Mar 15, 2014

The NEW Magnum Arts Blog

It's time for a change.

The time for this blog to remain on the Blogger platform, has come to an end. 

There will be no more posts on this blog format, It's been a good platform, I've done a lot with it, but as I move into creating websites for a living, it is time to move to a better, more customizable and more responsive blogging platform.

The new Magnum Arts now has a new logo, a new look and a new user experience.

The new blog address is A lot easier for people to type in than It's three simple syllables: mag - arts - blog. Compare that to mag -num - arts - dot - blog - spot.

The new blog, created on a WordPress platform, will have several important advantages:
  • More flexibility of layouts, added widgets and appearance
  • Blog posts that are "excerpts", meaning, only the first few lines of the post appear, with a "Read More Here" link to take you to the post. This avoids having to slog through an entire post to reach the next one
  • Much better image presentation, with slideshow galleries that display captions, thumbnails, and smooth transitions. Images are also optimized for the web; they will use less bandwidth, and load faster
  • Responsive design, making the blog easier to read on mobile devices
  • The ability to add new features, plugins and other upgrades to make the blog better serve its readers
I will be importing some of the best of the Magnum Arts blog over to the new format in the days ahead. This blog will remain active and accessable, and all of the links to the blog posts on this site will continue to work.

But all new blog posts from this point forward will be on the new blog format, not this one. Check it out at or click on the new Magnum Arts logo, at the bottom of the page. Your feedback, it goes without saying, is always welcome!

Mar 2, 2014

Dark Sky Festival 2014

This is the 5th year I've organized the 501st Legion's participation in the Dark Sky event, which draws attention to the growing problem of light pollution (the reason we don't have pitch-black nights anymore). The Dark Sky festival gets more bigger and more popular every year. The crowds are respectful, excited and fun to hang with. The event takes place in the small, Mayberry-like street in the town square, which was filled with interesting exhibits, displays and demonstrations. Telescopes were set up to observe the night sky; visitors could see Jupiter, and other planets.

Enjoy these pictures, which were taken by Keith, a 501st Member, and Amanda, a woman who works at Walt Disney World as a photographer. She heard about the event and wanted to hang with us, so I put her to work with my camera, and I think you'll agree she took some amazing shots.

Click on each picture for a larger view

Below left: this one is a bit blurry, but I like the effect. The woman in the center is almost completely transparent. She's a ghost!

Below: this wild picture was a ridiculously long exposure withthe D90 on a tripod, with a twirling light gizmo sold at the Dark Sky fest. I asked a kid who was waving it if I could get a picture with it, and the shutter stayed open far too long. Pretty trippy!

Clowning around in the cast changing area. Maturity...? What's that??

The next morning Brian, our Vader, and I enjoy the flawless morning quiet on Aligator Lake, at the Lakeside Inn, a charming motor court right on the water

Jan 11, 2014

Sequential Storytelling - Creating Comics and Graphic Novels

Some of my Cartooning and Drawing students are interested in sequential storytelling; developing characters,writing stories for those characters and providing characters with believable motivations, personalities and dilemmas to solve. Here are a few good resources that deal with these important issues. 

There are a lot of posts packed into this one; here is the order they are in. Click on the title to jump to the post, click back to come back here. Enjoy!

  1. How to Create Your Own Graphic Novel
  2. Graphic Novels as Educational Tools
  3. The 7 Deadly Sins of World Building
  4. Writing Good Supporting Characters
  5. How To Read Manga
  6. Free Comic Books
  7. How To Draw Proper Perspective
  8. Escape The Rut: Free Your Creativity For Better Living

How To Create Your Own Graphic Novel
This is a video presentation I put together, that covers some of the common steps and considerations involved in creating your own graphic novel, including creating compelling characters, plotting, use of panels, dialogue and word balloons, as well as helping engage your readers. It has some fun animations that make it entertaining, and will help you get started.

Raising A Reader - Graphic Novels As Educational Tools

Graphic novels are coming of age, finally being recognized for the literary genre they are. Where once they were dismissed as high-brow comic books, they are now looked upon as a serious and established genre of literature, encompassing all genres, art styles and techniques.

Exhibit A: The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has released a very cool resource for educators (like myself) and parents called Raising a Reader. It's a free book about how graphic novels can inspire interest in reading and writing among students who have grown up with video game consoles, smart phones and endless cable TV. If you're going to the ComicCon in San Diego they will be there as well to distribute copies.

