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Breakin' a take

Journal Entry: Sat Jul 23, 2011, 10:06 PM
Or... takin' a break!  Sort of.  I never really stop drawing, I just stop making finished paintings that I feel are worthy of my DA gallery.  

Sometimes it happens.  Ideas dry up and other things grab my interest.  

Jim and I bought a house in November '10 and got into DIY repair and home upgrading.  My new blog, leveluphouse.com, shows off some of our efforts.   We also took on a few side projects, like a new plush website and investigating some two-person-team game dev ideas to pursue in our free time.  We're also swamped with entertainment:  I'm hooked on Tiny Tower and reading A Dance With Dragons.  

And we're traveling!  I'll be in Illinois next week, Alaska in 2 months, and we're already thinking of where to go next.  

Life is good!  There just isn't enough time for every last thing... right now. :)

  • Reading: A Dance With Dragons
  • Playing: Bastion

2 years in WA!

Journal Entry: Thu Nov 25, 2010, 9:44 PM
In two weeks it'll be two years since Jim and I made the move to Washington state!  We still love it here, and commemorate this "occasion" we've bought a house!  I've been kind of quiet on DA for the last couple months as we filled out paperwork, gathered supplies for some up-front renovations, and packed up our apartment for the big move.  

Of course, Seattle's weather system had some other ideas and dumped a giant load of snow and ice on us. This city totally shuts down when there's snow!  It's still weird to me, being from Chicago where school NEVER gets canceled even if there's like two feet of snow on the ground.  It's starting to melt now, though, which bodes well for taking advantage of some Black Friday goodness tomorrow.

Since I can't leave my apartment to do anything productive (my hill is an ICY DEATH TRAP OF DOOM) I've taken to updating ancient journals and posting some stuff I meant to post back when Halloween was still a current event.  I even scraped a layer of dust off my tablet and did a quick painting just to prove that I can still find the Photoshop icon in my start menu. Ahhh, it's good to do something that doesn't involve boxes or signing papers! :D

  • Reading: Dune
  • Playing: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Gen Con 2010!

Journal Entry: Mon Jun 21, 2010, 9:59 PM
Anyone else going?! I am!!

I'll be working at the table for "Invasion from Outer Space", a board game designed and published by my friends Scott and Jason Hill!! It's a super fun board game featuring a group of circus performers as Earth's last hope against invading aliens.  

I'm a character in the game: I play Angelica the Bearded Lady! I'll put on my heels, lace up my corset and glue on my beard for a special in-costume demo of the game!! LOL!  

Anyway, I hope to see some familiar faces there!  Drop by and say hi if you go to Gen Con this year!!  After the con I'll be heading home for a week in Illinois with my family and friends.  Should be tons of fun!!!

  • Reading: Pride and Prejudice
  • Playing: Age of Empires III

Welcome, 2010!

Journal Entry: Sat Jan 2, 2010, 3:33 PM
I know it's cliche to say so, but wow! where did the time go? Celebrating 2000 still feels rather recent!  

I spent that New Year's Eve playing EverQuest.  I spent this one playing WOW.  I guess not much has changed! :D  Well, not much besides graduating high school ('02), learning how to drive ('03), graduating college ('06), starting my first job ('06), moving out on my own ('06), meeting my now-husband ('06), moving to Washington state for a new job ('08), and getting married ('09).

2009 was a year of two big events for me:

First, I started at a new job in a new state I'd never been to before. It was a little scary at first but after a year here I feel like this is the right home for me and Jim. I was nervous that my small-company experience wouldn't translate to a larger company or that people would be standoffish towards a newcomer. But as it turns out, my experience had prepared me well - and so many people have been so kind and friendly to us. Best of all, Jim was hired at the same company shortly after I was, so we are able to share in a lot of the same experiences and friends here.  It's just been a blast! I love my new friends and coworkers and I love how *alive* the game industry is out here.

My second big event was getting married!

Jim and I got married in a beautiful ceremony on November 14th surrounded by close friends and family. Of all the memories I have of that evening, the memory of our first dance is my favorite.  My mother was expecting us to be nervous and not know how to dance, so she surprised us by unloading several bags of balloons onto the dance floor as a distraction. We surprised everyone else by having a lovely ballroom dance rehearsed for the song!  As we twirled and danced to "To Die For" by The Birthday Massacre www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBFrko… , our guests created an endless cascade of balloons around us. It was incredible and unforgettable, and writing about it here doesn't even begin to do it justice.

