Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Regular "Go-To" Art Supplies!

I was drawing late one night and I happened to look over to my left at the table with my art supplies that sits next to my light table. My hand automatically goes over to the table and briefly glances at the type of pen I'm picking up but I never really looked at the table set up as a whole or in depth as to what I use mostly. My actually supplies for the last ten years have mostly been the same. As all artists do, we pick out what we like and keep using it throughout our careers (as long as they keep making it) and I find myself sometimes apprehensive to trying something new. If something works for you, why change?

Over the years I've distilled a lot of my working process down to make it simpler and between the work being more digital than physical nowadays I have found myself using a real short list of items to draw with. I've been asked before what I use to draw so for those interested, here's the list with pics. From the first pic on top you can see that my regular tools only take up about a third of the table top in total.
1) PAPER - Mostly I've been using copy paper sized at 8.5" x 11" or the 11" x 17" size for bigger sketches (like comic book pages). Even my final art for Scooby-Doo (for the comic books at least) have been draw on normal copy paper. It's cheap and works well. Probably not great for the archival or collector mentality but it's the raw material to get a project done. I buy one box with reams of paper in it at Staples once a year or so for like $35. For the bigger paper, I buy a ream of it when I need it. I can burn through letterhead paper with roughs and thumbnails and if I screw up I grab another sheet real quick from underneath my light table where it sits and continue on.

For final art that I want to have a slick, professional look to it, and it may be a piece that I'll be selling later on, I use the Borden and Riley #234 Paris Bleedproof paper for pens. It comes it many sizes and prices can vary depending on where you buy it. I have ONE store in my area that carries it. Go figure. I like this particular kind of paper as it's light and thin, easy to work with on the light table, and also works extremely well with the pens that I ink with. I've rarely had any bad moments with the paper in terms of smudging and bleeding. Sometimes things happen but overall this paper works fantastic. It's been my "go-to" for many years. When I did comics I also would prefer to use this paper over the company's art board. The quality of paper is lacking of late there and I'd rather use my own. If I do a cover for Scooby-Doo for DC Comics, I'd use their art board as the people who buy original art like it on the "official" board. That is changing though as a lot of artists use what they like instead.
2) PENCILS - I can use anything really though I seem to gravitate to a 5H lead for breaking it down and keeping it clean and then a 2H or an HB to bring out the details. Depends on my mood. Sometimes I'll pull out a purple ColErase pencil or even a ball point pen and do the whole deal. At this creative point in drawing, it's about mood and getting it onto the page. You can tweak it later on with another piece of paper. If I do a convention or I'm on the road, I tend to use the 5H and HB.
3) ERASERS - I have three. A kneaded eraser, which is one that I use most often. You can bend and shape it to get into tiny corners and every artists uses one. You can't be an artist without one. Next is a Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser, which is great for really cleaning up with as it leaves very little residue or crumbs and does in some cases a better job of overall cleaning than the kneaded eraser. My third eraser is a yellow gum eraser, which I use the least and it does a good job at times but leaves a lot of crumbs in its wake. The Staedtler Mars eraser is good for other things as well, such as when you take the price sticker off an item you bought and there is some sticky residue on the item left over. The gum eraser sometimes does the job but a Staedtler Mars one works superb at taking off the residue without hurting a book cover or toy box. A Sandford 'Magic Rub' eraser is great too!
4) MICRON PENS - My main stay for ten years now. I came to using these mostly after I had to trash a TON of Scooby and other work back in 2001 or so. I used to work with Le Pen, which was a superb pen marker that worked supremely well on Garde Silk paper which was very smooth. The Le Pen would glide across the paper and leave such a clean line that it almost gave the look that you did it digitally. It was great for style guide work as well where you needed strong clean lines that held up even when it was enlarged. But then you had the downside... All the work would fade from black to brown to light brown to almost invisible. It was great in terms of producing high quality work but the worst in creating original artwork that you wanted to be around in five years. It would in some cases start fading in one year depending on where you stored the original art. Hence, I lost a LOT of original artwork that I had to trash as it was faded and would be hard to sell. Live and learn.

So I started using these Sakura Micron Pens in early 2002 or so and I've been using them ever since. The ink has never failed me nor faded over the years as they have archival ink in them. You can go through them though as keeping the points sharp can be a chore. I use the .005, .01. .02, .03. .05. and .08. I seem to use the .01 for fine work and the .08 for thicker lines most of the time. I use the others accordingly to what I'm doing. If I do a convention and I'm doing sketches there, I use these pens for doing a fast ink job over top of the pencil rough.
5) PITT BRUSH MARKER - My main inking tool for doing sketches, final art, and larger pieces for the last seven to eight years. The ink is solid and archival and the brush points while delicate leaves a nice strong line. It takes some skill and practice to use it right without destroying it. I usually use the frayed brushes that still have ink in them, but are no longer good for fine inking work, to fill in large solid black areas of a composition as well. Sakura who makes the Micron Pens also makes a brush called the Sakura Brush Pen and it's in the same tan colored container that the Microns come in. I used to use that brush mostly in the beginning. It has a finer point to it and takes a while longer to master. I'm not sure why I stopped using it and went with the PITT Brush Marker instead. It may have been because I like the shorter brush that the PITT had and it was easier to manuever around. I recently went back and tried the Sakura Brush Pen (as I still have a few boxes of them here) and it seemed like I was out of practice with holding and using it. It takes some time to go back and relearn to use something. They are still superb brush markers but I think my hand has grown comfortable with the PITT.

