On Braid

[Playing Braid tends to put me in a rather reflective mood. As I was writing today's journal entry (yes, I keep a journal, so what?) the following paragraphs somehow appeared. I'm sure this has all been discussed ad nauseum, I'd just like to present my rough thoughts on a truly spectacular game.]

Having played through the game again, I’ve given myself an opportunity to expand my interpretation of the source material. There are people who devote their entire lives to uncovering the secrets of nature and the universe. These people face enormous difficulties.  Opposition from society, limitations of technology, parochial upbringings; all impede those with wandering minds from progressing the corpus of human knowledge.

Society is often conservative, refusing to adopt new ideas and ways of doing things lest doing so destroy its very binding agents. Throughout human history, there have been many different societal obstacles: religion, politics, war, even things like famine and economic depression. Society is nurturing, true, but it holds ambitious minds back. Not every new theory or invention has benefitted society. Think of the nuclear bomb, evolution, gun powder; each – while certainly flagging a new era in human thought and ingenuity – disrupted a distinct way of life.

We create and invent, but doing so is often harmful to our present existence. No one should ever expect their creative work to keep society as it is, to play into conservative values. Change happens on its own, gradually, but a truly great discovery can force an abrupt paradigm shift, perhaps even with violent consequences.

We flirt with disaster. The farther along our technology develops, the more ground-shattering our discoveries become, we put our existence at greater risk. Our mistakes cannot be taken back, and society has learnt from past disasters to be wary of boldness.


Newsletter: December 28, 2011

Yo.

So, I ended up dropping out of the Law Clerk program at St. Lawrence College. That was few months ago now. It’s all a bit of a blur, but I’m now back at Queen’s, enrolled in a post-degree education, with hopes of getting into a master’s program in a year’s time.

There’s not a much more to say. I’ve done literally nothing with my time since The Event.

Hope all’s well, expect a new page in the first half of January.

MJ


Newsletter: September 25, 2011

Hi everyone.

I’m writing this post to bring you up to date on my comics’ hiatus. Basically, I can’t even get myself to open a sketchbook; enthusiasm and inspiration seem to have abandoned me. While I’m certain my current academic situation has much to do with this lack of creativity, we’ve all had enough experience with this sort of thing by now to know that the drawing will resume whenever it damn well feels like it. I’m sure you understand how frustrating this is for me.

For anyone wondering, the Law Clerk program at St. Lawrence College is… swell. To be fair, my teachers all seem to be quite knowledgeable, and my peers are exceedingly friendly. The subject matter, however, and the pace of learning make me wish I had never applied for admission. In hindsight, I should have stayed at Queen’s for another year to pick up additional Greek and Latin credits, in an attempt at rendering my degree useful. Useful is obviously a relative term here.

While I acknowledge this to be a near-universal problem for people my age, I still have no idea what I want to do for a living. I do, however, have a lengthy list of occupations I wish to avoid; lawyer, paralegal, law clerk are chief among the undesirables. Why, then, am I enrolled in just such a program? I’m split between wanting to risk stability in the pursuit of my interests, and wanting to live in quiet security. I experience too much aggravation because of my indecision to be healthy.

I want out, but my lack of options compels me to stay.

MJ


Some things…

As I mentioned earlier, I’m going home. Won’t be back for a few months, so I can’t guarantee any updates for the remainder of the summer. I’ll try, though. The situation is actually a bit rosier than it was the last time I posted: I finally got Painter 11 working on my Vaio, so I now have absolutely NO excuse for sticking with the Mac mini (which is fine by me).

It’s kind of funny. It’s the same program, but switching to a new operating system (and, more importantly, from a computer that doesn’t even meet the minimum requirements) has revealed some… quirks. I’ve read a lot of complaints from Corel users that this program wasn’t a complete re-build, but rather a layering of new-on-old; the Windows Vista of creativity software. Sometimes it can seem a bit threadbare, but it’s definitely a killer tool, and I’m excited to see it in all its glory. (I haven’t looked at Painter 12 yet. Out of my price-range.)

The first thing I did after getting it to work was create a new document at an outrageous size! You have to understand that anything over 1600X1200 would crash the Mini if it had more than two layers, so this was a big step. A scary step. A step that made me realize my entire workflow would have to be adapted. Suddenly, a pencil with a 5px tip seemed silly; working at 100% zoom, impossible. I’m a little worried.

