I had the privilege of illustrating each month for the editor of Harrisburg-based The Burg News. I’m already at work on the January 2017 issue, but here’s a look back.
Looking back, I didn’t attend quite as many games this past year as I have in the past. I made it to a new ballpark, but didn’t even make it to a Senators game. On to 2017–opening day can’t get here fast enough!
I find myself revisiting this post after four months of it remaining neglected in my draft folder.
What do you say about a ballpark that you find slightly…underwhelming?
There were interesting aspects of the ballpark, sure–the seats in the 20th row in the upper deck are purple to indicate a mile above sea level. The stadium is the only one in baseball to house a humidor for the baseballs (though I didn’t see it personally).
That said, they can’t tout a long heritage or celebrate past championships in their short history. The ballpark’s namesake doesn’t help my argument, either (though I guess I’ve become a craft beer snob).
By no means do I mean that as a knock to the fan base of the Rockies. The ticket attendants were incredibly polite, and my wife even commented on the crowd being a better mix of children than she had ever seen in Baltimore.
As for the surrounding neighborhood, well, I have a confession to make: I didn’t really like Denver the first time I visited it. It was too clean for a city!
Coincidentally, I visited Denver three times this year, and my opinion of the city has shifted significantly. After subsequent visits I’ve come to appreciate the laid-back feel of this metropolis in the mountains. Having a Lucile’s, a VooDoo donuts, and an inexhaustible number of decent breweries doesn’t hurt, either. Oh, and then there’s Biker Jim’s. The ballpark has its own Biker Jim’s in the upper deck behind center field, but the full experience (with better buns and beer) is available at the original location a few blocks away.
The most memorable architecture (beside the lush batter’s eye) is the strip of nightclubs in the upper deck known as ‘The Rooftop’. Introduced in 2014 to replace unfilled seats, it’s open to anyone with a ticket. It’s an electrifying atmosphere, but I’m glad Cleveland followed suit and not Baltimore.
Yes, this is part of the ballpark. This upper deck was a little too hip for me, plus I find it odd to watch the game on TV when it’s happening in-person behind you.
Section 5280, aka the number of feet above sea level.
This promenade shot (above) summarizes it for me. Yes, it’s nice that you can see the field (to the left) as you walk around, but it’s clear HOK followed this pattern for all of the modern ballparks, as I’ve found the same walkway at Yankee Stadium and AT&T Park.
No longer is there a barrier to the field, and in some ways that’s an unfortunate thing. I always got a feeling of anticipation seeing the field and the crowds once you step out of the gate. This layout bares all, and no longer do you feel that rush to return to your seat and see why the crowd’s roaring while you stand in a concession line.
I recently completed a project where I was tasked with creating a mega menu but was also afforded time to focus on website accessibility. Sure, I knew of the value of HTML5 validation, image alt tags, and including a skip navigation button, but during my research this video inspired me to give up icon fonts and try to include ARIA roles in my code.
In keeping with this accessibility-conscious kick, I sought a mega menu navigation that supported ARIA roles. I ultimately came across Adobe’s mega menu from 2013. While I uncovered other JQuery mega menus, I still consider this one to be one of the best examples of a working mega menu that’s also accessible (see Adobe’s Github repo).
My only gripe was that their example wasn’t responsive. After sifting through forks looking for a reliable example, I went ahead and made my own fork to make this responsive accessible mega menu. Here’s a working example of the fork.
The object arguments for the accessibleMegaMenu() constructor are a bit excessive, but I’ve kept with Adobe’s pattern in an effort to make the code as approachable as possible. I added three major arguments:
- navToggle – The id selector of the element triggering the mobile menu toggle
- navId – the id selector of the navigation
- mobileBreakpoint – The breakpoint at which the navigation toggles to mobile.
The last one, mobileBreakpoint, is perhaps the biggest change, as it’s referenced in conditionals throughout jquery-accessibleMegaMenu.js to determine whether navigation items behave on click or hover.
Have a look, and make it your own.