Also the PITT has an upside that the Sakura Brush Pens don't have. Once they become a bit frayed (and you'll know it when it happens) and don't give you the ink line you want you can take some tweezers and pull out the brush point from the pen tip and flip it around. As you can see from my pics, you have a perfectly good NEW point now to use by simply flipping the brush and sticking it back in. The hard part is leaving the right amount of brush length exposed though. The further out it is, the more control it takes to use. The further you stick it in, the tighter your control will be. So now you can get some extra usage from the pen before it gets moved to the pile where they are just used to filling in large black areas on a drawing.
Another trick is that you can twist the end cap off of the pen (sometimes it's hard to do!) and then drop a few drops of ink in from an eyedropper if the PITT Brush is dying on you. Now the only problem with this is that the ink doesn't match. This can be an issue for some but if you are doing convention sketches or roughs with it, it won't matter. I've not used India Ink in so many years that I can't tell you if it's still any good or not. Most artists I know complain about it being watered down or not black enough. Quality control is lacking with India Ink so you might be able to find something you like. At any rate, this is a good little trick to getting the most from your PITT Brush Marker before you have to throw it out.

BUY THE STUFF YOU LIKE IN QUANTITY - I only mention this as it's cheaper! If you buy them at three pens at a time, you are spending more money on them in the long run. I go to Dick Blick's Art Supplies on the Internet and buy them buy the box. The pens I use come 12 to a box and you can store them away. As you can see from the pics above, I keep extras close at hand on the right side of my light table in the first drawer of my artist's shelf. I lay them out according to size so that I know what I'm reaching for even when I'm not looking. When you have gaps that show up from pens dying out you know which ones to replace and which ones you use the most. You keep a bunch of them in stock so that you can keep working straight through. If you're on a deadline, it takes time out of your day to drive to an art store that carries them and you wind of paying more in some cases. The price for the Microns that I see at most art stores is $2.69 a pen so that adds up. If you buy them in bulk you can get them for less than $2.00 if they are having a sale as well. I buy more of the .08 Micron Pens than I do the others since I tend to use them for quite a lot of things.

6) RULER - My little plastic ruler has been with me for ten years at least! It was cheap and did the job. It was clear plastic as well so it makes working with easier. The downside is that it had no lip or inking edge to it so if you ran a brush or marker next to it chances are you'd create a smudge when you pulled the ruler away. This happened a lot and so I got the idea of raising it off the paper by taking a piece of thin cardboard and cutting it so that it fit underneath the ruler and left an inking edge on both sides. I added a little piece of tape to hold it into place on either end of the ruler and it's been my "go-to" ruler for a decade. I sometimes replace it when I run an X-acto blade next to it and the blade accidently cuts into the plastic and creates a slightly off line. They are cheap and easy to replace. I have other rulers here that I use but this little one is the one I use the most. I think they cost like .49 cents. I do have two other big rulers that I use for doing longer lines naturally but this little one gets me through all the details!
7) FRENCH CURVES - Ah, the tool of the Jedi. If you are well trained in using a French curve they will serve you well, young padawan. I have many here of different shapes and sizes but I use basically three different ones. One of them (pictured above) has an inking edge built in. If you can buy them this way, make sure you do. It makes life easier! Otherwise...
You have this kind of French curve where I had to do the same thing that I did to my ruler and tape some cardboard to the bottom of it to raise it up off the paper. I use the outer edges mostly for bigger stuff so it's looked like this for ten years too! It's my second "most used" French curve.
And the third is my little worn and faded French curve. It's been with me now for over 20 years or longer and we've been through many jobs over the years together. I got it back when I was in high school when I was taking mechanical drawing. It has never failed me and I take it, my ruler, Micron Pens, and PITT Brush Markers to conventions. My little tackle box of supplies. We've seen many a battle and it has never failed me. My tried and true. I've used it so much over the years that it's like a swiss pocket knife for me in terms of working. I use a side here and a curve there, and a little piece here and there. You learn wield it like a blade and you know how to use it. It's why it sits on my table where it does. I have not bought another one so I have no idea what these small ones cost.

This, of course, is all based on my years of doing art and what I feel most comfortable drawing with to get the best results. It's up to you to try and experiment with the many supplies out there to see what works for you! Buy the supplies that feel good in your hand and give you the best results... and then buy a lot of it in case they stop making it!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Hard Drive That Was D.O.A.

I was going to post on Friday Night but I got waylaid by a bad external hard drive, which was literally brand new out of the box! I bought a bunch of external hard drives the day before Thanksgiving last year as Target stores had a huge sale on them and you couldn't beat the prices! So I bought several and stored them away. I had to make a copy of a previous drive this weekend and so I went to the closet and pulled out a new box with a drive and plugged it in.

Nothing happened. It just sat there. I tapped it lightly. Nothing. Unplugged it and then plugged it in again. Nothing. Dead on arrival! I couldn't believe it. Never had that happen before where it didn't make a sound. Possibly someone dropped it at the store and it still got on the shelf. I then took it and tried it on one of my other computers. Still nothing.

