A few weeks ago Vernon Shaw tweeted that he was looking for some Super Mario Maker courses to use for Game Grumps so I submitted my level Bob-omb’s Blast Barrage and it turns out they ended up using it for the show (my level starts at around the 6:25 mark)! I actually wrote about the creative process for this level in a blog post on my current employer’s blog a few months ago. Since then this level has gone through even further updates as Super Mario Maker added more features. I had fun watching them play the level and making discoveries about how it worked. I especially got a smile out of Arin claiming one of the later tasks to be “pretty cool.” After 100 episodes of playing Mario Maker levels you would think they have seen it at, so it was a nice subtle compliment.
So I thought this was a nice surprise worth sharing, and Arin’s kind words about the work I (we’ve) done through the years was (and is) very uplifting.
Something I’ve found during my Artistic Journey over the last year is that I like listening to things that motivate me. Sometimes all I need is a little push to get me in the right mind set in order to inspire me to work harder. Thanks to Stephen Silver I get that little push every Monday morning in the form of an Art Talk video.
Stephen brings years of experience not just as a successful artist, but as a father, into his insightful videos. As someone that is an “Art Dad” it’s nice to see the perspective of someone who not only gets it, but lives it. I’ll take whatever help I can get in figuring out just how to master this work, family, passion balance. However don’t think that there is nothing there for you if you don’t fall into that camp. The nice thing about Stephen’s videos is that they’re helpful for all ranges of artist be it a beginner or a seasoned industry professional.
Last June I signed up for my first panel at a local convention called Too Many Games. Without dancing around it, the panel had about 7 people show up to it. Yeah, it was a bit of a failure, but I think the presentation had some good info in there! Since then I’ve been trying to think of a way to share the presentation with everyone and I decided to do it through this blog post. This way, unlike recording a video, I can update it if I feel there was something I missed or would like to include later. I hope that you find this useful.
If you haven’t noticed I have been trying to put a little bit of effort back into the “Nerdlog.” Over the last two weeks I’ve had more updates than normal. The fact is, I miss writing. I’m not the best writer, but it’s something I do enjoy doing and it’s been missing in my life for a while. Second thing is, people actually still visit this thing! Can you believe that? Third thing is, well, I pay for it, I might as well use it! So let me address all of these points.
Like I said, I miss writing. I can’t say expect the same level of activity like back in the Nerdlog’s heyday, but I’d like to start having fun with it again. I’m not sure if I’m going to do them, but I even have some ideas for stuff like the old Feature articles I used to it. The Nerdlog is not going to be my focus though. That said, I’d like to have one or two updates a week. Two updates a week would be great!
Then there is the fact that people still visit this blog. Mostly there are three evergreen features I put together that still get a lot of traction. They are, The Wizard: Where Are They Now?, Restore your N64 to your former glory, and The Ultimate Guide to Restoring the NES. These articles were put together from ’07 through ’09. Since they still get a fair amount of visitors I have actually gone through all three of them and added a bit of new content to them. So much has changed in regards to all three of those topics since I wrote about them. Retro gaming exploded, my cleaning methods have changed, and parts that were hard to come by (like N64 analog sticks) are in full supply. In regards to The Wizard, we’ve learned more about the movie now that it’s picked up in popular culture through interviews with the director, and cast. I felt all of these things were important to add into the articles to freshen them up and keep them relevant.
Finally, the money thing. I have paid for Shamoozal.com’s web space out of pocket for over a decade. For ages I never even had a single ad on this site. It wasn’t until last year I added one whole Google Ad to every page. Believe me, it doesn’t give me much. In fact, I haven’t even been paid out from Google yet, that’s just how low of a figure that is. That said, I do plan on testing different ads and revenue generators. In an effort to be fully transparent, I’ve scattered Amazon listing links into some articles. If people click these and buy products through them, I get a very small commission. I’m not telling you to click these and buy things using them. I’m just putting it out there that these things are in place and that the reason they’re in place is to potentially take some of the burden off of me from this site that has essentially been a money pit for 10 years. Side note: I have no interest in doing something like a Patreon because I have nothing to offer in a Patreon like set up.
