Jun 29, 2011

Happy Hooves

In an earlier post I said that indie games were now the main creative thread I had going in my life, not the only thread. One of the other things I have been doing is these little comic strips for the the guy who helps us look after our horse's feet. He (Peter) is kind of like the Caesar Millan of horses, he arrives to find people thinking there is a problem with their horse, but time after time its the people who need to change and learn a bit about horse psychology and physiology.

So this deal where I do some strips that he can use on his CDs and web site in return for his help with us learning how to be horse owners fits in perfectly with my new life philosophy. I've also quite enjoyed getting to know Peter, I don't think he'd mind me describing him as a wise old dog. Conversations with him are always intellectually nourishing, he is all about understanding what's around you and working with it instead of jamming our clumsy human ways into every situation. Its how I want to live my whole life.

I'll put some thoughts about the strips at the end of the post.

Click on images to enlarge.

image name

image name

image name

image name

image name

image name

I used to draw this kind of thing all the time when I was younger, before I knew how to animate. I grew up a big fan of comics like Snake and Swamp, so this was/is kind of a fun trip back to some earlier influences.

As far as the process goes I think the main difference here is that it was the relationship between each of these characters that became clearest first, I think I usually try to define a whole bunch of specifics about any ongoing characters. But here it was more who understood who on what level that I was thinking about and from there they almost seem to write themselves. I'm not saying its a better way, just something a bit different for me, and I think I'd have to say its been easier too.

I suppose you could get the impression that I've been very productive, but these were produced over a period of months :P

Jun 26, 2011


Here's the thing, I think you can tell the design of something is good when over time its design becomes its brand. Or if the design stands the test of time (Poetry!)

You know all those things on the shelf at the department store, the ones that get re-jigged every few months, new colours, rounded corners, shiny, pointy corners, stainless steal, new colours again, stripes! All rubbish, all temporary, all bad for the environment, all unsatisfying in the long term.

The problem is we get this little hit of endorphins every time we experience something new, its a hangover from a time when new stuff was rare in the life of a human and needed to be grabbed at all costs. But of course we are bombarded with the possibility of new stuff now, and our quest to have more all the time is at the core of most of the worlds problems.

If I am designed to crave new things and my new life isn't going to allow for me to have many then I am determined to crave something that will last, something useful. KitchenAid mixers have looked and worked the same for about 60 years from what I can tell. The look of the mixer has become a symbol of its quality. The design doesn't need updating because it already works so well. People talk of having and using them regularly for decades. Mmmmmmmm decades.

Vintage Kitchenaid K45 Mixer Nice Cheap Kitchen Gift

What an achievement, can you think of any other products that still look like they did in the 60's?

This relationship between old tested designs and the human need for the new relates to the game I'm working on too. Its an established format for a game, but I feel the need to squeeze some new ideas in there somewhere. But that's for another post.

Jun 23, 2011

I Have Peers!?!

Several friends of mine who also came tumbling out of the games industry in recent months have also started blogs. Its like we are all sprawling out into the countryside after veering off the free-way and using blogs to keep in touch. Both Boon and Iain are perhaps more focused on creative issues with their blogs than I am, I must admit if makes me feel a little self conscious about all the self indulgent things I am including. But for now I will stick to my guns, I'm trying not to meet any criteria with this blog, its just what's on my mind.

I love reading their blogs and find it comforting to know I'm not alone.

Jun 5, 2011

The New Economy

So as mentioned earlier I've been exploring ways to save money around the house. I don't want this to be a recipe blog, I'm about the principles and practicalities, but I'll put some links to the best sites I've found for that sort of thing at the end.

I want to stress that there is a trade for all this stuff, its time. I find that time is the commodity I have most of at the moment so all this stuff suits me, I totally understand that if you're full time working it might not be practical for you. There is nothing revolutionary here, you can pick and choose, or slowly build them up, I certainly didn't do all this in one fell swoop and I'm not finished yet. :)

Ok so here are the main areas where I'm saving the most money:

  • Make some of your own cleaning and personal hygiene products.

    Vinegar, Bicarb Soda, Borax and Soda Crystals are amazing and cost bugger all. At the moment they are used around my house in various combinations to replace kitchen bench cleaner, floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner, dishwasher powder, dog shampoo, my shampoo, deodorant, liquid hand wash, laundry liquid and fabric softener. This is by far the biggest money saver I've discovered, I'd estimate I've cut our spending in this area back to less than 10% of what it once was. Its weird going to the shops now and seeing all that stuff on the shelves that irrelevant to my life. :P

    In most cases using these products won't require a compromise in quality. Vinegar for example is a natural disinfectant, but it can sometimes take a while to find the right combination or mean getting used to a slight difference. Vinegar smells when you first spray it around, but 15 mins later its clean and the smell is gone.