Click HERE to get your free copy, either print-ready or on-line!

The sci-fi blog i09 has a great article about the mistakes writers make when building fictional worlds, and it's a good read.

If you're going to build an artificial world, you have to spend some time thinking about how it works, and what kinds of people live in it. What kinds of power sources does this world use? What is the infrastructure like? What kinds of people live there, and what do they do there?

For example this picture. Obviously an industrial society that has been around a long time and is starting to decay, with urban class warfare and a minority that feels oppressed. Standing on the rusty railing looking at this view I can smell the pungent stench of hydraulic oils, grease and pollution the air. There is the clanking sound of tools being used and dropped, huge industrial generator units, the whine of flying cars cruising by, the cursing and shouts of the denizens who work here. At the end of the day they'll go back to their tiny modular living units in the lower levels of the city.

Thinking about these things will help make the difference between a flat, non-engaging backdrop, and an engaging world your readers will lose themselves in.

The blog i09 has a great article about how to create convincing supporting characters in your stories or graphic novels.This is a good list to keep in mind when you're creating your worlds, and the people in them, so that your supporting characters are not bland background scenery.

How to Read Manga
(An analysis of manga as the highest expression of sequential art and its position in modern pop culture)

This post is based on a lecture I attended at DragonCon a few years ago about the nature of art, sequential storytelling, manga, and the different types of manga. It is by far the most visited post on this blog. 

This blog post is based on a discussion panel hosted by Jake Tarbucks, supplemented with my own research

Manga, translated literally, means “crazy pictures”, and is a format, not a genre. Manga crosses all genres, including westerns, sci-fi and romance, and can look like anything; there have been manga versions of popular western comic books, such as Star Trek and Superman.

According to the book The World of Japanese Comics by Frederik L. Schodt, the word manga can mean anime, caricature, cartoon, comic strip, comic book, or animation. It was created by the Japanese woodblock print artist Hokusai in 1814, who was trying to describe something like whimsical sketches. However the word manga did not become the popular word into the beginning of the 20th century.

A publishing company used to be required in order to produce and print a manga book, with trucks having to deliver them to stores. It is now possible, because of the Internet, to produce manga directly online, bypassing all of the brick-and-mortar steps that used to be required. The Japanese publishers have figured this out; they realized all they need is an editor, copywriter, and translator.

The result is that sooner or later, people will begin getting their manga directly from Japanese publishing websites, as opposed to bookstores. This makes it easier to produce manga in different languages, directed to different countries and cultures.
(image credit:

“Why do you waste your time reading those comic books?” 

How many of you have had to justify your passion for manga or comic books to family, teachers, or friends? There should be no shame in choosing this format for entertainment, and consuming our media.

Consumers of manga have traditionally been looked down upon, and the format treated like a sub-genre of comic books. There has not been a lot of respect given to manga, despite the fact that it has a very strong following, and readers are very devoted to the format, much like football fans are very devoted to their favorite teams. 

Manga, anime, cartoons, and comics have all been traditionally looked down upon as low culture; indeed the word "comics" implies a format incapable of any kind of high expression.

The most common graphic novel that is used to rebut these claims is the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman, a graphic novel published in 1986, with the sequel published in 1991, that tells the story of Spiegelman's father and his experiences surviving the Holocaust. This graphic novel was the only one to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, which helped to gain some legitimacy for the format of the graphic novel.

 (click on the image to purchase)

One of the biggest problems in gaining legitimacy for the format is the very word comics. Most of what we read in comics and manga are not comical or humorous. The word "comic" is associated with standup comedians, slapstick comedy, and lowbrow humor.

But "comics", as a form of storytelling, goes back a very long way, all the way back to cave man days.

The earliest art ever created were sequential images created before written words were used. These images were arranged in sequence in order to tell sometimes very deep and meaningful stories, about religion and culture.

As language was developed, and manuscripts in ancient books were written, illustration continued to be a very important part of communication.

(image credit:

Sequential art is at the very root of art and history and literature.

Examples of this include key drawings by Neanderthal cave men and illustrations found in Incan and Mayan cultures. These illustrations told the story of heroes, battles, and gods, and they were told in sequence in order to tell very deep meaningful stories. These were in effect comic books, but for them, they were the highest form of literature and storytelling.


