Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For the Stiff and Aching Back

Just a quick tip post today.

I'm sure many digital artists (as well as other professionals regularly working while sitting) experience lower back pain, or at least stiffness.

For the two years I've been doing this full time, I've found two things that help me deal with pain and stiff muscles.

One's hot baths. Of course, you wouldn't have those every night after a long day of painting, but I find that once a week is just fine.

The other is a magical artefact called the Iplikator.

I lied, there's nothing magical about it. You'll definitely run into all kinds of yoga or acupuncture mumbo jumbo on the internet. All it really does is poke your back, make the bloodflow a bit better and relax your back muscles.

And that's enough. If it's placebo effect, doesn't matter, it works great. It didn't improve my eyesight, it didn't improve my posture (much), it doesn't cure any diseases. 
I use it almost daily, 20-30 minutes in the evening, laid  on a hard surface (soft or springy surface makes it less painful at first, but also defeats the purpose).
Some people wear a t-shirt, I don't. It's less effective than the naked back.

No need to wriggle or do yoga on it, I just lay down, it hurts a bit, but then it gets very comfortable. I watch a movie, or an episode of a tv show (just enough time). Be careful not to fall asleep though, getting up after a nap hurts! 
A side effect that I noticed (which might be just me, or placebo) is that I sleep much better after I've used the mat.

I've had my mat for quite a few years, we bought the original version based on the Russian prototype, for some 20 USD back then. These days it's a bit more expensive, but 25 EUR or an equivalent in dollars will pay for itself very quickly. (I recommend getting the big one, D1 or just the full size that covers your entire back)

Note: I'm not paid by makers or resellers of this thing. ;) Just sharing something others might find useful.

Also, this is in no way a substitute for exercise and other aspects of a healthy lifestyle. I'm not a doctor and don't have any medical training, so don't take my word for medical advice. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On Not Jumping to Conclusions

Etymology and linguistics can be quite beautiful, as well as confusing.

Last night, as I was falling asleep, I had one of those hazy epiphanies when you dart out of bed and scribble furiously on the closest napkin.

The main character in Oak and Thunder is named "Ylai". (Whether it's her birth name, or a nickname, I've not yet decided.)
The Tocharian (an IE language that's thought to be spoken by the Yuezhi, or their descendants) word "ylaiñäkte" is commonly translated as "Indra" (Hindu god of Thunder and other things, certainly one of the many related IndoEuropean thunder gods). The etymology isn't entirely clear, but it's thought the -ñäkte part stands for "god" and "ylai" is related to various other words for "smite" or "hit".

That makes Ylai a "Smiter".

Now, in the book "Perun: God of Thunder", Czech scholar Michal Téra examines the various aspects of thunder god worship among Slavic people. Interestingly, one of the Christianized versions of Perun (and other Slavic thunder deities) was Saint Elijah. In Russian - Ilya.

How good is that?! Ylai, Ilya...

Unfortunately, the two names aren't related. Ilya is a Russian version of Eliyahu, meaning "My God is Yahweh (in Hebrew).
Bummer, right?

I'd love for there to be an etymological connection - Téra mentions the association of thunder worship and Elijah started in early Christianity in the eastern Mediterranean, from where it came to the Balkans and to the Slavs. Unfortunately, most IE roots for thunder gods are entirely different and don't seem to relate in any way. (*trHon - thunder, *perk- and *per- for oak, smite, thunder or mountain)
Tocharian seems to be quite isolated in this regard:

"B ylai- and A wlā- would reflect PTch *w'älā(i̯än)-, in turn from PIE *wel(hx)eha-(h1en)- ... Semantically more likely, given the connection with storms (see ylaiñeṣṣe), however, is a derivation from*welh2-eha- ‘Smiter’ from *welh2- ‘strike’ [: Hittite walh- ‘strike’ and perhaps, with s-extension, TchB wālts- ‘trample’]."

It's far more likely the association was made thanks to attributes Elijah already had in the Old Testament - "he raised the dead, brought fire down from the sky, and was taken up "by a whirlwind.". 
Raising the dead and fire from the sky are very common things for a thunder god to do. 

Sometimes an epiphany ends in disappointment.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Oak and Thunder" part 2.5 - Key to Happiness?

TL;DR: Making OaT makes me happy, I think.
This post was inspired by this article by Dave Rapoza:

This September marked two years since I started freelancing full time. I had some experience when I started, but it certainly was a leap into dark and deep waters. It very likely wasn't as hard as it had been for other illustrators. I had great clients (and friends) in the industry already, I had a lot of wisdom compiled by others in the form of podcasts (Ninja Mountain being my Bible) and various tutorials and blogs.
I'd say everything stabilized, slowly but surely, in those two years. I'm making a living, I work on amazing projects and I don't have to go looking for work.

On one hand, routine is good and stable, I really can't complain. On the other hand, I noticed I've become less enthusiastic about my own art. I don't think it's exciting or particularly good. And that's not just the typical self deprecating artists' attitude, I'm less "into it". I think, in some ways, I stopped moving up and forward, I'm not pushing myself as hard as I used to.

A few months ago, I had the silly idea: I should make a comic.
I've not drawn anything sequential since grammar school, in nearly 10 years. I don't even read comics a lot any more. Why then?
I think I actually wanted to write something, but because I haven't written any stories in a while either, I wanted to involve painting in some way. I do illustration all the time, but a comic, that would be a challenge!
When I started researching and sketching, I couldn't get enough. I'd use lunch and dinner breaks, weekends. I stopped watching TV almost entirely. Whenever I have a moment when I'd normally be merely sitting on Facebook or browsing Reddit, now I have a PDF open, or a book on my lap and I'm taking notes.

"Write what you know." is it? I've done that as "Write what you like.". Oak and Thunder is all the things I enjoy - archaeology, mythology, linguistics, swords and heroics...
I keep finding new ways to connect the pieces of the puzzle, or several different puzzles that almost magically fit together. (or at least have edges similar enough not to break the illusion of a bigger picture)

My research book table has been getting a bit crowded lately

The thing I realized yesterday is - I'm really enjoying making this thing.
Just the process itself is surprisingly fun. It's not that my work work is boring or that I don't enjoy it - on the contrary. I get to work on exactly the kind of projects I've always wanted to do, on several of my favourite franchises. The difference between that and OaT I still don't understand fully. It's something where I'm suddenly not interpreting someone else's brief, where I'm not trying to see into a writer's head. It's all on me and from me.
If it sucks, that means I made it that bad. ;)

It's quite probable not many people will ever read it, or know it exists. If someone finds it educational, inspirational or entertaining - that'd be great!

Maybe I'm being stupid and wasting precious time I could spend improving my illustration skills, or getting more work done and making more money.
Right now, working on Oak and Thunder is making me quite happy.