A contextual difference
July 11, 2015, 11:27 am

There is a major difference between fundamentally learning how to program, and learning a new programming language.

Let's look at an example.

$a = 0;

If you said, "That looks like code!", congratulations, it's your first day. Have a lollipop. If you said, "That's a variable assignment", congratulations, you seem to know how to do basic programming. If you said "That's a variable assignment in php", congratulations, you seem to know the basics of PHP. If you said, "That's a variable assignment of the number zero, which has a basic value type of Number, to a variable with the designation of $a, in the php programming language", then congratulations, you're a huge nerd! But what about when the language is less obvious, or you don't know that particular language. Should you still be able to figure stuff out?

function sqr(num:Number):Number{ return num*num; }

Now, if you didn't know that was Actionscript code, that's ok. Not everyone does. But you should be able to use your knowledge of basic programming to figure out what is going on. It seems to be a function definition. Something called sqr(). I'm not sure what those colon parts are, but it seems to be a basic type of value, so I'll bet it's saying num will be a number. I can only assume then by the second :Number placement that sqr() is also supposed to be a number? The function seems to be multiplying the number by itself, then returning that value.

Did you see what I did there? I don't know Actionscript 3. I learned Actionscript 2, back in the day. Actionscript 2 did NOT have type casting. I found that code on the Adobe help site when I searched for "actionscript function return value".

Learning to program means you should be able to know a few basic concepts, and recognize those concepts in any language.

  • What is a variable?
  • What is an array?
  • What is a function?
  • How do I if else?
  • How do I loop?

Those are the core concepts of programming. And they are (mostly) language independent. If you can figure out how to do those things, you can probably write anything in any language.

... after about 2 months of intensive study in that new language just to get anything to freaking show on screen...

It can be difficult in the early days of learning your FIRST programming language to measure the difference between learning that language's syntax and learning the essentials of programming in general. It might not even ever become clear to you until you attempt to learn your second programming language. Suddenly things that weren't important before can become very important. Suddenly things that were so hard before can become easy. Changing languages is a difficult task, and learning your first language can feel like a monumental challenge. It isn't until you learn to differentiate the fundamentals of programming, from the idiosyncrasies of a particular language, that you will truly begin to reach your potential.

I got so tangled and twisted
June 20, 2015, 8:39 am

I haven't done a portrait in weeks.

It just kind of hasn't worked out. I'm sorry, everyone who may read this and care. One of the portraits never contacted me back. One of the portraits got lost in the shuffle. This week I was communicating with who I thought was the next portrait, only to realize it was the next weekend's portrait, and today's just emailed me "Super excited about the portrait!"

AGH

I'm the worst. And I'm blasting it out on my blog. Because that's what you do with a blog. With Instagram blowing up, and Youtube blowing up, and Twitter blowing up, I sometimes feel like this is my last place of refuge to put something in writing on a public wall of catharsis and be confident that still no one will see it.

... Except my students when I begin to show them my site.

Sigh.

The new semester is off to a bright start. We'll see how long these kids last. The new batch seem smart, but summer classes are accelerated double speed, so we'll see if they can keep up the pace. On the other hand, in my 608 it's the first time I've ever had almost an entire class of people who took my class before. This is super exciting, and I feel like they're all way ahead of any 608 class I've taught before. Most other classes have felt like I was constantly behind trying to bring every body up to the level I expected them to be. But I don't feel that this time, and so I'm hoping I can push them even further.

I would, however, like to mention that I have been uploading a couple videos to youtube, and I've begun recording my daily sketches and plan to start adding more content to youtube. Here is one of the recent Instagram sketches.

Type B
May 8, 2015, 11:50 am

I don't think of myself as a designer. I'm a programmer. Actually, I'm more of a puzzle solver. I wouldn't say I'm a problem solver. I don't like to solve drama, or cause drama, or use the word drama. But I like to solve puzzles. The thing about problems is that there's never really a solution, no matter how many people give their opinion for one. Puzzles have a solution. There IS a way to solve them. You just have to figure it out.

I'm an artist, but I'm not a creative type. I like to look at a thing, and solve the puzzle of recreating it with lines or colors or shapes. I don't generally create things out of thin air, although often I enjoy messing around with the layout of the thing that I'm drawing. My design sensibilities, however, are extremely limited. I like squares, I like pictures, I like flat simple colors schemes. This is how I design.

