The Summer Sun

Today was the hottest day of the year so far, and I’d almost forgotten what real heat felt like until today. I spent most of my lunch break sat in the sun almost paralyzed with how hot it was, but closed my eyes and tried to relax into the heat and create a memory of the moment – we may not have another day like this for a while, with rain and cloudy days forcast for the coming weeks. In the winter I often think to find it hard to remember how it feels stepping outside into the heat rather than into the cold, especially after the long winter we had this year.

Sunny days also bring with them oppurtunities for nice photos. Before I walked to work I thought I’d give my new phone’s camera a swing in the garden. Not too bad!

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Can A Website Feel Cozy?

As we advance through this age of technology, every year we find ourselves with two things that have entirely shaped web-design since the inception of the internet: higher screen resolutions, better internet speed. Visually, things that we take for granted today simply weren’t possible in the early days of the internet – images were few on a webpage, and those that were there had to be highly compressed. And while today screen you can get 4K screen resolutions on your phone (almost twice the number of pixels you have on your HD TV), when your target audience had 800×600 PC screens, you had barely any space to work with, let alone a widescreen.

Today? We have huge screen space (even if it is sized down on your phone) and the internet speed to instantly download high-quality images in seconds. The result is an era of web design that places imagery above content and user friendliness – and what’s aesthetics if it isn’t matched with functionality? I remember when Facebook first released their ‘cover photos’ and thinking it seemed bizzare that we now had to scroll further down to see the content we wanted for the sake of a nice, pretty picture. Today, it seems so standard we hardly notice it. Google’s own social network, the infamous Google+, release it’s own version of a cover photo in 2013 that literally took up the entire screen before you could access any content. A hilarious failure when users rarely even had access to photos with the resolution they were asking (2120 pixels, in comparison to Facebook’s 851 pixels), it resulted in an annoying and hardly-utilized feature that was abandoned by the end of the year. Even now though, in their current design that has been kept for almost two years now  – as nice as the picture of me making a cup of tea is, does it really need to take up as much screen space as it does:

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It makes me smile how ‘Basic Information’ is perfectly cut off too; first glances are important, folks.

“But Louis, your website has a giant picture of a blurrly lucky cat at the top” you might say, and that’s exactly my point. My website is guiltier of this crime than I would like. It feels more like a modern house that has hardly enough furniture in it rather than a cozy home, and that’s how I want my website to feel when you visit it: cozy. But my knowledge of CSS coding is too limited to really get my blog looking how I’d like. And when these are the options for themes on the WordPress website, it feels like I have hardly any choice other than to have a glaringly large image as the first thing the user sees:

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Perhaps it’s more appropriate for a business or a photographer, but here, where most of my users are returning, it makes sense to make it as usable and friendly as possible. For those who remember my old website, I had a small banner at the top with a drawing of a field and a sky. I kind of miss that element, where the website is something more than a website, but is designed to appear like something else almost. For my Professional Practice module at Uni, I designed my digital portfolio to look like a silver birch forest, which I think worked really well while still feeling functional.

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In a world where web design now all looks the same, it’s nice to do what’s different. I should be embracing that more.

Where Did The Time Go?

There was a small part in my mind telling me that getting a summer job would somehow make me more enthusiastic to start work on my book and start using the blog. I reckon because most days when you have nothing to do, the tendency is that you do nothing, whereas when there’s some structure to the day you already feel inclined to be productive. For the most part though, I’ve been returning home and switching off my brain until the next day arrives. It’s been a fairly eventful few weeks, though. Two weeks ago my girlfriend came to visit for the weekend before she heads back off to Hong-Kong, and just last weekend my brother joined me back at home after returning from work. I was, however, able to find the time to get back to the sketchbook, and finally begin creating the illustrations for my upcoming story. This time, I really wanted the focus to be on the environment, where it felt as though the characters were only secondary, almost unimportant, to the world around them. I’m very happy with the way it turned out, the trees in the image are my best yet, and it’s enforced some more confidence in me about my ability to draw environments. Take a look below. In the future, I will try my best to keep the blog updated most Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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Ground Control To Major Tom

I’ve been slacking, I know. It’s strange how I feel so reluctant to start drawing, and yet when I do I always realize just how much I enjoy it. That’s a hurdle I need to work on.

