Monthly Archives: April 2013

Learning To Draw: Post #26

So I just finished the biggest thing I’ve drawn digitally, 7 hours spent all in all. It’s no master piece of doom & mad skillz, but I learned tons from doing this! This week I saw the new Iron Man 3 poster all over Stockholm, and frankly I got a bit tired of the damsel in distress vibes it gave me. I haven’t yet seen the movie, but I decided to make my own version of the poster. As someone who grew up with Action Man, TMNT, Street Sharks and X-Men I want to feel women can be heroes, saving guys, not only guys should be offered the cool suits and tech! Here are the steps and final image, enjoy!

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The original image looks like this. A lot of stuff going on at the same time, visually.

 

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1.The first thing I did was to make a quick reading of the visual messages displayed in the poster, trying to get aware of the flow, the lines, the forms. I want to get better at planning what I’m drawing, not just go with what “feels good.” I did this step manually in my sketch book since I still prefer to draw with pen and paper : 3

 

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2. Diving deeper into the visual messages. This image is really well planned (as you would expect from something advertising a multimillion box office title), all the small details communicate something about the movie that hopefully would make us want to pay money to watch it. The image has a clear flow, the main characters placed in the front, balanced colors and two clear sources of light. Sorry for the messy notes, haha!

 

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Step 3. Rough drawing to understand the placement of the figures and forms.

 

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Step 4. Adding details to the basic shapes and form.

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Step 5. Still keeping a template for the big text title. I learned how important it is to take the text space into consideration when designing when I used to make news letters at Junebud. Adding details and making line art. I know now that I should have worked more with this to add a bit more cartoony feeling since Iron Man is a comic book hero, and it would have helped me to make the small details in the suits stand out more in the end. I think I got a bit impatient and rushed this step.

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Step 6. Adding basic colors, keeping the layer of line art on top. I tried to sort my layers and make sure they all had a clear purpose, not paint random stuff on random layers like I usually do. If you keep assigning certain layers to certain parts of the image such as basic color, highlights, background, effects etc, it’s much easier to adjust specific things in the image without ruing other stuff in the process if you can change one layer at a time.

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Step 7. Still exploring the character design. I wanted to change some design, but still keep the basic forms, colors and feelings to make sure people who saw it understood that this is based on the Iron Man IP. Instead of giving the bad guy a pair of shades I gave her an eye-patch, which adds my own twist to her design. I replaced the black skin color of the side-kick and made her Asian instead as a homage to my Chinese friend who loved this movie < 3

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Step 8. Working the colors, the light and adding depth to the image. I really don’t have any idea what to do about the background, also the facial features of the guy are kind of hard to solve. I make some anatomical corrections to the guy’s arm and add details to the background as well. The Asian side-kick got a color change on her hair since all the red  just became to “noisy”.

saracasen_ironwoman10

Last step! I added my home made version of the movie title (followed a tutorial on how to create the right looking font at first, but it got too boring). Highlights, some color corrections, working the light a bit more and the details such as sparks. Total time spent: 7 hours.

This was exhausting but rewarding! I even got up before work and painted some, and that has never happened before. After posting this image on my Facebook a person who usually think “all this gender nonsense has gone too far” gave me a call and said he though this image was a really nice idea, and that made me smile!

I want to get better at planning, to create my own work process and have some kind of road map when painting. It might not be as glamours to follow a routine when painting, but it’s going to speed me up and deliver better results.

Previous posts about my “Learning To Draw” project: 25, 2423222120191817161514131211,10987654321

DeviantArt gallery featuring most of the stuff I made so far: [click here]

Learning To Draw: Post #25

saracasen_mask_2

22/4-14
1,5 h. Had fun painting this deer human (?), playing with colors. I think I should focus on not scattering unnecessary visual details all over my paintings since it makes the picture lose focus, there’s just too much going on at the same time. Maybe I should make some thumbs before I start, to determine what the important key features are, and then stick to it?

saracasen_deer_steps

22/4-13
Steps for creating the  deer-human-something.

saracasen_oldman

21/4-13
Faces drawn on the train from Malmö to Stockholm. Had a ref for the old guy. My friend Niclas borrowed me a book called “Drawing – A Complete Guide” by Giovanni Civardi. Excited to read about some technique.