Above left: One of the most common Mayan art themes painted on Maya vases is the royal audience. The ahau, seated characteristically with legs folded, receives visitors. (image credit

Above Right:The Nativity; Harley 2876 courtesy of the British Library (image credit:



High Art Versus Low Art

Sometime around the 1600-1700s, a division was created between high art and low art. Prior to this, art was for everyone. But during this time, two classes of art became prevalent: the cheap art for the masses that cost little to produce, and the expensive art that was mainly designed to be consumed by the upper crust of society.

High art was supposed to be the epitome of artistic achievement, created with a fine materials, using meticulous techniques, expressing very refined and noble sentiments.

The appreciation of high art depended on educated taste, intelligence, and social standing. High art was supposed to be respected by everyone, but only the rich and educated were supposed to be able to understand and fully appreciate it. If it was too popular, it must be bad.

Low art was aimed at the common masses, not the elite of society, and was produced with cheap materials such as newsprint, using cheap methods.

If it was popular, it must not be very good, because the masses were not educated like the upper crust of society were, or so the logic went.

The Rise of Pop Culture

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were artists who rebelled against this separation of art, declaring that all art is equally good.

The best example of this was the artist Andy Warhol, who deliberately chose to mass-produce silk screened prints of such generic items as Campbell's soup cans, to make the statement that low art, or pop culture, was just as valid as high art such as paintings of the Mona Lisa. 

Another example is the artist Roy Lichtenstein (right), who deliberately copied the look of comic book panels using oil on canvas to simulate the crude quality and offset printing process used to make comic books, to make the point that pop art was just as valid as so-called high art.

The comic strips created by underground cartoonist Robert Crumb (below) have also been hung in museums and galleries. Ironically, some of these pop-culture pieces are now hanging on the walls of museums, and are valued at millions of dollars.

In short, the people who know the least about art are the ones who make this high art-low art distinction. Like any format, there is bad literature and good literature, but the format of comics and manga is not what defines that.

Our brain is wired to interpret and see the human face. It is a form of survival, it helps us to recognize whether a predator or another person is a friend or foe, based on their facial expressions. Is this person going to attack me, or embrace me?


Facial expressions and body language are what our brains interpret to help insure our survival. This is why people see faces in clouds, and why inanimate objects seem to have "faces". 

How many times have you read about someone seeing the face of Jesus or the Madonna on a slice of toast?

We see ourselves in comic books, which is why we do not need extremely lifelike illustrations in order for us to identify with the characters.

A perfect example is Charlie Brown, which has a bare minimum of facial features, but is a character that almost everyone identifies with. The simpler the illustration, the more symbolic it is, and the more meaning that we give it.

The three things which determine facial expression are the eyebrows the eyes and the mouth, because they move. The nose, chin, shape of the head...they do not move, and you cannot tell a person's expression by them.

People often assign emotions to a face where no such emotion exists, because our brain is wired to do just that.

Manga has an extreme level of detail in the backgrounds, but manga faces tend to be extremely simple. The faces have been stripped down to the bare features on purpose. This allows the reader to fill in the blanks on their own. Our brains take in a little bit of information, and fill in the rest.

(image credit: Love-An-Cafe)

Which is why when you see only the upper half of a character in a comic strip panel, you know he has legs even though you can't see them. If you cannot see the characters' other arm, you know it's there, because your brain is telling you it's there. People who have brain damage are unable to make this distinction. When we read comics and manga, we are creating a three-dimensional image in our minds that moves with the story, because our brains are filling in the rest.

Where are Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus standing? On a city street? In a house? In a desert?

They are standing outside. How can you tell? Those scratch marks in the background. What are those? They could be anything.

Our brains tell us the scratch marks represent grass, and our brain fills in the rest. We see an empty lot, or a field.

Manga: Built For Speed

Manga is meant to be read very quickly; readers do not spend a lot of time on each page, Manga artist design their pages to be scanned rather than read, and they use a lot of imagery and symbols that our brains can interpret very quickly in order to create a three-dimensional story. 

The average manga reader takes roughly 20 minutes to finish a 320 page comic magazine. This breaks down to 16 pages a minute, or just under 4 seconds spent on each page. This is possible because of the structure of the Japanese narrative.