I then ran to the closet and pulled out the other three new hard drives that were sitting there, took the shrinkwrap off and plugged them right in to see if they worked. If they were bad too I was in a bad spot. Luckily they all fired up and were fine so I just had the one bad drive to replace. I had the receipt for all the drives in my taxes folder and so I took it back to Target last night and got a new drive! I waited till evening when I though the return line at Target would have little to no people and to my surprise there was no line! Since I just needed to exchange it there was no problem as it was still close to their store policy as to how long they would honor a return. I got the drive exchanged and went home again and plugged the new one and it fired right up.

I write this now just to let anyone out there who buys a external hard drive and has no use for it at the moment and decides to store it away that you'd better open up the box and test it out just to be sure it works! You don't want to wait too long and find out it's bad and you can't return it! Thought I'd share!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

PURGING & DOWNSIZING - Part 3 (How Nobody Wants Music CDs Either)

Here a photo of three of the four big boxes that have been in the living room for a couple of years now. They contain just music CDs and audiobook CDs. I stored them away in boxes and put them there knowing that I'd have to take one box at a time and rip them to digital. I put them in a room that forced you to see them everyday and spark you to get them done. Well, that didn't work as planned. It's a daunting task as there were so many of them and you never know where to start.

I held off originally buying CDs for the longest time as I didn't want to make the switch over from Vinyl to CD right away. I had a decent record collection and still have all the kids records since they're worth money, but going out and buying another copy of something just because it was on CD left me weary. I did make audio tapes to play on my walkman from my records but technology was moving on without me. It was in the early 90s that I really bought music in CD form. I sold the last of my vinyl rock records back in 1991. I bought CDs here and there in the late 80s but not many. I was more of an audio cassette guy since I had a Sony Walkman. When I finally did switch over to CDs I bought only the best of the best stuff that I really liked. That way I wouldn't be left with crap that I didn't know what to do with, but over the following decade of CD buying you wound up buying stuff you might not like as much or only had one or two songs that you liked. I didn't throw anything out or even trade for something else. I kept it all. Eventually, my shelf in my room hit the maximum limit and I was out of room unless I bought a new shelf. Though at this time the digital realm was hitting and I discovered the mp3 and thankfully stopped buying CDs and only bought the bands I really liked, which was like 2-3. More of a collectibility thing than any other. I had to keep my Springsteen set going though even that went completely digital back in 2007 for me.

I grabbed a box from the living room back in 2010 and took a month to go through the box. I ripped about 10-12 CDs a night and made sure all the labelling was correct and such so that if I loaded them up onto my iPod they'd be fine and in order. Each box contained around 200-220CD so it was better to take them in groups or batches. I saved them all as mp3s at 256kbps and if I really loved it I saved it at the highest mp3 rate of 320kbps. By the way, kpbs stands for kilobytes per second. Looking at it now I laugh as 320 was not available till around 2006 or so I think. The top compression rate was 256 and 192kbps is still used a lot. For those that don't know any of this, when you rip a music CD you get a raw WAV file. This is the audio track in a completely uncompressed form. An average song of 4-5 minutes can range around the 54MB size. That's fairly large so you have to compressed it while not compromising the quality of the track. Here's a list of the audio settings when you then compress them to mp3:

FLAC (Uncompressed Lossless) (1:1 ratio to the original CD audio quality even though it compresses the audio by 50-60%) The downside is that they don't play on the iPod since it doesn't recognize the format, but they will play great on your computer through a media player like VLC. Mostly FLAC is great for preserving and storing your favorite music at the highest level... till the next big thing comes along at least.

320kbps (Studio Quality) (4x the compression from the original)
256kbps (Studio Quality) (5x the compression from the original)
192kbps (CD Quality)
160kbps (Hi-Fi Quality)
128kbps (Tape Quality)
112kbps (Radio Quality)
96kbps (FM Quality)
64kbps (Voice Quality)
32kbps (AM Quality)

I listed FLAC files at the highest though. FLAC is a format that has only been around for a few years now though true audiophiles will tell you this is the only way to go. Like the "1080p or forget it" crowd that's all they deal in. It's a true 1:1 ratio to the original CD. There is no compression while it is compressed into the FLAC container. The sound is great with headphones on though I don't know if the average person would notice the nuances. I'm more mp3 than FLAC in my own collection.

I have personally tested all of these. I've taken the perfect and best rock song ever recorded (it's Springsteen's "Born To Run", Baby!) and converted it to each of these to see what happened as you get lower and lower in quality.

There is no distinct quality drop from 320 to 256kbps. The song sounds superb at either of these settings.

There is a minor nuance of the song that is gone when you save it at 192kbps.

160 and 128kbps are ok and if you were listening to the song blast in your car with the windows down, it would be fine. I know some radio stations play songs at 128kbps as well from being in the studio.

I personally would not go below 96kbps for any music. This setting is like FM radio and if you go lower it just doesn't sound as good. It's just my rule of thumb.

Audiobooks I've seen can range from 64 to 128kbps. I prefer mine to be 256 only to retain that "in the studio" microphone quality. So in general I save all my audio at 256 or 320kbps whether considered mono or in stereo. It's a small amount of work ripping a CD so why not save it at the best quality?

