morsla: (purplemantis skyline)
I'm beginning to lose track of what I need to paint when. These are my current painting deadlines, for the next two months. To be fitted into one day a week (around my PhD), and an hour a night on some weeknights.

Monday, March 7th
Commission job.
To paint: Razorback tank and turret.
For: Denis F.

Sunday, March 13th
35 point Warmachine/Hordes tournament at Battle Bunker.
Taking: Cygnar (Major Victoria Haley).
To paint: Black 13th, Gunmage Strike Team (3 models).

Friday, March 24th
Commission job.
To paint: 6 Infinity (Yu Jing) figures.
For: Nick.

Saturday, March 26th
35 point Warmachine/Hordes tournament at Hampton Games Club.
Taking: Khador (Butcher + 5 Heavy Warjacks + 4 wreck markers)
To paint: all of them (10 models). These are a commission job for Joel D.

Friday, April 15th (Melbourne in Flames weekend)
Commission job.
To paint: 10 Horrors of Tzeentch, 9 Chaos Havocs, Firestorm Armada fleet.
For: Ian A

Friday, April 15th (games weekend)
Commission job.
To paint: Hell Dorado starter box, Doppelsoldners & Captain, Swashbuckler (9 models)
For: David P

Friday, April 22nd
50 point Warmachine/Hordes touranment at Conquest.
Taking: General Adept Nemo (list 1), Major Victoria Haley (list 2).
To paint: Stormblade unit and Unit Attachment (8 models).
morsla: (purplemantis skyline)
Seems like ages since I posted any painted figures in here. It probably has been, as I rarely remember to set up the camera before sending commission figures away...

These are some of the figures I'm working on for Arcanacon. Technically I'm running the tournament, and so won't be playing. On the Saturday night, however, there's a grudge match between two pressgangers: me (representing Melbourne) and Terry (representing Adelaide). He's assembling a pious group of Morrowan paladins; I've opted for the far more interesting Dark Twin in the form of a murderous crew of Thamarites.

These are some of the figures finished at 3am yesterday...

Fiona the Black:

Mariner, Heavy Warjack:

Buccaneer, Light Warjack:

Vanguard, Light Warjack:
morsla: (purplemantis skyline)
This is my entry from Iron Painter, Round 2. The theme this time around was "villainous" - so I've decided to use the contest as a good excuse to finally paint some Wyrd miniatures that I bought at GenCon Indy in 2007.

Wyrd now have a skirmish game called Malifaux, using all the figures they've sculpted to date. No idea how it plays, but the miniatures are nice... These figures mostly fit into the Resurrectionist faction: neo-Victorian necromancers and their assistants, with a host of different undead. I've also converted the figures a bit to make them fit in with an Unhallowed Metropolis RPG that I was planning to run.

From left to right:

Sebastian: "Doctor" with a bonesaw. No conversions here, but I tried some new techniques for gore and splatter using red ink, black paint, and an old paintbrush.

Mourner: Made from a Dark Age miniature (previously carrying a flamethrower), now with a new right arm, a rifle, and an umbrella to keep some of New London's acid rain at bay.

Nicodemus: One of the necromancers; usually carrying a vulture familiar on his right arm. Aristocrats in UnMet often pick up ranged weapons to stay away from the zombies, so I've given him a sniper rifle.

Mortimer: An Undertaker, with a multi-purpose shovel (and a jumper his Mum knitted for him). Good for dealing with uncontrolled zombies, or creating more bodies for the Master to raise.

Thrall: A familiar from Rackham's Confrontation line. When I saw the little creature lugging a shovel and a sack of body parts, I figured it needed to join the crew...

More pictures beneath the cut... )
morsla: (lookin)
Chapters for the Economics study guide are beginning to appear in my email account, which means that the time before and after Christmas will probably become a mad rush to get the book ready for printing on January 6th.

I've almost finished painting some Imperial Guard tanks for Dave T, which I've been enjoying so far: I'm using a bunch of new techniques from the Forgeworld Master Class book (thanks [ profile] fetnas!), making them the most detailed vehicles that I've painted so far. The airbrush is a godsend for this sort of work, and hopefully it will help me to clear out a lot of my unpainted backlog next year.

