Matt Lichtenwalner

Mobile mapper for TomTom - roaming the US and Canada constantly. Maybe a bit of art and/or writing here and there to spice things up.

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Today, while driving, I was listening to The Creative Penn podcast. She was talking at one point about how it's better as an entreprenuer to have an online business right now because people can still purchase your books, and that will help you stay afloat in the hard(er financially, at least) to come.

My mind wandered as it pretty much always does. That brought me to the simple idea that art, in all its various forms, are luxuries. They're not absolutely necessary for us to exist. Yes, I know. I, too, feel like it's pretty much life's blood, but logically, it's not.

That, in turn, made me think about the fact that many (most?) folks will have to cut back dramatically on their purchasing of any form of art in the near future. I myself was thinking about how I need to go on a 'financial diet', and get rid of a bunch of recurring payment stuff that I simply don't need.

But here's the thing - if we assume that TomTom isn't going to be forced to take us off the road, AND that I'll continue to be employed there for the forseeable future and of course that I don't get sick, I'm going to be okay. I still have a job. Art doesn't pay my bills. This is probably the first time in my life I'm thankful for that, even if only marginally.

All of which brought me around to "But what about those who aren't in my situation?"

I got really upset at that thought.

There are just so many people who are going to be struggling. And the artists out there who have been scraping by with the income from their art? Forgoing the 'niceties' of things like health coverage because they would rather be creating than healthy? Or maybe a step up from that - those who were able to get by, but certainly couldn't put even a penny away for a rainy day?


I know that there's talk of governmental help. I know that creatives aren't the only folks who will be hurting. But I just felt like... I dunno. I guess I just want to do something to help.

I have no idea what that is / should be.

Any thoughts?

I have similar thoughts, and then I want to read up on the Federal Art Project, and why it worked or didn't.
Bookmarking for later consumption. Thanks for the heads up.

Sometimes I really don't understand folks.

And generally, my mindset can be summed up as:

ETA: I did a new episode of 1100 to add a little of my own mirth to the topic:

Eeeee! Jillbot!
She doth return to the hallowed halls of 1100. :)
I'm sure glad we don't have a stomach bug going around. The stores would be stripped bare of nasal spray.
Heh. Too true.

The folks at are kinda brilliant. They've built a website that makes it easy for any old schmo like me build a PDF with all the formatting of a Wizards of the Coast Official 5e Dungeons & Dragons manual.

You enter simple markdown into one window, the website interperets the markdown, and uses CSS to spit the content back out in a second window with all the formatting done for you. No need to learn about different fonts or spacing or... whatever.

I've seen a couple different incarnations of this kind of thing, but GMBinder seems to be the best of them - at least that I've been able to find. And it's 100% free - at least currently.

So when I first came across one of their competitors, the idea occured to me: "This would be a great way to promote and my illustration services. I'll make a short "D&D Book" that is filled with my art and talks about how to hire me to create the art for your D&D book!" It's kinda meta, and I think folks would like that. I've never heard of it being done before, and the name of the game when selling anything is 'stand out from the crowd'. So if I do this right, I can stand out from the crowd while demonstrating just how perfectly I fit in with the crowd.

Oh shut it, Westley - it makes sense to me, and that's what matters.

Anyway - if any of you would like to have a look, you can find it here.

The cover is just a rough sketch, but all the art in it is my work, and I'm already working on a revision which will expand the book, provide more samples, etc. But with that said, I would love any and all criticisms / feedback / reviews / etc. Please - beat it up. :)

Very nice! As a remarkably minor quibble, would it look nicer or read easier if each tier was on its own page? More room for extra art, unless there's some reason to limit the page count.
I'm struggling with that a little myself. I definitely feel like there needs to be more in the way of samples, but I don't want to load it so full that it loses its "This is a real WoC document!" feel. I've been working on a revision that includes more sections (what to expect from me, how I work, etc) and those will all have more art and then if I'm not satisfied there's enough, I would probably just create several pages at the end of the document that would be exclusively a gallery of sorts.

But to your question - I can't think of any real reason to limit page count aside from my desire to keep the file size reasonable so I can email it to folks.

I'll post future versions so you can see what I've done. I DO like the idea of keeping each tier on their own page if I can do it... properly. :)

Also - a heartfelt thank you for the feedback!
Do you need one document that explains all of this minutia? Part of me is like TL;DR. I'd love to see a "short and sweet" one page slick, and then if they want more, give them something like this that explains the whole process and the benefits and what-kind-of-client-are-you.