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20/4-13
Painting some with acrylics while in Malmö. I just looove to sit at the kitchen table, drinking tea, listening to nature documentaries and paint late at night. Found the guy in some fashion mag.

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19/4-13
Drawing on the train to Malmö from Stockholm. It’s shaky and very uncomfortable, but I’m doing my best.

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18/4-13
Experimenting with shadows, and I like it!

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17/4-13
A playful self-portrait. Really fun to make! I need to get myself a scanner, it’s hard to shoot proper pictures of the drawings I make, they look all distorted.

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17/4-13
Miss Generic Bad-ass!

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17/4-13
1,5 h. Some steps of how I created my very first standing pose ever. I’ve noticed I got a tendency to “burn” the colors in the picture, using levels and contrast too much at the end. Next step: figure out how to draw feet and shoes, it’s all a big mystery : O

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15/4-13
1,5h. Some fanart of the X-Man Mystique. X-Men played an important role in shaping my childhood heroes <3

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Collection of more stuff made during April. Drawn in note books and random places.

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Doodles made this April.

So I managed to break the frustration from last week and get some shit done. Nothing is as good as I want it to be, and I still got a super long way to go, but at last I’m on my way! I’ve been doing this since the 29th of August, and I’m very happy I’ve managed to go on for so long, painting or drawing almost daily since then. Imagine if I had chosen to work out this much, what a fit body I would have, haha (just kidding)!

I’ve managed to continue to do something that makes me happy, that I feel is extremely rewarding and challenging, despite events like a poor health, moving to a new city, starting a new job, learning plenty at work and spending countless hours on trains back and forth. I know we can be whatever we want to be, and I’m very happy I was born with something that helps me appreciate the beauty in ordinary everyday items, it’s fun having a hobby. A project, to create something and see it grow. It may not always grow in the directions I want to, but at least it’s growing in baby steps.

2011

Found some old crap from late 2011, haha what can I say, lol! I’m so embarrassed  And this was really a picture I put great effort into…

Previous posts about my “Learning To Draw” project: 2423222120191817161514131211,10987654321

DeviantArt gallery featuring most of the stuff I made so far: [click here]

Frustration

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7 months later. Damn it. It just feels like I’m wasting time. Like I draw the same things over and over again, learning nothing. I still have no frikking clue on how to render something so that it looks done. I have no idea even where to start when painting a scene. I haven’t ever drawn something that really tell a story. Something interesting for real, just random stuff in stiff poses. I try to draw and paint, but my eyes don’t want me to. My neck can’t handle it. Is this  how far I made it? What is this even worth? I don’t even know anymore. Maybe it was never meant to be.

New Glasses

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Alright, I may not have a brain tumor, but I still got headaches, neck pain and a sore skull. Time to get a new pair of glasses to prevent the eye-muscles from all the stress I’m putting them trough by sitting in front of computer screen for 10 hours a day. I still need the same kind of glasses I’ve had for the last 15 years, and now I need an additional pair for computer screens. Since Paradox is a cool place to work, they paid the lion’s share of my new glasses! After a hour in the shop I decided to order these:

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I Do Not Have A Brain Tumor!

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How crazy is that, to ever even have to think about such a thing, right? Here’s the short version of the story:

Back in May 2012 I noticed something strange with my right eye. One night at the office, back when I worked at Junebud, my eyes started twitching, just moving from side to side when I tried to focus on my keyboard or my reading text on the screen. I had been under a lot of pressure at that time and months before that, and during that particular week I had worked 12 hours overtime in two days to make sure JuneCon happened. So I guess I just believed it to be stress related. During the summer of 2012 I spent a lot of time drawing and hanging out with friends, but constantly worried about the state of the company. I had been involved in MilMo and Junebud since the winter of 2009, and I was heavily emotionally attached to both the Crew, the company and the products.

