Status of the Blog 6/12/17

YouTube Thumbnail for Moon Over My Monkey

Quickdraw Animation Lockdown 2017

I recently returned from a three week trip to Canada. Part of that was spent in Calgary at Quickdraw Animation Society participating in their annual Animation Lockdown. Over the Victoria Day long weekend teams worked on shorts loosely themed around Brave New Worlds. Here’s my entry, Moon Over My Monkey.

Lockdown is a fun event, even though you’re always under the pressure of a deadline. You learn a lot about yourself over a four day crunch to finish a film. I started attending last year as a getaway from my regular environment. A chance to join like-minded people as we toiled away in our respective studio spaces. As somebody with ADHD I have a love/hate relationship with structure. Left to my own devices I can get overly ambitious and fail to finish anything due to perfectionism. There’s no time for perfection with Lockdown. Even if you spend time beforehand prepping you still only have so long to finesse before the screening.

Retro Animation Website

Inspiration

The recent YouTube Ad-pocalypse has made me think back to earlier days on the Internet. Sites like Homestar Runner and JoeCartoon would feature animated cartoons that were entirely their own thing. Of course that was before Flash was a dead program walking. The Brothers Chaps have tested the waters with a comeback. Cousin Joe Twoshacks has a band now. Jazza did interviews with various Newgrounds animators in his The Tale Teller & Mini Documentary Series, particularly in part three, The RISE of INDEPENDENT ANIMATION.

He also made a video entitled The DEATH of Independent YOUTUBE ANIMATION? joining in the discussion of the future of indie animation on the platform. Can You Make A Career Out of Internet Animation? The Pegbarians Are Definitely Trying also brought about some passionate responses from those in the community. YouTube competitor vidme has been courting frustrated animators with their Original Animation category. I encourage all creators today to put their content everywhere. This increases your chances of being seen, of growing an audience, and hopefully makes it harder for freebooters to gain traction. That said, having your own domain to point back to is very important. At the end of the day you don’t own any of the other platforms you post on. It’s risky running a business on a system that’s out of your control. One change in an algorithm can dramatically impact people’s livelihoods over night. This need for stability and control, coupled with a desire to experiment, is why my next big project is going to be building my own site for my animations.

Laying the Groundwork

After using WordPress for ~10 years I’m eager for a little more flexibility. It’s tempting to just start making pages but I remember early in my webcomics career, after I’d built up something of an archive, “How am I going to change the footer on all these… Oh.” I spent some time researching and comparing various flat file CMS systems and at the moment have settled on Grav. I still need to experiment in my local environment but right now that’s what I’m going with. I’m also going to be testing Animatron to make HTML5 animations with interactivity that should work on mobile devices.

2017: New Beginnings

Hi 🙂 If you’ve been following me for any length of time, I want to thank you for your patience. If you’re new, Welcome! I’m Ben. I’m a cartoonist and this is my blog. It’s been awhile since I’ve properly blogged here and I’d like to take a moment to apologize for the way I’ve handled things thus far.

Where Have You Been?

The short answer to this is dealing with mental disorder. I’ve never really felt comfortable blogging on my own sites as it tends to feel rather news post-y. This sets up an expectation in my head that whatever I write about needs to be newsworthy. It sounds silly and irrational explaining it but that’s anxiety for you. I’ve dealt with anxiety and other issues most of my life, certainly from the time I started my first site. It took me a long time to be ok with the idea of seeking outside help for my problems. I’ve shared some of my journey on my tumblr blog as it felt more casual. Eventually I realized this is something I should be addressing in my own official blog. Not that I haven’t been authentic when I post things but rather there’s parts of myself I never shared due to fear, humiliation, or some other rationalization that my own site wasn’t the place for sharing my experiences.

I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I didn’t fit the stereotype growing up as I was a fairly well behaved kid and a good student. Some of that I attribute to family pressure to act “normal” in public and some to how poorly ADHD was diagnosed at the time. I have sensory issues I’m still sorting out. I know I’m light-sensitive and background noise distracts me, especially voices since I can’t tune those out. I probably have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, though I haven’t officially been diagnosed with it yet, as I’ve compared my anxiety to the constant buzzing of fluorescent lights. I’ve been in therapy about a year now learning what all this means for me and coming to terms with it. I’m still on this journey. It’s sometimes scary and confusing. Actually getting medicated and seeking help, however, has been nothing short of life changing for me. Before I would be positively terrified of anybody even suspecting there was something wrong with me, much less the idea of sharing and discussing it with people. Mental health has a stigma surrounding it and as soon as I realized my worries were due to a chemical imbalance I decided I wasn’t going to let them control me ever again. I will never feel shame for getting treatment. I hope my efforts to normalize and open a dialogue about mental health help other people realize they have the right to feel ok with themselves. Every person, no matter who you are or where you are on your journey through life, deserves to feel accepted and loved. I want you to know I appreciate you and I’m very glad you’re here with us.