Otherwise, the marks are in for my course, and I’m happy to say that I haven’t been kicked out (sweat wiped from brow). With the end of work, both for me and everyone else at Uni, comes plenty of celebration, and this week and just whizzed by, as they do. I can hardly believe it’s already Friday. Today I had a brief, but successful, drawing session. The style of my book is starting to really show itself, almost entirely organically. It’s so refreshing to draw with actual implements, rather than doing everything digitally as I usually do, and I really wish I would spend more time playing with this new style I’m discovering. I transferred them to the computer today to see how they faired on the screen, and the rendered results are a joy to look at – the pen and ink translates beautifully on the screen. I created a small test page for my book, and it’s looking just as I had hoped. Whether or not this is the final page,  I’ve yet to decide. I want the style to look deliberately sketchy and rushed, but also I think this picture looks almost as though Mo is half the size of tree, when really he’s meant to be the size of a toad.

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Looks really nice though, I can’t wait to do more. And hey, wouldn’t you know it, I also drew a tree (as I was supposed to be this past couple weeks), and it’s super fun drawing trees in this medium, since you’re really able to let your hand fall loose, and a tree will very naturally start to form.

IMG_0759It’s great to almost be able to draw a tree and be confident in sharing it as a final piece. This one is still far from perfect, but it’s starting to look like what I wanted to be able to accomplish.

I have a number of interesting projects to complete over the summer for my course, as well as plenty of reading. What’s most exciting though is that we’re asked to create a zine which we will then sell at the Bristol Zine Fair (you may recall I went there last year) in competition with the Illustration course at my university, to see who sells the most zines. If there was ever an incentive to finish my book in-time for coming back from summer, this is it, as I’ll have two self-published zines ready to sell to whoever’s buying – and I might even get my own table! It’d be so cool if some of my work would end up in someone else’s collection, my first real drip into the real world. For now though, I need to keep drawing.

 

Don’t Tap It, Whack It

Deciding it was time to wash the sheets on my bed, I rather liberally threw my bedding off, having previously concluded nothing was on the bed, only to hear an unsettling ‘clunk’ noise. I looked down to see my iPad on the floor, having flown from my bed onto the floor. I thought nothing of it; I’ve dropped the thing on wooden floors and stepped on it with full accidental force before – a tumble from the bed shouldn’t do it any more harm.

So I went to bed in my now very clean, comforting sheets. The next morning I got hold of my iPad, only to find the colours most akin to what I can only describe as ‘like an 80s television gone wrong’. I didn’t take any pictures of it at the time, but I found an image online that best matched the issue, just imagine it with more green and pink:

What a terrible way to wake up. My beloved iPad that has served me now for almost four years happened to have just fallen the wrong way this once, and now it’s effective life has been ripped from its proverbial hands. Almost made worse is the fact that I won this iPad at one of Manchester’s Animation competitions, so it was like watching a trophy fade away from my life.

Taking it to the Apple Store in hope that they might be nice enough to fix it for free, gave the more expected answer of asking for £199 for a fix, or £399 for a new one. How encouraging. So I did what any person with a problem that needs a solution would do: I googled it. Hundreds of articles and forum posts had what seemed to be the exact problem I had, but what was even more surprising was the thousands of comments and posts all confirming the exact same solution, most of which were made in simple amazement that this strange fix actually worked. It was fairly simple – whack it, three times, with some force, on the back. The ‘science’ behind this is to emulate the fall it previously had and jolt things back into the right place. Deciding that I had nothing to lose at this point except an already broken iPad, I aggressively smacked the back of it, likely hundreds of times, in hope it would return to its former self. Alas, each smack brought with it no progress. I even dropped it on my floor from at least waist height, as some people swore would fix it up, but again: no results.

Three days have passed, and today I thought I would return to what had become a ritual of smacking my iPad until I felt sorry for it (or my own hands). But today, things would be different. This time, hurling my iPad onto a hard surface, the screen flickered, and the screen returned to normal. I was almost speechless. It felt fantastic to see my old friend brought back to life despite almost losing hope (even googling replacement tablets the same day). Who knew such an old technique as ‘hitting it till it works’ would still be relevant today on something as seemingly sophisticated as an iPad. It’s not perfect, it still struggles to correctly present a few lighter colours of pixels, showing them instead as bits of light green, but it’s as perfect as I’m willing to let it be before I dare hurl it at my floor again. What a brilliant turn of events!