book of art appreciation is a beautifully done sunset or landscape – and this was both, and in an absolutely stupefying manner 😀

Words fail me when I try to describe Infinite Oz … and yes, I used to call myself a writer 🙂 There’s the calm serenity of the pastoral landscape, the farm with the red barn, the cow placidly chewing cud in the near distance, the swing on the gnarly tree next to the fence, the rolling landscape disappearing into the haze in the distance, and of course, the golden sunset – all of this combines to create a powerful image which makes me long for bygone days and simpler times.

But what makes the image really powerful is the ominous tornado in the distance and the glowering skies. They seem to hint at troubled times approaching, at danger and trials which might destroy the serene scene before us. When I look at the image, it’s almost as if I want to capture every bit of the beauty in the scene before it is destroyed forever by the approaching storm. So I gather in every little detail – the little yellow, blue, and orange flowers; the stream meandering it’s way through the pasture; the golden and rosy tints on the clouds and keep on staring and staring and staring 🙂

But the really wonderful thing for me is the fact that Infinite Oz is just one of the wonderful and inspiring paintings on Philip’s site. There are a whole heap more to explore, enjoy and to stare in wonder at. For instance, there’s the aforementioned Llanowar Reborn, full of greenery, mysticism, and mystery; the colourful, comical and childhood memory evoking Enchanted Evening; the simply mind-bending composition of foliage, water, rock, and lava in the book cover simply titled Atherton; and the somewhat mystical and fantastic Temple.

The above list still doesn’t do full justice to the range of imagery and artwork you’ll find on Philip’s site but I’m simply trying to provide a small sampling so that anybody reading this will be compelled to go there and take a look at all that’s there. If you appreciate beauty, you’ll not be sorry that you did 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:17 am  |  No Comments

May 4, 2008

All Things Art and Good II

(The reasons behind the series of articles titled All Things Art and Good and the format followed in each article is explained here, in the first post in the series.)

Denis Zilber is a wonderfully funny and versatile artist. You’ve only got to see the title image on his site to get an idea of his talent and his style. I just absolutely love that title image and the mood it evokes. But, I’m getting ahead of myself 🙂 Let’s begin at the beginning.

The first artwork of Denis’ that I saw was the funny, beautiful and extremely comical The Leg. The hint of darkness enveloping the left side of the image, the warm glow cast by the lamp which dispels darkness and covers everything in a rich golden glow on the right, the tiny bugs hovering around the lamp, the intriguingly greenish tinge to the sky, and the pinpoints of stars on the night sky – it all adds to the overall effect.

But most of all, what I love about The Leg are the people in it. The expressions on their faces, the little pink slippers worn by the guy holding the lantern (who for some reason I keep thinking of as "the mayor" :p), the white nightcap with a tassel on the end – these are the elements which add up to an image which is priceless 🙂 Denis commented elsewhere that he knows of no giant bird with just one foot (or something to that effect), so you know the guy has a sense of humour 😀

Then there’s the previously mentioned title image for Denis’ site – The Oldman and the Beetle. This image again illustrates one of my favourite things about Denis’ artwork – the lighting. The warmly glowing lamps on the old man’s cart pierces the gloom of the dark and creepy forest and gives you a sense of well-being, of goodness and warmth. It almost seems to say that as long as the old man travels through the forest with his warm lights, nothing bad can creep up on you 🙂 Of course, given the giant beetle and the glowing lights, I can’t help but think, what are fireflies like in this forest? How big are they and do they glow brighter than the lamps on the cart?

The interesting thing, personally for me, about Denis’ artwork is his versatility. He seems to have several different styles depending on the program he used to create the image (as well as other factors, probably). For instance, his Flash art has this hand-drawn-line quality which I like a lot. It reminds me a bit of Gary Larson of The Far Side fame 🙂 Take for example, Traveling Home. I like the simple colours, the shadowing, again the bright glow of the light, and the slightly space-and-mind bending perspective.

