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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...the virtual kind.

So I've had DragonBones.Net since 20200928. After a blank page with just simple hypertext in the center which read 'dragonbone.net' and you had to click to enter, you came to a page which looked like this according to the WayBackMachine.org:

That seems about right, though I can't remember any reason for making you click on a link once you had arrived at the site in order to enter the site. It's not like it was a gateway guarded with a password or anything. If I remember correctly, the text was even grey on black, so it wasn't super easy to see.

I'm guessing I thought it was stylistically cool or something. Functionally annoying in hindsight, but hey - I was new to website building (more or less) and I probably stole the idea from other site I thought was cool at the time.

Those frames may have even been frames - remember those?! Maybe it was a table. Not concerned enough to really check.

Anyway, it wasn't too long until I added some more content, including some art, and (probably) an animated gif or seven of flaming torches in sconces because c'mon... DRAGONBONES.

Also, the size of that graphic demonstrates just how drastically the resolution of our monitors has changed over the years. That 'frame' pretty much filled my screen at the time.

Just a few short months later, and the WayBack has another capture. This one mid December of the same year, and I'd done some significant work on the site.

A lot more art, and that menu at the top was... *chef's kiss*. I mean, I was really proud of it. Why? Well...

  1. Each of those skulls was based on an actual dragon illustration from the current Monster Manuals for D&D with the exception of the center skull - one of my own design and still the site logo today. If I recall correctly, two were evil dragons and two were good - with 'my' dragon in the center. Don't think I ever told anyone that. It was just interesting symbolism for me to think about when I opened the site.
  2. Each skull was an animated GIF triggered by a mousover event. That took... a lot to the n00b that I was. I was using a pirated copy of Dreamweaver at the time to help me over the humps that I couldn't bash my way through when it came to code. I was completely ignorant of anything past rudimentary HTML, so that was a significant amount.
    1. The page displayed a default static image (as you see in the screen cap).
    2. Thanks to some 'onMouseOver' code from Dreamweaver, I figured out how to go from that static image to an animated GIF  that went from that same static image to a shaded / rendered / sorta 3D version of the same skull at the same size with a color tint and highlighted text over the image which said where the link would take you (same as the labels under the graphics - just in case the graphics didn't show for any reason).
    3. The image would return to a static image once you moved the mouse away from the image. Each graphic only changed once, so it created a feel like 'you changed the icon' by mousing over it to something 'more real'.
    4. I remember getting the sizing just exactly right so there was no 'flexing' of the table it all sat in took me 4-ev-ah.
    5. How did I get the animated GIFs of each skull? Well, I used some kind of 'morphing software' which took one image and morphed it into something else. Usually, this was done with faces. Think of the tail end of Michael Jackson's "Black or White" video. (Side note: do yourself a favor and watch that if you haven't in a while.) Anyway - I did two versions of each skull - one 'flat' and one 'rendered' with a tint' and fed them into the software as 'start' and 'end'. If either image was off by a single pixel? It would 'flex' the table holding the menu. That took some time.
    6. I managed to crunch those menu graphics down small enough that the load time was... reasonable. Back then, that was FAR more worrisome than it is these days thanks to X baud modems.

And look at that news feed! If I remember correctly, that was an RSS feed from my LJ account. I think. It miiiight have even been for only 'public' posts which I treated as a new feed for my site so folks could get the info in either place.

Lastly, I have no idea when I actually started drawing digitally, but I was definitely doing so by this point. St. Nick there as well as the aforementioned menu items were all done digitally. In 2003. That feels a little like having a cell phone when most folks didn't have a wireless land line in their house.

20080505 - It looks like I finally found out about this funky thing called 'WordPress' and switched over to GoDaddy.

In related news - holy hell with the dbn logo/crest. Calm down, dude. I'll say that it was a sign of the times and NOT my lack of good design skillz. For srsly.

20090303 - Some changes to layout (though that's almost meaningless with WP) and mention of 1100. There was one previous episode, but this is the first instance that the WayBackMachine caught.

20130602 - Thanks to Jill "xtingu" Knapp 's better sense of style, this is the first appearance of the billyBoldHand font (in the logo). I like it so much that it's become a staple and gets used in most everything I do if I can manage it.