My hopes and goals for the New Year are:

-To continue to advance in my career by taking on big challenges at work
-To improve as an artist and by 2011, be able to see a difference in work created in '09 vs. work created in '10
-To make more art than I did last year. There are so many new ways to spend my time here - with friends, going to stuff downtown, sightseeing in a new state, etc, so we'll see if that actually happens. :D
-To continue to grow my plush grubs business ('09 was a record year for sales!)
-To play lots of awesome video games! :D
-To spend plenty of quality time with my dear Jim

  • Reading: Freakonomics
  • Watching: Firefly
  • Playing: Fat Princess

It's almost here!!

Journal Entry: Fri Nov 13, 2009, 3:25 PM
I get married tomorrow!!  My darling Jim  ( MigrantJ ) and I will tie the knot tomorrow, November 14th, surrounded by family and close friends. I am so very, very excited!!

And I am also eager to get back to "life as normal", as wedding planning has devoured much of the last few months!  Being married will be awesome, and I can't wait.

It never rains in Seattle

Journal Entry: Sat Jul 25, 2009, 9:02 PM
If you live in the US, you might've heard that it rains a lot in Seattle.  Before I moved out here, I was told by many people that the sky is always grey and the rain never stops.  Others tried to warn me that some people who live in Seattle actually become depressed due to the lack of sunlight!

This was great to hear because I LOVE grey days. I feel best when the sky is a solid mass of grey and it looks like it might rain any minute.

But here's the surprise: it never rains here! I've lived here 8 months now and it's rarely even cloudy!  I'm more tanned than I've ever been in my life because of the constant sunshine.  The grass is turning yellow and the sky is an empty wash of blue every day.

I still think this area is the most beautiful place I've ever lived. Tall evergreens span every horizon, and there are plenty of parks, beaches, bike trails, and nearly everyone I've met is friendly and funny. The software development industry is strong despite the economic woes elsewhere.

I'm starting to suspect that all that talk about rain is just a lie to keep millions of people from flooding this region.  So, uh... forget I said anything. It's always cold and rainy here. :)

  • Reading: A Feast For Crows by George R R Martin

VNV Nation 07/10 @ House of Blues

Journal Entry: Fri Jul 3, 2009, 9:53 AM
I just saw them in Seattle 2 days ago and OMG, WOW!!!! There's nothing I can say here that'll do their show justice. I wish I could go again.

If you're one of my friends back in Chicago and you have any liking towards industrial, electronic, or just plain loud & awesome music, go see them on July 10th!!

Dates: www.vnvnation.com/Webfiles/liv…

Ticketbastard: www.ticketmaster.com/event/040…

Feel free to visit me anywhere and add me to your networks!

My art
Online portfolio: www.majoh.com
DeviantArt: Majoh
Art(WIP)Blog (and some general life ramblings): mandiartblog.blogspot.com

Networking sites
Facebook: www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=…
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/majoh

Grubs
Plushgrubs.com: www.plushgrubs.com
Grubs on DeviantArt: blushplush
Grubs' Etsy shop: adoptagrub.etsy.com
  • Listening to: Ayria
  • Reading: Time magazine
  • Playing: WOW battlegrounds (Alliance side)
I made it to Seattle!  Well, Kirkland, a suburb, to be specific.  The last month has been some variety of hell I wouldn't wish on anyone, but now that everything's settled, I can look back and laugh about it.
...
Well, maybe it's too soon for that still!

Way back in November I had exactly three days to pack up everything in the townhouse Jim, my fiance, and I shared. Not only did we have more stuff than could be packed in twice as much time, we had half the help we thought we were going to thanks to some ridiculous "but it's Thanksgiving!!" drama. Fortunately my parents and sister showed up every day to make the move possible.  I'm really grateful they were willing to help, since no one in his family did and we really, really needed it. I didn't think we'd make it, but we taped up the last box about an hour before the moving truck was due to arrive.  The truck was then five hours late. But they loaded it up, and after the truck drove off at 8pm I finally had a chance to relax for a week!  Or so I thought, until I had to work late every night of my last week at Webfoot. :D

This was the same weekend Jim's car died.  We'd been pushing it further than we should have, I admit.  But it couldn't make it ONE MORE WEEK!! It just died on the street. My dad brought over all his car jumping tools and we were able to milk another day of runtime out of it, but it croaked for good about a day later.  As far as "things we didn't need" go, this was pretty high on the list!