Anyway, hopefully I can keep the streak of new posts coming.
My brother Frank was a huge part of Shamoozal back when we were doing our thing. He’s the reason Crapfest Force and How to Hook up the NES turned out really nice. He did tons of work on the GFGames series. Lots of people think all that stuff was me but there were times when Frank was doing possibly even more animation work on Shamoozal than I was. We were juggling lots of stuff at that point, like running the blog, the message boards, a podcast and god knows what else. It was crazy!
Anyway, for the last few months Frank has been putting some time into his YouTube channel simply titled Frank Summers Animation. There you can find his reels and other highlights of his professional work. However he usually updates it with some sketches that he does live called Wednesday Lunch Live and has even recently started to add Toon Boom tutorials.
When I decided to embark upon my Artistic Journey last year my first and biggest emphasis was on figure and life drawing. I spent the first half of 2015 using YouTube videos for figure reference (there are plenty of great ones like Croquis Cafe and New Masters Academy) and then in the second half of the year I began to regularly go to life studio sessions for the first time in well over a decade. While my figure drawing improved with time, I still felt a little lost. Then I heard about the book Movement & Form by Samantha Youssef. Youssef has amazingly beautiful drawings and years of experience teaching figure drawing. It did not take me long to make up my mind in that I needed to own this book.
I received my copy of the book at the end of December and have since read it cover to cover. Twice actually. Almost instantly I began to work the lessons from the book into my studies. The sessons here require a radical shift in thinking about the way I go about drafting my drawings, but I believe my drawings are starting to have a stronger foundation. I’m finding myself to have a greater understanding of how the body works, where the pieces fit together, and ultimately adding weight and believably to my work. This is of course a work in progress and without having a mentor telling me exactly where and how things work, my improvement comes down to me and my ability to recognize my mistakes.
Usually when I work on a new animated short I tend to keep very quiet about it. I generally like to keep those kinds of things close to the chest. After all, how can I surprise anyone with cool content if they know everything that’s going to be in it? With my next project, I’d like to be a little more open.
What I’m creating is something wholly original and in my mind, like nothing I’ve made before. As of this writing it is being referred to as Wrestlemasters, a name which may or may not be final. Anyway, I’m done with parody videos. I had a good run with Read Only Memory all those years ago now and the 1980s Anime videos literally sucked the life from me, even if I do think some of them had some good ideas thrown in there. It has been a full year since I’ve animated a video, and I suspect it might be another full year until anyone sees an animated video from me again.
For the last year I’ve been on what I’d like to think of as an artistic journey. While there have been improvements to my art over the decade that I have been creating on Shamoozal, the improvement has been very slight. I need to push myself. One thing that I’ve also started doing on this journey is finding particular artists to learn from and be inspired by. The problem here is that the very people you are inspired by can also be your temporary downfall.
We all get jealous. We all envy things that people can do or have. There are times when I go sit down to do work, I load up Twitter, see some incredible pictures and it cripples me creatively. I think “I’ll never be as good as this person” and IF I move onto actually drawing from that point, I’m harsh to judge what I put down. From there I usually go further down the rabbit hole of looking more into the amazing work of said person and feeling not inspired, but horrible about my current ability by the end.
Sometimes we need to step back and begin to filter the noise. The downside to having so much available to us is that there is simply TOO much available to us at any given time. If you’re ever feeling down about your own art after looking at great art, then that is your hint to take a break from looking at art. Choose not to look at great art for a day or more. Don’t allow yourself to get consumed by it. If that means temporarily muting an artist you admire on Twitter or another social platform, then do it. Once you feel better, allow yourself to become inspired by great art again. I’d also suggest not looking at art moments before you saw something that inspired you. Chances are you won’t be able to draw or paint what you just saw as good as the piece that inspired you in the first place. This will also cause you to fall into that pit of despair.