Then, I have two figures to sculpt for [ profile] lena_supercat and [ profile] altheas's wedding cake. I'm planning to use Sculpey for these, over an aluminium wire armature. Sculpey is much easier to rework and add detail to, but it means I'll have to finish an entire figure in one go - once it's been baked, I can't readily add putty to it.

January's commission painting project is a Blood Bowl team for one of the guys playing at CanCon. I want to sculpt my own Blood Bowl figures one day (for the Nurgle's Rotters team), but I'm unlikely to get motivated any time soon... there are too many other games that I want to play first.

The rest of January will be occupied by writing a literature review, and a draft of my methodology chapter. There's a large shipment of qualitative methodology textbooks inbound, courtesy of the remainder of my 2009 research funds :)

I really want a holiday, but I think I'll have to wait until February as I seem to be working three jobs at the moment. At least the summer of commission work madness will help to pay for some of our furniture, and a new computer for [ profile] aeliel...


Jun. 17th, 2009 04:34 pm
morsla: (dream)
My research proposal (preliminary literature review, methodology & research methods, research timeline) is now finished and handed in. Hopefully it's meandering through the bureaucracy as I type - it needs to cross a few different desks before it gets approved.

Last week I interviewed a couple of business managers (partly for the CRC project, partly for my thesis). I'm currently writing notes on the two interviews.

I've caught up with my business activity statements for Purple Mantis, and paid the GST for last quarter. After retrieving some of the files from my old PC, I can now send invoices again :)

I've started updating the Purple Mantis website, and reduced the ranges carried - I'm only planning to stock sculpting tools and putty from now on, though I will add new tools as I discover them.

I'm helping to set up a new gaming ezine with other members, and have designed some page layout templates in InDesign. I'm wearing two different hats on this project: layout/production guy and "Other Games" subeditor, keeping track of things like Privateer Press, Alkemy, Infinity, Anima:Tactics and Hell Dorado, trying to give the smaller companies a bit more exposure.

The 2009 Uberlist continues to grow, with another batch of painting completed. Of course, it seems to be growing faster than I can cross things off the list...

Still to do:

Purple Mantis: Migrate across to my other Siteground account (currently holding two other sites). Siteground's shared hosting accounts now have "unlimited" web space and traffic, and purchasing an add-on domain will be cheaper than running it on a separate account.

Painting: Infinity (Nomads) will be painted over the next week; lots of resin models will also be cleaned up and assembled on Monday.

Holiday! [ profile] aeliel and I will be in Tasmania (Hobart and Freycinet) from June 29th - July 6th. It will be nice to have a few days away from work.
morsla: (Default)
It's been a while since I posted any pictures. Among (many) other things, I've been working on some Ulthwe-craftworld Eldar, in the same colours as this. I posted these ones off to their owner yesterday - one character and three vehicles. The pictures are a bit overexposed (washing out the colours a little), but at least I managed to get things in focus this time. One day I'll finally manage to get the depth of field and exposure right in the same shot...

I like using the Ulthwe palette of blacks, reds and bone-white. I've run out of black paint again though - there's a surprising amount of surface area on these things...


Fire Prism #1

Fire Prism #2

Wave Serpent:

Some more angles after the cut... )
morsla: (purplemantis skyline)
Back to painting posts again... I've finished two lots of work over the last week, ending in a fairly busy weekend.

This is a Falcon grav-tank in Ulthwe Craftworld colours, and my first real attempt at painting black armour - something I've never really liked, as it always ends up looking too grey... I've used some of the P3 colours (Thamar Black and Greatcoat Grey) and kept the highlights to small areas like the edges of armour plates. It seems to have worked - next month I'll be painting a few more units for the owner of the Falcon, including some jetbikes.

I really need to figure out how to get the whole model in focus :) (Pic taken using macro mode, F/22 and a 1/2 second exposure - I can't increase the aperture setting any further, so I'm at a loose end as to what I should try next time...)
morsla: (Default)
More painting - this time for Lon.