I arrived in Washington on December 9th.  Fortunately, the flight went well enough. I caught a horrible cold my first day here, probably from freezing all night on the air mattress I bought here.  I had no idea those things don't maintain any heat.  Brrrr. I bought blankets and pillows (thanks Linens N Things store liquidation prices!!) and spent the days between the 10th and the 13th bundled up and trying to get well.

The truck arrived the 13th, hot off the highway in an 18-wheeler that couldn't get up to my apartment, which is situated at the end of a narrow windy road up a hill. I got out of bed, still ridiculously sick, and Jim and I scrambled to find a rental truck to "shuttle" our stuff from the truck (which they parked at the beach nearby) to the apartment.  The movers then $550 in cash for having to use the "shuttle", so I got to feel like a drug dealer counting out a huge stack of 20 dollar bills in a shady parking lot. (Sidenote: Don't use Olympic Moving and Storage out of Skokie IL!! Tell your friends! Their final cost was almost twice their estimate! They SUCK!)

I spent the 14th unpacking as much as I could, even though I was tired and sick and just wanted to be in bed. This was probably the crappiest birthday I've ever had, and my birthday expectations are best described as "rock bottom".

The 15th was my first day at my new job, which finally felt like relaxation compared to the previous three weeks!!  It was probably also the only thing that went well in this drama-laden, expensive, stress-fest of a move. My coworkers all seem really nice and competent.  The project is really exciting, too, and I was just starting to carve a place for myself in the team when the snow came.

Seattle has like, three plows.  And no salt.  At first I laughed at the little bit of snow that fell the first day and the way people freaked out over it, because it wouldn't have been worth noticing in Illinois.  But when the roads aren't plowed and you live on a hill, it's absolutely terrifying. Half the office had trouble getting to work it seemed, and I was stuck on my hill for what eventually turned out to be about 8 days. My company gave the days between Christmas and the 5th off, so at least I wasn't missing any work.  I spent the vacation recovering from being sick and playing WOW when I felt like sitting up.

Now, I love being at home and I'm certainly capable of staying indoors for days and days.  But the food was running out and once the hot dogs and cereal went, we had to brave the snow.  Driving on what was probably 6'' of unplowed snow in a two wheel drive Ford Taurus was terrifying.  We skidded.  We got stuck and had to push out.  We even parked in what was probably not a parking space, but when there's that much snow, no one seems to care.  

We hiked through shin deep snow to the grocery store, only to find that the store was majorly picked over.  Whatever goods had made it through the storm were already bought. We bought what we could find and trudged back to our snow cave and didn't leave again until it melted. I'll just gloss over all the other crap, like the DMV refusing me a license, the Internet installation getting botched and taking an extra week to get going, all the stuff the movers broke, and missing everyone back home at Christmas.

But I'm happy to say that things have improved now that the snow is gone. We have food, we're mostly unpacked, and I started some new art.

We still have the house to sell and we're trying to stay hopeful in this very bad house-selling market, but once it sells we might.. just.. make it! :D  At least we'd better make it, because I really don't want to move again anytime soon!
  • Reading: New Moon
  • Watching: Twilight... this weekend. :D
I'm moving to Washington!!!! I accepted a majorly awesome position at a majorly awesome company called Griptonite!!

The new position is that of Lead Designer, and I can't wait to contribute to some really exciting projects. The one I'll be starting on has to remain top-secret, but suffice to say that I am THRILLED with it.

I've never been to the west coast before and I've never been to Seattle, so this is a gigantic leap of faith.  I'll post again once some of the madness subsides.
  • Reading: A Song of Ice and Fire
  • Watching: ZBrush tutorials
  • Playing: World of Warcraft
Here's some stuff I'm working on this year:

1.  Create a new demo reel with new environments, characters, and animation - DONE!
2.  Learn ZBrush - I completed my beginner's DVD series!
3.  Create several high quality, low poly models - DONE!
4.  Create several high quality, high poly models
5.  Paint at least 5 portfolio-quality environments/characters/scenes - DONE!
6.  Learn normal mapping
7.  Model at least 2 high quality environments - DONE!
8.  Practice regularly
9.  Find a rewarding, games-related job - DONE!

You can find more of my work at my blog: mandiartblog.blogspot.com/&nbs… regularly post WIPS and commentary on my in-progress projects.
Hello all!  I have great news:

My very first game as lead designer, "Julie Finds a Way" for the Nintendo DS, is coming out in stores soon!  