I am exceedingly relaxed about rules and order and schedules. But I need them or nothing would ever get done, because I'm fairly lazy as well. I crave regularity and routine rather than deadlines and goal posts.

I started redesigning my website yesterday, only to remember what a daunting task it is, and why most people are scared shitless of it. I teach people all day long how to make websites, but I teach them how to make one page. I have hundreds of pages and sections on my site. Redesigns are not a simple task. I've gotten much better and more efficient at it over the years, but it's never easy.

This thing has legs
April 27, 2015, 9:07 pm

You guys, It has been one of my life's dreams to have a book with my art in it. The fact that I made this book on my own bootstraps, using an awesome self-publishing platform like Blurb, shouldn't detract from this accomplishment. It's possible that it should even make it all the more impressive, but I might just be trying to convince myself.

I have plans for this book. This one is not the last. Notice the name is Portrait Quarterly. It is not San Francisco Portraits. It is not Hamilton Portraits. It is not Caricatures, or Drawings, or any other numerous names that people tried to convince me to brand this project with. It is just portraits, and it is almost certainly going to be quarterly. I made myself a promise and a goal earlier this year to make this book, and I have done it.

Once.

Now I have to do it again. And again. Every three months for the rest of my life, if it makes sense. But this book does not, should not, CAN NOT be just about me. I asked other people to participate in this first one, and through a number of different reasons, I ended up just pushing out the book with my own content. But I want this book to be a possible showcase for the works of many artists. I would love to possibly show your art in its pages. I am interested in putting out feelers for other artists, writers, photographers, or collaborators that are interested in participated in this thing I'm doing. The subject is "portrait". What can you do. Give me an idea for at least 10 pages of content, and let's talk about working together on a future release of Portrait Quarterly.

This book was 120 pages, and 10 of that was blank pages, and a number of pages of content were filled by December art. I think I can consistently fill 80 pages of content every 3 months. I need your help to fill up the other pages. Email me your idea for inclusion. I still don't know how it's going to work out. I need to think about how compensation works and such. I just know that I need to start the conversation now. So if you want to get in, get in.

When I started my Portrait Project, not many people signed up initially, because they thought that I would just let them in. But I'm trying to make schedules and stick to them. We've got 2 months until the next Portrait Quarterly needs to ship. Let's do this.

Portrait Quarterly
April 24, 2015, 5:17 pm

Alright. After getting feedback from my copy editor Andy Franzen, after getting a test print printed, and seeing any things that need to be fixed, after feeling it in my hands and rubbing it on my face, after resampling, and re-editing, and reuploading...

I am proud to announce that I believe you should purchase a copy of the PORTRAIT QUARTERLY! (hopefully the first of many)

This book features 120 Pages of art and words by me, and a little room for something by you. It is a 6x9 perfect bound softcover book that holds art that I created, mostly over the first quarter of this year. It features the wonderful Agnessa Vardani on the cover.

A couple of notes on Hashtags and Social Media
April 17, 2015, 10:06 am

I do a lot of Social Media strategy and statistical analysis. Here's a set of tips about the major social networks hashtags.

First of all, let's get this out of the way. Hashtags WORK. On everything. To a greater or lesser degree.

Twitter. Hashtags are super important to your social media strategy, and make the difference between languishing in anonymity and rising up in the ranks. Twitter tends to be a place that thrives on tech talk, politics, and celebrity. So those tags tend to be the ones that get the most play. #javascript will immediately get a hundred eyes on your tweet. Plan your character count to include at least one relevant hashtag.

Instagram. Hashtags are equally important, but the audience is fairly different. On instagram, tags involving food, selfies, and art will get the major response that you're looking for. When hashtagging #java on twitter versus instagram, you will get a much different response.

Facebook. Hashtags are nearly completely irrelevant here. In fact studies have shown that using hashtags on personal posts discourages people from looking at your content. Which is a shame, because Facebook is set up to handle hashtags, it's just that no one cares.

Google+. Sigh. Why won't they just release an api so that third party apps can post to them? Google Plus is unique in that they will auto tag your posts if they find relevant tag information within your post. You don't even have to try. Of course, you can also help it along with some actual tags of your own.

