Monday, January 29, 2018

So, I try really hard not to let this blog devolve into a rant-fest, but sometimes I have opinions. The subject of today's... um, opinion piece isn't something I'm worked up into a violent rage about, but it is something that made me kind of scratch my head and go "huh" and "why did that happen" and "clearly my way of thinking is superior".

I will try to make this a level-headed, informative rant discussion.

(If you notice Commonwealth spellings popping up, I am not suddenly Canadian--these are terms that Neopets spells with its characteristic Commonwealth English, so I have chosen to mirror their spelling when discussing these terms as used on the site, for the sake of consistency.)

So, about a week ago, Neopets held a poll to determine what new paint brush colour users wanted most. The choices are listed in that link, but for convenience I'll discuss them here:

Steampunk - Dark-hued Neopet with elaborate mechanical gear--kinda looks more cyborg-ish than steampunk, IMO

Toy - Shiny, plastic-y Neopet with a spring-tail

Origami - The Neopet equivalent of origami Petpets

Burlap Doll - Just plain terrifying

The winner turned out to be Steampunk, which left me a little disappointed. See, I like paint brush colours that actually affect a Neopet's inherent appearance, not just put clothes on them--because that's what customisation is for. But evidently the majority of voting Neopians feel otherwise. Whether it's because the aesthetic is just so irresistible, or because "steampunk" is a coolness buzzword, a Shadow-coloured Gelert wearing cyborg armor beat out Neopets that actually had something done to their physical being.

Let me break down why I feel this is so significant. Back in the olden days of yore on Neopets, before 2007 (you kids might not remember this), there was no such thing as customisation. All Neopets were static, pre-drawn images depending on their species and colour. You couldn't dress them up. Outside of your own imagination, your yellow Kau looked like everybody else's yellow Kau.

That's one of the reasons why fancy paint brushes like Darigan and Plushie were so sought-after--their images usually had more personality than the "default" pet image. And colours like Lost Desert and Royal were especially valued because they were the only way, on-site, that your Neopet could actually wear clothes (and they were usually quite fancy clothes).

Customisation changed that dynamic quite a bit. Now, when you paint a Neopet a "clothing" colour, that clothing automatically goes into your Closet, and you can put it on any Neopet of the same species from then on, regardless of what colour they're actually painted. This has some cool benefits, like the idea of "cross-painting" - a Neopet of one colour wearing the clothing of another colour - but what customisation ultimately also does is render obsolete the whole idea of paint brush clothing. Now that Neopets can wear all manner of clothes, you don't need a Royal Paint Brush to make your Neopet look elegant--she can wear a Fancy Brightvale Gown or a Regal Warrior Dress, or tons of other options.

Which brings me to the problem with Steampunk--I think it's an unnecessary colour. There are already lots of steampunk-themed clothing items on the site, so having an entire colour dedicated to the idea feels redundant. Not to mention, now that Neopets can wear nearly anything regardless of colour, there really is no purpose for clothing-based paint brushes anymore. I understand why the pre-customisation paint brush items were grandfathered in, but I can really see no point in creating new colours that are all about wearable items when those items could be made as general buyables. I think the Steampunk colour would have made more sense if it was something more along the lines of Eventide, maybe giving the Neopet a cool gear pattern on their body or giving their physiology a bit of a Victorian-illustration flair, but as it is, it's just clothing items on a colour that already exists (Shadow).

That's why I voted for Toy. Out of all four options presented, I felt Toy had the most potential to be interesting. I've already discussed my issues with Steampunk. Origami didn't really strike me as very compelling--I mean, we already have origami Petpets and they don't do anything for me either. And Burlap Doll is just nightmare fuel.

But Toy, I felt, could really go places. There are lots of different ways the theme could be interpreted, and I think it would be great to see each species get a different treatment, inspired by some sort of classic or popular toy. A My Little Pony Uni with a sparkly mane and tail and a cutie mark, maybe? A Mr. (and Mrs.) Potato Head Chia? A Skoosh ball Jubjub? A Lego Skeith? The possibilities are fantastic! I envision it working a lot like the Candy colour, where Neopets are inspired by different types of candies (excluding chocolate, since there's already a colour for that), from gumdrops to peppermints to those ridiculously large lollipops you get as you're leaving Disneyland, and you take like five licks and then your tongue turns rainbow and starts to hurt, but now you've got to drive all the way home with it so you stick it to the back of the seat in front of you, or maybe in your sister's hair.

But instead we're getting Steampunk.

Of course, I like to try to think positive. Maybe the art team will go in mind-blowingly awesome directions with this new colour. I'll hope for the best. Plus, the Neopian Times editor mentioned that TNT may consider implementing some of the losing colours in the future, so I haven't lost hope for Toy, either.

But ultimately I think new clothing-based paint brush colours are a trend that should be put to rest, in light of how the site has developed over the years.

Edit: Looks like Toy is becoming a paint brush colour along with Steampunk! :D Okay I'm happy.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

I don't think it's too far-fetched that large theropods would welcome small mammals to clean bugs out of their feathers. Here T. rex is enjoying a little get-together with her favorite groomers (maybe multituberculates?). She brings the food and they bring the company. Being large predators, I think it's entirely possible that tyrannosaurids were intelligent enough to derive enjoyment from beneficial inter-species interactions.