I recently completed a piece for the Sprocket Mural Works show, “Seeing these walls differently, together”. Unlike the other contributing artists, I wanted to do something algorithmic–something computer-generated…So for kicks, I figured I’d revisit this pattern I did in Macromedia Flash (way back from 2003!):
I knew I wanted to output a vector file, and while I was considering P5.js or straight HTML5 canvas, I stuck with Adobe Animate CC. Of course, that didn’t prove to be an easy path, as Animate CC strips ActionScript 1.0’s onClipEvent (remember that?!) completely, so I couldn’t even see the code.
I dug into my bookshelf and installed an old copy of Flash CS6. It was a surreal trip down memory lane, as I found myself looking up ActionScript methods that I used to have memorized 10+ years ago. Sure, Flash whined about Java SE 6 (my laptop was running 8) and it crashed several times, but I was able to extract what I needed.
So, once I had a for loop generating the pattern and a script randomly choosing which card to display, I wanted to output the SWF to a PDF. I looked into PDFConverter, scanned Quora, and explored a few ActionScript libraries. I then started opening the SWF file in a browser and tried printing it as a PDF. Both Firefox and Safari output it as a screen capture (PNG). Chrome, on the other hand, gave me the vector file I wanted, with one little catch:
As you can see above, it distorts the vector images. This being my best shot, I tried different ways to publish the SWF from Animate, but it always yielded the same result.
I finally tried one more approach that got me the print. By opening the SWF file in the standalone Flash Player, I was able to do a File > Print that retained the curve quality. The final print is below.
It’s on exhibit at WITF (with a lot of other great pieces!) until June 30.
A few colleagues of mine stumbled across this technique to save out bitmap images as SVGs using Adobe Illustrator that substantially saves on file size. I’ve personally done some testing with this approach (below), and my results yielded more than 80% file size reduction with no noticeable compression.
This approach is production-ready (provided your target browsers support SVG), and what makes it so eye-opening to me is I can’t seem to find anyone that has documented it online. Not only that, but Adobe’s documentation would lead you to exporting the SVG in a manner that doesn’t offer this file size benefit.
Here’s what I did:
I started with this image of the late 5ptz as a guinea pig. It’s 72ppi, 1200×800, and weighs in at 1.3MB. I copy it out of Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 and paste it into Adobe Illustrator CC 2015.
In Illustrator, I choose “File > Save As… > SVG”, NOT the “File > Export As…” option. Illustrator will prompt you to use “Export As…” for web-optimization, and while this is the correct approach for vector graphics, it doesn’t suit our needs for a bitmap image.
Here’s the final result, an 224kb SVG that looks identical to it’s 1.3MB JPG counterpart (!):
I did a series of export tests to see how I could achieve this, but saving from Illustrator seems to be the best approach. My results (with resulting output files linked):
|Approach||Resulting File Size|
|Export as SVG from Photoshop CC||2.9MB|
|Export as SVG from Illustrator CC||3.4MB|
|Save as SVG from Illustrator CC||224KB|
All of these export options are converting the image into a base64 format, but the biggest reason the save to SVG version is so small is because it’s the only option that minifies the file.
Now, bitmap-based SVGs have a few limitations in the modern production flow–some servers aren’t configured to render SVGs, forcing one to use an SVG htaccess settings tweak. SVG bitmaps scale proportionally, but don’t have an inherent size that one can automatically rely upon when embedding into an HTML page. Lastly, some CMSs (WordPress included) do not permit uploading SVGs through the admin WYSIWYG, though workaround and/or plugins are available.
This out for yourself and let me know what you find. As for me, I’m already eyeing it as a solution for large website images that aren’t generated by the client.
I’m exhausted. I’ve had a full day of proposal writing, coding, and conference calls. I’m also under deadline for this month’s The Burg illustration, so what better time to procrastinate!
Last month, I did my illustration using Procreate for the first time (while visiting a friend in a hospital room in Denver). As I was about to get started on tonight’s illustration I remembered that Procreate has a cute little playback feature. So, here’s last month’s illustration captured on video (you can check out my son standing in as a model, and here’s the article).