Another one of my favourites, again with a slightly different style, is The Journey Begins: First Encounter. This one doesn’t have so much of the humorous and cartoonish style of the other images. There’s hints of it though, for example in the face of the knight’s helper. I like the detail on the leaves, the nice blending of greens and yellows on the trees, the lines on the horse and of course, the bright glowing light, again 🙂

If I have one complaint, it is not about Denis’ art but the way the images are presented on his site. The images are cut off and so I can’t enjoy them at their full size 🙂 For instance, the title image that I keep coming back to looks much better as it does on his site than it does in the cut off format on his sample gallery. And with The Journey Begins, I can’t help but feel that there is more to that image and that I’m missing more detail because the image was cropped. Of course, I could be wrong 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 7:08 am  |  No Comments

May 2, 2008

All Things Art and Good

After my previous post about Ruben de Vela and his artwork, I began thinking (and yes, I know that’s not good for me :p) I’ve come across a lot of brilliant art that transports you and makes you stare at them for hours. And I also know that most of these artists (if not all) are famous in their own right and are known to a lot of fans. But what of those others who might never have come across them because they just weren’t in the right place? The Internet, after all, is a massive place. What if I showcased some of these brilliant paintings and digital artwork that I came across during my meanderings on the Net?

With me, to think is to act 🙂 So I wrote to some of the people who’s artwork had simply reduced me to a deaf mute gazing in wonder, or who had made me think, or had brightened my day, and asked them if I could feature some of there artwork on my blog. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to feature their art here as my own, or to even download their images and host them here. I simply want to talk about some of these digital paintings that inspired me and then link back to the author’s own site so that others can find the same wonder and joy I found by exploring all the riches that each of these sites provide. However, I did want to post a thumbnail at my own site to give the readers so that they’ll see how wonderful some of this artwork is and have the incentive to go exploring 🙂

Most of the people I contacted were wonderful and very cooperative and had no issues with what I wanted to do. So I’m going to be talking about some of these digital wizards’ work in upcoming posts. I had actually intended to talk about at least two artists today but as usual, my typing fingers have run away with things and the post is already so long that I don’t think I’ll be able to do justice to two of these wonderful masters of the digital image 🙂 So without wasting further space, let me get on to the artist of the day.

I first came across Phil McDarby, as I did most of the other artists I’ll be talking about here, on the CGTalk forums. (There’s a wonderful variety of great artists on that forum but that’s a subject for another post.) The first artwork of Phil’s that I saw was The Greenwood Deep and it simply transfixed me. Yes, it literally held me still with amazement as I stared in wonder at the vision of loveliness laid before my eyes and tried to soak in all that beauty 🙂

First, there’s that huge tree – I’m a sucker for greenery of any kind and this painting is full of greenery 🙂 The tree gives a sense of age, wisdom, having been there for centuries and millennia. And that pathway through the tree hints at something magical and wonderful lying there just out of reach, to be discovered if you would just walk up that path. Secondly, there are the tree stumps with the glowing holes, which look like eyes. Are they fairy dwellings? Or cyclopean guardians of the majestic old tree in the center? I keep wondering … And thirdly, there’s the little girl at the very edge of the painting. Obviously, she’s discovered this scene just now and is as amazed and transported as I am. What magic will she find if she ventures out, what adventure, what wonderful and magical creatures?

The mind boggles … and lies there basking in all that wonder, glory and beauty while it continues to contemplate this wonderful work of art. And that’s just one of the paintings on Phi’s site 🙂 He’s got a lot more, like Gloaming Born, which has more wondrous and wonderful trees; or Magic, which apparently is a precursor to the amazing The Greenwood Deep; or Wonder, which I can stare at in wonder for hours – the list just goes on. There’s just too many treasures on Phil’s site for me to describe them all. So go check out the other stuff he’s got 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 6:26 am  |  9 Comments

April 30, 2008

All Things Great and Good

Thanks to Ginosion, I have another review for Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog, woo hoo! Ginosion’s a good friend and I appreciate him taking the time to write a review immediately upon reading my blog post yesterday. So, I think I’m going to dedicate this post to Ginosion and other good and great things on the Internet that have come my way recently 🙂

I am a subscriber to WOSSNAME which is a great e-mail newsletter for fans of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. Yes, they are all good and great things but that’s not the thrust of this article here 🙂 In the latest issue of WOSSNAME, they featured Discworld art by an artist named Ruben de Vela. Now I like good art. I can’t draw well enough to beat a man with palsy in a gun battle, but I certainly enjoy good art when I see it. And I was blown away by the examples of Ruben’s artwork that WOSSNAME featured. (Oh yeah, if you’re curious, the newsletter linked to Squeak, A Hat Full of Sky, and Angua by Ruben.)