American Girl ( www.americangirl.com ) is a largely historical license for 8-12 year old girls featuring 10-year-old girl characters who live in different time periods in American history.  Their stories are about the challenges they face, such as being an escaped slave during the Civil War, having their Dad go off to war, being poor during the Great Depression.

As someone who grew up reading and cherishing these books, I was honored to design a game for the license.  Obviously, this license isn't for everyone, but when compared with most of the trite, insulting, and unchallenging crap they try to market to girls, this is a GREAT license with a story of substance.

As it turned out, American Girl wanted us to create the game for their newest girl, Julie, who lives in 1976, making the game's story ultimately very modern when with all the other girls they could have picked from.  The game is based mainly in a 3D world where you play as Julie and progress roughly through the storyline of her six books.  It is also packed with minigames that are both challenging and a blast to play, as evidenced by our office competitions in the multiplayer versions. :D

I am fortunate to say that Julie DS had a great team working hard on it!  When you work at a small company and make a big project, a few people end up having a lot of roles.  I was not only lead designer, but also modeled and animated all the characters, created two of the environments, scripted the vast majority of the game, debugged nearly all of the script, and created and coded all of the menus.  I worked very hard on this, probably harder than I've ever worked on anything in my life, and nearly every talent I have was put to the test (even my staying-up-past-11pm talent).  

But most of all, I am proud to say it is done, and that it is a great game!
Hi everyone!  I've got quite a collection of plush Grubs I've made in the last couple months, so I decided to give them their own DA account!  You can check out what I've been up to at AdoptAGrub !
  • Reading: Perdido Street Station (China Mieville)
X-TREME Wii Camping   

Much fun was had by my boyfriend and I as we stood outside a Toys R Us the morning of Sunday, Feb 11th, in sub-freezing temperatures in a line waiting for a Wii.  Our efforts were rewarded with a fabulous new Wii, which we spent most of the afternoon playing with.  I have Wario Ware and Twilight Princess, and both are totally awesome so far.

X-TREME Skiing

I figured since I hadn't downhill skied in about 10 years, it'd be a good idea to start off on a nice, medium difficulty blue run.  Three days later I regained the ability to bend my legs while walking, and 2 weeks later, the bruises are starting to fade.  Nonetheless, I'm making regular sacrifices to the snow gods for more snow so that I might relive the experience of flying down a hill uncontrollably once more before summer.

X-TREME Skating

In the spirit of taking part in sports I haven't done in years, I dusted off my roller skates and took them and my bf to the nearest roller rink.  I urged him to take part in the Chicken Dance / Hokey Pokey (which, like any self-respecting male would, he protested).  It wasn't until the Chicken Dance was ending and paramedics arrived that all us patrons realized a girl had been sitting on the floor with an injured leg.   (Several staff had been attending to her while another one led the chicken dance to distract everyone else).  I bet she'll hate the Chicken Dance for the rest of her life.   And I will forever associate the Chicken Dance with blatant ignoring of an injured person.  :D

  X-TREME Plush making

I finally got around to using my brand new sewing machine!  Check out my grubz, yo:   Plush grubs by Majoh  Much more to come!
Usually when people write reviews on stuff, they try to be profound and wordy.  Here's some things I've read/watched/tried lately and my one-word reviews on them.

The Scar, by China Mieville (fantasty/sci fi novel):  SUPERB!

Children of Men (movie):  Captivating!

The Eyes of the Dragon, by Stephen King (fantasy novel):  Addictive!

DreamCypher, by the Cruxshadows (music album):  Awesome!

Snakes on a Plane DVD (best movie ever):  Hilarious!

Comcast (internet/cable TV provider):  Poor!

If you're bored, I highly recommend any of the above, especially The Scar if you're the book-readin' type.  I don't recommend Comcast.
I have mixed feelings on 2006...

The Good

- I graduated from ILIAS with a Game Art and Design BFA and a decent enough portfolio to land a job after one interview and 2 weeks of looking.
- I got my first paycheck ever.
- My senior project animation, Snack Attack, made it into ARTimation, my school's festival for animated student work.  I finally got something on the big screen.  Take that, animation majors!
- My work is satisfying enough for a first job.  I've got a few video games either out or soon to be out with my artwork and scripting in them, so I'm pretty proud of that.
- I met a new boy who I began dating about 4 months ago.
- I moved into my own apartment.