When you buy tracks from through their great mp3 downloader the tracks are all saved mostly at 256kbps. They used to be all at 192kbps back when Amazon first started selling downloads though I'm sure that they do in fact sell some of the newer ones at 320. From some stuff I've downloaded the last week or so, they still have been at 256kbps. Other download places offer everything at different rates depending on what year it was uploaded. Remember that 320kbps wasn't available when ripping started in full force so 256kbps was king of the hill. All this might be over the heads of some who aren't into the digital age so hopefully all this information is at least enlightening people to what's out there.

Now back to talking about my audio collection, I finally finished one full box and then didn't do another one for a few years. Life had gotten in the way. So now with some time off this past January I have dove into the boxes and been a CD ripping fool. In one week I did 199 CDs! Exhausting and boring work it was but it was a week well spent. I did the same the following week and so on till every CD was done! I would do them every night starting after 9pm and say I was going to do just 10-12 CDs but would wind up doing double that each night in the end. If I didn't do it, it just wouldn't get done at all. You can't even send them out for someone else to do. Ha! I think that could be a good business for someone to do. People bring you in CDs and you convert them to mp3 for them for a small fee. It would be cheaper than buying a new version of the music in digital form. Anyway, there are several places you can get high quality music at super cheap prices without going to iTunes. I've personally never bought anything from iTunes as I could get a song cheaper than they're $.99 a song rate and also not deal with their DRM copyright embedded on the track though I think they finally stopped that nonsense with iTunes 11. I can't confirm since I don't deal with them. Screw them since there were ways around it anyway.

So when the month of January ended I had about 450 CDs ripped and backed up onto two drives! Then combined with the 200 some I did a year or so ago I now had a complete digital library. Woo!

Now I sit and look at the physical CDs still sitting in boxes. Yikes. Now what do I do? These are way worst that dealing with DVDs. No kidding. You could make homemade coasters and place your soda cans on them at a barbeque. I looked all over my area and there were no used CD sellers ANYWHERE to be found where you could make any kind of money. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch. We had a few places back about 5-7 years ago and I would find out through my research in selling my DVDs that they went out of business completely. There was a store that had bought used CDs in Bryn Mawr, Pa but they were almost financially collapsed from buying them and trying to resell them. They stayed alive by doing away with CDs and just selling old vinyl (and new vinyl) records since in the past several years vinyl records became moderately popular again. The hipster crowd with their pork pie hats and goatie beards who weren't around when vinyl was out originally were now buying and collecting records. Did my heart good to see that people still liked vinyl (or were introduced to it at least) as it's still the BEST way to listen to rock and roll. Bar none.

I made up a list of all my audio CDs I had for sale and had printed them out and given them to people on my street to see if I can sell them for $1 each. I made $5 tonight selling 5 more CDs. Woo! Next week I'll have to figure out what to do with the ones that don't move. I may have to make a donation to somewhere.

I did keep about 50 or so CDs. The ones I really, really liked (for the CD packaging as well) and the ones that I know I can get money for simply as a collectible or as it had a limited amount made of it. One such as my Batman 1966 Original TV Soundtrack CD. This was released on vinyl in 1966 and then it was re-released only ONCE on CD back in 1989 when the first Michael Keaton Batman movie was coming out. It's still in mint condition and hard as hell to find. Digital bootlegs ripped from this CD are available online for free so I am then limited to those Batman fans who would want the actual official CD. I think once people have the digital version they could care less about owning an original.

Digital has killed the sales of physical CDs and the digital bootlegs that are all over the Internet kill resales of harder to find media. Not that I'm complaining. I love bootleggers and how they go about it all. Some of them do superb jobs that I marvel at. More power to them.

Times change and technology marches on. Here I stand simply trying to downsize my life and minimize it a bit. So far I've been successful, though I've not made much money on it as I thought I would. I write all this just to warn people if they have DVDs and CDs like I did/do that you are screwed as well. Just so's you know between friends.

I'm still waiting on others to give me back their lists, they are taking their time it seems. Haha. I really think a donation may be made next week just so I can see the living room without these boxes anymore.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

PURGING & DOWNSIZING - Part 2 (Or The Death Of The DVD)

As I was cleaning the past several weeks I knew that the amount of DVDs that I had would have to be downsized as well. I had well over 1,200 DVDs in my collection. It was massive and well-rounded. I haven't looked at a DVD nor actually placed a disc in a player in about two years. They used to be "the thing" but since digital had taken over and I could place hundreds of movies on one hard drive, why would I keep the actual discs anymore. DVDs like comics, toys, music CDs, etc. multiply like rabbits and it can get away from you. If I wanted to watch a DVD it was also problematic as they were all in tupperware containers. They were in order previously but when they got placed back in the tupperwares through the subsequent yard sales I did this past fall, they got all mixed up and out of order. So to find a specific movie was a pain in the ass if you wanted to watch it.