Anyhow, during the summer I noticed I had a hard time focusing on details and edges of objects, to really “see” what was in front of me. It was a really weird feeling, to look at an object, but not be able to really “see” it. So I went to a doctor to check if it was possible for me to get rid of my glasses during the same time. He told med I wasn’t really fit for laser surgery, and that there might be something strange going on with my right eye. So when I got my job at Paradox and moved to Stockholm I decided to see another eye-doctor.

Worst day of my life. He told me (after examining my eye for 30 minutes with all kinds of stuff and tests), that the muscles keeping the eye in place had failed for some reason. It was not critical, but enough to cause headaches and a hard time focusing on details.

Considering my age and the fact I had no previous problems like this, in some rare cases these are symptoms of more serious diseases like brain tumors and other nasty stuff. I was absolutely horrified, and cried all the way home that night, on the metro. I called my family, my friends. I brought home my favorite sushi and my favorite candy (or the closest equivalent I could find here in Sweden. SWEDEN, YOU SUCK AT MAKING GOOD LIQUORICE CANDY BY THE WAY.) After having a near death experience last year I really felt scared. Eventually you die, we are all born to die. I was so afraid. I think it’s hard to understand what it felt like that week after that eye-exam, in October.

So I went to see another doctor a week later, and he and his colleagues made me take a lot of tests, and they said everything looked fine. OK, the muscles in my eye was fucked up, but everything else was fine. So I felt better, I got a  pair of new glasses with a special lenses (I’ve had regular glasses since I was 12). I went to Egypt and had a great week with my family, returned to Sweden and went on with my life. I did my best at Paradox, despite all this. I’m a strong person, I don’t give up. I find a way, or I try to.

Then I started having really severe headaches two months ago, one night I started feeling dizzy, like the ground was tilting, even when I was laying down to sleep. I tried to ignore it, I got afraid. Started to become afraid of the dark at nights. Paid a new visit to the eye-doctor. My glasses seemed not to help anymore, and the pains started as soon as I was in front of the computer, reading text or drawing. I was terrified I had to stop drawing. To give up the most important part of me. The doctors became all serious after a series of new tests, and they told me the two things that usually get affected first if you get some kind of brain disorder or tumor are perception of color or how wide your sight is. They made me take a test with a computer, saying I would do OK since “it’s a bit like playing a video game”. I got to press a button whenever I saw something on a violet computer screen. I felt like I nailed it, I’m a old FPS player after all.

The doctors became all silent when they got the results. I felt the fear growing in my stomach, got all dizzy. There was a problem with my “range of vision”. So they made me take some sick leave and sent for an emergency magnet scan of my brain to the hospital. Haunted by the worried faces of the doctors who previously joked about how I’m so young and that I possibly can’t have anything like cancer or a brain tumor, I had a hard time thinking of nothing else than Death. I didn’t want to die. I had so much I still wanted to do. I really, really didn’t want to die. Not yet. Waking up each night to check there wasn’t a monster in my room, still afraid of the dark.

I waited two three weeks for the scan. The longest three weeks of my life. Stayed at friend’s places almost every night, sleeping on their couches, trying to push away that growing panic and fear. Patting a lot of cats, trying to be thankful for the life I’ve been living in case I didn’t have that much left of it. Trying to make the time go faster, to make the magnet scan happen. Trying to make them time go slower, if I didn’t have that much left of it I didn’t want it to go too fast. More headaches, trying not to get freaked out by dizziness and a sick stomach, seeing every little thing as a symptom of Death growing in my body.

