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More Doing = Less Blogging

03/14/2012
by jen

What have I been up to? Too much to cover in detail—there have been births, death, travel, projects, research & reading. Busy would be an understatement!

  • I’ve updated my Design Portfolio, my Sketchbook on Dribble, and the Punk Rock Bunnies site.
  • My animation working group, Some Villains Animation Studio, is on a brief respite while we work independently. I plan to lead a workshop in “Narrative and Storyboarding” once we regroup. It has been great to be part of an extra-curricular creative collaborative again.
  • Socializing by way of animation, in addition to the working group, for Miyazaki’s The Ocean Waves at the MFA, Moonbot’s Oscar-winning The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore at the Kendall,  and Roger Miller’s curation of classic cartoons at The Armory.
  • I’ve made a new batch of cheese, similar to ricotta but a bit sweeter, using apple cider vinegar instead of citric acid. The recipe was labeled “Farmer’s Cheese” or “Queso Blanco”, but the result was less squeaky, softer and sweeter than I’ve had before—I’d say more of a Queso Fresco. The same food crafting afternoon also yielded a second batch of yogurt, and a cup of yogurt cream cheese! Meanwhile, my partner switched one of the tap kegs from beer to water, and now we have free seltzer on tap at home! We go through a lot of seltzer, so this makes for a $400 savings a year, and no need for CO2 refills, unlike the Soda Stream. Economics is tasty.
  • Spent a too-brief 56-hours in PDX, visiting with friends.

This week has been a brief respite in the flood of activity, but next week I expect to return to full-throttle, taking advanced workshops in FinalCutPro, and Designing for Tablets and eReaders, during my “downtime”.

Positive Countertypes: Food Forests & Public Permaculture

02/23/2012
by jen

We have not had much of a winter here in New England this year, and this week feels very much like April, so thoughts turns to spring, gardening, & fresh foods.

Among the many contributions to the growing homesteading-permaculture-foodie movement, is the idea of edible gardening and forestry. I’ve always been a bit pragmatic in my own gardening—herbs & veggies over flowers—to be sure I could make use of what little land we have as urban growers. But some developers have taken the edible environment idea to a more altruistic level: creating public spaces for visitors to eat from as they wander.

In Somerville, there is an active community called the Maple Syrup Project, which harvests sap from local trees, and boils it down into syrup in a public workshop for the community. Other places have even more ambitious edible parks and food forests, such as George Washington Carver Park in Asheville, NC; and soon, in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. For more info on Edible Forests, check out http://www.edibleforestgardens.com/

Wildlife at home in Detroit's Riverwalk wetlands

Not all new developments are edible, but some are even more useful. I have been lucky enough to visit two cities that have found a way to cohabit with wetlands, and am really excited by this model. Detroit has an amazing new RiverWalk, which is only a few years old, and includes a man-made instructional wetland teeming with life. Buenos Aires’ new Puerto Madero neighborhood borders the enormous wetland-park, Reserva Ecológica de Buenos Aires or Reserva Ecológica Costenera Sur.

Imagine if every city combined the natural landscape and a generous food bounty into their urban planning. Wetlands hinder flooding and hurricane damage from encroaching on living spaces, urban gardens and edible parks help curb food shortages and hunger, rooftop gardens and beekeeping help enliven local farmer’s markets and cut down on imports and rising fuel costs. Think about all the ways this would cut down on other government services and out-of-pocket expenses, from FEMA to Food Stamps.

Animation sketch: PUNK ROCK BUNNIES Valentine e-card

02/14/2012
by jen

Send a free PUNK ROCK BUNNIES Valentine

sneak peek

Just click the link above to open the animated Valentine’s Day Card featuring 4 debut bunnies. If you like what you see, you can share it with your friends & loved ones. Be sure to source Punk Rock Bunnies © Red Silver Design http://www.prb.redsilverdesign.com/

This e-card is not only my second animation project, but is the debut of a new website featuring characters that I have waited many years to share with the world. Soon, the bunnies will move to its long-held IP address, punkrockbunnies.com. Punk Rock Bunnies were a collaborative project from way back in early 2004, which never saw completion. The three of us (a game designer, a concept/video/graphic designer, and myself as character designer & illustrator) moved on to other places and projects in the years since, but I’ve never forgotten the bunnies, and had always wanted to share them. This animation is part of the process of scrubbing away old projects from my brain by finishing them, while learning new media and tech.

I could write a long diatribe on Flash, but you can visit any number of blogs & tech mags in the last two years to listen to the debate. For my part, I knew I needed to understand the technology more in-depth — to answer my own questions about Flash—before I waded though various alternatives for animation and interaction in this rapidly changing tech landscape.

Now I feel ready to move on and explore alternative software, production workflows, concepts, and ideas. It feels great to check this off my list. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Have you seen Dribbble?