While I enjoyed all of the images, I was especially struck by the one of Angua. There were so many tiny little details to the piece which brought the spirit of Discworld to life; from the tower of art in the background to the posters on the wall which, instead of gibberish, had actual Discworld (and Ankh Morpork) related stuff. Additionally, the kind of 3D perspective the painting had and the quaint old-world feel that the buildings conveyed was just fabulous.

Of cousre, this was before I discovered Ruben’s deviantART gallery and discovered his own comments on the image. Apparently there were things I’d missed about the image in my first few looks, like Gaspode the wonder dog and CMOT Dibbler! That just confirmed, in my own mind at least, how intricate and detailed that particular image was 🙂

As I think I’ve mentioned before here on this blog, I enjoy the detailed, crammed-to-the-brim-with-references covers that Josh Kirby used to do, especially for the Discworld series. I absolutely love that kind of artwork over your normal, humdrum one-idea, one-image kind of cover. Ruben looks as if he might be the kind of person who can pull off the Josh Kirby-esque artwork that I love so much. I wish him the best and hope that someday, he will indeed be doing work equivalent to that of Kirby because we need another Kirby, darn it! 😀

March 27, 2008

Sri Lankan Spam

As if all those spam mails about penis enlargement; herbal supplements; deposed dictators, their wives, grandchildren, personal secretaries and grandmothers wanting to give you millions of dollars; and free software downloads weren’t enough, the spamming has started in my own backyard. And that somehow seems to be worse than all those spammy mails from people on the other side of the world 🙂

What’s worse is that the Sri Lankan spammers are so inept that they openly copy the e-mail addresses of all the people they spam. This way, not only do I get spammed, I also know who else got spammed along with me. Yeah, maybe you’ll say "misery loves company" and move on :p But think a moment, if my e-mail address and all those other e-mail addresses are visible to all those who got spammed, what’s to prevent another enterprising person to copy those addresses and spam us all over again? Nothing.

Yeah. Neverending Sri Lankan spam because some idiot, who might be living next door, gathered up all the addresses of people s/he figured out were Sri Lankans. The though of it somehow makes my blood boil even worse than the foreign spam!

So I decided to do something about it – I spammed them all back 😀 OK, that’s not quite right. I wrote to all of those people (taking care not to reveal the addresses again, of course) and told them what the situation was. That our e-mail addresses were exposed to every Tom, Dick, Harry, Jinadasa, Mohideen, or whoever to copy and spam again. I asked that everybody who was spammed contact the spammer and ask him not to spam us again and also wrote to the spammer and asked him to let me know if he got the list from somebody else so that that person can be notified that I really don’t want anymore unsolicited e-mail.

Will anything come out of it? I have no idea. Knowing how things work in Sri Lanka, I might even have retaliation directed at me 🙂 Ah well, you’ve gotta take a stand sometimes, right?

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Posted by Fahim at 9:25 am  |  1 Comment

January 13, 2008

Drooling Male Syndrome

I’ve been on this free language learning site called Livemocha for a couple of days now. It’s pretty interesting (and effective) as a language learning tool but that’s not what this post is about :p Laurie signed up yesterday because I’ve been sitting next to her practicing my Spanish phrases and she wanted to regain some mastery of French. She signs up with her personal details and uploads a picture of herself and not two minute pass but wham! She gets a request for chat. She doesn’t realize that the guy wants to voice chat till she’s halfway into the request but rejects it at that point. A minute later, another and then another and another …

So what makes guys act like drooling dogs when they see a female online? It doesn’t matter whether she’s really a woman or not, as long as the online persona has the "appearance" of being female, they just keep coming – and no, no pun was intended there :p Now I’ve been on Livemocha for much longer than Laurie but do I get any chat requests, friend requests or anything of the sort? Nope! Of course, it might be that they see my profile and the strange, unfamiliar name and think that I’ll probably go "I keel you!" (OK, sorry about that one but I saw this guy on TV about a month ago with a skeletal dummy with an Arabic accent who said that all the time and I find that hilarious for some reason :p) if they tried to befriend me. Or maybe it’s the fact that I have a photograph which shows me to be male.

Speaking of photographs, Laurie changed hers to a fairly innocuous one and even changed her gender to male on Livemocha but the requests still kept coming. I don’t know if the site was doing some caching of images or these guys were so desperate that they only looked at the profile name to decide if the person was male or female. Finally, once she changed her profile name to something which was gender-neutral, the requests stopped.