I like prehistoric happy thoughts.

Monday, January 22, 2018

I went ahead and finished Morh's portrait anyway.

Morh is a cool dude who's a good, fair leader and a capable warrior, but is also kindhearted and compassionate. He probably wouldn't be a mercenary if it wasn't one of the only jobs available to orcs in his culture, but he can't beat the pay. He has a soft spot for children, which comes into play in the novel I'd like to put his mercenary band in. I don't want to give away too much, but they'll be escorting some young VIP's on a dangerous mission.

Also Morh is short for an orc (in this world) at 6'. It's something his brod (band-brothers-and-sisters) tease him ceaselessly about, but he hasn't seemed to develop little-man syndrome, although he is somewhat insecure about his height.

Also, updated Iramick portrait because I forgot that in my mind's eye, she always has this cool mottled skin. I like to imagine orcs as having more variety in their skin colors and patterns than humans usually do. Their skin ranges from black to green to brown and every shade in between, and sometimes sports mottles or speckles like reptiles' scales do. Orcs have bony scutes on their faces, and while the exact patterning varies among individuals - and is more pronounced in males - the scutes tend to follow the contours of the facial bones.

I guess maybe I could have tried harder to make them uglier, but nobody's ugly when they're smiling nicely. :) It's fun to portray orcs as more than just convenient antagonists. Too often when I watch movies or read books, and there's an entire race of monsters that you're supposed to dislike, I'm just sitting there like "oooh they're so cool everybody should be friends". I think the world needs more stories like that.

Also, work update! I've finished the illustrations for the kids' book, and now my client wants me to help her e-publish it, seeing as it's her first children's book. It's mine too, so this should be a fun adventure for both of us! I hope to have something to share soon!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

More church doodles!

Fun with costume design for The Voyage of the Kaus Media. I like the idea of Pereni military outfits having a bit of elegant flair to them.

Quick sketches of Wai Ren, Ganzorig, and Min from "The Shadow of Takeryuu". I'm so excited to submit that story to the Neopian Times; I had a ton of fun writing it and hopefully it's a fun read as well. You can't go wrong with a band of Shenkuuvian misfits adventuring across the land, righting wrongs and having character arcs and such.

Concept work for King Radnama from The Voyage of the Kaus Media, including some work on Legvellian armor. I've been doing some research on historical Chinese armor, which was absolutely gorgeous and way hardcore, and obviously has been inspiring Legvellian designs as seen here. Legvellian Noblirim carry crossbows and swords into battle, because they're just ridiculous like that. Don't let Radnama fool you, he's really a sweetheart. Just don't mess with anybody he cares about.

I often tire of paleoart that depicts dinosaurs and mammals constantly at odds with each other, playing on the old theme that dinosaurs tyrannized the Earth until the post-Cretaceous mammal uprising. Not only is it not very happy, but I feel it doesn't really accurately represent the probable real relationship between these two groups. It's not like either of them knew what was going to happen to dinosaurs; they were just living their lives, sharing the planet and trying to make their way in the world. There must have been times when a Ceratosaurus and a mammaliaform simply bumped noses and continued on with their day.

Second-in-Command Iramick from a band of orc mercenaries that I wrote a short story about, and I enjoyed writing about them so much that I'm considering incorporating them into a future novel. I just love the idea of orc good guys, because I think they're so awesome that it's a waste for them to be nasty villains all the time. Iramick serves under Captain Morh, who she's known for many years, and she's become something of an older sister figure to him, someone who nags and teases him but always has his back. I started a portrait of Morh too, but I'll probably finish it next week. Hooray for nice orcs!

Monday, January 1, 2018

I finished that MLP fic! Whoo! Hooray for late-night writing binges! Pro life tip: when you're bored, do something productive. You won't be bored anymore--and you'll have done something!

This story came out to about 15,000 words long. I like it because it brings my previous three Radiant Dawn stories full-circle. It also explores the role of alicorns a little, and discusses Princess Celestia's character a bit.

It was also a lot of fun to write the show's main characters. They were all enjoyable to write--I like just watching their group dynamic play out.

Also, I seem to write magic a lot. I guess because it's so much fun to describe, although it gets challenging sometimes to come up with descriptions that aren't trite or repetitive.

As for what's next--well, I'm still working on that illustration project, so depending on how quickly I hear back from my client as I get work to her, I may or may not have the time/energy for more writing. I do, however, have a plot outline drafted for another story about my Pokemon OC Professor Magnolia, and I'm excited to work on this one. It takes some ideas from Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon as well as some character arcs that I feel weren't fully resolved in the games. Should be fun.

The fourth and final part of "Giving Day at Black Keep" should be showing up in the Neopian Times this coming Friday! I'm not sure what I'm going to submit next. Illusen Day is March 17, which seems too far off for me to hold off on submitting anything until then (or at least two weeks from then). But I've been juggling so many other things lately that I may just give myself a break from submissions for a couple of months. Plus, "The Shadow of Takeryuu" is nine parts, so I figure that will more than make up for a brief absence in the Times.

I should probably go to sleep now.