Thursday, February 9, 2017

Artwork: Intensity

It is time that I put my life's intensity into my artwork. The last period of focus I had toward art was in early 2012, and the last time I took writing seriously is when I started talking to my fiancé, which is around three years ago. In the downtime, I jotted down a lot of lore ideas, sketched a lot of world maps, and drew concepts that were not worth sharing or were pornographic anatomy practice that shouldn't be posted publicly. Regardless, I have come a long way during my hiatus in the realm of overall competence, and I am getting ready to throw as much of my time into my preferred trade as possible. Too much preoccupation with brainstorming and world building... It means nothing if it never gets published.

My goal this year is to get my actual self on track mentally, physically, and monetarily so that I am enabled to take on the goals that matter and knock out any obstacles. It's going to mean a lot of studying, a lot of mistakes, and a lot of practice. I am pretty content with the studying part--it's most of what I do--but my life experience is low due to terrible social anxiety. I've jus got to stay trained on what matters to me and remind myself of that in the dire hours of depression or deviation.

For the visual arts, that means learning to draw a lot of mundane things in a beautiful way. The theme of my fictional world is "ancient." It's tribal, Neolithic, chalcolithic, classical, philosophical, natural, and down to earth. Shamanism plays an important role in the cultures. What that'll mean for my art:

1: I need to teach myself how to draw the things Neolithic and classical man would see on a daily basis:
     - Foods cultivated by ancient humans: Millet, wheat, barley, beans, peas, various seeds, rye, rice, squash, an assortment of fruits and nuts, etc.
     - Domesticated animals, livestock, and fish: Dogs, cats, horses, pigs, boars, yaks, llamas, camels, sheep, goats, cattle, chickens and other keepable birds, fish, and shellfish such as clams.
     - The people themselves, of course. There are a lot of different ethnicities between the two dominant races of mortalkind.
     - Common art and technology you would see around an "old world" civilization: various pottery, baskets, mud brick housing, dry stone walls, wattle-and-daub, pottery wheels, textile stands, querns, hunting traps, ploughs, irrigation, sluices, stone tablets, beads and like ornaments, anvils, plaster, old roads, dirt paths, ground stone tools, small boats, scrolls, pillars, weaponry and armor, bone tools, mortar and pestles, ovens, kilns, hearths, cooking pits, potsherds, ropes, clay figurines, lost wax castings, and more.
     - Fabrics and clothing that is period accurate, materials including linen, burlap, cotton, wool felt, leather, and hide. 
     - Instruments and shaman drums.

Relevant things I've drawn so far:

2: I need to teach myself how to draw the raw beauty of nature in a comic format (minimal lines, real coloring, lighting, and shading) such as:
     - All manner of trees and plants.
     - A wide variety of wild animals.
     - How to draw convincing water in varying sizes and shapes, as well as waterfalls.
     - How to convey seasons, including the positioning of the sun per hemisphere.
     - An emphasis on dynamic weather and skies, realistic clouds and coloring, and amazing weather, including tornados, which occur in the main series and will mean something to Mehega.

Relevant things I've drawn so far:

3: I must figure out what my style is. This has given me the most trouble.
     - Where do I use lines and where do I use a more painterly effect?
     - What type of eyes will they have? I avoid anime. Will they be realistic, or a bit more toony?
     - How can I make my trolls look adequately brutish and bestial?

Relevant drawings so far:

I sketched this Egyptian tomb carving to see what she might look like as 'a proportion style.' Could be interesting. Real enough, but also toon.

* I have a few rules already established style-wise. 
     - The world is the main character and is supposed to reflect the majesty of Earth. I want panel structure that dwarfs the main characters implemented, to showcase how small their problems and feats are in the scheme of the natural world. I also want random panels in between-scene segues to feature local vegetation or wildlife, or the sky or the current state of the weather, because it's a vacation from the eyes and supports my first point.
     - I want colors to appear exactly as they would be, not filtered through the lens of color theory. I want lighting and color choice to be as close to Earthlike as possible.
     - Weather is not to be used as a tool to control the mood of the reader. That is predictable and unrealistic. A pleasant scene can happen in the rain, and a tragic one can happen in the sun.

4: As for the written arts:
     - I need to start keeping word lists again with vocabulary I'd like to implement.
     - I need to write more, obviously.
     - I certainly need to read more.
     - I'd like to start documenting ways that people use to describe things when they intrigue me, like the way an author describes someone's laugh.