So I ask again, what makes human males act like some sort of quadruped in heat each time they are online and see somebody who might possibly be of the female persuasion? Or are most males like that in real-life as well but just control themselves just a tad bit better because it’s "real life"? I wonder …

Oh yeah, Laurie has a post about this on this on her blog as well 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 12:47 pm  |  No Comments

July 15, 2007

TreeDBNotes – time for alternatives?

I have talked of TreeDBNotes before. I like using a treeview based information manager and TreeDBNotes has been my software of choice for a few years now. One of the reasons I opted to register TreeDBNotes in the first place was because they had advertised free updates for life at the time I was considering using the app.

Fast forward a few years (or months) and here we are at TreeDBNotes 3.0 and suddenly, I notice on their forums a notice saying that old keys would not work and a new upgrade policy would be made available soon. I’m like "Huh? What do you mean new upgrade policy?" So I go to take a look at the original page which said free upgrades for life but I discover that the whole site has been revamped and there’s a new page which says that registration gets you free upgrades to all 3.xx releases – basically that free upgrades are only for minor releases. I’m like, "Did I dream it all?" So I go hunting on Wayback Machine and discover this page. According to the page (and I quote), "Registration benefits: lifetime technical support including support via e-mail, FREE upgrade to all new versions, and product notification by e-mail." (the bold text is not mine – it’s theirs)

I was confused. So I went over to the TreeDBNotes forums and posted a query about this discrepancy. The developer of the software appeared to disregard the query entirely and didn’t respond in the two threads I posted – except to say that wasn’t the place to post my question. (I did learn later however that he had posted a separate thread explaining that new upgrades would not be free even for existing users.) However, a moderator of the forum came forward to say he didn’t believe in binding a company or person to old terms. That that was politics and that no other company offered free lifetime upgrades and it was ridiculous to expect TreeDBNotes to do so.

I responded to him and said that if companies (and individuals) did not find agreements binding, then nobody could do business. I also pointed out a specific application that I had used (Now You’re Cooking) and their registration terms, which mentioned that they provided lifetime upgrades. He dismissed this by saying that I provided only one application and that didn’t prove anything and that I was bluffing. He also removed all my posts which showed that his statements weren’t true saying that the forum rules state that I couldn’t publicly contradict an admin or a moderator and that I was breaking the rules of the forum. Conveniently, it left his post saying that asking that the developer stick to the terms of the original agreement is ridiculous intact while removing all posts which showed that his arguments were specious.

All these shenanigans aside, the developer says that he has to charge for an upgrade because he rewrote 80% of the code and because he had to buy new components to use in the application. I don’t see how this absolves him from honouring the terms of a contract which was already in place. I fully accept that developers need to be paid and that he has every right to revise the terms of the contract for new users. But he cannot retroactively change terms for existing users.

In the midst of all of this, I was urged over and over again to talk to the developer privately and try to resolve this instead of talking about this publicly. I see this being pretty similar to the tactics here in Sri Lanka where people who speak out are hushed up in private by offering them something. Perhaps I will be offered a free upgraded. But that’s not the point. The point is that they are defrauding registered users and going back on their word. And that’s just unprincipled and unethical. But then again, this seems to be the pattern almost everywhere I look …

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Posted by Fahim at 10:48 am  |  5 Comments

June 13, 2007

The Aardvaark

Discovered an interesting web service today – ToonDoo 🙂 They allow you to create your own webcomic by dragging and dropping various components via a pretty easy to use web interface. What I came up with appears at the end of this post.

My cartoon is not a commentary on America or the Bush government or politics in general :p It’s actually about something which happened a couple of days ago in a mailing list I was on.

The thing is, I think that most people take that kind of behaviour for granted and don’t see the harm in it. We punish small children to stop them from doing something bad. Sometimes we spank them. We see nothing wrong. In fact, we’ll come up with all those old truisms like "spare the rod and spoil the child". But what are we actually teaching the kid? If we don’t explain things to them, then we are simply teaching them that it’s OK to physically intimidate somebody else.

And don’t get me started on how we carry on this kind of behaviour after we (supposedly) reach adulthood. I’ll let the cartoon speak on my behalf :p

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Posted by Fahim at 3:00 pm  |  3 Comments

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