Unlike American comic books, Japanese comics make extensive use of purely visual effects and symbolism. American comic strips have been shrinking in the newspapers for years and consist of only three or four panels; American comic books are 20 pages per issue. The typical Japanese comic book artist has over 30 pages to use as they please per week. One manga story will often consist of 10 volumes, or over 2000 pages.

Manga character design

Manga artists deliberately make their characters symbolic, so that you instantly know who a character is, or what kind of character you're looking at. In manga, the character must be instantly recognizable. For example a shojo heroine has instantly recognizable features, such as big bright eyes, a demure face, a particular type of body and posture, and hardly any nose. The word shojo refers to a young woman approximately 7 to 18 years old.

If you saw an actual human being with a tiny to almost nonexistent nose, they would look like a freak. But in the world of manga it looks perfectly acceptable.

One of the most recognizable characteristics of manga is the large, childlike eyes of many of the characters.

The large eyes in manga and animation have become a fixture since the 1960s, when Osamu Tezuka began drawing them in this way. Tezuka, considered by many to be the godfather of anime, is responsible for such famous anime works as Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Black Jack. Osamu Tezuka's prolific output, pioneering techniques, and innovative redefinitions of genres earned him such titles as "the father of manga", "the god of comics"and kamisama of manga . Learn more about him HERE.

However, Tezuka did not invent the big eyed style, he was merely mimicking the Betty Boop and Disney cartoons that were popular at the time.

In his autobiography he writes, “I felt that existing comics were limiting...most were drawn... as if seated in an audience viewing a stage, where the actors emerge from the wings and interact. This made it impossible to create dramatic or psychological effects, so I began to use cinematic techniques... French and German movies that I had seen as a schoolboy became a model. I experimented with close-ups and different angles, and instead of using only one frame for an action scene or the climax (as was customary), I made a point of depicting a movement or facial expression with many frames, even many pages... The result was a super long comic that ran two 500, 600, even 1000 pages.”

Why Such Big Eyes?

Research has shown that large, childlike eyes increase the attractiveness of a character, and manga artists use childlike eyes to increase the appeal of their protagonists. In manga eyes you see the eye reflection that exaggerated, regardless of the surrounding lighting.

The lighting of characters who are dead or who have died is darker, and does not have a reflection. People with large eyes in manga are considered more trustworthy, where as the narrower, stereotypical “beady eyes” are associated with distrustful and dishonest characters, such as burglars.

At some point the spiky hairdo became the symbol of the good guy, whereas the evil characters tend to have more elaborate clothing, and narrower eyes. These are clues which help instantly identify the type of character in a manga novel. Manga also has a a large assortment of symbols and iconic imagery to depict various emotions that do not happen in real life, but serve to illustrate various emotional reactions in characters. To read a lot more about manga iconography, click HERE.

Below is a list of all of various anime and manga genres. as you can see, manga has genres targeting both genders, in all age groups.

Manga Genres

Okatu - Fans of anime in the United States. In Japan it is a derogatory term for anime-obsessed fans with no life and usually no job.

Manga - Japanese comic books, or comic books drawn in that style (wikipedia link)

Doujinshi - Anime and manga made by fans (wikipedia link)

Mecha - Anime focused on giant fighting robots

Bishounen - literally "beautiful youth", stories involving androgynous men geared to female readers. "Bishi" is a slang term for this genre. One of the appeals of this genre is the breakdown of traditionally strong male roles (athlete, warrior, martial arts expert, etc).

Shonen - Literally "a few years"; manga that targets the 10-18 year old reader. A popular genre, it is generally about action/fighting, but often contains a sense of humor and strong growing friendship-bonds between the characters.

Shonen-ai - Stories about beautiful, effeminate boys in love with other beautiful, effeminate boys, usually targeted to female readers. Shonen-ai does not contain sexually explicit love scenes, but has implied love scenes as part of the storylines.

Shojo - Literally "young girl", manga targeted to the 10-18 year old female reader

Shojo-ai - Shojo-ai is the American term, Yuri is the Japanese term, and refers to romance love stories between girls, targeted to female readers, with one girl having more masculine qualities than the other. Yuri can focus either on the sexual, the spiritual, or the emotional aspects of the relationship, the latter two sometimes being called shōjo-ai by western fans of manga.