02/10/2012
by jen

I’ve been “drafted” in Dribbble.
Dribbble is a visual network started by a local Salem, MA firm that calls itself “twitter for design”. It is a place to post sketches of in-progress work (more like Pintrest than Twitter really). I’ve been “drafted”, so I thought I would try it out, to see how useful it is.
http://dribbble.com/redsilverdesign

Because of this, and the series of animation sketches I’m working on, and some related site launches upcoming, I broke down and started a twitter feed to promote all of the above (and this blog). http://twitter.com/redsilverdesign

Happy Networking! Watch this space (or any of your favorite feeds) for some fun new projects.

Animation sketch: Entwined

02/06/2012
by jen

Since returning home last month, I joined a local animation working group. This is my first attempt at stop-motion, created yesterday as a “sketch”, to study movement, timing, and audio.

Many animation software products requires an HDMI or firewire connection between your computer & camera (DV, DSLR, or digital still), so that the computer can communicate with the device directly. None of our devices at home had the right connections, so I had to do this the rough-cut way: taking still shots, importing them, then hunting for a program that would combine them quickly. I ended up doing the post-production in iMovie, which has its own limitations.

Taking the actual shots took the least amount of time, surprisingly. Next time, I’ll improve the lighting (shadows of the camera on the frame require setting up 45º lights below the tripod).

Next sketch: in Flash, using character designs I created awhile back.

List-making and Routine-shaking

01/23/2012
by jen

3 good things in 36 hours:

  1. my first yogurt-making attempt was a huge success
  2. I re-start a weekly zumba class today
  3. a 4-week animation workshop starts tomorrow

2 things I’ve said in 24 hours:

“Facebook — the loneliest place on the planet”

and

“Professional creative life is…like legos. Anyone can play with them a little and make fun toys, but building something colossal and unique takes lots of time, thought, and pieces.”

I spent 25 days or so not:

  • wearing constricting clothing
  • watching US news on tv
  • using my cell phone (or blog, email, computers, other than sporadic travel-arrangement making)
  • commuting (21 days or so without driving a car anywhere)
  • at work (18 days in South America, plus travel time, and holiday weekends)

Things that were essential to making our trip work out well:

  • a great friend to dog-sit
  • shaving the back of my head before we left (I have a lot of hair. Less of it made acclimatizing easier.)
  • reserving our New Year’s Eve stay in advance
  • packing light
  • a bandana
  • a long scarf
  • sturdy shoes
  • extra socks
  • ear plugs
  • 30-50 spf sunscreen
  • carabiners
  • daily morning yogurt
  • remembering Spanish by immersion/having a Spanish-speaking partner
  • saving up for expenses in advance
  • the internet (one mobile smart phone, sporadic wifi, and hotel computers for travel logistics)
  • relaxing, letting go, or humor
  • basic social graces (hello, please, thank you)

You can learn a lot when taking a break from routine, whether you spend it on the opposite side of the globe for a few weeks, or just by taking a few moments out of a day to reflect, or try something new, or just take a deep breath and exhale. You don’t need to have a great epiphany, or even learn something ground-breaking — you may simply learn to appreciate what you have in a new light, or re-affirm a truth with new evidence to back it up, or you may recognize the answer to some hazy train of thought that had been nagging at you for weeks or years. A break from routine can be quickest way to get a productivity back on track again. It can be something as basic as a good night’s sleep, a conversation with an old friend, or a passage understood better by re-reading a favorite book.

How do you shake up your routine?

Pantone 2012: Tangerine Tango 17-1463

12/14/2011
by jen

The color gurus have spoken: Pantone named “Tangerine Tango” as their color of the year for 2012.

tango rgb

One Pantone, Three RGB variations

I love it when design & dance combine. “Tangerine Tango” is a clever play on words for “Argentine Tango”, that describes this deep, spicy color beautifully. It is feisty, flamboyant, strong yet playful. Say what you will about the stronghold Pantone has on color trends, this is a brilliant choice.

Orange is gender-neutral, big in boys and mens products, but also popular with girls and women. Three 2011 weddings I knew of in the Boston area alone used some variant of warm orange in their color palette, which is an obvious choice as a complement for the most common wedding hue, blue (we used sapphire & amber, a friend used indigo & copper, another used bright blue & orange). Orange is also huge in digital media: Stumbleupon recently redesigned their brand in a similar hue (how effective the new logo turns out to be is a discussion for another time). It plays well with greys, blues, nudes, and browns — all popular fashion & web colors in recent years.

But on to what really matters: how to use Tangerine Tango in digital design. In the illustration to the left, I’ve showcased all 3 variants of Tangerine Tango in different RGB settings. Different devices & monitors will display a color in different ways, so there is no one “true” RGB version of a pantone unless you hold your swatch up to your monitor, or in this case, get the RGB numbers right from Pantone. If you are a print, fashion, or etsy designer, your best bet is to order a swatch directly (Pantone 17-1463 ), for color accuracy.

But for RGB & HEX web, the variants are as follows:

Top swatch, TPX (textile paper edition): R 226 G 73 B 47, HEX #2267347

Middle swatch, TCX  (textile cotton edition): R 221 G 65 B 36 , HEX #DD4124

Bottom swatch, PLUS Series (multimedia graphics): R 225 G 82 B 61, HEX #E1523D

In theory, the PLUS RGB would be the most recommended for digital media, but I really love the richness of the TCX version, at least on my current monitor. Combining all 3 RGB variants for the image above has its own appeal (though maybe not for the color-impaired).