Tumblr. Hashtags get generated as a side content for tumblr posts, and so don't have to be a part of your content strategy, but can be tacked on as meta information. This is a nice addition to the process. Tumblr thrives on immediate image content, and so photography and graphic tags tend to get the most play.

Is this a comprehensive list? Not even a little. These are just some notes I've made along the way while trying to stay relevant in a world that moves quickly every day. Hopefully you find something useful in here.

Open Mike Nite
April 6, 2015, 11:37 pm

A lot of things are happening suddenly. Ben Hulan, a fellow teacher at the Academy of Art, and I started a webcomic called Open Mike Nite. Ben is taking on the writing duties, and I'm doing the art.

It's been a really fun process for me to learn about Manga Studio for comic creation. The fact of the matter is, Photoshop isn't the right tool for all digital art. Manga Studio creates a crisp line quality that just can't be equaled in Photoshop. It's the real difference for comic creators.

I've also been having a lot of fun trying to push myself with each new strip to improve my art and be free to move the look of the characters wherever it seems appropriate. It's really one of the coolest things I'm doing right now.

Speaking of things I'm doing right now, the Bold Italic Just did an article about me and my Portrait Project. I met up with Carolina Quijano outside work for a bit before going into teach, and it was really a fun interview. I even got to chat with her about statistics (even though she wisely left all of that out of the article).

It's worth mentioning that I only had 2 spots left when the article ran, and I now have over 50 emails to sift through asking for spots. So... There's that.

I'm also trying to put together a printed version of my bart sketches and instagram drawings. Stay tuned for more news on that soon.

Social Media Engagement
January 29, 2015, 10:32 am

It amazes me how many people sign up for social media and never engage in any participation. I guess I can understand when someone rarely checks their social accounts, but I really can't understand the MASSES that sign up, and engage a little, but only barely.

Let's take a big example. The Rock is on instagram. He has 6.6 million followers at the time of this post. On his last post, after 3 hours, he was only able to muster 100,000 likes and 1,000 comments.

Now hold on, untwist your bunches. Yes, those numbers are gross. All of them are. But think of them relatively. Out of his millions of followers, he only managed a 1.5% interaction rate. The most electrifying man in sports entertainment today, could only pull together a measly 1000 comments out of all of his millions and miiilllllions of followers.

There are a number of interesting dilemmas and predicaments this brings up, but one of the more interesting ones is just how many people sign up for social media AND THEN NEVER USE IT. It's crazy. A worse idea is, what hope do the rest of us have? Well, probably none, but this is a great scenario to study statistically, and we should always be studying the statistics of interaction.

Impressions and interactions tend to come with a 1000 to 1 ratio across the board. do you want to have 10 people comment or like your thing? you need to get it in front of 10,000 people. Do you want a hundred people to BUY your product? I've actually found that you'll need to get your product in front of closer to 1,000,000 eyes before that happens. There are things that alter these numbers, such as the amount of interaction you reciprocate, and how murderously intent on your product your audience is, but in general, these numbers stay true across most internet positions.

The Portrait Project Continues
January 18, 2015, 3:41 pm

I have now completed three paintings for the #PortraitProject.

The first two portraits I painted, for this year long project, were my friends. This latest portrait was of a complete stranger. A person I had never met before, agreed to sit in front of me and let me doodle them. I've heard some people pay double for that.

We met on Friday, to size each other up, and we decided it would all go down at a wonderful little place called Ashley's Cafe. I'd highly recommend it. It's run by a group of little Korean ladies, and I devoured a whole meatball sandwich there. Honestly, one of the coolest parts of this whole project will surely be getting to go to new places around San Francisco and Oakland, and trying out all the food stuffs.

Working from an outside lit public cafe could've been a disaster for many reasons, but it all turned out a lot better than expected. The light stayed true, for the most part, and I managed to riggle this out in about 2 hours.

There are still plenty of spots left in the year, so if you're in the bay area, or will be later in the year, you should totally sign up for a portrait. I'm still posting lots and lots of sketches on Instagram, so you should definitely hang out over there, if you're interested in my BART sketches or getting your selfie sketched maybe.