Also, again I foolishly thought that a step up in software/hardware would automatically make me a better digital artist. I don’t know why I keep jumping to this conclusion… it’s been repeatedly and thoroughly disproved. Thankfully, the moral of the story takes less-and-less time to sink in with each telling. Soon, it will be as if I’ve actually LEARNT a lesson! Until then, however, I sit – a little depressed – staring blankly at the empty sketchbook on my desk.

I don’ wanna do the job correctly! I don’ wanna develop a meticulous process! I don’ wanna devote hours to my artistic betterment! …but I will. And soon.

This is important: I’ve been sober for two months, and I’ve stopped playing video games entirely. I’d get into the reasons why, but I think we’ll all be on better terms if I don’t. It’s the result that matters. Not only am I forced by boredom to practise, but I’m also able to think for myself, clearly, for the first time since year one of university. You haven’t seen a positive outcome from this new lifestyle yet, and I’m more-than-willing to let the skeptics be skeptical, but know that I am changing the way I do things.

For now, the biggest challenge is to keep my ideas simple and light. I love being able to do my sketchwork on paper, but it’s very hard to keep things contained; what starts as a comic turns into a dozen faces with varying expressions. I suppose focus will come with writing, and writing will come with new experiences and conversations… but at the moment, I’m a little bit stuck.

With Spartachick, the problem is that I see a dozen spectacular destinations for the story’s train, but haven’t the faintest idea of how to move along the tracks. It currently feels as if I’m in the Mojave desert, crawling alongside the iron, with the midday sun o’erhead. There’s a more efficient way of writing, one that should be obvious to me, but I’m just not seeing it.

Meanwhile, at Felix Marcus, I have nothing to write. No destinations. I see that poor sucker from Spartachick languishing beside some old train tracks, and can say – with relative certainty – that I’m glad I’m not in the same situation (and will do whatever I can to avoid such a fate). I guess, keeping with the metaphor, Felix Marcus is a dirt farmer who lives in a tiny shack. You can hear him holler: “I don’t take kindly to strangers! Won’t be no parties hereabouts! Can’t have no excitment, less’n it goes away as quickly as it showed up!”

Spartachick’s dreaming of far-off adventures, and Felix Marcus is clinging to the simple life, scared of anything that might take up more than three panels. In the distance, the residents of a dusty little town called Middleground shake their heads in confusion. Here, three-page story-arcs flourish, and new pilgrims take their time to create their own “spectacular destination.”

….annnnd now I want to draw a western comic. Great.

MJ


Sketching!

Hi all.

I’ve been having some motivational problems lately, which is to say my brief stint of NOT having motivational problems has officially come to its conclusion. This cycle of productivity/drought has become a determining feature of my personality’s artistic side. I draw for a bit, get frustrated when I don’t see improvement, get moody, stop drawing, get moodier, try drawing again, get even more frustrated, break something, then disappear for a few months.

In the past, this prorogation of productive prowess proved particularly painful (alliteration makes me every-so-happy). I would doodle aimlessly in notebooks, searching for inspiration, and miraculously stumble upon a gem of simplistic efficiency. To recapture the natural flow of the sketchwork digitally almost always proved impossible, irritating my impatient mind. But no longer!

Yes, the mighty scanner has saved me from the spiral path of self-destructive anger! I can now, in all my depressed splendour, sit slumped at my desk, scribbling listlessly, without fear of losing accidental perfection. You see, I am not an artist. I enjoy drawing, and I love to share my work with others, but I will never be able to dedicate the amount of time required to become proficient. For me, being able to efficiently convey a message or feeling is all that really matters. Everything I do will be basic, obvious, and small; my characters will always be cartoons, my backgrounds will always be flat.

Y’know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve always been one to push self-improvement, to aim too high… to move on to the future without fully understanding the present. Very impatient. I see what others are doing, and immediately want to create the same thing. While I’m sure that drive can be counted as a virtue, it’s been my downfall too many times. Stagnation, however, is just as bad as rushed progress. So, while I’m sketching, I’ve got to constantly remind myself to take baby steps. Yes, I can improve. Yes, I can diversify my style. Yes, I can become a better artist… I just have to take my time!

MJ