In a stunning coincidence, I will be spending the first days of 2012 at the birthplace of Tango — Buenas Aires, Argentina. I’m looking forward to a first-hand glance at how the locals are using this color! (And perhaps learning a bit of this dance style from the source!)

Positive Countertypes: A Life So Ordinary

12/08/2011

Is being ordinary the same thing as being boring? When I was young, I was taught to think so, but as I get older, I’m not so sure.

Captain Platano! © Red Silver Design

Captain Platano! An...ordinary plantain?

Last night, I watched 42 Up, and now I want to get my hands on 49 up and see the next installment (56 Up, to be filmed in 2012). The documentary series follows 14 people, interviewing them every 7 years since age 7. I’d heard about it ages ago, had it in the queue forever, and finally saw it. Fascinating. There were some surprises, but the main thing I took away from it is how 1) everyone develops at their own pace in life, and 2) life is, generally, pretty ordinary, even for people with extraordinary talents and opportunities. And you know what? That’s ok.

The brilliant, altruistic students became teachers. The brilliant, bourgeois students became lawyers (or married one). The boys who grew up in charity boarding school and broken homes both cited their lack of confidence for holding them back career-wise, but both had fairly comfortable home lives and supportive families by 42. The boy who dreamed big (working class boy who wanted to be a jockey) was probably the most ambitious — he was cited as the one most upwardly mobile. The one who rebelled against his upbringing, his class, society, and even the documentary (he stopped allowing interviews at age 21, and even tried to sue the director), grew up to become — get this — a tv producer and documentary filmmaker! I want more of his story.

Then there was a complete surprise: this one boy, who seemed like a normal, happy, energetic kid, grew up to spend 20 years homeless, drifting from place to place, and suffering from some sort of mental health issues (agoraphobia? bipolar? schizophrenia? hard to say.). But then, in his early 40s, he ran for office, and won! His first job is voluntary/unpaid, but he’s in a suit & tie, actively canvassing his neighborhood, and giving speeches in London. He is still a little odd, but in his new role he is calmer, more confident, and happier. Wikipedia tells me he was re-elected, and only lost in his third run for office (not unusual for anyone in politics). I know some wacky people get into politics, but this turnaround blew me away. I want to see the new one to see how he handles life without his job, which has given him a purpose and structured goals.

Family was an interesting aspect as well — some of the group stayed single into their 40s, but later married and had kids. Some divorced and stayed that way, others remarried. Some married young and had long happy partnerships. It seemed like most who thought they had missed their chance to have a family, but wanted one, eventually did. There was absolutely no social, economic, or family background correlation as far as a pattern for falling in love, staying in love, or having kids — each situation was unique.

They didn’t focus as much on the girls, and the director stated that he regrets not take feminism into account when they started (and would have interviewed more). I might argue that he could take feminism into account in the interviewing and editing process, especially with daughters of the participants to take into account. The Up girls grew up with 50s values, but became adult women in the early 70s, and none of their lives resembled one another by the 90s. The one with the most affluent background became a homemaker, married a successful lawyer, and started a career late in life. The most altruistic one married at 19, was very driven in her career, had a strong faith, and seemed to balance home, work, love, and family successfully. Her two childhood friends were single mothers — one divorced young, had older kids, and seemed vibrant and happy with her life by 42; the other had less success with relationships and work, but was really dedicated to her kids, all born when she was much older.

The theory, that class structure in the UK was so strong that it would be set for each child’s life, seemed to have been proven in some cases but not all. But there seemed to be no pattern in family planning, marriage success, or with the trajectory of the women in the series (possibly from too small a sample?). How much of that is due to the changes in culture over the last 50 years, or is instead a testament to individuality? I couldn’t say.

I can say that it presents a compelling argument that every one of us has their own path, that there is no set schedule for life goals — it is never too late to start a career, a family, or find love. If you can pinpoint what you want in life, and what makes you happy, you might get there sooner, but there is no such thing as too late. At least, that is what I am taking away from this series.

Reading Rainbow revisited

12/08/2011
tags: , ,
by jen

So I said to my boss, “Every time I work on this cover design, I get the Reading Rainbow theme stuck in my head.”

So he sent me this link: Jimmy Fallon does Jim Morrison singing “Reading Rainbow”

Venn Diagrams too good to pass up

12/07/2011
tags: ,
by jen

I would like to thank the Internet for making Venn Diagrams cool. I’m so thrilled by the humor in some designers’ venn diagrams, that I just bought my first white t-shirt in decades, when “Math” went into re-print. (Note to apparel designers: some of us prefer tank tops, or non-white fabrics in general.) Consider supporting an independent artist this holiday season, with a witty gift for your favorite geek.

Santa Venn ©StephenWildish

“Santa Venn Diagram” at RedBubble.  © Stephen Wildish

Math © Tenso @ Threadless

“Math” at Threadless.com. © Tenso Graphics