My DVD collection started in late 1998 or so. Maybe it was 1997. I had gotten my first player and for Christmas my mother had gotten me Dr. No and Goldfinger as a gift. My collection had started with James Bond. Now I was also one of those that watched EVERYTHING on the DVD. I loved it all. I loved the commentary tracks and would wind up keeping movies I was so-so about just because the commentaries were so good. Robert Rodriguez still does the best commentaries for his films (along with his 10-minute film schools he does). The El Mariachi/Desperado double disc is still tremendous. I didn't think about how long the DVD would really last in terms of longevity. I do remember the change from vinyl records to CDs was a kick in the ass as you had to go buy everything you liked over again. I figured like most people that DVD's would be around for quite some time and if you kept them in perfect shape, you could resell them later on and maybe make a little something... weeeeeelllllll, that reality was not to happen. Prepare for some reality, my fine readers... as the announcer on the classic Batman TV Series would say, "The worst is yet to come."

Do you like my little Photoshopped pic? I think it works well. To begin though I feel like I should first relate the changes in technology over the past 12 year or so. If you look back to around 1997-98 and look at now, you'd have to agree that this techological boom over the last decade is the fastest that it has ever moved. I remember back in the early 1997 I was buying mp3s of old time radio shows off of eBay. You'd get the CD (DVD-Rs were not around then) and you then had to play the files on your computer or covert the files out to WAV files and then burn them onto CD-Rs so that you could play them on any player or in your car. I used to get 6 episodes of The Adventures of Superman onto one CD-R since each show was around 15 minutes. I then would burn 53 (as I recall) more CDs so that I had the first 325 shows on disc that I was easily able to listen to without being in front of the computer. I would burn CDs for several favorite shows but this large amount of one show was rare. It worked great for a while and you wished that they made a player you could play them on that was mobile. As it would happen, a few years later, Apple released the iPod. Still the greatest thing they ever released to my mind. I had spent $400 and gotten the 20GB iPod and loaded it up. Man, it was great and lasted for over four years and kept going! It was built like a tank and even if you dropped it accidentally onto a soft surface it was fine. They made them solid back then. All that content at your fingertips in a handheld device! We move along to eight years later and I now have an iPod Classic that holds 120GB of music, videos, etc and it's got around 1.9GB of free space left! Plus, now it was almost half the price of the original one I bought! An entire collection of entertainment that fit into the palm of my hand. Incredible! I'm amazed at it still. I gave away my old one to someone who couldn't afford one of the newer models as a gift and it's probably still going strong.

Now let's look at the computer, which has improved in speed and memory over the decade. I have four computers here now: two towers and two laptops. Over the course of this decade we went from CD-R to DVD-R to thumbdrives (or flashdrives) to external hard drives which only improved! Incredible. Technology is moving fast! I remember in 2005 when I was working on Strawberry Shortcake and my system crashed. I had only one computer at that time. I wasn't able to retrieved the work and so I had to redo my audition art over again. It was the worst feeling in the world laying in bed at night and looking up to the ceiling knowing that the files were lost. I then vowed never to have it happen again. I didn't lose much that I really needed, just the work files for Strawberry so it wasn't like I lost old photos and what not but it was stressful regardless. I then went out and bought spindles of CD-Rs (sometimes a CD-RW pack, but I didn't like to keep adding to them for fear that they would fail on me at one time and one did). You could go get CD-Rs on sale in packs of 50 or 100. When they had a big sale on them at CompUSA in Wilmington, Delaware (no longer around) I would buy 6 to 8 spindles and store them away. Every night I would burn a new CD before I turned off the computer or went to bed. If I felt like I was afraid to lose something I simply threw a CD-R in the drive and burned the files over. So by doing that you'd then get a stack of CDs that would quickly build up and sit next to my monitor. I never did lose anything again. Why go to bed in fear when you could have peace of mind for only .60 cents a day? Actually they broke down to even cheaper at the end. I would burn and consolidate all the work onto CD-Rs and store them once the final work was done and submitted. So needless to say I had a lot of them. I used to make up CD cover art and label it all and then store them in the right environment.

And then the CD-R and its 700MB weren't enough and the DVD-R had come on the scene! DVDs could hold whole movies and extras so this was a logical progression and now you had a 4.7GB recordable DVD that could hold the same amount of data that was originally on 4-5 CDs. So I used them for about 2-3 years. Then came the Flashdrive (or thumbdrive as many started calling it since it was basically the size of your thumb) and they would hold at least 1GB of data on them. The ones I still have here are basically 4GB and 8GB ones. I do have one that holds 16GB! But now even those sit in a little tin next to the computer monitor. I just counted them and I have seven. Flashdrives were so "in" that even DC Comics gave out their own thumbdrives to freelancers one Christmas as the yearly gift in 2008. It had their logo on it. I still have mine in the original box as I didn't need to use it as I had plenty here, but more and more artists were submitting their work digitally over actually mailing it to the company. I now only use my flashdrives for little file transfers if I'm moving between one computer to another here. Already out of date and relagated to doing small file transfers if that. Also, I might add, that while these little flashdrives were taking over, the CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD+R shelfs at stores like Best Buy were getting smaller and smaller. Phased out to barely nothing for a few people who needed them. The CDs on the shelves must have felt like the VHS tapes and audio tapes of old that used to sit there. You can see the techological shift happen at a store level if you remember what Best Buy was like when it first opened to now. Now they aren't even the place for best buys. has been kicking it's ass mostly.