I experimented with a new way of using the white waterslide transfers, in an attempt to make them blend in a bit better. Like last time, I've added some matte varnish and patches of soot and dust to the finished product. This time, I applied the transfers over a coat of gloss varnish, with another gloss coat to seal them in place. It's much harder to see the transparent edges around each number now, so I think I'll probably use this method in future.

I'm also quite happy with how the bronze metallics are turning out. I've used brass and silver paint, and washes of thinned-down black and orange-brown paints to shade the surface. Thin glazes of silver + water seem to be working well for highlighting the raised sections. Here's a shot of the Spriggan, so you can see what I'm talking about...

Two more pictures under the cut... )

I didn't particularly appreciate TripleJ's "it's just gone six o'clock" timecalls at 7am this morning, as I almost rolled over and went back to sleep for another hour - fortunately, I made it to training on time. I've almost reached the halfway point for the 32 Fan in Tai Chi (over the last two classes...), so I have lots of new things to practice. The last two classes have been "revision" for all the people who trained during Semester 2 last year, so I've had to move quickly to keep up with them.

I've found myself picking up random souvenier-type fans, and being disappointed with their lack of weight - "Hey! This Welcome To Venice fan is a fake! You couldn't kill anyone with it!"

I wish I'd bought a steel fan while travelling last year, but I know I'd only have run into trouble getting it back through Customs.
morsla: (lookin)
Time for a post-convention wrapup of Conquest. I ran a stall for most of the convention, which was something new. I think I've now been a ConOrg, Writer, GM, Trader, Player and general helper-monkey, thus completing the set.

[ profile] aeliel and I set up the stall around 10am, and realised that neither of us had brought anything to do while sitting behind the table. I think we sold the most stock on Friday, although virtually all sales were to people who were around for the whole convention - it was more a case of buying things when they first encountered the stall. I kept myself amused by building some terrain to show how to use the modelling products, and [ profile] aeliel playtested [ profile] jod999's Kabuki game.

I ran the stall all day, and made a few more display pieces. The Warhammer Fantasy tournament wrapped up in the evening, so several players dropped by to pick up some sculpting tools and other gear. [ profile] aeliel played Picnic at the Races in the afternoon, and we both played Tales from the City in the evening session. I enjoyed the freeform, although it was tough to get into at the start - I played an eight year old orphan in a room full of grown-up lostfinders, gang members and paid killers, and the adult who was supposed to look after my character didn't actually turn up to the session... Still, good fun, and it's especially nice to finally play in an A|State game.

[ profile] aeliel ran the stall while I played in (and won!) the Warmachine tournament. I ended up playing the people who placed 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th, so I had a very solid set of opponents. My brain hurt by the end of the day. I ran a fragile-looking assassination list (infernalist witches and outlaw pistoleers...) that was deceptively hard to kill, and took down five of the eight warcasters and warlocks that I faced over four games. The final round ended in a draw (9-9), with my opponent taking the Best Hordes prize.

We both slept in, and headed to the convention in time for the awards and packing up the venue. I really enjoyed catching up with lots of people at the pub, and finally learned a few more names for the many interstate folks. Things got a bit tense for a while when a rowdy bunch of drunkards (fresh from a footy game) took over most of the beer garden, but no fights had broken out by the time I left... still, I wouldn't be surprised if next year's post-con venue is somewhere different, as it's not exactly polite for management to let 30-odd football fans take over a private booking.

Things to do differently next time:
  • Only book a single table. I didn't really need the second one, and could have halved the stall cost by taking up less space...

  • Only run the stall over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday get two different groups of miniature gamers, as most events run Fri/Sat or Sat/Sun. Friday could be better used for playing in some more games...

  • Run some workshops (costing $5 or so to cover the cost of materials) for sculpting and making terrain. That would give me something to do during the long quiet spots mid-session, and provide a handy means to demonstrate how to use all the various bits and pieces that I sell.

  • Consider adding some general-appeal products, like painted figures and vignettes. That would give me something for the people wanting to buy shiny things or presents, and it also provides some more examples of what I can do.