Fanservice - Unnecessary elements to a storyline, usually sexual in nature, to please a core group of fans of a series

Ecchi - Anime or manga that has borderline pornographic or sexual content (skimpy clothing, partial or full nudity). Derived from a Japanese word meaning "erotic", "lewd", "sexy", or "lascivious"

Seinen - A word meaning "young man", manga targeted at older males, usually between 18-30 years old.  It has a wide variety of art styles and more variation in subject matter, ranging from the avant-garde to the pornographic. Seinen manga is distinguished from shounen, or boy's manga by having a stronger emphasis on realism and also by having a more well developed storyline.

Josei - The female equivalent of Seinen 

Yaoi - Also known as boys' love, this is manga of a homosexual nature, created by women for female readers, with more sexual overtones to the storylines. (wikipedia link)

Hentai - Sexually explicit anime pornography. The word hentai has a negative connotation to the Japanese and is commonly used to mean sexually perverted.

Shotacon - A slang word that refers to romantic or sexual attraction to young boys, or a person who has such an attraction. It refers to a genre of manga and anime wherein pre-pubescent or pubescent male characters are depicted in a suggestive or erotic manner, leading critics to charge that this genre encourages the sexual abuse of children.  Understandably, shotacon is very controversial. Given the extreme sensitivity of this type of material, possession of it can lead to arrest and conviction.

Unique Sub-Genres of Anime

Magical Girl - girls with superhuman powers who fight evil and protect the world

Meccha Anime - vehicles, pilots and/or machine operators as the principle themes

Gag Anime - Anima that has no plot, but a series of jokes, strange situations and over-the-top reactions by characters. Some of the gags can seem downright surreal and alien to western readers

Harem Anime - stories involving a protagonist of either gender surrounded by multiple characters of the opposite gender, and the situations that arise from it (a male surrounded by women, a woman surrounded by men). This genre is usually risque and has sexual themes

Is Anime Appropriate For Children?

The short answer is yes, but be careful of the following:
  • Nudity (either sexual or just characters unclothed)
  • Sexual humor or situations
  • Permanent character deaths - in some storylines, a main character may be killed off, sometimes brutally, without warning and early in the storyline. These characters are not revived to make a happy ending. Such plot points could be upsetting
  • Dark or gray areas of morality - Unlike western stories, where main characters are generally either good or evil, some anime have characters that do good deeds but also have less-than-honorable motives as well. A character may help people for a fee, for example, but allow a town of innocent people to get slaughtered because his fee was not paid

How To Tell If Anime Is Appropriate
  • Watch it. Most anime can be found on-line
  • Check the back of the DVD case for the age-based rating
  • Read reviews of the anime in question
  • Ask around, ant anime-based conventions, clubs, on-line forums, comic book stores

The Digital Comic Book Museum is on my list on links over there on the right, but it's worth a separate blog post to make sure you know how cool this site is. There are loads of comic books, all absolutely free for the taking (or in this case, downloading).

The comic books are from the forties to the sixties and are for the most part obscure and short-lived titles, from Westerns, pulp-science fiction, crime, humor and specialty publications. They have been scanned by various contributors, preserved for all time. Because they were printed on cheap, low-quality newsprint (hence the name "pulps"), the pages are yellowing, but they are perfectly readable.

They are a product of their time; the fashion, social customs and stories are all from the era they were created in, and reading them is like stepping back in time. And...did I mention they are all FREE??

Some files are in a format that requires Comic Book Reader in order to view them. CBR is a free application that makes it easy to read comic books on your computer or iPad. Once downloaded, open up the comic book and you'll see small icons of each page lined up vertically on the left, with the selected page taking up most of the screen so you can read it. You can control how big the selected page is, to make it easier for you to read. Click on the link below to take you to the download page.

Here are a couple of pages from some of the comic books I've downloaded from this cool site (click on each image to make it larger). 

How to Draw Proper...
This post is going to teach you the basics of drawing perspective. Perspective is a technique that makes your buildings and drawings look real, since they converge on an invisible vanishing point, the way things do in real life. If the perspective of a drawing is incorrect, it is noticeable right away, and robs your drawing of its credibility. You don't want that.