What Happened to the Podcast?

You may have noticed Season 5 of the NoRights Podcast ended abruptly and transitioned into TNT (Talk, News, and Trivia) with Ian and Frank. I apologize if it seemed jarring. Let me be clear I’m still really good friends with everybody involved. This wasn’t some sort of falling out or anything like that. The fact of the matter is it didn’t feel like the NoRights Podcast to me anymore. It became something I liked attending and participating in but no longer wanted to host. I handed the reigns of that show over because I want the NoRights Podcast, like this blog, to have a more personal direction. I like hanging out with my friends but my own voice was getting lost in the mix.

What’s the Plan Moving Forward?

I’ve taken down the static front page and have pushed the blog to be the main focus. For a time I considered starting a multimedia magazine. It’s a good idea but completing full regular issues alongside growing a readership is too ambitious. Instead I intend to post at least two substantial blog posts a week from here on out, hopefully more. I’d like to document my projects as I work on them, share my thoughts and opinions with you, and try to be more engaging than I have been in the past. It’s not going to be perfect because I’m not perfect. But I will be honest and I will respect you. Once I have enough significant content on a subject or project I’ll put together an ebook for it. I’ll be working this into a Patreon campaign so people who like my work will have a chance to support it while getting some nice extras for themselves. More on that to come.

I’d planned to record and roll out the first episode of Season 6 of the podcast on Tuesday but that didn’t happen obviously. I’d spent two weeks vacationing with my mom in California and returning to a productive schedule has been rough. Refilling my prescriptions became an ordeal with travel, my sleep cycle was all screwed up after staying awake 27 hours and then sleeping through New Year’s Eve, and I got slowed down with some depression. I’m not making excuses, just being realistic as some day’s goals are going to be harder to reach than others. That said, I will do my best to be open with you all and keep you updated from here on out. My twitter is the easiest way to reach me if you’re wondering what’s up or have a question about anything.

I’d like to thank you once again for joining me and I hope you enjoy watching me work. I have projects lined up running the gamut from making music to drawing pin up girls, monsters, and animating shorts. It’s my wish that neither of us grow bored and there’ll always be something interesting ahead of us. May my successes and failures inspire you, friend!

Status of the Blog 10/01/16

It’s the first of the month so I figure this is a good time to post updates and plans.

Blogging

I’ve started blogging on my tumblr more and to keep it regular I’m going to try and do it every Friday to recap the week and announce plans for the next one. I might post more than that but Friday’s what I’m shooting for. (I meant to start last night but was on a hangout with Ian and Frank until about 2 this morning.) Following what I’m doing right now I’ll try to write up about the month’s progress here.

Animation and New YouTube Channel

The main goal is to launch a new channel in 2017. I want to make it specifically for my cartoons, program a content strategy for it, and see if I can intelligently play the YouTube game. I’m still deciding on a proper name for it. I’ve used NoRights Productions for a long time but it’s ambiguous and having a dedicated name for my animation business is a good move. I’ll probably crosspost to my newgrounds account, too, though I’d like to experiment there. Tom Fulp has posted about YT on NG and he makes excellent points. NG’s audience is smaller but more passionate about animation. As I start producing more content we’ll see how that shakes out. I’d also like to do some freelance work though I’m still building my demo reel.

Multimedia Magazine

I’ve been enamored with the idea of doing a digital magazine that’s a mashup of creative writing, essays, comics, animation, video, audio, basically a bundle of stuff I want to put together in a unique regular package. I’d considered starting with a Halloween issue but don’t want to feel rushed by an arbitrary deadline. I’m actively working on it, collecting my thoughts and outlining them. The animation channel is Project A and the magazine is Project B. Project A is going to have many sub-projects during the week and Project B will be evenings, weekends, and other down time.

Status of the Blog: 07/12/16

  • On July 12, 2016 ·
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Hey everybody! Here’s a site update and plans moving forward.

Web Stuff

I’ve been retooling things, moving content to it’s own custom post types. Still working on it and I’ll probably change how the portfolio displays, too. It’s been a little tricky figuring out what stuff I need to hard code and what I can edit through posts. I want to prioritize things so it’s not overwhelming for new visitors.