Mar. 20th, 2008 03:27 pm
morsla: (purplemantis skyline)
Now that the weather is a bit cooler, I can paint without having everything evaporate straight off the palette...

This one's a Vanguard light warjack, for Warmachine. Modified a little (I build a new spear, added the ternion brand on the shield, and turned the head around), and painted up in Fiona the Black's personal colours - black and purple, with the symbols of the Dark Twin. Lots of fun to paint - I'd forgotten how much I like detailing these things, and adding colour (rust, patina, etc) to the metallic parts. Hopefully I'll get a lot more painting done over the next few weeks.

Two more pictures behind the cut: Read more... )

It lives!

Feb. 6th, 2008 05:45 pm
morsla: (purplemantis skyline)
I've finally updated the Purple Mantis store, with the brushes and sculpting gear sold at Arcanacon. Also on order are rolls of aluminium wire (for sculpting armatures), more sculpting tools, and a range of Woodland Scenics basing products like static flock. I'll add photos of the products next, although my main priority this week is to make some more progress on the sculptures.

I'm planning to have a stall at Conquest from Fri-Sun, where I'll be running demonstrations (painting, terrain making, sculpting) throughout the con. If you want to see me make anything in particular, I'm open to requests...
morsla: (lookin)
Time I started tinkering with ZenCart in earnest, as a new update was released while I was still reading through my copy of the ZenCart book.

New Installation (1.3.8a)
Disk space required: 14.52 MB
Disk space available: 749984.5 MB
I'm still completely unable to grasp just how much space I have to play with in this account. Every time I log in to Siteground, they've increased the storage and traffic limits again... somehow, I doubt that I'm likely to run out of space in a hurry.
morsla: (vnv)
Arcanacon is over for another year, which means that I can start thinking about all the things I've put on hold for the last couple of months... first, though, it's worth taking a look back at what's happened so far.

Wednesday: Recieved an email from my co-organiser, telling me he couldn't make it down from Sydney for the weekend. With no second judge, that meant I'd be covering the Warmachine/Hordes Nationals event solo, and would also have to run the Monday event - which ruled out going to Golgotha on Sunday night. I'll get you next time, nightclub...

Thursday: [ profile] aeliel made a display board for the Purple Mantis stock that would be on sale at the convention, while I frantically finished off a painting commission job. I printed off scorecards and player packs, and tried to make sure I was up to date on the latest rules changes. With an active community of players (over twenty thousand on the forums) and a full time rules team, the game rules are as watertight and unambiguous as any system I've ever played... as a rules judge, though, it's a hell of a lot of reading material to brush up on.

Friday: Finally finished painting the last few models. Went to Collingwood College to start setting up the Nationals venue. I was a bit worried when we were told that we'd only have a single room, but fortunately that room was easily big enough for the players and game tables - we even had a dozen couches for people to relax in after their games.

Saturday: Woke up far too early, and headed to the convention to start the tournament. We had 38 players in the end, almost half of them from interstate. [ profile] aeliel handled the scorecards and round draws, while I ran around adjudicating the three 500-point rounds for the Nationals. The games went surprisingly smoothly, with no major disputes or arguments despite the size of the prize pool on offer. Once the official rounds wrapped up, we paused for a beer or two and prepared for the inaugural State of Origin game - contested by Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and a motley team of Tasmanians, West Australians, NSW and more Melbourne players.

South Australia convincingly won the title, winning five of their six games. I finally got a chance to play, losing to Brett's horde of trolls (one of the best painted armies at the event), and then we headed off to [ profile] geserit's farewell party. Bon voyage Sarah!

Sunday: Things started to look bad after the first of the planned three 750-point games, when a draw on one of the top tables left us with an unchallenged winner - Damien, the only player on a perfect score of 20 points. After having several pairs of eyes going over the tournament rules, I decided that we couldn't call the event early - despite having an undefeated champion by default, there were still two rounds to go and a room full of players who wanted to keep playing them. (EDIT: the decision to keep going despite having an undefeated player was later supported by the Privateer staff. Hopefully the next generation of tournament rules will be clearer about this sort of thing!)