Back at work. Staring myself in the mirror, trying to see inside my skull, is there anything in there? Something that shouldn’t bee there? Only my grey eyes staring back at me from the mirror. Running SQLs at work, trying not to think if these might be the last months of my life. What’s important if I get to choose? Preparing for the worst. Sleeping on the couch at work because of the headaches. Wanting to tell everyone how I felt, but I didn’t want everyone to worry. Pretending like everything was fine.

Sick leave again, struggling to deliver something at work. Without a purpose or colleagues I felt like I didn’t have anything to hold on to, nothing to keep me sane. Struggling not to Google “brain tumor”. Pushing away the panic lurking in my head when I read abut a 23 year old woman with brain cancer in the news. Sleeping at friends places again. Spending the weekends sleeping 17 hours because of headaches. Feels like I’m loosing track of time.

Finally the day arrives for the scan. I sleep at A:s place, we get there early morning, I’m so sick with flu, and the nurse is nice. Unfortunately they can’t give me any results on the spot. Two separate doctors need to have a close look at the photos, it might take a week, maybe more. I lay in the big white tube, trying not to sneeze or cough, listening to the machine doing it’s work. It’s taking photographs of may brain. I keep my breath and try to think about nothing to crazy, maybe the doctors can see traces of my thoughts in the photos? Of course not. After the examination I went to Finland, to spend time with my family. It’s Easter. I get a time to see an eye-doctor in two weeks. He will explain the results to me.

I don’t really remember the days in Finland, only fever, sleepless nights and flu. And some good food and painting eggs when I finally recover from the flu. I travel back to Sweden, eager to know if when or if I can go on with my life again.

This morning I called the eye-doctor. He got the results from the magnet, and asks me if I by any chance could come visit at 16 o clock. I get so happy, this means I don’t have to wait until Thursday this week. It’s time for final judgement. This is it, they took 300 photos of my brain, there’s nowhere to hide for any bad stuff anymore, it’s in there there or it’s not, and I’m about to find out. A few minutes later they call me back, asking me to get there at 14 instead. I get nervous. Trying to interpret the receptionist. Does he know? Did he look at my photos? Did the doctor say anything to him?

I get on the metro together with a friend. I’m so scared and nervous my mouth is dry and my hands are shaking. I’m shaking. The sun is bright, the trip seems to last forever. I’m thinking will this be my last moment before I find out I’m dying? As long as I don’t know that I’m sick I’m not really sick. If I’m sick I can still kill myself instead of letting some kind of cancer kill me, I’m still in control. Thinking of my grandma who died of cancer, how she slowly faded away in front of my eyes.

At the doctor, spending time waiting. I can hardly think of anything else except for possible results. In my head the doctor is telling me the tests are positive, negative. In my head he is telling me I got a good chance of recovery, he is telling me there’s not much time left. He is telling me they found something else. My head hurts, my friend try to make a joke. I try to smile. I’m happy he’s there.

Entering the doctor’s room. He asking me how I’m doing. I try to smile and be confident. He starts looking for my papers. OH GOD COME ON JUST TELL ME ALREADY, I want to scream.

He finally finds the right paper and looks me in the eyes: Sara, your tests are fine. You have a minor infection in your jaw, but that’s nothing to worry about. We are going to get you a pair of new glasses and things should be OK.

I smile. I smile so much. And then me and my friend went for an ice-cream. It was nice.

 

Learning To Draw: Post #24

Here’s the latest bunch of images! My eye has been totally fucked up, just trying to get trough the day with all the headaches and the dizziness is hard. On the 11th of April I get the final results from my magnet scan. A new pair of stronger glasses are needed as well. Anyhow, here’s the art:

saracasen_collection_thumbs

6/4-13
30 min each. Since I don’t know anything about the use of color I decided to start doing thumb studies of environmental photos. Doing them of abandoned places found here: http://imgur.com/a/D9iDC/. I love places like these!

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6/4-13
1 hour. Experimenting and trying to narrow down the amount of different colors I use, it usually gets way too messy.