Run this past Jerm-- he makes this stuff for a living.

(With that, I know DnD people are a different breed, a breed who still actually *reads.* But sometimes a one-pager with a stripped-down image for cheap, a more detailed one for less-cheap, and a fully-realized beautiful image for spendy hits you harder. Their eye will be drawn to the fully-realized one right away because it's the purtiest. But in the thing you have here, people don't see your best work until they're a few pages deep... and who's to say they'll get that far?

Also, I love you dearly, but that front-page image isn't pulling me in. I see what you're trying to do, but I think you put your most gorgeous work on the front cover... and maybe put thumbnails of the same image at different pricepoints/detail levels around it so they can see the options you offer.

Just a scream of consciousness reply here... sorry if I'm not totally clear.
As usual, I feel like you're spot on. This is... call it an alpha version of the final document. I was thinking that I need a "tl;dr" page as Page 1. then people can proceed if the want to.

That said, I DO want to explain the minutia. For a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that people ALL perceive themselves to be on the Hobbyist level when it comes to what they're willing to pay for, but they want to use it for the Professional level of product. And here's the important part: They may still feel this way when they're done looking at my PDF, but _I_ will know that I gave them the relevant information and will therefor feel okay charging them in a way that I feel is appropriate. I know that you understand how difficult that can be for me.

As to the cover - you're right. As I mentioned in the OP, this is a rough sketch, and I'm working on refining it even tonight. It will eventually be a MUCH more refined and finished image.

I will absolutely run this by Jerm.

Lastly - the advantage to old friends is, I'm certain, that their perspective is very clear regardless as to whether or not they feel like they are being so. I read you loud and clear. :)

And, as usual, I'm being... overly verbose. I _may_ have had a bit of rum, so please forgive that. ;)
Update to the cover image for those who are curious: I'm working on refining the sketch. That hand under the tablet is giving me some trouble.

I've got an idea for the finished image that I'm unsure if I can pull off, but I'm going to try. There will be magical effects coming up / off of the tablet to the glowing eyes in the shadows behind me. Along with these effects, I want to give hints of a sword in the hand with the stylus (pen mightier than the... yadda yadda) and a shield on the tablet arm. These should be subtle though - something you have to be paying attention in order to see.

The idea is to present myself as a guardian between the viewer and the monsters in the dark. I keep them at bay until the viewer gives the go ahead to release them.

That seems like a worthwhile symbolism to start the document.

So this picture is from... ahem... a while ago. I was a big fan of the shirt (thanks to Jill "xtingu" Knapp for that!) and I went to look up a precise translation online. Google had nothing for me at the time.

Then I looked it up again a few years after that - still nothing.

I just did a Google Search again after stumbling on the image for the first time in a while and the top half a page or so is all a series of links to direct translations of this specific phrase. That just seems impressive to me.

These are the things I think about sometimes. I think I may need a hobby.

11/23 '19 6 Comments
This makes me extremely happy.
There's a phrase that needs the Castellar font.
Ray Conrad 11/23 '19
What a great shot. :)
Karen Kuhl 11/24 '19
It's sure is from a fun era. Miss Knapp's zest is infectious in the best possible way.

So a friend sent me a link to The Toolbox Fallacy (the video above).

He sent it saying: "If you're pushing yourself to do Inktoberfest, I figure there's a chance that you aren't where you wanted to be with your art, by this point in your life.

The following 7 minute vid is a potentially impactful one, about how too many of us wait too long and have too many excuses for not taking more action sooner, toward becoming who we want to be."

First, I thought it was very nice of him to try to give me a gentle prod in the right direction.

The tl;dr of the video is "Don't wait until you have the right tools or environment or... whatever. Just do the thing that you love to do." In my case - make art.

I learned something, but it's not what you might think it would be.

I've been aware of what this person calls the Toolbox Fallacy for many years. For me, it's pretty much never about "I have to have X to make Y." In fact, to the contrary, I've spent a non insubstancial amount of time cheerleading others to 'just get started' with whatever they have on hand. Or, at worst, finding something (anything) to 'make it happen'.