The Vanishing Point

Everything you see has a vanishing point, a point where everything comes together. At the vanishing point is the horizon line, the horizon of the earth from your point of view. This is the way things look to your eyes, from where you're standing. Normally you can't see this point, because there is too much stuff in the way: buildings, trees, cars, etc. But if you stand on a set of railroad tracks, you can see the vanishing point perfectly.

The tracks just seem to "merge" together. The tracks don't really meet, of course; it just looks that way, from your perspective.

The horizon line and the vanishing point are the first things you need to establish when setting up your drawing. Everything will converge on the vanishing point, because if it doesn't, it just won't look right. You can see examples of vanishing points and perspective everywhere you look, as in the following examples.
On these street photos you can see perspective in real life, along with the vanishing point. In the picture on the right, you can't see the vanishing point, because it's hidden by the building at the end of the street.

Wrong Perspective

When the perspective is wrong on a drawing, you immeadiately notice it. You may not know exactly why the picture looks wrong, but your brain isn't fooled. It can tell. Look at the comic book panel below, and see if you can figure out why the drawing looks wrong. Scroll down for the answer.

Need a clue? Check out this close-up...

Now look at these perspective guidelines. See the mistakes in perspective?This drawing is a mess. The castle doesn't line up with the vanishing point at all, giving it an odd, weirdly-angled look. All the angles on the front side of the castle should meet at the same vanishing point, or else it will look wrong, like this one.

How To Draw Proper Perspective

Now that you know what proper perspective is supposed to look like, let's create a perspective drawing, step-by step. Don't worry; it's not as hard as it looks. Ready? Here we go!

STEP ONE: Horizon and Vanishing Point

draw the horizon line with a ruler on your paper. Do not press down hard, because you will need to erase a lot of this line later. Your pencil should be barely touching the paper. This is your horizon line, as if you were standing on a flat, featureless desert plain. Somewhere on that line, pick a spot; that will be your vanishing point (or VP, from now on).

STEP TWO: Create Your Guidelines

Line your ruler up with the VP, choose an angle, and draw some guidelines, LIGHTLY. It will look like a road on the desert. These guidelines will help keep everything correct as you construct your drawing. Everything must converge on the VP or your drawing will not look right.

Draw another set of guidelines, going up from the VP. Again, line your ruler up with the VP, choose your angle, and draw some light lines. This will be the tops of your buildings. You can obviously draw several guidelines for buildings of different heights, but for now, let's keep it simple. Notice you can still see the horizon line. You won't be able to in a few steps, as you'll see.

Onto the next step!!

Draw the Edges Of Your Buildings

Now it's time to draw the near and far edges of your buildings. Where you put them is up to you, but they will always be perpendicular, or at a right angle, to the HL (horizon line). If your building edges are at an angle, your building will look odd, as if it was built with a slanted face. Some buildings are, obviously, but for the sake of this exercise, let's keep it simple, shall we?

Erase the HL behind your new building face. We don't need to see it anymore, because it's hidden now. This is why I urged you to keep your lines very light.

Now let's draw the sides of the buildings that face us, from our point of view, from where were are standing. There is no perspective here, because we're looking head-on at the sides of these buildings. They do not recede toward the vanishing point. So, these lines should be parallel to the HL, perfectly horizontal. They should not be angled at all, otherwise they will look strange. I have colored the face of the building just for the sake of clarity; you may want to lightly shade your buildings, just to keep them straight in your mind while you're working.

Now, let's take it up a notch, and draw some more buildings, whaddya say? You've come this far, right?

Draw some more guidelines, again, lightly. Line your ruler up with the VP, choose another angle, and draw a line. Do the same thing for the other side of the street. Erase the excess lines you don't need to see (like the ones leading to the VP; you don't need those anymore).

Then draw the straight up-and-down edges of the buildings, then, lastly, the roofs, which will be horizontal. See? You're starting to get the hang of it now. Wasn't as bad as you thought it would be, huh?

The only problem is our buildings have no windows or doors. They look like huge cement blocks. Well, let's make fixing that our next step!

STEP FOUR: Drawing Windows and Doors

Yes, more guidelines. Hey, you need 'em when your doing perspective drawings. OK, ruler on the VP, and draw some narrow guidelines this time. You may want to lightly shade between your guidelines, just to make it easier for yourself. You can draw as many rows of windows as you want. Do the same thing for the other side of the street.