Next came the external hard drive. The logical advance from the flashdrive with even more space though they were fairly pricey. They started at 320GB and quickly moved to 500GB and then to 1 whole TB. Most people didn't even know what a Terrabyte was let alone how big it was, nor how anyone could possibly fill one up. Then it went from 1.5TB to 2TB to 3TB! Now at the beginning of 2013 they are making 4TB external hard drives! I mostly have 2TBs that I use and filling them is not an issue. I have used external hard drives exclusively now for the past four years. Once I got my first drive set up and finalized with data I would then back it all up again onto yet another drive. If it was really important stuff I just couldn't lose, I would make a third drive. Insane to some but that is essentially what our lives will now be, migrating and transferring data from one format to another till we die. Life is one big backup. But man, look at all the physical space this stuff saves! I have my hard drives on one small bookshelf and that's it. They do multiply but not as fast as the physical media ever used to. You may ask if I use any cloud services and I currently do not. I hear mixed reports about them and if they fail and lose your data somehow one day they are not liable for losing it, plus having any kind of personal data on some strange server somewhere just reeks of Big Brother or some kind of privacy compromise.

With DVD, if you rip one and convert it to digital, the best you will ever get is 480p. That's it. Looks small on your computer if your monitor is set up at 1280x720, but if you play it on a 32"-46" TV through a media player, it looks great! If you know what you are doing with the conversion software you can increase the bitrate and size and take it up to 576p. But basically it's topped out at 480p. But now we have BluRay players and big screen TVs that offer 1080p! The biggest and the highest resolution... so far. BluRay discs when ripped can be converted to any size but the best is to keep them at 720p or 1080p. I think a good rule of thumb is to keep everything at the highest quality you can as it will last longer and still be viable as the technology changes over the coming years. You do find people who are "1080p or forget it".

As Blockbuster video shit the bed and NetFlix came on the scene, digital was fully taking over. Now NetFlix has more people streaming movies as opposed to actually mailing them physical discs to watch. Streaming is faster, there is no waiting nor company postal costs for mailing. A computer company named Apple now completely runs the entire music industry with iTunes as music companies who used to produce music and market it stood by and watched it slip from their grasp like sand slipping through their fingers and falling into a bucket named Apple. A computer company, who didn't even want to take over the music industry to begin with, now sat in the driver's seat and had to figure out how to go forward. And go forward they have. The previous music makers like Sony are now relegated to making and selling ringtones for a phone. And then Steve Jobs died and who knows where Apple will be in the coming years as SamSung and their Galaxy 3 are impressing many. So many that the iPhone may be in danger at some point. People can now stream full movies on their computers, iPads, and iPhones as the Internet speeds are getting faster and faster. Verizon FiOS is still the king of it right now, I don't care what Comcast advertises. The speed tests prove it. I've run more than enough of them from different places. For $10 more a month you can get 75mb on the download and 35mb on the upload. They have a faster service over that as well. If I had to move, it would definitely be to an area that had FiOS.

All this in 12-14 years or so...

So here I am in late 2012. August to be exact. I am selling DVD's out front of the house and gone now to several flea markets at local colleges and people all seem to be in the same boat. I see a lot of DVDs and CDs for sale.

DVDs are selling used, if you are lucky, for $1 a piece. Music CD's are 5 for $1.


I saw a guy selling the Avengers BluRay at one of the last flea markets I went to in October, still in the shrinkwrap, for $3.00. Either they fell off the back of the truck or they were used and reshrink wrapped, but they looked brand new to me. Yikes again!

Now I should remind you that I said all my DVDs were still in perfect shape. The discs were PERFECT. No scratches, fingerprints, stains, etc. as I take care of my stuff. If you've ever seen a previously-viewed DVD at Blockbuster you can see that the mongoloids that go there have no idea on how to hold a DVD. I've never bought a previously-owned DVD that looked like it was finger raped by some hanger on from the Stone Age. They always looked like they would never play in the player if you got them home.

For the last several weeks, I've talked and met with several sellers of used games and DVDs in the area. Music CDs have no resale value. None. Zip. Nada. I went to Booth's Corners Farmers Market a week ago and saw TONS of CDs for sale for $1 each in the back area where numberous stores were. Yikes again. The consensus is that DVDs are on borrowed time. Even the resellers of used ones are trying to make a go of it. Luckily through a lot of damn work I was able to sell about 1,000 or them over the course of two and a half weeks and made about $1 each on them. The ONLY reason I got that was because mine were perfect and clean.

Most places in my area right now are offering .50 a DVD. That's it. Take it or leave it. If you bring in a DVD that is scratched or looked like it went through a road trip in downtown Iraq, you'll get $.20.

Yes, I did just say twenty cents.

Hell, I even drove to New Jersey and Delaware to see if I could sell them there. No dice. Too many people are in the same boat as me. I tried pawn shops as well! Most pawn shops said they used to buy DVDs but that they had a hard time reselling them so now all of them in my area stopped buying DVDs a few years ago. Sheesh! I think I should have sold my collection four years ago. Even animated DVDs don't move as well. Parents aren't coming into the reseller stores and buying a couple DVDs cheap for their kids to watch. Even though it's cheaper than going to Target, they aren't buying them. I was told this by several sellers and that Disney movies sell ok, but not great (ala Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Lilo and Stitch, etc) and all the superhero and other cartoon stuff (Batman The Animated Series, Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, Cartoon Network, Hanna-Barbera) doesn't move at all! They'd rather not have that kind of stuff and would rather deal in normal Hollywood films. Oh, Boy. That's not good. Yikes to the third power!

