Friday, April 10, 2015

A desk, a journal and a waste of time

Three very important visitors came last month. The first was my brother Guy, who lives in Berlin. My wonderful brother brought me a mechanic desk base from Ikea, which is not available in our local branches. It comes with two buttons that command the desk to go up or down so I can sit or stand as I work which is very good for my back.
The second visitor was my aunt Joan-Marie from Oakland, California. Joan-Marie came for my father's 70th birthday and brought him a special gift: a journal their father kept when he was working as a technician on board the Atlantis. The Atlantis was a big research ship that belonged to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. My grandfather, Alfred H. Woodcock, went on many trips on the Atlantis as a technician and later as a scientist. He became an oceanographer by following his interest in what went on in the world around him and conducting his own research on different phenomena, having no prior scientific training. His early accounts of his observations, before his writing became fit for scientific publications, are an amazing combination of details and poetry. Listening to my father read out his father's words from 78 years ago, I was filled with inspiration by this man who was so in-tune with himself that he could do the work he was interested in regardless of what his actual job was. My father is currently typing up the journal and I've attached a piece of it at the end of this post.*

An illustration I made of grandpa Alfred

The third visitor who came last month was my friend Ilan who lives in Vienna. Ilan and I share a love of graphic novels and he brought me a copy of "The Sculptor" by Scott McCloud. Never has a gift been given with less enthusiasm. Though Ilan admitted McCloud was as professional as ever in his delivery of a story through comics in this novel, he announced that the book isn't drawn very well and is badly written. After reading it myself I had to agree. The book was like a good storyboard for a movie about a sculptor who sells his soul for the ability to handle any material in the world like play-dough, and then creates boring art. If the author had seemed to be aware of his hero's lack of artistic talent that might have been an interesting story, but no such awareness was evident. Did McCloud publish the book because he truly thought it was ready, or because he had spent so much time, energy and resources on it and was not interested in spending any more? Maybe if he hadn't published, it would mean everything he put into it was a waste, and that's why he did it?
Meanwhile I was having more and more trouble in my own creative process and became less inclined to judge others. When I wrote my previous post I was very excited about the software I'd purchased- the Kwik Photoshop plugin. Last month I spent a lot of time learning to use it and re-building my book with it, after having built it previously on the (now out of business) Touchoo Creator online platform. I finally realized that since my book was originally created with a very different set of tools, it is very hard to re-build it with Kwik. I also realized Kwik was more suitable for people with more understanding of programming and app developing than I have. I was in despair. My new sit-stand desk seemed ridiculous. Who did I think I was? I became jealous of my grandfather who studied the connection between bird flight and ocean currents, while I was stuck with trying to figure out the connection between what I had done in Kwik and the weird results presented in the simulator. Suddenly it seemed that McCloud's book was teasing me from the shelf. It may not be a masterpiece, but it's out in the world. Its author is a world renowned comics artist, while I seem to be going backward instead of forward. I could hire a programmer but that would cost a lot. This book was not only a bookapp, it was supposed to be OWL Publisher's first of many bookapps, and it couldn't be that if I had to pay a programmer out of a non-existent budget.
There was one idea that sprouted in my mind and started growing on me. I could publish a video instead of a bookapp. That is something I know how to make all on my own! Unlike many bookapps mine is nothing like a game. It could work as a video. And why not? As an unknown creator I would have to do amazing marketing work to get a lot of people to buy a bookapp. Why not start by creating a name for OWL Publisher by putting some great free content out there and then maybe I can make a buck or two on future projects? It requires starting all over again and creating new animations to bring the kind of life to the story that is expected of a video, but I know I can do it, and as soon as it is done, that's it. No de-bugging, no adjusting to different devices, no Apple developer license. I decided to go for it.
I'm now on page 5, or should I say- the flying scene, and it is going pretty well! I feel like I'm going back to when I quit my animation major in the academy because working with Flash was driving me crazy. Now I'm doing things my way. It may seem like a lot of time has been wasted, but when OWL Publisher's first publication is out there it will be worth everything.

Still from the flying scene

* Excerpt from Alfred H. Woodcock's journal, April 2, 1938:
"A squall, during the evening change of watches, put us down sharply – changing our even forward march to a pitching, spray filled rout. All hands were called – their oil-skins glistening in the startling flashes from the high-rounded blackness in the west. Then, as the ship came into the wind, the dark taut silence of the sails broke magically into a great roar as the canvas lashed with the wild energy of ten thousand black-snake whips furiously wielded. Shouting, straining, whining winch reeling bodies stinging spray; black ropes on a shining deck – shrieking ropes in the incredibly mad air; and finally, fighting to the last stitch, a subdued canvas tight-lashed to the booms."