The Bad

- I broke Tyler's heart when I ended our relationship and I will feel guilty about this for a long time.  He would have loved me forever, but his reluctance to move forward with our relationship doomed it.
- Living on my own is financially rough.  I had planned for a future with someone else alongside me, and now I'm going it alone. My monthly savings are piddly, and I'm afraid it'll be many more years before I can realize my dream of owning my own home (let alone save enough for retirement or emergencies).
- I feel like I traded one set of relationship problems for another.  Another ambivalent relationship? I dunno...  I felt really good about things until suddenly I was spending Christmas and New Year's by myself during what is the worst time in my life...

The Horrible / The Miraculous

- My family is experiencing our worst personal tragedy.  My mom suffered a heart attack on the evening of December 25th and was dead on our kitchen floor for several minutes until paramedics arrived.  They were able to restore her breathing, which, according to the paramedics, only 20% of the people they find in her condition are able to do.  

So many odds were against her that the doctors at the hospital are calling her the "miracle girl".  Mom spends the majority of her day alone, but when this happened, my father and sister happened to be home with her.  She had no warning signs, and collapsed slowly.  The only reason my dad and sister knew what happened was that she happened to knock a plate over as she laid herself down on the floor.  Two of her main heart arteries are clogged completely, the other two are at 80-90% clogged.  They cannot believe that she has had no prior symptoms.  We are the luckiest family around right now.

The real miracle, however, was in the Bloomingdale paramedic unit.

My family lives less than a mile from the station from which the ambulance was dispatched, and our paramedic unit happened to be rather advanced in that it carries some sort of "IO" injection that goes directly to the bone marrow.  When paramedics can't find a vein, they can instead inject life-saving medicine directly into the bone.  This, apparently, has only been done on children until recently, and is an uncommon procedure.  The doctors have told us that this injection directly into the bone is what saved my mother's life, since no vein could be found and she wasn't responding to CPR.  

The last week of my life has been spent largely at mom's bedside in the hospital.  I am happy to say that she is recovering fairly well.  The first few days were the worst - she was sedated and asleep and we had no idea if there were brain injuries or worse, but various tests have given comforting news that her heart suffered little to no damage, and her brain function appears to be unharmed.   She is scheduled to undergo a bypass operation tomorrow morning, and we are all hoping for the best.

It's incredible what nearly losing someone you love will do to your outlook on life.  I suddenly don't give a shit about many of the things I used to, and some of my priorities have changed.

Good riddance 2006.  I hope 2007 is better.
  • Reading: The Scar by China Mieville
  • Eating: Triscuit
www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.j…

edit: The link above parses into a smiley face, but if you go to www.bestbuy.com and search for My Little Pony you'll find it all the same.



Check it out!  My Little Pony: The Runaway Rainbow (for the PC) is on store shelves now!  I know, I know, My Little Pony isn't about blowing up bad guys and exploding heads, but dammit, I'm proud of it and I think it's awesome.  This is the first major game I've worked on that features a significant amount of my artwork.

I made most of the animated background NPCs, scripted the majority of the levels, created countless art assets, and spent weeks fixing problems.  I am particularly proud of the fact that my art is not only all over this thing, but it's on the box too!  I assembled all the "in action" screenshots on the box, and created the clothing the pony is wearing in the "dress up game" screenshot.   

Many late nights and hard work went into this, and I'm so happy to see it finally completed and in stores!   The next game that'll have my work in it is another kids' PC game, which has much, much more of my work in it than this one, such as the backgrounds and virtually all the art assets.
  • Listening to: Orbital
  • Reading: The Scar by China Mieville
  • Watching: Not Colbert Report :(
  • Drinking: Water
Comedy Central seems to have moved Colbert Report from 7:30 in the morning to 8:30 in the morning, making it impossible to watch him before work!  Those bastards.

But hey, at least I replaced my crusty old journal entry. V :) V
  • Reading: The Scar by China Mieville
Unfortunately, I will not be attending the ILIAS potfolio show tomorrow (for reasons inappropriate for explaining here).  

The situation is beyond my control and I regret that I will not be there to meet the grads and collect reels for the company I work for.  My apologies to those I told I'd be there.  Perhaps another time.
  • Reading: Roadwork by Stephen King
  • Playing: Mario Kart DS
Does anyone know what day and time the show is this quarter? :)