I sold the last big batch to a local reseller and he told me that as soon as I left to go get the other ones I had (as I had to make two trips to his store) he had three calls from guys trying to sell their DVDs. He was on the phone with one when I entered the store the second time. He said he told the others he wasn't buying right now. He said that he'd rather deal with me since my collection was so clean and I had a great variety of classics to newer stuff around 2009. I stopped buying DVDs back in 2009 for the most part. Plus, they were in a non-smoking home so they didn't reek of cigarette smoke. That's a deal killer too. So I gt the highest price. Not what I had in mind but it was better than if I waited another year to sell them.

Even trade in places like's Trade-In site will only offer you a small amount. I priced out some stuff and it's not worth the effort. AC/DC's album Back In Black will get you seven cents! Wow! If I sell their whole catalog of music I could buy a Happy Meal. It's more work to get the paperwork ready and to box it all up and they only give you Amazon credit that you can use in the end anyway. There are other Internet trade in places and I've looked at them all. It's not worth the effort on your part. If you're saying, "Why not try eBay, Scott?" Well, I've looked at that too and it's pretty grim. I had a complete set of Bill Cosby comedy CDs up for sale and they didn't go after three weeks. I kept the price low, but you keep spending money on relisting the auction each week. I've perused other auctions for different things that I could list and even if you bundle a bunch of Harrison Ford DVD movies you won't get much as well, though you will be getting rid of them faster you are selling in bulk by star or by genre. It's a tough deal. I've looked at many sites and they are all pretty much the same.

If you have Pirates of the Caribbean (any of the four films) and I don't care if it's the basic version of the deluxe edition, you'll be making $.20 cents! Yes, I said twenty cents again. You may ask why. Well let me tell you. It's because they sold MILLIONS of copies of the films. Everyone and their mother has one. If you have a movie that is only available on VHS as they never released it on DVD over the years, then yes, you can make a lot of money on the tape as it's a rare movie. And then I would sell it on eBay to get the most out f it. Otherwise, forget it. The more copies there are, the less you'll get. It's like selling comics or toys. Anything from 1980 to now is worth crap unless it's something unique. Like my original set of Indiana Jones toys from 1981 and 1984. If I was to buy a toy today for investment, it would be something from 1979 or much older in mint shape if I could find it. I still get offers to this day since I posted a pic of my Spider-Man Web Shooter from 1975! It's a easy big ticket item if I wanted to sell it since it's still mint in it's original packaging.

So let this be a lesson to those out there. Make sure you take care of your stuff and if you are have a lot of DVDs I suggest you dump them before they go any lower. It's not looking good. I did, in fact, keep about 6 tupperware containers of DVDs. Mostly just my favorite, favorite movies and stuff that was hard to get or could be collectable like my DVD box set from 2004 for the Spider-Man: The '67 Collection which has the complete set of Spider-Man cartoons from 1967. Still my favorite Spider-Man cartoon and the best thing to happen with the release of Spider-Man 2 back in 2004! These sets actually sell for quite a bit but I'll be holding on to mine.

Anyway, I was able to purge my DVD collection and to downsize a lot of space in the basement! It looks superb now, though I'm figuring out where to put the six tupperware containers with the remaining DVDs. I may get rid of the cases and keep the CDs in some kind of sleeves to condense it even more. Anything I think would be valuable down the line I'll keep in its original packaging, but I don't think any of it will be. They'll be using holograms next or something.

For a final note, let me add that you should be buying all this stuff for your own enjoyment and I have built my collections up as well because I've loved the stuff. And if you don't care about making money off them in the end when you really might have to sell them, then don't worry and keep collecting. Some people don't part with anything, but they're hoarders. But there will be a day, my non-hoarder friend, when you realize you just have too much stuff and if you aren't enjoying it like you once did because it's too hard to get to (or to find) and now you want to sell it and are expecting the American Pickers guys to now show up and pay good money, it won't be happening. Techonology is changing and leaving the old technology behind. If it's a book and out of print, it's still valuable as its in a media that will still be around. It's a book. People can pick it up and read it. DVDs and CDs will not be a platform that will be around forever. All this kind of media will be moving onto the next plateau as well at some point. Young college kids don't even own TVs unless to play video games on. They watch all their media on the computer or handheld devices. You may have to buy a DVD player (or any other media player you may like) and put the box in the closet and only open it in case of emergency when you can't buy one anymore as who knows how many people will have a DVD player in the future. Not many have VCRs now, and they were HUGE "back in the day"! DVD is still a good way to get your project out there to the masses, but as a resell, it's a bust. You might be better off donating it and using it as a write-off on your taxes. I do feel better that I did keep all my DVDs in their original cases since I got them. I've known friends who have bought a DVD and taken the disc and put it in one of those CD binders and then thrown the DVD case and cover art out! That's a worse spot to be in as you then won't find anyone who will buy a disc without a case. Resellers won't touch them.

