Nate’s Notes: Did You Ever Hear the Squirrel Story?

IMG_8194Where I live, it’s like a tree fort all the time. A-Maz-ING!!!!   We have these trees all around that drop little nut thingies that Momma said are nutcorns…no…popcorns…no, that’s not right either.  Acorns!!  There are so many of them on our back deck and in our driveway.  All I know is that I really really really want to put them in my mouth.  But Momma is always watching me when I pick them up.  Pfff…they sure look like food to me!   She took a lot of pictures of them, said they were cool ground covering textures.   It’s also cool to see the strange grey kitty-like things eat them!  See!!!  They get to eat them!!  So not fair… That reminds me of the squirrel story about my Momma.   Have you heard it?  Here it is…I’ll try my best.

She was driving home one night in the fog and got pulled over by a wee-waa-wee-waa man (police).       Police:  License and registration please.  One of the lights on the front of your car is not working. On a foggy night like this, it is really important to have all lights working.  Momma:  I understand.

Police:  Just this week, this girl got hit on a foggy night by some car with a front light out.  It was pretty bad.   Momma: (Thinking…)  I’m sorry, did you say, “this girl” or “the squirrel”?  (She was trying to assess the seriousness of the situation.)

Police:  This girl (But to Momma it still sounded like “squirrel” …the police man looked at Momma very seriously now. )  Have you been drinking? Momma:  Just this iced tea.   (Thinking even harder…pretty sure he was talking about a squirrel…hmmm, he should really annunciate better!)

Daddy hit the back of her car seat at this point, and Momma took that as a sign to stop worrying and just take the ticket.   I like the story…it makes me smile.  Well, I’m off to find some nutcorns…oh…ACORNS!!

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus l...

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis). Bryce Canyon, Utah (USA). Image taken by Eborutta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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SketchUp IMHO: Modeling With Your Clothes On…!

When you actually start using SketchUp, you will see that it is really quite easy to create complex models with ease.  There are really just a handful of tools – but they each do several things and are each both powerful and simple and easy to use.

One of my favorite tools is the “orbit” tool.  Once I have created something I often find myself spending a fair amount of time rotating around the object to get different views of it. In fact, one day I was in my third hour of modeling on something and one of my students walked into my office for the third time and said, “That’s funny – the last time I was in here, you were just rotating that picture around.  Is that all you do?”   I explained that there was more to it than that – but, in truth – he had caught me admiring my work.

This is both satisfying and useful. Every artist needs to stand back from their work and take a look at it, squint at it, and evaluate it.  This tool allows you to do that with ease.

More importantly than that though, is the fact that it keeps you connected with your work.  The freedom to quickly rotate the piece you are working on makes it feel as if it is right in your hands and you are free to manipulate it as you see fit.  This, to me, is one of the things that makes SketchUp such a creative program to use.  You are not separated from your work by too many palettes or commands that remind you that you are using a machine to create your work.

It doesn’t take long before you forget you are working with a computer program and are fully drawn into your creation.  That’s the really cool part.  You know you have been using the program a lot when you look at real-world objects and subconsciously think, “Orbit, Push-Pull, Move, Follow Me…”  (And yes – that actually happens to me…)

Ready to start your modeling career…?



Nate’s Notes: Water

Momma has a lot to say about water!  Here’s her journal entry.

As I look at the Water_098water texture images on our website, I am reminded of how often I have referenced water in my life in the last 4 years.   These years have been some of the hardest years of my life, where I’ve experienced the lowest of lows.  For about a year, I felt like I was drifting in a sea of confusion and sadness, periodically being pulled under the waves.   I had my own wave after wave of pain, and my husband had his own waves.  Sometimes, I was on the beach watching him out at sea, desperate to help him, but unable to get to him.   Other times, a sleeper wave came and grabbed me off that beach, and I was the one drifting away, crying out for a lifeline. 

Eventually, my husband and I made it out of those turbulent waters, only to be smacked in the face by a rainstorm of soaking pain, losing loved ones, and what felt like, parts of our identities.  During this time, I didn’t see the textures of the world, and a barely felt the splendor that surrounded me.  I didn’t notice the rusted metal, the tree bark, the fibers of rope, the patterns in brick, or the character of worn leather.  Water wasn’t beautiful to me…it was harsh, deceitful and dangerous.   Everything was dull, flat and dimensionless.  

I can’t even pinpoint when I started to feel again, but we fought our way out of the pain, swam back to shore, walked through the rainstorm and into the healing sunlight.  Day by day, my world came alive with colors.  Layers and layers of textures fell into place and I began to not only “see” the world, but to appreciate it for every piece of broken glass, rotting board, dried flower, and cracked concrete.  Water didn’t scare me anymore…it reflected light back to me.  Broken-Glass_040

The rains came again…but this time they brought hope and the promise of life. It was on a rainy day last year that our son came to us.  And on this rainy day, as I look at these water textures, I know that those drenching years shaped us, polished us and strengthened us. 