The Podcast

I enjoy doing the weekly hangout shows with Frank and Ian but it hasn’t felt like the NoRights Podcast for some time now. I’ve handed the reigns of that show over to them to host. They’ve started calling it TNT – Talk News and Trivia. I’ll have it on the site once I move some other stuff around.

I’ll be rebooting my own podcast once I get some episodes recorded. Expect them to be shorter and more topic-focused.

The YouTube Channel/Newgrounds Page

Animation is going to be my main focus. Most of my projects I plan on posting on my YouTube Channel – Animated shorts, Let’s Plays, game parodies, reviews, tutorials, time lapses, etc.

I also want to experiment with some more adult subjects and techniques so you’ll find these things on my Newgrounds Page as they’ll probably be more NSFW.

Blogs/Tumblr/Social Media

I like having a regular blog space as it helps me track progress. I just have to keep it from becoming an expectation to fail at. To that end, I think the main blog here will be for releasing things, site announcements, news like that.

My Tumblr will be my de facto WIP, yakety smackety, daily thoughts, stream of conscious, rambling blog. Really that’s what I feel tumblr’s good for, anyway. If you have anything bigger than 140 characters, post it on there and link it on twitter.

Speaking of my Twitter, the plan for now is to post screenshots there as I work. That’s a good way to mark a break and I’ll work on something else after progress shots go up to keep from burning out. I’ll amalgamate them on tumblr and maybe post collections of them here.

In Closing

At this point I’m lining things up. I don’t want to make promises or set deadlines. I just want to get in my studio and work.

Status of the Blog 06/04/16

  • On June 4, 2016 ·
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Hey everybody, hope you had a nice Memorial Day weekend. I’ve been busy lately and I think it’s about time I catch everybody up to speed.

How’s Your Health?

I’m doing better than I have been in a long time. The anxiety’s been manageable and the ADHD meds have helped keep me focused. I took a bit of a work vacation that put some things into perspective.

Where Have You Been?

I spent a week in Calgary, Alberta, Canada hanging out at Quickdraw Animation Society participating in the Animation Lockdown event. If you’ve never heard of QAS, they’re a nonprofit artist co-op for animators. During the annual lockdown teams gather over the long weekend to make films in 48 hours. This was a great opportunity to travel, make some friends, and see if I could actually get an animated project done in time.

I present to you, Bottled Spirits:

I had to cut a lot of it to finish on schedule so I’ll be doing a longer, fuller version in the future.

What’s Up with the Site?

Before I left I decided to roll the site back to an earlier theme to make it easier to navigate. Then I realized some of the shortcodes I’d been using were from a plugin for the newer theme so I had to reinstall that. Since I got back home I’ve been trying to deal with errors and considered moving to a different system/host. That’s probably not going to happen given difficulties I’ve had importing the archives. I could really use a webmaster as the site’s held together with little more than duct tape and a prayer.

The front page should be getting cleaned up soon. I want it to be the hub for all my projects without getting confusing on where to go.

Status of the Blog 04/30/16

  • On April 30, 2016 ·
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I’ve been seeing a therapist about my anxiety/frustration and they believe I might have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This could explain why I have trouble focusing in the studio, even when it’s on my own work I care passionately about. I didn’t originally consider it an option since I don’t fit the stereotype of being hyper and I was a good student in school. Looking back on it a number of my problems could have built up as a response and a way to cope. I’m going to be starting medication that could help.

Also in an effort to improve my art and career I’ve signed up for online courses and a 1 on 1 mentorship program with Stephen Silver. I’m excited to have somebody I admire and respect guiding me along. May is shaping up to be a busy month as I’ve got a project I’m going to work on and an event I’m going to attend.

Status of the Blog 02/29/16

  • On February 29, 2016 ·
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Today I want to talk about a few things that are changing and what they mean for the site.

Billy Badass Updates

I love making this comic. However, one page can easily take 2+ days of work to finish and I find myself getting frustrated trying to fit it into my schedule. I don’t want it to go on hiatus but updates are going to be more sporadic, at least until I sort out a better work routine. If you follow the blog on Tumblr you should see pages when they go up.

YouTube Channel

As I announced on the podcast, the NoRights Productions channel is now part of the Leaderboard Network, a new gaming vertical of the Channel Frederator Network. This means my videos will see promotion, I can get guidance on running and growing my channel, and other benefits. The channel is still entirely mine to take in any direction I want and I still own everything I make.