Honestly, I should add "straighten out your blog" to that list. It's so disorganized from when I ported them all into one blog.

5: As far as World Building goes:
     - I need to settle on a world map build.
     - I need to establish watersheds so I can plot city origination, collapse, and reformation.
     - I have a lot of city-states to name and design. (Exciting!)
     - I need to figure out how to pull off grand architecture in classic times.
     - I need to keep developing Golboren and make an effort to flesh one of the other languages.
     - A lot of cultures need repositioning on the map.
     - Resources need distributed once the map is settled.
     - What fantasy elements set the world apart from Earth? There are Gods (or are there) and there is alchemy, at the moment. There are one or two characters that rely on magic, and the system is so uncertain right now that I cannot write about them yet.

That's the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more to study for the sake of realism, and a lot more to design before the realm is established enough to be published. (I do not like the idea of retconning because I didn't get it right to begin with.)

I do have some projects on queue, though. Right now, my drawing is focused on general "art student" practices using picture references. I'm getting a feel for a new art program, FireAlpaca, and learning how to make textures with its brushes, which is fun and promises (albeit frustrating when I can't pull something off.) Picking out things to draw is the tricky part right now, although I'm trying to follow my guidelines under #1 up there.

I have two series started short story-wise, but I'm rewriting one with better technique and I'd like to see the other as a comic instead. The bigger project, separate from those two, isn't a linear series, but a collection of journals penned by the holy roaming scholars of the Vaults of Akran, who travel and document studies of the world and its people. There will be some very mysterious and surprising entries along the way that will raise questions that won't be answered until the actual series are written.

I have an entirely different project, too, that I've been bouncing around in my mind. I'd like to revive a set of stories I'd penned in 4th and 5th grades about a bunch of cats that have a variety of elemental powers in a hidden magical world. It was called "Element Cats" (lol right?) This would be a comic series for fun, and it would definitely be on the cartoon side of the spectrum, bright toony colors and big eyes and whatnot.

Anyway, I'd better get to work on something, no matter how small. I still haven't figured out what I'm drawing next.

Monday, January 11, 2016

VG Diaries: Black Metal Dragonborn

So, Skyrim looks like Norway and other mountainous regions of Scandinavia. If there was any doubt about that, one could always speak to a Nord and listen to their accent or turn their gaze to the carved woodwork and other design traits dominating their architecture. I've spent around 500 hours travelling the harsh, unforgiving wilds of Skyrim, where one can find the burned remnants of a family and their household around one corner, and a body desecrated by the bloody rituals of a necromancer around the next. Constantly fearing death by fire or some other element from above, one starts to wonder: What would make the perfect dragonborn?

I contimplated this matter for many playthroughs, finally coming to a conclusion: he or she must be the most metal son of a bitch to ever grace Tamriel. Not just any metal, either, but the deepest and blackest of all metals. The kind where no song on the album is shorter than ten minutes long; the kind riddled with intermissions of the cold ambient sounds of wilderness to nip at your eardrums.

I dropped my current save and started a new one. At first, I tried layering black face paint over an albino white Nord. It was just the vanilla face paints, which I decided wasn't enough. I quickly found a mod for corpse paint, which is amazing by the way, and got to work. I present to you now: my perfect Dovahkiin:


A warrior forged in the frozen depths of the Tundra in the dead of night, his magic as cold as the black ice that runs through his veins. That is a face no mother could love, and a face that could love no mother. His only friends are ice wraiths and barren wastelands. His name... Tartar Sauce, because he makes me think of grumpy cat. 

I've honestly never completed the storyline of Skyrim myself. I've watched my family beat the main quest plenty, so I know the lore, mind you. I've almost beaten it myself before discarding my character for a new one... after that, I dreaded the Thalmor embassy crap enough that I steered clear of the main quest. Couldn't be assed... This time, though, I will do ALL QUESTS, including the guild that I've not even begun before, the Dark Brotherhood. (Sorry, wasn't interested... I'm still not, really. I'm a huge Morag Tong fan, just to put that out there.)

No one controls Tartar Sauce. No one.

If I get any more decent pictures along the way, or do anything noteworthy, like accidentally setting a church on fire with my voice, I'll keep you posted. Honestly, I think I will be making this guy a traditional character of mine and start making him in as many games as I can... but only if convincing corpse paint can be found.

Now if only someone would mod that cat into the game for his companion. Or, perhaps, Fadades...