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SketchUp IMHO: Why I Believe SketchUp is Great – Reason #2

Cheese-camera-sketch-10-15-07So here it is – reason #2 why I think SketchUp is great.

It’s basically free.  That’s right – free.  You can download it and begin playing (er, I mean “creating”) with it.  (You can’t use the word “play” when describing a CAD program or no one will take you seriously – yet that is EXACTLY what it feels like…)

So – download the program and begin to “create” with it and see just what I am talking about.  The pro version (currently selling for about $500.00) has many more features and everything of course that makes it a great deal at that price.   The basic version of the program and your ability to create wonderful 3D models is still free and you can’t beat that.  No “Free trial run for 30 days”. No annoying watermarks on your work.  Just free.

And that, very simply, is reason #2.

So, go spend time (not money) on SkethUp and start creating…

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SketchUp IMHO: Why I believe SketchUp is great – Reason #1

ATV-Vending-Machine-sketch-3-1-062Let’s start with this one.  There are many great design programs out there that are very good.  There is the “industry standard” for film and game development, 3D Studio Max or even Maya.  There is AutoCAD, the “industry standard” for architecture and also 3D design.  Then there are the rest of the programs which are too numerous to list in a blog like this, but suffice it to say that they all have advantages and disadvantages.

Then there is SketchUp.  Let me get one thing clear before I begin.  I do not have stock in SketchUp. I am not an employee or owner or tied in anyway to the company other than the fact that I have been a loyal customer for many years.

I began using the program back in 2004 when a designer friend of mine at Disney showed me the program.  My first impression was that it looked way too simple to be useful.  I played with it a bit and was not immediately impressed.  The hook was when I got a job as an art director on a video game and needed to use a 3D design program to work with the concepts (and try and get some credibility with the game artists who looked at my hand drawn designs with a bit of confusion as I mentioned pencils and paper…).  I had to dive into the program and learn it quickly.

And that was when I got hooked.

It was an incredibly intuitive program to use.  It’s apparent simplicity was really its strength.  In a nutshell – the program allows you to focus on designing, not focus on learning a program.  That is the key.

Since then I have used SketchUp nearly daily for almost eight years.  I have not formally counted all of the drawings I have created in those eight years, but conservatively, I have created well over 10,000 pages of drawings on over 400 designs for TV, film, theater, live entertainment, game design, and many other areas of design. (I will add a link at some point so you can see some of those images).

So, I know at this point you have no reason to believe me, but take my word for it and give the program a chance.

Next we will talk about other reasons why the program is great…


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Nate’s Notes: Textures

Momma, and sadly now Daddy, talk about textures a whole bunch.  They discuss different textures like metal, wood, brick, leaves, dirt (one of my favorites!), paper, rope, water and concrete.  They describe them, they take pictures of them, they get excited about them, and they study them on the computer or in books.   Can I just gag now???  You know how I used to skip naps to spend more time with Momma?   Well, now I figured out I can just nap more to escape this madness.   If I could only get my hands on some ear plugs…but then they’d probably point out the texture of those too!!!   Okay, you want to talk texture?  Let’s do it…let’s talk about carpet.  It looks great from about 30 inches off the ground.  There is a cool pattern that I even admit to showing playmates who clearly don’t appreciate such things.   If I get on my knees and crawl … as if!! Crawling is for babies!! Sheesh.   So, let’s just say I kneel down to pick up a toy…that same patch of carpet, the squiggly lines and loops, looks different this much closer.  And then there is the face plant…that’s the texture I’m talking about.   I’m cruising along with what is becoming quite a graceful walk…then my feet forget what they are doing, my core balance betrays me…and splat… I’m face down in the carpet.  Sometimes I think the dog-dogs look like they are laughing at me, but then they quickly look away when I try to point it out to Momma.  That’s an issue for a later time.   Momma always says, with equal parts concern and encouragement, “Oops!  You okay? Of course you are kiddo, you’re tough. Back up you go!”   Sometimes, though,  I stay there, face down, a few seconds longer, and do my own “studying” of this carpet.  It is soft…it does NOT taste good…and smells like Febreeze and firewood.  Now that’s texture!!!   It IS super duper cool how the same part of the floor looks (and feels) so different from 30 inches to 0 inches!  I should probably get up now.  About those dog-dogs…

SketchUp IMHO: First post…!

Here it is – the first post…

First thing I want to make clear – I am not a trainer or instructor certified by SketchUp.

Second thing is that in my humble opinion (IMHO) it doesn’t matter.  There are many (really good) training options out there where you can learn how to use the program and that is not what this blog is for.

Third thing is that I have logged thousands and thousands of hours using SketchUp for over eight years to design projects for TV and film, theater, corporate events, holiday decor, museum design, commercial design, architecture, and many other areas of design and I absolutely love using SketchUp.  I have literally more than 400 designs in the past eight years and thousands of pages of drawings that have been created in SketchUp and my goal with this blog is to discuss with other SketchUp users different techniques, plug-ins, companion sites, and other resources that make the program even more fun and productive to use.