It's true that I'm not where I want to be with my art. To grossly oversimplify, where I would like to be is: "Making a significant portion of my income (or possibly all of it) via the sale of art I've enjoyed making."

The reason I'm pushing myself to do Inktober (think NaNoWriMo but art using ink) is because I want to break from my normal digital production. I'm using Inktober to force myself into a 90 degree turn. Okay, so it's maybe more like a 45 degree turn. The point is that it's a different medium, there's a timer running, and it's an intense 'workout' of sorts that I don't normally do. Something like using (as I recently mentioned to Lindsay Harris-Friel ) a reduced color pallet to force yourself to think differently. These sorts of workouts often lead me to some of my best breakthroughs.

"Okay, okay. We get it. You've told us what you didn't learn. Can you get to what you did learn already?"

Fine. Be that way. I'll get to it.

Essentially, I learned two things watching that video:

  1. I'm giving folx the wrong impression about the art side of my life. I suspect this is primarilly because right now the majority of the art I'm doing is hidden from most of the world. I'm doing this on purpose (to create a 'big reveal' when our game Conquest! goes live. Still, I need to find a way to share more of what I'm doing. Part of this feels like a social media thing, and I need to do some thinking about it. More to come.
  2. It's probably time for a change. I've been doing effectively the same thing with my illustration for... well, probably about 4 decades now. Sure, I've gotten better at the thing I do, but if it hasn't brought me to where I want to be after four frickin decades then maybe I need to change the process / model / product. I'm pretty attached to the (art) process and the product, so maybe it's time to focus on the model. I've spent a lot of time working on character drawings, saying "See what I made? Don't you want me to draw your D&D character for $0.50?!" Just like the guy on the street corner who's asking for a buck, most folks just mumble some excuse and scurry away. The two people a year who actually drop a buck in my offered cap aren't enough to pay the bills. So I need to figure out something to get more work coming in the front door. Here again, I need to do some thinking about this, and I'll post more when I've figured something out.

Stay tuned, True Believers.

A quick (and terrible) collection of the images I've done for Inktober so far.

Top row is the 'standard' Inktober themes. Day 1 was "ring" and Day 9 was 'swing'.

Bottom row is the 'whimsical' list starting with Day 1 "fairy" and Day 8 'sorcery'. I haven't finished Day 9 for the whimsical list. (I'm posting this 10/8 so I'm a day ahead on the 'normal list'.)

10/9 '19 4 Comments
Thank you for sharing this.

At work, I’m focusing on similar topics. Some of this is customer retention, ie., “if you’re having trouble with x, have you tried our course about xy yet?” and general Cheerleading.

Meanwhile I’m not working on my own art, so... PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF!
I loved the video. I sent it to Rog's nephew and he went nuts for it. I got some things done today after watching it. Thanks!
Karen Kuhl 10/9 '19edited
This video is life changing.
Thank you, dear friend.
uh... is the video gone? NEVER MIND. Found it. Thank you. I needed that.
Lindsay Harris Friel 10/13 '19edited

So it looks like I may get a new P/T job to supplement my job at TomTom. It’s still a bit of a long shot, but my buddy Brad said there might be an option where he works. We were talking about it last night, and I said that I would love to get some hours there if they would be understanding about my weird “it would have to be on rainy days” thing.

He apparently had some turmoil there this morning including the firing of a beloved coworker. They were already understaffed. They normally have paid interns, but those positions had been frozen until recently which threw them out of the school seasonal hiring schedule.

So we will see. I’m hopeful. I could use the extra hours and the extra money. What’s more, the position, while not anything like any ‘illustration’ gig I would ever think of, does have the word illustrator in the title, so it might be a bit of a resume builder. What’s even more, I know that I will learn a lot - which is enough to be enticing all by itself. I’ve been so stagnant in recent years when it comes to learning anything. I feel like my brain is turning to mush.

Anyway - this all has me looking at my resume and touching it up / adding the TomTom relevant information. That, in turn, had me wandering down my work history in my head. I’ve long thought I need to better document the jobs I’ve done in my past. It’s a pretty broad spectrum and it would be nice to reference them.

Keep your fingers crossed for me and the potential new side gig!