There was a rule that when you bought a brand new car from the dealership and as soon as you drove it off the lot into the street you lost $3,000 off the top of the car if you drive it back in to resell it. If you go and buy a DVD and get back home and take the shrinkwrap off the $20 disc you bought, it's now worth only $2.00. Holy Depreciation, Batman! And we didn't take it out of the case yet!

Next up, was my music CD collection... if you though DVD reselling was hard, Music CDs are even worse... grab the vaseline and bend over. More soon!

Monday, February 11, 2013


The last several weeks I've been taking time off and cleaning out the studio and house of many things that are just sitting, things I've not used nor enjoyed anymore, or things just collecting dust in awkward spots. Having four big cardboard boxes of music CDs in your living room sitting for over four years sends the idea you are a hoarder or just simply run out of space. I'm not a hoarder since it's easy for me to trash stuff, but was keeping them there in boxes so I could transfer them to digital and then get rid of the physical CDs, but when they sit... and sit... and sit some more, they start to look like a piece of furniture, which they are not. I started ripping my CDs back a year of so ago and got one box done but the other three were still sitting there beckoning for me to finish. I, of course, got sidetracked with the final year of my father's illness and work. This new year triggered me now into final motion to go through and clean out my life and start a new chapter. A good downsizing was needed and so I went to work starting with my studio and going through every art shelf, drawer, and art table throwing out or shredding at least four trash cans of trash every few days. Bags of shredded pulp were thrown into the trash cans and waved good-bye. Above is a pic of the trash cans on Monday morning after one such trash collection. I even bought new jackets, new sneakers, and a new hat just to start out fresh and new. Change is good.

Back last October, I had bought a great, though expensive, shredder at Staples that has been doing a tremendous job! I originally got it to shred old drawings, old paperwork, documents and the like to get rid of stuff and thin the herd and not have to worry about identity theft. I will talk about the shredder I got in another post. My main reason for buying a great shredder over buying a cheaper one is that I simply had a lot to shred. Not only stuff that I wanted to get rid of but all the left over paperwork that that dealt with my father. My mother needed/wanted to get rid of it safely and so I took it to do away with it right. He had numberous stacks of doctors, hospital, AARP paperwork, prescriptions, old bill receipts, etc that needed to be destroyed and a small shredder that only work for 2 minutes before it shuts down from overheating was not going to cut it. So I got the biggest and the best one I could find. Over the months, it's been on the of the best things I've gotten in a looooonnnggg time. You get so jacked watching stuff go down it that you start looking for other things you can throw down it.

I've whittled my art supplies down to those I need and really use the most. If it's not digital, I found that I used basically the same materials over and over again the past ten years. I'll be writing a post about that as well very soon. I've gotten rid of old drawings, sketches, unfinished drawings and kept the best ones or ones that had some kind of sellability to them. This stuff simply builds up to a point and it just sits there and collects dust. Since I've become mostly all digital in other aspects of my life, the more simplistic the rest of my working area is the better. Many hand drawn sketches I've done for work projects on 8.5 x 11 paper I saved since I thought they might sell at a convention or something, but I've not done any conventions in about two years or more (since my love of comics is kind of low, actually the bullshit politics of comics is making it low, not my love for the medium) so they kind of sit but it's a potential money maker at some point.

When I hit the basement, I trashed old VHS tapes and kept only a few that had things I wanted to transfer over to digital, but most of it was old movies I copied and they've been sitting for over ten years. You can't sell even official store bought ones unless they were super rare and never came out on DVD. Otherwise you can try to sell them for a quarter a tape. Yes, $.25 can add up to a lot but you then have to find the person who even deals with tapes anymore. I've personally not watched any video tape media since the mid to late 90s. Since 2001, it's been all DVD, which is outdated and in the toilet as well. Hell, it's been over two years now since I had a DVD player plugged in. But video tape is still, amazingly, a superb archival container in the long run even though the quality isn't as high as a BluRay. More on all this soon in a post as well. I knew video tapes were truly done when they made a joke about them of sorts on the show Elementary recently when a video camera shot video of a murder scene and was retrieved by the police and being on video tape the police looked at it and wondered what would they play it on. No one had a VCR anymore. Luckily Sherlock Holmes had several VCR players in a closet at his lodgings since he liked to watch old police interrogations and to study them. I thought to keep my VCR machines as well since you just never know. I had three but will keep two.

Old computer equipment was thrown away last summer and fall at township collecting events, the back barn was completely cleaned out during September and now the snowblower and lawn mower have lots of room. I marvel how clean it is every time I open the back barn door to get something from it. It took several weeks to get rid of all the stuff in it but it was well worth it in the long run... and now with all the other downsizing I did in the house recently, it's really looking great but there are still clutteres of stuff sitting in tupperware containers and cardboard boxes. My eyes then fell on my DVD and music CD collections...

The Snow Missed Us Again...

Well, the snow storm missed us mostly this past weekend and luckily hit New York and Boston more than Philadephia and its suburbs. We did get around an inch and a smidge more when some of it drifted but overall it was more a dusting that was mostly gone the next day when the sun hit it. I took this pic when it started to come down.

As for what's been going on with me, Look towards the next post...