Damien ended up losing in the fifth round, setting up Heath as the top player. Despite that, there were six possible champions going into the final round. When the final game concluded, Heath emerged as the clear winner, with Damien and Joel taking second and third place. I got to hand out lots of prizes (from six sponsors in four different states), and then that was it for the first Australian national championship.

Monday: Metal Mayhem was a very different event from the weekend's games - the games were far more laid back, and I was far less organised. We fitted five rounds into the tournament, with Dave's Cryx/Mercenary army taking the top spot. After one of the longest award ceremonies I've ever sat through, we staggered off to the afterparty and I finally got a chance to catch up with all the roleplayers I'd missed during the weekend.

Most of the weekend is a bit of a blur, but it's a generally positive blur. I'll probably be helping for a couple of days at GenCon Oz as a painting or rules judge, but I have no plans to run an actual tournament myself until at least next January. There are now a couple of new Pressgangers in Australia, and they all seem eager to get stuck into organising things. I've been involved since 2003, and I think it's time to take a bit of a break.

The War All The Time guys sold Purple Mantis putty, sculpting tools and brushes over in the Warhammer 40k area. Sculpting tools sold very well; putty sold reasonably well. The sable brushes didn't sell well at all, which is a bit worrying - they account for about a third of the cost of my inventory, and may take all year to shift. Still, for the first "live fire" test, things went pretty well.
morsla: (purplemantis skyline)
There's a lot happening at the moment. I'm trying to update some old InDesign files, ready to put together a new edition of two VCE study guides. Unfortunately, I don't have the half of the original fonts, and most of the images are embedded from old MS Word documents. The fonts could use a bit of standardisation anyway, but the images are a problem. Hopefully, I'll either get hold of originals to scan, or I'll find a printing company that will accept the files on faith - there's no way of checking embedded image quality before printing the file.

There's a third book in the works, although it's previously been made using Quark. I think it will be easiest to rebuild it from scratch, for the revised edition. It's an economics guide with a fairly complex layout, so it may still cause some headaches over the next few weeks.

In between long stints at the computer, the uberlist marches relentlessly onwards. I'm working on four different painting commissions at the moment, with about twenty pieces in the current wave, and thirty three after that. I've finally realised that the "paint everything all at once" approach doesn't work on this kind of scale, so I'm trying to minimise the amount of work on my desk. In theory, the best approach seems to be keeping a single day's work on the desk, and finishing it before starting anything new... only time will tell whether I manage to keep to that rule.

In the background, I'm still slowly building up stock for the Purple Mantis store. I have a Paypal Business account set up, so the next things on the list are a SSL certificate and configuring the Zencart storefront. First priority is finishing the design and painting work, though, so I have enough money to get the online store started.

Luckily, I like being busy...


Jul. 19th, 2007 01:45 pm
morsla: (purplemantis skyline)
I now have rather a lot of paintbrushes.

I ordered a batch of Winsor & Newton sable brushes from a US supplier, as a way of testing them out for future supplies. I won't be ordering from them again, as the brushes have been sent in two backordered lots (at $50AUD postage per batch...) over several months. I've also been charged more for the second batch than the entire order was worth. They arrived today, and I expected to find the box filled with my remaining items... so I took a photo as I opened the box, ready to send it to their customer service email address.

As it turns out, I haven't been charged for items that were not sent. Instead, they sent far more than I ordered, and charged me for the lot. Looking through their returns policy, I can organise to have them shipped back, be reimbursed for the shipping costs, and recieve a credit note for the items... but I don't particularly want to deal with them again. There's no way that I can turn the items back into cash again, so it looks like I have a larger store inventory than I had originally planned. Here's hoping that they sell well.

In other news - I have a website! You can find it at

The site's still very rough at the moment (bits of placeholder text in a few Gallery pages, several "coming soon" pages, etc) but I decided it was time to stop tinkering with stylesheets and actually put something online. I'll be frantically adding bits to it over the next week, mainly to fill in gaps from the initial pages. It's mainly there for commission painting/sculpting at the moment, although I won't be taking on any new jobs until October.