I have goals and projects in mind to work on. I’m trying to move from a deadline-focused mindset into a works-in-progress one. I’ve already started streaming while I’m in the studio. If you’re subscribed you’ll see them when I go live. You can also find broadcasts on the Live page of the blog. I’d like to make a time lapse version for each project when they’re done. The focus of these is to let you look over my shoulder while I work. If there’s enough interest I’ll do some on Twitch where I can turn my mic on and chat but the idea isn’t to be “on”  and talking all the time. Think of it more like Bill Plympton’s Ani-Cam.

 

General

A number of opportunities have been opening up for me lately and I’m looking to take full advantage of them. I’m also trying to get better control of my anxiety issues. Part of that is getting enough rest and part of it is allowing myself downtime. I feel so guilty when I try to relax and that’s not healthy.

Status of the Blog 01/23/16

  • On January 23, 2016 ·
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I spent the week testing out the new theme for my site and today I made it live. There’s still some bells and whistles to fine tune. I need to populate the portfolio more, which will be easier as I add new projects, and I’ll add posts to the front page once I sort out how to do it properly. I know I’ll be updating it more frequently than the old portfolio, which was the point. It’s still in that new phase though I’ve gotten the gist of how to post things properly. Things are going to be more image-heavy, as they should be for an art site.

Recorded an early podcast this evening with Frank and Ian. Tomorrow and probably a chunk of Monday are going to be spent working on the next comic. I’m looking forward to drawing again after fussing with WordPress all week. I’m really really looking forward to doing some animating once the comic’s up.

Status of the Blog 11/30/15

  • On November 30, 2015 ·
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There’s no podcast today because Ian and I took the weekend off after Thanksgiving to spend with our families. I would, however, like to give everybody an update on how I’m doing and, by extension, how the site’s doing.

I’ve been on anxiety meds around 4 months now. It’s helped considerably though I’m still sorting some things out. Next time I go back to my doctor I’m going to ask him about seeing a therapist. The constant background hum of anxiety has quieted, for the most part. I’m able to concentrate and if I want to stop thinking about something I usually can now. I’m still working on getting a proper sleep every night. If I go to bed early I can wake up before midnight. If I stay up too late and try to get up at 5 I’ll feel exhausted, agitated, and the anxiety comes back. I took a bit of a break recently where I focused on getting more rest because I felt like I wasn’t getting enough time alone to recharge.

That brings me to something else I’m working on – dealing with other people. I’m an introvert. I like my quiet time where I’m able to clear my head. I’m trying to be better about being sociable. I have trouble telling people I need time to myself without feeling like a recluse. I also have a problem of feeling like an anxiety funnel. I love my family but they all have similar issues like mine they shrug off and let build up in the wrong places.

I noticed the other day it’d been a year since I said I was going to bring back the Daily Doodles after the holidays. I don’t post enough of my art online. I don’t draw enough in general. I’d planned to spend some time drawing ahead and post pieces from the pile daily. If running webcomics has taught me anything it’s that publishing daily or just regular content can be a hard habit to keep up. Back then I’d hit the exhaustion issue, feeling like I was working too hard just to get a doodle finished every day and the “real” work was getting pushed to the side. I miss the exercise.

So I’m officially announcing Daily Doodles are coming back to the site. I’m not exactly sure how the practice is going to go this time around but I’m looking forward to it.

Status of the Blog 05/11/15

  • On May 11, 2015 ·
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Hey how’s it going? Been pretty busy lately so I figured I’d share another SotB to let everybody know what’s going on.

Site Stuff

Had another fatal memory error crop up that I finally resolved last night. Also, you’ll notice I changed the Projects List system. I liked the idea of having a tracker for things I’m working on but the plugin I was using basically kept everything outside of the blog with it’s own specific post type. The way I’m going to try doing it now should use posts and pages, which you figure would naturally integrate better than they do. Now when I post about a project it’ll show up on the project’s dedicated page. This will hopefully encourage more regular blogging.

Stencyl Jam 15 Project Canceled

I’ve decided my project for Stencyl Jam 15 just wasn’t coming together. I’d developed three different ideas for it and didn’t give myself enough time to fully realize any of them. If you’d like to take a look at the prototypes I put together you can see them in the video for this week’s NoRights Podcast.

New Webcomic

As I said on last week’s podcast I’ll be launching a new comic this summer. Lately I’ve been thinking about the font. I’ve built fonts out of my handwriting before and I think they’re about due for an update. I’m also having to do research for this story as there’s dates and events involved.