A while ago, I bought a Galileoscope. This is an incredibly inexpensive telescope, capable of magnifying an image 25 or 50 times (depending on how you assemble the eyepiece). It cost me about £10 including shipping.

I’ve not had all that much time to play with it so far, but it’s an amazing piece of kit. I’ve been using Stellarium, a great piece of free software to find out what’s best to view and when it’s in the sky. So far, I’ve seen the moons of Jupiter and I swear I made out some bands of cloud on the surface of Jupiter itself, along with a denser area where the red spot might have been. To my delight, I zoomed in on Jupiter in stellarium, and it turned out my observation was correct, not just imagination! I’d like the see the rings of Saturn, but you have to get up at 3 in the morning for that at the moment!

MCM Expo has been and gone, and it was most enjoyable! I spent most of my time behind the Avatar booth, which was a novel experience since I’m used to being on the other side of the tables at MCM.  It was lovely to chat with friends and fans alike! It was also interesting seeing the general reaction to Freakangels… I’d say for every one person who came up to either buy a copy, there were two or three who pointed at the stand and obviously recognised it. Many thanks to those who did pick up a copy!

Here’s a random sketch I did on the back of a poster that I ended up taking home. The diamond pattern was done in silver pen, which is why it looks gradiented in the light.

Just take a look at this image taken by HiRISE, currently orbiting Mars. Click the image for a much larger version.

This truly is stunning, and even more so once you know what caused it. The sand-dunes on Mars are mostly made up of heavy basalt particles which are the dark grey areas, over the top of which lies a fine dusting of red sand. Dust devils regularly roam the face of Mars, and when they do, they sweep up the fine red dust in their path, creating these beautifully intricate streaks, swirls and whorls of grey.
It’s well worth going through the rest of HiRISE’s images, they’ve even got a whole bunch of stunning stereoscopic images of the surface, so get your 3D glasses on if you’ve got any lying around! :D
Originally posted on Phil Plait’s blog, Bad Astronomy

It can be a daunting task to face the world and try to figure out any kind of universal truth from the storm of reality that greets you. It’s like looking out on a hurricane whose swirling winds are made up of countless images, voices, ideas, policies, religions, studies and proclamations, all of which bellow their unchanging truths, many of which contradict each other directly, clashing in an eternal struggle for dominance. THIS is the way, proclaims one religion, THAT is the truth states one scientist, THERE IS NO TRUTH say some people in reply, and it’s easy to sympathise with them in the face of this onslaught.

Those of you reading this as you face the hurricane will have your own approach to interpreting reality…

There will be readers with an established belief system, a religion, god or gods to look to for truth, a church, synagogue, mosque or brotherhood within which to shelter. If this is the case, you look about you and the world must still be tumultuous, but your faith probably helps you to organise the chaos into a coherent system of morals and a sense of personal direction.

Okay, I got hit by the power-hammer of work getting Freakangels Volume 3 finished, and my blog suffered. Perhaps in hindsight, now rather than back then would have been a better time to start writing, but what the hey, I’m done now and it all worked out fine! (just). Me and Kate did some uber-scheduling and managed to hit the deadline on the dot, which means it’ll definitely be avaialble in plenty at the MCM Expo.

News from the publisher is that it’s been through the printing press now and is looking great! I’m excited to see this one, I’ve learnt a lot about both drawing for the web and for print since starting Freakangels, so I’m hoping this Volume will stand out from the other two in terms of quality.

Only a week to go until Freakangels Volume three is finished. I’ve been working overtime to get it done since I started this blog, so my ability to update regularly has been pretty minimal. I’ve got a bit list of ideas for blog posts, but no time to do them justice!

So, just so there’s something up here, here’s a heads up that at this October’s MCM Expo, my publisher Avatar Press will be making their first appearance at an English convention in order to debut Freakangels Volume 3. The book is being rushed to press to get it ready on time, so I imagine that the con will be the very first time it’s available.

Avatar’s booths are always pretty stunning, so it should be well worth the trip. They’ve got a big selection of books, and all three editions of all three volumes of Freakangels will be available in plenty! I know they’ve been hard to get hold of over here, so this is the best chance for anyone who has been finding it hard. Here are a few pics of Avatar’s booths at American cons, including me pulling a silly face whilst signing stacks and stacks of signature plates for the special edition hardbacks.