I'll be adding an online storefront (using ZenCart) after I get back from travelling... hopefully, it will all be up and running during October.
morsla: (purplemantis skyline)
Clearly, when running a business for gamer geeks, one must have appropriately geeky business cards.

Lots of appropriately geeky business cards :)

Once the website is running, there will be old-fashioned printed cards to go along with these. There's not much point fitting an email address or URL onto a die, but they do help to get the brand image out there...
morsla: (purplemantis skyline)
I spent today mediating a truce between Photoshop, my PC and my scanner, in order to work on a logo for my business. After a bit of digital finger-painting with a fresh tube of purple pixels, I have a new logo captured in the form of a journal icon. I hope it looks okay... it was a good excuse to find out how to colour in pencil sketches. The original version is a bit plain without any text, so I made a skyline to put behind it.

Pre-school level photoshop notes: (mostly for my benefit, in case I try something similar in future). One day I'll figure out what the other eight million buttons do...

Pencil sketch: scan, desaturate to remove colour, clean up with brightness/contrast and a white brush. Take a thin black brush and fix up any mistakes.

Colour: Select all the non-picture bits, invert the selection, make a new layer and fill it with purple. Dodge and Burn to add highlighting and shading where needed, drag the outline layer above the colour, and set the layer to Multiply so the white disappears.

Background: Draw some buildings with the Polygonal Lasso tool, fill the selection with a brown gradient. Invert the selection, make a new layer for the sky, and fill it with a red-brown gradient. Dodge and Burn cloud patterns into both layers, and hit the skyline with a few Gaussian Blur filters until it fades into the smog.

On an entirely different note, this (in my wholely biased opinion) could be the Best Game Ever, if Octopus ever release it. 'It Came From Hollywood' lets people play giant monsters destroying major American cities, using a DDR dance pad to stomp on fleeing civilians and topple landmarks... and yes, you can play a giant praying mantis :)
morsla: (Default)
One unit down, three to go. I've been painting pretty solidly since 11am, stopping whenever my arms go numb or my legs fall asleep. It's been years since I painted quite this much at once, but the general work environment (deadlines to the horizon) is remarkably familiar... it's not just that I've been here before. I think part of me never left.

Sometimes, I wonder what I'd do if I had unlimited time to work in. I think that I know the answer, though - I'd take on an unlimited number of tasks, starting them only in that final frantic dash for the finish line. The world is a cold and lonely place when it's not full of ten million things to do, so I've buried myself in a comforting amount of work.

Target for tomorrow is to finish one unit (a retinue of nine Chosen terminators) by lunchtime; shoot some photos, edit them and email them to Ian, and finish another unit (nine Flamers) by dinner. That will leave me a single unit (another nine bloody Flamers) to finish on Thursday, plus fixing any missed details on the sixty-odd models painted so far. Weather permitting, I'll varnish the lot at some stage on Friday. After that, if anyone so much as hints that I paint another Flamer, you may see stories about tragic accidents involving eye sockets and steel files in the evening news...

It's taken months to build up steam, so I hope this run continues after the tournament. I should have enough work to take me through until mid July, or early August if another couple of jobs evenuate. If I can keep this up, I'll slam into the GenCon speed painting contest in August and keep accelerating from there. You're not driving fast enough unless there are bits of engine breaking off as you go :)
morsla: (Default)
I know there are lots of web-savvy people out there, so I thought I'd pose this as a general question.

I need to set up a business website. I know what I want it to look like, from a page-layout point of view, and in terms of site structure. I know what functions I need, and what I'd like to add in future. I'm just not sure what the best way would be to actually build it. I use a ridiculous number of sites, but you're free to assume that I know nothing at all about how they were made...

Can I just write the page contents in basic HTML (headings, paragraphs) and then find/modify a stylesheet to handle the appearance? (Column widths, text styles, positioning things on the page). I can handle notepad-level HTML, but I've never used CSS.