So let’s get started…

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Nate’s Notes: The Joy of Mud

Some days, everything outside gets a big bath when the sky faucet turns on.  Apparently it’s called “rain”.  Well, once the rain stops and I convince Momma to stop taking pictures of all the rain drops on our windows, we get to head outside to play in the dirt!    I said play, people…NOT eat.  Pshaw…like I would ever try to eat that stuff???!!!  Not when anyone is looking… Anyway, I just discovered my first mud puddle.  Holy bouncing balls and bananas!!   Have you ever played in a mud puddle??   It is soooo much fun.  I’m telling you, you haven’t lived until you’ve played in mud.   Where has this been all my life???  Okay, given my lifespan, that last statement may have been melodramatic.

Mud is one amazing texture…It’s goopy, soft, cool, squishy, squeezable, and leaves great colors!  You can draw with it, stomp in it, smear it, eat it…errr, I mean, throw it.  Yea, throw it.  He he.   Have you ever looked at mud when it’s an inch from your face?  Have you ever rubbed your face in it!!???  Well, of course, mud and fresh tire tracks in the dirt are providing many cool texture photo shots for Momma, which she loves. See- Momma LOVES the mud too!!  I know these things.  So, dirt plus rain equals really cool pictures and fun.   It’s a yum yum…I mean win win!!

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Nate’s Notes: Momma’s Journal

I think she knows I’m reading her journal because she just keeps leaving it right where I can reach it…even if climbing is involved.  I am pretty agile though.  I have mad walking skills now.   Anyway, we’ve been outside a lot lately and here’s what she has to say about all that.

“I always start grieving on the first day of summer.  Conversely, I start celebrating on the first day of winter because I know the coming months bring the promise of more daylight, strengthening warmth from the sun, and the promise of wildflowers galore.  However, the first day of summer means a shift of progressively shorter days,  less daylight, the threat of cooler days and nights, rain, and being stuck inside during my least favorite months of the year. 

Maybe it’s because we have Nathaniel now and I get so much pleasure from showing him the beauty and power of nature.  Or maybe it is because I now have the privilege of “seeing” the world daily by taking photographs as part my work.  Either way, I am beginning to notice the beauty of these shifting days in a way I’ve never appreciated before.  The warm hues and long shadows of autumn days have always captured me. But I usually become a bit melancholy when the leaves have all fallen and the rain begins.   It rained for a few days last week, and after I took dozens of photos of the raindrops on our windows, I almost gasped at their beauty when I saw them on my computer screen later that night.  The cooler nights mean we have started building fires to heat the house (our only source of heat is our wood burning stove).  The splendor of the dancing and glowing flames isn’t easy to capture in a picture…but I sure tried!!  That first rain turned our hills from the summer gold to a gleaming, winter green in a matter of days.  Our house is hugged by acres of oak and pine trees, and the moss on these trees is alive with the new moisture, bursting with a majesty that demands you take notice.  The grapevines that surround us in our wine valley are the prettiest now, after the harvest has come and gone, each leaf a painting of colors. 

In early December, I may be singing a different, more anguished song (okay, just good ‘ole whining);  But for now, I can’t be anything but grateful for realizing the unique beauty that each new day brings.  Now to get my camera…

Nate’s Notes: Eggs Don’t Bounce

Have you ever watched chickens run?  It is soooo funny!!   You gotta see it.   It might be funnier than watching Momma try to dance.   I could watch them for hours.   If my teeth are hurting or my toys bore me, I just watch our chickens run and feel better.  Momma laughs a lot too.  She calls them “The Ladies”.  Well, the other day she was going on and on about taking pictures of The Ladies because of their feathers or fur or skin (or whatever it is called)…well, they are pretty.  So we put on our shoes and went down to the pen with her picture-taker thingy.   I was having a great time watching them run and maybe even chasing them so they would run.  That’s when I saw them!  Did you know our chickens make little ball thingamajigs??!  Before she started taking pictures, Momma collected all these white and brown balls and put them in a bowl.  Well…when she wasn’t looking, I wandered over to retrieve these.   I needed them for my ball collection!!!   I have to say I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t bounce.  In fact, they went from a ball…to little pieces with yellow slime that came out of them.  Momma had a strange look on her face, kind of like she was upset, but kind of like she was smiling.  I just kept pointing and asking, “Ball?  Ball? Ball?”.  “No baby,” she answered me.   “Those aren’t balls!  They are chicken eggs you silly goose!  Now we have less to sell for your piggy bank!”  WHAT was she talking about with all these animals!?  Chickens, I get…but a goose and a piggy??  Oh man.  I slapped my palm to my forehead and suddenly became very tired, still quite disappointed.  Okay, so they aren’t balls…they are eggs.   Eggs don’t bounce.  But they sure make a super duper cool picture all broken up!