20141217 - Pinterest style 'brick' theme. While the site has undergone some minor changes since this point, it's more or less stayed like this - a 'brick' theme (like Pinterest) so that I can show off more art thumbnails directly on the front page. This seems the most sensible layout for the most part, so it's stuck for years.

So why am I telling you all this?

I'm thinking about pulling the plug on Ye Olde Bones of the Dragon as well as a number of other sites I own / host. It's doing nothing for me other than being a vanity site at this point.

No one gives one rat's ass that the site exists. They certainly don't go to it.

According to Google's Analytics for the last 9 months:

It seldom goes above single digits and they're almost entirely 'new visitors' which makes me think that most of those are web crawlers, bots, and the like.

The site's been taken over more than once, and I'm not even certain that it's 100% clean now (which would help to explain some of the low stats since the Almighty Google would likely not rank a 'dirty' site highly).

You've Made It This Far, So Here's the Honest Truth

I put a lot of hopes and dreams into this site, and it's gone no where in all these years.

The analogy that keeps popping into my head is the lame horse that you deeply love, and don't want to see suffer anymore.

Well That Escalated Quickly

Yup. I can't imagine that you've made it this far down my meandering along Memory Lane, so it's time to just get to the fucking monkey.

She won't die completely. I'll likely keep the url and point it to a subset of posts or a page on mrlich.com.

Hell, I'll probably do that with most (all?) of my other sites - rideoffintothesunset.com, libriexmachina.com, lightinthewoods.com, matt-works.com, etc.

Same reasons. No one gives a shit, and I'm spending... well, not a lot per year, but over time...

Have you somehow managed to make it all the way down here? Well shit, you must have some kind of opinion on the subject - please tell me. I'm all ears.

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How about you hop on wordpress.com and make a blog site there, which is both free and much safer than self-hosting, and just post stuff when it pleases you so to do? Then you have something to drop links to. But, I completely get it if you don't want to bother; boutell.dev is a microscopic shadow of the old boutell.com.
That is a reasonable solution. I'll think about it.
I'm always saddened by sites that disappear and get their name squatted on by some unrelated entity, but I'm not the one paying for the name registration. I was there, 5000 years ago, when the world's dictionary words hadn't yet been claimed, but still never bought a single one. By "keeping the url" but deleting the site you're just saving the online storage costs?
Yeah, the online storage costs are the lion's share. Still, I see what you're saying.
 

Been a while since I did any Patch images, and I got the proverbial itch tonight, so...

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That came out well!
I love his facial expression.
The shadows on #3 are a little stripy, not sure where the light source is, but the image itself is ... alive and predatory and amused. Reminds me of the t-shirt Houser has that says something about being excited for the zombie apocalypse.
The real take-away for the lighting is that it isn't clear, but just so you have the info, my INTENT was for two light sources: Moonlight or electric (blue) light that is subtle / gentle from behind (to our right) and above and a white light almost directly above (I was thinking 'streetlight').

I'm trying to play around with multiple light sources to add to realism. Honestly, this may be a bit of a mistake since I don't have a really 'realism' style. I'm far too cartoony, generally speaking.

I'm glad his facial expression seems a bit nuanced. Something that... irks me about a lot of wolf / werewolf artwork is that there is zero nuance. Perhaps that makes sense given the subject matter, but I'm a fan of subtle. More than binary seems a good thing. Real wolves aren't either A: I love you or B: I'm eating your face, so I figure werewolves could have additional complexity too.

And thanks!
Sometimes that's A and B. :)
Any time spent drawing is a good time. :)
It's really true. And I have to admit - there's additional comfort with this guy. Like comfort food, or reality tv or... whatever. A little bit of 'coming home'.
 

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?

Ouch.

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?

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I have similar thoughts, and then I want to read up on the Federal Art Project, and why it worked or didn't. https://www.theartstory.org/definition/federal-art-project-of-the-works-progress-administration/
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:

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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 gmbinder.com 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 dragonbones.net 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. :)

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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.

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11/23 '19 6 Comments
This makes me extremely happy.
Yay!
There's a phrase that needs the Castellar font.
Ray Conrad 11/23 '19
Agreed!
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'.)

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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 ]

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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.