(Seriously... watch it until the 1:30-1:35 scene. It's life changing.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bacon Wings and Science Tuesday

Technically, it was last night, and I'm just now posting it, but anyway:

I'm all about mods to diversify and improve the flora and fauna of Skyrim, such as: Improved Fish, Harvestable Elves Ears and Frost Mirriam, Harvest Overhaul, skyBirds, Birds of Skyrim, and so on.

One of the bird mods that I have has added a lot more hawks in a lot more regions... especially Solitude. Solitude has so many birds that it seriously needs its own weather effect, replacing rain with a flurry of bird poop bombs. It's fantastic for hunting hawk parts, however, so every time I pass through, I try to shoot a few down. Usually, that's fine and dandy and nothing goes wrong, but last night, I fired an arrow into a hawk and hit the magic button that turned its wings into bacon.

It was amazing. It made a bacon bridge from the point in the sky where the hawk was shot to the place where it would have landed had it fallen like a normal bird would. It kind of just teleported to the road.

What made this even more amazing (and sadly, even though I thought about stopping to record this event, I didn't) was that, when I pressed and held the E button to drag the corpse, the wing literally retracted like releasing tension on a rubber band. It shot the bird corpse into oblivion (well, way out into the Sea of Ghosts anyway.) It was the most glorious slingshot ever... I only wish I had looted the corpse first.


In other news, I had a real life glitch occur a moment ago... I filled the ice trays with water and put them in the freezer. About an hour later, I opened it to get out some of the already-made ice to cool off my coffee and, lo and behold, I found this little arctic boner:

I ran across the entire house to grab my ipad so I could get pictures of it. My future sister-in-law has just informed me via facebook that "apparently, this is a thing." They're called Ice Spikes! I like my name better... but there is a science behind how they form. I had imagined it'd be something like this, but apparently it's super rare for ordinary tap water to make these. Typically, people pouring distilled water into ice trays get them in abundance, but tap water almost never yields them. I feel special!

Here's a link to the article she sent me, it's really cool! Bad pun is bad!!


~ M.D. Hammond~

Friday, December 4, 2015

VG Diaries: Skyrim Memories pt. 1, Army of Ulfric

I've recently taken to playing TESV: Skyrim again. It's probably something about the season--not long ago was November 11th, which was the game's fourth anniversary. Shane's gotten into it, too; he had the game, but hadn't invested any time into playing it beyond getting out of Helgen keep. Now, we've both modded up the graphics and tweaked it to our liking, and loaded up with all of the DLCs that we were missing. (He sent Dragonborn to me with a gift message in steam reading Fus Ro MUAH!) ... I love my life.

A magical shot of aurora/revontulet from Skyrim.

Anyway, getting into it has brought back all of the good and bad memories from the first year of its release.  I decided I would share a few of the good stories from my various encounters, the kind of stuff that not everybody necessarily encounters (so not 'the first time I entered Markarth' or 'that time I found an old orc by the side of the road.') This is the absolute essential 'first story' that I had to share... The day fifty Ulfrics killed a dragon.

So we all know Ulfric Stormcloak. That iconic voice, that regal get up and dramatic storyline and all of that. If you didn't go to Windhelm or do either side of the civil war etc. then you will still at least know him from the beginning sequence in Helgen as the dude that was gagged. Anyway, my cousin was over and we were really playing with the console codes for the first time. We did the whole 'summon 100+ dragons outside of Whiterun' kind of stuff to see what my computer could handle and bring about the apocalypse. Thankfully I kept a few pictures from that... look at that evil bastard in the background.

But after that, we ran up to the top of the mountain east of the city where the word wall and dragon priest rests. For SOME reason, divines only know, we entered the snowy clearing and decided 'hey, let's summon Ulfric.'  So yeah, there's an Ulfric standing on this random ass mountain top in the snow. It wasn't interesting enough, apparently, because we summoned like fifty more Ulfrics to join him. As they're all looking around and telling our player 'yes?' over and over again, the dragon, who was in a sleepy stupor over on the word wall, decides the stench of human is too strong and must be annihilated.

Then the most glorious, thunderous moments of skyrim audio history happened. Did I get a picture of it? No. I didn't get a video either, and I am so, so sorry that I didn't, because it was amazing. The dragon begins its death spiral above, roaring and swirling in a circle, and fifty Ulfrics craned their heads up and, standing loose and casual with no weapons drawn, all let forth a mighty 'FUS RO DAH.'

No clue what it looked like when it hit the dragon. We were laughing our asses off. I still laugh my ass off trying to tell this story to anyone who will listen. It totally did piss off the dragon though, who landed and enraged the Ulfric Army.