I’ve recently started reading “the richness of life”, a collection of essays by Stephen Jay Gould, who (before he died) was a popular science writer, and a specialist in zoology, geography and natural history.
It’s taken me a while to get into, since in a stroke of confusing genius the editor of the book decided to open it with several essays on statistics (a subject by which I’m fascinated) that used extensive baseball analogies (a sport about which I know next to nothing). After having slogged through them in constantly slight confusion, I’m now finding it an absorbing read.One particular essay, “worm for a century, and all seasons” sucked me in completely as it documented Darwin’s last book, a treatise on earthworms of all things! According to Gould’s essay, Darwin’s detractors often criticised him for the triviality of his chosen subjects, but what they failed to realise was that the choice of such a humble subject was deliberate, and demonstrated a powerful principle.Darwin shows that the leaf mold we’re used to seeing on the top of soil is almost entirely created by earthworms, (of which there were over 53,000 per acre where Darwin was gathering his evidence!). As they eat and excrete, rendering down new surface material, the previously created mold is compacted underneath, and slowly sinks, as new mold rises above it. You can follow the progress of a single stone as it sits on the surface, and then sinks into the soil over time (about an inch every 12 years), and the amazing thing is that this process is so uniformly constant, that the depth of currently un-compacted leaf mold barely changes, and the ground sinks in perfectly parallel layers.

This I assume is the reason that the time-team always found the archaeological evidence they were looking for a good way under the soil, and why they talked merrily about different bands of soil representing different eras. I always wondered what process made for such a convenient and confusing arrangement, and the answer is stunning… earthworms! It’s at once charming, absurd and a little creepy to think that vast armies of earthworms marching across time shape our hills and fields.

I’m starting to get excited about this year’s games day. It’s the first time I’ve been since I was a wee teenager, so I’m looking forward to appreciating the chance to see the creators and artists on a totally different level. Plus, the hobby has really grown since then.

So… I’m going to give Golden Demon a stab. I entered young bloods (the category for little uns) a few times and never made it past the first round. This time I’m being crazy enough to enter the open category. I’ve got no hope, but it’s a great challenge.
Here are some in-progress shots of the model I’m entering, a scratch-built inquisitor at inquisitor scale (the Cinderella mug is how I’m keeping the dust off between painting XD).

Style is an incredibly tricky thing to grasp. Especially when it’s your own. I find myself looking back on my older work and holding back a small gasp as I “see” for the first time what my style looks like to the eyes of independent observers. It’s a strange and incredible process that I’d love to know more about. Whatever it is literally changes what I look at whilst I draw it, and while the drawing is still fresh and my mind’s influence strong, it can look like one drawing to me, and another to someone else.

To my mind, my drawings look closer to what I intended straight after I’ve drawn them, but I wonder if there’s anyone else out there who has a different experience… the artistic equivalent to body dysmorphia?

So, disregarding the fact that I’m not 100% sure what my style actually looks looks like right now, I’m still not happy with it. It’s changed pretty drastically since I left uni, and even since I started Freakangels, but I’m forever searching for that perfect balance between detail and simplicity in the way that I compose the face. Something with enough plasticity to make for diverse character designs, whilst maintaining a characteristic look across the board. Something that feels and moves 3 dimensionally, whilst not being slavishly realistic. When it comes to the stylisation of face and body, my benchmark is the affect achieved when Satoshi Kon’s character designs are on screen. The drawings in the Paranoia Agent ending sequence make me weak in the knees:

So, as part of an attempt to “see” my style clearly and to push it further in the directions I want, I’ve taken to doing quick sketches referenced from the styles of artists and character designers I admire. My hope is that this will help my imaginative process as I come up with ways to stylise facial features, whilst providing a crucial part of any animator’s training that tends to be missing from most formal art education: copying. An incredibly underrated skill in my opinion – easy to begin doing, but far more tricky to properly understand and master, and I’m no where near there.

Here is a collection of some of the style sketches that I’ve been doing for a while.

These sketches also make for great warm-up exercises at the beginning of the day, but more on that another time, I want to write a full post on warming up later. I’ve been growing a bit slack with these lately, so hopefully writing this post will enthuse me to do a few more. Comments on how well I’ve matched original styles and what persistent mistakes I’ve been making would be most helpful!