    In some cases there is an improvement, 3 table spoons of bicarb dissolved in a saucepan of water brought up to the boil, then placed in a spray bottle makes for an amazing deodorant, I can work hard and get covered in sweat in the garden and still not smell, plus it cost about 20 cents!

    I avoid recipes with ammonia, it may be cheep but can do nasty things when mixed with other chemicals.

  • Stock up on non perishable stuff.

    A simple principle, if you see a canned food, toilet paper or cooking ingredients that will keep a long time on special (a good special) then buy a lot of it. I mean lots. Then when you get half way or more through the stock ad the item to your 'if on special' shopping list. The ideal is that you reach a point where you have so much stocked up that you only ever buy these kinds of products when they are on special, effectively achieving a permanent reduction in price. Look for bulk purchases too, often the big bag of rice is still cheaper than the small bag on special. If you have a good freezer then bulk meat can work the same way, most butchers are willing negotiate a better price if you buy more.

    Oh and one little tip, don't stock up on things you can't resist, if you just end up consuming it faster then it defeats the purpose. :)

  • Second hand can be better, if not then find a speciality store.

    They just don't make stuff like they used to, almost anything bought from the big department stores is made cheaply and wont last (and often in environmentaly irresponsible or unethical ways). I say 'almost' just to cover my ass, but really I'm not aware of a single thing they sell that actually represents good value in the long term. Clothing, bedding and kitchen utensils that have stood the test of time can often come from places like Vinies and the Salvos, my parents are great at finding stuff for me at garage sales (a practice I plan to start after we move), and if you can't find what you need then find a shop or industry stockist that specialises, where you can talk to someone who knows the product and will get you something to last. I have a 2 year old fry pan that looks as good as the day I bought it, it cost more but should last me well over a decade, my favourite jacket at the moment cost me 8 bucks at Vinies.

  • Baking and cooking.

    This is my new passion, I bake snacks, sweets, deserts and best of all bread. I buy 10kg bags of flour and we haven't bought bread in months, pulling a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven is 100% guaranteed to put a big smile on my face, there is something primal about it, its a truly wonderful feeling. Getting back to the finances, I can make a huge bowl of cheese crackers (about 3 supermarket boxes worth I'd guess) for less than 2 dollars, or for the same cost make the equivalent of about 6 boxes of muesli bars. Bread and butter pudding made with home made bread is sublime and cost you a couple of eggs and some milk on top of a few bread slices. That's another couple of aisles in the supermarket I can ignore :P

  • Still to come.
    I'm a bit restricted in the garden here because we are slowly getting this house ready for selling, but after we move I have plans for a grand vegie patch and some small livestock. The aim is self sufficiency for fruit and veg, eggs and maybe even milk and cheese. There will also be more preserving and drying of foods too.

So that's about it so far, its hard to capture the impact of the saving we have made without getting into specifics. I guess the proof is in the pudding. Vicki and I work one day a week each, and at the moment we are actually managing to save a little every week. Its probably worth noting that we don't pay rent or a mortgage and there are a few fancy electrical doodads I'm doing without. But I still think its mighty impressive.

Here are some great links for more info:
That's just a start, there is heaps out there so you might have to do some googling :)

Also if any readers (if I have any readers :P) have ideas on saving money I'd love to hear em :)

Jun 2, 2011

Clinging to the thread.

To get by these days I am teaching animation again, its something I did for a while earlier in my career so its kind of been like coming back home. Its only one day a week which makes the money tight, but at the same time I am actually not sure I could do much more anyway. The course I teach is run by two other awesome teachers, they are a delight to work with and I'm really lucky to have this to fall back on.

Teachers give out advice in spades, and most have a few extra special pearls of wisdom they keep for special occasions. This time around I've found one of my best pieces having relevance for myself, just with a slightly different context.

One of the hard facts animation students have to come to terms with is that no matter how good they are there might just not be a job around in Brisbane that is a good fit for them right away. So I often say that if there is going to be a time with no further study or paid creative work there is one thing they must do.... Keep Producing.

Once you stop, if there is a period of time where being creative stops being part of your routine then there is a good chance its over. People who manage to go on with it always seem to find something creative to keep working on.

Now I find this applies to me, if I stop now it might just be for good. The main little thread I am keeping alive, just enough to prevent that is some art for indie games I make with a coder friend. We have made two games together so far and now we are working on a dungeon based RPG. The art to create the world is all broken up into panels, its perfect for my current state of mind, I can take it one tile at a time and thanks to my understanding partner I can set my own pace. I thought I'd share a few of my favourite tiles so far, they may not be much to look at yet, but you have to imagine a whole world you can walk around in made up of this stuff :) Also some of these are animated, but I've only shown one frame here.