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6/3-13
1 hour. Using colors in a different way, trying to make big brush strokes. It’s so much fun painting in Photoshop again, but this week has been a living hell with my eye, dizziness and the headache. I just want it to me the 11th already so i get the results from my magnet scan ;__;

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4/4-13
A few minutes. It really feels like I start to get a grip on human facial features. Now I only want to paint a ton of men, not only pretty girls, haha! How are you supposed to get the time to paint all there is to paint? Humans, animals, buildings, interiors, landscapes etc. And to tell an interesting story with each image, to know stuff about color, light, lines, form…Where to start…so much stuff to draw, so little time.

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1/4-13
I made this picture in two versions. The right one is a bit too colorful imo. I think I overdid it a bit. Ah well…Steps below.

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1/4-13
Painting on top of a previous drawing. Finally realized that the eyebrow is much closer to the socket than I actually presumed, explains a lot : O

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31/3 & 1/4 -13
I spent my Easter in Finland, mostly in bed, sick with flu and with a fucked up eye. Collection of stuff I’ve drawn on the bus and back home.

Previous posts about my “Learning To Draw” project: 23222120191817161514131211,10987654321

DeviantArt gallery featuring most of the stuff I made so far: [click here]

My Games Yo!

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The secret is out! Last week Paradox North finally announced the game “Magicka: Wizard Wars” at Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco! I’m finally able to talk about why Paradox hired me in the first place, haha! I might have been all over the place at Paradox, involved in the overall metrics pipelines of the company, but this is actually the project John pitched to me back in August/September 2012.

M:WW is a super intense action pvp game, based on the original Magicka game developed by Arrowhead and published by Paradox Interactive, back in 2011. Wizard Wars is not really a MOBA game like League of Legends or DotaA. It’s a bit more like a beat em’ up, taking advantage of Magickas advanced spell system and chaotic friendly fire. If you ever played Magicka you know the basic gameplay is a fun toy in itself, combining 10 elements of nature. I think there’s something like 1123 possible combinations in the original game. Ever since Magicka was released fans have been complaining about the lack of a stable PvP experience, and I’m pretty sure this is exactly what those players are waiting for!

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The epic announcement trailer for Wizard Wars! If you like Game of Thrones you are in for a treat. Click the picture to start the video.

The game is developed by the internal Paradox studio Paradox North, and published by Paradox Interactive. We playtest the game daily and I have so much fun playing it! It’s really the best time each day, when the whole team gather around to kick some ass in teams of 4 on 4 team fights. So far I’ve been playing for 60 hours, and I still find new ways to play the game. It’s very easy to pick up, but I sense this game is going to attract some very hardcore gamers, that kind who like to grind Street Fighter for years or play LoL professionally.

Speaking of Magicka-related stuff and what I do for a living when I’m not drawing or derping, Paradox and Ludosity just released the tablet game “Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet“! The game scored 90 on Metacritic after its first 4 reviews, which is amazing! I think It’s my first Metacritic rated game ever since I did some QA on Puzzlegeddon for Pieces Interactive in 2009.

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Gameplay trailer for the all new “Magicka: Wizards of The Square Tablet”! Click to start the video!

Wizards of The Square Tablet is a bit of a milestone for me personally. It’s the first game where I’ve been part of the metrics process all the way. I got to have a say in what game specific metrics should be tracked, to make sure the standard protocol that applies to all Paradox games was implemented, test the pipeline, involve QA in the process, beta, the launch of the game and finally construct SQL queries and write a report about the data for the producers. It really struck me yesterday, I do games for a living…!

I know not even my close friends really seem to get what it is that I do for a living. I have done some community management, but I mainly focus on game data. That is I collect data from games and reality check how players really play the game. I usually say I do “reverse engineered game design”. It started when I was the in-game shop manager for the MMO “MilMo”. I tried to find out what items the players seem to like, and at the same time Zynga’s Facebook games arrived to the scene and game data became the big thing. But this is another story, haha!