[ x - posted this to my DW account ]

8/27 '19 8 Comments
I really hope this works out!
Thanks! Keep those fingers crossed!
Yes to updating your resume! Yes to jobs that wake the brain beast!
Thomas Boutell 8/28 '19
Indeed! This would teach me (at least) more about CAD (specifically Artios CAD which I'm completely unfamiliar with), Illustrator (believe it or not, I don't have much experience there) and some others as well as equipment like specialty cutting machines for prototype building.

It's enough that it has me intrigued.
Good luck! I look forward to more details about what the work entails.
Rob 8/28 '19
Thanks! Will do.
Oooh! Fingers crossed. And ... did you get it?
Sadly(?), no. The hiring freeze did me in. Well, that and the fact that they just got rid of some folks. My buddy was actually surprised that as many folks went to bat for the idea of hiring me as did. Goes to show how bad they need someone.

Actually - kinda reminds me of some of the stuff Amy's been through.

This episode was based on a single tweet - details here.

8/7 '19 8 Comments
Well done. The choices you made with the voice balloons are a great touch. having the characters stay the same from frame to frame really throws the emphasis on the dialogue.

When I was in seventh grade or so, we had a discussion in History class (I think) about democracy, dictatorships, and oligarchies, and , and what it takes to get elected President. One of my take-aways from the discussion was that anyone who had enough ambition and drive to be President, probably shouldn't be.

>"The choices you made with the voice balloons..."

I really had my eyes opened when I I read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud a couple decades ago. He really made me understand that there's infinite possibilities in the fonts alone, let alone once you add in things like the word balloons, frames, and backgrounds. And all that before we even start in with the illustration portion. I recommend that book to everyone who can read. I would post a link to it, but because I wasn't selling enough, Amazon revoked my 'Associate' membership, and with it, my ability to create short links. #SideRant

>"...anyone who had enough ambition and drive to be President, probably shouldn't be..."

Yeah - another thing that has been a theme in my life. I mean, I suppose that (like all 'absolutes') there are exceptions. I was kinda fond of the last guy. Still, as a general rule, I think that's valid. His SmallHandedTangerine-ness certainly seems like a screaming example of it.
That book is on my list. I haven't snagged it, though.
Sadly, I don't think I have my copy anymore. Mayyybe it's at my folks' place. I'll check when I'm next there because you would be welcome to borrow mine.

Of course, it's probably worthwhile having a copy in your library for rereading every once in a while. It's _that_ kind of book if memory serves.
It is a life-changing book.
I'm also kinda proud of the body language of both characters. The mage is curved one direction, drooping, and holding onto his staff for support. The child is curved the other direction, standing upright, and even leaning in with expectation.
and that is why you are Good At Your Craft.
G'aawww shucks. *digs a toe in the dirt*

A discussion developed in response to a friend's post about the security of entries here on OPW. I worked through my current understanding of the Key/Lock system here on a comment thread, and thought I would repost it here, publicly, for reference. Tom, if 1. You see this 2. it's accurate and 3. you are so inclined, feel free to copy and/or link to this post for reference. I'm happy to edit this post if that proves easier.

* * * * *

Let's assume I lock ALL of my posts with stop light colors. I would do that because I don't want Google or John Q. Public to be able to read what I write here. If I DID want that, I could just make the post "Public" and all the world could see them. At least that's my current understanding.

But I don't. I lock them all for the purposes of this scenario.

Posts that are pretty friendly to everyone get a Green Lock. I create that here: under the _New lock_ link. Posts that are only for close friends get an Yellow Lock, and of course, posts that show my Deep Dark Secrets and are thus only for my singnificant other get a Red Lock.

Then, I can give each person the correlating keys to the locks I want them to be able to open. I would do that for my imaginary friend Jane Doe here: and clicking on the _Give keys_ link under her her profile info.

This system allows for really accurate filtering, and kudos to Tom for using it. As I see it, the only 'down side' is that it could theoretically get pretty complicated over time if you had a lot of situational locks that you wanted to create. So while I don't use the system I described above, my system isn't far off.

* * * * *

Side thought: I just realized that I have no idea if/how 'hidden' response comments are to posts. ie - if I have access to my imaginary friend Jane Doe's entries, do I get to see responses by people I have no access to?

My gut reaction is yes, that I _can_ see those responses, but I'll have to double check.

6/3 '19 2 Comments
yes, this is accurate. If you can see a post, you can see all the comments on that post. Otherwise it would do a disservice to the original poster because the conversation would be very disjointed.
Cool. That makes sense.