Predictably enough with all the racket going down, the dragon priest knocked off the lid of his coffin and joined the fray. Hell no, I wasn't going to lift a finger to help... They downed the dragon, I took its soul, and off to the races they went, charging perilously the tattered lich on the mountainside.

I'm pretty sure they blew him off the face of the mountain.

When the battle was done, they all wandered about, chillin' like this sort of affair goes down on the daily.

We rounded out this misadventure with a tribute to the gods, spawning and killing Nazeem. It's for good measure...  come on he's the adoring fan of this game. We buried him in the snow like a cat covers its poop and made off into the sunset. (And by that I mean he spawned half in the ground so we ran with it.)


We summoned Byrnjolf too, apparently...

Anyway, thanks for listening to one of my favorite Skyrim stories of all time. Next time, I'll indulge you in my tumultuous marriage to Farengar--yes, Farengar, Balgruuf's court wizard from Whiterun. I know, I know, what could possibly go wrong with that.

Until next time, keep calm, game on, all that.

And please, I encourage you!! Share some of your favorite Skyrim (or even other games in the elder scrolls series) stories! I'm dying to hear them!!!

~~~~ M. D. Hammond ~~~~

Thursday, December 3, 2015

2015 Early Easter

Early Easter at Mamaw's, Royal, Arkansas 

April 5th, 2015

I got a message out of nowhere one weekend letting me know that Shane's mom and Mamaw were hosting an early Easter get together at their house out in Royal. With a firm, stolid nod, I grabbed the closest thing to an Easter patterned flannel I could find and equiped it with the confidence of a thousand fresh fiances who've scarcely been around their partner's side of the family. We hit the road as soon as Shane got home, cameras in hand.

When we arrived, the sun was just about to go behind the treeline. My soon-to-be sister-in-law and mother-in-law were out back with the kids of the family, rounding up the last of the egg hunting. His mom and mamaw are avid landscapers, and their backyard is one big patch of land with many little garden patches and planted trees! And they were all in bloom! 

We got a lot of family pictures of course, but you're here for the nature bit, so suffer one picture of us before we get started! 

Now, on to the fun part! After eating a delicious selection of holiday morsels, we got some hype going to take the kids down to the creek behind the backyard. The first time Shane took me down there (during Christmas) we'd found the most awe-inspiring, massive collection of oyster mushrooms that I've ever had the privilege of seeing. It was spectacular. They were growing on fallen decaying trees that had been felled when a tornado came across their backyard, and since the trees were huge and difficult to clear, they sat around for months and the rich rot gave birth to some beauties.

Sadly, though, the timber had been carted out, taking the likely shriveled, out of season oysters with them. I still had hopes that there would be something worth seeing though, so with kids in tow, we headed through the backyard and down the slope to the bank of the creek.

That is us climbing down the slope. ... Just kidding, we climbed up there for a flower. For real though, as soon as we got to the bottom of the path, I was finding all sorts of things worth cataloging:

Me (Matt) finding a patch of buckeye.

One of the kids joked about the trip becoming a nature documentary, so of course, I obliged and ran with it, rambling about buckeye saplings and how keeping a nut in your pocket from the buckeye is good luck. We were just in time (seasonally) to catch them in perfect bloom, and they had some lovely flowers on them. 

~ M.D. Hammond ~

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Music Discovery: Old Blind Dogs

Old Blind Dogs, Celtic Folk from Scotland

Hello, all. Welcome to another entry in my humble music domain... I've been slacking, but, I've been busy with a lot of things. The love o' my life and I made our status as soul mates official and I've been trying to get the ball rolling in the realms of academia. Anyway, I'm here and writing at the moment, so let me get to this! Thanks to Pandora's generic 'Celtic Folk' station in the 'world' section of genres, today I've come to know this spiffing band by the name of Old Blind Dogs. Getting right to how amazing their sound is, here is the track 'Lough Erne's Shore' from the album Where Yet May Be. The man doing vocals takes the cake for having one of the most ideal 'sharp and sexy' voices I've heard in the genre.

This also takes the cake as one of the coolest album art photos.

This gifted ensemble owes its origin to the great highlands of Scotland. In fact, unlike the vast majority of Celtic bands, they sing many of the tunes and tales of the northeastern regions of Scotland in a dialect native to the Aberdeen area (called 'Doric'.) They've sadly went through members like toilet paper over the years, leaving singer Jonny Hardie as the only founding member still around. Can't say it's harmed their sound AT ALL so far. I've only heard the two albums pictured above, granted, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be exploring the rest. Here is a song from the other album I've had the privilege of hearing (also the one that pandora used to lure me into sampling more from this band.) This is The Cruel Sister from the album Close to the Bone:

That song is so haunting that it makes my skin crawl... but it is such a desirable and poetic motion. The subject matter reminds me of some Finnish tales in some ways... namely making the harp from the bone of her breast. Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this entry in this log (which has faced a wee bit of neglect recently.) I do plan to catch up when I have time, however, so stay tuned in and, for now, have some belated TREATS! (This was posted two after Halloween for future viewers.)


It doesn't seem like they have an official facebook... sorry. Good organized band site, though.

I'll leave you for now, but remember as you go forth and forge the stories of your life to set aside the time to live and love, and, lastly, (but not at all leastly,) never forget your roots.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2014 Roundup of Pics from Mom's Yard (+Vid)

Anyone who knows me could probably also tell you that I'm a super nature geek. Mycology and Geology are strong contenders on my list of potential college majors. Sometimes, wherever I am, I like to go outside with just my camera and rummage around to see what I can't dig up to snap pictures of. In October, I took a lot of pictures in mom's yard this way, and I have no idea when each batch was dated. A lot are from the 22nd, thus the chosen backdate. Here are the noteworthy finds, nevertheless, in no particular order:

This was snapped on a tree at the corner of her house. Still unsure of what kind of tree this is, I took a snapshot of one of the leaves. It was dicot and the leaves seemed to be springing forth out of strange bulbs. I'm unfamiliar with this.

A beautiful specimen of a Lynx spider was found on the top of a tall dead weed. She was poised over an egg sack and had recently caught and eaten what looked like a dragonfly. Lower down the stalk of the weed was a caught moth. I believe she is a green lynx variety, despite her brown appearance, but could also be common lynx.

The picture at the beginning of this blog entry is a close up shot of this spider.

Goldenrod flowers were still going strong. There was an entire stand of them on one side of the house. This wasp (who I named Dave) was one of many buzzing bugs that were presumably feeding on the flowers.

I don't know of these are, in fact, daisies, but they look a lot like them. What throws me off is that they were growing down from the bush and tree at the corner like a draping vine. Do daisies do that?

These are the berries on the tree in mom's yard... which I thought was a cherry dogwood, but now that I'm googling/wikipedia-ing it, it seems I was wrong... I have no idea what this is.

These chains of berries, often confused with the Elderberry plant, are not to be eaten and prove fairly toxic. These are the berries of the full grown Pokeweed shrub. The only household use for a plant this old--that I know of--is that you can gather the berries and boil them into a pretty purple dye.

This is a Green Lynx Spider. Contrasting the one posted earlier, this one is bright grass green. She was found on the same side of the house as the goldenrod stands. Farther down the wall was another almost identical to her whose egg had already matured and hatched. Look for a video of her and her babies at the end of this post!

These may look like tomatoes or similar gourds, but these are not to be eaten. These are juvenile fruits on a Horsenettle plant, named due to the rashes Horses break out in when they give into these plants. These berries can cause great harm to humans.

This little guy is the common Buckeye Butterfly. Its wing was damaged, but it could still fly. I felt pretty blessed and lucky to have gotten to hold it long enough to take multiple pictures of it.

 This BEAUTIFUL pupa was on the side of the house with the green lynx spiders. I have no idea what it is despite trying to figure it out for hours. Any ideas are welcome.

This nasty, testicular looking thing is the egg sac of the common Garden Spider. Talk about ugly duckling syndrome.

Speaking of, this is a common Garden Spider. People love to take pictures of these, so you've probably seen them. If you get to close or blow on them, they'll rock their web back and forth in an intimidating fashion. I named this one Emelia.

There was a bed of wild strawberries under the giant pokeweed shrubs, but this one was alone in the front of the yard. Turns out, turtles love these.

Lastly, there was this (big) little guy. I'm not good with ants, but this guy was surprisingly well formed and pretty as well as somewhat large. How cool!

Needless to say, it was a bountiful year. This is only the tip of the ice berg, though. I'll be posting the hikes and trips soon, which will be full of more natural nuggets.  (I'm posting this at the end of the year and backdating it for archival purposes.) Here is that video I took of the Green Lynx Spider and her babies. Bear with it, it was super windy that day so it starts out unsteady.