The shopping list:

Basic stuff
* Front page with News updates (new products, auctions, etc).
* Simple pages (bio, commission pricing, links)
* Gallery/portfolio. I'd prefer a simple HTML page here - I've played around with Gallery 2 for my personal photo collection, but I don't know enough about the guts of the Gallery database to feel completely comfortable with it.

More complex but still needed
* Shopping cart - currently favouring Zen Cart. I'll be selling small stock items in addition to one-off painted pieces. I'd like an e-commerce package that supports things like discount coupons and gift certificates. Free products with a good support community are also a plus.
* Payment gateway (possibly credit card, possibly PayPal - PayPal charges commission fees, but the others tend to have monthly or annual charges)

Things I'd like to do
* RSS feed for the News items on the front page. The front page will be updated weekly at a minimum, to encourage people to come back regularly. Not essential, but it's on the 'add if it's not too hard' list.
* Automated secure download links for PDF products. Linklok seems to be used for this by a few RPG publishers. Not an urgent need, but I want it to integrate with the shopping cart by the end of 2007.

Oddly enough, installing things like Zen Cart won't be particularly complicated - my web hosting package has a nifty installer that can auto-load many different scripts. Trying to get some sort of consistent appearance between the shopping cart and the rest of the site is currently beyond me, though.
morsla: (Default)
So. I finished work for the year yesterday. The book isn't going to the printers this year, as we have been asked to wait while the family puts together a family tree... it won't take long to add, but the printing deadline passed yesterday. Still, it's all finished bar the final page. There are no new projects starting until February, so that means I'm free for about six weeks.

The downside, of course, is that my income has now dropped to zero again. I'm going to finish the current sculpts (which fortunately were paid in advance), and when my desk beigns to clear I'll start looking for more work.

It's been an interesting year, as work goes. I've designed a magazine, three newspapers, two books, and a few eBooks. I've also started putting time into painting and sculpting, which is likely to make up about half my income in future. I'm also putting together a plan to cover the next couple of years... the trick lies in making a structure that's flexible enough to take anything thrown at it, but robust enough to give some form and direction to what I do.

My plan looks like a fractal. It has some very simple rules that make up a complex picture, and it can be extrapolated on any scale I need it. It's also a conscious attempt at a lifehack.

Goals: I want to constantly learn new things, which expand the range of things I do, while supporting the existing areas.

Phases: Focus on something new. Consolidate it until it becomes reliable. Keep an eye on changes in the work environment. Explore new directions. Assess progress in context of the new environment. Pick the next direction. Rinse, repeat.

The mid-range perspective for planning is a three month timescale: annual quarters, which fit nicely into a financial year. The same rules apply on a weekly basis, or a three-year cycle, though.

* 2006 Q4: I've been setting up the basic structure of a sole-trading business, and getting it to the point where I can use it without thinking about it. I've also been working on my editing and design skills, and watching where to go next.

* 2007 Q1 and Q2: Focus on painting and sculpting, to take advantage of a market that's currently strong, but has an uncertain future. The skills there are part artistic (improving my sculpting), part marketing (finding and entering international markets), and part technological (setting up an e-business). I will be watching the market for wargaming products, and exploring eBook RPG publishing.

* 2007 Q3 and Q4: Focus on eBook publishing. Draw on editing and design skills, e-business marketing, and develop a roleplaying imprint. The aim is to have limited hardcopy prints (electronic print-on-demand), with a full backlist available as PDF. It's a project management area, and a way of helping people get their work in print.

By keeping things modular, I can work around dead-end paths by starting a different area or falling back on the existing ones. Focusing on transferrable skills means that if specialised markets (e.g. sculpting) vanish, I'll still have learned enough from that area (e.g. e-business setup) to have it support future areas. Placing skills into context with others helps me to see them from different angles, and monitoring changes in my work environment (market, etc) helps me to deal with changes as they occur.

Coincidentally (if you believe in coincidence), it's exactly the same process behind learning a martial art. Identify the basics, drill them until they become second nature, watch for areas to work on, find ways of combining strengths more effectively. Analyse the context in which a technique is likely to be used, and recognise how to employ them when you inevitably come up against something you haven't seen before.

September 2014

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