The edges of your windows should be straight up-and-down. This is important. Check to make sure the lines are straight by comparing your ruler to the edge of your paper. If the ruler is not at the same angle as the edge of your paper, it won't look right. Make sure your windows get thinner the farther away they are, the way the do in real life.

Use the same technique for the doors as well.

And that is perspective in a nutshell! Make sure your lines join at the VP, and you'll be fine. Hope you enjoyed this lesson. As you practice with perspective, you'll see how changing the angles of your guidelines give you very different results. Most important of all, your drawings will look accurate.

Falling into a rut means you are following tried-and-true but well worn steps instead of taking a chance or exploring new areas. What is the primary reason we do this?

Fear. Most people make their decisions based on some level of fear. “If I try that, I might fail.”, or “If I do this, others will think poorly of me.” or the big one: “If I take a chance, I might end up living in a van down by the river.” Fear is the biggest factor that holds people back from trying new things and fulfilling their dreams. I better not chance it; it’s just too risky.

Don’t get me wrong; we live in dire economic conditions right now. There are millions of people in this country out of work or under-employed, so there are real-world consequences to going off on a new path on a whim. The fear of losing something is the biggest hindrance to new thought processes. “I’m just trying to hold onto what I have.”

But, do not let this fear be an excuse for not stretching your mind in different directions. Take your mind off its leash from time to time and let it run free, without restrictions. In my drawing classes, the biggest challenge I see my students struggle with is their inability to let go and create spontaneously. When sketching, they hesitate, they judge themselves critically, they get frustrated when a masterpiece does not emerge right away.

This is a symptom of our society’s relentless demands for conformity and success: don’t act so weird. Watch what you say. You’re not good enough. Don’t make people feel uncomfortable. Better not say that, someone might get offended. Just keep it to yourself. You can’t do that, are you crazy?! If you can just go ahead and stay in that box, that would be grrreat, mm-kay? Thanks a bunch. 

Coupled with that is a fear of failure. Our society teaches us, constantly, that failure is shameful and to be avoided at all costs. This is why every student gets a trophy, so no one will fail. This mind-set is why innovation in business is shriveling. Newsflash: FAILURE IS PART OF LIFE. Get used to it. You will fail (and have probably failed at some point in your life in the past). Trying to avoid failure is like trying to pretend the sun won’t come up in the morning. No one gets a free pass from failure. Myself, I’ve learned more from my failures than I've ever learned from my successes. The more comfortable you are with the concept of failure, the more you’ll be able to learn from it when it happens.

Some of the greatest entrepreneurs were people who launched projects most people thought were ridiculous. When Walt Disney began building Disneyland in Anaheim it was widely derided; people called the park Walt’s Folly. Disney had setbacks and failures, but he never quit, despite what people thought. Steven Schussler, founder of the Rainforest Cafe restaurants, was so passionate about his concept he built an artificial rain forest in his house to attract investors. His house even got raided by the DEA, who thought the high energy usage meant he was growing pot. It took TWO YEARS before he attracted an investor who would give him a chance, and the rest is history. His autobiography, “It’s A Jungle In There” is an excellent read.

Here is my suggestion: take your mind off the leash and engage in some kind of creative endeavor, whether it be drawing, painting, sculpting, fixing old cars or even quilting. And when you do this, DON’T CARE. I’ll say that again: DO NOT CARE. Get your analytic mind out of this process! It has no place here. Create without thought, without judgment, without reservation. Do not think. DO. When you do this, you will get into that special place called the ZONE, the place where you are operating on pure instinct, and your creativity is flowing almost without any conscious thought. It is in the zone where some of your best insights and ideas will emerge, because those ideas are not constrained by your fearful, logic-based restrictions. It’s a lot like meditation.

In your career or job search, this creative spirit will serve you well. You’ll come up with different angles on old problems. You’ll have a different insight than your contemporaries because you have let your mind out of its box. If you’re job searching, try something new. Do you have a skill you can profit from? Why not see if you can turn it into a business? Is there a need which is being unmet somewhere you can exploit? Find out if you can exploit it. Is there an area you've never explored because it’s too different, or “out there”? EXPLORE IT!

We’re in a new age, people. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow. To get to someplace you've never been, you have to do something you've never done. One of the best places to start is to set aside time to unshackle your mind and let it run free. You might be surprised where it takes you.