It encapsulates the rushed nature I always get when doing these illustrations, as well as the luxury of working with multiple layers and resizing on-the-fly.
I made a recent trek to Colorado for a more somber reason than sighteseeing, but I certainly made the best of it. I sampled eggs Benedict from a different city every morning, sampled libations from various breweries after work sessions at coffee shops, and otherwise subsisted on sushi and Voodoo donuts every night.
My favorite portion of the trip (besides visiting friends) was on my last day visiting Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Some shots below (along with a few less-scenic shots from my trip).
I’ve been drawing digitally for over eight years, most recently on a Wacom Cintiq 22HD Touch. I know there are some that still appreciate the feel of physical art materials, but the ability to work in layers, scale elements, and switch colors has become ingrained into my workflow.
So, after nearly a month of anticipation, my Apple pencil arrived, and with it the promise to draw digitally on the go. I’ve fantasized with the idea of being able to lounge around in a coffee shop and draw on my iPad, but that scenario never came to fruition.
One reason is the hardware–I couldn’t find stylus that felt comfortable. I tried using a Pogo stylus back when it [seemingly] was the only stylus on the market, but found it compromised my drawing–it was an unwelcome restraint that handicapped my process. Later, I invested in both the Wacom Creative Stylus and its successor, the Creative Stylus 2. The first version had the precision of a child’s marker, and while the Creative Stylus 2 slimmed the tip, the palm rejection did not agree with this southpaw (a task that is partially the responsibility of software). Furthermore, I also didn’t care for the slippery plastic tip contacting my Otterbox, which I could only be exaggerated by a disc-tipped stylus.
In both cases, pressure sensitivity wasn’t an issue, but the experience felt so foreign that I intuitively made paperweights of the devices.
Another reason the coffee shop fantasy never came true is software. The iPad doesn’t support Photoshop (which remains my drawing software of choice). Sure, Adobe has released iOS apps, but many of them come across as demos compared to their Creative Suite.
Lastly is setup, I often need to draw from reference, so my office is the perfect environment. While I’m drawing on my Cintiq I can pull up image references on one of my other monitors. I toyed with the idea of getting a Wacom Companion, but the reportedly mediocre battery life paired with the fact that most artists work in their studios made me decide against it.
I’ve been using the Apple pencil for a few weeks now, and…I actually use it. It’s easily the best stylus I’ve ever used for the iPad. It’s as responsive as my Cintiq, it doesn’t suffer any parallax (though, to be fair, the Cintiq is MUCH bigger), the tip offers a more natural resistance, and palm rejection just works. Sure, there are some things I don’t like–it doesn’t have an eraser ‘button’ on the other end (no iPad stylus does), it doesn’t have buttons along the side, and the cap, despite being magnetic, is just screaming to be lost. Determining the amount of charge the pencil had was also a bit of a challenge (look into widget notifications in settings).
As for native iOS apps, I migrated from Autodesk Sketchbook to Procreate and haven’t looked back. Procreate sports a simpler UI, supports a layered canvas up to 2732×2048, and exports to PSD. Just to make my iPad Pro productive, I invested in Screens for remoting to my laptop. It’s not intended for drawing, though, so I also bought Astropad, which allows for remote drawing in Photoshop and uses an ingenious delayed cursor effect to mask any lag.
The iPad Pro’s multitasking is a game-changer, as well, as I can simply pull up a reference image directly in Photos or Safari.
So, between the two, which is better? If money is no object for you, I’d still go with the Cintiq, as it eliminates the proxy to a final file and has a comfortable stylus with an eraser tip. Still, for nearly a third of the price, an iPad Pro with pencil is probably the next best option on the market.
About Rich Hauck
I'm a creative technologist at Hauck Interactive, Inc. and an adjunct instructor at HACC. I live in Harrisburg, Pa. with my wife and two boys. I enjoy good coffee, Trappist beers, Orioles baseball, and good design.